Essential Works

On May 1, 2005, Posted by , In Campaign Workbook, With No Comments

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Dreams live in books.

Essential Works Random Books for DND Campaign Dungeons Dragons Campaign Workbook D20 Pathfinder Fantasy RPG TTRPG Dungeon MagazineBooks represent doorways into a multiverse of worlds. They can entice the imagination, delight the senses, and chill the heart. Books possess their own special kind of magic. It is this magic that sets them apart from most other forms of dungeon dressing.

Random Books to use in Your D&D Campaign

When a group of PCs stumbles upon a library, a bookshelf, or even an isolated volume carelessly tossed upon a villain’s night table, they often spend a moment or two skimming the pages. Each of the books detailed below comes with a description and a built-in plot hook, enabling you to use them as springboards for further adventures, or just to give a bit of color to a forgotten bookshelf.


The pages of this musty book are mottled with dark, yellowish water spots. Its cloth binding creaks each time a page is turned, and it seems to be a magnet for dust and mildew. The book itself recounts a series of mildly amusing adventures that befall a young man as he makes his way though a bustling fair in a market town called Cliften. The story includes chapters about a talking bear, and being turned into a mouse and drafted as a wizard’s familiar.

Eventually, the story creeps to its inevitable conclusion where the hero finds himself reunited with his one true love. The author of the book, evidently impressed with his own mastery of the Common tongue, crams all sorts of unnecessary words into the story.

Anyone making a careful study of Well Met in Cliften might (DC 15 Spot check) notice all sorts of tiny marks under some of the words. A more thorough investigation (DC 25 Search check) allows the reader to identify the marks of several different inks, enabling him to isolate a number of competing streams of words buried within the text, The book is in fact a key to a numerical code based on the page number, line number, and then specific word on that line. Each ink mark denotes an earlier attempt to decipher a message in the code. PCs who enjoy word puzzles might gain several strings of words to try to piece together into coherent sentences while those who favor intrigue gain the enmity of whatever group uses the cipher and intends to keep its secrets close.

Well Met in Cliften: 2 Ibs.: 75 gp.


This book contains a number of thick, water-stained pages crudely stitched together between two plates of crumbling shale. The title, chiseled on the front cover, slopes downward as it advances across the page. Handwritten in Common, with numerous spelling and grammatical errors, Turtho’s Chronicles describes a series of signs and portents preceding some terrible calamity. Perhaps the ravings of a madman, perhaps a desperate attempt to make sense of the incomprehensible, the final page contains a crude sketch and description of a creature that anyone making a DC 20 Knowledge (arcana) check recognizes as the Tarrasque. “Turtho’s Chronicles” actually does present a fairly accurate description of the signs preceding the Tarrasque’s rise. In fact, the book is accurate enough to greatly offend a nihilistic cult that worships the monster they refer to as the Chosen of Chaos. They have managed to destroy the entire original print run of the book, along with nearly everyone who read it. Only a few crude copies remain. The minions of the cult continue to hunt for these copies and the blasphemers who have read them. Depending upon the scope of the campaign, this could evolve from an occasional skirmish with assassins and bounty hunters loyal to the cult to an eventual attempt to prevent the next rising of the Tarrasque itself.

Turtho’s Chronicles: 3 Ibs.; 150 gp.


This thin, portfolio-sized book contains a number of excellently rendered color portraits of influential humans from several centuries in the past. Each picture comes with a full page of text in Elven on the opposing page explaining the significance of the person depicted. The regularity of the text and the fine detail of the pictures suggest some sort of manufacturing process was involved in the book’s creation. Despite the book’s apparent age, several of the people depicted in it are still alive. Ata minimum, the pictures show people who strongly resemble important NPCs from the current campaign world. This could represent anything from a strange coincidence to a secret cabal of immortals. These might be humans using some unknown magic, or shape-changing monsters (such as rakshasas) playing out a complex game over the centuries.

Faces of the Age: 3 Іbs; 450 gp.


This thick, leather-bound book reeks faintly of a chemical laboratory. Spidery script written in a dialect of Infernal outlines a detailed, step-by-step process by which a mortal may mingle his essence with purest evil and transform himself into a fiend. Starting with inoffensive rituals such as the cutting of flowers beneath the light of the full moon, the book gradually leads its reader down an increasingly blood-curdling path. Culminating in the orchestration of a great act of cruelty such as engineering a war or a famine, the sheer body count needed to complete the ascension ensures that only the most ruthless, powerful, and depraved reader has any hope of success. The Rites of Ascension may or may not actually work, but what matters is that the forces of evil certainly believe it does. Anyone reading the book that pays attention to gossip and current events (Knowledge [local] DC 15) notices patterns in the behavior of certain NPCs and the organizations they lead. Eventually, it becomes obvious that that someone is following the procedure outlined in the book. This advance knowledge gives the PCs a chance to anticipate the Уайт; next move and an opportunity to thwart his evil machinations before they come to fruition.

The Rites of Ascension: 4 lbs. 750 gp.


Pages of elegant, creamy white paper lie tightly pressed between two burnished copper plates. Ornate runes stretch across the front and back cover of this book, which proudly bears its title in fancy script. The interior contains a selection of mouth-watering recipes, all written in Common and most requiring some sort of monstrous body part as a critical ingredient. Since many of these recipes demand ingredients from intelligent creatures such as unicorns and centaurs, it’s evident that a truly gluttonous and wicked person penned this cookbook. While a book itself is non-magical, the front cover of Exotic Cuisine radiates an almost undetectable aura of transmutation magic. Careful examination of the cover, requiring both a detect magic spell and a successful DC 15 Spellcraft check, reveals a magical inscription made by some more potent version of the arcane mark spell. The inscription reads: “To Lord Tempest, long may the Trenchermen feast!” This single clue, hinting at some sort of secret society of powerful and amoral gourmands, offers a glimpse into the decadent underbelly of the ruling class. By itself, this book is enough to draw the ire of both the members of the Trenchermen and those who simply wish to preserve the status quo.

Exotic Cuisine: 6 lbs., 1,200 gp.