This is an idea that was inspired from the short story De Deabus Minoribus Exterioris Theomagicae in the collection She Walks in Shadows. I keep thinking of settings that this could be used in. My first thought was in a Deadlands game, and then while reading the Lankhmar books I realized it could be used there. Finally while sitting down to start writing this I realized that it could also be used in an East Texas University game or with minor changes even in a 50 Fathoms game1. The basic idea is that this old cursed book will transform whoever owns it into a monstrous worm like creature slowly over time. So without further ado here is the Book of Worms.
The Book of Worms
The Book of Worms is a folio measuring twelve inches wide by nineteen inches tall bound in a dark, stained leather and held closed with a cord tie. It contains 150 pages of cramped hand writing, ink diagrams, and notes in the margins. Most of the pages have some sort of water damage or stains on them, the paper is browned and fragile with age, and the ink has faded so reading the book requires good lighting and care to damage the pages. The book is in written in Latin and because of the difficulty in reading the handwriting, will take several weeks to read2.
The book gives information on worm-like beings that ruled the earth in the distant past, and are currently sleeping. It contains information on how to contact them, and request favors from them using rituals and various sacrifices3. The information contained in the book should provide some insight into certain cult activities4.
In addition to the information contained in the book, the book itself is cursed.
- For each day that a person spends more than a three hours holding or examining it, they must make a Spirit roll. If they fail they find that they can not bear to part with the book, and will do whatever they can to keep possession of it. Going so far as stealing it from others and being willing to fight others to keep possession of it.
- For each week that a person spends carrying it around (in their pack, in their hand, etc., but not on a mount, in their wagon, or in their ship)5. They must make another Spirit roll at -2. For each week that they fail the check one of the following changes occur.
- The victims skin hardens turning grey and leathery giving them +1 toughness.
- The victim gains the Bloodthirsty hindrance if they do not already have it.
- The victim develops claws that do Str + d6 damage.
- The victim is constantly hungry and craving meat. If they do not eat some meat every hour, they suffer a level of fatigue.
- After the victim suffers their fifth weekly Spirit failure, their craving for meat is only satisfied by human flesh.
- After the victim suffers their sixth weekly Spirit failure, their legs merge into a long tail and they have fully given themselves over to be servants of the beings the book describes. If the victim is a player character, they become an NPC for the GM and an adversary of the group.
There are two things that can be done to help a victim recover before the final transformation. The first is to separate the victim from the book. If that is done before any of the weekly tests, they can recover after a month and no longer feel the need to keep possession of the book. This is the best option. Once they have started the transformation, the only way to stop it is for someone to read the book and find the ritual in it that reverses the process. Of course the person who is suffering these effects will not volunteer the ritual, so someone else has to read the book and hopefully find the ritual before they also succumb to the books curse.
- The truth is that it can be used in any setting that combines some element of horror and magic. ↩
- For each week spent studying the book for at least four hours per day, the reader can make a Knowledge: Latin check to see if they have made progress reading the book. Once they have reached three success and raises they have finished the book. ↩
- The information contained in the book should provide means to contact these beings and ask for help, but they should be at great cost. Even reading this books should cause some sort of horror or fear check based on the setting that it is being used in. ↩
- I like the concept of a special benny that can only be used on knowledge rolls about cults. This concept is one that I first saw in the Achtung! Cthulhu books for Savage worlds. ↩
- This is likely to be the case after they fail their spirit check from the first part of the curse. ↩