There was a formula—a sort of list of things to say and do—which I recognised as something black and forbidden; something which I had read of before in furtive paragraphs of mixed abhorrence and fascination penned by those strange ancient delvers into the universe’s guarded secrets whose decaying texts I loved to absorb. It was a key—a guide—to certain gateways and transitions of which mystics have dreamed and whispered since the race was young, and which lead to freedoms and discoveries beyond the three dimensions and realms of life and matter that we know. Not for centuries had any man recalled its vital substance or known where to find it, but this book was very old indeed. No printing-press, but the hand of some half-crazed monk, had traced these ominous Latin phrases in uncials of awesome antiquity.
by H. P. Lovecraft
(10) Werm-Riddled Manuscripts: Probably Forbidden, Mostly Nameless and Otherwise Suspiciously Cheap...
- Torn and smelly, this wad of crumbling old ages is secured into a messy sheaf by a rusty pin that has been driven through the entire stack of pages as though by a hammer or lump of dense rock. None of the pages are in consecutive order and whatever sequence seems to be in effect changes from reading to reading. The thing self-randomizes, switching languages even as it takes on a different page order, even the number of pages tends to change. It costs the permanent sacrifice of one 4th Level spell slot to read this manuscript all the way through in one evening, and doing so prematurely ages the reader by 4d10 years. What the reader gains...is the ability to claim one randomly determined spell in their personal repertoire as an At Will Ability that can be used as many times in a given 26-hour period as they have levels as a spell-caster.
- Forty-three blank pages of high-quality paper all clipped together and affixed with a note written in blood-stained Garadic script, very neatly penned with a crisp nib. The note references Thumallian's Third Trance-State. Apparently, if the reader attempts to read this manuscript while in this particular trance-state, it will reveal its secret text.
- Sixty-seven pages torn from a madman's diary or personal journal. Each one contains the same sequence of tight, spidery non-letters that sprawl across the page in a most disturbing, unsavory manner. The curious script employed in this manuscript cannot be read by a rational mind. One must be mad in the first place in order to decipher the thing.
- Five neatly-folded comics sections taken from a newspaper over a hundred years out of date. The paper is yellowing from more than just aging badly. Wrapped-up in those comics is an editorial section written in one of the most vile forms of Yellow Journalism. The very paper itself is saturated in the effluent left-over from the production of Yellow Wallpaper. This is highly toxic stuff, gone even more rancid and pernicious with age.
[Reading/handling the crumbling Comics Pages require a Save at -1, failure inflicts Confusion on the reader for the next 3d6 hours. Success halves the duration. Examination of the Editorial Section requires a Save at -4, failure instills a very visceral -4 Charisma reaction against all members of a particular ethnic or political group. Success imprints the victim with a -2 Reaction Modifier against two such groups. In either case, the reader's hands are permanently stained a distinct yellowish tint, they are more prone to experiencing a distracting sort of melancholy when exposed to anything political (Save or 'lose' 1d10 minutes in a distracted state, unless engaged in vigorous activity), and they suffer a permanent -1 penalty on all Saves in relation to all White Powder derivatives.]
- An old broadsheet advertising Doktor Malinkorov's Marvelous Medicinal Mortifactant. On the back someone has carefully illustrated all the steps required to fashion a set of Illudrian bone-lamellar armor, including how to properly attune the rig to various spectra of necromantic energies that Nagrothean Censors tend to expurgate from all modern texts.
- Twenty-Six Hundred cardamom-scented foolscap pages packed into a heavy cardboard box reinforced with thin metal bands. Each page is densely scribbled upon and most who look upon these translucent pages for the first time are tempted to pass them over as meaningless. Those who persist in their examination go on to discover that each page contains a single self-contained statement drawn-out in one continuous line.
[Upon initial examination, roll an Attribute Check against INT; need to succeed to go any further. Each set of 1d20 pages examined after a successful INT check grants the reader a cumulative 1% bonus to comprehend the secrets embedded in these labyrinth-like pages. The reader may attempt to comprehend the manuscript any time they like, rolling a D% and adding-on whatever bonus they've accumulated. Success means that they are now immune to the effects of the Maze spell. Failure means that they've been trapped within the manuscript itself for as many days as they have INT. Each day trapped within the manuscript costs them 1d12 months of aging. Once a reader has failed to comprehend this manuscript, further study is considered pointless. However there are hints whispered between certain book-sellers and librarians and those who seek after strange secrets that if one were to persist to the very end that there indeed are deep secrets buried in this manuscript. Whether or not there actually are, remains a matter of speculation. At least until someone conclusively makes it through the entire thing successfully.]
- Nine black pages edged with gold. The first three are empty. Wiped clean by tears. Do you dare to read the fourth page to find out why?
- Mold-stained and horribly creased, this manuscript has been stuffed into a rotten canvas courier bag for several years. Only thirty-five pages remain in the bag. The rest have been lost. There is no index, no table of contents, no title page. Half the pages are illegible. What remains appear to be diagrams and formulae for attracting the attentions of some sort of extra-dimensional form of sentient mold. Each page that gets handled inflicts a cumulative -1 penalty on the reader's Save against being poisoned. The mold on these pages will require a fresh Save after every 1d4 pages examined. Should the reader fail their Save, the mold spreads into their skin. Or rather under their skin. This mold isn't particularly sentient, at least not yet, but now that someone has volunteered to be its host, it will slowly devour their INT and WIS and CHAR until it achieves a cold, cruel form of consciousness that will replace everything they lose to the process.
[This is no simple parasite. It is a symbiotic organism. One that gives as good as it gets, if not better. The victim feels no pain from the process whatsoever. If anything they feel more clear-headed and awake than ever before in their life, even gaining a +1 bonus to all INT & WIS checks, and Immunity to all forms of illusion, charms and hypnosis. The mold integrates itself into the host's flesh, eventually replacing their entire skin and giving them a very distinctive appearance, one apprentice has described as being akin to "...a waxy coating over mottled patches of lint, ashes and chalk dust." Each week from the moment of infection, the host must make a Save, failure meaning that they suffer a loss of 1 CHAR point, success causes them 1d4 damage and intermittent but intense vertigo that somehow only strikes whenever they attempt to cast a spell or try to read. Upon reaching a CHAR score of 3, the host's mind, brain and body have been completely consumed, they get to re-roll all their stats and begin life as a new being. It is unclear whether their soul survives this transformation, or if it is somehow destroyed, displaced or simply replaced. The new entity that is produced by this process does seem to possess a soul, but it is definitely not the original host's, that much was proven in a battery of experiments conducted by Franidar, Murleff and Clevong under the aegis of the Grenavior Occupation. Unfortunately, most of their records were subsequently lost in the course of their trial for war crimes.]
- Sixteen feet of coarsely-knotted rough twine securely holds together a stack of rough-edged sheets of pressed yellow-green seaweed, block-printed with a range of grotesque trapezoidal glyphs unlike anything most bibliophiles are ever likely to see in the waking world. The ink is thick upon the fibrous pages. Redolent of Purple Amber. The glyphs are generally indecipherable as they are not rational constructs, but rather a complex cluster of praeterhuman oneiro-tactile intuition-stimulae with a tendency to unlock deeply repressed memories and long suppressed trauma in those who brood upon them for more than a few minutes quick glance. The glyphs have been bound into the loose pages of this manuscript well past their tolerance for such things. They desire to be set free. Will you release them?
- One Hundred pages of poor quality typewriter-paper wrapped-up in the entrails of three large toads. The whole thing reeks of burnt flesh -- the typewriter ribbon used for this manuscript was derived from Black Smoke. Roughly a third of the pages have been ruined by exposure to water. What remains is a first-person account of the siege of Tarlonna composed by a Morlock combat-engineer who lost more than just their left arm at that historic battle. Perusing these pages will require experience with a great deal of intellectually opaque Morlock military slang, hence why the seven publishers it was submitted to all rejected it out of hand. The rejection slips are interspersed randomly through the manuscript as bookmarks denoting sections requiring extra attention, editing and revision.