Monday, May 28, 2012

not spellbooks, books about spells

Dragon #82 (Feb '84) has one of my all-time favorite random charts, located in Bruce Heard's pretty dang cool article on spell research, "Spells Between the Covers: Details for Delving into Magical Research".  The chart that I love is this d100 list of what I tend to think of as "almost spellbooks".  Each entry is an academic treatise written by a famous or not-so-famous wizard.  Each book lists a few spells that are mentioned in the book or that the books might be helpful in developing.  These spells are not simply sitting in these books in complete form, waiting to be copied out by eager PC magic-users.  Rather the books contain clues that can aid in research, to the tune of up to +10% bonus to your research roll.  Dig up the original article for all the details.  Any, here's the chart in full.  Below the chart I'll offer an alternative use for it.  Dig it:

01-02. Idioms & Rare Cryptographs by Elminster (message, write, illusionary script, tongues, audible glamer, magic mouth)
03. Legendry of Phantoms and Ghosts by Evard (phantom armor, phantom steed, phantom wind, Evard's black tentacle, wraithform)
04. Lore of Subtle Communication by Tasha (ventriloquism, message, comprehend languages, legend lore, Tasha.s uncontrollable hideous laughter)
05-06. Ancient Cryptomancy by Phandal (sending, wizard mark, secret page, sepia snake sigil)
07-08. Extreme Powers of Observation by Kwalish (detect magic, detect illusion, identify, detect invisibility, glassee, locate object)
09. Eyes, Vision, and Arcane Sight by Alphon (infravision, clairvoyance, blur, vision, blindness, wizard eye, eyebite, ultravision)
10. Theories on Perception by Kuroth (detect evil, clairaudience, true sight, deafness)
11-12. Manual Powers Beyond the Life by Bigby (burning hands, Bigby's interposing hand, Bigby's forceful hand, Bigby's grasping hand, Bigby's crushing hand, Bigby's clenched fist)
13. The Seven Skies of The Universe by Casimur (gust of wind, whispering wind, rainbow pattern, precipitation, cloudburst, wind wall)
14-15. The Forgotten Arts of Oratory Magnetism by Leomund (fascinate, taunt, irritation, truename, Leomund's lamentable belabourment)
16. Theory of the Invisible Forces by Tenser (push, unseen servant, strength, Tenser's floating disc)
17- 8. Displacements and Modelling the Milieu by Thurl (shatter, enlarge, mending, stone shape, massmorph)
19. Creation and Modification of Matter by Caterpillar (move earth, dig, telekinesis, statue)
20-21. Influence on Solid Corpus by Mentor (fool's gold, transmute rock to mud, stone to flesh, plant growth, animal growth, shape change)
22. Subconscious Repercussions of Pyromancy by Quaal (fire trap, wall of fire, firewater, flaming sphere)
23-24. Dissimulation and Obscuration by Tzunk (blink, invisibility invisibility 10. radius, improved invisibility darkness, continual darkness, vacancy, avoidance, mass invisibility)
25-26. Life of Nature, Its Secrets by Caligarde (feather fall, levitate, spider climb, web, fly, mount, Caligarde's claw, bind)
27. Alterations of Tangibles and Intangibles by Yagrax (melt, transmute water to dust, item, material, fabricate, crystalbrittle)
28. Encyclopaedia of the Non-Substances by Asmiak (erase, non-detection, misdirection, improved phantasmal force)
29-30. Components and Reactions of Phosphorus by Daern (affect normal fires, dancing lights, fire charm, fireball, delayed blast fireball, incendiary cloud)
31. Legendry of Great Arms and Fabulous Heroes by Kas (armor, phantom armor, stoneskin, protection from normal missiles, shield, forcecage)
32. Sulphur, Influence and Actions by Arbane (pyrotechnics, flame arrow, fire charm, fire shield)
33-34. Tome on Influences and Suggestions by Arunsun (charm person, ray of enfeeblement, scare, suggestion, antipathy/sympathy, mass suggestion)
35. The Multiple Applications of Perceptomancy by Laeral (alarm, detect illusion, mislead, dream, dolor, sequester, Laeral's dancing dweomer)
36. Occult Magnetism by Nolzur (friends, hold person, charm monster, hold monster, charm plants, mass charm)
37-38. Arcane Manipulations of the Entourage by Otto (sleep, scare, fumble, geas, Otto's irresistible dance, confusion)
39. The Deep Fears of Humanity by Hallo-ene (shout, spook, scare, fear, chaos)
40-41. Art of Communications and Sigils by Flamsterd (explosive runes, power word stun, power word kill, power word blind, symbol)
42. Echo & Resonance of the Great Void by Whisper (find familiar, monster summoning I - V)
43. The Foundations of Secret Authority by Ill-Oominoty (binding, demand, torment, dismissal)
44-45. Epic Saga of the Great Conjurers by Mordenkainen (Mordenkainen's faithful hound, conjure animals, monster summoning VI, cacodemon)
46. Repertoire of Illustrious Conjurations by Drawmij (conjure elemental, Drawmij's instant summons, monster summoning VII, summon shadow, invisible stalker, guards and wards)
47. Architecture by Leomund & Mordenkainen (Leomund's secure shelter, Leomund's tiny hut, forcecage, Mordenkainen's magnificent mansion)
48-49. Doors and Passages of Parallel Worlds by Lethchauntos (hold portal, knock, jump, wizard lock)
50. Theories on Converging Transitions by Lhegrand (dimension door, passwall, gate)
51. The Unknown Movements of the Universe by Arnd (run, shadow walk, teleport without error, succor, vanish)
52. Thesis on Conditional Ruptures by Archveult (teleport, phase door, shadow door, maze, Archveult's Skybolt)
53. Luminescence and Coloration by Nchaser & Tulrun (light, color spray, continual light, darkness 15' radius, prismatic spray, project image, projected image, chromatic orb, Nchaser's glowing globe, Tulrun's tracer)
54. Spherogenesis of the Multiverses by Otiluke (Otiluke's resilient sphere, Otiluke's telekinetic sphere, Otiluke's freezing sphere, globe of invulnerability, flaming sphere, prismatic sphere)
55. The Powers of the Spiritual Will by Phrandjas (emotion, chaos, feeblemind, confusion)
56. The Transcendental Impenetrabilities by Leomund (Leomund.s tiny hut, minor globe of invulnerability, globe of invulnerability prismatic sphere)
57. Cosmogony of Magnetic Fluids by Mordenkainen (chain lightning, volley, energy drain, Mordenkainen's disjunction)
58-59. Arcane Resistance of Dwarves and Halflings by Serten (dispel magic , remove curse, Serten's spell immunity, anti-magic shell, dispel illusion, dispel exhaustion)
60. Manual of Magnetic and Electric Waves by Gee-Eeh (shocking grasp, lightning bolt, repulsion, reverse gravity)
61. The Dark Sides of the Memory by Mordenkainen (banishment, Mordenkainen's lucubration, ensnarement, contingency)
62-63. Treatise on Cabalistic Protections by Krest (protection from evil, shield, protection from evil 10' radius, protection from normal missiles)
64. The Trance of the Intellect by Aspirin (feign death, contact other plane, limited wish, wish)
65. The Representations of the Sentient Plane by Rialissom (phantasmagoria, weird, mirage arcane, advanced illusion, delude)
66-67. Intelligence and Intuitive Domination by Zagy (ESP, trap the soul, spiritwrack, magic jar)
68-69. Arcane Puissance of the Memory by Rary (Rary's mnemonic enhancer, forget, mind blank, hypnotic pattern)
70. The Origins of the Hour Glass Symbology by Nulathoe (preserve, tempus fugit, Nulathoe's ninemen, haste)
71-72. Variations on the Visual Perception by Mhzentul (hypnotism, hallucinatory terrain, paralyzation, veil)
73. Mental Impressions of the Retina by Johydee (phantasmal force, improved phantasmal force, permanent illusion, programmed illusion)
74. Treatise of Sublimated Oneiromancy by Tasirin (sleep, dream, feign death, Tasirin's haunted sleep)
75-76. Theory of Occult Visual Shock by Ye'Cind (fear, minor creation, phantasmal killer, major creation)
77-78. Libram of the Great Paravisual Emanations by Nystul (Nystul's magic aura, shadow magic, demi-shadow magic, shades, Leomund's trap)
79. The Minds of The Unknown by Lum (feeblemind, mind blank, dismind, forget)
80-81. Repertoire of Subconscious Apparitions by Gaxx (spectral force, shadow monsters, demi-shadow monsters, simulacrum)
82. Thesis on the Planes of Anti-Matter by Leomund (rope trick, distance distortion, astral spell, disintegrate, Leomund's secret chest, duo-dimension, deeppockets)
83-84. Clouds and Fog by Dahlver-Nar (stinking cloud, fog cloud, cloudkill, wall of fog, death fog, solid fog)
85-86. Gazette of the Norse Climates by Otiluke (gust of wind, ice storm, control weather, Otiluke's freezing sphere, cone of cold, wall of ice)
87. Science of Temporal Waves by Leuk-0 (haste, slow, extension I - III, permanency)
88-89. Tome of Studies on the Fourth Dimension by Seik-O (temporal stasis, time stop, imprisonment)
90-91. Occult Observations on Fluids by Koorz (water breathing, airy water, lower water, part-water, sink, grease, Spendelarde's chaser)
92. Evolution of the Arcane Will Power by Tenser (polymorph self polymorph other, polymorph any object, Tenser's transformation)
93-94. Alterations of the Intrinsic Absolutes by Math (change self, alter reality, massmorph, shape change, alter self)
95-96. The Bricks of the Spiritual Fortification by Webster (wind wall, wall of fire, wall of force, wall of iron, wall of stone, prismatic wall, glassteel)
97. Ordinary Necromancy by Vecna (animate dead, death spell, reincarnation, clone)
98. The Weapons of the Ether by Melf & Mordenkainen (whip, Melfs acid arrow, magic missile, enchant an item, enchanted weapon, Mordenkainen's sword)
99. Treatise of Universal Astronomy by Melf (Melf's minute meteor, meteor swarm, fireball)
00. Inexplicable Reflections by Bucknard (mirror image, magic mirror, gaze reflection)

Obviously some of the author names used above are gags.  Eg. Koorz, master of fluid magic, is based upon Coors, a brand of cheap American beer.

Anyway, to get another use out of this chart, set aside the book concept for a moment.  What we have here are a list of wizards, most of whom probably lived centuries ago, and what spells they were into.  Assume wizardry works by wizards passing knowledge to apprentices over the generations, a sort of apostolic succession as opposed to the Hogwart's model of mass magical education.  This means you could roll on this chart for each MU in your campaign.  What the spell list afterwards means would depend on how generous you are with spells in your game.  They could be free spells added to the book, or PCs could get a bonus to researching them since they have been taught the proper theoretical background info.

Plus it would be super-neat to assign each PC and NPC a school of wizardry that mostly exists to color the campaign.  Do the disciples of Ye'Cind constantly seek out that archmage's lost Recorder?  Are the members of the school of Vecna all unrepentant jerks, or do they get a bad rep because their founder went bonkers in his elder years?  Are the Sons of Koorz all beery swine?  Or "Hey, DM, I really want to learn lightning bolt."  "Then seek ye a student of the ancient master, Gee-Eeh."  Instant adventure hook.

If you've got the late AD&D1 tome Greyhawk Adventures by Jim Ward you can use the Bigby, Drawmij, Mordenkainen, Nystul, Otiluke, Otto, Rary and Tenser-branded spells therein as secret teachings for these wizards.  These spells and the teachings attached to them never made it into publication, so only the apprentices of the apprentices of the apprentices of these great bygone masters know them.

And just to keep the PCs on their toes, pick a few of the authors on the list above to be alive and active in the campaign.  The reputations of these living masters could precede them in the form of these treatises, encounters with apprentices and evidence of heavy duty magic in use.


  1. And then there's the Borgesian possibility: that only the true apprentices know when the master is imparting knowledge and when he's just spinning a yarn.

    Of course, espionage is a temptation for apprentices and masters alike: the ambitious apprentice should never be happy with knowledge from just one genealogical line, and the insatiably curious master should set his apprentice out like bait for other masters.

    Periodicals and pamphlets tend to be overlooked here but they could be fun for the contradictory information they might present. Any number of Pyromancers' Letters might contain commentary on half a dozen different fireball production methods without ever spelling those methods out.

  2. I see this polarizing my players -- those who have not played Call of Cthulhu with me in the past will find this first irritating (as they realize that these books do not contain readily-transcribable spells) then useful, while those who have played Call of Cthulhu with me in the past will start organizing book burnings on the assumption that sooner or later, they'll run across a slim, yellow-bound volume whose cover is stamped with a curious gold Sign...

  3. Dang, its a who's-who of the spell-casting world...

  4. Oh that takes a fellow back. Back to the 1st Edition AD&D Players Handbook, to be precise. I think this list could practically be the focus of a magic-user driven campaign and I really enjoy the idea of wizards sneaking about trying to get their hands on closely hoarded spell. Maybe the difference between a powerful magister and a hedge wizard reduced to selling trinkets is that the first has an excellent library staff and dozen of old tomes, while the second has only a few dirty notes transcribed five or six times and passed down amongst the magic world's equivalent of hobos.

  5. Interesting. I might have to borrow some of these at RuneQuest/OpenQuest grimoires.

  6. I will be converting this for the DCC RPG right away. Thanks for posting this.

  7. Yup, this is exactly the right style for how I think wizards should be. In fact, working up things like this is one of my favorite parts of dreaming up a new campaign. Thanks for posting this!

  8. No doubt, this kind of spell stuff is intriguing. Awesome list!
    My personal favorite;
    "Ordinary Necromancy, by Venca"
    As Charles Barkley would say "Halarius"