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.
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.
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).
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
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
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.
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.)
A 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
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
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
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.)
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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