Something that always irked me, was the old tradition of treating books in games as either useless or as power-ups. You read the book in one evening and get a +1 on your Manual Decapitation skill. How great.
Of course, often it is a shorthand to save valuable game time and not to derail from the plot. But there are times you’d wish to give books some more oomph. Books were valuable and rare, so at least sometimes, they should have this air of uniqueness (which is not the same as glowing with magic or other cheap trick). All of these books contain valuable knowledge. Some may provoke plot hooks of their own. but the very act of study should be memorable by itself.
- The book was hit by a space-time anomaly (or magic, duh) and the whole story is now rewritten from its end to the beginning. (So in your typical dungeon journal found next to the dead adventurers, you first learn how they died, what traps and creatures they encountered, how they got in and finally who they were and why they came.) It often has the most useful information at the very beginning (former end), but is usually hard to read through as the explanations and crucial details come only ‘later’. For more fun, some things will be only explained at the end (former beginning), making them easy to miss.
- The book has subtle racist undertones or uses a particularly insulting vocabulary in a foreign language as technical terms. This doesn’t become obvious until somebody from that group or speaking that language is encountered.
- It is an excellent historical account, but it is written by a petty mind that few can match. All the events observed, speeches held, battles fought, and so on, are connected to the utterly insignificant figure of the writer, who ‘inspired’ the actual movers of the day and made up long chains of reasoning on how he achieved everything. The book is actually a favorite among sages, who love to joke about this obscure figure. Not only will you learn about history, but may have a way to connect to that wise man that talks to few of the lower classes.
- The letter of some lowly soldier tells in disgusting detail of the problems he had on the current campaign. With little education and not much language besides swearing, it is the only exhaustive account of a rare parasite or disease, the most valuable resource for healers that would attempt to cure it today. It survived centuries of copying in completeness.
- An account written under the influence of a certain hallucinogenic drug, that distorts vision and understanding. To read it, the reader has to intake the same drug. For more fun could the drug enable to see the spirit world, or completely different dimensions, creating other risks not only for the reader’s sanity. Talk about encoding.
- A box contains a jumble of papers cut apart into various shapes. They are all puzzles, not exactly difficult, but to put together one page you usually have to take apart the former. It was probably developed for lazy students.
- A traveler’s diary, it always references local geography and lore. To understand all you would have to be there, luckily some have done the research on the most important parts. Some of the more obscure places are left out, some may be undecipherable after this long time.
- The codex is well accounted for: it is in the nest of Krullun, Magpie of the God Thfet. It will not release it, the beautiful binding is now polished bright from the bird’s constant caresses. To kill the bird with feathers of steel and a deadly beak is out of question, you must somehow lure it away and steal it. Or learn to negotiate with magpies.
- The metropolitan records are available for public peruse, which means there will be a huge crowd, clamoring to get a peek into the massive book. The guards do not allow any violence.
- The pages, indeed the whole binding is soaked in a rather infamous drug. A careless reader may find himself hallucinating after a few lines. Even with some protection is the danger not completely gone: the smell will get into clothes and hair. Too many people recognize it, it is the mark of a junkie, a fool playing with his life. Besides dubious vendors, it will attract law enforcement officers.
Additional Ideas (2)
- with built-in springs and wires, the books are surprisingly hard to open and keep open. Reading such a book is a serious chore, unless you have someone to help out. The first such book was about athletic exercises and Elben repeated the joke on several occasions.
- the massive book is locked, the key very likely lost. The problem is, picking the lock can easily trigger a small mechanical explosion, that will release the binding and spread the pages all over the place. Now you have to put them together.
- this particularly decorated tome contains several cleverly hidden weapons and sharp objects. Some may be still poisoned...
- by sliding and rotating parts on the cover, you can solve the trivial puzzles that will let you access various parts of the book. A few sages and book-lovers speculate that one obscure combination will also let you see a few hidden pages. Many others claim it's nonsense. They all would like to prove their theory.