Every Magic-User develops their own method of writing magical formulae, like some kind of sorcerous cipher, preventing their knowledge from being read by the plebeian unworthy.
Every other Magic-User knows the spell Read Magic, which they can cast and read anything they want.
Wait what? When did deciphering a madman’s work become such a throwaway bit of bag of tricks nonsense? If I was a wizard my spellbook would be overflowing with false passages and curses and traps like some kind of nightmare word labyrinth of doom, not presenting itself on a podium for the next first-day-of-magic-school Johnny that comes along. Read MY magic? I fucking think not.
So sure, Read Magic allows you to read magical writings, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to read it right.
When Reading Magic, save vs. Magic. Your Referee will probably apply penalties or bonuses depending on what you’re trying to read, and you can apply bonuses by concentrating really hard and using additional Cataclysm points before rolling. The number by which you succeed or fail is applied as a bonus or penalty to the 3d6 roll your Referee now makes in seeecret.
|1-4||Tome of Terror|
|1d20||(d10 if the writing isn't in a book)|
|1||You birth a wriggling pink rat with a young version of your own face out of your mouth. It scrambles away and out of sight. It will grow to about the size of a pug, it develops translucent flaps of skin to glide on, it keeps showing up to foil your plans.|
|2||Tiny hideous mouths split open over the surface of the object and begin to scream.|
|3||Cold pink mist swells up from the object and wafts out in a 30' radius, save vs. Poison or lie down to sleep in a blanket of fog.|
|4||You read the writing as something utterly different, you have no reason to believe that it isn't right. If it is a spell, the first time you try to cast it a Chaos Reigns roll is triggered.|
|5||The object bearing the writing bursts into flame like a pile of magnesium.|
|6||Your eyes snap open wide and fill with churning pink clouds, black at the edges like a storm, dim flashes of light perceivable in their midst.
You find yourself blind, groping in lurid darkness, until your eyes settle back on the page. Your eyes are permanently ensorcelled, unable to see anything but writing, but able to decipher any written language or cipher without aid of any kind.
You may find that there is a kind of poetry in the fibre of the world itself, but learning to read that will take some time.
|7||Get up from the table, go to the nearest bookshelf, close your eyes, pull down a book, flip to a random page, scan down and read the first few lines that catch your eye. For the next 2d4 days save vs. Magic whenever you want to start a conversation or cast a spell, if you fail the only words to come out are those lines over and over again.|
|8||Vow of Poverty. You just cursed yourself. Precious metals and gems rot within your presence, visibly deteriorating every day, leaving nothing but discoloured muck after a week of being within 15' of you.|
|9||Five trails of gently floating green lights appear, wafting into your lungs as they reach you. The lights are leading demoniac hounds with the hands of men and voices of children to you from various directions.
Every 8 hours roll a d4 per remaining hound, on a 4 they have come to collect you.
|10||Your nearest companion compulsively stabs you with whatever blade is closest to hand. A copper serpent slithers from the wound and into your hands, its blood-slicked scales are carven with arcane knowledge.
(Hand the player the Magic-User spell list, they gain any spells they can legibly write down within 10 seconds. To cast the spell they must ingest a number of copper coins equal to spell level. The spells use Cataclysm as normal but do not need to be written in a spellbook or memorised.)
After 10 seconds the serpent will strike out at whoever is holding it, pumping black venom into their veins if its fangs find flesh.
|11||Heat emanates from the page and you absent-mindedly place your hand against it to feel the warmth.
The ink burns into your skin like a tattoo.
The first lie you tell will become true, and the writing on your hand will change to remind you of that for all time.
|12||The book's cover grows course and hairy, legs sprout from the spine and it leaps from your hands, running across the room and up the wall. It points a strange cloaca at you from the base of its spine and expels clumps of bright green mildew at you that burns the skin, flapping away to the other side of the room if you get too close.|
|13||The edges of the book slice your fingers open before it drops to the floor, leaving tiny rows of perfect bloodless papercuts.
They will never heal, and from this moment forth you will bleed prose.
It is not for me to know what secrets may be found in your blood.
|14||The book decomposes into hundreds of tiny paper mite crabs, they swarm over your arms, digging into your flesh, searching for orifices.
If more than 50% of them find their way inside you, gain a spell of a random level, but you can no longer eat anything other than paper, mumbling incoherent script when you are hungry.
|15||The page splits horizontally and unfolds, then vertically and unfolds, then horizontally.. again and again until the page is 15' wide. In the centre is a sketched doorway, the handle is so realistic you feel that you could reach out and grab it. If you open the door roll 1d6. The door leads you..
1. Into the chambers of a disrobed person of note who does not take kindly to the intrusion.
2. Into a room piled high with glittering treasures. Anything you take will immediately adhere into your skin, and it will take part of you with it if torn away. Opening the door will lead you back into the room where the book lay.
3. Into the lair of a great black serpent, slumbering after feeding. Shapes like hands push out the skin of its distended belly and you hear far-off whimpering. If it wakes, its yellow cut-glass eyes flash with hate and it will regurgitate its meal before attacking, bathing them in a hot flush of digestive juices that melt their limbs and prevent escape. Otherwise, it intends to digest them slow, they may yet survive, you have but to release them.. (Within the snake's belly is: 1-2. The person who originally wrote the words. 3. A buxom lass sacrificed to the serpent, sacrificed for consorting with devils. 4. A foolhardy adventurer brought here in search of a sacrificial hoard, collected over centuries. 5-6. A mewling litter of children, they imprint on the first person they see as their mother with animal intelligence, they are stronger and more agile than they look)
4. Into a dimly lit subterranean room, connected by secret stair to the lavish home above. Yellow wax drips from walls and altars, icy fingers caress your spine as the light flickers over strange stains, a hand-written tome rests on a dais, dedicated to the glory of the Yellow Queen.
5. Back where you just came from. You watch yourself move towards the book, attempting to read its secrets, watching it unfurl into a doorway, stepping inside.. The more you allow things to progress as they were the more of you there are, watching yourself watching yourself in neverending sequence until you stop yourself from reading the book, at which point every you that stepped through the doorway is un-happened, sucked back out of reality in pockets of agony.
6. Into your chrysalis deep below the earth. There you will sleep for years to come, until the changes are complete, until your terrible maniacal glory can be loosed upon the world.
|16||The book shrieks and tears itself in half, blood falls to the floor instead of paper fragments, the missing half regrows, the books tear themselves in half, blood falls to the floor...
The books continue to replicate in this way until there are several hundred, shrieking in a pool of blood.
The blood tastes like learning.
|17||Tendrils snap out from the crease of the book, penetrating your chest and belly, churning as some drain and others pump.
Your organs liquefy and drain out with your blood, and in its place your body fills with fluid like liquid golden light.
You glow like a pinkish-gold beacon, and take a -5 penalty to saves vs. Magic, but cannot be poisoned and gain a d4 bonus to Cast the Bones and Conduit of the Cosmos rolls.
|18||You read the words aloud and all who hear them age d20 years. Save vs. Magic, if you fail you continue to read. Repeat.
Anyone who reaches the age of 90 during this time falls apart like disintegrating paper.
|19||Violet light flashes from the pages, in your temporary blindness you can hear the resonance of your own thoughts. When you look back at the book you are staring at your own placid face, when you cry out it is the face in the book that opens its mouth and screams, not the featureless mess of words plastered around your swollen eyes.|
|20||The pages of the book begin to flip back, growing faster, pulling at the air around you, the flurry of paper flipping between the covers of the book consists of more pages than the book could possibly have contained.
The pull at the air around you grows stronger, small objects begin to lift from the floor and disappear between the pages, your feet begin to shift..