The Library of the Dead is a non-combat encounter site for a party of any level. While not a quest, the library is a unique and interesting place to send your party. The library puts a creepy spin on the idea of how knowledge can be stored in the D&D multiverse. While written with D&D 3.5 edition in mind, the site can be adapted for Pathfinder, 4e, or any fantasy themed game. The library can be dropped anywhere and is suitable for parties of any level.
Background (for the DM)
The librarians of the Unsul Library pride themselves on knowing a little bit about everything.
The Library of Unsul started as the pet project of a worthy noble that placed scholarship above all else. As the youngest son of a large noble family, the scholar, whose name was Regulus Unsula, had little chance of inheriting his father’s title (or responsibility) so he was free to commit his time and money to his passion, books.
Regulus’ zeal for books bordered on obsession. He would buy any printed volume he could find. Merchants started coming to the Unsula estate from all parts of the country for a guaranteed sale from the young noble. Soon Regulus had more books than he could house and purchased an empty building in the nearby town to store his books, thus starting the first Unsul Library.
Mages and scholars from all parts of the land came to the library to study, but several years after the library opened it burned to the ground in a terrible fire. Whether the fire was an accident or an act of arson was never determined. Regulus was so broken-hearted and distraught that he dropped out of normal society and joined a monastery dedicated to a god of knowledge. During his studies in divine magic he learned the ability to speak with the dead. This new skill caused an epiphany, and Regulus left the monastery and began to rebuild his library, this time stocking it with life experiences in place of written words. He was said to have remarked to a fellow monk, “Imagine being able to question a book for clarification.”
Regulus is long since dead (though some rumor lichdom), but his Library of the Dead continues on by a loyal group of neutral cleric followers.
The Library of the Dead is a circular building made from white marble a set of large, iron doors are the only entrance. The library is without decoration and has no windows. The inside of the library is dark and cool. Dim magical torches cast only shadowy illumination and give off no heat. While touted as one of the greatest libraries in the land, the central chamber holds no shelves and no books can be seen anywhere; instead marble altars circle the room, each about three feet high and roughly seven feet long. Atop each altar lays a humanoid in purple robes that appears to be sleeping. White robed monks can be seen moving about the chamber wordlessly attending to their daily chores.
A DC 5 spot check reveals that none of the humanoids’ chests appear to be rising or falling with breath and that they are in fact dead.
A DC 15 Spot check reveals a white-robed monk touching the forehead of one of the dead humanoids with a slender wand shaped from a piece of willow.
A DC 5 Heal check reveals that the deceased humanoids appear to have died very recently as no signs of decomposition has started.
A DC 18 Spellcraft check reveals that these corpses are under the effects of a Gentle Repose spell. There is no telling how long they have been dead.
Moments after the pc’s enter the Library a human man with a shaved head and neatly trimmed grey beard approaches. He is Joran, the head librarian. Joran explains that the bodies on the slabs are all scholars that have volunteered their bodies after death to continue to provide knowledge to those that seek it. Joran says he will cast Speak with Dead and allow the pc’s to question the corpse. He explains the costs as listed below:
2 Questions- 150 gold
3 Questions- 200 gold
4 Questions- 250 gold
If the party has a caster able to cast Speak with Dead, Joran allows them to do so, but charges a flat fee of 50 gold.
Once the party has decided how many questions they wish to ask and on which subject, Joran leads them to the appropriate scholar’s body (playfully referred to as “Books”), selects a wand from his robe and uses it to evoke the spell.
Some players may express a moral objection to this rather bizarre library, if so, Joran explains that all the “Books” volunteered for their strange interment, and that the spell only accesses memories trapped in the corpses mind and that the actual person’s soul has gone on to the afterlife.
A DC 10 Sense Motive or a DC 18 Spellcraft check will reveal that he is telling the truth.
The following is a sample of possible corpses usable by the DM, though DM’s should be encouraged to create their own that better fit with their campaign’s feel.
Durvis Brokenhammer- An elderly Dwarf with dark grey hair and beard, Durvis is an expert in dungeoneering, appraise, architecture, mining and history.
Kelvin Cooper- A middle-aged human with short brown hair, Kelvin was/is an expert on all things arcane. Having been a mage for his entire adult life, Kelvin can answer all but the most obscure arcane questions.
Jellania Darkpast- A beautiful tiefling woman with long dark hair parted by small grey horns, Jellania is an expert on all matters of dealing with the planes.
Bruja Greenmoss- A dryad, Bruja resembles a small, lithe woman with moss-green hair and skin like tree bark. A druid in life, Bruja is an expert on all things related to nature.
Darkon Thrane- A gaunt elf with sunken cheeks and a pale hairless body, Darkon is an expert on dark magic, demons, cults, and religion. Darkon was a wizard and a cleric in life and understands the workings of both divine and arcane magic. He is knowledgeable on all matters dark and evil.
The actual number of “Books” in the library is up to the DM, the above-mentioned were just a small example of what could be found in the Library of the Dead.