Tome of Alcaister

The Alcaister is a large, russet-colored volume constructed of metal plates covered with burlap or hessian, tied together with a spine of waxed, intricately interwoven leather thongs (“like the lacings on a lady’s high leather riding boot,” according to the sage Nomagrym). To the weaving are sewn forty-six pages of the finest thick parchment, each containing a simple magic spell. (Two pages discuss cantrip spell applications.) The last page bears a curious rune. The word “Kuhoralminthannas, in Common, is written in a circle around it. The outer covers bear only the inscription “The Alcaister,” burned in small, fine flowing letters in Common, picked out in paints of silver. The book shows only light weathering, but its appearance gives the impression of some age.

The Alcaister is of great antiquity but unknown origin; it was written somewhere in the North by a mage of good penmanship and some powers at least six hundred years ago, when it appears in a merchant’s catalogue-of-cargo declared before the plague-masters (quarantine officers) of the time, of Waterdeep. It was passed into the city and presumably sold but did not surface again until brought to the sage Ardagundus in Baldur’s Gate by an adventurer named Wilund, in payment for information as to the whereabouts and uses of the magical chessmen of Ultham-Urre. Ardagundus gave the book to his apprentice Nornagrym for cataloguing and study, and it is from Nornagrym’s exacting catalogue that precise details of The Alcaister come.

Nornagrym is believed to have brought the book with him to Waterdeep upon his master’s death, where it reposed in his library until his own death, whereupon it vanished again. It was observed by the sorcerer Zemloth of Amn to be in the library of his onetime tutor, Orgoth the Tainted (the same who was later destroyed by three fiends he had summoned), but was not found when the party of the adventurer Malahuke searched the hidden untouched tunnels of Orgoth’s ruined fortress. Its present whereabouts are a complete mystery, but Zemloth asserts that it must still exist because he encountered a prestidigitator in a tavern in Zazesspur who employed a cantrip with unusual side effects (characteristic only, as far as Zemloth knows, of the version of cantrip in The Alcaister), The prestidigitator, one Mavrhune, was involved in a tavern brawl at the time and did not survive it, so Zemloth was unable to inquire where and from whom the cantrip had been learned.

The Alcaister has a tradition of slaying those who read it; as more and more of the book is perused, the reader grows weaker and weaker, and finally slips into a slumber from which he or she does not wake. Nornagrym found the cause of this regrettable side-effect; the edges of The Alcaister’s metal pages are coated with a colorless and transparent gummy substance of unknown origin—a contact poison as yet unidentified and seemingly unique. This substance works through skin (a cut is not necessary) and it numbs the senses subtly, so the victim is not likely to notice its effects. Each contact with (or turning of) a page drains one hit point; the body recovers from such damage at normal healing rate. There is also a temporary (1d4+1 turns) loss of one point of Strength ( 18/percentage to 18, 18 to 17, and so on) for every five hit points of damage so suffered. This substance retains its efficacy after many years and resists attempts to remove it, but Nornagrym found that its effects (assuming one is aware of its presence) can be simply avoided by wearing gloves or by turning the pages with a knife or other aid.

The Alcaister’s forty-six pages contain the following inscriptions, one to a page: the spells affect normal fires, cantrip, charm person, dancing lights, erase, hold portal, identify, magic missile, protection from evil, read magic, spider climb, audible glamer, ESP, fool’s gold, locate object, magic mouth, mirror image, rope trick, wizard lock, clairaudience, dispel magic, flame arrow, gust of wind, haste, hold person, infravision, slow, water breathing, charm monster, dimension door, ice storm, remove curse, wizard eye, Bigby’s interposing hand, cone of cold, feeblemind, anti-magic shell, death spell, geas, reconstruction (unique), reverse gravity, simulacrum, and death link (unique).

The two pages about the cantrip spell discuss its applications for cutting thin rope (up to ½ inch thick), disrupting a spellcaster’s concentration (if a saving throw vs. spell is failed) and creating a surge of adrenaline that doubles the movement rate of a creature touched for one round (this ends the cantrip spell immediately). All of these effects are accompanied by a small shower of sparkling blue light. Any mage who knows the cantrip spell can learn one special application per week of study.

The “Gate Page”

The last page of The Alcaister (that which bears the rune shown to the right) is a gate that will shift any creature standing on the rune (or at least touching it), with the book open, while the word written around the rune is spoken aloud by anyone. This plane shift occurs regardless of the wishes of the creature touching the rune and will transport the creature (plus all items worn or carried) to one of the destinations as determined by the table below. The creature being gated must be holding The Alcaister with his or her bare hand as the word of activation is intoned to bring the tome along; otherwise, it remains behind on the Prime Material Plane. (If the gate is used on a plane other than the Prime Material, the book will always accompany the creature back.)

01-48 Prime Material Plane (If used while on the Prime Material, the destination will be another crystal sphere; a different game world.)
49-66 Avernus (uppermost layer of Baator)
67-76 Concordant Opposition
77-88 Mechanus
89-92 The Demiplane of Shadow (Shadowfell)
93-98 Any one of the five planes of Limbo
99-00 Other (DM’s choice)

Tome of Alcaister

Death Gate caneton