Strange Potential – Stronglass

Published August 31, 2014 by in For Gamemasters, For Players


The special materials described in the Numenera core book may not be as flashy or exciting as the Artefacts and Cyphers scattered throughout the Ninth World, but they do have interesting potential all of their own. This third article explores the uses of Stronglass, a translucent material with mettalic properties. Whether you are after some ideas for what your ‘Crafts Unique Objects’ character could create, or a GM after strange embellishments for your game, read on.

Stronglass: Although this material looks, feels, and is worked like glass, it has the strength of steel.” Numenera p.77

One of the key features of this material is its tensile strength (stress it can withstand before breaking); paired with its translucence it most reassembles a form of synthetic ceramic. Current Sapphire Alumina tends to balance optical properties with mechanical strength, although there are transparent ceramics with high optical performance but lower tensile strength. These materials have seen used in laser technologies, optical transmission and even ballistic armor.

However, the methods for producing the finished product (alloying aluminium with rare-earth metal oxides and controlled crystal growth) are a step above your average glassblowing. Although that said, the proposed low-energy nanomaterial methods might be entirely possible on the Ninth World. The upshot of this is that working Stronglass using older Crown Glass, Polished Plate or Broad Sheet glassblowing techniques has the potential of creating an inferior cousin to the original material.

It’s not all doom and gloom however, there is equal potential for prior world Stronglass to have a number of interesting properties when found. Even our current smart glass technologies, (using chromic coatings or embedded nanocrystals) can produce glasses that react to heat, light or low level voltage as well as transmit images through suspended partials. So with that in mind here are some new definitions for Stronglass worth considering:

Type Properties Value
Salvaged Slightly opaque stronglass worn by the passage of time Common
Re-worked* Cloudy stronglass with a greater tendency to shatter Common
Pristine* Translucent stronglass with perfect optical qualities Uncommon
Chromic Stronglass that alters hue/transparency when exposed to radiations Rare
Ensorcelled Stronglass that can receive and display Datasphere information Unique

*reduce hardness by 1 step

As for what might be done with a hard see-though ceramic; some seriously ambitious glaziery comes to mind, although making the frames to hold such marvels is another matter. Besides being a superior glass, stronglass is useful as an inert material for storing dangerous substances. Here are some potential items that make use of Stronglass:

  • Cypher ChestThese chests were first devised by the Order of Truth as a means of transporting dangerous cyphers for study in the enclaves dotted around the Steadfast. Knowing the propensity such items for spontaneous destruction, it includes some of the best means for dampening numenera radiations available outside of the Orders sealed vaults. A 3ft long lead coffer with multiple partitioned sections of various sizes. Each section consists of a photochromic stronglass box, their lids kept airtight by ceramic screws. Inset into the coffers front face is a small disc like oddity that pulses with a faint orange light. Of course it if far from fool proof, particularly when you have one of the inferior copies made from shoddy materials.
  • Journeymans KitPoking around in the bowels of ancient prior world devices is a messy business, and no lay brother of the Order of Truth wants to be doused in corrosives or poisoned by heavy metals.Those with the shins to do so acquire a set of stronglass instruments; which are portable, shatterproof and capable of withstanding dangerous prior world chemicals. A Journeymans kit consists of a padded wooden case that contains: a retort, a funnel, a condensing spiral, 2 conical flasks, 2 beakers, stirring rods, spatula and 6 test-tubes.
  • Shard DartsOriginally these stronglass rods where cast-offs from earlier attempts to re-work the material. Their potential was realised first by hunters seeking to capture rare and dangerous creatures in the Beyond, but predictably they soon became a tool for hired killers and slave takers. Each hollow dart is roughly 5in and comes to a point with a capillary tube feeding back to the hollow interior. Each dart can hold 1 dose of a fluid, and are usually recoverable after use.
  • Sun LensPrecision lens grinders across the Steadfast treasure stocks of pristine stronglass despite the expense. One of the most sought after products of their art are the plate-sized magnifying glasses known colloquially as Sun Lenses. They are used as part of light wells in deep mines, ships and fortresses and are sought after by cultists of The Jagged Dream; they are also a powerful component in certain esoteries.
  • Glitter Powder A drawstring bag containing 5lb of powdered Stronglass. This sand is primarily used for glassblowing, but has become a desirable component among Nanos. The highly reflective particles create excellent esoteric building blocks.
  • Storm GogglesVarious forms of eye protection have sprung up all across the Ninth world, but the exclusive use of salvaged stronglass in eyewear first grew to prominence among of traders crossing the Jagged Wastes of Dessanedi. The lethal storms that sweep that land pitted and cracked ordinary glass and ate away clear synth in minutes. Only stronglass had the fortitude to contend with this wasteland, so Storm Goggles soon complemented the Shear trader’s armored suits and dust masks. These simple steel cups are lined with leather and set with two stronglass discs. Cheaper versions use a leather belt to keep the goggles in place, but any Dessanedi trader worth a damn gets a pliable metal band or incorporates them into a steel helmet. Some are rumoured to use lenses possessed by jinn that guide them through the worst of storms.
  • Scatter Cloak An invention of the Dessanedi nomads, this pliable metal mesh cloak is affixed with hundreds of tiny stronglass prisms. Amid the blinding dazzle of the glass desert these cloaks distort the outline of its wearer during the hot cloudless days, causing them to vanish into the landscape. While outside the Jagged Wastes the Scatter Cloak is less efficacious in hiding the wearer’s presence, the brilliant shimmer in bright light does make it hard to focus on directly. Interestingly it has been said that the killing rays of light projected by some numenera deflect from a particularly pristine Scatter Cloak.