Some magic-users eschew the traditional familiars and homunculi for another form of servant: the cauldron spirit. These beings are traditionally recruited from the ranks of the recently-deceased and bound within the mage’s primary cauldron, crucible, forge, or alembic. A cauldron spirit is part-magical item, part-living creature, and can only be created by magic-users or elves of name level or higher.
The creation of a cauldron spirit begins with the mage making contact with a dead soul. Usually this is accomplished with the assistance of the clerical spell, speak with dead, but negotiations with cognitive ghosts is another possibility. The soul to be used in the creation of a cauldron spirit must be willing to serve the mage, and will likely barter for a limited duration of service or some reward that might be of use to the spirit (assistance to living relatives, providing resurrection for the spirit after service, destruction of a hated enemy, etc.). Truly desperate or evil magic-users have employed trap the soul to gain the spirit they need.
Once an arrangement with the spirit has been made, the magic-user performs a ceremony to bind the spirit with its focus object. This rite takes 1d4 hours to complete and costs 5,000 gp in materials. Any interruption before the ceremony’s completion negates both the rite and the components involved, requiring the magic-user to start from scratch.
Each cauldron spirit has a loyalty score as determined by the spell-caster’s Charisma. This score can rise or fall depending on how the magic-user treats his spirit or abides by the agreement struck with the ghost prior to its employment. Any command the magic-user gives the spirit which goes against its nature requires a successful loyalty check for the spirit to comply and assist its master. A cauldron spirit who refuses to comply with its master’s command may be forced to follow directions. In order to compel the spirit to abide by its master’s orders, the magic-user must spend two complete rounds forcing its will upon the spirit. The cauldron spirit must then make a save vs. spells or concede to the spell-caster’s wishes. Each time a magic-user successfully compels the spirit to obey reduces the ghost’s loyalty score by one point.
The physical destruction of a cauldron spirit’s focus item or a successful dispel magic cast against the same releases the spirit from its bonds and negates the item’s ability to house another such ghost. For this reason, most magic-users keep their cauldron spirits safe at home. The creator of a cauldron spirit can free its ghost at any time by conducting an hour-long rite that employs 500 gp worth of materials.
The benefits of having a cauldron spirit are threefold. Firstly, all spell-casting times (if used) are reduced by half. Secondly, the cost of creating magic items and researching spells are reduced by 25% as is the time required to create them. Thirdly, a cauldron spirit can “store” spells as if it were a magic-user equal to half its master’s level rounded down. These spells are typically utilitarian (detect magic, read magic, dispel magic, etc.), but some spellcasters trust their cauldron spirits enough to allow them to hold offensive magics in case their laboratories should come under attack. These spells are cast as if by the magic-user, himself. There are no innate restrictions keeping a cauldron spirit from turning its stored magic upon its master, however, and magic-users are advised to keep this in mind before gifting their magical servants with powerful, destructive spells.