Wednesday 19 June 2019

Ten Non-Magical Books for Fantasy RPGs

Sometimes I just get the urge to write something purely for the heck of it. So, here are ten non-magical books that can be included in any fantasy role-playing campaign. The next time one of your players wants to know the the title of every book on the bookshelf, you can just hand them this.

1. Glassblowing by Vim Messis

Bound with bright blue cloth covers, this folio contains detailed instructions on the art of glassblowing, including techniques for making a wide variety of bottles and ornaments. The printed text is accompanied by numerous wood-cut diagrams. In many places the book has been annotated in green ink by one of the previous owners in neat script. The last page of the book has been torn out, but it does not appear that anything was printed on this page.
            Price 10gp.

2. Giant Arachnids by Anonymous

This thin sextodecimo claims to be a detailed and authoritative study of giant spiders, but in fact, is really a collection of sensationalist tales mixed in with a few facts. The text, which features both black and red ink, has been poorly applied to the paper so that in some places it fades almost to illegibility. The book is bound in stained, brown leather.
Price 5gp.

3. Villains of the Sea by Tekroth Larn

This thick, octavo book is bound in red cloth and features a black ribbon sewn into the binding. The title has been pressed into the cover with gold foil. It was printed on a traditional press in black ink and includes a number of wood-cut portraits. The book is a collection of short biographies of 23 notorious pirates who sailed a hundred years ago or more. Each entry includes details of both the pirate and their most famous vessels.
Price 20gp.

4. The Cranium by Victurn Lessten

This striking octavo is bound between two ivory plates with a heavy leather spine. The names of the book and the author have been carefully carved into the cover and then stained with ink. The text, which is accompanied by a large number of sketches, is a lengthy examination of the different skulls of sentient races. While all of the factual details are incredibly accurate, it is mixed in with incredibly racist statements about the maximum potential intelligence of the various races.
            Price 50gp.

5. The Second Dragon War by Captain Sederick

This lovely duodecimo is bound in black leather with a highly-detailed impressed dragon on the cover. The texted is printed in black ink in a small copperplate, and gives a detailed history of an otherwise unknown war. None of the place names in the book have been identified and the dates are given in an unknown calendar. It is thus unclear if this is a work of history or fiction.
            Price 15gp.

6. Keys by Anonymous

This tiny book is of a non-standard size, but can comfortably rest in the palm of most people’s hand. It is bound in a reddish-brown leather. The book has no text other than the title on the first page. Instead, every page contains a detailed, ink drawing of a key. There are 296 keys in total, representing numerous different styles and designs. The last three pages and the back cover have slight water damage in one corner.
            Price 5gp.

7. The Animated Dead by Kenth Zandimere

A heavy, octavo containing nearly 900 pages, this book is bound in red velvet cloth over heavy wooden boards. The entirety of the dense, small text is devoted to the advantages and disadvantages of reanimating the skeletons of different creatures. There is no discussion of necromancy or the magic necessary to actually preform the reanimation, just an exhaustive discussion of the practicalities when it comes to such things as number of legs, opposable thumbs, total size, etc. A couple of the species discussed in the book are otherwise unknown.
            Price 5gp.

8. Paints and Pigments by Helbreth Givorn.

This octavio is bound between wooden covers that are painted with swirling colours. Each of the pages contains detailed instructions on how to create specific colours of paint, including what ingredients are necessary, the best ways to mix them, and, in a few cases, cooking instructions. Each page also contains a small circular sample of the colour being discussed. At some point the book had a small hole drilled through it near the bottom of the spine. This was likely done so that the book could be chained to a shelf.
            Price 40gc.

9. The Magic of Sea Glass by Dafrinth T.

The covers of this octavo are made out of thin sheets of metal. Tiny bits of sea glass have been inset onto the front cover to form a colourful mosaic square. The printed text, which seems overly large, and occasionally switches between black, green, blue, red and purple with no identifiable pattern, purports to tell the numerous ways that sea glass can be used in spellcasting, including as a spell component, as a focusing device, and as a target of specific spells. Unfortunately, none of the results purported in the book can be replicated.
            Price 25gp.

10. Edible Underground Fungus by Humster Flinn

A thin, duodecimo bound in green cloth, this hand-written book details over thirty varieties of edible fungus that can be found growing underground. While the hand-writing is clear and extremely precise, the same cannot be said of the accompanying illustrations which look somewhat childish, and are of little help in identification. Many of the fungi mentioned can be dried out and preserved for significant amounts of time.
            Price 10gc.

* Artwork by Barrett Stanley, created for the game Rangers of Shadow Deep.


  1. Love it, Joseph. Even good for purchasing in Frostgrave with those little 5-20gold leftovers.

  2. Fantastic list, thanks! I love this sort of fluff.

  3. I enjoyed that... I play the Elder Scrolls (Morrowind) computer games, which are full of books you can find, which all have a few pages of text... cover all sorts of bits of history, legend, magic and natural history.

  4. This is what GMing is all about: fleshing things out. I love this- reminds me of my old D&d days where I had time to just WRITE.

  5. Cool, thanks a lot for these.
    It's one of the things I like about the Elder Scrolls and should get more attention in TRPG's as well.
    Depending on the setting they might be quite rare of course.
    It could be a privilege of the rich and clergy and who knows, the PC's might be illiterate

  6. One of the many things I really enjoy in your Frost Grave books are the little sidebars giving bits of colourful background. These books fit right in to that theme.