Encounters in the Stacks

Having been struck down with the flu this weekend, I am keeping this week’s article short and sweet. At some point in my feverish haze, I came up with a fun little idea to combine last month’s and this month’s RPG Blog Carnival topics, Random Encounter Tables and Legend & Lore respectively.

Like any adventuring party, yours will likely spend a bunch of time poking around in one library or another. Sometimes this will be planned and you’ll have encounters ready for them. For those times when it isn’t planned, or when the party heads to the library ahead of you prepping for it, here is a short table of encounters to add a bit of interest to an otherwise dry research trip.

D10 ResultEncounter
1You come across a number of books stacked neatly in one of the aisles. In the space left by their removal is a halfling, soundly asleep on the bottom shelf. If woken they are mortified at having overslept, and beg the party not to turn them in. They couldn’t afford lodging, and have hidden out in the library while they conduct their research. They are a rather talented sage, and offer to exchange research for the party’s silence.
2One of the characters notices the book they are looking for on a cart of books being reshelved by one of the librarians. The librarian refuses to turn the book over to the party, insisting it must be reshelved properly and only then can they check it out. The party can follow the librarian around until the book is reshelved, or come up with some plan to remove the book without the librarian noticing (Perception: +7)
3The book the party is looking for seems to be intelligent and can talk. If asked questions about its contents it is quite knowledgeable, and any checks made with its help are made with advantage. When the party moves to put the book back on the shelf or leave, it tries to convince them to take it with them, pointing out how useful it has been and promising it has other information it can share. It is up to the GM whether that’s true, but the book is bored of sitting in the library and will say just about anything to get out.
4One of the librarians, obviously suspicious of the party’s intentions, follows the group wherever they go in the library. If the party commits even the tiniest infraction, whether they are aware of it or not, the librarian insists on punishing the group with a series of ridiculous fines before they will allow the party to use any of the books.
5While searching through the stacks, the party finds another librarian patron in a reading area, currently reading the very book they require. The patron is reading through every book in the library, and will not give up the book until they are finished. The more the party tries to persuade the patron to let them have the book, the more stubborn the patron becomes; after all, it must be a great book if the party wants it so badly. 
6Coming around the corner of an aisle at the back of the library the party surprises a young couple using the stacks for more…hands on…inquiries. Obviously embarrassed they gather themselves and scurry away. Later, when the party has left the library, they will be set upon by a group of ruffians, punishment for embarrassing the young noble involved.
7As the party searches for their book they startle awake a young student who had fallen asleep while researching. The student looks around and realizes their bag is missing (stolen by someone else while they slept) and they immediately suspect the party. If the party refuses to return the student’s property, they leave to bring back a librarian, and eventually the watch. If the GM would like to add a further complication, they could have the real thief notice this exchange and have them try to plant the now empty bag on one of the party.
8Patrons at this library are rigorously searched upon leaving to prevent theft. While the party searches for the book they want, another patron will try to plant a book on one of the party members, hoping to cause a distraction so they can sneak out with the book they actually want.
9While searching through the library, give the party a chance to make a DC 15 Perception (Wisdom) check. Success means they realize that any books or scrolls they are carrying have disappeared from their normal spots. A successful DC 15 Investigation (Intelligence) check will determine that their books and scrolls have been shelved in the library. The library’s magical shelving is malfunctioning, and it is shelving any piece of writing not currently held or being read by a patron.
10Searching in an almost deserted section of the stacks, the party encounters a mimic in the shape of a shelf. The mimic will try to wait for a party member to be on their own, but it is very hungry and will attack multiple foes rather than lose a potential meal.

I hope you find this library encounter table useful the next time your party goes digging for lore. If you do use it, please drop me a line and let me know how it went for you.