Some Random (and Some Not-Random) Spellbooks

A spellbook, naturally.

Over on Twitter, a lovely community member by the name of @the_escher asked after a list of spellbook descriptions – did I, or anyone else, know where to find a great big list of random spellbooks and grimoires of all kinds to coax the creative juices in the right direction? I didn’t have all the answers, but a couple people managed to offer a few helpful hints besides and in the end I offered to write a few up.

Rather than merely write down a couple of individual, complete ideas, I started typing lists of words down and before you know it I ended up with a bunch of roll tables to generate spellbooks. Well, I say spellbooks, but that’s a very limiting term unless we’re very loose with it, so what I actually wrote was generators for Things What Hold Spells. Books, scrolls, bones; y’know, wizard stuff.

Anyway, hopefully this works for someone out there who needs to describe a wizard’s trove in a hurry! Use one, use some, use all; there’s really no wrong way to use this.

Table I:

1d20
Initial Descriptor
1
Singed
2
Blood-stained
3
Damaged
4
Burnt
5
Moldering
6
Warped
7
Mysterious
8
Foreboding
9
Moth-eaten
10
Soggy
11
Wine-stained
12
Smudged
13
Illegible
14
Incomplete
15
Crinkled
16
Waterlogged
17
Damp
18
Ominous
19
Torn
20
Faded




Table II:

1d20
Type/Material
1
Book
2
Leaves
3
Clay Tablet
4
Scroll
5
Slate
6
Vellum
7
Pottery Shard
8
Scalp
9
Slab
10
Linen Cloth
11
Bamboo Staves
12
Ivory Disc
13
Wax Tablet
14
Birch Bark
15
Bone Plate
16
Stone Cube
17
Obsidian Glass
18
Parchment
19
Silk
20
Hide




Table III:

1d20
Additional Materials and Features
1
Brass Bindings
2
Embossed Decorative Borders
3
Horn Inlay
4
Crude Illustrations
5
Velvet Case
6
Silver Thread
7
Tightly-Wound Twine
8
Ribbons
9
Dangling Rodent Skulls
10
Gilded Edges
11
Short-Hand Marginalia
12
Pressed Flowers
13
Golden Seals
14
Bloody Handprint
15
Runic Trap
16
Constellations
17
Leather Case
18
Iron Clasps
19
Exquisite Illustrations
20
Human Face





Table IV:

1d20
Noteworthy Secondary Features
1
Naturalist drawing of a plant not found on this plane.
2
Hums a dizzying tone.
3
Powdery coating that tingles the skin.
4
Sticky. Very sticky.
5
Fine flower petals.
6
Surface ripples when touched, as if water; it is solid.
7
Seems to twitch in and out of focus whether you look at it properly or not.
8
Covered in dead bugs.
9
Geometric inscriptions filled with electrum.
10
Neon orange spiderwebs criss-cross it.
11
Halfway discolored.
12
Burn mark in the shape of a hoof.
13
Royal seal.
14
Anatomical drawing of a six-limbed, asymmetric demon from the Chaste Hell.
15
Crackles with painless static.
16
Purple stain that smells of hot vomit.
17
Complete fish skeleton included.
18
Emits a high buzz when touched.
19
Glows a faint, clean, very unnatural blue.
20
Lewd remarks of a very different, modern penmanship.



Table V:

1d20
Scent
1
Mildew
2
Cinnamon
3
Copper
4
Earth
5
Pine
6
Citrus
7
Ammonia
8
Vanilla
9
Musk
10
Petrichor
11
Sulfur
12
Smoke
13
Anise
14
Basil
15
Lilacs
16
Bleach
17
Grass
18
Dung
19
Garlic
20
Seawater




Table VI:

1d20
Location/Circumstance
1
Clutched in a skeleton’s hands
2
In a locked box
3
Out in the open
4
Sitting in a puddle of disgusting fluids
5
On a shelf
6
Hidden beneath loose papers
7
In a discarded backpack
8
On a desk
9
Beneath a pile of wizardly robes
10
Over a grave
11
Under a grave
12
Floating in midair
13
Under a piece of furniture, holding it level
14
Wedged in a skull’s maw
15
In a pile of filthy trash
16
Within a creature’s belly
17
Atop a tall object
18
On a lectern
19
Beneath a religious altar
20
In an alcove



Table VII:

1d20
Previous Owner
1
Morgard the Mad, whose love of teaching ants to talk eclipsed all else.
2
Erowid, elven herbalist and sagacious master of the secret groves.
3
Sorphentenaxx, a beholder whose goblin servants make terrible scribes.
4
Vistok, dread necromancer of the blackened lands; ancient and corrupt.
5
Ordogad the Forgetful, who cannot recall why he gained fame in the first place.
6
Ordogad the Forgetful, who cannot recall where he put this mighty spellbook.
7
Ordogad the Forgetful, who cannot recall how this book came to be his at all.
8
Lorenna of Marth, sorcerer-queen; her handmaid took it by mistake years ago.
9
Honest Madoleen from the desert city of Spathus; made a bet and honored it.
10
Uthir Pelodan, advisor to good king Rickard; misplaced it on a journey.
11
Juliana Faust, a witch and devil-worshiper with a score to settle.
12
Rogelio von Istenschard III, a rich man but a piss-poor excuse for a wizard.
13
Ruthalazed, dragon cultist; claims to be 1/16th draconian on his mom’s side.
14
Young Philip; either a child prodigy or the luckiest random scribbler alive.
15
Iriax the Cruel, demonic researcher of spectral tortures for the Vile One.
16
Sergio 7-S; a wanderer who crossed over from the Rainbowlands.
17
Hord the Kind; innkeeper, cook, and fan of barter economy.
18
Olav Nine-Wives, perished shortly after declaring his intent to take a tenth.
19
Zor, eldest of his line, great shaman of the people of the valley.
20
A pile of screeching kobolds squabbling over their shiny prize.



If you used these all in order, you might end up with something like a Singed (i) Ivory Disc (ii) with Constellations (iii), which Emits A High Buzz When Touched (iv) and Smells Like Cinnamon (v), discovered Floating In Midair (vi); with signs pointing to it previously being owned by Honest Madoleen (vii). Ideally, this combination of odd bits of information gives you enough to go on and may even inform as to which sort of spell(s) dwell within this powerful object.


A spellbook can take the shape of bamboo staves.



But, just in case these randomized tomes (and assorted similar spell-holding-objects) are not enough, here’s some bespoke dork-things I have just written up for @the_escher and anyone else who needs a spellbook for their table:

1. The Femur of Log-Urakkh, Ogre Priest – A flat plate of bone chipped off of the massive femur of an ogre shaman after his untimely demise due to a cask of elfwine and a bridge built for humans. It is bleached an off-white, it smells faintly of bacon, and it causes sneezing in those who look at it too long. It contains the spells Hold Person, Light, and Magic Mouth.

2. Gorgeous Teo’s Diary – A wire-bound book of thick parchment pieces. Its edges are gilt with an uneven, amateur quality and the whole of it is balled up in a burlap sack tied with string. It contains daily nonsense and gossip, hundreds of scribbles of “Mr. Teo Marshtoad” with hearts in blue ink, and also a hastily-copied scribble of Speak With Animals.


Or your spellbooks can be scrolls.





3. The Puzzle-Box of the Magi – A complicated, ever-shifting stone cube which rearranges itself at least once an hour. Its smooth surfaces constantly feel dusty but leave no trace of dirt on your fingers. Depending on the arrangement of its pieces, it reveals either complete gibberish or one of the magical incantations for Web, Cure Light Wounds, and Reincarnation. The last spell almost never comes up.

4. The Clattering Stack of Lei – A series of thin, flat boards, clasped together at their edges by bronze hooks decorated to look like a thousand fish scales. The stack can be folded back and forth on top of itself, noisily, for storage; or it can be unfolded back and forth, noisily, and its incredibly accurate (if stylized) depictions of devil worship and summoning can be read. If the drawings are treated as instructions, they result in the casting of the spell Summon [Lizard] Swarm, which is actually just a rambunctious pile of iguanas and kind of underwhelming since the beings in the drawing all look like Godzilla.


Is this the Puzzle-Box of the Magi?



Anyway, hopefully this incredibly hasty blog article published at 2100 on a Saturday night finds somebody who needs it!

If you wanna chat about unconventional spellbooks, the coolest spellbooks in your games, or generally talk about why I should learn Sanskrit or Sumerian cuneiform to make my drawings cooler, you can find me over on Twitter where I talk too much under the pseudonym @DungeonsPossums. I hope to hear from anyone who gets some use out of this!

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