The activation of magic items in fantasy games is often based on knowing or guessing the correct word or phrase. Referees often place magic
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A roll on this table determines whether words or images are on the device (or its container), and how useful such words or images might be. It is important that the referee not tell the players what the roll is, but use it as a guide to choosing the information. For example, a healing potion would have the word "curative" on it if the roll were 5, perhaps the phrase "drink to your health" on a 20, medical or religious symbols on a 30, the word "poison" on a 50, images of birds on a 60, scrolling, artwork, or abstract patterns on an 80, and above 85 would be in a plain bottle. Note that the language table should be consulted whenever there is writing--mages especially have a tendency to study obscure languages, and guard their secrets by writing their notes to themselves in languages unknown to their comrades!
1-10 Exact Information Written (language table)
11-25 Suggestive Inscription (language table)
26-45 Significant Decorations
46-50 Misleading Inscription (language table)
51-70 Misleading Decorations
71-85 Meaningless Decorations
86-100 No Decorations or Information
Activational words for a magic item may be in any language, and the referee should use the language table to determine which (note that it need not be the same language as any inscriptions found on it, although it might be). Rather than force players to attempt to guess hundreds of possible words in hundreds of languages (which could take hours during a game), it seems better to have them choose the language and begin to guess words of a particular type; a die roll will determine whether they have stumbled upon the correct word within fifteen minutes of guessing--provided they have chosen the correct language and type of word!
To attempt to guess an unknown activating word for a magic item, the character must choose the language he will be trying, and select a category of types of words he will be guessing:
A Activational Words, such as "start", "go", or "now".
B Action Descriptive Words, such as "fly", "grow".
C Magical Words, such as "abracadabra".
D Unrelated Words, that is, words (possibly unusual) which have nothing to do with the magic.
E Personal Names, such as George, Etienne, Pedro, Johnson.
F Object Names of any type, such as "wand", "chair", "horse".
G Archaic Words, that is, words which are not often used anymore.
Once the language and the type of words have been chosen, the referee rolls the dice. The first column is intended to determine the actual type of word which was used (and may be decided at any time up to the moment the players begin guessing, either by a roll on that table or by the decision of the referee). The third column is the probability that a character would guess the right word within fifteen minutes, if he has selected the correct language and category. The last column is the category of words which would have to be selected to guess a word of the type listed. The referee can determine what the word is based on the rolls, let the players choose a word of the appropriate type once they discover it, or merely note that the characters know the correct activational words.
|Die Roll||Type of Command Word(s)||Probability of Guessing||Category|
|01-10||Words that say what it does||25%||B|
|11-20||Words that are magical||15%||C|
|21-28||Words that are unrelated||10%||D|
|29-38||Related activational words ("shoot")||25%||A|
|39-46||Unrelated activational words ("start")||20%||A|
|53-60||Unrelated object names||10%||F|
|61-70||Related object names||15%||F|
|71-80||Antithetical object names||15%||F|
|81-90||Antithetical activational words ("freeze" for fire)||25%||A|
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