100 Bookshelves

On June 1, 2006, Posted by , In Campaign Workbook, With No Comments

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Bookshelves are some of the most common elements of a dungeon setting, but for many adventurers, little differs between the shelves of a wizard’s tower and a city bookstore.

Although it would be impossibly time-consuming for you to detail each feature of every bookshelf the PCs encounter, describing merely one shelf can make an entire library a memorable location. Whether it’s a Celestial romance novel or a pickled halfling head, presented here are 100 ideas for what might rest upon any bookshelf, from the highest reaches of the royal archives to the ancient dressings of a lich’s laboratory.

Random Bookshelves

  1. The “books” here are actually a disguised drawer.
  2. Miniscule claw marks crisscross this shelf.
  3. This shelf’s books are sopping wet.
  4. Dried gore encrusts the shattered jars that cover this shelf.
  5. Several rows of tightly rolled scrolls rest here.
  6. Numerous framed anatomical sketches line this shelf.
  7. This shelf is filled with heavy tomes, each detailing a different creature, some real, some imaginary.
  8. A worn box of soil filled with thick yellow grass covers much of this shelf.
  9. Two pictures—one of a small girl and the other of a bifurcated skull—face each other here.
  10. The worm-eaten texts upon this shelf fall apart if disturbed.
  11. More than two dozen prayer books written in Celestial fill this shelf.
  12. All of the books on this shelf contain only pictures.
  13. The pages of the books lining this shelf have all had their corners trimmed off.
  14. This shelf has been fitted with sheets and a small pillow to make a tiny bed.
  15. A simple hourglass and a large, origami lily rest with the books upon this shelf.
  16. The small texts here fill less than half the shelf’s height.
  17. Three delicate porcelain dolls in elegant lace dresses sit patiently upon this shelf. Each of their faces has been deliberately sanded off.
  18. A thick green-white fungus has overgrown the numerous tomes here.
  19. Here librettos from several well-known dwarven operas collect dust.
  20. Books constructed of copper plates and perforated with Terran text line this shelf.
  21. This empty shelf is caked in thick layers of multicolored melted wax.
  22. A long smear of red-brown ichor obscures many of the titles here.
  23. Several dozen copies of the same priestly chapbook line this shelf, each extolling the virtues of the benevolent church of Wastri.
  24. Rats have chewed a tunnel through, and created a nest within, the books here.
  25. Bookends stylized as rampant lions rear at both ends of this shelf.
  26. Numerous roots and budding leaves sprout from this shelf.
  27. Several handwritten plays fill a number of quartos upon this shelf.
  28. Three massive history books fill this shelf, each almost a perfect 2-foot cube.
  29. Three rows of skulls, each from a different creature, rest here.
  30. A horizontal wooden rack for a curved sword sits empty upon this shelf.
  31. Three stacks of neatly folded shirts and pants lie here.
  32. Two dozen volumes of excessively sentimental poetry fill this shelf.
  33. Numerous holy writings line this shelf, each defaced with childish and offensive charcoal drawings.
  34. A thick steel panel and sturdy lock protect the tomes here.
  35. Numerous bottles of unlabeled multicolored liquids cover this shelf.
  36. A tome encased in a thick block of ice lies here.
  37. Hundreds of pages of mathematical calculations are crammed tightly into this shelf.
  38. A large aquarium rests here. Although murky with algae, bubbles irregularly break the water’s surface.
  39. This shelf has collapsed, spilling its contents onto the shelves and floor below.
  40. Dozens of crudely made stuffed animals cram this shelf.
  41. This shelf is lined with books of poorly written fiction.
  42. This shelf glows if any books are taken from it, providing enough light to read by.
  43. Nearly two hundred thin, brightly colored folios line this shelf.
  44. Pungent vanilla potpourri covers the tomes here.
  45. Three hat boxes sit here, each containing a mummified kobold head.
  46. An ancient atlas lies open here, the maps within bearing no resemblance to the known world.
  47. A sculpture of a dismembered human torso divides the books on this shelf evenly.
  48. The books on this shelf are organized into perfectly fitting vertical stacks.
  49. Eighteen years of ledgers from a profitable butcher shop fill this shelf.
  50. A “Dear John” letter, written in Goblin, lies here.
  51. Vast portions of the history books here have been cut out.
  52. A collection of halfling cookbooks fills this shelf.
  53. The journals here are scrawled through, repeating the word “betrayer” countless times in dark red ink.
  54. This shelf is lined with simple reading primers.
  55. Tawdry yellowed romances form stacks upon this shelf.
  56. The books on this shelf have all been reduced to ash.
  57. Several travelogues, written in Infernal, sit neatly upon this shelf.
  58. Maps of the local region line this shelf.
  59. Numerous rolls of papyrus outline a particularly harsh code of laws in Draconic.
  60. A collection of delicate, spotless wine flutes stands upon this shelf.
  61. Books placed upon this shelf don’t age, molder, or grow dusty, and can’t get wet. Two ancient tomes that look practically new attest to the shelf’s properties.
  62. The fragments of four shattered marble busts lie scattered here.
  63. This shelf is filled with boxes of various kinds of fresh fruit.
  64. The books here are all made of large white leaves.
  65. This shelf has been converted into a miniature shrine to Wee Jas.
  66. Any book taken from this shelf immediately bursts into flames.
  67. A particularly libidinous autobiography penned by a well-respected noble lies here.
  68. Several detailed family histories line this shelf.
  69. A dozen miniature ships in glass bottles are displayed upon this shelf.
  70. The texts on this shelf comprise an extensive medical library.
  71. This shelf sags under the weight of a dense iron safe.
  72. Numerous tomes of outrageous and wholly faulty arcane theories fill this shelf.
  73. Death records from a nearby town, dating back nearly a hundred years, line this shelf.
  74. Hundreds of tiny glass animals stand in frozen silence here.
  75. A collection of geodes and shiny rocks shimmers upon this shelf.
  76. Several large clam shells, etched with the names of onlookers, are displayed here.
  77. This shelf is filled with a variety of treatises on mining and blacksmithing.
  78. All of the books on this shelf are fake, being nothing more than wooden carvings.
  79. Covering this shelf is a collection of aerial navigation charts.
  80. This shelf holds two complete quasit skeletons, each mounted on a stand.
  81. This shelf is padded, but otherwise empty.
  82. Several detailed maps of an unnamed island lie in tight rolls here.
  83. A dozen cookbooks focusing on ways to prepare horse sit here.
  84. The grimoires upon this shelf are each bound in the stitched skins of sentient creatures.
  85. Glass tubes run between pieces of alchemical equipment on this and adjacent shelves.
  86. Piles of insect carapaces lie between the books on this shelf.
  87. The text within the books here only reveals itself to creatures of lawful alignment. Readers of other alignments see blank pages.
  88. All of the books on this shelf are upside down.
  89. Although the tomes on this shelf are titled, the pages of each are blank.
  90. Filling this shelf are dozens of bottles, each filled with a tiny humanoid skeleton.
  91. This shelf is splintered inward, with books crushed into its wooden backing.
  92. This shelf has no back. A cramped alcove lies hidden behind it.
  93. Upon opening a book on this shelf, a disembodied voice begins reading from the text.
  94. Numerous display bottles labeled “danger” lie shattered here, some with fresh, wet trails of goo leading from them.
  95. A deck of disturbingly illustrated cards wrapped within a silk scarf lies here.
  96. An ornate metallic skull floats upon this shelf, rotating to watch passersby.
  97. Opening any book on this shelf targets the reader with a random cast-level spell from the sorcerer/wizard spell list. The opened book crumbles to dust after the spell is cast.
  98. A row of scrapbooks filled with patches from children’s clothing line this shelf.
  99. This shelf bears a massive book with a strange starlike rune emblazoned upon the cover.
  100. The text within the books on this shelf changes each time they are opened.

BY F. WESLEY SCHNEIDER
BY KYLE HUNTER