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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Read 1d6 Languages?

I was thinking a little bit about the Read Languages spell, and what it covers. It was meant primarily for reading treasure maps, as you can see from the description in Men & Magic:
Read Languages: The means by which directions and the like are read, particularly on treasure maps. It is otherwise like the Read Magic spell above.
Naturally, you can toss in graffiti or clues in books. That's not a problem. However, when you compare it to Read Magic, as the description suggests, you notice this:
The spell is of short duration (one or two readings being the usual limit).
I decided in a previous post that my ruling on Read Magic would be: 1d6 spell levels per casting, with each command word on a magic item counting as one spell level. But how would this work for Read Languages?

We could take the word "directions" as being the equivalent to "incantations" in Read Magic. But restricting the spell to 1d6 directions seems unusually strict and difficult to manage. Are you honestly going to list every direction given on a treasure map and count the number of directions that can be read?

On the other hand, changing it to 1d6 pages seems too generous. It means an M-U could decipher 3 or 4 maps with one spell. It also means that, for mysterious tomes, you'd have to assign clues or information to individual pages. Too much work!

The compromise: Assume a caster can always decipher one complete map or page with the spell. When they try to read a second map, roll a d6: on 5+, they can completely decipher it and can try another map. If the roll is 4 or less, though, they can decipher most of a map, but the spell fades as they get to the last bit of information. So, you the GM describe all directions or instructions relevant to the goal listed on the map except for the last one. Tell the player that there's one line that couldn't be translated. They can choose to cast a second spell, or go with what they were able to decipher.

For books, I might need some other rules. I want to think about this a while.


  1. Why not limit to 1d6 "useful informations", regardless of the page count?
    The referee can either decide wich informations are acquired or roll them randomly (like the "rumor tables" of the ancient modules)

    1. That's identical to the first method I mention (1d6 directions on a treasure map.) I decided instead to go with "all" vs. "all but one".

    2. Yes, sorry, I was talking about the books, not treasures maps.
      When flipping the pages of some manual, you could find more or less information: if the author is verbose , you could gather just one or two relevant points in hundred pages of purple prose, if he is terse, a 64 pages booklet will be most informative.

    3. Yeah, but "directions on a map" and "information bullet points in a book" are basically identical, is what I'm saying. But the follow-up post today on tomes should explain that more. It's not that different from what you're thinking, except that I try to sidestep the question of "how many bits of information are in the book?" and instead just say you can answer 1d6 questions on one topic with one Read Languages spell.