Not quite what I'd call a "Mixer"...
March 31, 2010 4:11 PM   Subscribe

I need another word for "Alchemy" for a fantasy setting.

I am working on a rules set for an RPG that has rules for the mixing of natural and mystical components to create potions, salves, oils, etc. with game properties. The compounds created come in three varieties - Herbal, Poisons, and Alchemy. Some professions can make some branches (i.e. - Druids can make Herbal compounds, Assassins can make Poisons), but only the Alchemist profession can make Alchemical compounds.

The issue that is provoking this question is rules references to compounds in general. For example, there is a spell that resists the effects of one compound, called "Alchemy Shield." It sounds cool - cooler than "Compound Shield" - but the title implies it only resist the effects of one kind of Alchemy, when it should resist all three. Also, I'm looking for another word to describe the act of making the compounds, i.e. - "He is performing Alchemy."

Alternatively, a new name for the branch of Alchemy that is specific to Alchemists could also work, allowing "Alchemy" to remain generic, and the new name to be the specific branch.

Bonus points for a cool, High-Fantasy RPG sounding name. :-)
posted by GJSchaller to Writing & Language (25 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
How about "transmutation"? This really is a sub-category of alchemy. It could apply specifically to the action of trying to cause one substance to become another.

Or you could go with fanciful interpretation of the base words, like chymistry or arcane chemistry or something like that.
posted by dervish at 4:21 PM on March 31, 2010

You could go 17th century and call it "chymistry".
posted by Artw at 4:21 PM on March 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

Initial thoughts:

Chymistry (admittedly hokey)

How is the shield made? If it's created by an alchemical process, just call it an "alchemical shield" and explain that while alchemy creates it, it resists compounds from all three disciplines—unless that breaks something else in the system, in which case I got nothin'.
posted by pts at 4:23 PM on March 31, 2010

posted by Artw at 4:23 PM on March 31, 2010

Something with "bend" or "twist" in the title. As in, you're going to take non-magical components (e.g. herbs) and "bend" them into something else.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:24 PM on March 31, 2010

i cant think of anything specific so im going to branch a little higher on your thought tree to see if i can shake something loose on the level you're looking for.

magik with a k, runic, elemental, natural, arcane, necromancy, order/chaos
posted by phritosan at 4:26 PM on March 31, 2010

Best answer: Chemism? Atomology? Atomy?

"Alchemy" being a Latinized version of an Arabic word in which "al-" basically means "the," how about just Chemy? They make Chemal potions...

Apparently there is a word "occamy" that started out as a corruption of "alchemy" but sometimes meant transforming base metals into silver rather than gold, kind of a second-rate alchemy (presumably this was a sarcastic use, like saying "nucular" ironically). "Ochimy" and "ochymy" are variant spellings of this.

"Hermetic" (from Hermes, or Mercury) has as a secondary meaning "pertaining to alchemy." You could start there.

"Thaumaturgy" may be a useful word to look up, it basically means "magic" but is more obscure and can mean whatever you need it to mean in the context of your RPG.

Good luck with your Rocket-Propelled Grenade.
posted by kindall at 4:27 PM on March 31, 2010 [2 favorites]

posted by plinth at 4:27 PM on March 31, 2010

The specific transmutation of something into gold is called "aurification." The verb form "aurify" sounds pretty cool, sounds fantasy-ish like the word "aura," and calls to mind the old legends of changing lead to gold. Classic alchemy.

Or you could go more horror with "transmogrification."
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 4:28 PM on March 31, 2010

There is also a Poul Anderson piece called Uncleftish Beholding in which he explains atomic theory using words of Germanic rather than Latin origin. You may get some good ideas from that.
posted by kindall at 4:29 PM on March 31, 2010 [2 favorites]

Rather than Greek/Latin origin, I should say.
posted by kindall at 4:31 PM on March 31, 2010

Proper names are always cool. Depends on how separate from our own world you'd like yours to be.

You could call it The Shield of Hermes Trismegistus.

Also, the Ancient Egyptians had a bizarro form of chemistry/alchemy based on their religion's ideas on the fundamental forces, called The Ogdoad. You could go with The Shield of Ogdoad too.

There have been about a million alchemists throughout history, and they inevitably have awesome names, or nomes de fume (just made that up) ... Jābir ibn Hayyān being the big famous one. He did a lot more than alchemy, but anyway.
posted by synaesthetichaze at 4:40 PM on March 31, 2010

Thaumaturgy primarily refers to clever devices, and has associations with mathematics, by the way. I fully encourage its use, but probably not for this.
posted by synaesthetichaze at 4:41 PM on March 31, 2010

How does it resist the effects? That could affect the name. If it breaks the compounds down into their base elements, rendering them harmless (well, unless the base elements are mercury and/or fire), you could call it something like "Universal Solvent" (which, admittedly, sounds like it should dissolve things) or "Precipitation Ward." If it nullifies the properties somehow, it could be "Word of Grounding" or "Nigredo" the alchemical process of dissolution.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:42 PM on March 31, 2010

If you really want to be flowery, alchemists sometimes referred specifically to Hermes Trismegistus, so Shield of Trismegistus? Trismegistic shield?

(And trismegistic is even in the OED:
anglicized form of L. trismegistus, ‘thrice-greatest’ (cf. F. trismégiste), title of the Egyptian Hermes (see HERMES 3): in quots. used allusively. So trismegistian, trismegistic, -ical adjs., belonging or ascribed to, following, or having the character of Hermes Trismegistus.
1657 H. PINNELL Philos. Ref. Aviij, He that listed himselfe a true Chymist, had faire hopes to become a great Trismegist. 1678 CUDWORTH Intell. Syst. I. iv. 307,[ ...]as the Hermaick or Trismegistick Writers call it, The Second God. Ibid. 323 Books, called Hermetical and Trismegistical.
posted by Electric Dragon at 4:44 PM on March 31, 2010

Response by poster: Thank you all - good ideas so far. Because this is a Fantasy Role-Playing Game (ahem...), some other terms are already in use for other effects, such as magic / arcane, and its traditional subsets such as necromancy, thaumaturgy, etc. (the -mancys and -turgys are usually "casted" effects, while I'm focusing on things that come in bottles.)

"Hermetic" may be the best bet, since it has the feel of something mystical and ancient, but can then be lumped under Alchemy as a sub-set.

Keep them coming - it can't hurt to have more ideas!
posted by GJSchaller at 4:44 PM on March 31, 2010

Best answer: Alternatively, a new name for the branch of Alchemy that is specific to Alchemists could also work, allowing "Alchemy" to remain generic, and the new name to be the specific branch.

This seems like the better approach to me. You have Herbal, compounds made from plants. You have Poison, compounds known to be dangerous. What's special about the third category? What is their primary source or purpose? Some combinations of the type of compound and the profession might be: Chemical/ Chemist, Medicinal/ Apothecary, Mineral/ Metallurgist, Elemental/ Elementalist.
posted by platinum at 5:10 PM on March 31, 2010

Response by poster: That's what I am going for - Hermetic Alchemy will be the (renamed) third branch. That way, Alchemy (and its rules derivatives - the spell Alchemy Shield, and the skill Concentrate Alchemy, etc.) can refer to all three branches as "Alchemy" while all branches will have a unique name.

"Hermetic" has a connotation that is semi-scientific, in my mind, which has great appeal - I am being influenced by such things as White Wolf's "Mage" game, which had the Order of Hermes in it, Shadowrun (Hermetic vs. Shamanistic), and modern terms like "Hermetically sealed." In retrospect, I should have thought of that on my own... but then, the Hive Mind is vastly more powerful than writer's block. ;-)

Thank you all again - this has been a HUGE help. Now, I just need to convince the other authors this will be a good idea...
posted by GJSchaller at 5:24 PM on March 31, 2010

"Hermetic" has a connotation that is semi-scientific, in my mind, which has great appeal

Keep in mind that your audience will never be as educated as you are, and can be easily distracted and taken out of the game experience. You may see "Hermetic" and think "science, Hermes, etc," while others might look at the word's simple resemblance to "hermit" a "hermitic" and wonder what a guy living alone in the woods has to do with the game. Or they might think "hermetic seal" and think "airtight" and "sterile."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:48 PM on March 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

Or they might think "hermetic seal" and think, "seals, ar ar."

If "hermetic" has been used in other RPGs, though, I think it's fairly safe to use it in a new one.
posted by kindall at 6:21 PM on March 31, 2010

Response by poster: I've learned long ago that I can never account for the stupidity of some of our player base. ;-) I think, in general, that Role-Playing Games are a good way to *increase* vocabulary, though - using existing words, even if they are... arcane... is a good way to broaden one's knowledge of language. I know I picked up a reading habit as a kid from playing D&D - it got me into Tolkien and Dragonlance novels that I would devour regularly, and my reading skills improved greatly from it. The fact that I can look at some words from a fantasy setting (Necormancer, Geomancer, Pryomancer, etc.) and break them down into their roots using language skills is a good thing, IMO.

And apparently, the air-tight seal derives its name from the alchemical roots...
posted by GJSchaller at 6:38 PM on March 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

Atomical Chemology
Elemental Magika - nice 'n simple
Alloyic Chemistry
Composite Metallurgy
Combinatorial Occultism (they could be math nerds too!)
Metallusionary Alchemy
posted by iamkimiam at 7:34 PM on March 31, 2010

Alchemy is also sometimes referred to as 'the spagyric art'.
posted by misteraitch at 12:03 AM on April 1, 2010

I think, in general, that Role-Playing Games are a good way to *increase* vocabulary, though

This is called The "What The Hell is Charisma?" Effect.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:57 AM on April 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: And the final result was that it was well received by the rest of the game's authors - thank you, all!
posted by GJSchaller at 5:36 AM on April 5, 2010

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