First up for today, it’s the general principles of Stone Magic in Legend of the Five Rings and a few sample stones.
The Basic Rules of Stone Magic:
In general, transparent and translucent stones are the most powerful: this is simply because, on Rokugan, rendering Earth transparent requires that much of its structure be extruded into another dimension. The purest crystal or glass exists in a state of balance across many dimensions. It can thus contain or deflect supernatural energies, injure spirits and other creatures that are normally protected by their multidimensional nature, resist most magic, and transfer light across the dimensions, allowing the user to see into hidden aspects of reality.
Unfortunately, both crystals and true glass are very very difficult to make (most sand and minerals are not NOT transparent in Rokugan in any case) even with magic: their multidimensional structure and tendency to transfer applied forces between dimensions makes them almost impervious to attempts to refine or create them. Worse, while small stones are – as always – by far the most common, only the larger (and vastly more expensive) stones have any significant energy-handling capacity. Just as a “Finger of Jade” can (somewhat arbitrarily) contain “ten points” of Taint, similar amounts of other stones have similar capacities. Tiny, decorative, stones – such as are used in most jewelry – have no notable power capacity.
Tinted transparent materials are either simply colored by some contaminant, and thus merely low-quality crystal, or are dimensionally unbalanced – extending primarily into particular dimensions, and colored thereby. Those which are closest to transparent are usually the most powerful, but the most strongly colored (but still transparent to at least one color) stones can act as channels for limited amounts of extradimensional energy on their own, without further manipulation.
Translucent materials may be either simply heavily-contaminated – and thus almost useless – crystals, or they may merely be materials where the Earth that gives them structure has numerous interconnected voids, allowing light to get inside and wander about before emerging. Depending on the complexity of the internal channels, it may take a considerable length of time before light re-emerges, effectively allowing such materials to store light for later emission. Translucent materials of the second type are not especially uncommon, and can be produced relatively readily by skilled craftsmen. They’re fairly commonly used in temples, as simple garden “lamps” for the very wealthy, and in other decorative applications, such as in the “stained glass windows” of the cathedrals or Merenae.
Other stones may or may not be magically active. A few of the most striking are, in fact, the habitations of minor Kami or awakened in their own right – in which case the nature of the spirit within is reflected in the nature of the stone. Most of the others are merely stones, although some may be very pretty.
In any case, magically-active stones can usually be “tuned” via appropriate cutting, polishing, and setting to produce related effects within their nature. Unfortunately, this requires great expertise in Craft/Gemcutting, Craft/Jeweler, and a good deal of Lore/Gem Magic.
Sadly, while Rokugan has some reasonably skillful gemcutters and jewelers, it has very little knowledge of Gem Magic. In fact, not a few Samurai would – if they ever heard about it – have severe doubts about the entire subject of greater gem magic: such powers and effects should remain the province of the Kami, not something that can be produced by peasant tinkerers! Despite such attitudes, there are always minor bits of lesser stone magic around: most of its manifestations are subtle enough so that they can easily be mistaken for simple craftsmanship or minor oddities of the world.
As for the properties of some specific stones:
Alexandrite displays a wide variety of colors (much wider than on earth) due to its extremely diffuse extradimensional structure, which causes its colors to shift as conditions change in nearby dimensions. Skillful observation of those changes can reveal the presence of multidimensional beings, gates, and similar dimensional disturbances in the area. If a piece of Alexandrite is cut into pieces, the pieces will remain connected extradimensionally. Oddly, those who travel widely gradually become attuned to Alexandrite, their identities and voyages resonate within the stones. Alexandrite crystals can be tuned for communications, locating or keying gates, detecting dimensional disturbances, energies, or creatures, or to grant knowledge of distant lands and places. There may or may not actually be more than one piece of Alexandrite; you can make a case for all the apparent pieces simply being separated fragments of some original mass or artifact.
Bloodstone links itself to the oaths sworn by those who touch it, and through those oaths to the individuals swearing them. The state of the stone thereafter reflects the state of the oaths it is linked to: if said oaths are broken intentionally and outright, the stone will shatter. Such links reach beyond death: many haunted, blessed, or similar relics are simply set with a bloodstone and are still linked to someone who swore an oath such as “I will forever serve your house”. Even without such dedication, such mystical links can be used to locate, monitor, and communicate with, the linked individuals. Properly tuned bloodstones are generally made to link with, and permit the easy manifestation of, particular spirits.
Calcite, Chalcedony, Garnet, Quartz, etc (all near identical in a world without chemical elements): Most such stones are merely tinted crystal, and – as such – are rare enough. A few, however, are tinted by being bonded more tightly than usual into one of the elemental aspects of Ningen-Do. Such stones act as near-indefinite sinks for the appropriate elemental energies. Clear crystals of this type are attuned to Void energies. Red ones are attuned to Fire, Yellow to Air, Blue to Water, and Green to Earth. Appropriately-worked and -set elemental crystals can be used to counteract elemental imbalances (such as those produced by various poisons and illnesses), to protect against particular elemental effects, and to drain the elemental forces from other materials. Philosophically such gems should also be able to function as sources for elemental energy, but this has yet to be observed.
Diamonds, while far from indestructible, are both extremely durable thanks to their dense extradimensional structure and very very rare. Their near-infinite internal planes of refraction grant them a sparkling beauty and allow them to act as “lenses” that combine various sorts of energies. Properly-cut diamonds can even amplify, transmute, or drain various energies, thanks to their ability to tap into the creative potential of their presence within the Void or the destructive potential of the Shadow. In any case, their shading depends on what energies they’re attuned to, and thus can be changed by cutting or recutting them, and they often show a complex network of internal color “flaws” indicating the precise intersections of the dimensional forces within them. A serious scholar of gem magic can often determine the function of a diamond from an examination of those “flaws”, since they too change with the cut.
Emeralds and Beryls are attuned to the powers of Chikushudo, the realm of plants and animals. Traditionally, the scattering of even tiny amounts of emerald dust, or the presence of a few tiny emeralds – no matter how badly flawed – is sufficient to bring fertility and prosperity to farms and herds. Except among the Fox, emeralds are mostly considered lower-quality stones. Emeralds ease the taboos of shapeshifters, can be used to open the gates of Chikushudo, and sometimes seem to bestow an affinity with animals. Properly tuned stones can bestow a variety of animalistic powers, enhance the bearers life force, and grant the durability and endurance of plants – but, like all the gems attuned to other realms, tend to bind their user to that realm. Still, while that can bring problems with it, it does tend to grant some resistance to Taint.
Onyx is – perhaps unsurprisingly – linked with Jigoku. Technically it’s transparent; it’s just that the light goes into it and emerges elsewhere (in Jigoku it radiates light). Somewhat unexpectedly, however, it has a dual reputation: it is used both in rituals to call upon the forces of Jigoku and in rituals to banish them. It is even used as a demon-trap, to imprison evil spirits. Essentially, it channels energies both in and out of Jigoku with equal ease, as well as having a significant storage capacity. Onyx aids rituals, and both Maho and protective spells against Maho, as noted above. Depending on how its handled it can either inflict or protect against taint. Tuned Onyx is rare: the stone is dangerous to work, since a misstep can easily expose the craftsman to the Taint.
Rubies are attuned to Toshigoku, the realm of blood and slaughter, and indeed seem to come with a history of violence. Many murders have been committed over these stones, and they shine all the richer for it. Bearing a ruby is said to bring good fortune in war, to grant strength, and to grant skill with weapons. This is true, each death, act of bloodshed, or fit of rage in which the stone is involved the link with Toshigoku a little wider, infusing the bearer with the energies of that terrible realm – a feedback loop which tends to lead to even more death until the stone bears as great a curse as it can sustain. Properly tuned rubies can grant a variety of combat enhancements, raw strength, the ability to withstand great amounts of damage, and the ability to channel the spirits ot Toshigoku. Unfortunately, like all the gems attuned to other realms, tend to bind their user to that realm. Still, while that can bring problems with it, it does tend to grant some resistance to Taint.
Sapphire is attuned to Yomi, the realm of blessed ancestors, and to the honor of the bearer. An honorable wearer will enhance the color, luminescence, and beauty of the stone, a dishonorable one will sully it – although the judgement of Yomi does not always match Imperial notions of Honor. Sapphire is said to make bestow wisdom and skill in oratory, and many sigils, badges, and tokens of authority are set with one or more small sapphires. Properly tuned sapphires can bestow supernatural awareness, personal augmentations, and ability enhancements – most notably in the field of oratory.