Books and libraries are a dominant inclusion in the world of fantasy role playing games. They are often used as a source of information, magic, and adventure. If you are gearing up for a campaign, side quest or need a one-shot idea, then perhaps we can help you out with an idea or two that will inspire your upcoming game.
Before we dive into our subscriber and member submissions, here are five basic ideas for one shots or quests that involve books:
- The characters are tasked with finding a lost book of spells.
- The characters must stop a villain from stealing a powerful book from a library.
- The characters are transported into the world of a book and must find their way back to reality.
- The characters must solve a mystery involving a cursed book.
- The characters must find a way to break the spell that has been placed on a library.
D&D One Shot Ideas – Books Edition Part 1
Over 35 One Shot Ideas – Side Quests for Books in TTRPGs
You find a book at the back of a shop and when you read the inscription inside the cover it comes to life, floating into the air. It tells you that an evil [choose a baddie] has trapped its mind in this book and it needs your help getting its body back. It has book/paper related abilities to help you in the mean time.
Magical book that imbues words written in it with power, but the power is limited. Words written and then read out are brought to life. The more elaborate, the shorter the duration. This book falls into “the wrong hands” and they are trying to increase the power to “rewrite” reality.
A strange black book with strange and eerie symbols is found in an old library. The book is filled with scratch and claws marks and depicts strange bestial creatures. Reading the book out loud summons cat versions of multiple DND creatures. The name of the book? Nekonomicon
A librarian/shopkeeper comes into work every day and finds that the books are all rearranged. They reset them back to what they “should” be, but it keeps happening. Is something trying to send a message? Should some books not be kept together?
Wealthy homeowner contacts party: the books in their library are ‘attacking’ anyone who enters. Flying across the room with significant force. Some bibliomancer sprite is upset that the majority of the library is just ‘fake, empty books’, and needs to be calmed (or killed).
BrightEyes (Janelle) writes:
A picture book with pictures of different places around the world. Each has a magic word on them. When the word is said it sucks you into the scene where you have to complete a task to get out. Could be used for multiple one shots.
The party is tasked with retrieving a large, omniscient tome that records its own history, including everything the party does/says in its proximity in real time.
Mayeto writes: Paper Dragon. The adventurers find a mysterious book that transports them inside. The world is similar to a video game (Paper Mario) where they learn they can “shapeshift” or fold to different origami pieces to solve different puzzles and find a way out of the book.
David (DeMorcerf) writes:
An eccentric antiques shopkeeper has a notebook/diary for sale, making vague talk of the quality of the empty book. However, if a player looks closely at the pages the day after purchasing, they will notice someone is writing ominous terse suggestions after their own entries. Entries from (a) restless spirit(s) trying to guide the party to a problem…
Finding a Hag’s book of Grudges… The players read their names scribbled in it. Having never met the hag, they attempt to return the book, to solve the mystery…or a self-fulfilling prophesy?
Due to the Fey’s Rule of Reciprocity, she will begrudging owe the players for returning her lost property. They could call in the debt to at least find out why she’s mad at them.
You enter a dungeon (or wherever) and find a chest with a book inside. Only the book has no pages (or at least the pages you need), they’ve been ripped out. You need to find the pages elsewhere in the dungeon (or world) to use the book for it’s needed purpose.
(To be fair this could be the basis for an entire campaign)
Drunken Yoda writes:
A book that details how this dragon without a breath weapon came from nowhere, destroyed towns, murdered other dragons and disappeared. A savage beast that killed for the fun of it, nothing could penetrate its hide, a dragon with millions of razor sharp blades around its body and millions of teeth. This is a story right? Then why is it happening again and is the legendary weapon made to kill it detailed in the book real?
Some calamity has befallen the land, and an ancient ritual must be performed to save everyone. However, each of the 3 (variable) main religious orders have holy books that speak of the ritual, describing it in incomplete detail. Can your party sort out the proper procedure such that things don’t backfire and destroy everything?
A band of Kobolds fleeing an Evil Wizard’s tower set themselves up around a pond near a small village. They can provide information to the PCs about the wizard’s motives and defenses, but they want something in return: The PCs must negotiate the rights to the land near the pond on behalf of the kobolds. The local farmers are not at all happy with their new neighbors, and want them gone….
An apprentice steals some valuable tomes from his master to impress a group of necromancers. Adventures are hired to get them back.
Zombies of the Drunken Wizard – Zombies emerge from open portals all over town. A drunken wizard unleashed them in a fit of rage and his spell book to undo it all is in his locked tower. Retrieve the book and dispel the portals before the town is destroyed.
A thief steals a valuable book from a mage. The book curses him and forces him to release some ancient evil, while the mage hunts after him to get it back.
The Ten Thousand Copy Book is an secret book that is, actually, split in 3 parts and needs every correct part to be properly read, to reveal a secret information, location and spell.
Balcamion’s Book of Belicose Balloons – a colorfully decorated book with whimsical balloon creatures on the cover is left behind by a traveling circus in a town the adventurers visit. Two youths have gone missing after reading the book, which is a portal to a demiplane of inflatable mayhem, where balloon monsters are vulnerable to piercing and immune to bludgeoning damage, and they try to smother you.
A noble patron is looking to hire a discerning party under the table to quietly retrieve a book, asking that it be obtained before anyone has time to read and share it, including themselves. (The patron’s motive is that the book details family trees and lineage that suggest the patron is not who they claim to be — are they a fraud, a very old undead, or some other secret?).
No one knows who built the city (even less is known about the buried and winding layers of ruins beneath it). In the archives of the city scholars, a tome in cryptic codes of unknown languages of the ancients has a handwritten translation note in the margins suggesting a prophecy that darkness will come and consume the city.
Deneir god of books grants a vision of the future: a Thayan death knight with a handful of undead wants to steal a book from a secret library and kill all the librarians. The party needs to plan ahead and stop that from happening + find out why they need that book. The book has information about a former Thayan wizard who went rogue.
A giant’s magical pop-up book. The party has to go through a series of illusionary encounters as the giant turns the page
A book has the compelled spell in it. A voice urges the player to turn the page, each time releasing another summoned monster. Literally the unleashing the monster manual.
Some village children have found a book buried in the woods while playing. They open it and it starts to transform. They’ve unwittingly unleased the Bibliogolem! Can you save the village from destruction and countless papercuts?
A town has it laws enforced magically by power drawn from a set of ‘law books’ which are kept by the town council. Only now one (or more) books have been stolen and crime is starting to become a problem again. Find the stolen book(s)!
A wizard had one (or more) volume from his arcane encyclopedia stolen (or lost and taken). The party will encounter magical obstacles all starting with the letter of the missing volume.
The city is buried in an arcane blizzard. Everything is coated in ice. All Roads & Rivers are blocked. A curse that was put upon the village that occurs every 7th solstice. The frostbitten magistrate reveals the only remedy is in a book, found in the now frozen library. Get to the book and thaw it without harming the pages.
I’ve always wanted to do an adventure based on the “monster at the end of this book”…only less cute.
Somehow…once opened the book is compelled to complete itself. It needs brainstorming…but the goal The players create various obstacle to prevent the turning of the next page. To block the preordained monster…
In a library/bookstore, a large shelf falls (pushed?) onto the party. They “dig themselves out” but they are in an alt reality and have no gear, just the books. They need to use ideas from the books as tools/concepts/etc. to allow them to escape. Turns out they are unconscious in a collective dream. (Limit/theme the books they have to work with. They can only carry a limited number of books, so choose wisely)
A traveler leaves a storybook in a village as they pass through. As people read it, they are so captivated that they start to fade from reality, being sucked into the story. Eventually it has captured many people and others are starting to worry. Can your party enter the story and defeat the spirit which is capturing the villagers. (Alt version: only their minds are captured, leaving their catatonic bodies)
A sea of Knowledge: The party is aboard a ship, when a cabin boy fishes a book out of the water (Literal hook). It is in surprising, good shape. When the cabin boy reads, it tells a story of seafaring vessel that undergoes trials of sea. A tempest, a sea monster, mermaids, zombie pirates…
The chapter reveals a weakness or solution. If they want to know how it ends they must keep reading. Yet every chapter reveals another threat:
- If they stop reading, something happens anyway. And the solutions become difficult to find during the ordeal.
- If they skip ahead the pages are wet and stick together.
- If they destroy the book, the ship begins to sink. Damage to the book translates to damage to the crew or vessel
- If they throw the book away, it appears in someones cabin.
- If they abandon ship, a chapter reveals the fog of starvation.
The book is not complete until they are shipwrecked. At which point the survivors can wash up on the shore of an island and find treasure. As it was written. Possible Solution? send the cabin boy or reader(s) along with the book…away.
One trope I love is people searching for an ancient artifact that nobody has actually seen.
Said artifact has some red herring of a name like “Hephaestus’s Anvil” or something to that extent “named after the powerful warlord/leader/sorcerer/etc. who used it to [insert world shaping results here].” But it turns out to be a book that doesn’t directly achieve the results spoken in legends, and instead contains cyphered knowledge or deeply religious texts.
A quest I ran was an antique collector asks the party to find an ancient tome from a nearby ruin. He directs the players to under no circumstances open it but refuses to elaborate.
One of my players was a bibliophile so of course as soon as they get it, he opens the book and unleashed a curse on the party of an unrelenting spirit that drained experience the closer it got. It couldn’t be harmed by traditional means and the players had to search for a way to quell it without harming it.
One time I had the party come upon a town where people and livestock were disappearing. A deranged mage scholar had a Pnakotic manuscript that linked him to an ancient kraken hoping to expand its reach and power to a godly level. The book led him to start opening a portal to the kraken’s domain and changing people into fish-like Slaad-ish folk.
(The warlock player used the book to perform a ritual to close the rift while the other players battled tentacles coming thru and deranged minions in the flooded ruin. The kraken then had a connection to the warlock, who could try and use the manuscript to essentially attempt Divination/Contact other plane via the kraken’s mind at risk to his own psyche becoming enthralled.)
How about a one shot based on Mordheim/Shadespire from Warhammer? The party are chasing someone but they unwittingly travel through an invisible portal into this other realm. This is a twisted, alternate reality version of a city that’s infested with undead, spirits etc. They have to find a way to get out, back to their realm. Maybe have to end up working with the one they were chasing. In lore, Shadespire is actually located in the Realm of Shyish, which is Nagash’s realm of the dead, so very creepy.
I have one written that I have live streamed before. I call it ‘The Show Must Go On’. The party have been asked by a well known travelling bard, who’s in town, to meet her just after her matinee performance. She wants to travel to an old abandoned outdoor amphitheatre that used to be very well known. Have the party check out the place and report back to her (she will be camping at the nearby long abandoned town). But, as the party enter the place it shifts to an alternate reality and only the amphitheatre exists here. There is a scene from a play frozen in time on the stage. The actors appear spectral but are not moving. In short, the party have to find certain props that are missing and complete the scene so it can play out and shift back to the reality they came from.
That’s all today! Be sure you subscribe to the Wally DM Youtube Channel and keep your eye on the COMMUNITY Tab if you would like to see your name and idea in a future Wally DM one shot ideas video!
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