Thursday, 11 June 2015

20 things that scholars might have forgotten to return to the academy library after they graduated

You know how it is. You borrow a book, and you really mean to get round to reading it, and before you know it you've graduated and you're off to the Wicked City with the damn thing stuffed in your saddle-bags...

As with fighters, so with scholars. Here's a quick random table to assign starting equipment to scholar characters, and a 1d20 table for them to roll up their most important possession: except that while fighters have objects they stare at grimly before battles, scholars have books they forgot to return to the library. It's thematic!

Scholar Additional Starting Possessions Table (Roll 1d6)

Alchemist's gear: Extremely resilient and heavily-stained labcoat (treat as buff jacket, +2 AC), staff (1d6 damage), locked wooden box containing portable alchemical equipment, 2d6 glass vials, 3d6x10 sp.
Astrologer's gear: Long, warm, fur-lined coat for cold nights spent stargazing (treat as buff jacket, +2 AC), spyglass, quadrant, star charts, book of mathematical tables, 3d6x10 sp.
Clockworker's gear: Sturdy leather work clothes (treat as heavy leathers, +3 AC), locked box full of delicate tools, another locked box containing a half-finished machine that you're currently tinkering with, pocket watch, 3d6x10 sp.
Historian's gear: Comfortable travelling coat (treat as leather jacket, +1 AC), 1d3 books, 1d6 tiny but intriguing ancient artifacts, locked box containing in-progress historical manuscript, charcoal for sketching, paper and ink, 3d6x10 sp.
Healer's gear: Comfortable travelling coat (treat as leather jacket, +1 AC), staff (1d6 damage), locked box containing herbs, ointments, and unguents, roll of bandages, anatomy textbook with alarmingly vivid illustrations, 3d6x10 sp.
Cartographer's gear: Heavy travelling clothes (treat as heavy leathers, +3 AC), stout walking stick (staff, 1d6 damage), book of maps, compass, quadrant, charcoal for sketching, paper and ink, 3d6x10 sp.

Things That Scholars Might Have Forgotten To Return to the Academy Library After They Graduated (roll 1d20)

1.   A very old book of coastal charts, which has obviously seen heavy shipboard use in the past; the pages are marked and stained and smell faintly of salt. Next to an unnamed island on a map of a distant coast, an unsteady hand has drawn a deaths-head marker and scrawled: blaydes dont cutt em but fires wil burn em upp.

2.   An instruction manual, which describes in lunatic detail how to build a giant mechanical owl in order to further the cause of righteousness in the land. (The causal relationship between these two things is not made clear.) Chapters 3 through 9, which cover the construction of the owl’s internal mechanisms, have been ripped out.

3.   An extremely spicy erotic novel about the life and loves of a famous courtesan. You keep it with you for, um, further research purposes.

4.   A book of abstruse speculative philosophy, heavily annotated by some previous student. The annotations to the early chapters are detailed and lucid, but as the book goes on they grow increasingly incoherent, finally lapsing into ravings about a Beast and a city made of red steel. Due to the quantity of crazy annotations on its final pages, the last sections of the book are effectively illegible. You've never been able to find another copy.

5.   A book of woodcut illustrations, more than a century old, depicting various fantastical monsters. One of them shows a particularly grotesque many-tentacled beastie fighting with a figure in spiked armour, who – unlike every other figure in the book – has a string of nonsense words engraved beneath them. Disturbingly, these words form an anagram of your name.

6.   A cookbook, containing stunningly delicious recipes which, unfortunately, require extraordinarily rare and hard to find ingredients to make. It is your life’s ambition to cook and eat all of them at least once.

7.   An antiquarian manuscript whose author attempts, from the surviving literary and numismatic evidence, to deduce where the major strongholds of the local sorcerer-kings were back in the Age of Wonders. If she’s right, then there are at least three in the area which have been completely forgotten about, one of which is now buried under the streets of a major city…

8.   A famous old tragedy about the death of a king, plus the sequel to it you wrote as a student, which tells the story of the death of his little brother. You are convinced that your play is a dramatic masterpiece, every bit as good as the original, but you have yet to find a theatre willing to stage it. You live in hope.

9.   A collection of scandalous, gossip-filled letters, written between two aristocratic siblings (who also seem to have been incestuous lovers) a little over a century ago. These letters repeatedly hint at the existence of some very dark secrets in the histories of several prominent local families, but are maddeningly vague about specifics. You suspect the authors knew that their letters were being opened and read by people other than their intended recipients.

10.  A book of heretical, politically seditious, and intermittently obscene drinking songs, complete with musical scores. Owning it is highly illegal, but you can’t bear to part with it: after all, it might well be the only copy which survived the purge…

11.  An anonymous epic poem about the Brass Spear Prince, full of stirring speeches and descriptions of battle scenes. If you’re honest with yourself, this book is the reason why you became an adventurer in the first place.

12.  A book of love poetry. These were the poems that you and your first love used to sit and read to one another. Just looking at them moves you to tears.

13.  A book of moral philosophy, written by your saintly old tutor. You do your best to put her teachings into practise, but it’s rather harder out here in the real world than it was back in the academy…

14.  The memoirs of a famous explorer, describing his many travels. The last chapter describes his plans for his final expedition, from which he never returned. But if you can work out where he went wrong, then maybe you’ll have better luck…

15.  A prayer-book. Even with all your knowledge and sophistication, these simple hymns still have an almost supernatural power to soothe your troubled mind.

16.  A book of political philosophy, which you passionately disagree with. You spend all your spare time scribbling sarcastic notes in the margins about how wrong it is, and working on your own book-length, point-by-point rebuttal of its arguments and claims. No-one else you've met has ever heard of it, and the author has been dead for thirty years.

17.  An old bestiary, full of detailed information about monsters and magical beasts. Its sources appear to be approximately one-third hard evidence, one-third rumour and hearsay, and one-third the author's own fevered imagination, with no indication in the text as to which is which. Could easily save your life one day if you can only work out which parts of it are actually true...

18.  A catalogue of birds found in this and adjacent kingdoms, in which you obsessively tick off every species you manage to spot. A former owner of the book seems to have ticked off far more of the really rare ones than you, and you are insanely jealous. One day, you will surpass him!

19.  A very long, very detailed book about viniculture. You like to relax by reading it and daydreaming about the day when you will retire from all this to run your own vineyard up in the hills. You should keep an eye out for exotic grape varieties while you're out on your adventures - you never know what might make for a good field blend...

20.  Your brilliant essay proving how everything we think we know about magical theory is actually incorrect, and the real basis of magic is something else entirely. Your tutors laughed at you when you read it out, but you’ll show them. You’ll show them all!

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