This is a description of a magical tome that the PCs discovered in the grave of a wizard near Ubersreik in a recent Rats in the Ranks adventure. It’s designed for Warhammer 3 but it follows a general principle of mine for tomes: you have to read them over time and make a skill check, and the difficulty of the check is adjusted by the research environment, time devoted to the task, etc. Reading a tome is not risk free, so blunders and fumbles can create serious problems for the reader, but depending on the degree of success in the check various skill bonuses and spell benefits are obtained. This usually takes time in-game, and may cost money.
This tome is a simple book, containing 88 pages of very soft leather tanned to a very fine weight. The cover is dark wood edged with a thin, geometric pattern carved from some kind of delicate and unusual ivory. Nothing is written on the spine or the flysheet and there is no table of contents or apparent structure to the text at all. It is a collection of research notes, interspersed with a typical mad wizard’s ravings, some references to additional secondary texts, and some basic experimental results (which need to be repeated by the reader). Fortunately none of the secondary texts or the experiments are evil or chaotic in nature, though they nonetheless are not particularly pleasant. The book radiates a gentle glow of dark magic, but it is mainly the type of magic used for preparing a text to last the ages, and perhaps some residual magic from the laboratory where the notes were taken; the book itself is not intrinsically magical. It is written mostly in High Reikland, with occasional passages in various mystical languages with which most wizards are passingly familiar.
In order to read this book, a PC must possess the Education advanced skill, and be trained in Spellcraft. This is not a book that those with natural talent but no training can hope to make use of. The PC must spend a month reading this book, and although they can adventure while reading (they are assumed to be reading during rest periods, etc.) they are much more likely to gain the full benefit of the book if they devote a month exclusively to the task, and spend that time in a major city where they have access to a decent library (with the associated costs).
Reading this book requires a Spellcraft check with medium difficulty (2 challenge dice), and carries some risk due to the nature of the dark magic in the book (1 misfortune die). The following conditions add bonuses to the roll:
- PC foregoes adventuring: 2 fortune dice
- PC is in a large city (larger than Ubersreik) for the entire month of reading: + 1 fortune die
- PC spends one gold coin on research and experiments: +1 fortune die
The skill check produces the following results:
- 1 Success: The PC learns one dark magic spell of rank 1
- 3 Successes: In addition to the above, the PC gains 1 level of training in Channel Power
- 2 Boons: PC gains a single fortune dice on skill checks for a single existing spell of their choice
- 2 Banes: The PC suffers a single insanity with no resilience check
- Chaos star: The PC loses one point of willpower
All effects are permanent. The bane and chaos star affects apply even if the check is successful. If the PC commences reading and abandons the task within the month (due to interruptions to the reading process or loss of the book) the check must still be made and the negative effects can still be suffered, but there is no opportunity to gain the positive effects. Note that the dark magic spell can be learnt regardless of the PC’s order, but its use may need to be very carefully guarded, as possession of this power is heretical. Note also that the PC cannot choose not to learn the spell after they complete the reading; they can only choose not to use it. Knowledge of the spell itself will not taint the PC’s aura, but use of dark magic will, which may make the PC’s life somewhat more complex.