Life and Youth in the Celegian Empire
One of the most precious commodities in the Celegian Empire is life. Of course, because Celegia is ancient and steeped in magical power, this is more true in the Empire than in most places.
There are two main items that can be used to extend youth and life in the Empire, the Potion of Youth and the Phylactery of Life. The Potion of Youth keeps the user young and in good health physically, but does not lengthen their natural lifespan. When a Potion of Youth user reaches their maximum possible age, they die, even though they may appear to be a dewy sixteen. As a note, Potions of Youth and Phylacteries of Life only work on characters at the age of Adulthood and higher.
In game terms, the player must keep track of every Potion of Youth they have consumed, and how many years of effect that each one had. The result of each Potion of Youth is added to the number listed on the Age chart in the SRD under "Middle Age." This means they have more years of Adulthood, but does not change the time when they would reach Old Age or Venerable. Until their chronological age exceeds this new number for Adulthood years, they suffer no effects, positive or negative, for the aging process. (Yes, consuming Potions of Youth keep you young in ALL ways, including staving off the wisdom of age as well. It's the hormones!) If they continue consuming Potions of Youth until the adjusted "middle age" number exceeds 53, they have now completely skipped that age category and will go directly to the "Old" age category once their chronological age exceeds this figure. This means all of the effects, positive and negative, for the "Middle Age" age category are avoided, IE, -1 to all physical stats and +1 to all mental stats. If they continue on with potions of youth, once their adjusted Adulthood number reaches 70 they will proceed directly to the Venerable age category once their chronological age exceeds their adjusted number. Once their chronological age reaches the secret "maximum age" number, they die of old age, unrevivable.
A Phylactery of Life operates differently. Each Phylactery of Life used by a character adds one year to each age category remaining for the character beyond Adulthood. One Phylactery of Life taken by an Adult Human character increases "Middle Age" from 35 to 36, "Old" from 53 to 55, and "Venerable" from 70 to 73. Two yields 37, 57, and 76. Ten would increase Middle Age to 45, Old to 73 and Venerable to 100. In all cases, once Venerable is reached for Humans, the 2d20 roll determines the maximum age possible for that character. As a note, further Phylacteries of Life may continue to lengthen the life of the character, but the number of years the Venerable age bracket will be is now fixed.
Of critical importance is to note that the effects of Potions of Youth and Phylacteries of Life do stack! As can be seen, a Phylactery of Life is most potent when an Adult Human uses it, as they have more age categories remaining to them which can be extended. For an Adult, each Phylactery grants three more years of life, versus two years for a Middle Age character and only one for an Old character. A Venerable person receives no benefit from a Phylactery of Life! In order to extend the life of a Venerable person, Potions of Youth must be administered to increase their Adulthood years until they reach their current chronological age. If a Human is 70 years old and Venerable, they must imbibe enough Potions of Youth to increase their Adulthood age bracket to 70 years or more. On average, it would take 10 Potions of Youth to add 35 years of Adulthood in this way. If the character dies of old age before their Adulthood score increases to match their chronological age, they are dead forever.
In general, a Potion of Youth and a Phylactery of Life can only be used once a month, but can be mixed and matched. A Phylactery of Life cannot undo age effects. If you were 36 years old and used 5 Phylacteries of Life, you would keep the stat adjustments for Middle Age, as your Middle Age category would not be changed. A Potion of Youth can and often does undo the effects of aging. A Middle Aged, Old, or Venerable character is best served using Potions of Youth first, in order to maximize the effect of any Phylacteries of Life.
A steady user of these magical life extensions eventually falls into a "maintenance dose' pattern, in which they consume a Phylactery of Life every year, to keep their age brackets increasing, and a Potion of Youth every third year (on average) to assure that they remain youthful feeling and healthy. This quickly builds up to where you have humans with Adulthood extending to hundreds of years, and who have many centuries of Middle and Old age "banked away" if they ever stop taking their Phylacteries. Some Stalwarts and Nobles have even thousands of years of life stored up in this fashion.
There is a large and thriving market in the Empire for Potions of Youth and Phylacteries of Life. These two items have a complex economic and social place in the Empire that is deserving of a bit of explanation.
Only the most powerful mages and priests in Celegia can make life "from scratch." The demand for youth potions and life extensions vastly outstrips the ability of the powerful in the Empire to make it from scratch. So how is that demand fed? Well it is fairly simple to create life and youth the "old fashioned way." Young Celegian can donate some of their life force, and that can be easily manipulated and moved around, especially compared to making it from scratch. So the huge majority of Potions of Youth and Phylacteries of Life are made from actual youth and life.
In essence, many young (and some not-so-young) people in the Empire sell portions of their life to priests and mages. Those priests and mages take this life force and create Potions of Youth and Phylacteries of Life from them. There are several ways this process happens.
The Church of Karena is the largest producer and marketer of "age products" in the Empire, by a large margin. Such buying and selling of life is tinged with evil, and that suits the Contrivers just fine. Many young Celegians go to the Contrivers and sell three years of their life force for a handsome sum, getting a good start on their life in exchange for some of their youth. As a rule of thumb, 3 years of life force is needed to make one Potion of Youth or one Phylactery of Life. It is often noted that there is a net gain of lived years in this exchange, since each Potion of Youth grants 3.5 years of youth on average for a cost of only 3 years. This small "net gain" in life is one of the major reasons the churches of Lurain, Corellan, and Daneth tolerate this practice at all.
This same process is also carried out by many mages all over the Empire and a sort of a "gray market" of illicit trade. Prices here can vary considerably.
More worrisome, actors with fewer principals are also involved in this practice, most especially some priests and sects of Quellada and Puellor. These operate on the dispossessed of Celegian society, and generally drain their victims of life force completely. This is an extremely lucrative, if despicable, practice.
A Potion of Youth adds 1d4+1 years of youth to the person who consumes it, at the cost of 3 years of youth from the donor.
A Phylactery of Life adds 1 year to each age category the user has remaining. It increases the maximum lifespan by from 1 to 3 years, depending upon how young the user is. Note that using Potions of Youth to reverse aging effects effectively "gives back" age categories, thus making Phylacteries more effective.
As a rule of thumb, a young healthy person in Celegia can expect to be paid 2000 to 8000 gold for three years of their life. The Church of Karena, by far the largest offeror of this service, pays a flat 5000 gold, for example. A Potion of Youth costs 15,000 gold to purchase, and a Phylactery of Life costs 20,000 gold.