The Exalted are not the only ones who build places of power. Mortal thaumaturges around the world have long understood the basic principles of geomancy. The art of reading and even directing the natural flow of essence through an area is one of the eldest of all Arts, predating even the Exalted themselves. It is little wonder then that for nearly every impose Manse which rests within Creation, there are at least a dozen far lesser geomantic structures standing in their shadows.
These mortal made structures take many shapes: from twisting gothic towers to blue-shingled pagodas to enigmatic rings of stone. For each different structure there is a different name, yet savants universally classify them as Laboratories. While impressive structures by mortal standards, Laboratories are always comparatively unassuming when stacked beside the towering Manses they often share an area with. A Laboratory operates along much the same method as a Manse, but to a far lesser degree. Where as a Manse may concentrate and direct the natural essence flow of an entire region, a Laboratory sits far less invasively within the flow, only locally redirecting it or even simply allowing it to pass unhindered while feeding off its natural ambient properties.
The benefits of a Laboratory are far different from that of a Manse. Laboratories are not merely built to harness local essence flows, but designed to employ those flows to aid in specific tasks, most often pertaining to thaumaturgy. Like a Manse or Demesne, a character attuned to a Laboratory will enjoy increased Essence regeneration while resting inside it, though they regain only one extra mote per hour for each level of the Laboratory. It is while working within a Laboratory that it's true value becomes apparent. The flow of essence through the area aids in certain specific activities, be it thaumaturgic ritual, spiritual negotiations, or simple physical labor. For each level of the Laboratory, a character gains a bonus die to a specific activity with no greater breadth than a standard specialty. These bonus dice stack with all existing pools, including any normal specialties, and unlike normal specialties, may be employed to aid in works of specific works thaumaturgy. A Laboratory cannot grant more than 2 dice to any one action. The actions benefited are selected upon the Laboratories creation and cannot be altered later without significant geomantic rearrangement of the area
Even the most complicated and elaborate Laboratories never form Hearthstones. However, nearly every Laboratory generates tiny fragments of calcified essence called Cornerstones. These fragments resemble brightly colored pebbles or unshaped semi-precious gemstones, rarely larger than a person's thumbnail. Each Cornerstone is, in effect, a single mote of essence that has been calcified much the same as a Heathstone. Cornerstones possess none of the same mystical properties as a Hearthstone, but are none the less invaluable tools to a mortal thaumaturge and potentially useful even to the Exalted.
With the proper ritual, a mortal thaumaturge can unlock the essence in the stone, gaining that single mote of Essence to employ in a work of thaumaturgy for the next several hours. The Exalted can simply consume them outright, either through literally swallowing the stone or crushing them, using them to swiftly regain at least a small measure of essence (1 mote per stone). The act of eating them is particularly popular in the Realm, where Cornerstones are often dipped in flavorful coatings and served by the bowlful at Dynastic parties as 'Essence Candy.' Cornerstones can potentially endure forever, so long as they remain within the Laboratory that created them (though the Laboratories themselves are rarely resilient enough to test this), but once removed from the site will begin to become inert in only a few weeks, the color leaching out from the stones and then the very structure fading from existence.
An Exalted character does not need to be attuned to a specific Laboratory to benefit from it's Cornerstones. A mortal character does need to be attuned to it in order to unlock the essence from them. It takes no special merits to attune to a Laboratory, only a successful Intelligence + Occult roll following a day long ritual. A Laboratory will generate a number of Cornerstones each month equal to it's ratings x 2. Skilled geomancers can direct where they will generate when building the Laboratory, but for most they simply appear scattered in or around the Laboratory and take at least a day of dedicated work to uncover.
X – You possess no Laboratory.
1 – You possess a meager Laboratory, which aids only slightly in 1 specific task, granting a single specialty die. The site also generates 2 Cornerstones a month.
2 – You possess a modest Laboratory, gaining 2 specialty dice which may be assigned to a single task or split between two separate tasks. The site also generates 4 Cornerstones a month.
3 – You possess an impressive Laboratory which grants 3 specialty dice, of which no more than 2 may be assigned to any single task. The site also generates 6 Cornerstones each month.
4 – You possess a potent Laboratory, which grants 4 specialty dice, of which no more than 2 may be assigned to any single task. The site also generates 8 Cornerstones each month.
5 – You possess a Laboratory of epic proportions, standing as the pinnacle of mortal geomantic work. Your Laboratory grants 5 specialty dice, of which no more than 2 may be assigned to any single task. The site also generates 10 Cornerstones each month.
New Solar Charm
Cost: 10 motes, 1 Willpower
Minimum Craft: 4
Minimum Essence: 3
Perquisite Charms: Shattering Grasp
Mortal works of geomancy are minor boons even at their greatest, their structures yielding little that can be taken away beyond fragments of Essence. Yet for one of the Exalted, Essence is a substance which can be shaped as readily as any metal or stone. Grasping a handful of Cornerstones, an Exalt may squeeze down upon them, for an instant liquefying them with the blazing heat of the Unconquered Sun and recasting them into the shape of a true Hearthstone. To employ this Charm, an Exalt must be standing within a mortal Laboratory of level 4 or higher and possess at least 10 Cornerstones gathered from that site. He may then fuse them together into a single level 1 Solar Hearthstone of his choosing, which will endure for a number of months equal to the Permanent Essence of the Solar who created it. So long as that Hearthstone remains in existence, the Laboratory will no longer generate Cornerstones, it's essence flow forcefully redirected into the newly formed Hearthstone. Anyone attuned to the Laboratory may use the Hearthstone, including any mortals, even those who normally could not use Hearthstones.
I like this, but not the possibility of cornerstones collecting in vast quantities... I would perhaps make them slowly evaporate if removed from the Laboratory, perhaps lasting a month once removed. Then people can still build up a large stockpile of essence, but at least it isn't so easily mobile. That, or just have it all dissolve in a few months if not used, limiting them to a set size of stored stuff.
Also, I can't say I like the Gem-Fusing Fist much, especially if it works on any lab and not just a rating 4 or 5 one, say. I'd like it much better if the hearthstone generated was also temporary.
- Reading over the write-up for Labs again, I actually found that I agreed with you on both points, so came back in and edited a few minor changes. Thanks for the suggestions! -- Greymane