My party has gotten access to/is about to get access to a bunch of black-market bookstores. The party’s warlock and ex-wizard have expressed the intention to trawl through them looking for sketchy books about highly illegal magic. They’ve asked me if I can work out what they’re able to find using between-session downtime.—Me, about a week ago
One of the things I’ve established in the setting is that certain books—including some of the specific ones the party’s looking for—have a bunch of different “editions” and “translations” that are actually just people writing different books and putting them under the name of a famous magical work for clout. The party has shown every indication of attempting to do this again every time they find an even slightly sketchy bookshop.
If you’re one of my players in a currently ongoing campaign, this post contains huge spoilers, and you shouldn’t read it.
So this is a collection of tables for generating the contents of books of warlockry, alleged editions of the Necronomicon, and similarly dubious grimoires. It’s not exactly system-neutral, but it is designed to be highly system-adaptable, under a fairly large list of assumptions:
- Your system has spellcasting styles including:
- Warlocks who get spells from patrons; different patrons have “affinities” for different styles of magic, and spells can be loosely classified by which patrons most commonly grant them.
- Wizards who prepare and cast spells from spellbooks.
- Artificers who have something vaguely resembling spells mixed in with all their other magitech nonsense.
- Bards who have spells, which may or may not be the same thing as their spellsongs.
- “Bladespells” which may or may not be associated with a particular spellcasting style or their own distinct construct, but are designed to be part of a magical weapon-based fighting style.
- Rituals, both arcane and divine in nature, as distinct from normal spellcasting.
- Your system has “arcane foci” that you can channel spells through to improve the quality of the spell in some way.
- Your system has “signature techniques” which are associated with various skills.
- Your system has about four rough strata of power, and a sense of stuff beyond those strata.
I also make a bunch of setting assumptions, which I fully expect will be wildly untrue for most settings; I’ve highlighted the relevant parts of the document in red text, for ease in altering them.
Since it may not be obvious how to align those mechanical assumptions with your system of choice, I will provide some notes here on how to do so for a few example systems.
Tomes for the GLOG
The strata of power are of course named appropriately for the GLOG already. I will not recommend specific classes for the spellcasting styles; the GLOGOSPHERE has no shortage of classes. Arcane Foci could grant the wielder an extra MD, regardless of level; “wildly level-inappropriate” and legendary foci might perhaps grant a second MD. If you’re using classic wizard schools, the first six spells are “level appropriate” at A, the next two at B, the next two at C, the last two at D, and emblem/legendary spells at legendary.
Signature techniques are slightly trickier, and may perhaps have a whole post of their own in the future; for now, I offer a brief list of examples relevant to skills mentioned herein.
A: Ox Meditation—Increase your carrying capacity by several hundred pounds.
B: Racing Hare—Run three times as fast outside of combat.
C: Deck-Strider—Move around rigging, slippery deck, etc. without risk of falling, regardless of conditions.
D: Mason’s Hand—Break stone with your bare hands.
Legendary: Mountain-Crossing Leap—Jump fifty miles in a single bound.
A: Enigma’s Guile—Even without specific deception, save vs attempts to determine your motivations.
B: Subtle Speech—Shared secret language with your friends that appears to be innocuous conversation to outsiders.
C: Spurious Presence—As long as your gear and behavior are normal for the circumstances, nobody will consider your presence suspicious.
D: Heist of Doubts—When you steal something from someone, they save or temporarily forget you aren’t the real owner.
Legendary: Perfect Mirror—Your disguises (including changing apparent height, weight, age; visual special effects) are flawless; people can’t even attempt to recognize you as fake unless you’re behaving out of character.
A: Small Manners—You reflexively adapt to the customs and expectations of unfamiliar cultures.
B: Speech without Words—You can communicate nonverbally without a common language.
C: Unpleasant Proposal—Regardless of what persuasion you attempt, it will not damage your reputation or ruin your relations with the target, success or failure.
D: Diplomat’s Guile—You cannot be surprised by a creature you’re talking to suddenly becoming violent or hostile.
Legendary: Erode Reason—If you can get a creature to debate you for a full hour, you can make it suffer a nervous breakdown.
A: Fracture Analysis—You can break objects with Wisdom instead of Strength.
B: Superior Supply—You can buy nonmagical adventuring gear retroactively.
C: Underworld Caravaneer—You travel 25% faster and use half as much supplies on extended underground journeys.
D: Fortune’s Resonance—You can smell precious metals and gems.
Legendary: Planar Sojourner—You find extraplanar hazards no more difficult to handle than their corresponding dungeon hazards.
A: Armored Scout—You aren’t encumbered by your armor and shield.
B: Long-Distance Runner—You can run for 16 hours without stopping.
C: Diamond Body—You can ignore harm from basic, mundane scenery.
D: Mithril Stomach—You can safely consume and gain nutrition from anything that can fit in your mouth.
Legendary: Unbreathing Determination—You don’t need air, except to speak.
A: Brew Potion—You can create healing potions with appropriate materials.
B: Prosthetic Genius—You make replacements for missing limbs, organs, and similar injuries.
C: Remove Affliction—Your medical treatment can remove charms, curses, petrification, and similar magical effects.
D: Fantastic Recuperation—You can (expensively) make drugs that allow people to get by with one hour of sleep a night.
Legendary: Instant Treatment—You can perform any kind of surgery or medical treatment in two minutes or less.
A: Panoply Lore—You can identify magic items and their cultural significance.
B: Decipher Script—You can translate any written text, at least approximately, at 10 minutes per page.
C: Discerning Eye—You can reconstruct by eye writing that has been damaged or erased.
D: Sage’s Celerity—You can read as fast as you can turn the pages.
Legendary: Voice-Caging Calligraphy—You can write a document in a way that renders the reader unable to repeat any information they learn from it.
A: Judge of Talent—You can tell what skills people you interact with have.
B: Scent of Guilt—You can examine a group of people and tell who’s feeling the guiltiest.
C: Psychometric Touch—You can touch an object and read the emotions of the last character to touch it.
D: Revelation of Associates—As you interact with people, you can suss out who their allies are.
Legendary: Soul’s Price—You can reliably guess what it would take to persuade someone to undertake a task of your choice.
A: Ruinous Filibuster—All administrative and similar peaceful tasks come to a halt while you monologue.
B: Tireless Cadence—Your marching songs increase a group’s rate of travel by half again.
C: Elite Training Techniques—You can train any willing group into battle-ready soldiers in a week.
D: Winter-Wolf Pack—You can train a unit of soldiers to master a specific terrain type of your choice in a week.
Legendary: Giant-Slaying Tactics—You can train a unit of soldiers to expertise in fighting larger enemies in a month.
A: Frugal Analysis—You can quickly and precisely determine the quality of goods on sight.
B: Reasonable Paranoia—You always know whether you are being watched.
C: Crafty Profiling—You can determine someone’s mentality and personality by examining their possessions or evidence they left behind.
D: Keen Sight—You can see in minimal light, make out small details three hundred feet away, and count an army at a glance.
Legendary: Dedicated Ear—When someone you know personally and well speaks to you, you can hear them from any distance.
A: Guise of Vulnerability—You can make yourself appear to be the perfect target for a crime of your choice.
B: Guise of Procurement—You can make yourself appear to be a master of all things mercantile, the source of the best deals.
C: Guise of Rectification—You can make yourself appear to be a subject of confidential trust on institutional matters.
D: Speed the Wheels—With relatively minor bribes, you can render a bureaucracy exceptionally efficient on a particular topic.
Legendary: Foul Air of Argument—With slightly more substantial bribes, you can destroy a bureaucratic project entirely.
A: Hidden Pockets—Objects you hide on your person are exceptionally difficult to find.
B: Duplicate—You can make a reasonably good fake of a small object in ten minutes.
C: Lightning Sleight—When you pull of sleight-of-hand tricks, it always takes people at least an hour to figure out what exactly happened.
D: Magpie’s Talon—You can imperceptibly move up to 15 feet as part of a pickpocketing attempt.
Legendary: Flashing Quill—You can edit documents untraceably, even rewriting any magic included within.
Tomes for 4E
Consider A and B to be heroic-tier, C and D to be paragon-tier, and legendary to be epic tier; in particular, consider A to correspond to +1 items, B to +2, and so forth.
The classes here more or less directly correspond to the system’s arcane classes, but you should almost certainly consider “bladespells” to mean swordmage spells and not actual bladespells. Bardic “spellsongs” are their exclusive rituals, and their spells are their actual class powers.
Your arcane foci are implements; here, usually tome implements. Your signature techniques are approximately martial practices; but, of course, the Martial Power II practices are far more limited than these tables would imply. Stay tuned for my rework and vast expansion of the system.
Tomes that allow “book-casting” of one or more spells should have the “Choose a power contained in this tome and expend an unused wizard daily attack power of an equal or higher level. You gain the use of the chosen power during this encounter. The power is lost if you do not use it before the end of the encounter.” power that many tome implements have.
Tomes for 5E
Consider A to correspond to levels 1-4 and common items, B to levels 5-10 and uncommon items, C to levels 11-16 and rare items, D to levels 17-20 and very rare items, and legendary to levels 21+ and legendary items. See the GLOG section above for signature skill techniques. Bladespells are spells like the green-flame blade cantrip that can be channeled through weapons. Spellsongs are the same thing as bard spells. Rituals are just any spell with the ritual tag.