A Broken Sky
A living being in Ora is composed of three substances: body, soul, and spirit. The body should need no explanation. The Soul is the home of personality and memory, as well as alignment, level, and supernatural power. The spirit, by contrast, is what gives living things the capacity for motion. It is the spark that allows growth and action. A skeleton or golem has spirit but no soul. It is not normally possible to have a soul without having spirit. When separated from the body, pure spirit appears as a shining blue liquid called Anima.
Anima can be harvested in several ways. The most common is by mining. When living things die, the soul departs, but the spirit remains in the body. Over decades or centuries, the spirit will slowly leech out of the body. If the bodies are exposed to open air, the spirit typically evaporates into the atmosphere, where it feeds motion to the cloud systems. However, if the body is entombed or buried, the spirit will instead seep further into the ground. This spirit is highly reactive, and thus rarely remains in its pure form; instead, it melds into surrounding rocks, creating a striated blue stone called “animate ore.” The Dwarves mine for these ores in industrial quantities and refine them in specially-designed smelters; recently Genies and Halflings have begun experimenting with the process as well.
Anima mining is extraordinarily dangerous. Insects nesting near the ore will inadvertently absorb its energy, growing to enormous proportions. Additionally, it occasionally happens that a restless soul will escape the realm of dead and craft itself a body from the anima itself, becoming a Wraith or Spectre. Fortunately, such creatures cannot travel far from the lode that sustains them. The anima itself, especially in its liquid form gives off poisonous fumes that temporarily reduce Wisdom, causing hallucinations and anxiety. Worse, exposure to the fumes suffuses the body with so much spirit that it becomes possible for the body to contain more than one soul. Anyone unfortunate enough to be reduced to 0 wisdom by anima fumes while underground is likely to become possessed by an incorporeal undead, gaining all of its stats and abilities except incorporeality. Above ground, such possession is rare, but those affected will rage like a barbarian, and seek to kill and consume whatever other life is in the area. Should the affected person kill and eat an animal, the animal’s soul is likely to inhabit their body, creating a Were-wolf or other Lycanthrope.
There are other ways to obtain anima, though not in comparable quantity. The elves, notably, have a rite which extracts the spirit from a freshly-slain animal, rendering its anima immediately usable. The applications of processed anima are too numerous to list exhaustively, but some examples can be provided here.
Drinking a moderate amount of anima will allow a character with access to training to gain 1 level of Totemist, Soulborn or Incarnate, even if they did not have enough XP to advance a level. No XP is gained, however, delaying progress in one’s prior career. Advancing further in one of these classes requires imbibing again on every level-up. Regimens exist allowing a careful practitioners to gain XP and levels merely by dosing themselves with anima in increasing volumes over time, but the time scale involved is typically impractical for PCs.
Anyone with Craft (armorsmithing) can alloy anima with iron or silver to produce adamantine and mithril, respectively. If they have Craft Magic Arms and Armor, the result will also be Magic (having a level-appropriate enhancement bonus). Higher-level crafters can use greater concentrations of anima to produce Ghost Touch weapons, although the reactions involved are highly unstable. A few visionary craftsmen are able to fashion pure anima into Brilliant Energy weapons. Anima also serves as a base for a variety of potions.
Anima is the primary material component involved in constructing golems and other constructs; it can also be used as the material component for Animate Dead. Characters with Handle Animal can feed their charges anima to transform an ordinary animal into a dire equivalent over the course of a month. Vampires find anima even more nourishing than blood. Spellcasters use anima to give spells Permanenecy, or to supply the energy required to bring Outsiders into the world. Some barbarian tribes deliberately induce animania to produce were-wolf warriors. Anyone who takes a tiny dose daily will find their aging cut in half.