Fiction Fails: Bag of Books

So in Dungeon World, for a mere 10 coins you can buy a bag of books. Each bag for some reason weighs twice as much as a suit of chainmail (which also weighs as much as leather armor and provides the same amount of protection), has 5 uses, and each use gives you +1 to Spout Lore about whatever.

I guess you go to a book store, for a pittance of ten measly coins the clerk tosses in five books, and they just happen to be precisely what you need the next five times you want a +1 to your Spout Lore roll. Maybe the clerk should use his precognition for something more financially lucrative? Because, at 2 coins a book he's hemorrhaging an insane amount of money.

No mention as to whether you can continue referencing them after the fact (for something related to but maybe not exactly what you used it for previously), give them to another PC so they can take a +1 to Spout Lore about the same general topic you did, or just sell them to someone else (it's not like reading them suddenly devalues them, though they oddly aren't worth very much to begin with).

In our Dungeon World games we've used a bag of books like so: the PCs come across something, someone wants to Spout Lore to see what their character knows about it, and if a player feels like it would be especially useful to hit the 10+ mark they'd consult the bag. Otherwise, because again it's only a single +1 that one time, they'd save the book, or might not even want to attempt spouting lore at all because of a contrived miss result.

For a game that drones on and on about "the fiction", doesn't make much sense, does it?

If the PCs have some clue as to what to expect over the course of an adventure, and think it might be useful to know more about it, I imagine the them doing some research before the adventure even kicks off to see what they can learn. More often than not they don't, so I expect them to hit the books during the adventure to find answers to any questions that crop up, again so long as they feel that the answers would be particularly interesting or important.

I figure you could reskin the Bolster move that I've never seen anyone use to make a kind of Research move, but instead of taking a long-ass time racking up a few floating +1's, the GM tells you interesting/useful things that you learned. I wouldn't require a roll, but if you wanted to make it random I guess you could roll+INT or +some rating based on how well stocked a library or archive is, with maybe another +1 or -1 added to the mix depending on how much time you spend there.

But what about individual books?

First off, unless books in your campaign are incredibly easy to mass produce (which is totally feasible, though nothing in the book suggests that that's the case), they should cost more in general. A lot more. I'm thinking a good starting point would be 100 coins for a book with some basic information on something, and 1,000 coins for a decent quality book with comprehensive information on a particular subject. If nothing else, it gives PCs something to do with all the cash they're gonna rack up over the course of a campaign.

Second, when you buy a book you have to tell the GM what you're looking for, and the GM determines if the book you are looking for is even available (because it very well might not be and you can always fall back on the Supply move). You can't just buy a "bag" of five books that will just so happen to maybe have useful information on the next five things you Spout Lore about (assuming you roll high enough on your Intelligence check, that is).

Finally, you shouldn't make an Intelligence check to see if the book contains useful information: the book's quality should determine what it can tell you.

I figure a book with basic information would cost 100+ coins (depends on what it's about) and have the slow tag (why doesn't the bag of books?). When you read it, the GM will tell you something interesting about the subject (as if you rolled a 10+ on Spout Lore).

If it's a basic bestiary--either for a specific monster or possibly monster setting--you can now Spout Lore about them if you couldn't before, but you automatically know the more infamous abilities of a monster, such as a cockatrice's petrifying bite or rust monster's ability to rust metal.

A book with comprehensive information would cost 1000+ coins. In addition to learning something interesting about it automatically, you can now Spout Lore about the subject (if you couldn't before).

A comprehensive bestiary could be about a narrow type of creature (all types of therianthropes), or a specific creature (vampires). You basically learn everything there is to know about them, including their damage, HP, special qualities, and moves. If parts of the monster can be used for things like alchemical items, magic items, rituals, and so on, it'll also mention those.

Something else I considered doing with books would be to give books something like a Quality or Knowledge tag, which would determine how many useful/interesting things you'd learn by reading from them. So, Quality 1 would be one thing, Quality 2 would be two things, etc. Obviously the higher the quality, the higher the price.

If you also want to keep things random with books, like maybe the guy who wrote the book overlooked something, some of the information could be inaccurate, or you were reading too quickly and missed something, you could also make a move that has you roll+Quality. Or, when you reference a book on a particular subject you can Spout Lore with +Quality instead of +INT.

If you're curious about FrankenFourth and/or Dungeons & Delvers, you can find public alpha documents here and here respectively.

Dwarven Vault is our sixth 10+ Treasures volume. If you're interested in thirty dwarven magic items (including an eye that lets you shoot lasers) and nearly a dozen new bits of dungeon gear, check it out!

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  1. The bag of book doesn't has a _slow_ tag because PC is believed to read all of them beforehand in background. And now they happens to know a right thing on the topic at hand. Spout Lore itself works the same way

    1. Regarding the bag of books, how do you figure? The description says you consult the book: why would you need to do that if you've already read them? Wouldn't you also then need to explain to the GM which topics the books cover before you can even use them?

  2. Also I can't understand why are you crusading. Those bag of books are ridiculously cheap indeed. But the mechanics itself reminds me of haphazard studying I've done a lot while I was in the university. It's not aĺl that disbelievable

  3. I'm not "crusading", I'm simply pointing out how something in a game doesn't make any sense and then even propose a few ways to handle it so that it does make sense.

    It doesn't make sense to me because when I studied, I purchased books for a given subject, read them, marked them, re-read as needed, etc. If I had to consult them to be reminded again about something it would take a few minutes, ergo the slow tag, but I also wouldn't throw them away and/or they'd be useful for someone else on the same topic.

    DW books says "mark off a use", so it's only good for five consultations, but isn't clear on whether you keep getting the +1 bonus when you spout lore about the same thing. This is where the whole "follow the fiction" thing doesn't match up with the game, which is disappointing and sometimes frustrating.


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