The Book

Copyright 2002 by Peter Maranci

"The Book" 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.

Starting Hook

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 ghostwriter—one 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 components—perhaps 8,000 at most.

A successful Scan turns up a crumpled note on parchment near the case. In elegant handwriting it says:

Errig Feathertip, Bookbinder:

I regret to inform you that His Lordship finds your work shoddy and lacking. The leathers are colorless and dull, the jewels and metals sub-standard, and the workmanship third-rate. His Lordship made clear to you that he wanted "a classy A-Number-One production all the way", and that you have failed to deliver as promised. He wishes me to inform you that you may "shove your book all the way up", and that his cousin Lord Sarhek Imprexion will "be looking for you". You may keep the book in lieu of payment.

(signed) Chancellor Kalcedon


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.

Plot Threads

There are a number of ways in which this situation can develop, including:

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[email protected] Copyright 2002 by Peter Maranci. Revised: August 27, 2002. v.1.0