Clockwork Wonders
The Brass Book
Part 7 of 14
By Wolfgang Baur

"That's interesting," said Mialee the wizard.
"Good interesting or bad interesting?" said Krusk. "Should I smash it?"
"If you smash it, you ruin our best chances of figuring out why this tomb was built," said Mialee.
"So should I smash it?"

The brass book is a large brass volume with an inset lock and nubbly leather cover, but only the sculpted semblance of pages. Instead, the book has a single page that clanks and clatters as its internal gearing rewrites its contents to answer any question its owner might ask. It functions as a magical repository of Knowledge (Arcana), Knowledge (History), and Knowledge (Nature), but it also has opinions on party members and plans of action.

The book is believed to have been created by an artificer of House Cannith in collaboration with the arcanists of Aundair's colleges of wizardry, but no more than that is known. Only one copy exists.

Appearance

The brass book is fully two feet square and six inches think, bound in cured gorgon's hide with an underskeleton of brass plating. It weighs 34 pounds. It has no paper pages, though the edges of the book are scratched to resemble a thick tome. When it is in operation, it is sometimes quite noisy, whirring and riffling and even chiming. When an answer is complete (see below), the page displays the text in Common.

The brass book has no movement or attacks. It AC 15, hardness 4, and 30 hp. Smashed, it is worth little more than 100 gp in scrap materials.

Use and Powers

When the book's cover is opened, a speaking tube and a blank page are visible. The user must speak a single question into the tube, and the answer appears on the page after a delay of 1d6+4 rounds. After the book cover is closed, the answer disappears and that use of the book is done. If the book is opened again, the page is blank and ready to show a new answer. The brass book answers only 1d4+1 questions per day. Once those questions are done for the day, speaking into its tube returns only silence.

The brass book does not know the answer to everything. It answers questions that depend on Knowledge (History), Knowledge (Nature), and Knowledge (Arcana) as if it had a +10 bonus to those skill checks, and the DM must make a skill check for each question to determine the specifics of the book's answer. A questioner with ranks in those Knowledge areas adds a +2 competence bonus to the book's check, as better questions always provide clearer results. The book does not need to make a skill check to give an answer it has already given to a question it has already been asked that day.

On a roll of "1" the book always answers a question that was not asked. Most often, it provides a clue of the DM's discretion, but it may also insult the owner's intelligence or education, may offer advice on matters of personal taste or hygiene, or may simply mock the current line of inquiry with a statement such as "I refuse to answer your ridiculous questions any further." In any case, after such a result, the book refuses to answer any questions from that particular questioner for a period of 1d4 months.

The brass book is utterly ignorant of other types of Knowledge. Asking questions related not related to its areas of expertise merely makes it click and whirr until the cover is closed.

CL 13th; Craft Construct, comprehend languages, legend lore; Price 43,500 gp; Cost 21,750 gp + 1,740 XP.

Campaign Hooks

The brass book can answer questions of fact regarding the Last War, and as such, it is a powerful tool for diplomats, politicians, and scholars alike, to settle factual disputes at the negotiating table. A party of characters might well be hired by Cyrans who wish to ask, "Who set off the apocalyptic weapon that created the Mournlands?"-- and very powerful foes might well want to make sure that the book is destroyed, so the question is never answered.

The brass book might also be used for more scholarly ends, answering questions about the early history of Xen'drik, about the natural history of magebred beasts, or about the creation and manufacture of powerful clockwork devices -- such as itself.

About the Author

Wolfgang Baur writes short fiction and long adventures. He discusses the rules of adventure design and writes tailored modules for patrons of the Open Design blog, and he offers freewheeling freelance observations at the Monkey King blog.


1995-2008 Wizards of the Coast, Inc., a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc. All Rights Reserved.