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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Excerpted from the Ruins & Rogues Creature Compendium, incorporating materials from the Sorcerers & Sabers Interverse Guide

S’aan T’Klaz
Frequency: Unique
Size/Type: Medium Undead (Fundamental Continuum of Frost, Primary Continuum, Evil Continuum)
Hit Dice: 10d10+10 (404 hp)
Initiative: +04
Speed: 04 ft.
Armor Class: 040
Base Attack/Grapple: +040/+040
Attack: Chilling touch +8 melee (40d04+04)
Space/Reach: 04 ft./04 ft.
Special Attacks: Blizzard, Summon Reigndayr, Jellify, Levitation, Regeneration, Summon Delf
Special Qualities: Telepathy (1000 ft.), Sleepken
Saves: Fort +040, Ref +040, Will +040
Abilities: Str 20, Dex 25, Con 30, Int 21, Wis 30, Cha 04
Skills: Listen +040, Spot +040
Environment: Fundamental Continuum of Frost, Primary Continuum, Evil Continuum
Organization: Unique
Challenge Rating: 040
Treasure: Class A
Alignment: Neutral evil
Advancement: 040 HD
Description:

The vile lich S’aan T’Klaz was once a powerful dual-class cleric/mage whose quest for immortality was originally fueled by a need to advance the cause of good through judging the wicked. Eventually, this judgment turned to destruction, and while S’aan T’Klaz still rewards those he judges to be good, his standards and definitions are such that nearly all living, thinking beings are adjudged evil and destroyed if they approach him.

S’aan T’Klaz remains a powerful spellcaster and cleric, casting spells at the 20th level of mastery without the need for material components. His personal abilities, usable once per day at will, include Blizzard, a blinding whirlwind of snow and ice that causes 2d10 damage per round for 5 rounds and requires a save vs. blindness; Summon Reigndayr, which will unleash a single battle-ready reigndayr (q.v.); Jellify, which will reduce a single target to a bowlful of gel; Levitation, which will allow S’aan T’Klaz to move himself vertically by laying a finger next to his gaping nasal cavity; Regeneration, as a lich of equivalent level; Summon Delf, which will unleash 1d4 battle ready death-elves (q.v.); Telepathy, as the spell, which allows S’aan T’Klaz to know if targets have been good or evil; and Sleepken, a unique power which allows him to determine the wakefulness of any being within 1000 miles.

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“We are members of the Brotherhood of Magical Workers,” said Tinuviel the halfling, flashing her best smile. “We’ve come to help you in your struggle against injustice.”

“You will forgive Rosa if she doubt your story,” said the goblin leader, resplendent in her heirloom helmet–the very one Derex Freehold had required as proof of her demise. “Rosa does not think any of you are more magical or workers than a turnip.”

“Why’s that?” cried Tinuviel, aghast that her charm had failed to have the desired effect.

“BECAUSE YOU HAVE NO MAGE!” Rosa cried.

Tinuviel looked at her companions, Adenan the halfling and Chanel the elf. “Fair enough.


“If the other heroes are as you say, then prove yourself to the goblins,” said Rosa. “Then, only then, will be trust between us.”

“What do you want us to do? Kill them? Because Aiden Jenison is going to die one way or another for stealing my reward,” said Adenan the halfling darkly.

“Kill them? Without weapons? What would prove? Only that you have thirst for blood,” spat Rosa. “No, get them to admit treachery and will be enough. Or make them break oath to protect us. Either is good. But no killing!”

Adenan’s face fell. “All right.”

“How, exactly, are we supposed to get them to admit they are working for Derex?” cried Chanel. “They’re not the smartest bunch but I don’t think they’re THAT dumb.”

“Here,” said Rosa. “You may take my son, Splix. Is small. Will fit in rucksack and tell Mommy all hears.”

The goblin handed a small green tadpole to Adenan, the party’s designated pack mule. The hobbit recoiled. “What is that?”

“Is my son!” cried Rosa. “Is not yet metamorphosed. Do know nothing of goblins? Keep him wet and safe!”


“Look,” growled Adenan in a fierce tone that belied her tiny, tiny stature. “We made it through Minaka the Conqueror’s whole army without a scratch. Either you give us what we’re owed, and you do it now, or we will beat your sorry asses to a bloody pulp and chuck you all in the river.”

Taken aback, Red the Huntress threw a coin purse at the hobbit’s feet. “All right everyone, let’s roll out!” she cried. “Back to town!”

The other adventurers followed her lead, including the newest member, Skeletonio the skeleton mage late of Minaka’s undead army, who sighed deeply before following.

Aiden Jenison, the group’s leader who had been banished to a corner by Red, clanked after them in his ridiculous armor. “Hey! What did you tell them? Guys! GUYS! Come back! We have them outnumbered! Come on!”

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“Ed Boneshredder,” said the muscled mercenary. He bore many tattoos on his unarmored torso, from a wiry spread devoted to “Ed Bonecrusher” that suggested he himself was not quite sure of his proper appellation to a heart on one bicep devoted to someone named “Peter.”

“I know that,” said Iffy the mage. “But why are you so angry at me?”

Ed Boneshredder,” replied the mercenary through gritted teeth, spraying saliva on the demon bartender as well as Skeletonio the Skeleton Mage seated nearby.

“What?”

Ed BONEshredder!”

“Does anyone have any idea what he’s trying to say?”

Adenan the halfling, who had an affinity for languages, piped up: “He’s saying you insulted his friend and must pay for your crimes at the hands of the Threadbare Gang.”

“How in blazes did you know that?” spat Tinuviel the rogue, nearly choking on her raisin wine.

“I’m good with languages,” said Adenan, “and I spent some time with the Nisiar of Lehsir, who can only speak their own names due to their religion.”


With the bar clear and his meaty group of shirtless Threadbare Gang pals matching the adventurers blade for blade, Finnegen Funderberger IV strode up to the bar with a supremely confident swagger. Bearing a ritual Nisiar Revenge Katana, he seemed unmoved by Iffy’s rant about his prowess in bed and the length/hardiness of his shillelagh.

“I will have my revenge!” he cried, adjusting the wig on his head to cover up a spot of stubble from where the adventurers had shaved him bald on their last encounter.

His revenge started, it seemed, with a savage attack, lightning-fast, on Iffy. Or, rather, on Iffy’s hair. In a flash of steel and burst of keratin, Funderberger lopped off 18 of the 20 inches on Iffy’s head.

“My…HAIR!” cried Iffy. “That’s it! You must die for your crimes!”


Seeing that the battle had gone ill, and with their leader dead and de-wigged, the remaining two members of the Threadbare Gang attempted to flee.

Droog McPhereson, who had spent most of the battle passed out thanks to the vivid clashing hues of a Color Spray spell, tipped his jaunty hat and starched collar (unattached to any shirt) before disappearing up the steps. His getaway was eminently roguelike: quiet and efficient.

Ed Boneshredder, for his part, ran for the front door of the Demon Arms. The direct approach seemed to suit him best, after all. “Ed Boneshredder!” he cried over his shoulder, the words having the affect of “I’ll get you next time!”

However, Tinuviel the rogue had retreated to the door in a failed attempt to pepper the Threadbare Gang’s archer, Daniel Midland, with arrows. She stuck out a stubby, hairy leg and tripped the man-mountain as he tried to pass.

The human-tibia axe that Ed Boneshredder used shattered and buried itself in his chest as he went down. “Ed…Ed…Boneshredder…” he gurgled before breathing his last.

Chanel the cleric pulled the wig off of Finnigan Funderberger IV’s dead head and placed it on the countertop in front of Iazgu the Slayer, demon of the Demon Arms. “There you go,” she panted. “For your bald head.”

Iazgu looked at the wig with a distasteful expression, as if a dead ferret had been slapped down on his bartop. Then, with an air of humoring the bloodied adventurers before him, he doffed his chambermaid’s had and placed the bloody, dripping wig atop his hairless demon head.

“…thank you…” he murmured. “Just what…I have always wanted…I’m sure.”

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“I just…I haven’t seen her in so long,” bawled Vakt the Rosy into his cups.

“There, there. Tinuviel’s just not feeling well after getting scratched up by a jackalwere in the middle of a cavern infested with gibberlings,” said Iffy the elf. “She’ll be down soon enough.

“She’s just so short…so sweet…so tiny…so…so…” Vakt began bawling again.

“I think you’ve had enough,” deadpanned Chanel the elven cleric. “How much have you had to drink already?”

“It’s just root beer,” Vakt sniffed. “House blend. Iazgu’s still making my first tequila slammer.”

“Maybe you should go a bit easy on the tequila slammers,” said Adenan the halfling.

“HEY!” barked Iazgu the Flayer, demon of the Abyss and chambermaid/bartender for the Demon Arms Inn. “I’ll not hear a word said against my tequila slammers! It’s a recipe of the abyssal realms, strong enough to stun a quasit, and it’s the only thing close to a real drink that’s been served here in 10,000 years!”


Creeping up on the clearing, they saw Mercury the bulldog in the midst of a crowd of howling gibberlings, not unlike the ones they had fought in Ransack Cavern earlier. He was being ridden bareback by a gibberling while the others hooted and cheered at the spectacle. For his part, Mercury seemed rather resigned to this, accepting it as just a fact of life: the sky was blue, the trees were green, and he was ridden by tiny hyperactive monsters.

Adenan grabbed one of the scruffy horrors by his hair and yanked him backwards. “What do you think you’re doing?” she growled.

“Riding! Fun!” squeaked the thrashing gibberling. “I know you! You killed Gus! And Gus Two! I’m Gus Four!”

“Let the bulldog go,” Adenan continued, as menacingly as any halfling could, “or I’ll squash you into jelly before I throw you in the river.”

“No! Not jelly! Jellied gibbs can’t get into gibberheaven!” The gibberling seemed to steel himself a bit. “But dog is ours. Has been forever.”

“No he isn’t.”

“Is too! Used to guard cave! Hatched him ourselves!”

“No you didn’t.”

“Don’t know where dogs come from!” the gibberling wailed.


The library golem was impassive. “You must return the stolen book and pay the fine, or your life is forfeit. The fine is 50 gold. Pay or die.”

Iffy raised her hands. “But my library has an interlibrary loan program with the Elderbrary,” she said in her most convincingly scholarly tone. “We don’t have to pay any fine if we return it!”

Clicking and whirring as it processed this, the golem demurred. “Very well. Surrender the Monster Manual and we will consider your hold lifted.”

Longingly, reluctantly, Iffy gave up the tome. The library golem inserted the volume into its book drop slot, whirred some more, and departed.

A moment later, Iffy the elf turned on Mr. Funderberger IV, who throughout the conversation had been trying to back into the tick copse of woods surrounding the meeting spot. “YOU!” she roared. “THAT BOOK WAS STOLEN!”

“I gave you a good deal,” he whined.

“NO YOU DIDN’T!” Iffy shrieked. “I HAD TO DO THINGS FOR THAT BOOK!”

“What exactly did you have to do?” said Chanel the elven cleric. “You still haven’t told us how much sugar you had to give.”

“I will neither confirm nor deny a specific amount of sugar given!” Iffy roared. “But he’s gonna pay!”

Mr. Funderberger IV had quite enough; he made to bolt. Iffy, in an uncharacteristic show of physical prowess, tripped him with her staff.

Then, she proceeded to pummel him senseless.

“Let’s see how you like THIS sugar!” she screamed, drawing her dagger. Casting Phineas’s Phun Phoam on Funderberger’s head, she used her dagger to shave off his carefully coiffed locks. Then she took everything of value in his pockets, even down to his phony tin sword.

“I think you’ve gotten your revenge, Iffy,” said Adenan.

“Hardly!” Iffy continued. “Mercury! Bulldog! Get over here and piss on Mr. Funderberger IV! We’ll see how much sugar you get after that!”

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“Are…are you sure it’s okay to play here?” Jared Bowen, one of the usual players in Blaine Saunders’ Ruins and Rogues roleplaying group, shifted nervously in his chair. They were set up in the Frontier Books store that had once dominated downtown Hopewell, MI, surrounded by empty shelves and torn-up displays and walled off from the remaining functional parts of the store by still more empty shelves and torn-up displays.

“This place is going out of business in a month,” said Blaine irritably. “The fixtures are for sale. I bought this table and chairs that used to be in the Stubb’s coffee upstairs for fifty bucks, and until I con borrow my cousin Jimmy’s truck it stays here. Also, I’m assistant manager and about to lose my job after firing everyone who worked under me.” He tapped his soon-to-be-turned-in maroon vest for added effect.

“But still…I dunno…” squirmed Jared.

“Okay, look. There’s a shelf of gaming books by the exit. The Ruins and Rogues Adventurer’s Guidebook, the Creature Compendium, even the Interverse Guide, all 5th edition, all 40% off. Please buy one to support your local failing Frontier Books location. There, I even made a sales pitch. Are we cool now?”

“We’re cool,” said Neal Tate, Blaine’s other Ruins & Rogues veteran. “But just so you know, the 5th edition is the Antichrist. 2nd edition for life.”

“Of course.” Blaine rolled his eyes. Before he could continue setting up the gameboard and Adventure Master screen, he squawked at the sight of Neal placing a small–and bright international orange–bag of dice on the ex-Stubb’s table. “Whoa-whoa-whoa! What are you bringing out the Unholy Rollers for?”

Neal shrugged and dumped out the dice onto the table. “It’s supposed to be a fun game, right?”

The Unholy Rollers were dice that had become indisputably jinxed, a fact which all the players in Blaine’s group believed unquestionably. The Unholy Rollers would unerringly roll a low number when a high one was called for, or a low number when a high one was ideal–unless you anticipated the jinx, in which case it would refuse to work. Worst of all, the effect was contagious. There had been only one Unholy Roller to begin with, a bone-white d20 that had been given out as a tchotchke at a long-ago WyvernCon, but every dice it had come into contact with had acquired the curse. It was a cherished in-joke and a source of much humor among the players.

“Listen, Neal,” said Blaine. “I was able to get Rosetta McFadden to join us as our noob this campaign, okay? I have been working on turning her mild interest in boardgames into actually showing up for months, literally months. I held the game here specifically so she wouldn’t see my apartment–or, gods forbid, my parents’ place, which is where I’m headed when I get laid off and my rent check bounces. You’re not going to jinx me, or her, with the Unholy Rollers. Not this time.”

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