d100 Book and Tome Descriptions

As your players’ characters walk into the sights and smells of a mage’s study, the dust and silence of a sage’s library, or the forbidding cages of a demon’s infernal bookstore, they glance around and straightway ask what the books they can see look like.

But what if the only answer you have prepared is the description of the one you want them to find, plus perhaps a couple of decoys? What do you do if they start to drift along the shelves or walk around the tables stacked high with volumes? Are you ready answer their questions? Were you were rushed when setting up the adventure? Did the author add enough detail? If so, worry no more!

Below are descriptions of 100 types of books and tomes. Use them to grab the attention of your players’ characters and to help flesh out the atheneums, bibliothecas and literature repositories in your adventures. Some are obvious, some are uncommon, and some are outlandish! While most the books are not magical in themselves, some only exist thanks to the efforts of casters, and the contents themselves may just be information rather than magical as well. Unless, that is, you decide differently…

  1. Extremely thin sheets of jade have raised dots of emerald going from top-to-bottom and left-to-right across the first 29 of 37 pages. The dots are almost impossible to see, but easily felt.
  2. A slab of opal, eight inches by five inches in area and two inches thick, has line of onyx running through it in three dimensions. If different colored light is shone through the block on each of the four sides, the onyx lines reveal different information. Nothing is shown if light passes through the front or back of the book.
  3. A half-dozen individual scrolls are rolled in together. Each is covered with a series of hieroglyphic-like images. However, some images, clearly the same subject, are drawn in assorted styles. The degree of formality must reflect the seriousness or humor of the information.
  4. 128 four-inch-by-two-inch scrolls each have six calligraphy symbols on them that form two sentences. Unfortunately, they are stored in a random order. The book must be reconstructed before it gives up its information.
  5. A block of rice paper, 12 inches by six inches by less than half an inch, can be unfolded ten times to become a single sheet some 32 feet by 16 feet. It is covered by nine-inch-tall calligraphy symbols.
  6. A handful of tiny taxidermied deer sit on a shelf with a tag saying “Y nit reed” attached to the left antler. If the stitching under each creature’s stomach is unpicked and the hide reversed, the contents of these “books” is tattooed inside the skin.
  7. A large wooden crate holds around thirty pieces of broken stone, each with a cuneiform inscription. The stones are a jigsaw in effect, and while not difficult to piece together, the task is time consuming.
  8. A shelf holds a score or so papyrus codices. Unfortunately, the covers are as thin as the pages, and removing a single book is difficult as the dried sheets have become almost locked together as cracks have appeared over time. Four great volumes that present two arguments – e.g., good vs evil and law vs chaos – from opposing viewpoints. When reading each double page spread, information about the side of the argument the writer supports is on the left and the side they oppose on the right.
  9. This is a treatise that clearly supports one viewpoint over another. Whatever the writer considers trustworthy is set in gold; anything thought of as illegal, indecent, dishonest, or untrue is scribed in varying shades of gray depending on its level of heresy.
  10. Nothing about this book is recent: the binding is failing; the cover is desiccating; the pages are crumbling; the text is fading; the language used is an ancient dialect long forgotten. But the information is about events that happened just a few months ago.
  11. This tome has the same contents repeated 13 times. It is a series of poems that, as you read them, draw discordant tunes into your head. It is a set of hymnals for a fell
  12. This hymn book has a light and airy feel to it. When its contents are read, any words that consist of only letter from A to G sound those notes.
  13. This is either a catalog of strange and outlandish weapons, otherworldly armor, and war machines from distant planes or it is a work of laughable childish fiction. A handful of pages have still-sticky red fingerprints on them.
  14. A single shelf some 30 feet long has thousands of sheets of extremely thin-but-firm card on it. There is an image of some type of flora or fauna on one side of a page and a list of one hundred pieces of information about whatever is pictured on the other. The sheets sit in alphabetical order. If removed, a page only goes back in its intended place.
  15. This shelf holds three-dozen 11-by-8-by-half-inch glass boxes. Each box has a small plug in one end. If a plug is removed, the “reader” gets a whiff of a Plane and learns 1d3+1 pieces of information about it.
  16. The books here all have an epigraph inscribed across their front covers. The quotations come from once-pre-eminent but now-forgotten experts on the book’s subject.
  17. The covers of these books all have a maze on then. When read, the books’ contents are initially straightforward to follow, but quickly become convoluted and written for just a few experts.
  18. The pages of this book are blank until touched. Then words appear, but not always the same ones to different readers. The book seems able to phrase its contents to match the beliefs of the reader without challenging their conceptions.
  19. The language used in this book somehow matches the mood of the reader at the precise moment they read it. However, the contents remain the same whenever they are read.
  20. The cover of this enormous tome has several hard-to-open locks on it. Which locks open and what material is revealed depends on the experience of the user.
  21. The pages of the books in this trilogy are stuck together. It takes a careful user to get any to split apart. A reader then finds that the pages they open in the first volume dictate which part in the second; the second influences the third. This changes with every use by a reader.
  22. The first page of this tract has “Give Thanks” on it. If the reader does not do so, the text shifts and slides around the pages leaving the user confused.
  23. If this book feels that that the reader is not worthy of its contents, the most useful pages begin to fade out of existence, although this is difficult to detect.
  24. The contents of this code make no sense unless you possess intelligence and wisdom. Specialist subject knowledge also helps overcome this unintelligibility.
  25. The contents of this codex are unreadable unless you possess both intelligence and wisdom. Specialist subject knowledge also helps overcome this illegibility.
  26. Once past the first few paragraphs, the information in this short folio grows steadily more nonsensical, as if written by a buffoon for the gullible. In fact, the work expects the user to persevere to the end of the 64 pages, when everything becomes clear.
  27. From the opening handful of lines, it is obvious this opus is deliberately written in a manner that makes it difficult to read. However, each rereading enhances clarity; it turns out the book must be finished five times to fully understand it.
  28. On first perusal, the reader understands 10% of this book. If they go through it again, the guide attunes itself to the reader and 30% of it becomes clear. A third read-through leads to a 60% understanding, and fourth guarantees full knowledge.
  29. It is difficult to tell who wrote this manual, or who it is written for, but many of the key words are replaced with direct icons, e.g., a cloud for a cloud or a sword for a sword.
  30. It is difficult to tell who wrote this edition, or who it is written for, but many of the key words are replaced with “remainder” iconography (e.g., a puddle to represent rain, smoke for a fire).
  31. It is difficult to tell who wrote this booklet, or who it is written for, but many of the key words are replaced with abstract icons, e.g., a woolen blanket when a cold evening is the subject or a cloak with a hood if rain shower is being discussed.
  32. This pamphlet is only a dozen pages long but is written in four different languages. The language used changes at the end of each page.
  33. This scroll is just 200 words long, but each one is a different language or dialect. Consequently, it means many different things to those who even browse its content.
  34. This quartet of primers constantly refer to each other in a confusing manner. But if you persist and read them in the order they direct, the four become one informative guide.
  35. This shelf supports a set of encyclopedias. Unhelpfully, none of them indicates what it covers as every title page, contents page and index is missing. Even the covers are devoid of guidance.
  36. Once you start reading this flimsy brochure, it becomes incorporeal if you mentally question or disbelieve its contents. However, the “stout of heart and mind” can read it without difficulty.
  37. If, as a reader works through this book, they do not understand it, the writing fades and the contents reappear in a simpler form. Unfortunately, each simplified version holds less useful information. After five “reprints” the book vanishes.
  38. Only the right-hand pages of this textbook have writing on them. The left-hand pages have an image of the author that speaks the words, although their voice is only audible if they are looked at directly.
  39. Only the left-hand pages of this volume have writing on them. The right-hand pages act as a form of mirror. If the reader looks at them, their face appears speaking the words on the left-hand page.
  40. The contents of this book are a challenge to understand. However, as the reader grasps their meaning, the words fade from the page, never to reappear for that user.
  41. The pages of this large and heavy encyclopedia reflect the topic on them, e.g., when the subject is trees, the pages are bark; information on wounds is written on bandages; details about armor is scribed into thin metal sheets.
  42. Seventy scrolls describing assorted creatures are written on the hide or skin of subject. Slightly disturbingly, this includes when humanoids are the topic.
  43. In a cold, dark corner of this repository, eight strange tomes are arranged at different heights and distances around a central lectern. They bulge in the middle, the covers straining, but the edges of every page are tattered and wispy. As time goes by their positions move around the lectern.
  44. Each book in this set of 23 each discusses a single moral topic. Arguments for and against the subject are presented from the viewpoints of the nine major alignments which makes them startling to read.
  45. An entire bookcase harbors more than 200 tracts on natural substances. Somehow, the pages of each text feel just like the material described within it. Many have the weight of the subject matter as well.
  46. A shelf of guides discusses the elements and para-elements. Amazingly, the pages feel exact like the specific element, despite this seeming to be impossible.
  47. A cupboard is home for numerous sets of three books, each tightly bound with copper bands. One book of each trio is pristine, one is degrading, and one is so coated with mildew and spores it is almost unopenable. The position of each in a bundle varies.
  48. This line of books is in perfect condition at one end and virtually unusable at the other. The state of other books is reliant on where they sit. If a book is moved to a new place and left for 24 hours, its quality improves or worsens depending on where it is put.
  49. This pile of books is in perfect condition at bottom and virtually unusable at the top. The state of other books is reliant on where they rest. If a book is moved to a new position and left for 24 hours, its quality improves or worsens depending on where it is placed.
  50. Not matter what the weather outside this archive, the humidity within it is always 100%. As a result, the pages of everything held here are cockled, curled, and crinkled. A user must take great care with every book.
  51. The writer in this library was clearly petrified of water damage as every text is written in iron gall ink. Unfortunately, much of the paper and parchment used by the sage has disintegrated, rendering most of the publications difficult to full decipher.
  52. A globe of natural light was trapped somehow in this vault so its contents could be read. Now, many of the works are faded at best and bleached at worst.
  53. Every book in this Stygian library clearly has not seen natural light in centuries. The text in all of them looks as sharp and legible as the time it was inscribed on the bone-white pages. The shadows have kept them all near-perfect.
  54. The dyes used in these tracts and tomes repel liquids. Holding them with bare hands is impossible, as even the slightest moisture ensures fingers are rebuffed.
  55. The dyes used in these pamphlets and portfolios absorb liquids. Holding them becomes painful as bare hands and fingers quickly begin to desiccate.
  56. The dyes in these books were used to fend off insects originally, but over time they have become more concentrated and now resist any creature holding them.
  57. These ancient books all have the stale aroma of something organic. The bindings are eaten away, and investigation reveals they have all used glues made from substances such as fish scales, honey, sap, potato starch and other similar materials. If the books are taken, the scent lingers with the carrier.
  58. Despite the age of this sage and the initial look of books, every edition is in perfect condition. They all have a permanent mending spell cast on them that activates both at dawn and whenever they are handled.
  59. Despite the abandoned nature of this repository, all the works stored here are in extremely good condition. They all have a permanent animal friendship spell cast on them to stop vermin and critters from boring into or gnawing on them.
  60. A teak box holds two dozen ten-inch-long strips of different metals. Each strip has a thumb print-shaped indentation at both ends. If held by these thumb prints, a strip projects its contents in a twenty-inch space above it. The projections all look like scrolls.
  61. Every item here is titled “The Handbook of …” and has a sponge rectangle beneath these words. If the sponge is wetted, it gives off the aroma of the subject matter. A smell lasts for a minute or so.
  62. Every item here is titled “A Guide to Locating Hidden …” and has a two-inch diameter, half-inch deep bladder of air beneath these words. If the bladder is pressed, the air rushes through a tiny valve and the sound of the subject matter is heard for six seconds.
  63. A vast series of brochures detailing the clothing best suited for various tasks, regions, ceremonies and so on. All have bone pages and covers that are the same cloth as the vestments require.
  64. This basic library is full of books that are the same shape as their subject matter. Despite the childish appearance, the contents are all dense treatises that require an expert to understand fully.
  65. A long shelf with a distinct space for every letter of the alphabet has one volume on it: the letter Q. Once per day however, if the book is placed on another letter its contents change. It needs to be replaced in the original space for 12 hours for this to be possible.
  66. This room is full of piles of leaves. If they are inspected carefully, the browser finds every leaf has something printed on it and that leaves with information about the same subject are strung together with robust strands of spider web.
  67. The shelves here include hundreds of albums describing places about five-miles-by-five-miles square. Study of them reveals each album is made solely of materials from the relevant area.
  68. The tracts in this area are made of substances that are produced from the main subject. For example, a pamphlet on palm trees has a coconut shell and leaf pages, while one on copper has a bronze cover and thin brass sheets.
  69. Every scroll, folio, and codex here is aesthetically exquisite. Hundreds of hours have been spent creating covers and bindings that are works of art. Unfortunately, the contents of the vast majority are turgid meanderings fit only for starting fires.
  70. Every leaflet, periodical, and rolled-up document here is shoddy and worse-for-wear. They all look as if they have been thrown together without any care. However, the contents of every one is exemplary, giving great insight to any topic covered.
  71. Just four magnum opi are kept here. Each is materially precious, beyond parallel in their construction, and hold information of unrivaled quality. Unfortunately, all four are cursed and bring great misfortune upon a peruser for exactly one year after reading.
  72. A handful of the books here have coin slots on them. If a coin is placed in it, it sinks into the volume for one minute, then reappears at a lesser value, e.g., a gold coin becomes a silver one. Finally, the book opens to reveal information to “the value” of the donation.
  73. An alcove labelled “Cofre” homes a dozen highly prized scripts. But these ancient scrolls, written in permanent illusory script, are protected via permanent nondetection in a locked box that has been placed in a hard-to-reach-into cavity hidden in the alcove wall.
  74. A six-foot tall platinum spike has countless fragments of scores of unlikely texts impaled on it. Each piece is eleven-inches-by-eight-inches. Unlikely works such as a tract on fiendish practices written in Celestial, and celestial rituals in Fiendish, can be reformed.
  75. Everything here is expertly written in the “wrong” humanoidesque dialect or patois: Elf rituals in Kobold jargon; Dwarf processes in Giant cant; Drow practices in Gnomish diction; and so on. But if someone converts it back into Common, it is all gibberish.
  76. Everything here is as basic as it could be: primary language; simple punctuation; primitive grammar. Nothing is incorrect, but it all reads like it was written for someone who know nothing about any of the topics covered here.
  77. This place feels like a store of basic, even simple, books. There are 16 on alphabets, 16 on addition, 16 on colors, 16 on shapes, and so on. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, it is the perfect place to learn any of the standard or exotic languages.
  78. All the treatises here, whatever the subject, are written using the 16 standard and exotic languages to the extent that every word is a different language. In some cases, even other dialects are incorporated, which makes understanding the contents a hard job.
  79. Every tract and edition here is written using “hex” symbols. There is one hex for each of the 16 major languages. The hexes are used individually, plus each standard language hex is paired with one for an exotic language to give 24 symbols.
  80. None of the publications here are longer than a pamphlet or leaflet. This is fortunate as all of them are written in the slang spoken in their place of origin, however small. None of them uses a recognized language to convey its information.
  81. Whatever the subject, every tome and volume here is written as a recipe, whether it is a cookery book, potion almanac, or detailed history or what happened and why from the distant past. This step-by-step presentation makes everything straightforward to grasp.
  82. Every guide and brochure here are written as if it is an “old wives” tale. Rumors, gossip, hearsay and grapevinesque suggestion abound! However, if the works are treated as formal guides, they prove to be quite educational and insightful.
  83. This store is ancient beyond imagining. Every edition discusses a subject that is decades old, using language from centuries ago. There is some common sense covered in the texts, but it takes a lot of effort to paraphrase it in today’s parlance.
  84. This store of texts discusses nothing but contracts and local bylaws that are clearly from bygone times. However, despite the world moving on, many of the thoughts found here have a kernel of existential truth.
  85. This religious athenaeum has been vandalized many times, but its nine codices, which are all bound with chains or assorted metals, have escaped damage. If opened and read, the texts are outdated and heretical, although some ideas are returning to canon.
  86. Every edition here is composed in upside-down mirror writing. If any are looked at so the text runs the correct way, the reader quickly develops a severe headache.
  87. Every volume here is written in a code. None are difficult to crack, but if a user does so and then converts the contents to Common, the words begin to crawl off the page and “escape” into the air.
  88. This library is permanently dark; light brought in fades to levels less than that supplied by a candle. However, when a book is used, each word glows softly as it is read. This provides enough illumination to read the text around it.
  89. Every volume and folio here appears full of blank sheets. However, if a page is touched, words can be felt. If these are spoken, they rise off the page to become clear. This also pulls the next word up a little as well, allowing it to also be read.
  90. Many of the tomes held here are in an utterly dead tongue. However, when a cover is held, hundreds of small pins pierce the holder’s fingers and a voice inside their head translates the words into a language they can speak.
  91. Some of the volumes placed here have a mouth on the cover but nothing on any of the pages. When a book is picked up, the mouth announces the title. Then, when the cover opened, the mouth appears on the blank page being looked at and recites its contents.
  92. The folios in this vast library refer frequently to other works, the names of which are always in blue ink. If a reader places an index finger on these references and says, for example, “Show me” or “Bring it to me,” the new book appears in place of the old.
  93. The editions in this depository refer frequently to other books, the names of which are always in blue ink. If a reader places an index finger on these references and says, for example, “Show me” or “Let me see,” they teleport to the nearest copy for one minute.
  94. A chest holds hundreds of booklets, all smaller than a human’s palm. If one is picked up, it grows to become the size most suitable for the reader. It shrinks to its original volume when it is placed back in the chest.
  95. This tower houses many scores of cloth banners, all about 100 feet tall and one foot wide. When touched, the banner shrinks to become a scroll of a size most suitable for the user. When the reader finishes reading it, the “scroll” returns to being a banner.
  96. In this library, the shelves themselves are the books. Touching one activates it; it rises into the air and becomes a long horizontal scroll across which the text slowly runs.
  97. The volumes here are all one-inch-square by eight-inch-long boxes that become fans with enough vanes to form a wheel. The text is written on both sides of this wheel.
  98. Every tome in this room is a narrow bone tube. When picked up, a thin spike fires out the tube and begins to write on the palm of the holder’s hand. Thankfully, each “book” is only two hundred words long, and the wounds are healed as the text ends.
  99. This study has a couple of dozen square rugs piled up in the center of its floor. They all comprise a dark background and lighter complex geometric pattern. If a corner is touched, a red thread weaves its way through the pattern and forms the contents. Each corner produces different text.
  100. Countless birds live in this colossal (or outdoor) library. There is a single volume on a lectern that proves to be a catalogue. If a title is read aloud, the birds fly like a murmuration of starlings, forming the words from themselves or gaps between them.

d100 Book and Tome Descriptions is just the latest in our long line of d100 random tables. Get in the comments and let us know if you use them!
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3 thoughts on “d100 Book and Tome Descriptions”

  1. Michael Pinkston

    Looks great! I will be using this on my next session. The party is looking for some lore and history on a dead dragon.

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