Background Lore

Knowledge is not easy to acquire. Those courageous enough to expand their mental horizons must prepare to endure the unknown. It requires true determination to understand that despite the latent uncertainty that magic research bears, enlightenment comes first. Breaking the rules becomes an everyday event for truth seekers.

Such is the life of Arthimesh Stolski, scientist, researcher, and mage; in that order. It was until the age of 40 that Arthimesh chose to study the arcane arts. Before that, the determined researcher spent decades traveling the world. He studied several cultures and races. He learned different kinds of medicine practices, applying natural and magical approaches. He has witnessed many things that are usually only read about in books.

The Stolskis’s are a not-so-distant relative of the crown. Young Arthimesh always had the gold incentives to fund his little tours between countries. When his parents passed away, he repurposed the family crypts under their home. He desecrated his family’s history to preserve the world’s. With a clear objective of creating a sanctuary for knowledge, he forwent his bloodline in the name of science and research.

He moved everything he had gathered through his years as a researcher in the crypts and organized it in sections. He bought new doors and locks to create chambers. He refurnished some of the rooms and he even categorized the libraries by areas. The real work of a perfectionist.

Some years after that, Arthimesh’s repository blooms in radiance. Young minds looking to expand their perspectives of the world joined Arthimesh in his quest to make his repository the grandest haven for knowledge. They help their mentor keep the place in order and in good shape.

However, Arthimesh’s magic mastery is far from decent. It isn’t uncommon for his followers to see him fail miserably when attempting a magic trick. He achieves what he wants eventually, the teleporting circle in his repository is a clear indication of it. But one day, while he observed the reaction of different kinds of spiders to magic spells, he committed a grave mistake. He misread the arcane runic description of an enlarging spell, and thinking he would be able to enlarge the details his eyes could see, he performed a ritual that affected all the spiders in the room. Enormous insect eyes surrounded Arthimesh as he found himself paralyzed in awe.

Arthimesh was lucky to escape unscathed. He ran to the exit as fast as he could. Two of the acolytes couldn’t make it and became arachnid dinner. The rest reached their mentor at the exit and they closed the door behind them. It has been almost a day and the city hasn’t answered their plea for help.

NPCs

Arthimesh Stolski

Chaotic neutral human (age 53)

It is remarkable to see that Arthimesh has no bald spots at his age. He preserves the body of a thirty-year-old. He wears comfortable tunics and leather shoes. He has a piercing stare and his eyes convey wisdom and experience.

Personality Trait. “If my word exchange with someone doesn’t affect me or the repository, I don’t take it seriously.”

Ideal. “My repository shall become a pinnacle of knowledge.”

Bond. “My life is here, at my repository.”

Flaw. “Knowledge is more important than people.”

Adventure Ideas

  • The heroes arrive in the city looking for Arthimesh’s repository. They were told that its libraries contain the knowledge of ages. They learn the repository is in trouble the moment they ask around.
  • The adventurers hear a rumor about two corpses that were exhumed. They belonged to an old mage and a renowned historian. Their tombs were desecrated and their bodies were stolen. Further investigation reveals a couple of citizens are suspicious of the gatherings at Stolski’s residence. They believe they might have something to do with the missing corpses.
  • A teleporting spell goes wrong and the party appears inside Arthimesh’s repository (area 3). They have no clue where they are and the teleporting circle stops working after their mishap. They must figure a way out of their dilemma and meet Arthimesh.
  • The leader of the guard has summoned the heroes to hire them for a particular job. He tells them about Arthimesh’s repository and his plea for help. But he also explains that the church believes the old man performs dark rituals with his young acolytes, so the guard doesn’t want to get involved and lose their stand with the commonfolk. He is certain Arthimesh has the means to pay for their abilities.
  • The major knows about the heroes’ presence and reputation. He summons them and explains he requires their abilities. He offers 100 gold pieces for the job. He suspects Arthimesh’s repository is a place of satanic worship and forbidden rituals. He needs the adventurers to go, introduce themselves and search the place on behalf of the crown. If illegal activities are, in fact, being performed, the instruction is to apprehend Arthimesh and bring him to justice.

These hooks bring the heroes to Arthimesh doorstep. The old researcher is willing to pay 400 gold pieces to get rid of the nasty vermin infesting his repository. He dismisses any other topic or situation they wish to discuss with him and begs for understanding. He promises he can talk about whatever they want once his repository is safe and free of giant insects.

Note. In the case of the third adventure hook, if the characters dealt with all the spiders before meeting Arthimesh, when they step outside the repository, the researcher is accompanied by the hired muscle mentioned in the development section (see below).

Area Descriptions

The following descriptions of areas 1 through 16 correspond to the underground crypt in Stolski’s residence.

Terrain. Stolski’s family crypt’s stone blocks flooring is in good shape. The libraries’ floor was renewed less than two decades ago. All rooms infested by the spiders have webs (see below).

Doors. All doors and locks are regular quality and they are open unless stated otherwise.

Light. Every room in the repository has purple light sconces that illuminate the rooms at all times. The spiders have wrecked these devices in most of the rooms they are in. Those rooms are in complete darkness.

Spiderwebs. Rooms with webs in them are considered difficult terrain. This has no relation with the web ability of giant spiders, which must be ruled independently.

Smells and Sounds. The place has a permanent smell of leather and paper. The infestation of spiders creates a perturbing hissing sound that can be heard from adjacent rooms.

1. Entryway

The narrow stairs lead to a lobby. Two pyramid-shaped pedestals serve as decoration. Thick, sticky spiderweb strands travel from opposite side of the walls. Two giant spiders wait in the shadows. A passive Perception score of 17 or higher reveals the presence of the spiders when coming in. The door to area 2 is locked.

2. Foyer

A character using thieves’ tools can pick the lock to enter this room with a successful DC 13 Dexterity check. Two small wooden tables feature some fruit and a knife, and a dagger with a cleaver. A desk by the north wall bears a couple of letters and some unfinished works on parchment. The room shows no sign of arachnids.

3. Teleporting Circle

Four stone pillars stand around the magical runes inside red inscribed circles. The magic circle needs conjuration magic to bring people in or take them out.

4. Antechamber

This room is almost empty but for the lonely bookshelf. There are almost no books and nothing of interest in it. There are pieces of wood on the floor that don’t appear to belong to any piece of furniture. A successful DC 14 Intelligence check infers someone was holding or transporting this and dropped it when the instruction to flee was heard. This information is not available if the adventurers arrived via the teleportation circle since they lack the necessary information to infer it.

5 and 6. sarcophagi

Both rooms contain a single white stone sarcophagus each. A detect magic spell reveals necromantic magic on them. The magic preserves the bodies so they don’t decay further, and it eliminates their rotten smell. A passive Perception score of 14 or higher reveals each sarcophagus has a small booklet. The notes in them describe quick thoughts and ideas. They have dates and the lengths of conversations had.

7. History Archives

Several bookshelves placed against the walls surround a pair of wooden tables. They contain a large amount of books and scrolls of historical content. There are whole treatises about various historical events and the role of several key individuals in them. The carpet with the depiction of the continent shines brightly under the magic purple light. A successful DC 14 Intelligence (Investigation) check reveals the official logs for the conversations with the people in the sarcophagi. The logs reveal that the two corpses were exhumed illegally some fortnights ago. Arthimesh is obsessed with knowing more and literally grave robbed both corpses. He performed the spell speak with the dead many times during the past few weeks.

8. South Foyer

This room has no furniture. It serves as the intersection joining both science and arcane libraries. Arthimesh likes this room to be empty. He says it allows him to think and feel the relation between both worlds, the scientific and the magical one. The door to area 9 is locked. There are and four giant wolf spiders in this room.

9. Science Vestibule

A character using thieves’ tools can pick the lock to enter this room with a successful DC 13 Dexterity check. There are so many science documents and papers that this room is like a B-section of the actual library (area 11). Two wooden bookshelves contain all there is to know about botanic and fauna. There are pictures of animals and plants from other continents and ages. The wooden chest contains old books and works on other scientific fields. A passive Perception score of 16 or higher reveals a secret compartment in the chest. The door to area 10 is locked.

Treasure. There are two lapis lazulis and a small leather pouch with gold. All this has a collective value of 125 gold pieces. The chest also contains an unlit purple crystal like the ones lighting the repository. A successful DC 14 Intelligence (Arcana) check reveals it is necessary to decide on a magical word. A character can spend an action to imprint a new word that causes the crystal to shine as if the spell light were cast on it. The user can repeat the word to turn the crystal on and off at will by spending an action.

10. Locked Shelves

A character using thieves’ tools can pick the lock of any of the doors to enter this room with a successful DC 17 Dexterity check. A single bookshelf rests at the end of this room. Arthimesh has the only key to this room. He keeps documents about prototypes and devices that some consider darker and worse than necromancy.

Taking enough time to read them (2 hours), a successful DC 17 Intelligence check allows a character to grasp some of the general ideas of the hidden papers. With his quick and elegant handwriting, Arthimesh described a way of using lightning as a source of energy. Another book mentioned the possibility of horseless carriages. Ones that would move using an internal engine, fueled by steam and vapor.

11. Science Library

An impeccable room with various bookshelves and two wooden desks contain information about sciences and scientific disciplines. There are whole books and studies about astronomy, astrology, physics, chemistry and many other fields. A successful DC 14 Intelligence (Investigation) check reveals Arthimesh’s notes on the desk. He recently wrote a brief essay where he describes the possibility of creating a carriage that would not need horses to be pulled. Another note is a reminder for himself where he emphasizes the importance of locking both doors of the room.

12. Meditation Chamber

This area served as a refuge from books and noise. Shattered chairs lay scattered around the floor. A round wooden table that the spiders haven’t yet wrecked has two golden hypnotizing pendulums and three dozen gold chips. Two giant spiders wait in the shadows and attack anyone who enters the room. A passive Perception score of 17 or higher reveals the presence of the spiders when coming in.

Treasure. The trinkets on the table have a collective value of 45 gold pieces.

13. Storage

The place is filled with useless, broken furniture. Right now, a nest of wolf spiders took over it. Two giant wolf spiders attack anyone that opens any of the doors to the room.

14. Treasure Room

A character using thieves’ tools can pick the lock of any of the doors to enter this room with a successful DC 17 Dexterity check. The spiders could not open any of the doors to this room. Arthimesh keeps this room, as well as the hidden bookshelf (area 10), locked at all times. He is the only one with a key to enter. When he fled and ran to the entrance the moment of the incident, he knew the room would be safe.

Treasure. The chests contain expensive silverware, golden chalices, golden jewelry, and precious stones. All this has a collective value of 450 gold pieces. A passive Perception score of 16 or higher reveals both chests have a hidden compartment below. Inside, there are three potions of healing, a spell scroll of enlarge/reduce, an ioun stone (sustenance), and a ring of protection.

15. Training Chamber

Arthimesh and his acolytes use this room to practice their spells. They do so mostly because it always goes wrong the first times a spell is cast, and not because of the destructive powers of evocation magic. The place was already torn to pieces before the arachnid invasion, but now it is full of webs too. Four giant spider and two giant wolf spider attack anyone on sight.

16. Arcane Repository

This is the room where it all began. Arthimesh’s failure caused the spiders to grow to tremendous sizes and become hostile. The room’s shelves are full of webs and spider eggs now. The two acolytes that couldn’t make it were torn to pieces and put in hard white cocoons. The books and documents in this room are all arcane studies. Books about the planes, the different schools of magic, several approaches on how to learn magic, and many other topics are stored in here.

The poor spiders were subject to other spells before increasing in size. Arthimesh was studying their reaction to different harmless spells before his mistake. When the spiders grew and were locked inside here, the only thing they could eat was paper. And so, they have eaten entire magic spellbooks and scrolls. Some of them mutated. The essence of magic accumulated in their bodies evolved and took over most of their being, transforming them. Two phase spiders, one giant spider and three giant wolf spiders are in the room.

Development

Arthimesh knows the mercenaries he hired are only doing this for the gold. He is aware that his most desired belongings might be stolen. Plus, he doesn’t trust them. The old researcher is a man of his word and he intends to pay the agreed-upon amount. He hired some local muscle for he is precautious and wants to protect what is his.

If the adventurers did their job well, he enters to verify everything is in order and proceeds to pay them. If Artimesh discovers that the adventurers stole stuff from his repository, he confronts them and demands that they return what doesn’t belong to them. In case things get nasty, he hired four thugs, four acolytes, and six commoners shall the need to defend himself or the repository arise.

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