For ardent Shadow World users, the magical glass Laen is akin to Mithril in Middle Earth; a rare, precious and valuable commodity. Unlike Mithril, Laen doesn’t really seem to be forged into armor (although Laen plates or scales may be possible and cool looking?), but it can be formed into weapons. Many of the powerful beings found in the Shadow World books wield Laen weapons in a variety of colors–sort of a Star Wars lightsaber aesthetic.
The Master Atlas describes Laen:
Laen (1000-10,000 sp): An extremely hard volcanic glass
which can be forged into very keen-edged, almost
indestructible, weapons. Laen can also be tinted, and (vary
rarely) is naturally colored. It should be considered
enchanted. Laen is also very unusual in that it becomes more
pliable as its temperature is lowered. Because of this, unique,
magical cold forges must be used to work laen into tools and
But perhaps the source code for Laen can be found in I.C.E.’s first product, The Iron Wind.
Over one ofthe Guildhalls in Uda Tyygk is set a woven band of colored
glass: Laen (‘lane) it is called by the Udahir. Smoother than ordinary
glass, and yet stronger than steel, its transformation into weapons and
jewelry represents the pinnacle of achievement in the smallest, yet not
the least, of the Udahir guilds. Most of the Laenworkers never touch the
substance, but create objects of normal glass or gems, for Laen cannot be
made and by custom only the greatest of them may use it.
Laen well merits its special rarity, formed as it was solely by the powers
that shaped the earth . Laen itself is neither rock nor metal, but magic, the
trapped energy of the unmaking of the world within a mineral. Impurities
in the host rock give varied colors and properties, as a rainbow depends
upon dust for its beauty. Conjure an image of frozen light and you behold
Laen, the greatest natural treasure of the world.
Nature guards her hoard well. Laen can only be hewn from the surrounding basalt with the utmost patience before it will assume the shape
for which it is prized. Pride is taken not only in the finished product, but in
the effort and materials whereby it was created. White Laen, which is actually clear, predominates, for it is both the most available and the
strongest variety, being pure. Other prevalent varieties among the Udahir
are red, green and blue (which resist fire, magic and cold respectively),
and a much rarer silver Laen, which is neutral and extremely receptive to
There are a few discrepancies from the original material (written by Pete Fenlon) and Terry’s later work. Should we consider Laen to come in colors or is it mostly tinted during it’s crafting. Furthermore, does Laen have intrinsic resistive powers related to it’s coloring?
Bonuses. Per the Mater Atlas, Laen should be considered “magical” with a bonus of +25, but Laen weapons found throughout the SW books have bonuses even higher. It is never mentioned that Laen can be forged into differing qualities, and generate higher bonuses; must we assume that magical bonuses can be layered atop the natural +25?
Fabricating and Forging. Like many of the enchanted metals and alloys that Terry introduces, Laen requires a special “Cold Forge” to be worked properly. It’s not clear how that would work, but in my own campaign, I modified the methodology using an “Essaence Forge”. I think it gets to the same result: a specially channeled flow of Essaence acts as “Cold Flame” to work Laen and other enchanted materials. Using the Alchemist lists, “Work Laen” is a 20th level spell, which certainly limits it’s production. The Udahir have Laenworkers, but as stated in the Iron Wind, only the “greatest of them may use it”.
Ubiquity. There are several cultures that utilize Laen: The Forest People of the Emerald Forest, The Kuluku (inherited from the Jinteni) and the Udahir in the Mur Fostisyr, and as mentioned, Laen weapons are found on most of the notable NPC’s in the books. So how common is Laen? Work Laen is a 20th level Alchemist spell in SL; but Laen if often mentioned as a resource in various SW books. Someone is mining it and using it!
Laen is a great example of a setting specific element that differentiates SW from other standard fantasy settings. How is Laen used in your campaign? Do PC’s have Laen weapons? What are your thoughts?