That Old Book Smell…

As gamers, I think most of us appreciate the heft of a good book in our hands. The feel of the paper. An appreciation for a well-made binding or spine…

johnny-automatic-books-1And that smell of an old book. That sometimes musty, always amazing smell of aged paper that for me evokes images of my youth and prowling public and school libraries with glee.

When our characters enter into some of the strange places they find themselves, often they must seek the help of the intelligentsia… Those folks who may have surrounded themselves with old books of a variety of sizes, subjects, and types. Shouldn’t we be able to describe these places a bit better?

The terms I’ve already used can sometimes feel old and overused. So let’s see what we can do to come up with better descriptions.

We’ll start with a table of various parts of a library to describe. A quick d6 ought to do the trick…

  1. Table
  2. Desk
  3. Book
  4. Bookshelf
  5. Podium
  6. Chair

Next we’ll use our good old sense table and another d6…

  1. Sight
  2. Hearing
  3. Smell
  4. Touch
  5. Taste
  6. Roll again

And lastly we’ll come up with some descriptive words we can use to evoke more vivid imagery…

  1. Hush
  2. Musty
  3. Rifled
  4. Dark
  5. Old
  6. Stained
  7. Creased
  8. Closed
  9. Open
  10. Beautiful
  11. Large
  12. Tiny
  13. Thin
  14. Clean
  15. Torn
  16. Illustrated
  17. Bare
  18. Thrown
  19. Light
  20. Insignificant

molumen-Old-bookThat’s just 20 words, but a quick d20 roll may give us some interesting combinations. Let’s roll a couple of d6s and a d20 and see what we come up with.

  • Table/Smell/Stained – “The wizard’s table has been stained dark with ink spilled over the years. The wood grain has absorbed many colors, ending up with odd whorls or red, black, green, and blue across its surface…”
  • Desk/Sight/Closed – “As you approach the scholar, he quickly closes his desk and locks it before standing to address you. What was he hiding within?”
  • Book/Smell/Illustrated – “Many books lay open upon the professor’s table. One catches your eye, featuring the illustrations of a flayed human figure. Or perhaps it’s the whiff of an iron or acrid odor coming from the page. Could the book have been inked in blood?”

I’ll admit that my brain takes these weird combinations of words and twists them into ideas that may or may not be useful, but I think each of these has something to offer to an ongoing story…

  • What inks does the wizard use? Does he need more ingredients if he makes them himself? Or does he purchase them from a local shop? It might lead to a way for the PCs to ingratiate themselves with him and gain more of his trust should they find some rare ink or ingredient he may need…
  • What is the scholar working on that he doesn’t want the PCs to see? Is he just secretive by nature? Is he protecting his client details? Is he performing some research or reading something considered forbidden by the current regime?
  • And why would a professor have a book inked in blood? Did he pen this book himself? Where did he get the blood? What kind of blood is it? Is it fresh or ancient?

Any of these might lead into some intriguing directions, all from just a few dice, a few words, and a bit of imagination.

Where does your imagination lead you?

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