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Rating: 4.2692
Condition: Normal
ID: 3591


October 2, 2007, 6:38 pm

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Cheka Man

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De Librorum


I don’t know if I posted about it before, but I have always wanted to run an adventure set in a library. The following is a sketch of an unusual premise and a possible plot-hook.


Carusmetus’s nervous finger groped through the dust like polyps. They alighted on the spine of a book, "How to Survyve, Volume I: Cavernes and Undergrounde Playces". That’d do. It dropped into his sack and he dashed off between the bookstacks.

His mind raced as he weaved his way down and down; had he all the books he needed? Speleology, safe-cracking, first aid…they were all there in his sack. He hurtled along the empty corridors of the Great Library and down its voluminous stairwells. At this time of night there was no-one to mind his hurry.

The black door of the Dark Magik department eyed him warily from the far side of the reading room. Breathlessly he approached and whispered his business to it. The door winked and eased open and he flung himself into the rooms beyond, lit by black candlelight. What was the classmark he was seeking? "DM04.b.567.900"

The other man watched Carusmetus from behind the shelves, and only pursued when the wizard had gone far enough into the shadow that he wouldn’t see he was being followed.


Carusmetus stood by the shelf. He lifted down the leather-bound magicbook and wiped the dust off to reveal the classmark. "DM04.b.567.900" Perfect. He stopped breathing. Was that a cough he’d heard? A dry and horrible cough, as if someone unused to the thick and dusty atmosphere of the Library was standing nearby. Or was it just some sleepless books? He only managed a tiny yelp before dying. He dropped his sack and his head lolled bleeding horribly on the floor.

The PCs

Meanwhile, inside the sack sit an unusual combination of books, all listening to the unpleasant incidents outside. Upon the wizard’s death, all hell breaks loose - the books of Dark Magic on the nearby shelves awake and begin their disturbed yowling and caterwauling.

The player characters are the books in the sack, with titles instead of names and abilities according to their contents. For example, "How to Survyve, Volume I: Cavernes and Undergrounde Playces" (or "Volume I" to his friends) is a fairly stereotypical dwarf-like character (small, sturdy, leather-bound and quite dog-eared). A manual on first aid might be a clerical-style character; a book on safe-cracking might be a thief; a newspaper might be a bard; a textbook on martial arts would clearly be a sleek paperback ninja.

The characters must escape unharmed from this dangerous area of the library (with many worrying books like "The Curse of Lycanthropy" or the terrifyingly non-specific "Grotten’s Bestiary" which can take on the abilities and manner of any of the beasts listed within), and then work out WHY the wizard was murdered and WHY he collected such an esoteric set of books in such a hurry.

I like this idea, because the PCs themselves are clues in the mystery…

Possible solution to the mystery

The Tyrant King, sick of opposition from the city’s Scholars to his warlike foreign policy has decided to punish them by destroying their dear library. He has discovered of the secret caverns beneath the Great Library and intends to put a large pile of explosives there, to demolish the building in a "freak magical accident". Perhaps Carusmetus was a traitor who revealed the existence of the caverns to the King, who then repented and decided to try and prevent the plot himself (hence the strange selection of books - to help him in his quest). The King, anticipating this, sent an assassin to deal with him.

Technical details

So, roleplaying a book should be fun (though perhaps only in a bizarre one-off session) - books have personalities and they could really be exaggerated. A pompous author would lead to a pompous character, maybe? But how do books attack? How do they move?

* Clearly they move by opening and closing to crawl along with their spines upturned. Books such as "Birds of Northern Myoleria" or "Flight for Beginners" will obviously be able to fly (by flapping).

* Armour-class should correspond to the quality of binding (e.g. leather binding would be like plate-mail, but paperbacks would be vulnerable).

* Attacks would be by snapping, buffeting, giving paper-cuts, maybe diving and swooping. I recommend putting together some complex eight-way rock-paper-scissors system to resolve combat (as it’s a one-off session you can afford to experiment!). So each book would have a limited number of ways of attacking (e.g. snapping and buffeting; or diving and swooping) and would also be able to dodge. For example:

DODGE beats BLUDGEON,SNAP,SWOOP and avoids damage
BUFFET beats DODGE,DIVE,SNAP for 3 points of damage
BLUDGEON beats BUFFET,CRUSH,CUT for 4 points of damage
SNAP beats BLUDGEON,CUT,DIVE for 3 points of damage
CRUSH beats DODGE,BUFFET,SNAP,CUT for 6 points of damage
CUT beats DODGE,BUFFET,SWOOP for 4 points of damage
SWOOP beats BUFFET,BLUDGEON,SNAP,CRUSH for 3 points of damage
DIVE beats DODGE,BLUDGEON,CRUSH,CUT,SWOOP for 4 points of damage

(WARNING! This is just an entirely made up and untested example; it’s best that you tweak it - it’s just to give you an idea of what I mean.)

Inventing hand gestures for these attacks could also be fun.

* Hit points could correspond to number of pages. Iain suggested that abilities could be lost with pages (for example, if you lost your page on "how to climb really steep walls" and had to climb a really steep wall, you probably couldn’t do it. I figured a sensible way of keeping track would be to have a number of pages for each skill equal to your percentage chance of success in that skill. Then, as you lost pages (hit points) you’d actually randomly lose skill percentiles and when you reached a certain level of dog-earedness you’d fall apart, ready to be sent to the bindery.


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Comments ( 17 )
Commenters gain extra XP from Author votes.

Voted Strolen
January 15, 2007, 20:30
Well, I have heard some odd ideas before but....

First thing I would do would be find a book of levitation. Solid 3 from me for the game idea as it is a perfectly acceptable idea, just weird.

Bonus points for the fun idea on the shape/type of book defining the character and his strength. I thought that was great. Also awesome hearing the library come alive with a murder. Even if you don't use this idea as a game in itself, you could use then entire theme in a normal game and location.
January 15, 2007, 20:37
"Even if you don't use this idea as a game in itself, you could use then entire theme in a normal game and location."

- The characters walk into the library. The black magic section is alive with activity! Dumbfounded, our heroes look on as five books cross their paths, crawling along as though on a divine mission!
Voted Shadoweagle
January 15, 2007, 20:35
Ha! I love it!

Course, there are probably things to work out. Why would the books want to find out why these events happened?
How do they open doors, climb stairs, and simply do pretty much any action if they can only open and close? How the spork are a couple of books gonna stop a human plot to destroy a museum?

A small side-thought - perhaps one of the books the thief had was the index to the library. Which could mean that whoever plays the index will have a good knowledge of all the other books. Perhaps knowing weaknesses and such. I can see the index bieng very 'high class', thinking it is better than the others :D

First players running around as mice in the Kingdom of Mus, and now we have them inch-worming along as books! Brilliant!
Voted dark_dragon
January 15, 2007, 20:47
Brilliantly wacky! (in a 5/5 way)

Although I probably wouldn't run this as a campaign (maybe a christmas special?) i think the idea is smashing and highly original, and it would be a lot of fun to play.

As Strolen, the book title and contents defining the abilities is a definite highlight.

title: magikal diskordance
title: On dragons, their ways, their culture.
title: The game of chance: How to ruthelessly bend the odds in your favour.
title: The love of a butterfly (dramatic love story)
title: The armory of the gods.
title: DnD Book of Vile Darkness

edit: The INDEX! That is a brilliant idea!
Voted Cheka Man
January 15, 2007, 23:01
I love this idea-so orginal.
Voted Chaosmark
January 15, 2007, 23:41
Only voted
Voted the Wanderer
January 16, 2007, 9:14
I'd like to see this tweaked and fleshed out a bit.

It kinda reminds me of that movie "Pagemaster"...
Voted valadaar
January 16, 2007, 10:20
One of the most unique subs I've seen on this site!
Great job!
Voted Scrasamax
January 16, 2007, 12:34
Who really knows what goes on in the library after the lamps are extinguished? Certainly a novel concept! I like it.
Voted Iain
January 16, 2007, 13:08
An awesome idea, just as I said when you first told me - glad you posted it up!
Voted Ancient Gamer
January 16, 2007, 13:46
Jeeesh. I think I am getting old. You were the reason I signed up on this site, ephe, but this was not to my liking. Perhaps it is just me having trouble playing anything but logically explainable PCs. I think so. I have always had problems stomaching too "high magic" explanations.

Then again a medieval peasant would probably feel the same way about roleplaying steel automatons powered by machinery (robots).
January 16, 2007, 14:38
AG, if you think this is strange, read Vespae:

This isn't Ephe's first venture into the territory of non-humanoid role-playing (though I think this one is much better than Vespae)!
Voted Murometz
January 16, 2007, 14:17
Heh, nice. Quite original and as you mentioned, a great one-off, loopy session. Book titles/authors provide limitless possibilities for giggles all around.
Voted manfred
January 16, 2007, 15:33

If a serious explanation is desired, you can add another book, forgotten on some bottom shelf, without a life of its own... the blood of the dead wizard has bled on the book, and, accident or not, it has started to release the souls it has once consumed (or maybe it is simply a gate to The Other Side(tm) ). As chance has it, the souls were then 'reborn' in the most ensouled objects around - books - and may slowly begin to remember the most faint memories of their lives. Whether the book will simply release them all, or unleash a plague of zombies on the world in the end, remains to be seen.

Still high-magic, but I hope it's logical enough, the dark touch is a bonus for AG. Is that sufficient? :D
January 31, 2007, 4:42
Thinking of this, you might just treat the whole concept as a curse, or people reborn into books. And when they actually save the library, they could be made alive... a bit too high-magic, I know, but if there is a god of knowledge or libraries, it is not too far off.

So the players will define their new characters, and the GM will introduce them as... books. Once they save their world (the library), they become normal PCs.

Voila, a weird start of a new campaign.
Voted Pariah
January 16, 2007, 21:03
Like everyone has said before me, very interesting, either as a one off session, or something your group uses on an infrequent basis to break from the monotomy of hack and slash/dungeon crawling.
October 2, 2007, 18:46
Now this a "dungeon" of a different kind! BUMP.



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