I’m jumping ahead a couple years now to Dragon Magazine issue #162.
I’ll be spending the next several days exploring the Cryptichronos, a book of foul necromantic magic that appeared in the Bazaar of the Bizarre column, this item by Christian Bok. You get the book itself today. I’ll be adding the unique spells in the coming days.
Ancient legends relate that an evil sorcerer named Azirian once summoned a black ship from a distant land far across the ocean, a ship loaded with a cargo of terrifying artifacts, among them the Cryptichronos (also known as The Hidden Tome, in reference to its ancient origins, and as The Book of Horrors, for more obvious reasons). Scholars agree that Azirian must have gone insane when he read the grimoire, for he tried to use its powers to summon a beast he claimed could destroy the world, then fled with the book into the earths catacombs, where he surrendered his will (and his body) to the hunger of the illithids.
No more is known of the Cryptichronos until it is mentioned 500 years later in the journals of the wandering mage Adjazzet, who discovered the book in a rusted, subterranean vault and managed to record some of the books contents before also going mad, committing suicide by ingesting green slime. His apprentice Olmoroth inherited the work and used it to become the tyrannical ruler of a dying city; however, he eventually lost the book (and his life) in a necromantic duel with a vastly superior opponent, possibly a beast from the lower planes.
The present whereabouts of the Cryptichronos remain unknown, and wise men fear that the book may have fallen into wicked hands. Anyone finding the grimoire is encouraged to destroy it for fear of someone unleashing an unspeakable horror upon the world. Indeed, this latter possibility may have already happened.
Description: The book consists of 19 pages of vellum bound with silver wire to two thin plates of obsidian that bear no identifying marks or inscriptions. The plates measure two spans by three spans in size and are especially resistant to chipping and grazing. The obsidian surface is darkly reflective, and Adjazzet writes that eerie, phantom images sometimes appear in the plates and then immediately vanish. No one can decide for certain what these swirling, shadowy images are, but glimpsing them is extremely disconcerting to the viewer. Those who gaze for over a minute at the covers must make a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw or become affected with the frightened condition.
The first page of the book depicts an illustration of a laughing skull burning up in violet flames. A magic mouth is activated whenever the book is first opened to this page, causing the skull to speak in a heretofore unknown language, perhaps the one indigenous to the land of the books origin. (A spell such as comprehend languages provides the following rough translation: “Curse the thief of secrets! Let him know his heart’s corruption! What he reads here is the writing on the walls of his own tomb!”) When the magic mouth intones this weird message, the opener of the book must make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or become afflicted with a rotting disease. This disease is usually fatal. The effects of this disease are similar to achieving a level of exhaustion. Each month, the victim must make another DC 15 Constitution saving throw, with each failure the disease worsens (and another level of exhaustion is added). The course of the disease can be halted only by administering a cure disease spell or a heal spell. While so afflicted, a person cannot respond to any other cure wounds magic, and you do not recover hit dice during a long rest. Once the magic mouth has been activated, it never speaks to the same individual again, although another person opening the book may hear the message and possibly suffer its ill effects.
The next 16 pages of the Cryptichronos contain various spells, one spell to a page. The exact content of these pages remains unknown (so that each DM may design the book to his liking). The tome is rumored to include not only such familiar magic as animate dead and Evard’s black tentacles, but also such exotic magic as creeping darkness and wall of bones. At least five of the spells in this section are known to be completely unique, never before seen in any other volume of magic.
The last two pages of the Cryptichronos describe the drawing of a special pentacle used in the summoning and binding of extraplanar creatures. The textual description, written in the language spoken the magic mouth, is accompanied by actual rendering of the pentacle a rendering that acts as symbol of insanity to all who look upon it.