Book of the Unspeakable One--DM advice (Spoilers)

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Postby gubaru » Mon Jan 14, 2002 11:10 am

My players are currently between Death and Terror. The wizard character has been carrying around The Book of the Unspeakable One for a week of game time. He has not tried to read it or even open it yet. However, I think there should be some consequences for hauling it around.

I’m thinking along the lines of a compulsion to read it with a will save that gets progressively harder to resist. Once he fails or just decides to read it, I’m not sure the physical or ability damage (which wouldn’t apply since he’s N) is a sufficient consequence any more. I’ve thought of insanity or the gradual corruption of the character (will saves to resist). I’ve also kicked around the idea of the book becoming harder to get rid of once it’s read or maybe even before. I can’t decide between a will save, remove curse or the book’s destruction, though.

Any ideas or comments about either the consequences of reading the book or the problem of disposal?

Thanks!
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Postby BadMojo » Mon Jan 14, 2002 3:10 pm

I like the idea of progressively more difficult Will saves to avoid reading the book. There should be some opportunity for the PC to realise that the book is trying to influence him to read it. Perhaps if the PC makes the first Will save, you can mention to him that he has a "gut feeling" that reading the book will provide him with great personal power. This will either clue him into the fact that the book is trying to influence him, or it will just make him want to open it!

As for the effects of reading the book, I would go with a slow creeping madness. Maybe start of with some missing time effects, and then just go from there.

Once under the book's control, I would make destroying it the only option to break free from it. Of course, actually wanting to destroy it would probably require a difficult Will save on the part of the affected PC.
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Postby gubaru » Tue Jan 15, 2002 8:22 pm

BadMojo,

Thanks for the opinions!

I like the slow descent into madness.

Hmmm, now I get to work on how to destroy the book, in case he reads it. Not exactly where I had pictured the campaign going but that's part of what makes RPGs so much fun.
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Postby Vocenoctum » Wed Jan 16, 2002 8:38 am

Roll sanity or lose 2d6 sanity :smile:

Actually, do you have Tome and Blood? I'd say working in the Alienist is a good idea at this point if the wizard wants to undertake a prestige class.

Otherwise, I'd have a Knowledge: Mythos skill that he must take to represent his understanding of the content.

I'd also have him seemingly haunted, using Nightgaunts, Leering Ghouls and perhaps The Black Man. If he shows no true interest, have the book stolen while he sleeps.
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Postby SassyRonin » Wed Jan 16, 2002 8:38 pm

On 2002-01-16 08:38, Vocenoctum wrote:
Roll sanity or lose 2d6 sanity :smile:

Actually, do you have Tome and Blood? I'd say working in the Alienist is a good idea at this point if the wizard wants to undertake a prestige class.

Otherwise, I'd have a Knowledge: Mythos skill that he must take to represent his understanding of the content.

I'd also have him seemingly haunted, using Nightgaunts, Leering Ghouls and perhaps The Black Man. If he shows no true interest, have the book stolen while he sleeps.


How about torturing his poor little psyche with random unmentionable passages from the book appearing tatooed on his skin!
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Postby gubaru » Thu Jan 17, 2002 8:11 pm

On 2002-01-16 08:38, Vocenoctum wrote:
Roll sanity or lose 2d6 sanity :smile:

Actually, do you have Tome and Blood? I'd say working in the Alienist is a good idea at this point if the wizard wants to undertake a prestige class.

Otherwise, I'd have a Knowledge: Mythos skill that he must take to represent his understanding of the content.

I'd also have him seemingly haunted, using Nightgaunts, Leering Ghouls and perhaps The Black Man. If he shows no true interest, have the book stolen while he sleeps.

I hadn't thought of using the the Alienist but it's a good idea. I definitely plan on making him feel quite haunted.

On 2002-01-16 20:38, SassyRonin wrote:

How about torturing his poor little psyche with random unmentionable passages from the book appearing tatooed on his skin!

Oooo, nice. This hadn't occurred to me either but I like it a lot.

Something tells me he's going to rue the day he ever picked that book up. :grin:

Thanks for all the ideas!
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Re: Book of the Unspeakable One--DM advice (Spoilers)

Postby timemrick » Thu Dec 01, 2011 3:06 am

The 3rd Era Freeport Companion has rules for insanity and madness, as well as a Knowledge (forbidden) skill. This skill can only be gained and raised by reading forbidden tomes or otherwise being exposed to such knowledge, much like the Cthulhu Mythos skill in Call of Cthulhu. Acquiring Insanity Points is detrimental to your Wisdom score, which will affect future Will saves to resist gaining more of them.

As to how dangerous it is to possess such a book without reading it, I'd say that depends on whether the book is magical or not. A nonmagical book of forbidden knowledge can be disposed of just as any other book can be. In Lovecraft's work, most copies of the Necronomicon and similar books have been destroyed by those opposed to the cults detailed within them. In the Call of Cthulhu RPG, these tomes also serve as ways to learn spells, but even a D&D spellbook is easy to destroy unless it has been magically warded in some way.

On the other hand, if you want some forbidden tomes to be dangerous even to possess, then treat them as cursed items. Choose drawbacks such as the following from the DMG's list, or make up your own:
  • Character becomes selfishly possessive of the item.
  • Character becomes paranoid about losing the item.
  • Character gains one negative level.
  • Character must make a Will save each day or take 1 point of (Int/Wis/Cha) damage.

Note that ability damage heals at the rate of 1 point per day, so that last drawback is more annoying than deadly. If you're using the Freeport Companion's insanity rules, I'd suggest a failed Will save gains the character 1 Insanity Point. And as magic items, cursed books are allowed saving throws even when unattended.

To make a forbidden tome truly dangerous, along the lines of The Evil Dead's Necronomicon, make it an intelligent cursed item. Assign powers that fit the book's theme, such as deathwatch, Knowledge ranks, cause fear, etc. These books are almost always evil, with the other alignment component determined by the book's content or origin (LE for diabolic lore or texts in Infernal, CE for Abyssal or lore about demons or The Unspeakable One). The book will continually test its Ego against its owner's will, with success forcing the owner to open and read the book, or in extreme cases, even read aloud one of the rituals it contains.

In most campaigns, the majority of books containing forbidden knowledge should be normal, nonmagical books, a few of which may also be spellbooks with a handful of spells at most. Cursed books should be rare, and intelligent ones even more so, or else they'll lose their mystique in your campaign, and the characters will learn that it's safest to simply destroy any such book unread. And where's the fun in that? >:)
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