Thursday, January 16, 2020

Notes on Dictionary of the Khazars

Dictionary of the Khazars is a "lexicon novel" by Milorad Pavic. Basically, it is a fictional encyclopedia about an obscure ancient ethnic group and the researchers who study them. As you read the Dictionary, a story told out of order is conveyed. I greatly enjoyed reading it, and noticed that the elements of myth and magical realism offer inspiration for games of D&D set in ancient through mid-Renaissance settings, especially those featuring mysticism, language rules, and history. Below, I record what stood out to me. Not fully mentioned are the many interesting characters listed in the Dictionary that could easily inspire a dozen PCs.

d11 Loot:

  1. A valuable book with poisoned ink. Reading nine pages in one sitting would kill you.
  2. A pair of mirrors. One shows the near future, the other the near past.
  3. A man has the history of the Khazars tattooed on his body. Each section is valuable treasure. Occasionally he is sent to his homeland for revisions.
  4. A kit containing Chinese silver needles and a mirror on which red dots outline the contours of the face. With mystical acupuncture, this kit heals all head wounds.
  5. An egg whose yoke "is a day in your life." Break the egg to skip the current day.
  6. A masterwork tortoiseshell lute that belongs to a devil. When he dies, it turns into a turtle. When he returns to Earth, it becomes a lute again.
  7. A cuckoo bird whose cries create freshwater springs.
  8. The leaf of a Ku plant. When placed on a tear in a sail, a wound, or other rend; it mends and heals instantaneously.
  9. A set of three lamps. If the owner dies, the lamps will hold each of their three(?) souls. When lit, the lamp temporarily releases the soul.
  10. A cannon with a range of "three thousand elbows," which produces such a sound that nearby foxes miscarry and honey turns sour.
  11. A Khazar jar, which is a totally mundane jar except when you reach inside you cannot touch the bottom.
d5 Spells:
  1. Proscribed Glyphs: write these on your eyelids, and they will kill anyone who reads them while your eyes are closed. Used to protect sleeping people.
  2. Golem: instill a Death in a sculpted body and read the Fortieth Psalm. The golem can inhabit mirrors and live days of the week out of order.
  3. Dream Drop: Send an object to someone who is dreaming of you.
  4. A magic word that transforms either into a lizard or a chinese rose.
  5. Bite Augury: Get bitten by something to read the future. The DM selects an important event in the near future and answers [dice]x[damage taken by the bite] questions.
d6 Plot Hooks:
  1. According to a popular poem, a local noble has golden bones. Murder him for a big payday.
  2. A king is assembling men who have one body part identical to him. After he assembles enough people, he will take their parts to make a double.
  3. A foreign king has decided to adopt your homeland's religion, but believes faith can only be taken through war.
  4. A devil lies in his grave one day a year. Buy gear from him on credit, then go to his grave and slay him.
  5. if you assemble a full encyclopedia of dreams, it will instantiate the angel Adam Ruhani (possibly actually called Adam Cadmon.)
  6. Your ruler sends you to exchange lavish gifts with a delegation from a foreign king. When you meet up, you learn that both of your rulers have died, leaving you with two hordes of treasure...
d11 Monsters, Demons, and Foes
  1. Dream Hunters, who enter dreams and chase them across continents.
  2. A demon that drinks milk from your heels at night. It is only vulnerable to vinegar-soaked weapons, and only then after you have offered it something.
  3. 120 dead souls that watch you jealously from the dark. They will leap into a frenzy if they smell blood.
  4. A demon with mouths in her feet, eyelids on her nipples, and two thumbs on each hand. Her milk is TIME, which strengthens those who drink it to a point, then weakens them. If she walks backwards, she will die.
  5. Soldiers of the Slav prince Kotsel, who can bite like a camel and beat snakes out of their skin with a rod.
  6. A demon with the skill of painting granted by the archangel Gabriel. He rides all your horses ragged at night, but flees anything made of flint.
  7. In one kingdom, wet-nurses who can poison their own milk are in great demand to dispose of unwanted heirs or for assassination. To prevent this, their lovers become royal foodtasters of sorts.
  8. An ancient and eyeless fish. It marks the exact age of the universe.
  9. Khazar warriors. They wield weapons with their feet, effectively use two weapons at once, and are ambidextrous.
  10. Serbian dogs that bite, then bark OR Turkish dogs that bark, then bite OR Wallachian dogs that bite without barking.
  11. A demon bard riding an ostrich who knows secrets about death. he has a coterie of lesser demons, including a liar-poet.
d3 Curses and Afflictions
  1. Leap-Fever, a disease that strikes only every other day.
  2. Merchant's curse: being unable to weigh anything.
  3. Ancestor's curse: when you die, you will experience all of your children's deaths.
  1. A leper language, spoken so people can tell you have leprosy.
  2. "The Kazars can read colors like musical notes... they can read what is depicted in paintings or other pictures."
  3. Landowners in Wallachia have a bodyguard and a soulguard.
  4. You can stop someone from becoming a vampire by throwing their boot in river.
  5. In Khazar lands, it is prestigious to speak the Khazar language badly.
  6. Birds all speak different languages, except albatrosses who have one in common.
  7. "Wallachia, where every man is born a poet, lives like a thief, and dies like a vampire."
  8. There is a place where you swap lots with anyone you cross paths with. Despairing people go there to become someone anyone else.

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