“It’s In a Book” is the theme for December 2017’s RPG Blog Carnival. Books — and the libraries that hold them — drove the later half of our Obsidian Frontier campaign, leading us to explore the written word in the World of Greyhawk campaign setting.
It began with the players. After 30-odd chapters in the campaign, we’d hit a natural break point and folks decided to try out some different character concepts. We introduced three new adventurers:
- Darogan Ferventfire (human male): a Knight of the Book and Paladin of Delleb (the Oeridian god of Reason, Intellect, and Study).
- Rinnadar Tinugelydh (elven male): a scholar and eldritch knight from the elven kingdom of Celene.
- Zaphrym (gnome male): gnome sorcerer obsessed with magical tomes. “Zap” was a former librarian with stewardship of an arcane nobleman’s collection.
Given this focus on the pursuit of knowledge and the written word, it only made sense to introduce the founding of the Library of Obsidian Bay as a major story arc.
Enter the Librarians
Obsidian Frontier is a prelude campaign set 80 years before our long-running Blackrazor Guild campaign. It tells the story of the founding of the frontier city on the savage, monster-infested peninsula of the Pomarj. Part of the fun of the campaign has been fleshing out the history of the world, and the Library was no exception.
In the Blackrazor Guild campaign the Library was a notable building inspired by the fantasy libraries of Harry Potter and A Song of Ice and Fire — it had dedicated librarians who frowned upon frivolity, the obligatory Restricted Stacks and even more obligatory Forbidden Tomes. It served as a repository of arcane and historical knowledge for the campaign, a go-to place for wizards, clerics, and others seeking obscure knowledge.
Obsidian Frontier explained how the library came to be. I drew inspiration from historical private libraries — as a frontier town, Obsidian Bay barely had a government and no standing city guard; it wouldn’t make sense for the fledgling town to have a publicly funded library.
Instead I introduced the Obsidian Bay Library Company, a citizen-led effort to bring a private, world-class library to Obsidian Bay. In addition to creating a first (or at least second) tier institution of scholarly research, the Library’s Restricted Stacks would provide a way of dealing with the growing problem of evil, malign, or otherwise troubling tomes, spell books, and scrolls being discovered by the city’s adventuring class.
The founders of the company are:
- Master Edumond Pagewright (male human) is an esteemed bookwright known for his lovingly handcrafted editions. He is formerly of Gradsul in Keoland, where he earned a small fortune crafting illuminated family histories for the nobility.
- Lady Holder Matilda Matterhorn (female human) is the learned wife of Lord Holder Fillip Matterhorn, a notable rancher. A handsome woman in her fifties, she hosts a weekly salon in her family’s in-city manor house.
- Librarian Eldrid (female human) is a belligerent scholar (The “d” is silent you know-nothing muscle brained excuse for a sentient being) intent on protecting idiots from secrets they weren’t meant to know. Formerly of the Royal Library of Keoland; she left there because the head librarian was a pompous ass with no real understanding of the value — and danger — of knowledge.
The players were introduced to the Obsidian Bay Library Company through a gala dinner at Lady Holder Matterhorn’s manor house. There they learned that the Founders’ goals were twofold: 1) acquiring enough funds to break ground on a new building and 2) recruiting agents to act on their behalf around the Pomarj, securing rare books before foolish adventurers or nefarious villains are able to.
Two tomes were of particular interest to the founders:
- The Manual of the Ironbound: Crafted by the clerics of the Steel Skull Mercenary Company, this tome explains how to create a particular variant of flesh golem that’s been reinforced with bands of iron. The Library’s founders are intensively interested in acquiring the book, a golem created using it, or (preferably) both.
- The Ghostbane Scrolls of Ryda: The Ghostbane Scrolls recount how the hero Telan and his warband hunted down a sect of necromancers intent on unleashing an undead plague upon the land. These necromancers wielded a powerful crystal skull, which Telan shattered in his climatic battle with the sect. He then hid the fragments throughout the Pomarj in an attempt to prevent them from ever being found again. The Ghostbane Scrolls may provide clues as to the location of these fragments; it is also strongly implied that if these fragments could be found and re-assembled, they would open a gateway to the lich-haunted Fading Land of Necros.
Rivals to the Library
The Librarians weren’t the only ones interested in acquiring ancient books and knowledge. They had rivals in the city who
Wynn Dawnsong (female human bard) is the leader the Obsidian Bay chapter of the secretive Seekers of the Arcane. Her agents seek to find many of the same tomes as the library, only they want to use that knowledge to untangle the ancient mysteries associated with them (up to and including using said relics to achieve that greater understanding). This applied scholarship is at odds with the library’s more cautious approach.
Lithorion Neverlost (male half-elf) is a cartographer and information broker who specializes in providing intelligence to adventuring groups. What the library wants to collect, he wants to sell.
The Library is a essentially a huge repository of adventure hooks. The following web resources inspired the Library and its future contents.
- Fading Lands: Crypts of Iron Souls: A Wizards of the Coast write-up on one of the Flanaess’ lost demi-planes.
- Oerth Journal 10: The Fading Lands: The Maze of Skin & the Mines of Dumathoin: Fan-created demi-plans for the World of Greyhawk.
- The Mythic Geography of Greyhawk: Legendary places within the campaign setting.
- Court of Rings: A Fading Land ruled by the fey. Avatars of the Seelie Court are said to hunt there, and the Cat Lord is said to have a bower on the plane.
- Mines of Dumathoin: “A bizarre Fading Land where the roles of organic and inorganic life are reversed”
- The Most Beautiful Libraries in All 50 States: Inspiration for describing the look and feel of the library (once it’s built of course).