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3/01/2019 9:51 am  #1

Mundane and quasi-magical texts

In reference to the Dark Treasury, I really like these ideas.  They emphasize the "dread knowledge Men were not to know" aspect of weird/Lovecraftian fiction, as well as being direct homages to the fictional books in the genre, which are all just awesome. Who doesn't like the Unaussprechlichen Kulten by Friedrich von Junzt! However, I've always thought there was a need for mundane texts in rpgs: there is a lot of hand waving around the activities of magic users in their "off time": research, reading, deciphering mystic prunes (sorry, Pratchett), collecting arcane materials, learning new languages, dissecting alligators, etc...  But the only books found are serious magic items or artifacts, or spellbooks, rarely anything lower powered or mundane.  In a skill-based rpg, you could use such books to increase skill ability, add bonuses to certain activities and such.  Isn't the main power of the mage the mind? Filling it with forbidden knowledge gained at the cost of sanity itself should be their primary activity, and would remain truer to the mage archetype.  In a non-skill-based rpg such as ASSH, quantifying the effect of a mundane book is more difficult, since you just can’t slap a percentage bonus on to a skill check, but that doesn't reduce the utility of a book in role-playing a spell caster.

Mundane books can serve a variety of functions, not the least providing adventure hooks.

For instance: our intrepid explorers come across a shattered monastery overlooking a desolate valley from a high cliffside.  After some difficulty getting up there and slaying the nest of rabid ape-men terrorizing the valley below, they find behind an old closet door hidden behind a pile of debris and bones the mummified corpse of one of the hermits that used to live there, curled about an old leather satchel.  The satchel contains scraps of papyrus and four books wrapped in stiff cloth:

"Epigrams of the Steel Prophet" - a chapbook of sayings of an ancient warrior monk.  Pressed inside its pages is a blossom of the purple lotus, a flower notable for its effect when burned on divination (doubles duration of spells).  Using sayings from this book, such as "To go forward, it is necessary to go back", in conversation with a cataphract or other professional warrior will give a +25% bonus to your reaction roll with them.

"The Ruby Eye" - a heretical text of the church of Apollo, this book describes a series of complex rituals that if followed diligently, will presumably brighten Helios and remove the red stain from its light.  However, since the recommended rituals involve mass human sacrifice and other deviant behavior, such as eating only with your left hand and the plucking out of an eye, this belief resulted in a bloody purge of this sect many years ago.  An adherent of the Church of Apollo that fails a Wis check and reads the book will require an Atonement spell to be cast upon them to rid them of heretical ideas.  Close reading (Int check) will reveal a series of hermetic markings, gestures and passwords that will identify members of this cult to each other.

"The Prophesies of the Wormeater of Hemn" This thick leather-bound book contains the gathered utterances of the infamous Wormeater of Hemn, a man imprisoned by mad cultists in a barrel and sustained by worms soaked in psychedelic mushroom brine and slipped through the bung.  The words seem nonsensical, but adherents of mystical apocrypha seek to find glimpses of the future within his ravings.  Readers will find a recipe for a potion that will inflict visions of other planes of existence on the imbiber.

"The Modes of the Hyssaptic Optimates of Achernar" This thick volume describes the daily lives of the nobility inhabiting the far star Achernar.  Long passages on social etiquette describe in minute detail the rules by which their feasts are conducted, formal styles of greeting, conduct between beings of like and different castes, clothing styles, decorative disfigurements and markings, eye-stalk orientation, the methods of gas ingestion (by breath tube or nodule), and other recondite topics.  The author waxes poetic over their intrinsic beauty, intelligence, refinement and noble hauteur, to which the rulers of current lands do not compare favorably.  The imprudent circulation of this opinion beyond his circle of initmates earned him imprisonment and finally the garrote from the Tyrant of Khromarium.  Consequently, this rarified and subtle viewpoint has subsequently fallen from favor.  Sages and adepts have been unable to confirm if this text is fact or fiction, since communication with the Hyssaptic Optimates has proven difficult to establish.  Collectors value this work as a curiosity; it is valued in the range of 500 gp for a copy.

Last edited by Hackhamster (3/01/2019 11:42 am)

"AS&SH feels like late 70’s fantasy roleplaying from a parallel dimension where Frodo was unceremoniously slain by Conan." - review

3/01/2019 1:53 pm  #2

Re: Mundane and quasi-magical texts

Here are some ways I think these texts and others like them can be tied into into gameplay:

Reading: Casual reading of a book gives the reader some idea of the content of the work.  Reading a book takes a total of 3d4 hours.  Once read, it can be used for reference, or an attempt can be used to master the material.

Mastery: the reader studies the book for d6 weeks minus their Wisdom Bonus, with a minimum of 1 week.  At the end of this time period, they roll an Intelligence check.  If they pass the check, they now have Mastery of the material and can utilize whatever skill or bonus granted by their new knowlege, unless the book is merely informative.  Once a book's content has been mastered, it does not need to be on hand for the character to use or benefit from its knowlege.

Translation: if the book is in a language unknown to the reader, consulting a sage to translate it and a scribe to write it down will be sufficient for most material.  For those works that are secret, blasphemous or hazardous to the reader, they first must acquire a dictionary and perform their own translation. If you consider the translation to be part of the mastery process, add 2d4 weeks minus their Int bonus.

Reference Material: A book can be used for reference.  Once a book is read, finding an answer to a question takes 1d12 turns, if the book is at hand.

"AS&SH feels like late 70’s fantasy roleplaying from a parallel dimension where Frodo was unceremoniously slain by Conan." - review
     Thread Starter

3/02/2019 12:55 pm  #3

Re: Mundane and quasi-magical texts

"Hydrusale’s Infernal Lexicon"
Bound in smooth black hide tainted with a sulfurous reek, this slim volume details the words and phrases used when summoning, binding, controlling and banishing malign entities of Underborea. Extensive notations define specific accents and intonations that maximize efficacy, as well as dire warnings concerning the consequences of mispronunciation, stuttering, slurring and other speech defects when attempting to impose one’s will on the infernal. The knowledge imparted by mastery of this book will improve a sorcerer’s mental focus and verbal precision in all summoning spells, allowing for a save vs Sorcery when a result indicates failure.

While Hydrusale’s sudden fiery disappearance came as no surprise to the cognoscenti, it was still counted a great loss. However, the recovery of this work and others from his scattered library enabled his work to be continued. Alongside the author’s Bestiary, this book, is considered by many to be a foundational text of infernal scholarship.

Last edited by Hackhamster (3/02/2019 12:56 pm)

"AS&SH feels like late 70’s fantasy roleplaying from a parallel dimension where Frodo was unceremoniously slain by Conan." - review
     Thread Starter

3/06/2019 6:20 pm  #4

Re: Mundane and quasi-magical texts

These are splendid - very evocotive!


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