Copyright 2002 by Peter Maranci
began as an entry in the Found Items section of the Chaos
Project. I'd recently found a lot of unused game material
in some old files and email, among which was an email I'd
sent to a player years ago about a trove of books his
character had found. Naturally I was delighted, and
started posting bits of it to the site where appropriate.
But then I started to feel a bit worried; it was great to
have a lot of new material to post to the site, but what
would I do once it was gone? So I decided to supplement
the old material with new material, on a one for one
basis. Originally I simply visualized a book, and started
to daydream, trying to think of something interesting
about it, something that would make it useful for a GM.
Two ideas came simultaneously: the most beautiful and
expensive book in the world, and a vanity press piece
published by an idiot nobleman. The two ideas fit
together amusingly, and as I thought about it, more and
more elements developed in my head. That happens
sometimes, but nowhere near often enough, believe me! And
before long it was clear that this was getting too big
for the Chaos Project, and was really starting to look
like an entry in the Scenarios section, instead.
I've left a number of details vague, partly (I admit) because it would be a lot of work to work them out, but also because this way, the GM can tie the scenario far more tightly to the overall structure of his (or her) campaign. Likewise, there are no mechanics here. This scenario will work equally well with any fantasy roleplaying system.
The PCs find a locked case made of precious metals, studded with precious gems. It is not locked, but is securely clasped. In the center of the case sculpted in bas-relief from mother-of-pearl is the profile of a nobleman. His jaw and brow are strong and commanding, but a faintly arrogant and fatuous quality can be detected on careful scrutiny.
Inside the box is a large book, beautifully bound in rare leathers in a subtle yet captivating pattern. Inscribed in gold on the cover is the title of the book: Terhak Imprexion, Immortal Warrior of Supreme Goodness. The book is clearly made of the costliest and most precious materials, by master artisans. The contents of the book, however, do not match the perfection of the cover and bindings. Although the handwriting is exquisite, the parchment virgin, and the ink gold, the text is in many places quite poorly written. It is the biography of a highly-placed noble, and the astute reader quickly realizes that it was written with the aid of a highly skilled ghostwriterone whose advice was overridden in many places throughout the book. On almost every page the writing style changes from a smoothly professional and carefully adulating tone to one of ignorant, boastful, blatantly self-aggrandizing bombast and moronic opinions. In many cases no attempt is even made to hide this, as the narration changes from third to first person!
Never has such a beautiful cover contained such a useless, stupid, offensive work. The workmanship of the book is such that it would be worth 30,000 to 40,000sp if blank, but the uneraseable text reduces the value of the book virtually to its raw componentsperhaps 8,000 at most.
A successful Scan turns up a crumpled note on parchment near the case. In elegant handwriting it says:
The book was thrown away in a fit of rage by the bookbinder (or possibly by a family member) as he fled the area in terror. However, unknown to him is the fact that Lord Terhak (who is not known for his intelligence) accidentally revealed something in his book that should not have been: a crucial secret of state or of a criminal organization. Either way, the government or the mob will stop at nothing to destroy all copies of Terhak's book. The ghostwriter has been killed, as has the new bookbinder who created the gaudy and showy new editions. All copies of the book have been recovered and destroyed, and those who've read them have been killed (fortunately very few people had the time or interest to read it). Only this single copy remains in existence. Possibly Lord Terhak himself has been killed, and the existence of this work found from his records or servants; alternatively he himself may be the source of the assassins, to remove all evidence of his stupidity before his higher-ups find out.
There are a number of ways in which this situation can develop, including:
The party finds themselves being hunted
by thieves and/or assassins who attempt to either A)
steal the book, determine who if anyone has read it, and
kill those with the secret knowledge, or B) flat-out kill
the entire party because they might have read it.
Which of these two options are followed is up to the GM.
The party runs into the bookbinder (and
his family) who are being hunted and chased by the
aforementioned team of assassins. They're not sure why,
but of course they're terrified. If the PCs are
compassionate, they may decide to help the bookbinder...which
means fighting off unknown enemies, and earning the
enmity of the organization behind them.
The assassins, hot on the trail of the
bookbinder family, encounter the PCs on the trailand
befriend them! If the party seems inclined towards that
sort of behavior they may even hire the PCs to help track
down and kill the bookbinder clan. Of course, once they
find that the PCs have the book, an exciting bloodbath is
What about that secret in the book? It must be pure dynamite, and depending on the campaign the PCs may be strongly motivated to use that secret somehow: spread the word (although as soon as they try there's bound to be attempts to suppress it), or blackmail (extremely dangerous), suppress it (after all, the PCs may be on the side of the secret-keeping party), other?
[email protected] Copyright 2002 by Peter Maranci. Revised: August 27, 2002. v.1.0