Monday, July 11, 2011

Tales From the Arabian Nights: D&D Borrowings # 1

We've a local Half Price Books store nearby my home and I often go there and check out the nice and always changing collection of role playing stuff and board games. I saw a RuneQuest Boxed Set and Three Supplements this last time but was unable to buy!!! They do their Internet homework and it was priced accordingly.

However, I did find a paperback copy of the complete Tales from the Arabian Nights lavishly illustrated by one of my new favorite artists, H.J. Ford. I find the tales delightful. I think as a parent you couldn't go wrong if you limited your children's film viewing to weekends, only let them watch DVD's you have selected, and spend the rest of the time reading books like this to them! In this age of video games, Internet, movies and I-Phones, I don't think you're going to turn a kid onto these treasures of the past unless you do so from an early age, let them get a love for such things, and then let them find pop and tech culture. Okay, that's Dr. Spock stuff, onto gaming.

Aside from the great stories there are a lot of elements in here you could adapt for games and I will be blogging some of them.  So to start of with here is a magical item from one of the tales.

The Oracles of Douban

The Oracles of Douban are a large silver, jeweled bowl with a covered item in the bowl and a great leather bound tome whose cover is wrought with silver fastenings. The book will be found to be resting under the bowl.

If the covering is removed, to the horror of the finder there will be seen a severed head of an aged man, perfectly preserved by some enchantment and appearing as it did in life. It's eyes are closed.

This is the head of Douban the Physician. Douban was unjustly executed by a great King of the East who was falsely convinced by a jealous vizier that Douban meant to usurp his throne. The king had his trusted counselor  beheaded but the head spoke after hitting the floor and told the King that magic bound Douban's life to his Book of wisdom and that he would serve as the king's Oracle--many questions cold be asked from the book which the head of Douban would be bound to answer.

Much of Douban's tale was true.

What he did not tell the king was that there was a curse associated with the book and the King fell prey to it!

Whoever locates and possesses the Oracles of Douban will find that the Book is filled with small script covering an amazing array of topics. However, the information is of such a scholarly level and references such obscure names, places and facts that it would be impossible for anyone other than the most brilliant sage alive to even guess how to make sense of represents a lifetime of Douban's esoteric research.

If you as a DM are fortunate enough to possess the 1st edition Dungeon Master's Guide by Gary Gygax, you have a ready made source of information as to the Sage material contained within the Book. The Book has two Minor Fields of Study and Four Special categories in Major Field. The normal percentage chances applied to Sages here applies as noted on page 31-32 of the DM's Guide. If you do not have the DMG, you can simply assign a percentage chance to the possibility of the Book containing references to the subject mater in question.

The book alone is worthless as a source of knowledge--the real treasures lie within Douban's incredible brain, and it is a wondrous fact that when the book is opened, the eyes of the head of Douban open as well and fasten themselves upon the holder of the book. The head will also speak and say "Ask Thy Question, Seeker of Knowledge. Douban Will Answer Thee."

The power of the Book and Head of Douban is that once every seven days, the possessor may ask a question pertaining to the Sage's knowledge and receive a true answer. The head will converse at length on the subject of the question and relay as much information as is asked. A powerful gift indeed and a gateway to many adventures if our heroes are inquiring of Douban as to places and people associated with ancient relics or lost kingdoms. The Oracles of Douban could become a regular feature of a campaign. The Book is  a very coveted item by those aware of it's purported existence.

The Head does not converse other than to answer it's appointed questions. unless, of course, the DM wishes it to...perhaps it cajoles or curses those who use it's powers! Perhaps he is a leering old man who makes inappropriate comments to the female Player Characters! Note that the Oracles do not act as an augury spell or divine the future--its uses are confined to actual subjects researched by Douban while he was alive. Asking a question like "Where in the realms is my old friend Mension Leaf?", for example, would be a useless question and Douban might make fun of the person who asks it.

In any event, Douban will truthfully answer all queries as a matter of the Physician's pride.

Nonetheless, Douban and his book are cursed, and every time the Oracles are consulted, a saving throw vs. Spells must be made by the character using them. Failure means that some terrible thing happens, as designed by the DM.

Enjoy Douban and his Book! Future Borrowings are to come.



  1. The Arabian Nights are indeed a great resource. I've borrowed from them a number of time. They are especially useful because so many of the stories (which vary by translation) are unfamiliar to modern audiences.

  2. Indeed! I saw a film called Arabian Nights on Netflix which was remarkable in that it was filmed on location in the regions of the stories' origins and in the languages of the people thereabouts. It was a 1974 film and it is unrated and has a lot of erotic content which is quite blatant for the day (it's an Italian movie by Il Fiore Delle Mille e Una Notte)so be forewarned, its not family viewing. However, the scenery is amazing and it is very true to the tales and evokes Arabian Nights almost as much as the books. Tekumel borrows a lot from these stories I believe, and the Sindbad movies are some of my favorite. I still remember seeing Eye of the Tiger at a movie theater in Southern California as a boy. It was awe inspiring, though film audiences today would scorn the special effects. I still like them!