The Guide

by Timothy Toner (21 Sep 92)

"Tobin! Where are you! I need to speak with you on a matter of great importance..."

The man who barged through the door of the little shop was assaulted by a mound of papers that threeatened to consume him. He warded them off with his hat and cane, then used the survivors to wipe the mud off his boots. "TOBIN!"

"Coming, Lawrence!" The author burst down the tight spiral staircase that led from his apartment into the storeshop that could never decide whether it was a printing establishment, a book stores, or a hangout for malcontents.

"Tobin, good Lord! It's the dead of winter! Where's the heat?"

"The coal man refuses delivery without payment. Do you have my royalties?"

Lawrence handed the wiry old man an envelope. Tobin, happy, slipped the package away. He turned back to his guest. "Lawrence, it's almost finished..."

The visitor rolled his eyes, "What NOW? another.. ..."

"Yes, another edition of my book. Besides...what's so wrong about being up to date on such subjects?"

"Tobin, you're a spiritualist! Most of your subjects are dead! It matters not to them how up to date you are...none of them are getting any older!"

Tobin looked at his agent hard, "Are my books selling?"

"Beyond belief..."

"Then why are you complaining?"

"Because you've done fifty editions in the past six months! The moment a new one comes out, half of London's loonies are in my door, searching for that one page you added to this one. Of course, some buy a whole new book forthe extra page, but most are content with just ripping the damn thing out. It's become prohibitatively expensive!"

Tobin looked at his feet, then spoke in a whisper, "This one's quite good...I haven't left anything out like before, and there's some new things too..."

"NO MORE! Tobin, I'm you're agent, and in that capacity, I must insist that you desist, before your market exhausts itself. I'm you're publisher, and in that capacity, I must tell you my resources are strained trying to maintain the copyrights on the fifty editions. I had to turn down some quite promising stuff today from a fellow named Joyce, who also seems to share your fetish for unintelligableness. ONE MORE WILL BREAK ME! And as your friend..." he straightened his waistcoat, "...I must advise you that if you do not contain yourself, I will have you locked up, before your obsessions turn foul."

"But Lawrence, this is my last one..."

"Didn't we have this conversation around the time of the 34th edition?"

"Honestly, Lawrence, there's quite a few improvements...why the index alone..."

"INDEX! DID YOU DARE TO SAY INDEX IN FRONT OF ME?" Lawrence was turning a delightful shade of purple.

"Well...yes. This one's the most complete yet."

The agent caught his breath. "Tobin, your problem has never been in your index being insufficient. I daresay 250 pages in a 600 page book is hardly insufficient, as was clearly demonstrated in the 12th edition, although the 2 page index in the 13th must have been quite a humourous follow up for those whose sense of humor is severely retarded. For those who felt put out by that, I can reccommend the 24th edition, with 1,127 pages, 750 of which are the INDEX! For God's sake, you indexed every word AS IT APPEARED! YOU EVEN INDEXED THE INDEX! For the love of God and my heart...!"

"I...see. THe intangibles were always my problem. I'll just drop it out of this one altogether..."

"No, you won't. THere won't be a 51st edition. I forbid it."

Tobin turned slowly, and regarded Lawrence. "There was another visitor, wasn't there?"

Lawrence turned ashen by the mere suggestion. "Yes...there was...just last night, after closing."

"Any messages?"

Another envelope appeared in Lawrences gloved hand. Tobin snatched it up, and tore it open. It was his turn to grow deathly pale. "Time is short, Lawrence. Will you publish the book or not?"

Lawrence looked away, and quietly whispered of balance sheets and overhead. Tobin looked at him in disgust.

"Very well, Lawrence...I'll have to do it on my own,"

"Here? Lawrence, the best this place has is a press a hundred years old! You'll never get the edition out, without funding..."

"I have this." He waved the royalty cheque.

Lawrence laughed. "with that, you'd barely be able to make 50! COme now, reconsider."

"Lawrence, you do not understand. You never did. Bile filled my stomach when you called me "friend." Now leave, before I call a constable."

Lawrence was left speechless. With nothing to say, he stalked away into the cold winter night.

Tobin looked at the missive. It was the ritual he requested. The bottom was speckled in blood. Someone had died in order to deliver it, a dear friend. He would not let her down.

He began the ritual...

Game stats: The Guide is a ponderous tome, leatherbound, measuring easily over a thousand pages. Although the copyright states it was published in 1920, it has the feel of being sizably older. SOme have ascribed this to shoddy manufacture, but those of knowledge know that the reason is that the history this book contains has bled into the materials itself, making it as old as the supernature it describes.

Those in search of the Guide will find it a book of legend. Bookstores contain copies of previous editions, the 32nd being the most popular, but most of these are novelties compared to finding one of the 51st. It is said that if one ammassed all 50 previous editions, one can make, by reading the entire run over the course of years, a genuine replica of the 51st, although many occultists have been driven batty in the attempt. Any copies previous to this are relatively useless, since most of the text is garbled, and hard to follow. Good for bathroom reading, but not much else.

Tobin's own notes indicate that only 50 copies were made before the fire burned down his press and destroyed the printing plates. He himself disappeared soon after, so it is probable that only these copies are extant. He managed to ship the majority of the copies out before "the dark forces" (his words) descended upon him. Freud used his notes in an unpublished case study, called "the Paper Man," showing the imaginative genius of a paranoid schizophrenic.

A simple perusal of a copy of the 51st edition (hitherto called "the Guide") will lead the reader to find it an utterly fascinating book. This is part of the magic of the guide. The work locks onto the subconscious thoughts of the reader, motivating them to turn to whatever interests them. Thus, it gives the illusion that nothing not of interest is contained within the book.

Going through the book, page by page, gives an entirely different image altogether. Subjects are crammed together in no particular order. To read page by page takes a stamina + occult roll, difficulty 6, to even attempt to digest it all. Every success indicates that another 25 pages has been passed. A failure means the eye has wandered, and no sense can be made. A botch on this roll means that the reader picks up one of the less harmful derangements, usually mild paranoia.

Simply possessing the Guide is a tremendous boon. It allows an unskilled person access into Lupine Lore, Fairie Lore, Vampire Lore, Spirit Lore, and Magi Lore. All one has to do is think about the subject in question, and the pages turn. The amount of time spent reading determines the rating the book imbues:

        10 min:  Level 1
	1 hour:  Level 2
	1 day :  Level 3
	1 week:  Level 4
	1 Month: Level 5

During this time, no other occult texts can be perused, lest they make the mind wander. Also, if "adventuring" does occur, add +1 to the difficulty for each incident. At the end of the alloted time, the reader contemplates the question, and makes his intelligence+whatever level occult the book garnered him. Note that this is a meditative text. Someone who already has Occult 2 or Faerie Lore 2 must still spend the full day reading to gain the new insight. In effect, the reader with prior knowledge is "unlearning" all the rumor and heresay, and being filled with the truth about a particular subject.

Ex. Egon consults the guide about Garou rituals, with a specific one in mind. He thinks about what he knows, and flips through the pages, finding more and more references. The player wants the full benefit of the book, so he reads for a full month. At the end, he ignores his Occult 2, and rolls intelligence plus the newly acquired Lupine Lore 5. He had to go out a couple of times, so the GM, who was going to make it diff. 6, now adjusts it to 8.

This newly acquired knowledge is difficult to hold onto, however. Depending on what level the book was read for, the information lasts for that time. For instance, if someone read Vampire Lore for a month, he keeps the level 5 for a month, then level 4 for a week, level 3 for a day, and so on.

A complete year of constant use (reading once a day) gives a free +1 to ratings in all these things. No single trait can be increased, however, in a shorter period of time, say one month for Lupine Lore alone, as to use the book in this way, you are gaining a better idea of "the big picture."

What is the limit of the Guide? How right was Tobin? Those are answers left to better men. It is a well known fact, however, that the Camarilla actively seek its destruction, since supposedly it contains enough hard information on vampires to end the Masquerade. It is far from a favorite of Lupines, since after reading it long enough (GM determined...around a year) the reader gains a 10 willpower in respect to the supernatural, for purposes of Dominate and the Veil. Faeries also dislike it, since it gives simple rituals for entering the various ways into the Otherworld, and they don't much like pimply faced mage-wanna-be's vacationing in Avalon. The Old One's...well...let's just say, "HASTURHASTURHASTURHASTUR 8^P Just kidding). The mages all want a copy. Despite the incredible information network they have established, every copy the Arcanum comes close to acquiring disappears. It is said in Mage circles that if the Arcanum gets their hand on the book, all the information gathering they require will be sated, and they can turn their attention to more..."active" pursuits. Elder mages who may or may not have the book are keeping silent, since apparently there are things that "Man was not meant to know," and it's on page 616.

But of all the groups actively seeking the destruction of the book, none are more adamant than the Spirit realm. For this was Tobin's forte: the clear, "scientific" analysis of spirits and the spirit world. There are many aspects most spirits just wouldn't like divulged. One of the most important of the secrets is just what makes the book so special: the Synchrospectre found in each and every book.

The synchronicity daemon (as one reasercher called it) allows the Guide to function. With it, the spirit trapped within can read the viewer's thoughts, and make subconscious reccomendations which way to turn. One merely thinks of "vampire fangs," and he'll open to a page containing the information. This is what replaced the index in the books.

However, to operate, the synchronicity daemon had to know where to find stuff in the book...and therein lies the problem. Tobin spiritually snared the spirits, and then spiritually rammed the information down their gullets, making them quite insane. Their jabbering is deafening on some levels of the spirit planes, and seems to come from nowhere (this scrambling feature installed by Tobin allows the books to be safe from magical detection). Spirits do not take kindly to being imprisoned, with no hope for reward, and they especially don't like the eternal torture their fellow spirits are enduring, all in the name of Tobin.

A synchrospectre can be released by pronouncing the name of the Binder (Tobin) as the Guide is immolated. This binds the spirit to the burner for a term of two years. The effects are as such:

  1. Roll a d 10 and divide by two. This is how many dice can be rerolled per story.
  2. The burner has the "charmed life" merit, as well as a minor league guardian angel.
  3. Good things will consistantly happen to the burner, as fortune falls right into his lap.

If the burner doesn't say the name at the time of burning, the Spectre is trapped on earth, and pissed. Roll d10, the amount of years the spirit will continue to harrass the burner in retaliation. The following takes place:

  1. Roll a d10 and divide by two. This is how many sucesses are turned into botches per story.
  2. The cursed one has Dark Fate slapped on him.
  3. Bad things await behind every corner.
  4. Friends of the trapped spirit makes sure plenty of mages know this bozo burned a Guide, one of the most prized books in existence.

(That's all for now...a full write up on the "fatir" (synchrospectre) will come later in the week. BTW, brownie points for anyone who can guess where I got this idea from...)