Magic Books of Faerûn - Barb of the Mind
By Sean K Reynolds
The black leather binding of this book is painted in thin wax to protect it from the elements. On the cover is a wizard's rune. Purple stains run across the sides of the pages, as if ink had been spilled upon it when opened to one of the early pages.
Last Record: Baskor Tranth, Waterdeep, 11 Hammer, 1373 DR.
Description: The book's cover is heavy black leather, worked supple but strong. The thin layer of wax over the leather is cracked along the spine in many places from the opening and closing of the book, though this does not reduce its protection. The book is less than ten years old and does not have the fragile feeling of older spellbooks. Originally the rune on the cover was a kind of starburst around an oblong circle, but one of the book's secondary powers has changed that (see below) and now the rune looks like the personal rune of the last sorcerer or wizard to touch it.
The spells and comments within are written in purple ink identical to that spilling down the outer edges of its pages. The first page bears the title of the book and the name of the author, though a large blot of spilled ink warped the page and completely obscured the author's name to an extent that only divination magic can make it possible to determine the name. The handwriting is tight and jagged, as if the words were put on paper in a great hurry.
The book radiates magic (moderate enchantment).
History: Barb of the Mind was written by an unknown Cyricist wizard in the past decade. Given the contents of the book and its secondary powers, the writer may have received a command from Cyric while the god was still mad or perhaps in some prophetic state prior to Cyric's madness. In any case, the name of the wizard remains unknown, and some believe he went insane or died in one of the purges, for which the church of Cyric is known. The book's value as a spellbook kept it in the hands of powerful wizards of the faith (despite the "heresies" of its creator), no doubt supported by delusions of predestination inspired by the changing rune on the cover. It vanished along with its then-current bearer Vhandrast Wyvernscloak, a Cyricist necromancer with ambitions of becoming something he called a "mind-lich." It turned up in the hands of a cleric of Thoth who was going to turn it over to his temple in Mulhorand, but at a stop in Unthalass (Mulhorand-occupied Unther) he discovered the book was missing and presumed it stolen, perhaps by agents of the Northern Wizards of Messemprar. Baskor presumably bought it from a young Untheric wizard named Kazzum of Ungreth, who had come to Cormyr in search of martial-minded adventurers willing to help protect his homeland against Mulhorandi invaders. Baskor left shortly thereafter for Waterdeep, and Kazzum is believed to have returned to Unther with several mercenary adventurers via a portal.
Contents: Barb of the Mind contains the following spells (one of which isn't an enchantment), in order.
- Tasha's hideous laughter
- Nybor's mild admonishment
- Nybor's stern reproof
- Crushing despair
- Mind poison
- Nybor's gentle reminder
Interspersed with the spell notations are a total of ten pages of strange delusional rants and five pages containing apparent gibberish. It's possible that these impenetrable passages are actually some kind of code, but to date neither magical nor mundane attempts have deciphered them.
The book has several secondary powers. The first is that the sigil on the cover changes to that of the last wizard or sorcerer who touched the book. This often causes certain egomaniacal mages to believe the book was stolen from them (and forgotten), was presented as an unexpected gift, or was fated to come to them; more mentally balanced mages usually recognize it as a lure or trap. This change has no magical effect on the bearer or any other effect at all. Casters who have not chosen runes for themselves do not trigger this ability.
Any arcane spellcaster who touches the book is subject to a magical compulsion that resembles a suggestion spell. Unless the character makes a Will save (DC 15), the character becomes convinced that the book is valuable and that he should keep it at all costs. A character under this compulsion will not allow the book to leave his possession. The character must touch or carry the book, have it in sight, or keep it secured in a safe place where it is not likely to be stolen. Even so, the character cannot go more than 12 hours without seeing or touching the book. If the character fails to do so, he gains 1 negative level, which cannot be removed until the effect is broken or the character sees or touches the book. Once the compulsion takes effect, it lasts for a day. Each day the character owns the book, however, the save must be repeated. A remove curse spell breaks the compulsion.
The bearer of the book gains the benefits of the Spell Focus (enchantment) feat. This effect also applies to the suggestion spell the book casts on its handler. Furthermore, arcane casters find it surprisingly easy to learn the magical notation used for the spells in this book; after one day of study, any wizard can use the Barb as if it were her own spellbook (no transcription to her personal spellbook is necessary).
The spells prepared from the book are tainted with madness; each time a wizard prepares a spell from the book, she must make a Will saving throw (DC 15) or gain 1 madness point. Once a character's madness points equal her Wisdom score, she goes insane. Usually this madness takes the form of an insanity spell, which pauses only when she no longer has any spells prepared, allowing her time to rest and prepare more spells, only to go mad again once the rest and preparation is finished. During these semilucid moments, she doesn't realize that her behavior the rest of the day was abnormal. A wizard isolated in her tower will believe she fended off invaders with her spent spells, used magic to craft an item she later sold, and so on.
On a failed save, the user notices nothing amiss. With a successful save, the user notes some unidentified magical assault upon her mind, similar to what the character feels when making a successful save against a harmful spell. A Spellcraft check (DC 32) allows a character to determine that some variant of the insanity spell was involved, but not an actual spell
Sorcerers do not get their spells from books, but a sorcerer who adds one of the spells contained in the book to his personal spell list while owning the book is assumed to have been influenced in his spell selection by what he read in the book. The sorcerer risks madness every time he casts one of those learned spells. Once he runs completely out of spells, he gains a respite from the madness, but he once again falls prey to the madness effect right after he has readied his daily spells (see Chapter 11 in the Player's Handbook for more on readying daily spells.)
Neither madness points nor madness from the books can be dispelled, nor can they be detected as functioning magical effects (treat them as instantaneous effects). Madness points can be removed as if they were points of ability drain. However, unless the curative magic automatically eliminates all ability drain at once, the caster has to specifically target the madness points. For example, while a greater restoration spell (which removes all ability drain) automatically removes all madness points, a restoration spell cast on a mad or partly-mad target must be used specifically against the madness. A heal spell removes insanity and any madness points the victim has gained.
Only the unique notation of Barb of the Mind carries this taint. If the spells are copied to another spellbook (and thus written in a wizard's personal notation), or a wizard or sorcerer who knows this spell creates a spellbook, scroll, or other magic item using these spells, their effects are normal and do not cause madness.
Price: 11,000 gp (2,100 gp as a spellbook, 10,000 gp as a spaceless magic item that grants Spell Focus, discounted 1,100 gp for a slow, avoidable curse). Buyers unaware of the secondary powers of the book are unlikely to pay more than the base spellbook cost for it. Members of the Church of Cyric who recognize the book might pay an additional 25% over the book's apparent price. The church of Bane might pay up to normal price to see it destroyed, as would most good temples and organizations.
Last Known Bearer: Baskor Tranth, Cormyrian wizard.
Baskor used to be a confident, swaggering wizard sure of his spellcraft and a veteran of several dangerous quests as a member of the Brightstar, an adventuring company centered out of Priapurl (in the Dragon Coast). A few years ago all of his companions were killed during a disastrous foray into Myth Drannor, and since then he has grown paranoid and cowardly. Fascinated and enamored of the thought of adventuring, he would never consider doing it himself any more after seeing the gruesome deaths of his friends at the hands of demons and phaerimms. Now he drinks heavily and verbally tears into anyone who asks him about his old adventuring days. He is more than happy to aid novice wizards by selling them spells or training them in certain aspects of spellcasting, though he requires that they pay up front. Originally a braggart with a good heart, he is now more selfish than anything else.
Baskor's paranoia shows up in odd ways. He becomes alarmed when he hears people talking about his past, and he has an obsessive need to acquire new combat spells. When he was living in Cormyr, he made a habit of getting less powerful mages drunk, keeping them incapacitated for a week or more, and scouring their spellbooks for new spells. (He never tried this with those he felt were as powerful as he; instead he preferred to trade spells outright.) With the recent war in Cormyr, he found the number of weak mages in the area too few for his tastes, and the number of powerful rivals too many, and he was considering moving to better pastures. When Kazzum the Untheric mage offered to sell Baskor the book, the suggestion spell caught him and he agreed to purchase it. The book fueled his paranoia about hostile spellcasters (such as the War Wizards) who might try to take the book from him or destroy it (which they would do if they knew about it). Shortly after buying the book from Kazzum, he relocated to Waterdeep to protect his new book and to continue his illegal steal-scribings. He might stay in Waterdeep for a few months, then move back to his tower in Suzail once he feels that he is under less scrutiny.
(Baskor's alignment used to be neutral good, but in the past year, fueled by his experiences and mental influence from the Barb of the Mind, his alignment has shifted to neutral.)
Baskor Tranth: Male human wizard 10; CR 10; Medium humanoid; HD 10d4+10; hp 35; Init +5; Spd 30 ft.; AC 15, touch 13, flat-footed 14; Base Atk +5; Grp +5; Atk +5 melee (1d6, quarterstaff); Full Atk +5 melee (1d6, quarterstaff); AL N; SV Fort +6, Ref +6, Will +10; Str 10, Dex 13, Con 12, Int 15, Wis 10, Cha 11.
Skills and Feats: Concentration +11, Craft (alchemy) +10, Decipher Script +8, Intimidate +4, Knowledge (arcana) +12, Knowledge (dungeoneering) +6, Listen +4, Spellcraft +17, Spot +5; Alertness, Bullheaded, Combat Casting, Improved Counterspell, Improved Initiative, Scribe Scroll, Silent Spell, Still Spell.
Wizard Spells Prepared (4/5/5/3/3/2; save DC 12 + spell level or 13 + spell level for enchantment spells when he carries Barb of the Mind): 0 -- detect magic (2), read magic (2); 1st -- charm person*, comprehend languages, ironguts , magic missile, protection from evil; 2nd -- Aganazzar's scorcher, invisibility (2), protection from arrows, web; 3rd -- dispel magic, fly, stinking cloud; 4th -- charm monster*, phantasmal killer, stoneskin; 5th -- baleful polymorph, hold monster*.
Spellbooks**: 0 -- acid splash, arcane mark, dancing lights, daze, detect magic, detect poison, disrupt undead, flare, ghost sound, light, mage hand, mending, message, open/close, prestidigitation, ray of frost, read magic, resistance, silent portal, touch of fatigue; 1st -- charm person*, color spray, comprehend languages, detect secret doors, expeditious retreat, feather fall, ironguts, Kaupaer's skittish nerves, launch item, magic missile, mount, protection from evil, shield, Tenser's floating disk, true strike; 2nd -- Aganazzar's scorcher, battering ram, bear's endurance, command undead, continual flame, Gedlee's electric loop, invisibility, life bolt, protection from arrows, shroud of undeath, summon undead II, web; 3rd -- dispel magic, fireball, fly, hold person, lightning bolt, Mestil's acid breath, scintillating sphere, spider poison, stinking cloud, summon monster III, summon undead III, vampiric touch; 4th -- charm monster*, Darsson's potion , dimension door, explosive cascade, fear, phantasmal killer, spell enhancer, stoneskin, thunderlance, wall of fire; 5th -- baleful polymorph, cloudkill, cone of cold, dismissal, firebrand, hold monster*, lesser ironguard, shadow hand.
* Enchantment spell.
**Baskor has also learned all 2nd- through 5th-level spells from the Barb of the Mind book, which he is using as a personal spellbook.
Possessions: Bracers of armor +2, ring of protection +2, quarterstaff, cloak of resistance +2, 80 gp. Baskor also has an extensive collection of scrolls, and he normally carries at least seven attack spells on scrolls with him at all times (drawn from the spells in his spellbooks). These scrolls are always spells he hasn't prepared that day. Additional scrolls are kept in a safe area known only to him.
About the Author
Sean K Reynolds lives in Encinitas, California, and works for a video game company. His D&D credits include the Monster Manual, the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, and Savage Species. He'd like to thank Brian Cortijo for his advice in this article series.
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