The Dungeon Crawl Classics Dying Earth kickstarter is roaring out of the gates faster than a Deodand struck by Phandaal’s Gyrator, and we wanted to give everyone a sneak peek at the kind of regular content DCC Dying Earth backers can expect over the course of the campaign.
As if there weren’t already plenty of good reasons to get in on the ground floor and back DCC Dying Earth early, regular articles like this one from Terry Olson will be posted throughout the campaign offering Vancian scholarship, designer insights, and further details about the one-of-a-kind world of the Dying Earth.
So if you’d like to see more articles like this one, be sure to head over to kickstarter and back DCC Dying Earth.
Putting the Oooo in IOUN
by Terry Olson
I used to think I knew what an IOUN stone was. Through my AD&D experiences I learned that this was some magical rock that swirled around my PC’s head granting a single boon, such as 1 point in an ability score, limited spell absorption, or +1 to AC. As role-playing games developed, so did these stones. Depending on the system, there are many different benefits among these pebbles. However, there is a common theme: find a stone, get a single mechanical benefit from its orbit. I used to think I knew what an IOUN stone was.
Then I read the Morreion chapter of Jack Vance’s Rhialto the Marvellous.
“I spoke to my stones, I gave them my thoughts… and as my stones grew to know me they assumed their beautiful colors. Each has his name; each is individual; I know each stone by its motion. The archveults consider them the brain-eggs of fire-folk who live within these stars; as to this I cannot say.”
In writing the DCC Dying Earth entry for IOUN stones, I had to resort to a mantra that became ubiquitous for the project: Forget all you’ve learned; there is only Vance.
Reading Vance, the following properties of IOUN stones became apparent:
- The “stones” are sentient and hungry.
- IOUN stones are active when they contain memories.
- IOUN stones without memories are dormant.
- Memories are typically withdrawn by the donor, but in some cases are bestowed by the stones without prompting.
- Someone with too many IOUN stones becomes docile, absent-minded, and barely able to communicate.
- All IOUN stones absorb spell energy and can bestow it.
- IOUN stones are highly coveted by magicians and are targets of theft.
- IOUN stones are mysterious, and even the more powerful sorcerers know little of their workings or origins.
These are the building blocks of IOUN stones in DCC Dying Earth. And so, the IOUN stone entry clarifies that this is not the floating pebble from back in the day…
“To fully cognize an IOUN stone’s potentialities, one must understand its origins. The archveults harvest IOUN stones from the cores of dead dwarf stars rent asunder by Nothing. Even the Dying Earth’s own failing sun’s core will contain stones once it perishes. In the archveults’ astromagical axioms, a star’s stones are the brain-eggs of the fire-folk who were the star’s life force. The veracity of this claim is philosophically inferior to its essence: the stones are sentient young. And, like any freshly-hatched creatures, they require sustenance. These brain-eggs feed on thought and experience. “
A PC wishing to utilize an IOUN stone must give the stone 1 point of Intelligence and a memory. Both are lost until they’re reclaimed, rendering the stone powerless. Losing a memory wouldn’t be so bad if the PC was able to choose what they wanted to forget, but of course, that isn’t how DCC Dying Earth rolls.
The IOUN stone chooses the memory on which to feed. After imbuing the greedy plum-sized rock, you might find yourself thinking something like the following. Who is that person that claims to be my adventuring ally? Why is my friend running from that maniacally laughing magician? How is it that everyone expects me to pick that lock; I’ve never been able to do that, have I? Why can’t I understand a word of the language that is apparently “Common”?
This seems risky, right? Why do magicians and wizards covet these thought-eaters? The reasons might be many, but certainly the dominant one is that they are POWERFUL.
The color, orbit, behavior, and powers of an IOUN stone depend on what memory it is given, but even the weakest is formidable. A given stone can store between 4 to 10 points of spellburn or Personality (from a magician’s force of will) for later use, and each day it can protect the bearer from between 40 and 100 points of spell power (spell level multiplied by the spell check). Finally, each stone has a unique benefit it bestows based on the memory it consumed.
As a judge, you should make the PCs pay dearly for such a boon. Remind a PC lucky enough to gain one that everyone wants it, with attempts of theft being a new norm.
As a player, you should be undaunted by my advice to the judge and do everything you can to get your PC an IOUN stone! Ask your judge to run an adventure that contains one. (At least one of the published adventures contains two IOUN stones).
As the great Morreion mused, “Ah, my wonderful stones, what would I be without them?”