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A Practical Guide to the Practical Guides
(and other lorebooks)




ecently, in a discussion on the Kids-RPG electronic discussion network, I was made aware of a series of interesting books published by Mirrorstone and the Wizards of the Coast - the Practical Guides.

Each of these books is packed with lore on a particular subject - Wizardry, Monsters, Dragons, Dragon Riding, Faeries, and Vampires - and is filled from cover to cover with beautiful illustrations, diagrams, and maps on the subject matter.

No game rules or statistics are provided in any of these books, which is a bonus - it not only increases the verisimillitude of the books, but it also makes them usable with any game system (not just Dungeons & Dragons).

I managed to get a few of these Guides from my local public archive, and read each of them from cover to cover. Here is a brief recap of what I found:

A Practical Guide to Wizardy - This volume is a primer for the Aldwyns Academy, and features sections on wizard clothing and magic items, finding a familiar, the school grounds and faculty, the types of magic, potion making, runes, wandwork, and much more.  A welcome letter from Headmaster Lowadar introduces the book, and handwritten notes are scattered everywhere.


A Practical Guide to Monsters - This 'monster manual' contains information on 51 different monsters - facts such as height, weight, habitat, and diet, and various bits of lore, such as how to make an antidote for medusa venom, and maps of some of the creatures' lairs. It opens with a letter from High Wizard Zendric to his apprentices, and ends with a 'final exam' on the creatures detailed within.  Scattered through the book are handwritten notes - from Zendric, or another former owner of the book - that give more detail about the creatures.

A Practical Guide to Dragons is an exhaustive tome on the subject of dragons - their anatomy, language, society, and much more. Each of the major metallic and chromatic dragons are detailed in sections, with facts on their birth, lairs, breath weapon, and even their favorite foods and treasure.  The book begins and ends with a letter from Sindri Suncatcher to his aunt Moonbeam, and the pages are filled with his notes and comments.  (This is also available in a 2-volume set along with A Practical Guide to Dragon Riding, below.)

Practical Guide to Dragon Riding is a detailed book on the raising, care, and riding of dragons.  It includes sections on finding a dragon, egg hatching, training, basic dragon language, dragon abilities, dragon combat, and dragonkind.  The book begins and ends with a letter from Sindri Suncatcher to his aunt Moonbeam, and the pages are filled with his notes and comments.  (This is also available in a 2-volume set along with A Practical Guide to Dragons, above.)

A Practical Guide to Faeries was not available from my local public archive. The clerk on duty informed me that a short, green-skinned fellow with giant fangs and a short sword came in and reserved the tome weeks ago, and hasn't been back to return it.  When this particular volume is returned and reshelved, I'll review it here.



A Practical Guide to Vampires was not yet available, and when I asked the clerk at the public archives, she looked at me very strangely, asked if I was a vampire hunter, then suggested a different book about vampires that sparkle.  I will attempt to find another means to acquire this volume and report back here if and when I succeed.




How to use these books in your adventures


So once you have one or more of these books in your possession, what do you do with them? How can these books lead you on a grand adventure?

If you are a gamemaster: Get a copy of one of the Practical Guides from your bookstore or library and use it as a prop. Have your adventurers search for clues in it, or research facts about a particular creature to help them defeat it, capture it, or maybe even make friends with it. Leave clues in your game that refer to a specific page number or illustration in the book. Write notes on scraps of paper and tuck them between the pages - 'field notes,' experiments or observations, criticisms of the content of the book, that sort of thing. Consider starting a campaign set in Aldwyns Academy, and use the Wizardry book as a guide for your players. (You may also make some of the other books available in the academy's library to help them with their adventures!)

If you are an adventurer: Get a copy of one of the Practical Guides from your bookstore or library and read it. Then drop some hints to your gamemaster about how cool it would be to run an adventure using the information in the book. Show them the diagrams and maps and locations.  

If it doesn't work, consider becoming a gamemaster yourself!

But that's not all...

If you can't find the Practical Guides, there are lots of similar books available, like Wizardology, Dragonology, Fairies, and many, many more. Each is packed with information on a specific subject, and could be used as a springboard for many, many adventures. (For links to other lorebooks,including all of the Practical Guides, go to the Escapist Store and look for the 'Lorebooks' section.)

Also look for the Redhurst Academy of Magic book, which can now be found rather cheaply at game conventions. It's an excellent RPG lorebook for a magic school that travels from realm to realm, and like all of the books mentioned above, it's packed with lore. 

And as always, if you've found this information useful, and it has resulted in some wonderful adventures, please be sure to tell me about it!


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