Full Item Description
A chess journal is a two part book. The first part is normally a rule book for chess, with many of the classic strategies and games being played out. The second part is a journal where you can record your own games (to be reviewed for future strategies and proficiency) and jot down ideas on strategies. Usually the first part has margin notes and cribs as well. This is really a workbook.
So far this is pretty benign.
It is when you carefully read the second part, you realize that the chess being played is not with pieces. It is being used as a symbolic code to plot treachery and intrigue. Each 'plan' is a different game on a different page. It all falls into place in a 'coded' area. Certain pieces of certain games are given abreviations on this page near the back. Some of them are distinctive, like the local nobles/ royals Prince Bertrand of House Strompson, esq RP B HSt Esq is obvious to anyone with heraldry skill.
The fun part is that the players, if they have been local for a while, will find their initials in the book. They will find themselves as pawns for the 'black side' in a couple of middle games. (They might be white pawns in newer games... if you want to make them feel good.)
Once the PCs realize that this Journal is imporant, they will start looking at anyone serious playing Chess as a potential Evil Cultist. Chess Journals start becoming 'red flags'. What would be fun if the mage or tactically savy soldier/ warrior in the group already had such a journal in their possession early in the game (and was using it normally). Mistrust and suspission will abound. (Cue Evil GM laugh).
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? Responses (9)-9
I like this concept, especially the point about the PCs finding themselves in it. It would be most fun to actually create some of the pages (though this would take a lot of work), but would mean the PCs could actually puzzle out some of the intrigue in the world themselves.
However, one thing I personally don't like is the Evil Cultist tie. It's just that this is such an excellent item for webs of court/diplomatic intrigue that I feel it cheapens it to involve Evil Cults, rather than just the usual heady mix of personal ambition, lust for power or personal gain and Machiavellian machinations that are possessed by every self-respecting up-to-no-good ambitious noble, adviser or politician.
I like this idea a lot, but I think it would be much better as Iain said, if the GM provides players with real pages (and I think this is what MH intended). It seems to me that actually making a page would be QUITE difficult to do well... to make it seem like it could be a chess game and also assasination plots. An example of something like that would really put this post over the top.
A brilliant idea and a definite will use soon submission.
It is the little things that are often the most useful to add flavor and drama to a campaign.
I agree this is an intriguing item but I also lost a portion of liking for it when the evil cultist were mentioned. It came out fo the blue far to quickly and had no real bearing on the submission, other than a side thought.
But I do like it, especially tiing it into the game with the players being in there. Possible multiple times. However how would one get a hold of one? Do they leave them out on tavern tables for use?
No, they are purchased either in book shops or game shops. They don't exist before the age of the printing press, which lead to cheaper paper (vs parchement), and the democritization of learning certain skills (like chess).
The reason why they are 'evil cultist tools' is that 'normal people' simply use them for what they are intended, a way to enhance your chess skill and keep track of your games.
Evil cultists, superior political operatives (like Cardinal Richelieu), or those who are Intelligencers (master spies), might use the books as detailed above, to plot out and code their schemes and plans. (note: the other two groups learned this use from Evil Cultists, either being Evil Cultist or interacting with them in some way). The big reasons this has appeal for Evil Cultists is that you can have notes about your evil schemes that are difficult to decipher, can be carried to clandestine meetings without drawing attention (oh I am going to play some chess down at the pub), and can be used to communicate schemes to other cultists. Of course, most people do not know that the books are used for these purposes, so they just ignore them. (Of course, these can also be the appeal for intelligencers and politicos as well).
I like this too-a codebook.
I don't have a problem with the 'evil cultist' bu I guess that's because I saw this in the 'Garage Sale from Hell' link.
Cultists or no, this is an excellent way to hide a cipher.