rating: 0+x

"Wax on … wax off"

Mister Miyagi Karate Kid

Basic Information

Waxes are a class of organic compounds that are solid but malleable at room temperature. The exact types of chemicals from which they are formed vary - and any given wax (especially naturally occurring ones) may be a blend of several - long chain alcohol/fatty acid esters are relatively common.

Naturally occurring waxes may be animal derived (like beeswax or lanolin) or from plants (like carnuba or sugar cane wax) … historically, beeswax was one of the more significant sources for a long time. Of chemically derived waxes, paraffin wax is probably the earliest and best known, but many others can be manufactured by a variety of organic syntheses.

Wax has a variety of uses - any given variety may be used for some or all dependant on its properties. An early application was the making of candles, in which the wax is, essentially, burned as a fuel. Other uses include sealing (both "sealing" of letters and more literal uses as a waterproof closure for joins), protective coatings for wood, paper and the like, polishes and even for the preservation of food (for example by sealing cheese in wax). Industrial uses include bearing lubrication, use as release agents and the 'lost wax' method of metal casting.

Softer waxes, or those softened by blending with oil, can be used in the manufacture of ointments.

Allegedly, bowmen were known to harvest their earwax from use in waterproofing bowstrings - this has the air of myth about it, but is included for completeness.

See Also:

  • Adipocere - a specific sort of wax, formed during the incomplete decay of corpses.
  • Tallow - animal fat, usually found as a wax.
  • Wax bullet - a form of ammunition used either for trickery or training purposes.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • As a trade good, this stuff works as treasure.
  • Limited other applications unless PCs need to hunt down some specific wax for alchemy or artifice.
  • Some old RPGs used to put sealing wax onto the basic equipment list - this mystified GMs and players alike for years until they realised that it was meant for vampire hunters: faced with vampires that could turn into a mist, the wax allowed hunters to block up holes, thus denying the vampire routes of escape or entry. This should also work against anything else that can turn into a mist - or even swarm shifters.
  • Sealing wax can also be used to make tamper seals on doors, chests etc. just as easily as on a letter - and might also serve to take 3D impressions of carvings, keys and other fiddly things that PCs might want to duplicate.
  • Wax might be an appropriate material for drawing some kinds of magic circle - and might at least be a step up from chalk.
  • The wax museum is a great location for creepiness or misdirection.
  • Wax might also be used to disguise a construct of some kind by covering it in a layer of simulated skin - it might be a pretty poor disguise, but it could prevent them looking completely inhuman ("the Generis DC had wax skin … we spotted them easily")
    • Masks with simulated wax skin were also used historically as forms of disguise and/or to cover up deformities or disfigurement. This could, of course, be a problem if you stood too close to the fire (or in the sun too long) and your face started to melt…
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