Wizard's Spell Book Allocation
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  1. #1

    Wizard's Spell Book Allocation

    In the last session, my party defeated a 7th level Wizard and I allowed the party Wizard (4th level) to find his spell book. It's full of non-combat utility spells and rituals, so it won't have a huge impact on combat but I expect it will come back and bite me on the azz sooner or later. I'm curious how often other DMs hand out spells to Wizards in your games, if you allow them to loot the entire spell book from defeated Wizards, and what sort of mistakes you feel you've made when you gave out a spell that totally screwed your adventure.

  2. #2
    I'd keep in mind that copying spells from another wizard's spellbook into your own costs time and money. I'd say that, even if you have another wizard's spellbook, you still have to copy it into your own as every wizard notates their spells in their own unique way. That way handing out a spellbook doesn't automatically double your party wizard's repertoire of spells.

    Honestly, most of my villains aren't wizards. If they're casters, they're usually some form of sorcerer or warlock. Or "other," as in some form of creature that can naturally cast spells. If I was to throw a wizard at them, I'd make sure they had a lot of the same spells the party wizard had. Not all, of course, but a good portion.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Sacramento California
    I occasionally hand out random scrolls. Very rarely will a party encounter an NPC wizard out in the wild, such wizards will typically have a "pocket sized" Traveling or Combat spellbook that they keep handy for general use, but never a full spellbook. This is because spellbooks cost a lot of money and even more time to make, and wizards don't need to read their spellbook unless they are swapping spells out from the previous day.

    On the story beat that they go to slay a cabal of necromancers, or a lich, or whatever; then they have access to the full book or library, but there are significant costs. Translation, decryption, disarming wards etc.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Often when a wizard finds a spellbook of a defeated wizard, they will find that their book and the capture spellbook have many spells in common. e.g. most wizards have mage armour, detect magic, and magic missile in their books. Of course, in the case of a 4th level wizard capturing the book of a 7th level wizard, they will gain additional spells of 3rd and 4th level allowing them to choose other spells when they level up to round out their spell list.

    I'm also fairly lenient with using spell books, wizards don't need to copy spells from captured spellbooks into their own book, they can instead spend time to learn the spells in the captured book and prepare spells from it directly. They may still want to copy some spells, which will require the same amount of time and money, just so that they aren't carrying around a small library.
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  5. #5
    I have no problem with enemy wizard's working spellbooks being treasure - i mean - enemy boss armor and weapons are often treasure right? i see the spellbook as part of "the equipment worth something" for the wizard NPC.

    That said, one should keep in mind a number of possibilities - like special interdim chests to hold them, conjurerers using conjuration to work off facsimilies of their own books, crafty wizards having backups and such that they can get to if the resources and level are appropriate, etc. Its in my experience often that PC wizards spend time and money to prepare for bad results and counter the eggs-in-one-basket aspect of their spellbooks and my NPCs do as well.

    To be honest, off the top of my head, its likely that far more of my PC wizards have gained bonus spells from captured/found spellbooks than from scrolls.

    heck, have them find a mauled caravan on the road and signs of a dead wizard and missing spellbook and the party wizard will push for "we gotta go get those raiders!!!" for you.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Concord, CA
    The greater restriction on wizards is prepared spells. You could give them every spell in the game for their spellbook and it will not make them overpowered. They can't prepare enough to make it matter too much.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    In choosing to play a wizard, a player is accepting that they are also playing a spellbook-building mini-game. It becomes the primary drain on their financial resources, and it can become an obsession, as they try to expand their available list. The DM should want to support that mini-game (though not at the expense of other payers, etc.), which means giving out scrolls, trading spells with passing wizards, and, occasionally, finding a higher-level wizard's spellbook.
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  8. #8
    Thanks for the replies all. Iím glad to hear I havenít really screwed up. I think it might be a good thing, since the spells he got are ones most Wizards never take since theyíre not combative.
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  9. #9
    So far, the only wizards we have encountered have been from published adventures (including previous edition adventures). If it makes sense for them to encounter a wizard in a home-brew adventure or other situation, they will.The spellbook's location is usually specified in the adventure. If not, I place it in a place that makes sense. They usually carry a copy on them so they don't risk it being stolen somewhere else.

    If the PC defeats the wizard, they should usually be able to get access to their spellbook. While 5e doesn't require it, found spellbooks and scrolls has traditionally been the wizards main method of acquiring spells, and should be encouraged. As @jgsugden said, finding spells won't mess anything up.

    One thing to keep in mind is that copying spells into a spellbook a major drain on resources. And if you want to make a backup spellbook that adds even more cost (not too much though in 5e). My wizard is perpetually poor. Sometimes he has to borrow money from other party members. Usually he has spells he can't yet afford to copy sitting around in a captured spellbook. At the same time, the party members who don't spend much money are racking up a nice nest egg.

    As far as fleshing out the spellbook itself, here is what I do.

    1) If there is a published list of spells in the book, or a list of prepared spells, I start there.
    2) I figure out how many spells he should know based on the wizard class rules.
    3) After they hit that number, I tend to give them a few more spells. NPC wizards expand their spellbook too! I roll a die for this based on what makes sense to me.
    4) I figure out which spells they have.
    a) I don't worry about which spells the PC wizard has. Just figure the NPC's out as if they existed on their own. It won't hurt anything.
    b) They almost always get the go to spells like detect magic, identify, etc. Since the PC probably always has these, they aren't going to be copied.
    c) I pick a few additional spells (maybe just 1 or 2) that seem to really fit the character.
    d) I randomly roll the remaining spells, favoring ones in the PHB over ones in other documents.
    e) If an additional spell they know seems like it should been prepared if they knew it, I either prepare it in instead of one they had listed as prepared, or have them not in fact know it, and replace it with another spell.

    Step 4d is really part of the fun. It means that the PC isn't as dependent on my parceling out the spells I think they should have, but rather gets to open up mystery presents. It's the same reason I like to use randomly rolled treasure when there isn't specific treasure assigned by an adventure.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by jgsugden View Post
    The greater restriction on wizards is prepared spells. You could give them every spell in the game for their spellbook and it will not make them overpowered. They can't prepare enough to make it matter too much.
    This. Why do so many DMs think giving more spells to PC wizards will "make them OP"? Complete nonsense. I want to know where this assumption comes from, because I see it all over the place. But consider:

    Completely on their own, a level 20 wizard will have 42 non-cantrip spells (anyone else think that number was deliberate? =). Those 42 spells are going to be, in the wizard's calculation, the absolute best ~4 spells for each level. Ipso facto, any spells you give them are going to be, at best, ~5th from the top of their ranking, if not much much lower.

    Furthermore, an optimized level 20 wizard can only prepare 25 of their spells (generally a wizard can prepare about half of what they get automatically, at any level). Unless it's for the fun of variety, a wizard isn't going to skip out on their naturally-acquired top ~4 spells per level when they can only prepare ~2 of them anyway.

    Which is really what the perceived power of new spells comes down to. If you as the DM decide to bring enemies with specific vulnerabilities or resistances to spells you know the wizard has, and you tell the player to be prepared for that well in advance, then yes there will be some edge cases where more spells means more choosing power and better preparation. But a good wizard has already selected a variety of spells to allow them to cover as many scenarios as possible. Wizards don't go on an adventure having only prepared spells that deal one damage type. Many of the best wizard spells don't even deal damage directly anyway.

    Your wizard player chose the one class in the game that can pick up more spells than they can use. That's what makes them happy, and it doesn't make them more powerful unless you go out of your way to make it that way... so please, just let your wizards learn more spells.

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