5e Grognard

5e Grognard

Old school ideas, new edition rules.

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Monday, December 29, 2014


Here's another spell book by Ed Greenwood from Dragon Magazine #92.  I like this one even though it contains no new spells, but it does conceal a dangerous guardian.

The Scalamagdrion


This is a large volume fashioned of parchment bound between slabs of wood and sewn to the black hide of an unknown creature, which has been stretched over the boards to form a cover. It bears no external markings of any kind. Its covers are edged with beaten copper, now discolored to a vivid green by the elements. There are 26 yellowed and curling pages within, and some owners report a binding strip of black hide which the book now apparently lacks.

The size and weight of the tome precludes its easy transportation by hand, under arm, or in satchel, and indeed it does not show the wear (scratched cover or corners, blotched or warped parchment due to wetness) typical of books that have seen much traveling out-of-doors.

History and Description

The true origin of The Scalamagdrion is not known. It is first mentioned in the writings of the mage Hethcanter, who owned the book in his youth. He does not mention how he acquired it, but does record that he gave the book to Hym Kraaven (one of the Seven Wizards of Myth Drannor) in payment for magical training. Shortly thereafter his writings end; Hethcanter is remembered today chiefly for his spectacular suicide, hurling himself to his death from the highest pinnacle of the crag now known as Hethcanter’s Leap. He did this when chased by almost a score of illithids; the sage Orfidel believes that these hated creatures sought The Scalamagdrion itself; an opinion shared by Elminster, Hym Kraaven never revealed or used the work in his teachings at the school in Myth Drannor, possibly because of the contents of one of its pages. Of Hym Kraaven’s fate or the means by which the book passed into the hands of its next known owner, nothing is recorded, but the sages Orfidel and Maerlus of the North were both present on Watcher’s Tor when a hitherto unknown magic-user named Valathond used its spells to destroy the mage Gaerlammon in a formal duel.

Valathond was later slain by the Company of the Raven, but his killers did not discover the book amidst the treasure in his keep, nor does an examination of their tales of encounters and skirmishes with the mage over an entire season ere his fall suggest that he still possessed it.  Auvidarus, sage of Hillsfar, and Laeral, wizardess and leader of the adventurers known as The Nine; two observers almost a world apart; have both recorded rumors ascribing ownership of the book to this or that mage.  One of Laeralís collected rumors, interestingly, again mentions a group of illithids.  But the veracity of these rumors is untested; the present whereabouts of the work are a matter of conjecture.

Elminster described the tome’s contents, drawing upon his study of Hethcanter’s careful notes, as follows: The Scalamagdrion’s first and last pages are blank. The remainder bear 23 spells, one to a page and with each page having a blank (rear) face, and one page contains only a curious illustration. The contents of the pages are as follows, in order of appearance from the front of the book: (blank), False life, longstrider, tongues, message, unseen servant, arcane lock, identify, animate objects, modify memory, blink, disintegrate, (illustration), feeblemind, fly, circle of death, scorching ray, delayed blast fireball, invisibility, levitate, conjure elemental, globe of invulnerability, wall of force, remove curse, dispel magic, and (blank).  The irregular order of the spells suggests that the book was created with its spells arranged according to the creator’s wishes, and thus was not the workbook of a magic-user progressing slowly in magical ability under tutelage.

The unique feature of the work is the illustration found on the page between disintegration and feeblemind. It is of “warm, velvety texture,” according to Hethcanter’s notes, and is a strikingly realistic painting of some unknown, seemingly endless caverns (perhaps on some other plane), in which crouches  a dimly visible, winged, reptilian monster on a bed of human bones. A word or name has been spelled out clearly in Common across the bottom of the page, by the arrangement of bones: “Ningulfim.” Hethcanter notes that if this word is spoken over the open page or the illustration is stared at for too long, the monster depicted therein will move.

From other sources not divulged to me, Elminster states with certainty that the page is a gate or portal to some unidentified plane or extra-dimensional space of endless caverns, and can be passed through both ways. Once the gate is activated, the monster will emerge from the page into the Prime Material Plane and attack all creatures nearby, seeking to slay and carry its prey back into the caverns to devour. Its true nature is a mystery, but what is known of it can be summarized as follows:

Scalamagdrion (“Guardian of the Tome,” “Ningulfim”)

The scalamagdrion resembles a grey-scaled, green-eyed dragon with stubby wings and a long, bone-spiked prehensile tail. It has statistics as a wyvern, with a few extra abilities.  It is fearless, enjoys human flesh, and is cunning enough to take a victim’s body, fallen items and all, back to its lair to avoid being caught eating.  The scalamagdrion radiates silence, 15’ radius about itself, and has Legendary Resistance (3/Day). If the scalamagdrion fails a saving throw, it can choose to succeed instead.

This makes it a deadly foe for magic-users; and indeed, none have yet prevailed against it.

Several wands and rings can be seen amid the bones upon which the scalamagdrion crouches. The monster and the gate to and from its abode cannot be destroyed or harmed by tearing out or destroying the page on which it appears, although any attempt at such activities will
certainly cause it to issue forth.