Off the Books is a short adventure by Dana Floberg with an interesting and fun premise. It is aimed at a level 5 party of 3 to 6 players.
The story begins when the players are informed that there has been a magical mishap in a university library. There are a number of simple plot hooks to get your players in the action, and the location can be plopped down in any particular city without much fuss.
In any case, when the party arrives, they find out that somehow books are becoming reality. People, creatures, locations and items found between the pages are now existing and acting in the real world. Besides the expected problems of wrecking the library however, the fictional entities pose a threat to reality itself if they stay like this for too long.
At first, this might seem like a simple issue of going around and persuading (or beating, bashing, stabbing, burning, etc) the fictional characters into returning to their respective books, however complications arise when some characters aren’t that fond of their own story – or just oppose the party for their own reasons.
There are some different combinations of endings you can run, but in general the players have to make a choice about sending someone back to their book when they don’t want to – or when they aren’t wanted there anymore.
There are a lot of fun characters present in the adventure – most of them are one-off encounters, but they are all memorable and they manage to have a lot of personality even if they are quite literally the personification of literary tropes. The main fictional NPCs all have their reasons for doing what they do, especially the main “antagonist” – and there is also plenty of opportunities to talk and interact with them if the players want to.
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I really like the whole concept of the adventure. It’s a fun and interesting way of exploring tropes and cliches in storytelling, and showcases that while some of them are good and practical (thus why they became tropes in the first place), others are awkward, outdated, or even harmful.
Moving on to see what else is there, we have of course some statblocks for NPCs, as well as items and maps. There is also a mechanic called Fiction Points – it acts as a sort of limiter, increasing when players rest or use certain magic items and forcing them to make saving throws when near an awakened book as it closes, pulling them in if they fail. It’s quite straightforward, although perhaps not as impactful in actuality. Still, it adds another element of pressure to complete the adventure and it can generate some interesting storytelling if a player gets sucked into a story.
Overall, Off the Books is a short and entertaining adventure with a lot of fun characters and encounters – but they’re also thoughtful and engaging.
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