Delian Book Of The Dead, Part VI
Joined The Choir Invisible
For those just joining us (because this site is sooooo popular that people randomly pop in here all the time), this is part VI of one of my typically interminable walkthroughs where I flip pages in a gaming book I’ve had lying around forever and attempt to say interesting, informative, or funny things about it. The success of my attempts is indicated by the visitors to this site.
Currently, I’m working on the Delian Book Of The Dead, by Dragon Tree Press, which is why it sometimes says “Dragon Tree Book Of The Dead” and sometimes “Delian Book Of The Dead”, because I have consistency issues. (But I’m going to see my doctor about that next week. He wants a sample.)
Part I is here, and I think the search feature works well enough for anyone who cares to find the other parts and then get back to this one. Not that reading them in order really matters. Unlike the ones where I create rabbits or rock stars, where the process is actually kind of important, these sourcebook walkthroughs reflect the nature of the era: One thing randomly follows another.
For example… having just discussed potions, the book now moves to mirrors.
Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall
What Kind Of Saving Throw Do I Need To Make?
Hey! That Doesn’t Rhyme!
It’s, Like, Free Verse, Man. Rhyming Is For Bourgeois Pigs
(And When Trying To Figure Out If I Meant ‘Free Verse’ or ‘Blank Verse’ I Ended Up Reading About Some 18th Century Poet Who Wrote A 30-Volume(!) Poem About The Fall Of Nineveh, Because The Internet)
It’s Free Verse. Blank verse is non-rhyming, but structured. Free verse is just badly punctuated prose. You can quote me on that.
Dracula’s Mirror: A perfectly logical thing to exist in a world with undead and magic, this is a mirror which is, normally, magically clouded. Wiping the mirror clean will let one person see their reflection in it, and they need to make a saving throw or be paralyzed. Then it re-clouds. Why does this even exist, other than because “a mirror that does nothing but make you spend 1d4 rounds cleaning it and then paralyzes you is pretty much normal for a Gygaxian dungeon”? Well, vampires and lycanthropes can use it as a normal mirror with no ill-effects. So, pro-tip, if you’re in Ravenloft, don’t clean the mirrors. Also, pro-tip, if you’re in Ravenloft, leave. Thank you. I’ll be here all week.
Mirror of Spectral Reflection: Anyone looking into it sees themselves as a spectre. (Worst. Instragram Filter. EVAR. (Except that one that made you look like a 1930s racist caricature of an Asian. Sheesh. Oh, yeah, that was real.)). If they attack or touch the surface, they are drawn in, and their opposite appears. (Opposite alignment, etc.) Very similar, frankly, to the standard Mirror of Opposition. (Except the ‘real’ you isn’t there, and any damage done to the mirror version also damages the original being, trapped in the mirror.)
It occurs to me, reading it, that the assumption is the original will be good or at least an ally to the party, and the emerging opposite will be evil, treacherous, etc. But there’s nothing that says it only produces evil opposites. It would be an interesting plot idea to trick a tyrant, necromancer, etc., into using the mirror. Now you’ve got a good being who will have access to all the evil original’s resources and power base. Hm….
Holmes Speculum: In an alternate universe, Sherlock Holmes was a Consulting Gynecologist, and … no, this is a magnifying glass which allows a thief, or non-thief of LG or LN alignment, to instantly analyze dust, footprints, or similar clues. “Speculum” is Latin for “mirror”, but in English, that meaning is only used in an antiquated context for a particular kind of telescope mirror. In any event, a magnifying glass is not a mirror in even the vaguest sense, making this a good case of “vocabulary fail”.
Since we learn vocabulary from books, it is only logical that the next section is…
Books, Scrolls, And Other Writings
Pugsly’s Number Book: Decorated in “Charles Addams motifs”, when you open this book to page 1, one monster attacks, page 2, two monsters attack, and so on. The monsters are random and may be illusory or real at the DM’s discretion. It’s amusing to wonder how many parties kept turning pages, convinced something good was going to happen eventually.
Gomez’ Index Book: A variant on the above. If asked, it will tell you on what page in an evil book a particular topic appears, as reading evil books was often fatal in itself. It reveals the page number by summoning monsters equal to that number (so never ask for “Zephram’s Xylophonic Zebra” in “The Alphabetical Guide To Evil Magic Items”). Killing monsters just summons more, so that the number remains correct. Only opening the book to the indicated page will end the effect. One wonders how this interacts with some magical tomes have infinite pages…
Pshaw’s Libram: Written by, ahem, G. B. Pshaw (they said it, not me), this book, if read fully, convinces the reader that demons and devils simply do not exist. The reader can’t see them and can’t be harmed by them, except indirectly – the example given is the demon causing a wall to fall on them. Variations on the idea of “if you don’t believe in something magical, it doesn’t exist” were common in this time, with magic items (irony!), character classes, or some other mechanic defining the disbelief. It’s amusing because, outside of actual illusions, magic in D&D-esque worlds really doesn’t require belief. It is much like how science is often defined:”Something that works if you believe in it or not.” A wall in a D&D world is destroyed by an appropriate spell, despite no ability to believe or disbelieve, after all. (Well, to be fair, there’s a lot of “walls” in D&D worlds which can believe, disbelieve, discuss philosophy, play chess, or try to kill your character. Mostly the latter.)
Ebenezer’s Cookbook: Today in “seemingly pointless restrictions that undoubtedly made some sense at the time”, this item is limited to Chaotic Good characters. It lets them cook anything, such as Ocher Jelly and Owlbear Souffle, and have it come out yummy. So yummy, anyone eating it must save vs. charm or be charmed by the cook. It’s a cool concept, but I’d kill the alignment restriction and be more explicit as to if the meals prepared also neutralize poisons/acids in the ingredients.
The book could also be useful if you have an animal with odd tastes following you around, which leads us to…
“On The Care, Feeding, And Acquisition Of Strange Pets”
(You like how I do clever little segues from one section to the next? As distinct from “clever little Segways”, which would be artificially intelligent vehicles that rise up in violent revolution because they’re tired of only being used by mall cops.)
Honestly, there’s little I can add to the delightful introductory text.
Followed shortly by this:
After this, we get into actual rules. The base chance of taming a wild creature is 2% with modifiers for giving it a treat (such as a supercilious elf) (+8%) or if it’s been hunted or attacked (-20%).
Rules-wise, that’s it for this section: Calculate a base chance and roll dem bones! It’s a bit sparse, even for this era. How long does this take? Can you do it over an extended period, raising the odds by treating the animal well for a week or a month, and then rolling? It’s a good start, but it needs more meat.
What follows is two pages of free-form (non rule) advice and suggestions, well-written in terms of giving the GM things to consider, but dumping a lot of the work of figuring out the implementation in-game in their already overburdened lap. It notes that some creatures can never be tamed, but gives only one example and really leaves deciding which others might fit up to the GM. (With a few more examples, it could be justified, as that’s enough to provide a kind of decision framework.) It brings up the oft-ignored topic of what happens when you show up at Ye Olde Drunkyn Saylor Inne with your pet carrion crawler, “Crawly”, (“He’s my emotional support carrion crawler! If you don’t let me in, you’ll be in violation of the Adventurers With Sharp Swords And a Desire To Use Them Act!”) in tow. (Summary: It’s a good way to reduce the PCs burden of wealth.), and encourages the GM to consider the problems of long-term travel with a creature whose need for food cannot be easily met by iron rations. (I mean, sure, you can hire a half-dozen supercilious elves as “torch bearers”, secure that you won’t need to pay them off at the end of the trip, but that has its own logistical problems to consider.)
The next section, a long one, discusses the Planes. Not the Spheres, the Cubes, or the Vectors, just the Planes. It deserves its own posting.