November RPG Blog Carnival: Worldbuilding

This month’s RPG Blog Carnival is all about world building, something I’ve been doing a lot of for my two D&D 5e campaigns. I thought I’d share a little something from the primer I created for my players to help give them a sense of the world.

While I generally kept the mechanics of the various PHB races as written, I changed the backgrounds of almost all the races to better fit the events of my campaign world. I made two big changes right at the start. First, only some of the playable races are native to the campaign world (dragonborn, dwarves, halflings, humans, half-orcs, and tieflings) while the rest derive from the invader races (elves, dark elves, gnomes, half-elves). Second, I try to refer to them as “species” rather than “races”, as I later intend to make a distinction between a character’s species and culture when I flesh out the game world.

So below is my quickie primer on the species of my campaign world. I’ve stuck with the native species for this post, and I’ll talk about the invader species in a later post.

Intelligent Species Native to Cotterell

Dragonborn

Dragonborn are a race created by the Draconic Empires to fight in the Gate Wars. A dragonborn is created in one of two ways. The first involves an arcane process kept secret by the Empire, by which the dragonborn are gestated in an egg and hatch as almost fully-formed adults. This process involves the passing along of racial memories, so the “Eggborn” are able to mature very quickly into adult dragonborn. The second involves the arcane manipulation of an infant or very young child from another race, to change them into a dragonborn. In this case the “Created” must be raised as normal, as it is not possible to transfer racial memories during this process.

While it was not conceived that the race could or would ever breed true, to the surprise of the Draconic Empire that came to pass shortly after the Cataclysm. These naturally born offspring are still hatched from an egg, and racial memories do seemed to be passed along, though the infant must still be raised normally. However, maturity is still reach sooner than with a comparable human infant; puberty is reached by age 5 or 6, and such dragonborn are considered young adults by age 10-12.

Telling them apart from each other ranges in complexity. It is easy to tell a Created from the other two types of dragonborn; unlike the Eggborn and natural born, the Created have no tails. Telling the difference between naturally born and Eggborn can be more difficult, though not impossible. Generally the Eggborn are less socially well-adjusted than their natural born cousins. Racial memories do not include social interaction, so while they are not generally unfriendly, the Eggborn tend to be more socially awkward and bad at picking up on social cues. And of course, any dragonborn child encountered can safely be assumed to be a natural born, as long as it has a tail.

Dwarves

Even before the Gate Wars and the Cataclysm, Dwarves were divided into two distinct groups. Mountain Dwarves avoid contact with other races, remaining in their Great Halls (cities) under the mountains across Cotterell. Even when called to war, they fight in full suits of Dwarven steel armour which utilize full helms which they never remove except in private. Only on the rare occasion that another race is granted audience with a Dwarven ruler, is there the possibility of seeing a Mountain Dwarf’s face. It is uncertain whether this restriction is societal or religious, as no Dwarf will speak of it even if questioned.

Hill Dwarves, on the other hand, maintain contact with other lands through trade and commerce, and make-up what would be considered the diplomatic corps for the Dwarven peoples. They predominantly live in communities built near both Great Halls and other cities, the better to facilitate trade and diplomacy. Except under exceptional circumstances, if you see the smiling face of a dwarf outside of the Great Halls, you look upon a Hill Dwarf.

Halflings

Due to the Faewild Gate opening in the heart of their lands, and the subsequent Cataclysm laying waste to that same territory, halflings are a largely displaced population. Both agrarian and inventive by nature, the halflings were largely responsible for the innovations which allowed cities swollen with refugees and survivors after the Cataclysm to be able to eke out enough food to survive. They were among the first races to begin pushing out from the cities once it was deemed safe, reclaiming useable farmland a few feet at a time, if necessary. Eager to reclaim what was once theirs, halflings were also among the first races to fund and/or lead trade caravans (restoring overland contact between the Survivor Cities) as well as expeditions to explore further into the countryside.

Half-orc

Before the Cataclysm, carrying Orcish blood carried the same stigma that carrying Elven blood does today. While much history has been lost, however, it is still remembered that the Northern Orc City States rode to fight alongside Cotterell in the Gate Wars, and that they suffered losses just as great during the Cataclysm. So while Orcish ancestry may be considered odd and even undesirable to the rare few, there is no widespread prejudice against half-orcs. It should also be noted, the term “half-orc” is used to describe any person with obvious signs of orcish ancestry, regardless of how far back that ancestry entered the bloodline.

Tieflings

Tieflings are a comparatively young race, as they came about as a direct result of the magical contamination following the Cataclysm. Borrowed from the Fae, the word “tiefling” roughly translates as “spoiled” in the Common tongue. No one is quite sure how it happens, but a small portion of children born among all races come into the world bearing the mark of magical contamination. Some have odd hair or eye colours, while others may sprout horns, grow a tail, or manifest wings. Whatever the outward signs, that person will also manifest strange abilities and magical aptitudes.

As noted above, Tieflings can derive from any of the other species. While there may be mistrust and discrimination on a case by case basis, there is no widespread stigma to being a Tiefling. For many people, the existence of Tieflings is simply a daily reminder that the Elves still have much to answer for.

What do you do for races/species in your campaigns? And don’t forget to check out the other RPG Blog Carnival entries for this topic.

From the Campaign: Fae Trickery

I am always on the lookout for ways I can make magic seem more…well, magical, in my tabletop games. In most systems the use of magic seems very mechanical, and undercuts the mystery of using mystical power to shape reality. The Vancian systems of D&D are perhaps the best example of a very mechanical approach to spellcasting and magic. So much so that players are often more concerned about the spells behind the magical effects they encounter, than the wonder of the effects themselves.

In my current D&D 5e campaigns especially, where the characters live in the aftermath of a magical Cataclysm**, magic is not always as mechanistic as the PHB would lead you to believe, at least for other species. To explain the very formulaic Vancian style system, I’ve labelled the arcane spells in the PHB as “new” magic. While pre-Cataclysm mages could simply bend raw magic to their will, post-Cataclysm mages discovered that if they didn’t follow rules for safe methods of casting, the magic would often backlash and harm them or the folks around them. Where spells were previously highly individual creations, now they were rote, with little variation between casters.

Using that as a base, then, allowed me to look at how other species would approach magic, especially in the wake of the Cataclysm. Since the Fae are such a key element of my campaign world (and one which both my campaigns are going to encounter soon), I knew I wanted Fae magic to heavily conflict with how my players might understand magic to work. So the first thing I decided was that the Cataclysm had not harmed the Fae ability to manipulate magical energy. If anything it enhanced it, as the resulting magical contamination brought magic energy levels closer to what they were in the Fae Wylde. The remaining Fae were much increased in power and ability, and took no time at all in reverting to their previous tricksy ways.

My first encounters between my players and the Fae are going to be relatively benign; some of the small folk playing tricks on them, unseen, over the course of days or weeks. Ideally I’ll tailor those tricks to the characters and what they are doing at the time, but it’s also helpful to have some tricks on standby, in case I need a random faerie effect, or I need to show the players something happening to an Dungeon Master Character. So here is a list of Fae Trickery I put together for my campaign, so I’d always have some mischief at hand. Nothing listed here is directly harmful, nor does anything on this list reference specific spells from the PHB or other sources. If you are using these, or making up your own, feel free to very vague about how the effects are created. If the party wizard breaks out detect magic, you can be very non committal and make it clear that for whatever reason, these magical effects don’t seem to be following the usual rules. Most of all, have fun with them; the Fae certainly would!

  1. Whenever a character speaks, instead of speech, animal noises come forth. This happens regardless of which language a character is trying to speak. Especially fun if multiple characters are affected. Make sure to allow the players to speak to you, but characters can only communicate with animal noises.
  2. Pick your favourite colour, or one you know the player hates. Their character’s skin is that colour until their next long rest. Or hair. Or eyes. Or and hair and eyes.
  3. Until their next long rest, everything the character drinks tastes like warm vinegar.
  4. Until their next long rest, everything the character eats tastes like unseasoned oatmeal.
  5. Upon examination, the character discovers all their mundane belongings have been switched with those of another character. Extra trickery: they have been switched with those of a nearby (within one mile) Dungeon Master Character.
  6. A songbird follows the character around until their next long rest. Whenever that character tries any sort of diplomacy or persuasion, the songbird bursts into dirty limericks featuring whomever the character is trying to charm.
  7. The character wakes to discover brightly coloured fungus has grown over parts of their body (how much and what types are up to the DM). The DM can decide what, if any, effects the various fungus might have. The effect is not painful in any way and clears up by the end the character’s next long rest.
  8. Pick up to three pieces of a character’s mundane gear. These pieces of gear are now animated, acting with a will of their own. Feel free to give them distinct personalities, which are perhaps at odds with the character. If this is an item or items the character has mishandled in the past, perhaps the item bears a grudge? This lasts until the end of the character’s next long rest.
  9. Until their next long rest, the character “hears” inanimate objects. The character can understand all inanimate objects within 20’, which turn out to have a surprising amount to say; their hopes, their dreams, complaints about misuse, and so on. This may make mundane chores like chopping wood (or starting the fire with that wood) absolute horror shows. No one but the character can hear these voices.
  10. Until their next long rest the character is swarmed by small woodland creatures and songbirds, who try to assist with every task they attempt. Animals like rabbits and squirrels will try to help, and the birds will whistle a jaunty tune to inspire the character in their task. None of this will be truly helpful, of course, especially for the party rogue…

I’ll come back and add to the list, but you get the idea. In each of these, I’m not at all concerned with what spells create the effects, as there shouldn’t be a direct connection between “human” magic and what the Fae can do. Though it would certainly be fun to hear the party wizard try to explain away his chartreuse skin and striking emerald green hair.

Have a faerie trick of your own? Drop them in the comments!

**In short, Elves from the Fae Wylde opened a Gate to the Kingdom of Cotterell approximately 1000 years before the events of my campaigns. They couldn’t close it, and the Night Fae they were fleeing poured through after them, leading to an unexpected war with reluctant but necessary allies. Almost five hundred years later, the Elves and other races came up with a plan they thought would close the Gate. They were right, but the resultant explosion of magical energy blasted a caldera hundreds of miles across centered on the Gate location, and swept the world with a wave of tainted magical energy. This event became known as the Cataclysm, and resulted in world-wide devastation, magical contamination, and the people of Cotterell pulling back into coastal cities to survive the now hostile lands crawling with magically-created aberrations.

Engaging your Players: Player Homework

I prefer to build a world/campaign focused on the player characters. Like characters on a TV show, the action of the story should revolve around them. I also want the world to feel fleshed out, so I include things that have nothing to do with the players. After all, in the real world there are lives and events going on all around you that have nothing to do with you. So I try to keep about a 70/30 split of character-focused versus unrelated plot.

At the start of a campaign I ask my players for some sort of background for their character. Many GMs ask for a straight-up written bio, and while I’m happy to take those not all players are comfortable writing what amounts to a short story about their character. So a few years ago I expanded my request for background info to include things like:

  • character biography, written out or point form;
  • map of your character’s home village, or farm, or city street;
  • description of your mentor growing up. Could be a family member or the woman who taught you how to fight;
  • a description of both your best friend and nemesis growing up;
  • a sketch of family members, the home you grew up in, favourite pet et al

The point is, not every player engages with the campaign narratively. Giving your players other options can yield details about your campaign world you might not have developed on your own. And things like these are just begging to be included in your campaign! If a player draws for me a map of their home village, of course we’re going to have an adventure set there. How can I pass up a golden moment to engage that player and connect their character to the campaign?

Once the campaign is running, I encourage players to keep their ideas about the world around them coming. For instance, in a one Pathfinder campaign I’m GMing the party’s gnome sorcerer works in a theatre. So I asked her to give me a general layout of the theatre as well as some folks that might work there. Homework like this does two things. First, it gets the player more involved in the campaign world, and gives you a glimpse of how they see the campaign world versus how you see it. If parts of the world fit their vision better, it is easier for them to immerse themselves in the campaign. Second, it takes some of the writing and creation pressure off of you. I could just as easily have drawn up the theatre the character worked at myself. But I’d be taking time away from other session prep to do it. Letting my players help gives me a chance to kill two cockatrices with one stone; I get interesting bits of character related campaign info, and I can focus on creating and running exciting events and encounters for my players.

A key component of this player homework for me is rewards. I tell my players flat out at the start of a campaign, if you give me some sort of character background you will get a tangible, in-game reward. I could just give an experience point or build-point bonus for it, but I try to connect the reward to some aspect of the character’s background. The more connected and specific I can make the reward, the better. For example, in a recent campaign I rewarded a wizard character with 250gp worth of scrolls, written by her, because her background talked about her learning at the hands of itinerant wizards. I imagined her character quickly jotting down what notes she could in the hopes of expanding her spell repertoire, trading scroll scribing for lessons. Another player in the same campaign is playing a paladin of the goddess of beauty, and his background (and player actions in-game, so far) focused on his attempts to find peaceful solutions, using combat as a last resort. His reward was to start the game with a potion of eagle’s splendor (to aid in diplomacy) and a potion of cure light wounds (for when diplomacy breaks down).

Other rewards can include:

  • one-time or continuing bonuses to skill checks or saving throws;
  • a situational bonus to item creation;
  • actual treasure in-game (though don’t get out of control with this one)

 

I’ve even hidden adventure hooks in seemingly over-generous rewards, like gifting the characters a castle or thriving merchant business. All sorts of interesting things can find you when you are tied to a castle or have to travel to keep your business running. You need to be careful with these types of rewards, however, and make sure they are something the player actually wants.

So don’t be afraid to include your players in the campaign building process. Engage them and reward them for engaging. You’ll find your campaign world starts taking on vibrancy and detail beyond what you expected.

 

My Basic Session Planning

Before we get to today’s post, a little Extra Life update and reminder. I am currently just over a third of the way to my $1000 goal, which is excellent! Thank-you to everyone who has donated or spread the word, your support is going mean the world to sick kids at the Stollery. If you’ve been waiting, now is your chance. I posted in September about my Extra Life plans, and you can check out that post for details and how you can donate and get involved. Now, on with the post!

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I know there are Game Masters out there that don’t do a lot of prep between sessions. I respect GMs that can work completely on the fly, because I am not one of them. While I have gotten better at improv over the years, I still need to do a minimum amount of prep in order to feel confident going into a session.

The very first thing I do is go over my session notes from the previous session. I’m looking for anything I said I’d have done by next session (XP totals, treasure lists, and so on). I’m also looking for any NPCs I might have to prep, and any indications of where my players are going next. Sometimes that’s straightforward; they’re still in the dungeon, so they’ll stay in the dungeon. Sometimes they have a bunch of options, though, and hopefully I noted which one they were leaning towards at the previous session.

Once I’ve gone over my notes I start putting together the things I might need for the session: NPC stats, location info, results for Knowledge checks. I read over the next portions of the adventure a few times to get familiar with them, assuming I’m using a pre-written adventure. If not, I review my adventure notes, and fill in any blanks I might need for the next session. I also assemble the physical items I’ll need for the next several encounters, like miniatures, maps, and player handouts. I like to have those things ready to go so I don’t waste playing time fumbling or searching for them. This also helps maintain the illusion of always knowing where the players are going.

I usually prepare one more encounter than I think I’ll need, and often two. Sometimes the players go in a direction you weren’t expecting and it’s great to be prepared for that. And sometimes the players breeze through an encounter you thought was going to take longer or be tougher. Either way, it’s good to be ready with the next, or alternate, encounter so they aren’t waiting for you to catch up. This is where I often dig into my collection of free encounters/adventures from DriveThruRPG or elsewhere, so I have something quick and low-prep.

About an hour or so before the session starts I prepare the playing space. I anoint the four sacred corners with the sacrificial blood…just kidding. A little Old Gamer “D&D is satanism” humour. But I do tidy up the play area, removing any distractions. I set up my end of the table with all my GMing tools close to hand. I set out the players’ minis, the map sheet we’re using, and character sheets if I held on to them. And I set out the snack bowls so we don’t have to waste time hunting for those later in the game.

One thing that I started doing fairly recently, I pre-roll about 15-20 times on a d20 (assuming we’re playing Pathfinder or D&D; I pre-roll for other games as appropriate) and note the results. This speeds up things like NPC/monster saving throws, skill checks, and surprise attack rolls a great deal. I use the same numbers for player checks when I need the check to be secret; for instance, an elven character’s Perception check for a secret door. This is useful, because sometimes you don’t want to give the game away by rolling a d20. Some players can’t help harmful meta-gaming, and pre-rolling avoids that issue.

On my laptop, I open up the PDFs of all the resources I’ll need during the session, and bookmark the pages I’ll need for reference. As part of my NPC prep I’ll have noted any spells and abilities that were not familiar to me, and I’ll have those pages open as reference. If for some reason I’m not using my laptop (rare, but it happens), I use sticky notes to tab all the pages I’ll need as reference. Either way, I want to cut down on the amount of fumbling through books I have to do during play. Not only does it cut down on wasted time, but you come across as a more confident and in-control GM.

Once that’s all done, I’m ready to play! I sit back, sip my coffee, and wait for the players to arrive.

What’s your prep routine like? How much time do you put into your session prep? Talk to me in the comments.

From the Campaign: Emberhaunt

Here’s a little something I thought I’d share, that will make an appearance in one of my upcoming D&D sessions. I’ve been developing a haunted location in my game, and I wanted something a little special to spring on my players. Enter the emberhaunt. After I’ve had a chance to run it a few times I may work it up a bit more and commission some art for it. We’ll see.

I’m curious what you think, so please look it over and drop suggestions in the comments. And feel free to take it for a spin in your game. It’s easy to adapt to whatever RPG you’re running. It’s shared under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial license.

Making Scrolls Magical

I wrote before of ways in which you can make the magic in your game more magical. Today I want to focus on that most ubiquitous of magical items, the scroll.

Casting magic from a scroll has been a staple of fantasy for longer than there has been fantasy. Mythology is rife with scrolls being used to make magic great and small. Terrible and wonderful things have been wrought by words written on a rolled-up bit of paper.

And that last bit is the problem. Say “scroll” to your players, and it’s very likely you both have the same image in your head; a rolled up bit of parchment, maybe tied with a ribbon or tucked in a tube. And the response to finding a scroll in their treasure is indifference at best, unless they’re one of the party casters.

So let’s change that. Even in our world different cultures created myriad ways to communicate the written word. A scroll from Feudal Japan is going to look different than a similar scroll from Medieval China, and both will look nothing like the scrolls used in Dynasty Egypt. Why shouldn’t the scrolls in your game have that same variation?

And that assumes you stick to scrolls written on paper or paper-like surfaces. I’ve listed ten ideas for weird and wonderful scrolls to surprise your players with at your next session. While it isn’t exhaustive, hopefully it helps get your brain juices flowing to come up with unconventional scrolls of your own. They may require a bit more thought and care on behalf of the GM than a regular scroll might, but I think the excitement from your players will be well worth it.

  1. The scroll is a skull, with the spell inscribed on the inside surface. At the GM’s discretion different skulls could enhance certain spells (a shrinking spell inscribed in a pixie skull, for instance)
  2. The scroll is a playing card, with the words symbols hidden in the card’s artwork. Added bonus, your players may, for one sphincter-clenching moment, think they’ve found a deck of many things when the deck of cards detects as magic. Good times.
  3. The scroll is a stretched hide in a frame. Cumbersome to carry, this is more suited to ritual spells that might commonly be cast in a specific location.
  4. The scroll is one of several similar tapestries, all hanging within eye line of the ruler as they sit on their throne. Perfect for when an NPC needs quick protective/offensive magic.
  5. The scroll is a bird, the words inscribed on its feathers. When the bird is released its song activates the spell.
  6. The scroll is a small (15-20 piece) puzzle, which must be completed to activate the scroll.
  7.  The scroll is an uncooked egg. Breaking the egg releases the spell. Only works on uncooked eggs. As with the skulls, different eggs may enhance different spells.
  8. The scroll is blend of spices, coloured pigments, and other granular ingredients. Flinging the entire contents into the air releases the spell.
  9. The scroll is a small firework, and the spell releases after it explodes.
  10. The scroll is a doll, the words written on its porcelain skin. When you pull the string in its back its eyes open and it speaks the trigger word to complete the spell.

Pick a description you like, or roll a d10 for a quick one-off result. Or use a bunch all at once; imagine a library filled with a variety of these scrolls. Comment below with your ideas for alternate scrolls.

Marginalia and Other Oddities

I love introducing libraries of books in my campaigns. It’s the sort of treasure I’d love to find if I were an adventurer, after all. Cracking open a door no one has opened in centuries, only to discover shelf upon shelf of dusty manuscripts…oh yeah, you can keep your gold and gems (okay, maybe not all the gold and gems).

The problem with dropping large numbers of books into your campaign is keeping them interesting. Sure, you’ll come up with cool descriptions for the special books, magical tomes or the books which advance the plot. But in a big library a lot of those books are going to look exactly the same, at least on the outside. That’s where marginalia can spice things up for you.

Turns out, cats have been jerks to books for centuries.

The term “marginalia” simply refers to anything added to the margins of a book or manuscript. The earliest examples of this were the scholia, or notes, written in the margins of ancient manuscripts by Medieval and Renaissance scholars. Such scholia continue to this day, the most famous modern example being Fermat’s Last Theorem. But it also includes drawings found in the margins of illuminated manuscripts, as well as (less accurately) notes found among the lines of a manuscript’s text. The term can also refer to anything that one might consider a mistake in the manuscript, thought that usage is less common. My favourite example of this is pictured to the left, where we see that cats haven’t changed one bit.

You might ask yourself why someone would hold onto, or even buy a book that came with errors or marginalia. Unlike today where the cost of printing a book is relatively cheap, any form of the printed word was a time-intensive, and therefore costly, enterprise. If you were half-way through copying out a book by hand and the cat walked across the page with inky paws, or you noticed you made a spelling or grammatical error, you fixed it as best you could and soldiered on. Besides time, the materials used for copying manuscripts were often expensive. Even a simple book copied out in a single colour of ink was still an investment.

Often the marginalia was done quite on purpose. As already noted, scholia were written in by scholars as notations for other students of that particular text.  But artistic illumination was often added to the margins to make the book more impressive, and didn’t always relate to the subject matter. It was not uncommon to find cartoonish and sometimes even vulgar images drawn in the margins, and at the top and bottom of pages. Occasionally these would tell a simple tale over

Hmmm…how do I tell these penises are ripe?

several pages, similar to our relatively modern flip-books. And just sometimes, the artist wanted to draw fruit being picked from a penis tree.

Marginalia in your trove of campaign books can have a wide range of forms and uses. Intentional or in error, marginalia can be used to tease your players with riddles or clues, or waste their time with a literary red-herring. But they’re the perfect addition to any of your campaign manuscripts, instantly making your books more interesting. I’ve provided a list of twenty examples below. You can either pick one you like or roll randomly when a character thumbs through that book they just found.

  1. Tiny clawed footprints, burned on the surface of several pages as if something had walked or stood upon them. (Left by an imp; could be random, or done deliberately to obscure text)
  2. A series of small drawings in the margins of each page, depicting the comic (and sometimes lewd) misadventures of a flaxen-haired elf and a red-bearded dwarf.
  3. In the bottom right corner of each page, a series of pictures depicting an “untoward” unicorn. (You pick how “untoward” to fit your group)
  4. A carefully written recipe for potato soup, with some odd ingredients (DM’s choice). If tried, the soup is delicious but otherwise unremarkable. (Should ideally be found in a book having nothing to do with cooking)
  5. Next to a passage with information vital to the characters, a note in the margin reading, “Annotation needed, incomplete passage. Original should be kept by [fill in group from your campaign here].”
  6. Someone has underlined several lines on every page throughout the book, often with comments like “Yes! Yes!!” and “Finally, someone gets it!” They don’t seem to bear any relation to each other, and the hand-writing in the comments is different in several places.
  7. On an otherwise beautifully illuminated manuscript, a quite visible green-inked thumbprint can be seen obscuring a portion of the title page.
  8. Starting in the bottom left corner of the last page, and spiraling clockwise and inward on each page, another shorter book has been written in the margins. The subject of the marginalia text should bear no relation to the book’s original subject.
  9. Several pages have been cut out and re-glued back into the book in different places, some upside down or backwards.
  10. Someone has meticulously cut the letter “e” out of every word in the manuscript. Tucked in the back of the book is a small pouch containing the resulting confetti.
  11. Characters will notice the lyrics and musical notation for a bawdy song about naiads hidden in the illuminations of a manuscript. If sung aloud near any body of water the song summons a water elemental which immediately attacks the singer.
  12. A character notices an image of a thin man with glasses, wearing a striped tunic, in the marginalia of one page. That same character now can’t help but notice that same image in the marginalia of every book in this library.
  13. The illuminations in the manuscript look slightly off. But if the page is angled properly under the correct light, characters will note the illuminations appear to be three-dimensional.
  14. Scattered through the margins are a series of truly terrible and nonsensical riddles. Examples: “Why is a gelatinous cube like a sandwich? Because they both like carp!” “Knock, knock. Who’s there? Penchant. Penchant who? Bless you!”
  15. Beautifully drawn and illuminated marginalia, except every figure has a very obviously bare bottom showing.
  16. Starting with the first page and repeating until the end of the book, the first letter of each page spells out a character’s name. Coincidence?
  17. The beautiful but faded artwork and illuminations in this book were restored badly, almost cartoonishly. If properly restored, the book’s value would double, possible even triple.
  18. Someone has worked the phrase, “Gwen and Slaughterjaw forever!” into the marginalia of every page. (Or pick two names which better suit your campaign world)
  19. An unfinished thaumaturgical formula. It seems to make perfect sense but is obviously missing some vital section. (DM can determine how difficult it is to solve, and what it leads to)
  20. The margins are filled with carefully written but indecipherable script (pick a language none of the characters have or make one up). If translated, the writing appears to be scholia, correcting the original text in several places and filling in some missing information.

What sort of oddities have you put in your books? Share below!