I’m hosting August’s RPG Blog Carnival, and the theme, «Location, location, location» came to my mind as one of my current campaigns kicked off as a mystery whodunnit for which its main venue became a NPC in full right. The first part of «Tome & Blood», which I titled «The Student in the Library with the Dagger» is what can be described as «The Name of the Rose» in Hogwarts. As a very claustrophobical adventure, I needed the right location to keep interest in the mystery, so just as the mythical Hall of Records below the Sphinx and the aedificium in the monastery, I decided to run with a magnificent library. Set in Eberron, I coudln’t have selected a better place than the Floating Towers of Arcanix.
The original rose…
In «The Name of the Rose», the mystery revolves around the abbey library, situated in a fortified tower—the aedificium, specifically in its third floor. Only the librarian and its assistant were authorized to enter into it and only they knew how to make their way through it. If anyone wanted to read a book, he had to look for it in a catalogue kept in the scriptorium, and the librarian would bring the book from the library as long as he considered the request justified.
The library was designed as a labyrinth. The aedificium had four towers at the four cardinal points, and the top floor of each had seven rooms on the outside, surrounding a central room. There were eight rooms on the outer walls, and sixteen rooms in the center of the maze. In total, the library had fifty-six rooms, each one having a scroll containing a verse from the Book of Revelation. The first letter of this verse is the letter corresponding to that room, and the letters of adjacent rooms, when read together, would give the name of a region. The books contained in those rooms would belong to that region because of its contents or its author’s place of birth. Starting from the East Tower, these were: Fons Adae (or ‘the earthly paradise’ containing Bibles), Acaia (Greece), Iudaia (Judea), Aegyptus (Egypt), Leones (‘South’, refering to Africa), Yspania (Spain), Roma (Italy), Hibernia (Ireland), Gallia (France), Germania (Germany), and finally Anglia (England).
Two rooms had no lettering – the easternmost room, which had an altar and was the entrance to the library as it was connected to the scriptorium by a staircase, and the central room on the south tower, the so-called finis Africae, which contained the most heavily guarded books, and could only be entered through a secret door.
During the night, the library kept uninvited guests outside by the means of different mundane mechanisms that made their victims hallucinate the most terrible dangers. In my campaign, these dangers are very real by the way of summoned monsters and deadly traps.
…and the garden around
I located this library as a higher level of the Library of Robideur, in the higher sections of the Skyreach tower. Having a murder mystery in an enclosed space such as a library requires the characters to be related to it, so I asked my players to make characters that were practitioners of magic at some level, all of them with a reason to be part of the Arcane Congress in Aundair, be it as a student, administrative staff or even as an external visitor. Most of them decided to join as the first ones, so I designed a syllabus just for flavor that became part of the campaign.
The curriculum was divided in two parts: a mandatory general one about magic and an elective one about your school of specialization or arcane nature. Among the mandatory ones were (ordered by of instruction):
- Introduction to Metaphysics; Theory of Magic; Draconic Vocabulary; Herbalism; Verbal Components; Somatic Components; Introduction to Material Components
- Basic Metaphysics; Occult Knowledge; Theory of Arcane Magic; Draconic Grammar; Core Invocations; Introduction to Monstrology; Introduction to Rituals; Introductions to the Schools of Magic; Basic Material Components
- Advanced Metaphysics; Basic Arcane Magical Theory; Elemental Invocations; Arcane Arts; Draconic Pronunciation
- Advanced Elemental Invocations; Defensive Invocations; Offensive Invocations; Advanced Material Components
- Advanced Arcane Magical Theory & Metaphysics; two elective specialty courses
- Introduction to Greater Invocations; Advanced Rituals; three elective specialty courses
- Spell Creation (Arcane Thesis); Five specialty courses
According to your school of specialty (let’s not forget the Arcane Congress is a school for wizards!) you could choose among the following elective courses:
- Abjuration: Arcane Protections; Doors, Portals and other Holes; Introduction to Magic Circles; Introduction to Swordplay; Intermediate Swordplay; Advanced Swordplay; Building Arcane Defenses; Breaking Curses
- Conjuration: Basic Air Movements; Introduction to the Planes; Introductory Summoning; Advanced Summoning; Greater Summoning; Monstrous Anatomy; Enthropy Control
- Divination: A First Look at Second Sight; Arcane Detectives; Telepathy; Mind Reading; Introduction to Language Theory; Privacy and You; Looking Over Shoulders; The Way of the Oracle
- Enchantment: Basic Enchantments; Dazed and Confused; Introduction to Charms; Perchance to Dream; Emotional Magic; The Power of Words
- Evocation: Basic Evocations; Defenses Against Undeath; Discovery and Disarming; Fire and Light; Introduction to Magic Missiles; Running Hot and Cold; Power in Tight Spaces
- Illusion: The Art of Illusions; Being Someone Else; Image is Everything; An Introduction to Senses; Glamors; Phantasms; Seeing Through: Invincible Invisibility
- Necromancy: Anatomy for Humanoids; Anatomy for Monstrous Creatures; Fear and Loathing; Graveyard Exploration; Magic Powders; Morals and Ethics; Bringing Undeath
- Transmutation: Arcane Alterations; Buffing Up; Change Starts at Home; Dealing with Heights; Need for Speed; Breaking the Rules; Polymorphing
And there were also a selection of Magic Item Creation workshops: Making Magic Arms and Armor, Scribing Scrolls, Wands of All Kinds, Working with Staves, Forging Rings, Never Spare the Rod, Brewing Potions, and Craft your own Homunculus.
I created this whole thing back in the good old 3rd Edition days, so you may have noticed many of this titles make reference to prestige classes or feats. I’m updating this whole thing to 5e, and when I’m done I’ll set it up as a nice downloadable file you can use in your arcane campaign. I’m thinking about formatting it as a college syllabus because… why not?
And this is your take away lesson: if a location is important in your campaign, make it unique; and if your players want more from it, turn it into a NPC that becomes part of their adventures not just as a space in which they move and act, but something that carries weight in their development.
Until next time, make your locations glitter as if they were made of gold. Yeah, that was foreshadowing.