Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Board Game Magic

"Board games."

I paused with my quill above a fresh sheet of parchment. Did I just hear that right?

"Excuse me," I said, nervously. "Did you ... did you just say 'board games'? Because I heard 'board games'. Ha ha! Ha?"

Edwin Greenwood looked up over his wire-rimmed spectacles. "Yes. Board games."

This was not what I was expecting to hear. I had come to the ramshackle cottage of the land's greatest wizard, Edwin Greenwood, as I do the evening of every first of the lunar month. I look forward to these visits with great enthusiasm. Usually, I come away with reams of parchment scribbled with notes about great magic swords, forgotten books of powerful lore, or little known medicinal or magical secrets regarding rare plants or minerals.

Tonight, we sat in his crowded one room cottage, heady smells wafting from his cookfire and experiment tables, little automatons racing or squawking noisily in corners and under tables, and the glow of the fire and two lit braziers casting shadows over mounds of papers, tubes, and instruments of all sorts. My host was sitting across from me, his head hovering over a bowl of stew, his eyes looking up over his glasses. He didn't seem to understand my confusion.

"Well," I began, "board games. Well. I'm sure that, uh, board games might be a nice topic for some Sunday afternoon in the park, maybe with children, but I was hoping for something a little more, uh, ... you know?" I finished, waving my hands.

"Something a little more, ... you know?" he waved his hands, mockingly, and with a smile. "Board games a little too ... childish for you?" His face grew more serious.

"Then you should know this. The greatest wizards of this generation, past generations, and future generations, if my divinations are anything to go by, devoted a lot of time to board games. All types of games, every shape and size. There's a whole lot more to board games, and indeed card games, than just winning a few rubles from the local knucklehead down at Soot's Bar. You know." And he waved his hands again.

"Very well," I said, resigned. "Tell me about board games."

And so he began.

It seems that board games have been used since time immemorial for all sorts of arcane purposes, from divination to planning wars, from locating rare material components to increasing the intellect. Rumor also holds that each board game holds the unique key to unlocking some secret of the universe. The more board games one plays and masters, the more privy you are to some universal secret. No one has been able to tell exactly what this secret is, just yet, but the greatest wizards have been working on it for generations.

"Furthermore," he said, as I prompted him to get to the good stuff, "it is no coincidence that the greatest wizards were also great board games players. In fact, when a test of wizardry could not be performed for whatever reason, simple hierarchy could be established through the playing of a few simple games. Inevitably, the winner was also the better wizard."

Edwin went on for some time about historical facts, board game heraldry, demonic symbolism, and so on, which I won't bore you with. I will skip to the parts that I had come for: board game magical items.


A Google of Games

This Grimoire is covered in a dull black cloth and contains no markings of any sort on the cover. It was created by the legendary wizard Sidicus Saxon. It was last seen two hundred years ago in the village of Kaliforn, and carried by a hooded dwarf-like creature passing through on a pony. It was only a fortuitous gust of wind that blowing a pack covering open that permitted a glimpse of the book. Anduin Grishold saw the book, but before he could ask any questions, the creature had hastily snapped the pack closed and ridden away at great haste.

The Google of Games is said to weight about 5 pounds and radiates a soft glow if Detect Magic is cast on it. When the proper command word is spoken, the book may be opened and laid out on the table. Any game board desired is replicated on the pages in three dimensions, and at the side of the board will be small containers containing the pieces necessary to play the game. This is said to work not only for existing games, but also for game prototypes in progress. Thus it is highly valued by wizards, as it speeds up the game design process by a factor of d4+1 days +1/game level.

The game cannot be closed until the pieces are put properly away, at which point it refolds down into the ordinary book like appearance that it usually takes.

Manual of the Playings

This legendary book was created by Gategy Stramer, a wizard from the land of Nicha. It is about three or four hundred years old. The book is covered with two wooden covers (of bamboo color), back and front, and engraved with a 19x19 grid-like pattern in silver on each side. Its whereabouts are unknown.

When the command word is spoken and a game is named, opening the book will reveal notes on strategy for the named game. Anyone studying the notes for d6+1 hours will gain expert level proficiency in the named game.

If the book is opened without the proper command word, the book will contain Explosive Ruins doing 6d6 damage, after which the book disappears to locations unknown.


This devious artifact was created only fifty years ago by Steal Neverson, a wizard-assassin. However, it has already gained a certain infamy. Apparently the cover of the book appears to be an ordinary book to anyone but its owner, covered in black leather and inscribed with some sort of Elvish writings. The book contains some fanciful story about fiery wheeled shoes and focaccias.

To its owner, however, the cover of the book works as a mirror. The rumors are that Steal would place the book somewhere in the room and then arrange to be seated somewhere across the table from the book, thus affording him secret knowledge of his opponent's card holdings.

The book radiates strong Chaos if detected.

The Games Grimoire

This simple titled spellbook has a dark purple cloth cover and is bound with iron clasps with golden ruins. It is used by my colleague Lannan Moon, a witch of high character. In addition to holding six first-level, three second-level, and one each fourth, fifth, and sixth-level spells (roll randomly to determine which spells appear), the book is known to contain these unique spells:

Tamper With Fate
Level: Wiz 2
Components: V
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 50ft
Target: One game
Duration: 10 minutes per caster level
Saving Throw: Special
Spell Resistance: Special

This spell causes luck rolls made in a game to be extremely lucky for the caster. All rolls are 50% more likely to be beneficial, while opponent's rolls are 50% less likely to be beneficial. Any opponents or bystanders who are given reason to question your lucky streak can make a ST vs Will at -2. If they fail, they will not be suspicious.

Enchant Dice
Level: Wiz 4
Components: V, S, M
Casting Time: 1 hour
Range: touch
Target: One pair of dice/level of caster
Duration: 1 week + 1 week/level of caster
Saving Throw: None
Spell Resistance: N/A

This spell enchants one or more pairs of dice to be lucky or unlucky, as the caster desires. The dice are more likely than usual (20-50% in a given game) to roll better than average numbers for their owner. The unusual nature of the enchanted dice cannot be detected by any non-magical means. A rogue employing a magical device has only a 10% chance per level greater than the caster of being able to detect the nature of the enchantment. The material component for this spell is a small file.

Lesser Playtesting
Level: Wiz 5
Components: V, S, M
Casting Time: 1 hour
Range: 10ft
Target: One game
Duration: Instantaneous
Saving Throw: None
Spell Resistance: N/A

This spell allows the caster to determine exactly what is necessary to complete a game design, and how to fix any problems in the design. If the caster follows the instructions learned from the casting of this spell (a task that takes 1d4 days to complete), the resulting game will be a good game for the local game market. The material components are the game prototype, ten pieces of parchment, quill, ink (valued at 25 GP), and a wastepaper basket. The parchment and ink are used up in the casting of the spell.

Greater Playtesting
Level: Wiz 6
Components: V, S, M
Casting Time: 1 hour
Range: 10ft
Target: One game
Duration: Instantaneous
Saving Throw: None
Spell Resistance: N/A

This spell is the same as the fifth level spell Lesser Playtesting, except that the instructions take 2d4 days to complete and the resulting game will be a great game for the global game market. The material components are the game prototype, twenty pieces of parchment, quill, ink (valued at 50 GP), and a wastepaper basket. The parchment and ink are used up in the casting of the spell.

Magic Items

Boxnard's Blessed Dice: A pair of these dice will throw whatever numbers the owner desires. Approximately 1% of these dice are cursed and will throw the worst result possible whenever they are thrown.

Ocre's Cursed Dice of Gambling: The owner of a pair of these dice has a compulsion for gambling at any available opportunity. The dice start off throwing 10-20% greater than average results but gradually slip (over th course of d6+6 rolls) into throwing 10-20% less than average results for the owner. Whenever the owner tries to throw dice, these dice will leap into his hands, regardless of where they are physically kept.

Dentrill's Deck: This deck of cards will magically shuffle and deal itself fairly for all players. It is embossed on its back with Dentrill's guarantee of fairness. With a word, the deck collects itself and is restored to its box.

Boxnard's Deck: This deck is indistinguishable from Dentrill's Deck, but the owner is telepathically aware of the location of all cards at all times.

Devil's Deck: This deck is indistinguishable from Dentrill's Deck, but the owner is given misinformation about the location of cards. Furthermore, the other players immediately suspect the owner of cheating.

Boxnard's Chess board: This wondrous item plays against the owner automatically as a player with INT 18. Other Boxnard games are rumored to be available, as well as versions with higher intelligence.

Boxnard's Duplicating Game Board: This item is always found with two pawns, one black and one white. If one person sets up the game board on a level surface and holds one of the pawns, while a second person holds the other pawn and plays a game, all movements on the second person's board are reflected on the first's. Furthermore, the first person can communicate to the second with somatic movements as to which pieces to play next. The effective range between the pawns is up to ten miles.


Any familiarity between the characters in this story and the stories of Elminster by Ed Greenwood are entirely not coincidental.

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