Thursday, November 23, 2023

The Source of Dungeons

I have far too many RPG-related PDFs, and sometimes, I just start reading one to see what's in it.  Today's reading was this:

So I am reading about establishing dominions in ye olde Companion rules (book 1) and find this bit about magic-users (what earlier editions called wizards) on page 19. 

After the magic-user moves into the tower, a dungeon may be built beneath or near it.  The dungeon is most often constructed by hiring specialists in mining, but can be created magically if the proper spells are known and used.  When one or more levels of the dungeon are completed and thereafter left open, monsters will start to arrive and build lairs.  Shortly thereafter, low-level adventurers may start arriving to seek their fortunes.

First a magic-user builds (or captures) a tower, then they build a dungeon. Creating dungeons is the expectation of land-owning wizards.  The quote speaks of specialists in mining, but if digging dungeons is as commonplace as the above quote suggests, there are likely specialists in dungeon design, architecture, engineering, and building.  

It's likely these specialists are often Dwarves, which in turn helps explain why Dwarves are often so wealthy - wizards pay well for their skills, and the Dwarves deliver.  It is also implied that magic-users choose sites for towers based partially on the ease of building a dungeon - which means specialist surveyors, who again, are likely Dwarves.

If there are specialists in siting and building dungeons, there must be specialists in attracting the right kinds of monsters to lair therein.  Even if many monsters are migratory, various critters have expectations of living.  For example, if a magic-user is hoping for giants, the dungeon halls had best be 20' high and probably as wide.  Maslow teaches us that all creatures need food and shelter, so ready food sources had best be found within or near the dungeon, as well.  

Food sources like rat-on-a-stick franchises, maybe. 

The quote also states that dungeons can be created magically if the proper spells are known and used.  I'd think Wall of Stone, Stone Shape, Disintegrate, Dig, and summoned Earth Elementals would be baseline requirements, but no doubt others would help, as well.

All of this sounds like a hassle and makes me wonder why the magic-user wants such dangerous neighbors (tenants?) so close to home.  

The book tells us why, providing this motivation for magic-users to build dungeons:

Most magic-users with dungeons visit them once each month (or more), gathering any magical treasures that remain.  If too much treasure is taken from the monsters, they will probably move out.  Occasionally, if done quietly and secretly, the magic-user may capture some of the monsters for use in magical research and potion making.  This must be done carefully, lest the remaining monsters be scared away.

It appears that magic-users create dungeons expressly to farm magical items and to have a ready source of experiment-fodder and potion components.  This implies dungeon-digging landed magic-users have a side-hustle brewing potions, making different formulae trade secrets that are no doubt worth killing and dying for.  


All this makes landed magic-users almost ideal patrons, both to the low-level adventurers who plumb their depths, and also mid-level adventurers to help stock their dungeons.   These adventurers may also be the same ones bringing new magic items into the dungeons, as well as a regular customer of the magic-user's potions.

This also suggests that Dwarves may well have a monopoly on dungeons dug by hand, with various clans specializing in different aspects of dungeons.  It also means that veteran adventurers can take advantage of knowing how different clans build things: "this looks like Stonehammer work - which means we need to watch for sliding walls and floor chute traps."

A world built around new dungeons appearing on a semiregular basis allows for an ideal game world - at least for me and my sporadic gaming.  

In light of this, I have some campaign world revising to do.

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Magic Item: Dragonseye Amulet

It's Sunday, I performed some minor home repairs, I got to talk with my son, there's a rye and coke on ice, and I'm feeling creative.


A Facebook post asked about a magical item for an 'artificer artillerist.'  That smacks of 5e, but I am firmly entrenched in the idea that all permanent magical items should have some form of drawback.

Still, I thought of this, the Dragonseye Amulet.

The Dragonseye Amulet is noted for its potency, as it allows its wielder to channel primal chaos and draconic magic into their own castings, resulting in spells of greater power than normally possible. Legends say that while it increases the power of spells, channeling this eldritch primordial power leaves its user drained and exhausted - sometimes fatally so.

After all, the Dragonseye Amulet is how Gyges the Faithless leveled the city of Sarnath, La Voisin the Red annihilated the Army of Abramelin, and how Hudolf Ress the Fool brought the caverns of Nemetorszag down upon his head (and the heads of his companions and the combined might of several Underdark kingdoms).  He and his companions were widely known as fools throughout the multiverse, so it was both a fitting and expected end - it being a useful end was entirely accidental. 

Mechanically, this item adds 3d4 dice to whatever spell is cast; the downside being the same amount of temporary Constitution damage is dealt to the user, which can mean possible death.  In my games, at least, this roll is subject to our cascading (or exploding) dice rules, meaning that it can get out of hand quickly.

For example, say your Fireball normally does 6d6 damage.  Utilizing the Dragonseye Amulet lets you roll 3d4 and add that many d6 dice to the damage, which sounds great until the caster using it collapses unconscious.

In addition, in games (like 5e) that care about exhaustion, using the Dragonseye Amulet gives its user two levels of exhaustion.  

Of course, variations abound - half the dice in Con damage and one level of exhaustion may be more than enough to save this device for only the most difficult situations.


Moral of the story - don't ever use Constitution as a dump stat.

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Battletech: Mercenaries

MegaMek and MekHQ no longer work on my computer, and I cannot figure out how to make them do so - I guess I keep failing my skill checks.  So I am going for the next best thing.

No, not the other Battletech video games, although they look pretty awesome (they won't work on my computer, either - maybe I need a better computer).

I'm talking about the tabletop RPG version, coexisting as the game Mechwarrior.  While all that's necessary about a Mechwarrior are their piloting and gunnery skills and what kind of 'mech they are in, there are lots of folks that enjoy knowing more. 

This being the case, Mechwarrior exists in several editions, and each edition has its own rules to create a mercenary unit.  

So of course, I want to build one, and will take you through the steps.  

But first, to put us in the right frame of mind, I suggest we listen to this lovely song.

That done, let's create a mercenary unit!


First off is deciding which edition to use.  I own a physical copy of this book, so it's what I am using:

The steps are simple enough:

  1. Create a Leader
  2. Assemble Founding Members 
  3. Open Recruiting and Battlefield Experience
  4. Obtain Equipment
  5. Buy Dropships/Jumpships
  6. Determine Payroll, Support Costs, and Maintenance Requirements
  7. Name the Mercenary Command and Establish Standing Funds

1. Create a Leader (pp 136-137)

First up is to determine age, training, and experience of the Commanding Officer.  One thing that hasn't changed over the editions is that Mechwarriors begin training at age 16.  Our leader then received some family training followed by the State Academy, followed by four good terms in his House military. 

This makes him 16+6+12 = 34 years old with +3 friends and +2 unit and +4 influence.  His piloting/gunnery skills are 3/2, making him Elite.

Furthermore, each Commander gets 3 points to spend on Advantages from this list:

For our Commander, I'm thinking he has a Reputation (1pt) as a Bull's-Eye Marksman (1pt), and because of this, he was Knighted (1pt).  

This provides him an additional +3 family, +5 friends, +5 unit, and +2 influence, all for a grand total of +3 family, +8 friends, +7 unit, and +6 influence.  

These modifiers matter because they help determine the Founding Members in step 2.


2. Assemble Founding Members (pp 138-140) 

This part requires the most work, to include creating members in a similar fashion to creating the leader.  All of this is needed to determine the exact number of members the unit starts with.  

First, I roll 3 d6 of different colors and add modifiers.  

The dice spoke, 3+3=6 family, 6+8=14 friends, and 6+7=13 unit.  Cross-checking the chart gets me 2 Family members, 8 Friends, and 35 Unit Members - it's like his entire battalion mustered out with him.  This gives me 45 founding members total. 

Some of these Founding Members can be 'Special Recruits' allowing the Commander to spend Influence, of which we have 6, to bring with him.  These Specials bring Founding Members of their own, so I reckon we should have some.  This leaves the Leader with 42 randomly determined founding members.

Specials that have Advantages cost 2 Influence each, and those without cost 1 Influence each, so I could have 3-6 Specials in this unit.

Special recruits who have been assigned special advantages and subordinate command positions (executive officer, battalion commander, and so on) roll on the Founding Members Table to determine how many additional recruits each character brings into the command.  For all other special recruits, reduce by half the modified roll result before determining the number of new members those characters bring in. (pg 139)

If I want to start with a large unit - and I do - I need to min/max those 6 Influence points for 3 Specials that have Advantages and then make them officers.  This is easy enough, so I create them the same way I created the Commander.

Special 1 (3/2 Elite) - Family Trained, State Academy, State University, 3 tours, Baron Heir, Reputation

    +3 Family, +8 Friend, +4 Unit, +6 Influence

    3 Family, 5 Friend, 7 Unit

Special 2 (3/2 Elite) - Family Trained, Private Academy, 4 tours, Well-Connected (2), Tactical Genius

    +1 Family, +4 Friend, +4 Unit, +5 Influence

    2 Family, 4 Friend, 7 Unit

Special 3 (4/3 Veteran) - Family Trained, State Academy, 3 tours, Maneuvering Ace, Toughness

    +2 Family, +4 Friend, +5 Unit, +3 Influence

    2 Family, 4 Friend, 11 Unit

This brings the grand totals to 9 Family members, 21 Friends, 60 Unit or 90 people.  The rules don't instruct me to take advantage of the Specials' Influence points to generate their own Specials, but I could see that happening - because the rules also don't tell me I can't.  

Let's look at these folks.  Again, I roll 3 d6 of different colors, to determine unit type, unit rating, and unit weight.  I do this 87 times, because 3 of the Leader's people are the Specials. I then add the Leader and the Specials' rating add to the rolls (+2 for Elite, +1 for Veteran).  Let me open Excel and be back in a bit. - because all real games require use of spreadsheets.

Thank God for Excel! 50 Mechwarriors, including the Leader and Specials and 40 other combat units (presumably the family, friends, and unit members aren't maintenance).  I may play a bit fast and loose with what those other units are - I have nothing against combined arms, but my mental fiction doesn't jive with only Combat Arms forming a unit.  

Fifty Mechwarriors (presumably each with a 'mech) is a solid base to work with, even if I decide some are Dispossessed and lack 'mechs of their own - and I may do this to sustain my mental fiction. Since my Specials need to be in the Command structure, I am making them Company Commanders in our 'Mech Battalion.  

Those 50 'mechs are broken down as 15 Light, 16 Medium (1 Special), 10 Heavy (2 Special), 9 Assault (1 Leader).  If 10 of those mechwarriors are Dispossessed, that still leaves me enough 'mechs for a full battalion with a Command Lance.  Tasty.  I'll figure out which specific 'mechs later, using the RATS (free download!) or MUL maintained by Catalyst.

Presuming Combat units, the other 40 are broken down into 18 assorted infantry squads, 6 Aerospace Fighters, and 17 Assorted tanks.


Alternatively, I could read the instructions properly and break the unit into lance-sized elements before rolling. While this may totally change the numbers, I am in a spreadsheet kinda mood, so let's go:

Leader has 42 to account for, which is 11 rolls, needing to recruit 2 members (2 Mechwarriors).

Special 1 has 15 to account for, which is 4 rolls, needing to recruit 1 member (Mechwarrior).

Special 2 has 13 to account for, which is 4 rolls, needing to recruit 3 members (2 Mechwarrior, 1 Pilot).

Special 3 has 17 to account for, which is 5 rolls, needing to recruit 3 members. (2 Mechwarrior, 1 Pilot).

This method netted 15 lances of 'mechs (including the Leader and 3 Specials), 2 infantry platoons, and 8 lances of armor or aerospace wings (the Complementary heading is vague). I think it's safe to say that the 9 members needing recruiting are Mechwarriors or Aerospace pilots.

I gotta say, I rolled up a sweet 'mech unit: those 15 lances consist of 2 Light lances (both Elite), 5 Medium lances (1 Elite), 4 Heavy lances (1 Elite), and 3 Assault Lances.  Non-Elite lances are uniformly Veteran.  All non-'mechs are Regulars. 

Compared to the individual rolls, this rolling by lance gives me a decidedly heavier unit, so I will use these numbers for the rest of the example.

3. Open Recruiting and Battlefield Experience (pp 140-142)

Once founding members are determined, the rest of the unit needs to be hired on or otherwise acquired (I'm a fan of recruiting POWs, myself).  Step 2 shows us we need 6 Veteran Mechwarriors and 2 Regular Aerospace Pilots.

To do this properly, we need to look at each recruiter's influence points, noting that juniors can donate points up the chain at a 2-for-1 deal.  That being the case, each Special will recruit their own.  Each attempt to recruit costs 1 influence point, begins with a target number of 8, and is modified as follows:

Since it's still 3025 for this exercise, we are sticking with Tech Level 1 and no Battlesuit infantry or Clan stuff at all.

Instead of scrolling to the top, here are the Influence point summaries: Leader 6, S1 6, S2 5, S3 3.  So in theory, we can roll 20 times to recruit to our target numbers.  

The pilots require rolls of 11 and 10 to recruit (8 +1 (medium), +2 (pilot), -1 (one level lower) OR -2 (two levels lower)).

S3 Mechwarriors require rolls of 10 to recruit (8 +1 (medium), +1 (Mechwarrior)).  The other Mechwarriors require rolls of 9 to recruit (8 +1 (Mechwarrior), -1 (one level lower), +1 (medium).  

At least these pilots all come with 'mechs and aerospace fighters!

L 1 Regular pilot joins the unit
S1 2 Veteran mechwarriors and a Regular pilot join the unit
S2 1 Veteran mechwarrior joins the unit
S3 blows all three rolls.

Recruiting is tough to do!  Still, we ended with both pilots and 3 mechwarriors, leaving us only 4 'mechs and mechwarriors short.  Technically, we don't really need them, but still.

Now that Open Recruiting is complete, we can move to Battlefield Experience. 

It's a simple enough system.  First the Leader rolls 2d6 to determine mission and result, then subordinate commands (company commanders and at least one armor and one infantry commander) roll 2d6 on the other tables to determine gains and losses.  It is recommended that 'mechs and tanks come and go with personnel.  Each roll takes a game year.  So it is now 3026.

10 is a Garrison/Victory! No personnel losses, but no one increased in skill rating, either.  It beats losing, though!  Presumably the Infantry pulled security, while the Armor supported the 'mechs in the field.

Returning to Outreach after a mission, we are now qualified for step 5 or to repeat this step. 

Let's try for some ships.


4. Obtain Equipment (pp 142-144)

There is lots of math and dice rolling here, as the setting of the book is 3059, so LosTech from the Helm Core and all of the Clan Tech is potentially available to upgrade 'mechs and make everything shoot farther for more damage while costing more C-Bills.  Despite this, I will be using 3025 sensibilities and options, so am skipping this Step.


5. Buy Dropships/Jumpships (pp 144-145)

Mercs without their own means of travel are mercs that die in place when a mission goes sideways.  As it appears we are nearly a full battalion of 'mechs, we need either one Overlord or a trio of Unions or some other combination to carry us all.

This is another place where Influence points matter.  So instead of recruiting anyone, we instead try for one dropship or jumpship.

Leader and Specials have 20 Influence points between them, so in theory we've enough for a ship.  Then again, this part forces the transfer of points at the 2-for-1 rate, so presuming 14 Influence are sent to the Leader, that gives the Leader 7 points to go with his base 6, for 13 Influence total.  

As a bonus, the advantages of Titles, Reputation, and being Well-Connected give bonuses.  Among my four I spent 7 points on such things, for the maximum bonus of -7 on the target roll to acquire a dropship.

There's a large chart listing available dropships as of 3059, but all I need to know are a handful and their unupgraded target numbers.

Union  --  10 or 3 after my -7 bonus
Overlord  --  12 or 5 after my -7 bonus

Well, go big or go home.  Let's beat a 5 ... 9.  The Overlord is ours.  Technically, it belongs to its ships captain because I didn't roll high enough, but that is quibbling.

At the end of the Buy Dropship section it tells us we can get a FREE roll for a Dropship if we didn't try for Dropships/Jumpships at all.  The cost is that base target numbers are at +2, so that Overlord would have a target number of 7 and the Union a 5.  

Jumpships are different, though, and require 3 cycles (3 game years) to find and acquire and maybe miss the die roll.  So we'll skip this for now.

In a pinch, transportation can be negotiated as part of a contract or can be hired out of the war chest.  It ain't cheap, though.  This sample unit would cost almost 1,000,000 C-Bills to carry to one planet - which doesn't even look at jumpship rentals!  Luckily, we have an Overlord in our employ (more to add to salaries and maintenance!) so costs are greatly reduced.  


6. Determine Payroll, Support Costs, and Maintenance Requirements (pp 146-147)

Mercenaries aren't in this business just to die from poor, so these are current going rates.

My notes spreadsheet has a new page for salaries.  Too bad I now need to determine the precise make up of our supporting Armor units to determine how many crew members I have to pay.  The formula is tonnage of the vehicle divided by 15, rounding up.  So a 30-ton tank has two crew members, while an 80-ton tank has 6 crew members.  

Salaries for support staff aren't covered in this chart, but I know quality technicians cost.  They get a separate chart - and Elite 'mech techs have a higher salary than Regular Mechwarriors.  The numbers in parentheses are for techs that fix tanks and other non-mech, non-aerospace fighters.  

The six regular pilots cost 19,500 x 1 each year, for 117,000 C-Bills.  The mechwarriors are gonna be expensive.

4 Lances of Elite Mechwarriors are 16 +3 for specials and leader, 10 lances of Veteran Mechwarriors is 40 +1 leader -4 for missing people is 37.  In annual salaries, that is 1,111,500 + 1,443,000 = 2,554,500  C-Bills per year, just for the mechwarriors.  

Presuming at least one tech per lance, I need at least 25 various techs on staff, mostly 'mech techs.  That's probably another 500,000 or so C-Bills per year.  The book refers me to pg 157 if I want to hire additional techs on an hourly basis. 

Side note - this is why I find it useful to have mechwarriors and tankers who can perform at least basic maintenance on their vehicles.  The mechwarriors won't all be able to, but tankers should have at least one person per vehicle crew who can pull -10 or -20 level maintenance.  If the US Military of 2023 can manage it, the future tankers 1,000 years from now can as well.  Yes, this skews salaries upwards.

This doesn't bring medical and admin and dropship crews into account.  Luckily, there's a chart for that.

So it looks like this unit would need nearly 5 million C-Bills in salaries each year, conveniently broken down into biweekly payments.  

This is before costs of parts and maintenance is taken into account.   Again, a handy chart.

I don't want to calculate man-hours, so will just stick with baseline maintenance costs.  

56 'mechs (I still need to recruit 4 more... or do I) x 150 = 8,400 C-Bills every two weeks, 6 aerospace fighters is 750 C-Bills, 2 infantry platoons is 100 C-Bills, and 20 ground vehicles is 1,000 C-Bills.  So 10,250 C-Bills every two weeks or 266,500 C-Bills each year.  

Parts, repairs, and inevitable replacements are not (yet) accounted for.


7. Name the Mercenary Command and Establish Standing Funds (pp 147-148)

Naming is easy - incorporate the Commander's name and make it alliterative.  Probably.

Standing Funds, or the War Chest, uses this formula and the following chart: 

(Number of Combat Companies) x 10,000 C-Bills x War Chest Multiplier

Combat Companies... 3 'Mech Companies (1 Elite, 2 Veteran), 2 Armor Companies (Regular), and 1 Infantry Company (Regular).  So 6 combat companies averaging Veteran is 120,000 C-Bills.

All things considered, the War Chest contents aren't enough to cover much of anything - not even a month's salaries for the unit, let alone maintenance costs.   Which is why we fight for pay - bills won't pay themselves!


Overall, the smart thing to do would be to pare the unit down to a trim 36-mech battalion with its own techs and one (or both) infantry platoon to pull security around our repair bays and supply depots.  

Even in the future, logistics are what win the wars!

Monday, October 9, 2023

Magic Item: Hag-Soap

How the PCs gain the Hag-Soap varies.  Sometimes they loot it from huts and lairs, and other times they trade for it.  On rare occasions it is offered as a gift.

In all cases, it is a bar of soap crafted by a Hag of one sort or another, and only a desperate fool would bathe with it.  As it happens, the phrase desperate fool is often synonymous with the word PC.

  1. Disguise - washing with this soap causes the bather's skin to slough away, revealing skin of a far different color (and perhaps patterned or plaid, as well).
  2. Curing - the bather has all of their current diseases and curses washed away.
  3. Youth - the years are literally washed away from the bather, to the tune of 3d4 per wash - if the bather loses too many years, they dissolve into egg and sperm.
  4. Revival - washing a dead thing with this soap restores it to life, Pet Sematary style.  
  5. Cleansing - the soap washes away all impurities - scars, birthmarks, tattoos, moles, skin tags, anything asymmetric about the person.  These impurities later rise as a twisted clone of the bather, hellbent on destroying the bather's reputation and then the bather themselves.
  6. Magic - the lather of this soap is full of latent possibilities.  When the last of it is rinsed away, the bather can now work magic - just not well or any degree of control.  In fact, all spells cast by or in the presence of the caster force a roll on a wild magic surge table.  If 5e is your jam, its a free level in wild magic sorcerer.
  7. Power - this soap transforms the bather into a powerful werewolf.  Of course, when the change comes over the bather, they become a temporary NPC and their player rolls on this table to see what they get up to.  
  8. Charming - the bather using this soap is utterly vulnerable to charm effects, getting no saving throw at all for the next 24 hours.  This soap also has the best smell, so is popular among the more insidious crowd.


The real question is what becomes of that which is washed away: the skin, the curses, the disease, the death, the normalcy.  If bathing in a tub, and the tub water is drained or thrown out, wherever it lands tends to kill the plant and insect life immediately (a hint) and that area may become a small wild magic zone.

If bathing in a stream or under a small waterfall, the runoff heads downstream, wreaking havoc as it goes.  The worst is when it is a curse that is washed away, as all sorts of creatures end up with it, although diseases that are washed away are almost as bad.

Note that if any of these soaps are bargained for from a Hag, the Hag is likely to recommend bathing in a nearby stream 'as part of the magic' to ensure later chaos.  

Local druids, fey, and other sylvan creatures are likely to become irate with whomever left their waste behind like this.  

A secondary question is what materials go into these soaps.  None of it is wholesome, but it explains what happens to the people the Hags kidnap.

Sunday, September 17, 2023


I may have ADHD.  I'm not officially diagnosed - yet - but several people I work with are and as my behaviors are their behaviors, we all agree that we know the answer to the inevitable testing I'll undergo.  

With that in mind, I have been watching videos to see how ADHD and RPGs overlaps, both for selfish reasons and to be able to tell others that may ask - and on FB, someone is often asking.

So here is a short collection of videos on how to run a game either for players with disabilities or as a Game Master with a disability.  

As an added bonus, several of these videos are from channels that are full of useful information, so everyone wins!

Monday, September 4, 2023

A Collection of Magic Rings

I was going through some of my gaming stuff and found a sheet of paper listing several magic rings which had been recovered from a hoard of crawling claws.  The notes indicate which of the PCs ended up with which rings, but I don't recall seeing any of them used.  Perhaps they will find a home in your game.

Source is not me.

I do not know if I came up with these myself or if they are from some other blog.  If the latter, I would guess d4 Caltrops.  A quick browsing suggests otherwise.  Maybe I tapped into the greater cleverness that directs magic item creation for these games we play.

A silver band with large pearl that kinda looks like an eye.  Eyeball gem can detach, as a rolling Wizard's Eye.  Radiates Divination magic.

A ring of polished silver that glints in bright light.  Wearer's appearance is altered favorably in twilight.  Radiates Illusion magic.

Made of intertwined gold and silver bands, with a scowling face on it.  Causes the wearer to sneeze in the presence of true dragons.  Radiates Divination and Transmutation magic.

A warm gold band, both in color and temperature.  Magical flame heals wearer instead of harms; magical flame cast by wearer ALSO heals.  Radiates Transmutation magic.

A simple wooden ring, made of polished oak.  Wearer can converse with Plant-based monsters (slips into trance, uses weird telepathy, turns all hair a vibrant green that sprouts small white flowers in the spring).  Radiates Divination magic.

This ring is a hard, lightweight material (plastic).  Children are unable to tell falsehoods to the wearer.  Radiates Enchantment magic.

Verdigrised copper band, that feels cool and damp.  Wearer is kept dry even in the fiercest rainstorm.  Radiates Abjuration magic.

This tarnished silver ring is greasy to the touch.  Its wearer is invisible to Shadow.  Radiates Illusion magic.

This ring in made of polished bone and loudly goes 'snicker-snack' when giants are near.  Radiates Divination magic.


That's it.  If any of these came from your blog, please let me know so I can properly credit you.

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Copying Books In-Game

A Facebook discussion inspired this post.  As such, it is not play-tested, but looks to be entertaining.

Sometimes, a PC wants to make a copy of a discovered or purchased book, and instead of hiring an expert, they want to copy the book themselves.  Which is fine, albeit not what I consider adventurous.  

Those of us that have copied lots of pages by hand can tell you, it is a tedious task, at best - the anathema of adventure, really.  DnDish styled games set in a pseudo-Medieval European setting would only have a more difficult time, as this article about Medieval Manuscripts (complete with a video) shows.  Go watch that video!

Still, while copying a text could be folded under Downtime Activities, abstractly trading gold and time for a perfect copy, it may be more fun and gamelike to create a table to determine just how accurate the new copy is. I say may, but truly believe it is.

Note that according to Wikipedia (I know...)

Scribes were only able to work in daylight, due to the expense of candles and rather poor lighting they provided, monastic scribes were still able to produce three to four pages of work per day.  The average scribe could copy two books per year. They were expected to make at least one mistake per page.

Emphasis is mine.  Mistakes are expected and the whole process is slow in the best of conditions.  

(Story time - in the Army, I was on operations staff, and several of us were in tasked to make multiple copies - by hand - of map overlays.  Due to the amount needed, bad handwriting and tools, and time crunch, no two overlays were exactly the same and the latter ones included names not in the actual orders, as hurried T's became C's and worse.  Anecdotal, but it happens.)

Involving magic sounds like a plan, but my casual search reveals that the only spells involving copying are for copying spells into spellbooks, not pages of mundane information.  Interesting.  

Time for an enterprising wizard to develop a spell (leading to magic items) that can scribe quickly and efficiently.  Because burning a wish seems a bit ... much.  

That said, such items can probably be found in a GURPS or Ars Magica supplement.  Or perhaps in an indie game - GLOG, maybe.  Any readers wanna point me in the right direction?


Anyhow, roll percentile dice and apply bonuses and maluses based on the below chart.  The final number is how accurate the new copy is.  If you have chart additions, let me know in the comments.

Mistakes can range from terrible grammar and vocabulary all the way to entirely different outcomes, depending on how bad the mistakes are.  Copying a book of True Names and getting some wrong will get someone killed, or worse.

So have fun with the results of the bad copy.


In the name of research, I looked at how Ars Magica and Call of Cthulhu handles copying books.  I chose these games, because books are part of gameplay in both systems.

Ars Magica - For those familiar with its rules, AM has some in-depth rules on writing books.  In addition, its Covenants book provides even more rules for book-crafting, as well as implied magical items, called resonances, for use when scribing books: inkwells, quills, inks, and such.  These resonances might count as masterwork items in the above table, or as pertinent magic items - its a player-GM discussion.

As found on page 87 of Covenants

As an aside, if you're planning to run a game based around a mages' guild or college or the like, pick up a copy of Covenants, even if you have no intention of using Ars Magica as your ruleset.  It is that inspirational; the base Ars Magica 5e - and lots of the sourcebooks, regardless of edition - are as well.

Call of Cthulhu doesn't seem to have any hard and fast rules about writing books.  Reading them, yes - based on languages known and loss of sanity.  Nothing about writing or copying them, though.