Runequest Thursday #78 - Random Scroll Generation!

Clint Staples

All the way back in the first Chaosium edition of Runequest, there were rules for different sorts of scrolls, which plucky adventurers could find as treasure. I always liked them. Somehow, for me, they were more evocative than finding a book, though if you want a list of books, I’ve got you covered there too). And unlike D&D, or at least the 3rd edition version that I am most familiar with, scrolls were not just single use spells – They could be all sorts of things.

The other thing you can do with a scroll (that is much more difficult with a book), is to “prop” the scroll. Find yourself a parchment background on the internet, print it on your color printer, then write some form of the scroll’s text (or the map, etc) to hand to your players. It doesn’t take long, and can add a lot to a session – especially if the scroll is one that the PCs have been seeking for a while, or you want them to puzzle of the text, or refer to the map henceforth.

Something to consider when you are handing your players ancient texts, be they scrolls or books, is the language in which they are written. If your adventurers don’t have access to, or a translator for, the language in which you decide the scroll is written, they should be given some expectation of gaining it. This could be by learning the language themselves, or via some sort of translation service – which could be anything from a  local Lhankor Mhy sage, to the services of a demon of sufficient intellect. The more esoteric the method, the more you should grant for the effort, especially since the heroes will likely have to go through it again if they discover another text in the same language.

I threw together some scroll ideas for my own Brightwater campaign, and thought I would post them for you to use too if you like. Ancient scrolls, like many books from the medieval period, also often had diverse subjects, authors and material contained within them (check out my post on the Manuscript that contains the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf for an example). So, if you want, feel free to roll more than once and put all the results on a single scroll.

 

Random Scroll Table, (roll 1d8):

  1. The Scrolls of Skeloc: One or more of a set of “Lost” Scrolls, containing information thought by scholars to have been long lost. It might be history from before the Flood or other cataclysm, a codex of forgotten lore or prophecy, or a Bestiary of extinct or unimaginable creatures. This works best if you have a scholar or bookhound among your PCs and you can allude to the existence of this scroll as a lost text in advance of it being found. Feel free to roll again, as often as you like, on this table for the contents of other Skeloc scrolls. That there are more than a single scroll, allows you to pars out information and adventure hooks as needed for the foreseeable future, simply by starting with, “So the last time you perused the Scrolls of Skeloc, you noticed something odd . . .”
  2. Hidden Knowledge: This scroll details a regimen by which a student can improve an attribute. After following the regimen, the character gains the following (Roll 1d6): 1: A randomly generated Characteristic (STR, POW, etc) +1; 2: A randomly generated Characteristic’s Species Maximum +1; 3: A Magical Ritual (details to be determined by the GM); 4: Magical Knowledge – the student may increase her Magic Skill (Sorcery, Theurgy, Shamanism, etc) by 1d3x5%, or with GM permission, may start a new Magical Skill from among those she does not currently possess; 5: A lost myth of the Godtime (which may confer the bonus of #4 to Theurgy, but also rewrites some established myth about a god or gods; 6: A Runic Scroll that allows the next reader to Master the Rune contained on the scroll before it crumbles to dust.
  3. Scroll of Summoning: With this scroll, one may summon eldritch aid in the form of (roll 1d4): 1: one or more godly servants (like the Flint Slingers of Orlanth, for example); 2: A demon or demons (roll 1d4 for the total Ranks of Demons accessible); 3: A magical creature (like a storm bull, gryphon, or amphisboena); 4: An elemental (roll 1d6 for the Rank of the creature). The summoned being is bound to a single service by the strictures of the scroll, after which time it is returned to its own realm (or not, if the GM wishes).
  4. Secret Weapon Technique: This scroll gives information that few know about the subject weapon skill. After following the regimen described roll 1d6: 1-4: 1d3x5% in the weapon skill; 5-6: Learn a Feat of Arms for the weapon;
  5. A Scroll of Reference: This scroll is a weighty volume, and an authority on the subject it purports to cover. Choose a subject or Lore. When the reader has the opportunity and time [minimum 2d10 Minutes) to consult the scroll, she may add the same result on 2d10 to her percentage in that subject. If course, carrying scrolls around on adventures can lead to theft or destruction of such frail items, so care must be taken.
  6. A Commentary: This is a commentary by a writer, upon another work that is not included on the scroll in question. This can be a great teaser to get your heroes searching for another tome, or might enhance the understanding of a text that one of the heroes has read or owns, thus gaining the benefits of both. Commentaries might add greatly to the subject matter, but at least should function as a Scroll of Reference if the text on which it comments is available.
  7. A False Scroll: this is a misleading or otherwise false document that will lead its readers astray.  This can be a lot of fun, as the adventurers try to use the scroll, only to be endangered by the attempt. If you are kind, after a time floundering about, they might discover some kind of “key” or Commentary, which divines the “true’ meaning of the a scroll, as in #5 or #6.
  8. A Map, Deed, or Letter: These work best when they are intercepted, rather than found. For instance, the heroes might find a letter between two mysterious villains, not yet known to them, plotting or discussing some alliance, ideally with some geographical reference to send the heroes off in the right direction. A map could be old or new, as could a deed. These are particularly easy to “prop” as described above.

 

Example:

Secreted in the subterranean vault of the Wizard-King Hasdrubaal, are a partial set of the fable Scrolls of Skeloc. One scroll details the fall of the wizard-king’s realm. Another is a bestiary of some of the hybrid monsters thought to have been the products of Hasdrubaal’s experiments, complete with the “recipes’ for a few. Another contains a secret technique for mastery of the Feat of Arms: Battle Mage. Finally, there is a False Scroll of Prophecy that claims to provide the signs of the coming war with Demonkind. Whether the false scroll has any actual value, is of course, up to the GM, but it is more fun to let the heroes discover its failings AND then its truths (or a lead to them in another text) than have it just be a red herring.