The Chronicles of Erdon
These mundane or magical tomes come in three types that give readers special insights about certain creatures.
The mundane versions are books that, if a character takes the necessary time to read as part of their studies, grants them an insight bonus on a single relevant knowledge check regarding a related creature. For example, reading Journey Through the Mausoleum, a lesser (Type I) undead compendium would grant the reader a +1 bonus on a single knowledge check related to undead creatures, such as the traits of the undead, or the abilities of a wraith, or the history of a particular vampire. However, if the same character got to read The Tragedy of Viscount Racadul, they would get a +3 bonus on a single knowledge check relating specifically to the “long dead” noble, though not to nobles or creatures generally. A character can benefit from such a bonus every time they thoroughly study such a work, though they must spend the same amount of time for each question; a character cannot retry a previous check until they have advanced the relevant skill.
The magic versions work much the same way, except that they tend to be physically smaller and shorter (even down to scrolls), yet more uncannily comprehensive. For example, what might normally comprise a mundane encyclopedia, could be condensed to a magic trilogy or saga; a mundane saga might be contained in single magic book; and a single mundane book might be reduced to the contents of a magic scroll. One of the most important differences between mundane and magical compendiums is that the bonuses granted by the magic versions stack with any other relevant bonuses (including those from related libraries), but identical and unrelated Creature Compendiums do not stack. Furthermore, the bonus granted by a magic version applies to everything that a ranger might apply a Favored Enemy bonus to, which stacks with a ranger’s class ability. However, these bonuses apply only if the character has taken the time to read the compendium, and then only as long as the tome remains in the character’s possession; otherwise it functions as a mundane version.
For example, someone could read both Journey Through the Mausoleum, and The Tragedy of Viscount Racadul, to gain a +4 bonus on knowledge checks relating to the noble, and if these were part of a larger library related to undead a character could add that bonus as well. However, a character could not benefit from having two copies of The Tragedy of Viscount Racadul, nor would an account of some other noble, or a famous dragon, shed much if any useful light on the subject, though such works could benefit other, unrelated checks. In those rare cases where two such topics would intersect, each compendium may be assumed to discuss the relevant overlapping material within itself, so that the other would be extraneous at best, not unlike trying to glean extra scientific knowledge from a mathematics book, or trying to learn new math techniques from a scientific book, after one has studied the primary sources for the subject in question.
: applies broadly to a creature type or subtype (e.g. goblinoids, dragons, animals, devils, etc.). +1 Bonus. Price: 20 gp, mundane; 2,200 gp, magic. Length (Time): encyclopedia (one month) or saga (one week). Specific Examples: The Spelunker’s Guide to Vermin, Journey Through the Mausoleum.
: applies to a specific race or creature (e.g. bugbears, green dragons, buffalo, imps, etc.). +2 Bonus. Price: 200 gp, mundane; 4,500 gp, magic. Length (Time): saga (one week) or volume (one day). Specific Examples: Kanisa Sondaregg and the Coral Temple of BlIbdoolpoolp, Among the Tall Grasses.
: regards a unique creature or character (e.g. Hrok the Goblin King, Maugnir the Terrible, Onus the One-Eyed Wolf, Sazuth Wyrdloge). Note: some types of creatures (especially short-lived ones such as animals) will almost never, if ever, have such a book written about them. +3 Bonus. Price: 2,000 gp, mundane; 11,000 gp, magic. Length (Time): volume (one day) or scroll (one hour). Specific Examples: Origins of the Nine-Fold Way, The Tragedy of Viscount Racadul.
Due to the increased cost and speciality needed to create them, magic creature compendiums are rarer than mundane ones, regardless of the type of subject matter or degree. However, magical compendiums of some subjects may be created more often than those of others, and rarer (i.e. higher degree) compendiums are generally more often magical than more commonly available ones. That is, a manuscript copy of The Tragedy of Viscount Racadul as penned by Sir Valegh would be more likely magic than a later copy, which is more likely to be magical than a lesser tome of the undead. However, even a lesser tome of the undead is more likely to be magic than a lesser bestiary (animal compendium); and all of these tomes (from older copies of classic tragedies to current primers on the animal kinds) are more likely to be mundane than magical.
Some compendiums are more readily available in some places than others. For example, dwarven libraries seem to focus mostly on orcs and goblins or creatures of the earth, when they actually concern creatures, while elven libraries often focus more on animals, forest creatures, and magic beasts. By a similar token, temple libraries tend to have more works regarding undead and outsiders, depending on the particular deity, and cultists are more likely to have a specific work regarding an individual than other people are. In fact, there is only one library in all of Erdon that is believed to have close to a complete selection of such works.
The first of these tomes were written by retired explorers and adventurers, merely as records of their experiences and adventures. As it became curious for people to learn about the various creatures known to exist, and even important, these works were distilled into the first actual creature compendiums. Some unique figures were found to be the center of extensive stories, and so their tales were similarly collected and bound together. As certain types and varieties of compendiums became more important, a few magical versions were commissioned.
In addition to the normal prerequisites for crafting such an item (e.g. craft [bookmaking] and/or Craft Wondrous Item, appropriate caster level), the writer of a creature compendium must have at least 5 ranks in a relevant knowledge skill for a Type I tome, 10 ranks for a Type II, and 15 ranks for a Type III. For all types the author must have some firsthand account of the creature(s) to be discussed, whether directly or via divination. Lastly, the author must succeed on a related knowledge check (DC: 13, 18, 25), upon completing work on the volume in order to successfully create the item; this is in addition to the requisite craft check.
The GM may additionally reward players who choose to do actual reading on related subjects, at his discretion, by allowing them special influence over the game. This could take many forms, such as the ability to impart knowledge to other players (which should pan out) – e.g. “hey guys I was just reading this book and guess what I found out?” The GM could even allow a player to help plan an upcoming adventure or encounter related to what the player read. For example, if a player has read “Tales from the Crypt” (and the character has read an in-game equivalent), the GM might allow the player to make a single tactical (i.e. otherwise metagame) suggestion before the fighting really starts, as if the party had (briefly) brought up and discussed a scenario such as this. On the other hand, if a player just finished Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula, that just might make a valuable assistant in planning the upcoming vampire encounter; and if the character has gotten his hands on and in-game equivalent, the player might even be permitted to share one bit of minor inside (i.e. GM only) information with the party. Players should not expect such rewards from the GM.