How familiar is this scenario? Your players’ characters enter an old study, library, or town bookstore and immediately ask what kind of books they find.
The problem is, you’re not prepared to answer that question. Maybe you were rushed in designing your adventure, or perhaps whoever wrote the adventure didn’t bother to tell you.
Have no fear!
Below are 100 titles of books you can use to help flesh out the more literary settings in your adventures. Some are serious. Some are a bit tongue-in-cheek. While none of the books listed are inherently magical, there is no reason why you couldn’t imbue some with eldritch features.
Read through the list and see if any titles speak to you, or roll a d100 to pick one at random and improvise on the spot. Not all titles will fit all settings. That’s okay. Reroll and/or adjust as you need.
The Book of Common Law
The Book of Twelve Seasons
A Journey Beyond the Veil
Raising Weasels With Confidence
What Lights Shine Forever? A History of Sun Deities
A Short History of Dwarves
What Color Is Your Dragon?
Samwell’s Guide to Arms and Armor
The Silent Bard and Other Myths
The Letters of Saint Cuthbert
Secret Doors and Passages (bad poetry collection)
A Journeyman’s Guide to Barrel Making
Basic Carpentry For Complex Dungeons
The Great Extraplanar Hoax
Fungal Crop Rotation For Underground Dwellers
How To Use a Sundial In the Rain
Farming Wheat, Barley, and Giant Frogs
A Caretaker’s Guide to Giant Centipedes
101 Untraceable Poisons
All Giants Great and Small
50 Things To Do With a Dead Lich
Beauty Is In the Eyes of the Beholder
Planning Your Castle Construction
Tavern Management In Rural Areas
The Assassin’s Inspiration (just a hollowed-out book with a dagger hidden in it)
Accidental Pickpocketing and Other Excuses
Spells We Are Still Trying To Make Work
Samwell’s Guide To Wands
The Legend of Tucker’s Kobolds
Potatoes That Resemble Goblins: A Pictorial
Basic Ammunition Accounting for Archers, Crossbowers, and Slingers
Vines: Small, Medium, Giant
Defeating a Heavy Iron Gate
Counting to Ten for Orcs
The Arrow of Benevolent Intent
Thirty Ways To Skin a Dragon
Warlock vs Sorcerer: How To Spot the Difference
Tower Defenses, What Works and What Does Not
Samwell’s Guide To Holy Symbols
Prayers For the Righteous
Identifying Grubs, Worms, and Sentient Fungi
Wyverns, Wyrms, Drakes & Dragons: The Differences
Recipes For Disaster: A Cookbook
A Field Guide To Fey
1001 Things To Do Underground
A History of Thieve Guilds
Weather Manipulation and Farm Management
The Whole Hollow World Atlas
The Great Bird Hoax
The Physics Behind interdimensional Portals, Bags, and Holes
What’s Behind That Door? A Listener’s Handbook
Turnips. The Gods’ Own Gift To the World
How To Make a Lantern Out Of a Skull
Candlemaking for Clerics
Surveillance Techniques That Don’t Work
The Myth of the Useful Bard
Samwell’s Guide To Useless Glyphs
Thieves Cant… or Can They?
Hunting Mushrooms In the Dark
Cursed Idols and Relics of the Desert
Climate Change During the Dark Wizard Times
Airships. An Inflatable History
How To Live Forever—or Close To It
Giant Flowers. Friend or Foe?
The Most Grand Illusion
Daily Affirmations for Tyrants
Hidden Staircases and Secret Doors
Managing Your Giant Vines
How To Get Way With Murder
Poisoned Pens. Allegory or Literal Danger?
Sonnets for Sorcerers
Seven Knights For Seven Dragons
River Navigation Through Magical Forests
A Biological Survey of Gnomish “People”
Mysterious Structures That Glow
Samwell’s Guide To Blue-Colored Potions
The Unlikely Romance of Owls and Bears
Rocks That Sort of Look Like Orcs
Animal Husbandry and Midwifery
Castle Gardens For Long Sieges
Doors That Don’t Go Anywhere and Other Dungeon Tricks
How Green Is My Goblin?
How To Tell a Brew Is True
Cubicles & Commuters: A Fantasy Roleplaying Guide
Explosive Grass and Other Lawn Care Tips
Is Your Spouse a Polymorph? 50 Signs They Might Be
Plots, Intrigue, and Politics
The Book of Uncommon Law
Feeding Your Village On One Enlarged Vegetable a Year
A Simple Guide To Vampires
Unwrapping the Mystery of Mummies
Ghost Stories Written By Ghosts
Samwell’s Guide To Love and Love Potions
The Underground Horoscope
Orienteering Without a Compass
How To Work a Sextant
Fabled Treasures and Monsters
Puppetry For Evil and Parties
What are some of your book titles? Feel free to share in the comments.
Player’s characters travel a variety of terrain when going from hither and yon. Sometimes those routes traverse grand majestic ranges, sometimes rocky foothills.
Don’t expect mountains to be devoid of life or activity. Whether it be mining dwarves, traveling merchants, mad wizards, or ornery goats, this list offers some possible options either for items found or creatures encountered.
Note: Every fifth listed item is actually an encounter you can also use. Some friendly. Some not so much. Just roll a d20 and multiply by five to see who your players meet on the road over the mountain.
100 Mountain Finds
A minotaur’s skull with horns attached and mounted on a pole
A sizable pile of gold nuggets that are entirely illusory and which disappear as soon as touched. (Note: this can be used as bait for an encounter)
A range of thorny underbrush—difficult to pass through— at the center of which is single rose capable of fully healing any and all who touch it. Only works once per month.
[Encounter] A kobold hunting party that has not been very successful and will eat anything (or anybody)
A tree that has been completely stripped of bark
What appears at first to be the entrance to a cave, but is really just some cleverly applied paint to a bare rock face
Three dead ravens that have been chained together at the feet
A stack of seven flat hand-sized rocks balanced atop a twisted tree stump
[Encounter] A human male older than any you have ever seen who can give legitimate guidance to your party. Some call him the Old Man of the Mountain.
A book partially covered by dirt, rocks, and dead brush which tells the story of an explorer attempting to find the source of recent rockslides
A broken sword
A deep crevice within which all sound is muted
A very territorial mountain goat
[Encounter] A small, strange looking humanoid creature unlike any ever encountered before that has the ability to perfectly camouflage itself with its background. Very difficult to detect. It watches and follows for a short time, then leaves without threat or notice.
A narrow path that ends at a sudden drop
A campsite that looks like it was quickly abandoned
A twisted rock pine that has been magically altered to produce fresh apples
A broken sign that says “warning! Mountain trolls!”
[Encounter] A pack of hungry dire wolves have caught your scent!
A message in a bottle from a shipwrecked sailor
A single flower blooming healthily from a small crack in a barren rock face
A thicket of blueberry bushes laden with berries regardless of the time of year
A leather hat someone lost a long time ago
[Encounter] A stone golem blocking the party’s way. It will only attack if the party insists on moving toward the peak.
A sack of potatoes about five days old
A chess set sitting atop a flat rock with two small stumps on either side. The black pieces are about three moves away from checkmate.
A crudely carved wooden life-size statue of a dwarf warrior
A pouch of brightly colored polished stones
[Encounter] A small party of simple merchants and their baggage carriers who have gotten lost. They have minor potions, foodstuffs, cloth, and seed for sale. One merchant has a small pouch with a few diamonds hidden on his person.
An unexpected snowstorm that hinders both visibility and movement. Sudden cold temperatures should be a factor as well. Lasts 24 hours and over an area of about ten square miles.
A small abandoned village. Only the rock foundations and crumbling walls of about a dozen structures remain.
A patch of cultivated herbs native to this mountain region. There are signs of recent tending and the single gardening trowel has been thoughtlessly left behind.
A coil of hemp rope in terrible condition. Unusable and likely left there for a couple of years.
[Encounter] Two bandits around a small campfire who do not notice the party approaching until a sharp whistle signals them to jump up with weapons out. Three more bandits appear from behind rocks and shrub. An ambush!
A fake beard and an eyepatch hidden underneath some thorny brush
A fifty foot wide chasm stretching across your path as far as the eye can see. There is a rickety rope bridge ahead of you. It cannot support mounts.
A bundle of fox pelts that have been exposed to the elements for at least a month
A glass potion bottle—broken
[Encounter] An old and antisocial hermit tending a dozen sheep. He appears to have some Druidic power.
A torn flag featuring a red dragon facing left against a field of green
A roughly fifty foot wide area littered with the pieces of over two dozen humanoid skeletons. Some of the skeletons appear fresher than others.
Along a large bit of exposed rock face, a gigantic stone throne has been carved into the side of the mountain. From top to bottom, it measures just over a hundred feet.
The remains of an ancient cargo ship—long since looted. There are huge holes in the side of the ship that suggest it was once sunk.
[Encounter] A fey child of no discernible gender appears suddenly in front of the party. It utters the word “coin” then promptly disappears. Each party member hears the word in their native language. If the party continues, this Encounter is repeated twice more at roughly one mile intervals.
A campfire still hot with red coals. There are the remains of some burnt rabbit that had once been roasting over it.
A small, natural cave partially obscured by brush. Large enough to shelter up to 6 medium sized creatures.
A broken hourglass
A tall pine tree with unknown runes carved into the bark
[Encounter] A crazed dwarf thinks the party is after his secret gold strike. Oddly, there is no evidence he has found any gold recently. He is armed with a mining pick and will attack the party with little provocation. If subdued and forced to tell the truth, it is revealed that he did discover gold over a hundred years ago, but he forgot where and has been searching ever since.
Three white blocks of marble about two feet across and four feet high block a mountain path from any wheeled conveyance from passing easily
An old mining cart with two missing wheels
A small vein of gold within an exposed length of quartz. GM’s discretion if its total worth and how costly or time consuming it would be to mine.
The entrance to a small silver mine, long since played out and abandoned
[Encounter] A vicious and large hill giant (even by hill giant standards) rages toward the party out of nowhere, its eyes blazing with madness.
A mountain goat dressed in tattered wizard robes. A polymorph gone wrong? A practical joke? Who can tell?
An ancient iron helmet and spear, both rusted and unusable, but of certain value to the right scholar.
A tightly bound leather sack hanging from a tree branch and filled with dried, salted fish
A pair of well-worn boots with holes in the sole
[Encounter] The party comes across an empty logging camp save for one old halfling caretaker. The camp is closed for the season, but he looks after it from time to time. He will offer the party use of the tents, fire pit, and some of his water. If the party has mounts, they may eat some leftover feed for a small fee. He does not have much food to spare as he is due to return to his village soon. He is friendly and unarmed, but he is also very quick and strong for his age, and he is nobody’s fool.
A cart full of acorns and one greedy squirrel
Deep in a ravine, a crashed airship of elvish design
A broken iron cannon of unknown design or origin
The remains of an unlucky adventuring party made up of two human warriors, an elf mage, a halfling rogue, and a dwarf wizard. They came to a messy, tragic end and their bodies have already been looted of valuables.
[Encounter] Blocking the party’s way is a large ogre. It doesn’t move or appear to be interested in the party at all. If anyone from the party approaches within 10 feet of it or successfully hit it with a ranged weapon, the image of the ogre wavers and disappears. As the party considers its options, or if the ogre disappears, they are set upon by five ruthless bandits coming up from the rear. They have with them a drunk, low-level illusionist they have been keeping as a slave to use for creating distractions for potential victims.
A pole set in the ground decorated with crude paint, feathers, the skulls of small animals, and a bundle of sage
A lean-to made of canvas and stout branches. It is large enough for two medium-sized creatures to stay out of the rain. There are signs of a small campfire having once been set up in front of it.
A rolled up piece of canvas, tattered and worn, that shows the most direct path the party needs to take through this terrain in order to reach their destination
A small boulder with the image of an arrow scratched into it pointing away from the path
[Encounter] A holy woman sits at the entrance of a small cave which is her home. She is unarmed and an absolute pacifist. At the GM’s discretion, she has the ability to heal the party, bless items, and remove curses. She could also be used as a source of information or wisdom.
A wooden crate with iron bands wrapped around it. If the party manages to open it, they hear the soft ringing of a bell, but the box is otherwise empty.
A blank wooden sign posted by the side of the party’s path
A woman’s red silk robe hangs from a tree branch, fluttering in the wind
A mysterious orange fog passes through the party. It is harmless, but the fog carries a faint scent of brimstone.
[Encounter] A large black dog growls at the party from a distance, then disappears. The dog reappears two more times over the course of the day, then attacks the weakest party member on its third visit.
A dusty, worn saddlebag with broken straps. Deep in the bottom of the bag is a decomposed apple and a finely-wrought silver ring.
A rolled up tent large enough for two medium-sized creatures. When unrolled, it is discovered that one side of the tent has been ripped by what appear to be giant claws.
Shed red dragon scales litter the ground for the next mile
A crude depiction of a one-eyed giant chiseled into a large bare rock face
[Encounter] The party comes across a large boulder blocking the entrance to a cave. On the boulder is written in dried blood, “Dead inside.” If the party moves the boulder even partly, three hungry ghouls emerge and attack the party hungrily.
A lone pack mule with a broken lead. It is carrying a full load made up of four heavy woolen blankets, ten full waterskins, two camp shovels, five sacks of flour, a cast iron pan, a cast iron pot, a sealed wooden tub of butter, a large sack of potatoes, three dozen carrots, a two-pound bag of sugar, and a box of mixed cooking herbs and salt.
The remains of a halfling adventurer who appears to have fallen from a great height
As the party rounds a turn in the trail they hear a beautiful singing in each character’s native language. It’s a song of love and loss, of strife and victory. As suddenly as the song fades in, so it fades away and does not return.
For a full minute, birds begin dropping out of the sky, stone dead
[Encounter] A glowing apparition of an ancient eleven queen appears before the party and utters great wisdom and prophecies which have absolutely nothing to do with the party or their mission. This goes on for a couple of minutes, then she disappears.
A discarded map to a gold mine that is nowhere near where the party is now. Not even the same mountain range.
A sturdy wooden shack with one wall missing. Inside are three sets of bunk beds and a camp stove. It does not appear to have been used for several months.
Twenty-five pine logs—long and freshly cut—stacked neatly. The ends of the logs are marked with red paint.
A twenty-foot deep round hole in the ground measuring about a foot across. There is no dirt or debris piled nearby.
[Encounter] A nest for two harpies lay just ahead. One is usually circling nearby. If they see the party, they will attack without hesitation.
A dead end. The path stops at a sheer drop of 500 feet to jagged rocks below.
A hammer and chisel on the ground beside a large stone. Chiseled into the stone is “Warning! Gian.” The message looks incomplete.
A pair of broken reading spectacles
A picnic laid out on a red checkered cloth complete with dishware and utensils. Just enough delicious food and drink to accommodate the entire party. The party may save leftover food, tablecloth, and other items, but they will all vanish after traveling one mile. Otherwise, it’s a genuinely offered nice meal with no tricks, traps, poisons, or other nasty surprises.
[Encounter] A group of 16 mountain gnomes are on a foraging mission. All are armed with small crossbows and short swords, but are otherwise peaceful. They will offer traveling info if asked politely. If treated rudely, they will give bad advice. If threatened, they will attack. If a fight lasts more than three rounds, another 16 will appear over the nearest rise to help their comrades.
A small fir tree decorated with colorful glass balls and red ribbons
A bottle of wine hidden behind some rocks. Attached is a nearly-faded note that reads “To Aloysius and Montague. May you find this after I am gone. Yours, Principia.”
A pit trap concealed by leaves and branches. It is ten feet deep and lined with sharp wooden stakes.
[Encounter] A mad wizard has been conducting experimental rituals in these mountains. He is enraged that the party has stumbled across his attempts to enslave a demon lord. He is a big fan of fire and lightning related spells. His scrolls and notes are written in an unbreakable code, but may be worth something to a high level wizard or scholar of the diabolical arts.
Share your favorite mountain find ideas below, in the comments.
A forest can be much more than a simple terrain sprinkled with occasional encounters. A forest exists whether the party is there or not and, therefore, has a life of its own. It is full of animals, creatures both mundane and fanciful, areas of magic and mystery, and places with history.
People have been through this forest before your party, and some may still be in the area. People drop the oddest things in forests.
In your game, you can break up the monotony of forest terrain travel with some of these items. Roll some dice, or just pick out something that seems like fun. Use an item below as described or apply your own twist. It can be a passing sort of thing, or you might decide to weave it into your adventure.
13 straw dolls arranged around a weeping willow
A broken down, abandoned tinker’s wagon
A map showing the route from the nearest settlement to a spot just beyond where the map is found.
A boot filled with water and a live fish.
A silver medallion featuring a crescent moon.
A severed hand holding a rabbit’s foot.
A fairly new pair of children’s shoes.
The crumbling, broken remains of an adventuring party that has been turned to stone. A dwarven warrior, elf sorceress, and human rogue are all in defensive poses.
An oil lantern mounted to a post that casts Zone of Truth in a 15×15 area. Only works in this spot. Oil runs out in 8 hours.
The smoldering remains of a small campfire.
An assortment of small stones laid out in the shape of an arrow pointing north.
An invisible tree.
A large stone statue of a gargoyle facing east but pointing south.
An old wagon wheel with unknown runes carved in the spokes.
A wicker basket filled with edible mushrooms.
A dead rabbit dressed in chainmail armor.
A perfectly spherical granite stone, five feet wide, half buried in the ground. Weighs 11,230 lbs.
A piece of parchment pinned to a tree with a rusty dagger. On it is the word “Run!”
A large X on a large rock painted in blood.
A traveler’s bedroll. It is old and moldy. Hidden between two blankets is an opal pendant on a leather string.
Two empty crystal goblets and a bottle of fine red wine perched atop a tree stump.
A perfectly healthy, but somewhat hungry, human baby wrapped in swaddling cloth.
A deep hole, a shovel, and a wooden box with a strange looking wand inside.
A wooden flute that has been snapped in half.
A silhouette of a humanoid figure burned into the ground.
A wanted poster with an image of one of the party members. The reward is insultingly low.
A single tulip made of glass in the center of a clearing.
A row of unmarked tombstones equal to the number of party members.
A 10×10 iron cage. On one side, the bars have been broken and bent outward.
A large iron cauldron that has been split in half. There is blast damage on the surrounding trees.
Three trees with tall mirrors mounted on them and facing toward the middle.
A broken beartrap. There are owlbear feathers found nearby.
A four-sided wooden top. When spun, it will heal 1-4 points depending on which side is facing up when it stops spinning. Sides are unmarked, so players do not know the amount healed. Can be used three times a day.
A large oak tree with five axe blades embedded in the trunk in various spots. Nonetheless, the tree looks healthy and strong.
From one large oak to a large elm about fifty feet away, there is a five foot wide cobblestone road that ends at the base of each tree.
A flowering mountain laurel that sneezes in the presence of a dwarf.
A raven wearing a top hat and monocle is perched on a tree branch. It sees the party and says, in a loud voice, “Now I’ve seen everything!” and flies off.
A bird’s nest that has toppled to the ground. Among the twigs and grass making up the neat is a locket on a chain. Within the locket is a very small uncut diamond.
A glowing silver ring floating five feet in the air. When reached for, it teleports in a random direction 20 feet away. This happens 1d12 times before disappearing for good.
The forest opens up to a large, hastily made clearing. There are a dozen campfire remains spread about and the signs of a large force of people having camped here. Careful investigation uncovers some abandoned personal cookware and a military style polearm. The campsite is less than a week old.
A smashed lute with broken strings and a dagger plunged into the body.
A tree whose branches all point west.
A potters bench and a carefully cultivated bed of tea roses. The bench holds five empty clay flower pots and a small gardening trowel.
Nailed to a tree, a broadsheet with the current date from a city over 200 miles away.
Three dozen soap bubbles of various sizes gently floating on the breeze. They pop easily and release a pleasant rose scent which heals 1 hit point to the person closest to it and within two feet.
An old tin box full of wooden buttons of various sizes.
An open scroll case filled with live spiders.
A 2’ x 4’ painting of an unknown mountain.
A tree decorated with 100 white ribbons. Misfortune to any who removes a ribbon. The more ribbons removed, the greater misfortune.
One half of a giant rat that has been split cleanly down the middle.
A patch of thorns with various dead animals decomposing in it. A scratch results in 1d4 damage plus save for paralysis.
An old wooden marionette of a small boy.
Hanging from a branch, a clean set of traditional wedding garb for both bride and groom.
A wide candle set atop a flat rock. Around the candle, runes have been scratched into the stone.
The remains of a goblin hunting party that came to a bad end.
An abandoned woodcutter’s hut. Sleeps two, but is in very poor condition.
A seashell beneath some brush. When held up to the ear, it relays a muttered conversation between a man and a woman in an unrecognizable language.
Three broken war axes.
An old wheelbarrow filled with gravel. At the bottom of the gravel are the remains of a human foot.
A tree that grows both apples and pears on the same branches.
A signpost that reads “You are here.”
A necklace with the same number of small vials of blood as the number of party members.
A decomposing severed left wing of a small red dragon.
A hunter’s bag with seven freshly killed rabbits.
A small spring that offers refreshing drink, but once left, cannot be found again.
A mound of small animal bones with a fresh, uneaten apple balanced atop it.
Half buried in leaves and muck, a small mortar and pestle.
A broken compass.
The storm-wrecked shell of an old Norse longboat.
A set of wind chimes made from finger bones hanging from a tree.
A tree with a hidden panel covering a small storage space. Inside the space is a dagger, 20’ of rope ending in a noose, and a camp shovel.
Two small wooden figurines of gnome warriors inside a small box lined with straw.
A horse saddle with a broken strap.
A horned helmet, the inside of which is coated with wet moss and small mushrooms.
A rock that kind of looks like a dog.
A porcelain doll of a young girl with the eyes scratched out.
A 5×5 pit trap covered by a lattice of thin branches and leaves approximately 10 feet deep and lined with wooden spikes at the bottom.
Twelve arrows thrust into the ground beside a broken longbow.
An old faded map sticking out of a hollow in a tree that leads to buried treasure on an unknown island.
A litter of kittens and a hungry momma cat.
A circular area about 40’ across in which everything has been burned to ash.
A surprised looking troll that has turned to stone.
A cleared campsite complete with campfire ring, firewood, a trough of fresh water, and three loaves of fresh bread wrapped in thick paper and tied neatly with string.
A tree that has been recently split down the middle by lightning.
A low branch with a robin’s nest and three eggs. The eggs are just about to hatch and the mama robin wants you gone.
A sunrise. No matter what time of day or night it is, the party suddenly experiences a beautiful sunrise for ten seconds before everything snaps back to normal time.
An old canvas tarp, dirty and musty, but still in good condition.
Three empty but unbroken wine bottles.
A chunk of fool’s gold.
An old wooden whistle that attracts bees.
Some low brush from which a soft giggle can be heard, but the source not found.
A stack of cut honeycombs wrapped in oil paper leaning against a large rock.
The ruins of a small ancient farming village.
A glass jar full of beach sand.
A pile of old deer hide.
An exposed field of granite crisscrossed with thick veins of quartz.
A tent that has been ripped to shreds by something large and awful.
An area of forest about 50’ wide absolutely covered in spider webs.
A spruce tree decorated with ribbons and orbs of painted glass.
A pile of newly carved wands, none of which have been finished or empowered.
Forests can be fun! What are some of your favorite forest finds? Reply in the comments.