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Mystaranomicon – exploring the books of Mystaraby Jesper Andersen from Threshold Magazine issue 2
At one time or another, most Dungeon Masters have had their group of player characters enter a library, a sage’s office, a wizard school or a noble’s study and heard the dreaded question: “So, what are all these books about?”
Mystaranomicon is a new regular column that provides Dungeon Masters with books ready to be inserted into any game with a moment’s notice. Use them simply as colourful fluff or to provide clues and hooks to adventures!
“Exodus of the Flaems”
Author: Unknown – but obviously a Flaemish wizard and Follower of Fire
Year: Believed to be around 400 AC
Contents: This massive tome is bound in thin sheets of bronze covered in ancient, arcane runes and its pages are made from the skin of some unknown creature from the elemental plane of fire. It is the most sacred book of the Flaemish people, detailing their 1400-year long journey across the Plane of Fire from old Alphatia (which perished) to Mystara. Inside this book are powerful secrets of fire magic, lore about planar travel, an account of the war against the Followers of Air (from the perspective of the Followers of Fire) and details of the deceit of Alphaks.
The Flaems guard the secrets of their exodus fanatically and will kill any non-Flaem who is thought to be in possession of the book without hesitation. The original book is currently in the possession of Prince Vanserie Vlaardoen of Glantri and another is safely hidden on the Plane of Fire guarded by terrible monsters and magic. At least three other copies of the tome are presently unaccounted for and the Flaemish wizards use all of their magical powers to locate and recover them. If the Flaems suspect someone of having even glanced at the secrets of the book, they will try to kidnap and then interrogate said person, using all of their magic and wealth to do so, before silencing the poor reader permanently.
Legality: Illegal in all Flaemish territories in Glantri, legal elsewhere (but dangerous to possess!)
Number of pages: 300
“The Prince – A Guide to Glantrian Politics and Rulership”
Author: Griweth of Braastar, honorary member of the Hall of Magistrates
Rarity: Common in Glantri, Rare elsewhere
Year: 937 AC
Language: Originally Glantrian, but translated into most of the local dialects and languages in Glantri
Contents: This book is an introduction to the rules of the council regulating the distribution of dominions and ranks of nobility in Glantri. It briefly covers how the nation was set up in 828 AC and further reformed in 858 AC, but mostly it covers the voting system in the Glantrian parliament; listing the various ranks and titles and the voting power associated with them. The book also contains a very flattering description of the current princely houses and a brief account of their history in Glantri. Finally, the book also outlines ‘the Order of Radiance’ – the old legend of how power emanates from Glantri City and therefore dictates the proximity within which nobles are allowed to establish their dominions.
The book does not cover legal issues or the law in Glantri. It is a common gift given to young students of politics in Glantri – both noble wizards and members of the Hall of Magistrates and the Guild of Spokesmen – upon their graduation.
At the DM’s discretion, the book could grant a bonus to Diplomacy/charisma checks for player characters presenting their case before a Glantrian noble.
Number of pages: 75
“Hangman Trees and other Horrors of Nature”
Author: Kirk Shortblade
Year: 983 AC
Contents: This book was written by an adventurer and wilderness guide named Kirk Shortblade and describes some of the plant horrors of the wild that he has encountered during his 20-year career. It is a popular book with anyone travelling in the wilderness and can be found in many well-stocked libraries in Darokin, the Five Shires, Alfheim, Thyatis and Karameikos.
Number of pages: 100
“Solving Problems with Ooze Crossbreeding”
Year: 989 AC
Contents: Agamon was an entrepreneurial man who sought to solve the garbage problems of all major cities in the Known World by perfecting the breeding of a type of ooze that could dispose of the waste. He wanted to produce a breed of pudding or slime less dangerous than the black pudding but more powerful than the gelatinous cube, which could not dissolve metal trash.
So Agamon started experimenting in secret in the sewers underneath Glantri City, crossbreeding various oozes, slimes and puddings - with varying degrees of success. Unfortunately for Agamon, other mages in Glantri tend to dump unauthorised failed experiments in the sewers. Part of an experiment gone wrong found its way into Agamon’s lab and infected his latest “batch” of slimes. The result was nothing short of horrific and gave birth to a new type of monster - the Nightmare Slime - which escaped Agamon’s lab and slid into the sewer system.
After a while, the city authorities realised that something was horribly wrong in the sewer system and teams of adventurers as well as instructors from the Great School of Magic were sent in to investigate. After a number of tragic deaths, the majority, if not all, of the Nightmare Slimes were destroyed, and Agamon’s secret lab discovered. Agamon ended his days in the Tower of Sighs and his journal was confiscated and placed in the “Restricted Section” of the library of the Great School of Magic.
However, one of Agamon’s apprentices escaped with his own notes secretly copied from his master and he may very well try to duplicate and improve the breeding program one day.
Number of pages: 250
“I See Dead People - The Power of Sciomancy”
Author: Darghan the Initiated
Year: 794 AC
Contents: Darghan the Initiated was a powerful wizard with an astonishing talent for both divination and necromancy. It is believed he could speak with the dead, even though he was not officially a priest of any known Immortal. Darghan mastered sciomancy - the art of divining the future by reading signs in shadows and communicating with ghosts. In time, a cult of followers grew up around him, all dedicated to a dark, mysterious practice of magic. Darghan’s book explains some of the basic principles of sciomancy and his theories on afterlife, souls and death. The book also contains useful information about protecting oneself from ghosts. Much of the book is very difficult to read, however, as it reflects a fractured mind.
Number of pages: 200
“Magnifying Convocation Spells with Lion Urine”
Rarity: Very Rare
Year: 954 AC
Contents: Caedfred was an instructor at the Great School of Magic in Glantri, who was very interested in convocation magic and multi-casting rituals. He was constantly experimenting with ways to improve the rituals for greater effect and in 954 AC he published his unorthodox theories. The result was widespread experiments by eager students all over the school, until the Grand Master and several professors finally declared Caedfred’s works “a stinking lie” and expressly forbade its use. Caedfred was forced to leave the Great School of Magic in disgrace.
Legality: Legal (but unpopular)
Number of pages: 75
Author: Archmage Dakrith Kost, servant of emperor Zendrolion I of Thyatis and founder of Collegium Arcanum
Rarity: Common in Thyatis, Karameikos, Darokin and Minrothad Guilds. Uncommon elsewhere.
Year: 34 AC
Contents: This massive tome has become a world-wide best seller, an indispensable source of knowledge for starting and experienced wizards alike. It deals with the fundamental principles of magic; how to understand and detect magical energies and how to manipulate them, using basic spells such as cantrips. Principia Magica outlines the basic known schools of magic (transmutation, enchantment, abjuration, necromancy, etc.) and their primary uses and differences. It also lists a number of the most common spell components and items used in spell research.
Copies of Principia Magica are expensive but generally not hard to come by. However, because the book covers such a wide range of fundamental knowledge it remains useful even for experienced wizards and is certainly required by most who dream of doing any original spell research on their own. Therefore, even experienced mages do not sell their used copies to new apprentices in order to get money for other books.
The archmage Dakrith Kost, who penned the original Principia Magica, was a powerful Thyatian wizard in the service of Emperor Zendrolion I, and the founder of the Collegium Arcanum in Thyatis City. He disappeared later in life, but a large statue of him stands in the grand hall of the collegium, and all students there know his name.
Magic-users in Alphatia and Glantri know of this book, of course, but generally produce their own similar works.
Number of pages: 400
“Eternity: The Authoritative Lore”
Author: Alfric Oderbry, holy representative of the Church of Karameikos
Rarity: Common in Karameikos. Rare elsewhere.
Year: 997 AC
Contents: This book, written by none other than Alfric Oderbry himself, is the official dogma of the Church of Karameikos on the afterlife. It explains how the soul is stained by sin and - if not purified by the good graces of the Church - will be forever stuck in hellish Limbo when the person dies. The book emphasizes the importance of strict observance of church rules, reverence, obedience and respect for the authority of the Church of Karameikos. It is a book that leaves no room for error or doubt, no tolerance for keeping an open mind.
Number of pages: 200
“Dust, Blood and Heat - 10 Years in the Colosseum”
Author: Penned by Fervyn Erthurson
Rarity: Very Rare. Almost all copies will be found within the Empire of Thyatis
Year: 998 AC
Contents: This book is the official biography of the famous gladiator champion Decimus Vassus, who retired a few years ago after a decade in the arena. He is now a wealthy citizen living in a villa outside the city and only appears at parties and parades, which never fails to delight his many female admirers. The book is a load of self-aggrandizing tripe.
Number of pages: 100
(sidebar) Book Rarity Reference Table
Only the original copy of this work has ever been known to exist
Less than 20 copies of this work is known or rumoured to exist
Less than 200 copies of this work is known or rumoured to exist
Enough copies of this work exist that it may show up in private collections and very large libraries across the world. Only rarely is one sold, rather copies are preserved and passed on.
This book is difficult to come by but not impossible. If you can afford it, libraries or sages will probably allow you to have a copy made from theirs.
This book is readily available in most major cities. Books are often common if they are reproduced for teaching purposes.