They were always short-staffed at that particular branch of the Hopewell District Library, so it wasn’t unheard of for Mary to enter the building, alone, around 7:30am to open the place up. It was a three-day weekend, so in addition to no fellow staffers to help out at the library desk, no patrons were waiting by the door to be let in when it was unlocked.

Mary felt bad about what had happened the previous day, even though she kept on telling herself that she had no reason to. It was Adrian’s fault, after all, for invading her personal space. It was his fault for creeping on her and constantly pestering her for her work hours and requests for dates. She had nothing to feel bad about, she kept telling herself, but the feeling was still there, gnawing away, as she busied herself with checking in items from the overnight book drop.

“Are you familiar with the Egyptian book of the dead, Mary?”

Mary cried out and pushed back from the desk. It was Adrian; he must have quietly entered through the front doors despite not technically being allowed on the premises anymore. Mary wanted to do more than scream; she wanted to pick up the handset and dial the police.

The Glock 17 in an open-carry holster on Adrian’s belt dissuaded her.

“N-no,” she said. “I’m not.”

“Really? I’d expect a librarian to know those things.” Adrian was behind the desk now, approaching at an easy pace. “According to the Book of the Dead, or at least the version written on the walls inside of the Red Pyramid, the dead are forever dependent in the afterlife on their killers.”

Mary’s eyes widened. “What?”

“That’s right, Mary. I could take care of you forever; we’d always be together. I may not be able to give you what you need in this life, but surely I can in the next.”

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Sourced from the Ruins & Rogues Adventurer’s Guidebook, 5th Edition

Class Description: Works of obscure scholars publishing in dead tongues centuries ago, tales so popular they are stolen over and over again by jealous cheapskates, statistics of obscure government agencies beyond mortal control…these arcane secrets and many more are a siren song to people with little ambition, an obsessive-compulsive’s eye for detail, and an intellect that absorbs trivia like an organic sponge. This is the path trod by Librarians. These canny scholars gather, catalog, and occasionally deign to answer questions regarding arcane information. While they are generally incapable of acting on the information so gathered to work wonders like a Wizard or touch the immortal divine like a Cleric, the Librarian is not to be underestimated. Or so they say. Some Librarians specialize in particular areas, devoting decades to schools of bibliomancy like cataloging, circulation, or reference, others dabble in all of the above with knitting and felinomancy to boot. Whatever their particular knack, Librarians are a force to be reckoned with whenever the campaign includes a library, archive, bookstore, or similar agglutination of books and information.

Role: Librarians are masters (and mistresses) of lore and learning, capable of finding books and information to at least sort of meet every conceivable need. While their offensive, defensive, magic, and healing skills are generally nil, a skillfully employed librarian can often mean the difference between spending three hours or seven lifetimes in the Great World Library dungeon.

NOTE: Unlike the previous editions, the 5th edition of Ruins & Rogues now classifies Archivists as a separate class rather than a subclass as in the 3rd edition or a prestige class as in the 4th edition. No Librarian skills can be learned by Archivists or vice-versa without dual- or multi-classing. For more information on the more focused, more intuitive, but less open and share-y Archivist class, please see pg. 488.

Alignment: Generally Lawful Liberal, Chaotic Liberal, or Neutral Liberal. Lawful Conservative, Chaotic Conservative, and Neutral Conservative Librarians suffer -1 to all rolls and saving throws versus Peer Pressure, Unspoken Assumptions, and Ivory Tower.

Hit Die: 1d4 -1

Starting Wealth: 1d4 x -100 gold pieces (average -250 gold pieces) to represent crippling student loans and low pay in general.

Starting Equipment: Each Librarian character begins play with an outfit worth 10 gold pieces, a library worth 100 gold pieces, and a cat worth -100 gold pieces (to cover the cost of vaccinations, spaying/neutering, and damage to real property). A Librarian character may forego the cat to increase the value of their starting library to 200 gold pieces but will suffer a -1 penalty on all bibliomancy rolls against other librarians.

Primary Class Statistics: Intelligence (INT), Obsession (OBS)

Secondary Class Statistics: Dexterity (DEX), Cats (CATS)

Class Skills: A Librarian’s class skills are Appraise (INT), Bibliomancy (see below), Cataloging (OBS), Circulation (DEX), Evaluate (INT), Felinomancy (CATS), Knowledge (INT), Linguistics (INT), Research (OBS), and Repair Book (OBS).

NOTE: A Librarian character’s bibliomancy skill is equal to: (size of their library)/100 + Intelligence

Skill Ranks/Level: 1 + INT modifier + OBS modifier

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“Uh, Ted?”

Theodore Crumb, Hopewell District Library circulation supervisor and sworn enemy to delinquent patrons and overdue books everywhere, walked over, his silvery hair spilling over his customary tweed blazer. “Yes, Mr. Burwell?” he said, his unusual, precise diction and habit of calling even his closest friends by their last names in full evidence.

“Well, someone returned a book with a HDN card in it, but it doesn’t have a barcode or a catalog record. Bound in some kind of strange leather, really old looking, with the cancelled stamp of a Massachusetts university.”

Ted pursed his lips. “Well, who was the volume in question checked out to?”

“Koening, Willy. Willy Koening.”

“Ah, Mr. Koening. I am surprised he was able to check it out at all, considering his propensity for taking our rarest publicly accessible volumes and holding onto them until we practically have to beat his door down to confiscate them back. Did the student at the desk ask him what he meant by returning a book we do not own? Was it intended to be some manner of atonement on Mr. Koening’s part?”

“Well, ah, it was Calvert,” said Burwell, his voice crackling with nervousness.

“And did Mr. Calvert share anything with you?”

“He, ah, said that the person who returned it wasn’t Koening.”

“Then who was it, Mr. Burwell?”

Burwell squirmed. “Calvert said that it was a hunchbacked, skeletal figure in a tattered yellow robe wearing a featureless pallid mask. When he asked for its library card, it removed the mask and Calvert said that beneath it was ‘uncountable, otherworldly, eyes surrounded by writhing tentacles like screaming maggots, and that its voice was as the sound of distant children screaming in fear.” He paused. “Calvert’s taking a mental health day.”

Ted raised an eyebrow, unfazed. “And what does Calvert claim that this patron said in such a voice?”

“That Koening wouldn’t have need of the book, or any book, or his library card any longer, as he had been placed on permanent reserve by the Great Old Readers.”

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Ravenna, 1421:

“I would speak with you, my lord, of Ovidius Amello,” said the Chamberlain.

Obizzo da Polenta, Lord of Ravenna, gave a disinterested sigh. “Do you think,” he said, “that the affairs of a court scribe even merit a mention? I am balancing on a knife’s edge between Venice and Ferrara, seeking to placate them both and secure the seigniory of Ravenna for my son. What do I care of Amello, so long as he continues to write what I command him to write?”

“That is just the issue, my lord,” the Chamberlain said. “Amello has become…disturbed. He claims that he is writing what he has been commanded to, but the parchments are covered in gibberish that only vaguely resemble what you or I would call language. His illustrations, too, have taken on strange forms, though when I can understand him he says that they are the same portraits of men and kings that he has always painted.”

“When you can understand him?” snorted da Polenta. “Speak not in riddles.”

“Amello’s habit of speech has become…disorganized…of late, my lord. He will often slip into and out of speaking in tongues in the midst of his speech, and seems to note no distinction therebetween. I fear he may be possessed.”

“Possessed? Bah, what use have I for the useless meddling of the Church that accusation brings? Trump up a charge against Amello, have him executed, and be done with it.”

The chamberlain tented his fingers nervously. “As you recall, my lord, though Amello be officially of low birth, he is actually the illegitimate bastard of-”

Da Polenta rolled his eyes. “A pox on that old wretch! May his signet ring saw his bony finger from his lecherous old hand. Very well, take Amello out of the scribal pool and quietly isolate him. See to it that he is supplied with parchment, vellum, and ink, and let him scribe and babble what he will.”

“By your command, my lord,” said the chamberlain.

And so it was that the scribe Ovidius Amello’s disorganized schizophrenia, which would not even be named (let alone understood) for 500 years, was allowed to develop unchecked. Though the scribe himself thought that the volumes he prepared were routine pharmacopoeias, bestiaries, and astrological treatises of the sort that most scribes of his station wrote, instead be produced and lovingly bound volumes of bizarre symbols and illustrations. The disorganized nature of his schizophrenia meant that none but Amello himself could link his scratchings to any meaningful concepts, as the internal links between language, concept, and expression had broken down.

On Amello’s death in 1431–ironically, not long after that of Obizzo da Polenta–all but one of his books were burned, that last volume being saved as a curiosity by Ostasio III, Obizzo’s son and successor. When Venice took Ravenna in 1441, the book was looted along with the entire da Polenta library. The Holy Wars that followed saw that library sold to Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II for 600 gold ducats; perplexed, he gave Amello’s book to his botanist to try and decipher the many plantlike illustrations therein.

Finding its way from that botanist to an alchemist, a university rector, a Jesuit scholar, a religious library, and finally a book collector. That collector’s name would become affixed to the text and the mystery of its contents–described by one owner as a “sphynx taking up space uselessly in my library.” That last owner’s name?

Wilfrid Michael Voynich.

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He remembered, all right. Dr. Carlsson had left a garageful of books to the library, but his illness meant that the only living things that’d set foot in there for five years were rats and roaches. Half the books had to be thrown out—including some more than 200 years old—because they’d been chewed to pieces for rat nests or smeared with droppings and mold. Even so, the donation had been a treasure trove, with books dating back as far as 1697 in excellent readable condition.

“He took it out with a community user card. The card was real enough—we issued it—but the address is bogus. This street only goes up to 750 and the address is a 902.”

“Those kids at circulation dropping the ball again?”

“Don’t be so hard on them. This guy obviously went to a lot of trouble to get his hands on the thing; you can’t be prepared for that sort of thing.”

“No, I guess not.”

“So where does that leave us? ‘On Symbologie’ has walked off with this Mr. Richat.”

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Sourced from the Ruins & Rogues Adventurer’s Guidebook, 2nd Edition

Librarian Sub-Classes

At level 30 librarians earn their usual 1 skill point but also gain 100 hit points and an extra equipment slot. At this point they may also choose one of the following sub-classes:

Stealthy and deadly, the Booksassin moves as silently as a turned page and strikes as deeply and unexpectedly as a papercut. This sub-class focuses on speed, surprise, and damage at the expense of durability, legibility, and archival quality. Booksassins may use the Tome Travel ability once per day to travel through bookshelves as if casting a teleport spell of equivalent level and do automatic quintuple damage upon emerging from one.

Dewey Deathimal
The Dewey Deathimal classifies and shelves hard-hitting magical and quasi-magical attacks, casting them over a wide area like a shush quiets an unruly mob. This sub-class focuses on intelligence-based area of effect attack spells at the expense of granularity, adaptability, and clarity. Once per day, the Dewey Deathimal may use Books to Bats, which causes all nearby tomes to animate, flap through the air, and descend on all targets in a designated area bringing death from a thousand papercuts.

As punishing as an overdue library book and as well-stocked as a private college library, the Bibliothief focuses on collection development at all costs. This grants major bonuses to the Acquisitions and Prestidigitation skills at the cost of Cataloging and Circulation. Bibliothieves can use the Bookwalk ability to walk across the tops of shelves and gain a bonus to all Book Acquisition rolls (which the sub-class can apply to any item with words on it, not just books).

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Borges once wrote of a secret society dedicated to bring about the replacement of our world by another by methodically documenting every facet of the new world in an encyclopedia; the facts about the new world would gradually replace those of the old through substitution, forgery, and dissemination of altered or completely fictional books. After all, if books (and their successors) can be altered, and they form the only record of the world beyond what people have seen with their own eyes, to change them is to change all.

I believe that someone may have taken that tale to heart.

In my role as a regional coordinator for a major consortium of libraries, I hear a lot of scuttlebutt about books and such; in my previous life I worked for Merchant & Field Booksellers and still maintain some contacts there. Lately my librarians on the one hand and my booksellers on the other have been bringing me texts that, quite frankly, don’t make any sense.

They run the gamut from leather-bound to cheap pulp and bear realistic-sounding but totally false publishers. Real love went into their creation, unlike some of the publish-on-demand crap that bubbles up. Yet the world they describe so blithely and without elaboration is an alien one, like the place I live but in many ways completely different.

The publication dates, for one. Who would create a fake book with a date fifty or a hundred years in the future, or one using a date system (PC) that seems to have begun counting three or four years ago? I’ve read many of the titles, and they are rife with descriptions of kingdoms and empires alongside cell phones and sports cars–the sort of thing many cheap and terrible books aspire to, it’s true. I think they describe a world like ours in which most nation-states have collapsed and in which technology has largely stagnated among the ruins of a fragmented USA. Stagnation and fragmentation, or stagmentation, or fragnation if you prefer.

The kind of internal consistency I’ve seen seems to belie the theory that it’s a single kook slipping these onto shelves. It’s almost enough to make me believe that these crazyquilt places, these Beral Lands, Vativia, Eastern and Outland Empires, or the Rift actually exist somewhere.

That’s crazy of course. But is a Borgesian attempt to alter the fabric of our reality any less so, or an elaborate and expensive literary prank so obtuse that only a handful of booksellers and archivists worldwide could get the joke? Next to that, sometimes I’m willing to allow that these books, these tawdry novels and single volumes of larger works, have simply slipped through some crack from one place to another.

After all, as Borges said, what would someone in another world make of one of our encyclopedias? What would the advanced but fragmented, stagnant but vibrant places I read in these mystery books think if this writing wound up on their own computer screen?

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You are brought into a large and gothic library with a high ceiling and a long bench along one wall. An older man begins going down the row, speaking with and examining each of the large number of people seated along with me in turn. You have a sense that you’re not supposed to be there, one that is exacerbated by your realization that the people on either side of you have six fingers on at least one of their visible hands. Fearing that is some kind of required sign, you hide your hands in your robe before the older examiner can get to you.

When he approaches, he smiles warmly and hands you a golden box. You know instantly that he has seen through you, and knows that you are not supposed to be there, but that hardly seems to matter as you and the other “rejects” begin to float skyward: the old man seems to have abolished gravity for all of you. The others begin to converse while you and the “rejects” cavort in the air above them, unable to hear what they are saying no matter how close you get.

For a while you are content to float about joyously, kicking off of the ornate fixtures near the ceiling in a glorious ballet of weightlessness, but soon you become curious about the meeting below and what it entails. You decide to take some small books from a shelf immediately above where the older man is now seated. You have a vague notion of reading them to discover their secrets, or perhaps trading them (and others) for answers.

You remove the books and attempt to show them to the others that were rejected from the gathering and float nearby. You’re interrupted from a cry down below; the old man mournfully, vengefully declares that the meeting and all its business must cease because of the injury inflicted on the library. You look back at the sconce from which the books were taken, and see that there is ink on the shelf, red ink, like blood from a fresh wound. It’s as if the library is a living organism and you have cut off a finger.

A sudden, overwhelming feeling of guilt strikes you, washing away the former desire to know the secrets of the meeting. You convince the other floaters to help you in cleaning the library and restoring the books to their rightful place, but the old man’s sullen expression indicates that it’s not enough.

The red ribbon from the opening ceremony hung in tatters from Grady’s rifle. He’d wrapped it around the barrel and stock as a sort of improvised sling.

“I bought and paid for this building.” Grady said, staring directly at Fellowes through the glass. “And you’re not getting it back until my wrongs are redressed.”

“It’s a Carnegie library,” said Fellowes, never for a moment taking his eyes off the barrel of Grady’s rifle. “You didn’t pay for it any more than I did.”

“I have paid, several times over, even!” Grady shouted. The scars on his face brightened with rising, angry blood. “First as a millworker for U.S. Steel, lining Andy C’s pockets! Then as a tenant, with taxes to help build and equip it! And finally in blood, defending it against Hun machine guns in the Ardennes!”

“Why do you have all the panels drawn backwards?” Rich said, examining Sadie’s artwork.

“You’re supposed to read it right to left,” she said.

Rich wrinkled his nose. “Why? That’s really confusing, not to mention counterintuitive.”

“Because it’s manga!” Sadie cried as if she’d been waiting for the question and the chance to educate its boorish originator. “Manga is written and read right to left!”

“But isn’t that because manga is Japanese and they read right to left?” Rich said, squinting as he tried to follow the flamethrower-toting faerie through the correct sequence of her adventures.

“Look at the translated ones in the library, they’re right to left too.”

“Of course not. They only translated the word bubbles and stuff,” Rich said, flipping a page and carefully examining a panel where the flamethrower faerie was suddenly tiny with stub limbs and wildly swinging a mallet. “If the whole comic was flipped it would create all kinds of problems. But you wrote in English and drew from scratch–very nicely, might I add–so it should be left to right.”

“That’s just not how manga works!” Sadie fumed.

“And your English text is left to right inside the bubbles on your right to left pages! If you really want to be authentic, shouldn’t you write the words right to left too? Or is that tfel ot thgir?” Rich could barely contain a smile at Sadie’s reaction so far.

“Give me that,” Sadie grumbled, snatching the comic back with an expression not unlike the flamethrower faerie. “Philistine.”