Return to Undermountain12/14/2005

Room 20: Librarium (EL 7)

Room Summary

Creatures: (2) One burning skeleton and one nishruu.
Traps: (1) Taking a book, scroll, or bone from the room or touching the book in the skeleton's lap sets off the trap.
Terrain: Normal.
Lighting Conditions: Darkness.
Magic: Moderate summoning and moderate necromancy around everything in the room (see Trap below); individual scrolls and books have their own auras (see Treasure).
Detectable Alignments: None unless the trap is set off; moderate evil (burning skeleton), strong evil (nishruu).
Secrets: (1) The trap.
Treasure: (~16,300 gp) Books and scrolls, see Treasure below.

Relevant Skill Checks

Disable Device DC 25: With this result, a PC can disable or enable the secret door's ability to close automatically.

Disable Device DC 30: A PC can disable or enable the automatic lock on the secret door with this result.

Knowledge (local) DC 17: A PC with ranks in Knowledge (local) can make a check to recall stories of the Librarium in Undermountain. A group of adventurers called the Company of the Sundered Orc talked of it after their first venture into the dungeon. They never revealed its location, and no one heard of them after they took several porters with them to haul out its contents. That was over ten years ago.

Open Lock DC 30: This result opens the good quality lock on the secret door.

Search DC 24: A search of the west wall of the block surrounded by hallways reveals a secret door. Remember that elves automatically have a chance of finding the door, and dwarves similarly have an automatic opportunity to discover the unusual stonework. Roll in secret for dwarf and elf characters as soon as they move near the secret door shown on the map.

Strength DC 28: A PC attempting to break open the secret door can do so with this result.

The Map

The map for this room is available in two different sizes: One serves as a reference for the DM, and the other is a map with a grid that works nicely with your miniatures.

Each map is presented as a compressed (zipped) Adobe Portable Document Format file (pdf). You need to have Adobe Reader installed to use it. Adobe Reader can be downloaded for free from the Adobe website.

Room Location on the Poster Map: This room is on piece 4 of the poster map. You can see the pieces in thumbnail size in the introduction to this series. For a better idea of where this room is, please view the Article Reference Map.

A strange little passage wends its way around a 30-foot block of stone walls. PCs that investigate the west side of the block can make a Search check to note the presence of a secret door. The secret door is locked with a good quality lock.

Secret Door (Stone): Search DC 24; 60 hp (hardness 8); Break DC 28 (stuck or locked).

If PCs locate and open the secret door, read or paraphrase the following:

The door seems to push back when opened, and it acts as if it would close again if no pressure is exerted to keep it open. Beyond it stretches a 30-foot-square chamber. A moldering green rug covers much of the floor, and dark wooden bookshelves line the walls. In the center of the room stands a circular wooden table and a huge, wing-backed armchair beside it. A skeletal figure dressed in dusty robes and wearing cracked wire-frame spectacles sits in the chair, a dust-coated book lying open in the skeleton's lap. The skeletal figure is unmoving and simply stares through its broken glasses at you.

This room is the legendary Librarium of level one. Once discovered by adventurers and popularized by their boasting of its wonders, knowledge of its location died with the adventuring band when they and several porters returned to Undermountain to plunder its contents.

The door was constructed to swing shut and lock automatically. If a PC does not hold it open, it shuts -- a fact that is apparent to any PC opening the door. A PC can keep the door open as a standard action so long as the PC does not move. Also, the door can be wedged open with a spike or held open by an object that weighs at least 30 pounds. If the PCs break the lock on the door, it swings shut, but does not lock. In addition, a Disable Device check can keep the door from closing and locking (see the Relevant Checks sidebar).

PCs investigating the room can examine any of the books on the bookshelves and remove them from the shelves without ill effect. The dusty book the skeleton holds bears words on its open pages, but the dust makes them impossible to read. A PC can blow off the dust without touching the book, revealing large letters written by a confident hand that read, "You may turn the pages of all books but this one. This is my diary and must remain private lest I regret my largess. Take nothing from my Librarium and no harm shall befall you. Steal but one page or disturb me in my reading, and pay with your life." The warning reveals the secret that allows the PCs to avoid setting off the trap (see below).

Trap: CR 7; magical; touch and location triggers; manual reset; skeleton becomes a burning skeleton, and a nishruu is summoned into the room; Search DC 31; Disable Device DC 31.

The PCs set off the trap by taking any of the books or scrolls from the room, touching the book in the skeleton's lap, or taking a bone from the skeleton out of the room. When the trap is set off, the skeleton suddenly catches fire, and its body becomes a raging inferno as it stands to face the PCs. If it has been broken up or pulled apart, the pieces fly together before catching fire. Any PC unfortunate enough to be holding a bone when the trap is set off takes 1d6 points of fire damage and is suddenly grappling with the burning skeleton! The skeleton should get a surprise round of actions before the PCs roll for initiative.

The smoke that rises from the skeleton coalesces into a nishruu on the round after the burning skeleton's surprise appearance. Both creatures attack the PCs while they remain in the room or while any one of them carries a book or scroll from the Librarium outside the room. The nishruu's attacks and the burning skeleton's fire do not harm any of the objects from the Librarium. Of course, the PCs attacks are another matter.

Burning Skeleton: Use the statistics for the Burning Skeleton (49/60) from the Death Knellminiatures set. If you don't have that miniature, use the statistics from the Monster Manual for an owlbear skeleton, but have it deal an extra 1d6 points of fire damage to anyone it strikes and anyone who attacks it with a natural weapon.

Nishruu: Use the statistics for the nishruu presented in Lost Empires of Faerûn on page 186. If you don't have that book, use the belker from the Monster Manual.

Treasure: The room's bookshelves are filled with 3,500 books and scrolls about various topics not particularly useful to the PCs. For some examples, see the Sample Librarium Books sidebar. These literary works would be purchased by a collector for an average of 4 gp each, for a total of 14,000 gp. Unfortunately, the PCs are unlikely to get full value if they try to sell all the books at once. Even when sold in smaller lots of over 100 or more, the PCs aren't likely to get more than a few silvers for each book. Even in Waterdeep, there simply isn't a market for large quantities of obscure books in strange languages.

In addition to those tomes, several books stand out due to their appearance, and detect magic reveals a few scrolls to be magical. The shelves hold four scrolls of cure light wounds, a scroll of status, a scroll of obscure object, a scroll of Halaster's light step (see City of Splendors: Waterdeep), and a scroll of graymantle (see Spell Compendium or Grimwald's greymantle in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting).

The books that stand out due to their appearance are as follows:

  • The Skeleton's Diary: The book in the skeleton's lap is not a diary. Instead, turning to earlier pages reveals what appears to be a manual of bodily health +1. In truth, the book is cursed and it applies a -4 penalty to Constitution to anyone reading it. A remove curse spell negates this penalty.

  • Practical Methods of Binding for Beginners: This small and thin book is bound in leather that looks suspiciously like human skin. Filled with odd diagrams and amateurish drawings of strange figures, it describes in Common a number of rituals that summon strange spirits it calls "vestiges" that are supposed to be beyond the reach of the gods. According to the book, these simple summoning rituals allow you to bind the spirits to your own for a time and thus gain strange powers. (This book is describing the methods of pact magic, a new form of magic described in Tome of Magic.) It's worth 100 gp to the right buyer, but its sale draws the angry attention of any local churches because nearly all religions consider pact magic to be sacrilegious.

  • True Dragons and Their Lessers: Black dragon skin binds this hefty tome written in Thorass. The book discusses all kinds of dragons in a disorganized fashion. By searching through it for an hour, it allows a PC to make an untrained Knowledge (arcana) check about dragons and provides a +2 bonus on such checks. It's worth 100 gp.

  • The Rise of Netheril: A History of Our Great Nation: This decaying and coverless book is written in glowing Draconic letters using the Loross language. It details the history of Netheril but stops fifty years short of its fall. By reading it for 10 minutes, it allows a PC to make an untrained Knowledge (history) check about Netheril and provides a +4 bonus on such checks. Of course, the book contains nothing about the last fifty years of that country's history or what happened afterward. It's worth 225 gp.

  • Plants of the North and their Uses: This well-organized and beautifully illustrated book written in Illuskan describes many species of above-ground flora native to the North. By reading it for 10 minutes, it allows a PC to make an untrained Knowledge (nature) check about aboveground plants (not plant creatures) and provides a +4 bonus on such checks. It's worth 100 gp.

  • Untouchable Dead: This bone-bound tome, written in Chondathan, goes into great detail about various forms of incorporeal undead, their strengths and weaknesses, and theories of their origins. By reading it for 10 minutes, it allows a PC to make an untrained Knowledge (religion) check about incorporeal undead and provides a +4 bonus on such checks. It's worth 100 gp.

Sample Librarium Books

If the PCs investigate the less-interesting and less-valuable books and scrolls, allow them all a DC 12 Appraise check to determine that none of the other books will sell for more than about 4 gp and that trying to sell all the books at once will cause them all to sell for as little as 10 percent of that value. Also, these books and scrolls are large and unwieldy, so unless the PCs have a bag of holding or portable hole, it will take many trips through Undermountain to retrieve all the contents of the Librarium. On the other hand, should the PCs desire to keep the books in a home base, the impressive library could buy them considerable prestige. Alternatively, they could gift the books to a temple or noble house and earn respect and future favors in return.

Each item described below is contained in a wooden scroll tube or leather-bound book. The language in which the book or scroll was written follows in parentheses.

  • A genealogy of a long-dead Calimshan family of spice merchants (Alzhedo)
  • A treatise on the care of human teeth (Common)
  • A catalog of woodcrafting tools and wooden objects used by the ancient Illuskans (Illuskan)
  • The manifest of the Sultan's Breath on its voyages in the year of 1308 DR (Alzhedo)
  • A fanciful atlas of the Vilhon Reach (Chessentan)
  • A sheaf of scrolls that are propaganda against the Uthgardt barbarians (Common)
  • A discussion of the activity of the gods during the Time of Troubles based largely on rumor and supposition (Common)
  • An apocalyptic alternative to the roll of years named by Augathra the Mad (Thorass)
  • A map of the city of Waterdeep from 100 years ago (Common)
  • A copy of the will of a House Thann family member dead now for 60 years (Common)
  • A fanciful bestiary of the magical creatures to be found in the High Forest (Chondathan)
  • The architectural plans for the port in Halarahh (Halruaan)
  • A treatise on the creation of glass and how to attain various colors and levels of clarity (Common)

Adventure Hooks and Tie-Ins

  • The Librarium presents an excellent place for the PCs to set up a base of operations for their explorations of Undermountain. They can even use the scrolls in the room without setting off the trap.
  • If you're interested in introducing new spells, a spellbook in the library presents a great way to do so.
  • One of the books could contain a map or some other scrap of lore the PCs could use in their adventures. Or one of the books might present a tempting bit of knowledge to spur the PCs' next adventure.
  • The PCs might be sent searching for the Librarium with someone who learned from the Company of the Sundered Orc of a specific book in the library.
  • The ghosts of the Company of the Sundered Orc might haunt anyone who sleeps in the Librarium or who takes a book or scroll from the library.

Check out the Return to Undermountain: An Introduction for more details.

Article Reference Map

About the Author

Once Editor-in-Chief of Dragon magazine and now a game designer at Wizards of the Coast, Matthew Sernett wrote in a Dragon editorial that there's nothing in D&D he likes better than when the adventurers flee through the dungeon, running pell-mell through traps and past monsters because what chases them is worse. When he wrote that, Matthew was thinking about Undermountain.

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