Relatively few written works from the 20th century survive, thanks to their preparation on cheap pulp paper bound with cheaper acidic glue into a crude codex. Those that survive are highly prized as sources of ancient knowledge and windows into daily life before both the Deluge and the Picotech Revolution. Most are quite mundane–texts on chemistry, myths collected by the latter-day Ovid known as James Patterson, books on how to achieve a body shape that would appease the goddess known as Jennycraig, and so on. But one book has remained a puzzle to scholars ever since it appeared in a rare book dealer’s catalog in 3077 A.C.E.

The Gygaxian Manuscript.

A few things can be intuited from the thick volume. It was not originally one work, being rather 5-10 shorter books that were bound together at a later date, with their original front and end matter town out. This probably accounts for their preservation, as the resulting binding was high-quality, acid-free, and bore no title or title page. The author is identified in the damaged first pages, added in the rebinding process, as Gary of Gygax. This adds to the mystery, as no such nation or principality existed during the 1970-1980 D.C.E. date established by carbon dating. Soem have argued for an origin in Galicia or Greece, but the manuscript is written entirely in Middle Modern English, seemingly discounting this.

Far more puzzling are the contents, which explain the flora, fauna, and proscriptions for life and (especially) war in a world that bears only a tangential resemblance to our own. Fantastic creatures, some of which appear in earlier works but many of which are wholly unknown, are described in fantastic detail. Their strengths, weaknesses, and how many axe blows they take to kill are described in such detail that Gary of Gygax must surely have had some real-life analog to draw from. Yet no fossil evidence or contemporary accounts support this.

More puzzling still is the manual of arms, which seems to reduce martial combat to pure mathematics, a feat which even modern kinetics cannot manage. Many have toiled to find the constant that Gary of Gygax includes in his calculations, d, but none have succeeded thus far. Though many have claimed to solve some of the equations like d12+10 or 2d6, none have yet stood up to careful scrutiny.

Nevertheless, even with its mysteries unresolved, the Gygaxian Manuscript continues to excite curiosity, admiration, and horror among scholars of ancient papers.

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