Fauxnts are one of my favorite player-frustraters. I love to type up a hint-filled note or journal, convert it to a difficult-to-read font, and print it out on ‘weathered’ paper. Then I go and have a cigar take a break while the players argue over the translation and meaning of it all.
The key to fauxnts is that they aren’t illegible or a ciphertext, but aren’t very clear, either. Done right, the players will argue over the spelling and meanings, but won’t have to actually decipher the letters. Throw in some High Gygaxian, a little ‘creative’ spelling, and a complete lack of punctuation, and who needs stat blocks for an evening’s entertainment?
The three weathered sheets in the background were printed in Pseudo Saudi (available here), on high-cotton paper, soaked in instant coffee and dried in a warm oven. The title reads “The Last Testimonial of Magralinus Archmagus Maximus, Master of Divination”, and was a royal pain in the ass for my players.
The ‘cube’ is a three-way frustratron: translation, riddles, and spatial puzzle. At least it should have been; my party of geniuses figured it out in minutes. *sigh* It was printed in Common Tongue (originally by David Bale of DASH Software, now available at a Google near you), my preferred Dwarven fauxnt.
The “Wanted” poster was intentionally misspelled, printed in AutoREALM Mentelin (a font included with the free AutoREALM mapping program). The pic is of a player’s mini, heavily photoshopped to look like a woodcut; he said his heart skipped a beat when he saw it. It’s not really a fauxnt, but it is an example of how the proper fonts can add to the props in a game.
Do you have any preferred fonts or techniques to add immersion and difficulty to your game? Sound off in the comments and let us know!
I downloaded them. Neat!
Kurt, could you explain the cube puzzle in a bit more detail? Thanks.
I give a big thumbs up to the fonts on Blambot: http://www.blambot.com/fonts.shtml. There are some fantastic free fonts there, including a few very nice symbol fonts good for funny racial languages or magic.
@ZedZed77 – In my campaign (nothing brief ever follows that phrase, does it?), the Gygaxian element/energy cosmology is very important. The party is seeking an elemental earth-based MacGuffin, hidden by a prophet/priest.
The clues were:
1) A large stone tablet with a carved series of riddles, arranged in the shape of an inverted T (PDF link here).
2) A 3″x3″ tile with an odd design on it. The tile was about a half inch thick, with a bevel cut on the back side at 45 degrees. (Six of these tiles could be arranged in a cube.)
The other tiles were hidden in the dungeon (actually an abandoned mine in the Elemental Plane of Earth, which incidentally has near-zero gravity). The tiles were hand-drawn, but a ‘sun’ was positive energy, an ‘asterisk’ was negative energy, a series of lines with a dot on the last line was earth, the same with the dot off the line was air, a triangle was fire, and a V was water. Feel free to use your own symbols.
The answers to the riddles imply the four elements (earth, water, fire, air) and the two energies (positive and negative). If the ‘inverted T’ is folded up like a cube, the opposing elements are on opposite sides.
When the tiles are recovered, deciphered, and arranged in a cube in the order shown on the tablet, they merge and become the “MacGuffin” that the party seeks.
Arrange the tiles improperly, and the cube explodes (though the tiles themselves are unhurt), damaging everyone who is trying to assist in the process. (In Savage Worlds terms, a 3d6 Large Blast Template.) The party managed to get it right the first time (despite perfectly mis-identifying the tiles – 50% chance), and ended up with their MacGuffin.
I use hand-outs all the time. My most recent one was an “invitation” to a grand party being held by a wealthy merchant, which was by invitation only – it had ornate script, flourishes, a map on how to get to the merchant’s manor, graphics of real peacock feathers to dress up the invite.
Once the party arrived, I had the holder of the invitation present it a bouncer at the door, who inspected the invitation for authenticity, noting that at least one invitation was discovered to be a forgery, and they were just making sure.
Which was a discreet way of saying that uninvited guests may be in attendance and the PCs could expect some conflict to occur and to be prepared for it.
I thought that was a fun way to use a hand-out.
I’m deffo using pseudo-Saudi on my next prop… which will occur in my next adventure.
I spent a Bennie to reroll my HTML, and edited the image to act as a link to a larger version. Now you can kinda-sorta see the fonts better.
Hehheh! Well done that GM!
I’m currently running a Call of Cthulhu campaign set in 1923 that will link the Keith Herber classic “Dark Carnival” from the Chaosium publication “Curse of the Chthonians” with the Corbitt starter scenario from the rulebook.
The fun has been linking the Wyatt and Corbitt families in an Unholy Contract that was agreed on in something like 1740, then – and this is the good part – making the players piece the story together from the remnants of diaries kept by their neighbors (no church weddings means no family bibles or registers). Not only have I chosen distinctive fonts to print these partial entries (over 50 of them so far and there’s more coming their way), one font per diarist, but each diary page fragment and legal document has been aged in the toaster oven until the players run a real risk of having them disintegrate under too rough handling, and the edges have been set afire and allowed to smolder into satisfying ruin.
It gets better. All documents have been Chaucerized “Mr Corbytt rowde owt thys morn in fyne arraye” etc etc. Better still, I found fonts that support the fancy “f”-like “s” character and did some regex replacing. (I’ve since granted the players clemency and allowed the more recent diarists to spell stuff with a standard “s”, as the players were beginning to cry every time they got a fistful of clues).
I never hear anyone ask why Mythos Tomes take so long to read now, on account of they think I might answer by giving them a real one to read.
This is a REALLY cool idea! I’m going to have to start collecting some of these articles for the fiancee! (He’s also my usual GM… XP)