Vaedium is a rare, naturally occurring mineral found in deposits deep within the earth. It appears as an extremely dense grey stone that possesses an iridescent sheen. Vaedium is a radioactive element, but not in the way understood by residents of 21st century Earth. Instead of the harmful radiation produced by such Earthly counterparts as uranium and radium, vaedium emits a more eldritch energy whose exact effects vary from deposit to deposit. Vaedium is prized by sages, sorcerers, and alchemists alike, each of whom will pay large sums of money to lay their hands on sample of this mineral. Due to its rarity and possible side-effects of prolonged exposure, however, the collection of vaedium for trade is an extremely uncommon occurrence.Just in case it isn’t obvious by its name, “Vaedium” was a tribute to Dave Arneson, a man who passed away one year ago today. Dave was a referee who, by all accounts, wasn’t afraid to turn the Wahoo! dial up to 11 on his game, and I though it only fitting to name the element that allows a more timid referee to do so too after him.
While the effects of vaedium radiation vary, some of its different properties have been documented. Some subterranean races have been known to temper weapons of forged steel by bathing them in the mineral’s arcane energies. This process gives the weapons a temporary magical enchantment that persists as long as the weapons receive occasional exposure to the radiation. Stories abound of adventurers who, believing they’ve acquired a cache of magical weapons, have returned to the surface world only to discover these weapons quickly pit and decay once removed from regular vaedium exposure. Vaedium has been known to produce bizarre mutations in those who suffer regular exposure to it, giving rise to tales of two-head Goblinoid races and dragons of unusual colors. One extremely unbelievable account tells the tale of a race of clockwork men who seemed to use vaedium as food or fuel by placing chunks of the ore inside their hollow chest cavities.
For game purposes, vaedium serves as a support from which a GM can hang whatever odd or “unrealistic” events or creatures he wishes to introduce to his campaign. It’s a panacea for dealing with players who, despite the fact they’re playing a fantasy game, require a scientific or rational explanation for the oddities that exist in the dungeon depths. Vaedium may be pseudo-science but it functions in this role admirably.
I learned a lot from Dave indirectly on the Original Dungeons & Dragons Discussion forum and his passing last year struck me deeper than I could imagine. At that time, I wrote and released The Fane of St. Toad, a small dungeon inspired by both Dave and Clark Ashton Smith, which was my small way of honoring his memory. This year, I’ll do my best to honor him by running a campaign that’s not afraid to travel unusual paths to high adventure.
Thank you, Dave, for everything.