After two incursions into The Stygian Library, the party is ready to head back and finish the job! They have most, but not quite all, of the Progress they need to find Pelampae’s Scripture, a tome of magic sought by their patron Cuthmund, himself a powerful wizard.
The main party consists of three adventurers:
STR 8 DEX 10 CON 10 INT 14 WIS 9 CHA 11with AC 10 and ST 15.
STR 15 DEX 13 CON 11 INT 6 WIS 10 CHA 9with AC 14 and ST 14. His axe allows him to cast Invisibility twice per day.
STR 10 DEX 9 CON 12 INT 9 WIS 13 CHA 14with AC 14 and ST 13. His whip allows him to see in the dark.
They have three hirelings as porters for treasure and equipment:
All three porters have above-average strength and below-average charisma.
Their equipment includes:
Each porter has a sack or two, though they’re not bringing carts or wheelbarrows. Last time, that proved to be unfortunate, but their goal here is to get the Scripture rather than loot every statue that’s not fixed to the ground.
The entrance is found in a locked door in Cuthmund’s library, deep within his tower. Fortunately, he’s provided the key (naturally). The party gathers themselves before venturing forth.
IN AN ALCOVE, A SMALL DESK LADEN WITH PAPERS. Shelves behind it stuffed with more paperwork. Lit by an oil lamp. The paperwork is largely useless to the PCs. It details things like supplies in the Library, rotas for the Librarians, etc.
There is, in fact, a Yellow Order Librarian here who is genuinely helpful. The Yellow Order are Those who Maintain The Books.
Drawing by Alec Sorenson. (c) 2020, Soul Muppet Publishing and Dying Stylishly Games.
A huge Persian rug lies across the floor, ornate in its pattern and probably over a century old. Worth 50 Silver multiplied by the Depth of the location.
It doesn’t seem like a good idea to yank out the rug from under the Librarian! Narder will note the rug with an admiring, courteous comment. But Cirdore and Aered will spend some going through the information at the desk and working with the Librarian to locate the book they seek.
There’s enough useful information here that the group gets +1 Progress (up to 28). Narder mentions the ticking; they’ve learned that it means several things are about to happen at once, though they don’t know what those things will be. He and Cirdore ready themselves, though they try to be a bit discreet about it as Aered continues to work with the diminutive yellow-robed Librarian. I imagine Aered herself has long black hair and wears a dark red robe, but she’s happily working with the staff and using the Library as intended.
All bad news! The Librarian doesn’t even notice the change in the Library; this is how this place functions. This gets them turned around a bit, although Aered continues to find information on Pelaempe’s Scripture. That puts them back up to 28 Progress, although they’ve almost found everything there is to find here.
Perhaps they are unhappy with the group’s presence; maybe they think that the shelves and door should not have closed and blame the party for things happening out of sequence.
Aered gets +1 Progress (up to 29 out of the 30 needed). That reshuffle actually frustrates her a good bit, because otherwise she’d have a lock on the book’s location. Cirdore speaks calmly and reasonably with the Librarians: they calm down slightly (reaction: Uncertain) and the group decides to press on in search of their goal. They can worry about finding a way home after that.
They have found several of these previsouly. Long rooms with high, arched ceilings and pillar supports. Importantly, they’ve learned that the pulpit generally contains an Extraordinary Book, and that under the simple altar there will be a bit of treasure.
An iron lamp-post bolted to the floorboards, with a lamp at the top that illuminates the shelves nearby.
It sure is easy to read with all this light in here! So Aered goes to the lectern while Narder checks the altar. Cirdore keeps an eye out for trouble.
The book is  an initiatory text.
The reader can swap their class to cleric at any point once they’ve read it. Their attributes and any permanent features like injuries, mutations and so on remain unaltered. Their experience total determines what level cleric they are, and their new saves, hp, etc. Once the character has become a cleric, they cannot go back to their previous class.
Considering everything they’ve previously found that Clerics can use, this is quite tempting for Aered. She’s seeking to make amends for her previous criminal past, and perhaps dedicating herself to the service of a deity is part of that journey. As the book isn’t attached here, she’ll hand it over to the porters for safekeeping.
Under the altar, Narder finds  a small pouch of gemstones worth d10 x Depth (1) x 100 silver, in this case 600 silver. (If they can get this back, that will be enough for him to reach Level 2.) That goes into the sacks as well.
Aered wants to examine the shelves here for more information about the Scripture, which will take a few more minutes.
The only places before this are the Help Desk and the exit out, so I think it must be the latter. This is good news; once they can find the book, they can get out of here.
Aered wants to keep looking here, though.
OK, we get it, the Library wants to make it easy for them to leave. This is likely the doing of the Black Order they previously encountered. But they haven’t found the book they need yet. Aered agrees that they should press on.
UNDER THE FLOOR OF THIS LOCATION, THERE LURKS A HUGE SPIDER, AN AMBUSH-PREDATOR ADAPTED TO THE LIBRARY’S ENVIRONMENT. It can lift up a section of floor, and emerge to grab prey, dragging it down to feed. It’s burrow is just big enough to fit itself, and a few prey (either bundled up ready to eat, or still being subdued).
The uneven floorboards here are covered in cobwebs; the group has encountered this before.
The room is sized for people one-third the size of humans. The ceiling is only four feet high and the books, furniture and similar things are likewise smaller. To explore, the PCs (other than children, halflings, etc.) must crawl between the cramped shelves.
This also means the spider will be sized appropriately (but it keeps the same stats). It could be that the small size throws them off and they don’t recognize the trap; Cirdore’s Keen Detection ability helps with that. They quickly check and find a hollow space beneath.
Rather than chance it, they pull back to the Chapel.
This is exactly the place where they can exit back to Cuthmund’s tower, but they need to find the book first.
A GALLERY FULL OF TAXIDERMIED ANIMALS, DISPLAYED ALONGSIDE DETAILED INFORMATION. The animals are all interesting in some way: rare, foreign, extinct, mythical.
While this isn’t what they’re looking for, it does grab their attention. They’ll spend a bit of time here while Aered checks the books. Even the porters are interested, though they’re careful to follow Narder and Cidore’s lead and not touch anything.
The books here are all chained to the shelves—perhaps to prevent theft, or perhaps to prevent them escaping, depending on the nature of the books.
They’ve seen these before as well. That doesn’t stop Aered from checking them out, though it does make the porters (especially Astenon) a bit wary. They go stand near the entrance and look at things from afar.
This could mean the Library is signalling that they’ll find something, or it could mean that something bad is on its way. Aered, being somewhat hopeful, implores the group to stay here while she keeps looking. Cirdore and Narder seem less sure that this is a good idea, but concede. After this, though, they’ll need to take a rest, as they’ll have been in here for a solid two hours.
Aered’s focused on searching. The ticking… continues? That unnerves everyone but her, largely because she’s so hyperfixated on finding Pelampae’s Scripture.
This ticking is really getting to Astenon, whose anxiety is increasing. He’s cowering in fear, and I’m going to make a Morale check for him at -2, then +1 for Cirdore’s Charisma (so -1 total):  Fight for advantage. He still wants to leave but he’ll stick by Cirdore for now.
Aered’s airy announcement of treasure brightens the mood, though: a set of d6 = 2 magical candles. While burning (for 1 turn), they can dispel illusions, invisibility, etc.
A spell that has broken free of its constraining spellbook and now roams the Library as an independent entity. A data-cloud of disembodied text hanging in the air, paragraphs intersecting with one another at odd angles. Letters cast strange shadows from the emergent,occult shapes they form.
I roll randomly for the spell and get Detect Magic (1st-level Cleric). It’s curious and perhaps, since it’s unfriendly, unhappy about the group, what with their spellbooks and enchanted weapons and candles and whatnot. It can’t attack them; it’s just expressing its unhappiness via the letters and shapes it conjures in the air.
There are indications of researchers who’ve been through here as well; they might have just stepped out for a drink or to relieve themselves. The group is going to take a rest here; perhaps the researchers will come back and they’ll be able to discuss their various projects.
Griff and Aered choose to interpret this as a relaxing breeze, though in truth it’s strong enough that it’s more than that. Narder finally prevails on his companions to leave, though they’ll come back through here later on their way out.
THE ROOM CONTAINS A SET OF SHELVES AGAINST ONE WALL. Each shelf holds a row of glass jars. Each jar has a set of wires emerging from it, linking it to a small machine at the end of each shelf that displays the pressure, temperature, emotional state and acidity of each jar’s contents on a set of dials.
There’s no obvious way for the group to interact with the phantoms within, unliked the jarred brains they encountered several times previously.
The location is built not on a flat floor but on the sides of a long spiral staircase that goes down several hundred feet. The PCs always enter at the top.
That changes my visualization of the room a bit. The glass jars with phantoms in them line the walls. Rather than continue down the stairs, they’d like to go back and find a different way deeper into the Library.
Is the Animate Spell still here (likely)? Yes, and…
If it can be opened (with lockpicking, force, etc.) it leads to a Location D6+1 Layers deeper.
They found a few of these yesterday; it’s worth trying to open it, in their estimation. Between Narder and Cirdore, plus the crowbar, they can force it open, although it’ll take a full Turn to do so. Aered will watch their backs, while the Porters will stay near the locked door.
Academics who have, for whatever reason, travelled to the Library in search of lost or forbidden knowledge. Cautious, erudite and experienced, they are aware of some of the hazards they face in search of information.
This pair came from a noble’s private research, and they’re looking for  guides to calligraphy and  translations of holy scriptures. Is this the same scripture that Aered and the others are seeking (even)? No, it’s not, unfortunately; if it had been, they could have gotten the Progress they need, but that’s just not how the dice fell this time.
Eventually, the door is forced open, and the group heads through after polite good-byes to the academic researchers. The door leads 2 layers deeper.
BEHIND A CLOSED, LOCKED DOOR, THE MATERIAL TREASURES OF THE LIBRARY ARE STORED. The door’s lock will need to be picked, or the door broken down, to get in. Within, there’s a wealth of materials in marked cases.
As before, the room is well-lit. With no one else present (for now), they’ll work on forcing this door open as well. Aered’s prepared to handle whatever might come through one of the other entrances into this location.
After all the trouble on the previous incursion, this time the Library is making it easy for them to leave. But in any case, the vault is open, and it contains valuables!
Perhaps the paint and brushes relate to those rare pigments. I decide that the throwing knife can be used as a dagger, so Aered will take it (mostly for its indestructibility). The spell scroll is almost useless, but not quite, although the pigments are valuable. The rest of the stuff is not worth carrying out.
Hoever, Aered will ask them to stay here for a bit while she examines the shelves outside of the vault.
While the elemental may be merely curious, the group is incredibly wary. This thing could make short work of them all if it decides they’re a threat or just a tasty treat. In reality, it simply wants to “spread, stain, and flow,” but Narder ushers everybody out of the vault and through the next corridor.
HERE, THE STEAM PIPES THAT THREAD THROUGH THE LIBRARY ARE EXPOSED. A large valve is set into the wall that can be opened or closed by turning a huge wheel… Because of the damp air, the books here are all protected by a thin layer of wax, or else etched into paper-thin sheets of metal. Bringing in normal paper books ruins them rapidly.
Nope, they’re going to head out of here as quickly as they can before they books they already have get ruined.
Is the ink elemental still here (likely)? Yes. The group is just going to turn through another of the exits here and move on.
A ROOM DEVOID OF BOOKSHELVES. Against one wall, a huge black-iron furnace, over which a tank of water boils. Large pipes channel the steam elsewhere in the Library.
The room is lit by a number of glass orbs suspended from the ceiling, each of which gives off a soft, blue-green glow. The atmosphere is relaxed and cool.
This is a good place to refill the Lantern (leaving 2 flasks of oil). But with no bookshelves here, there’s no point in examining the infrastructure. They’ll rest here for a bit as well, having reached the 4-hour mark in their incursion.
These Librarians are the ones who take care of the portals. Cirdore and Narder quickly apologize for having disturbed them, and I’ll roll a reaction for them: 9, Positive.
With that sort of reaction, Aered enthusiastically starts asking them for information about Pelampae’s Scripture, the book they came to the Library to find. That gives them 1 Progress, enough to locate the book! Unfortunately, they’ll need to reach Depth 10 (while maintaining at least 30 Progress) to get it. Time to move.
IN THE CENTRE OF THIS ROOM IS A HOLLOW METAL CONE, NARROW AT ITS BASE AND BROAD AT THE TOP, RIDDLED WITH HOLES THE SIZE OF A FINGER. The whole thing is like a huge sea-sponge or coral made of etched metal. The hollow space within the conical Syphon is filled with glass vials. Some are empty, some contain condensed phantoms like a wriggling turquoise mist. Thin glass tubes and wires link the vials to one another and to the exposed plumbing of the Library, like some huge alchemist’s distillery.
This cone attracts floating souls slowly, and it’s quite ominous.
The lighting doesn’t make up for the creepiness. In any case, the group knows where they’re going, and they’ll press on, albeit with a few shuddering looks behind them.
A LONG GALLERY, FILLED WITH SEVERAL DOZEN STATUES ON PEDESTALS. Each life-size. Most reclining, seated or otherwise relaxed. Each worth 300 Silver multiplied by the room’s Depth; being a life-sized statue, getting one out will be tricky.
Just like in the previous incursion, these present a great deal of temptation. Practical and logistical considerations make these impossible to steal, though, and they’d be extremely conspicuous if they tried.
This room is built for giants, relatively speaking! Upon inspection, the statues themselves are even larger than the group initially realized.
A HIGH, DOMED CEILING, ONTO WHICH LANTERNS PROJECT DOTS OF LIGHT THAT RESEMBLE ALIEN CONSTELLATIONS. In the centre of the room, a large clockwork orrery modelling the solar system. A lamp burning in the centre, and long arms that hold model planets, moons and comets in place. The whole thing clicks and grinds as it slowly turns.
This place is incredibly fascinating and powerful; they visited it (or one very much like it) previously. On the way back, they might spend some time with it.
An array of clockwork gears affixed to one wall—some delicate and as small as a thumbtack,some as big as a cartwheel, and all manner somewhere in between—which interlink and turn slowly with an irregular ticking sound. The gears link into a greater mechanism below the floor or above the ceiling.
Undoubtedly, these power the cosmic orrery at the center of the room. Cirdore wants to stop and study them, but he listens to the group when they urge him to keep moving.
A LARGE ROOM EMPTY OF BOOKSHELVES, SEMI-CIRCULAR IN SHAPE. In the middle of the flat side, there is a small stage with a desk and behind it a large blackboard. Around this in half-circles are rings of benches, each row a few feet higher than the one in front.
The room’s ceiling has a number of glass tubes bolted to it, running the length of the room. Each tube is six inches across and contains a glowing pink mist that surges down the tube like milkshake through a drinking straw. The tubes allow phantoms to be pumped from one part of the library to another.
This seems like a place where a lot of mischief could take place! Narder sternly warns Arborius, who dons an innocent look. “I hadn’t even considered letting them out!”
Much like the previous one, but this is the site where they will find the book!
The location lies behind a huge portcullis that must be broken down or have the lock picked. Cunning or strange solutions could be found—if the party can’t get through, they must go back to the previous location.
Argh, just as they get to their destination, there’s an obstacle! I quickly review their equipment to see if they have any option besides tearing it up. There’s a tempting bit of treasure on the other side, as well: they can glimpse some sort of coat on the other side, hanging on a special rack, as if it has some special value.
They could either crowbar this open, or perhaps Cirdore could use his whip to try to pull the lever on the other side, but after an examination (Luck roll) he determines the angle would be too difficult. They’ll spend a turn opening it up.
As they pry the portcullis up, some of the flooring comes with it! Underneath, they find  a metal-bound chest of coins, worth d20 = 19 x depth = 10 x 100 silver = 19,000 silver. That’s a HUGE amount of money that will change their lives.
At this point, though, I’m going to roll Loyalty checks for each of the porters. They may ask for more than a measly 2 silver for this payday:
Griff and Arborious say nothing, but Astenon (suspicious, cautious) speaks up. They’re going to have to do a lot of heavy lifting, quite literally, to carry a 190 lbs of coins out of here. It seems fair they should each get a half-share.
How do the other two porters react to his proposal? I’ll give them a -2 penalty to their Reaction checks, since that’s a lot of silver on the line: 5, Negative, meaning they agree with him: they want their cut.
Instead of dividing this 3 ways, giving each of the adventurers 6333 sp and the same amount of XP, that would divide things 4.5 ways. In that case, the adventurers would get 4222 sp (and XP), while the porters would get 2111 sp (XP does not apply to them).
Narder is angered by this (his personality is courteous but conceited, and I think this breaks his outward presentation); who do these peasants think they are? Aered looks flustered; she doesn’t know what to think (low WIS, criminal background). Cirdore, though, with a longer life, higher WIS, and the knowledge that they can always come back, agrees. Eventually, he persuades Aered, and Narder has little choice.
Before they read the book, I’ll determine randomly which of Aered or Cirdore read it: Aered does. She opens it excitedly, thinking it will be Pelampae’s Scripture. But her face falls as she does so, and eventually it takes root in her mind. Her HP is reduced by 1 to 4.
The coat goes to Narder, who is mollified somewhat.
Makes its wearer immune to cold, immune to fire, immune to electricity, able to blend into indoor environments with a 4-in-6 chance to escape notice, or able to pass through bookshelves as if they were intangible.
This feels a bit overpowered, if I’m being honest, but there it is in the tables.
Cirdore finds the Scripture, though. It’s what they came for. (Progress is reset to null as they’ve found the book.) Cuthmund will be pleased… but they have to get it back to him.
Still, maybe he can spend a bit of time with the Planetarium before they leave?
Narder grumbles under his breath about the porters, but it’s just how things are unless he wants to try to carry those coins himself. Aered stares off in despondence from what she’s read.
But Cirdore is excited to cast his own horoscope! It doesn’t give them any Progress, of course, but he can ask one yes-or-no question about himself and get an accurate answer. After a while, he thinks of what to ask:
Will I ever return to the Stars? Yes.
This heartens him. He looks over at Aered, though, and sees her bleak countenance. Perhaps he’ll find a way to help her in her own adventures.
The group finally decides to head back, looking for the exit all the way back at the Storage Vault.
From here, I normally wouldn’t roll events unless they Stay Here in a given location. That seems somewhat boring and anticlimactic, though, so I’ll have a 3-in-6 chance of an event each time they move into a location.
Earlier, Cirdore had wanted to spend some time with the orrery, but he got his chance earlier and doesn’t need it now.
The progress change doesn’t apply; instead, I’ll roll a Luck check to see if they lose their way back, on a 1-2: they do lose their way. Everything looks different now among these giant-sized statues. Aered glowers to herself, but it’s time for them to take a rest in any case.
Is this researcher one of those they met earlier (likely)? Yes. The Librarians are extremly unhappy with him, and they’re prepared to expel him from the Library or worse.
Cirdore intervenes, explaining that they’re looking for a way out themselves, and they’d be happy to take the researcher with them. I’ll roll Reactions for both groups: the researcher is enthusiastic, but the Librarians (remember, these are the ones who maintain the portals) are uncertain. Cirdore will need to add something to the offer, but it needs to be something the Librarians would find valuable.
They have sacks full of treasure, and I think the Librarians finally realize they’re dealing with looters. Aered offers back one of the extraordinary books, which is actually the cursed nihilistic manifesto. How do they react? I’ll give them a -1 due to the realization that these are looters: 8, Uncertain; they would have been Positive had it not been for that.
Narder decides to act with boldness. He dons his magic coat and (successfully) moves without notice. He takes the Researcher’s arm and leads them out of the vault, motioning for the others to follow him. Before the Librarians realize what’s happened, only Cirdore is in front of them! He bolts and runs; I’ll make a Saving Throw for him. On a failure, they cast Hold Person and he’s left behind:  success!
With the arcane wind billowing her robes, Aered casts Hold Portal on the door they just came through. The Black Order Librarians will certainly be able to cast Knock and get through it, but hopefully it will slow them down enough to get away.
The group has no interest in this elemental. They’re just trying to get out of here quickly, albeit without running blindly. The elemental is uncertain and hesitant, rather than hostile, so they move past it.
They’ve reached the exit! There’s a spiral staircase here that leads directly back to Cuthmund’s tower.
They succesfully retrieved the following:
That’s a total of 23000 silver pieces, divided 4.5 ways. The adventurers each get 5111 silver pieces; the rest goes to the porters, who are very happy with their cut and may well retire from this, or close to it.
That puts the adventurers XP totals at:
They aren’t near retirement, of course, at least in their own minds. Cirdore still has to get back to the stars, after all.
I don’t think I necessarily did this right. This feels like a tremendous rate of advancement with little risk, relatively speaking, compared to traditional dungeon crawling. Perhaps I should re-evaluate how I implement the procedures from the book; there are some other tables I didn’t use:
That said, I did realize that the chest of coins was worth N silver, not necessarily contained N silver, so at least that part of the logistics turned out okay.
Also, 30 Progress felt like too much. I’m pretty sure the intent was that the Progress does not carry over once they group leaves the Library; in that case, it would be quite a long incursion without giving the characters a chance to leave. That could work, as I think about it more, but it would be hard to structure in terms of play sessions in my mind.
The Stygian Library as a solo experience works really well, but I think I’d want to spend some more time considering the procedures before I sprung this on a group.