log in or register to remove this ad


5E Am I too strict?

Benjamin Olson

My own approach is generally to just say that the first few spells they learn on level up are ones that were already in their spellbook but that they just hadn't mastered yet. After level 5 or so I probably would say it is time for them to have to buy inks ahead of time for those spells if I was enforcing magic ink rules which I usually don't.

I always found the whole idea of magic ink (with spells somehow always using up the same amount per level) to be mostly silly, introduced for mechanical reasons rather than lore ones, and unnecessary. There is very little need to limit wizard spell copying with money because the DM already controls access to finding spells in the first place, as well as components for some of those spells. Even for free spells the DM controls access to level-up. Adding in the DM also needing to give them money just seems like one more form of DM power rationing to pick on one particular class.

log in or register to remove this ad


I see the rules of the two spells gain at each level, as an efficient rule to keep the Wizard playable despite any kind of setting, especially those where magic can be very hard to acquire, or gold or ink is also very rare.
so I would not restraint at all the player with this rule.

otherwise spell access to copy is a setting matter and there you can do what you want.


This is why I require downtime and gold to level up, but I see that your group doesn't want that. For instant leveling, I think the best way of thinking about it is that the spells were in the book all along and that the wizard has only now gained mastery over them to add them to his/her repertoire.


Mod Squad
Staff member
It was perfectly crystal clear from the beginning of 5th edition. This is the first time this player makes a wizard. This is the first time the ruling is brought to question.
The beginning of 5th edition was about six years ago now. Real humans, when presented with a piece of information they then don't need for six years, will tend to forget that piece of information.

Is it too strict of a house rule?
"Strict" is not the word I'd use. I think it runs against the spirit of the rules - when a character levels up, they should be able to take advantage of their new class abilities. You are making so that one class needs to pay extra for access to their abilities that others do not, and I don't see that you've presented a good reason to do that.


Mod Squad
Staff member
Would you make the spell just appear in the spell book. The wizard does not have any ink, not even a feather write with. So how does the spells appear? I am curious about the mechanic of spell writting itself in a spell book.
Simple - the character has been working on these formulae since the last time they gained new spells. They've been making notes and calculations in all the time between, here and there, in moments and downtime we gloss over. The final moment of actually being able to cast it is the eureka they get at level-up.


I can add a custom title.
This houserule would likely make me not want to play a wizard. Those two free spells you get from levelling are just that, free, there should be no charge associated with them.

Is this too strict?
You are not being strict at all, from a rules perspective, as you are not following the rules.
Per the a PHB:
Each time you gain a wizard level, you can add two wizard spells of your choice to your spellbook for free.

Copying a Spell into the Book. When you find a wizard spell of l st level or higher, you can add it to your spellbook if it is of a spell level you can prepare and ifyou can spare the time to decipher and copy it.

The two free spells the Wizard learns are not necessarily being copied from an outside source, but could,(and probably should), be considered magical discoveries the Wizard made on their own.

Alfred Wallace did not copy Natural Selection from Chuck Darwin, Wallace independently discovered it a decade or so later.

In D&D terms the player ‘discovers’ Floating Disc....only later does the PC learn that some person named Tenser actually discovered it first.

If your player spent money to research custom spells would you also charge them to “copy” their custom spell into their grimoire?

Helldritch, if you were playing in a game and the DM ruled that “Level advancement is free except for Helldritch”, would that trouble you?

I imagine, that is likely how the player is feeling: only they have to pay gold to level up, while the rest of the group gets to level up for free.


It has been this way since the beginning of 5ed. The player knew it. The other players throughout various campaigns that played a wizard knew it and accepted it. It is only one player that is not in agreement of the ruling.

Is it too strict of a house rule?
nope absolutely not, if you got a working economic which i assume, but that goes for all characters: The fighter has to pay for his weapons and armor, no wonderous starting gear but som 200 gold for everyone instead.
i rule even harder, no spells appear out of nowhere, but otoh you can get any spell you want at the Wizard s guild.
also you have to make that clear at the beginning but you sid this already obviously.
you also have to carefully balance how much dosh the players aquire and the relation of e.g. Cost of plate armor vs a third level spell.


Morkus from Orkus
The DM is definitely not always right, and in this case, I think OP should have informed the player of this rule before the game began.

The OP has made the game more restrictive than it's intended to be, for one character, in a way that taps into a second increase in restriction, making it...very undesirable to play a wizard, after the player has already started playing a wizard.
The OP did inform the player in advance. And it's a reasonable house rule. You don't have to find or buy the spell, but you still need the special inks to pen it into the book. It makes the game consistent and consistency is good. This player made the Wizard knowing that this is the case and apparently didn't prepare. That's on the player.

Nope this is an example to clarify why I made this ruling. Would you make the spell just appear in the spell book. The wizard does not have any ink, not even a feather write with. So how does the spells appear? I am curious about the mechanic of spell writting itself in a spell book.
First, you need an explanation for why you even need expensive ink to copy a spell into a spellbook. Then you can make sense of things from there.

The way I handle it is to treat spellbooks as basically "spell preparation foci", in that same category of quasi-magical tools as spellcasting foci. Because of that, you can't just write text into the book and have it work. It has to be written with special ink, because when you prepare spells from your spellbook you are peforming an at least quasi-magical mental configuration act, and being able to channel the magical symbols through looking at that special ink is part of the ritual of spell preparation.

So with that explanation, how can you write spells into the book without special focus ink every now and again (when leveling) and have it work? Because it is a spell you have been working on developing since you last leveled up. Every day you are writing bits and pieces of it in there, puzzling over it, testing out bits of it, and effectively infusing it with your own aura/resonance/energy. Instead of spending a couple of hours and using some magic ink to do a quick write, you are investing your extended time and energy into making that spell part of your spell preparation focus. it. It doesn't matter what sort of ink you use in that situation.

Trapped out in the desert? I'd grab a pointy stick and write it in my own blood.

I understand and share the desire not to handwave the spells appearing in the book without the proper ink, but I think there are creative ways to justify it that don't remove class abilities from characters.

As far as putting that in to make wizards less appealing because you'd like to see less of them played... Have you asked your players why they play wizards instead of warlocks and sorcerers? Maybe you'll find out that they really just like wizards, or don't like the others from a conceptual framework. If that's the case punishing them for playing wizards may not be a deterrent until it reaches the rage-quit level, so it might not be the best approach. On the other hand, maybe they are cool with the idea of sorcerers and or warlocks, but they really don't like something mechanical about how 5e did them. (I have issues with sorcerer myself.) In that case, maybe providing positive incentive by altering sorcerers/warlocks mechanically would have better results.


1. Yes, it is too strict. Those spells are free and they appear in the spellbook as "magic".
You are entitled to as DM to modify that rule, but you are making a problem where there is none.

2. If you are feeling that there is too few warlock/sorcerers created, maybe take a look why those 2 classes are bad for your players.


Nothing says heroic fantasy quite like bean-counting for quills and ink.

But if profit and loss accountancy is the name of the game, it sounds perfect.

Just make sure those spells are properly recorded on the balance sheet as well (most spells are considered intangible assets, although ’charm person’ is often recorded as Goodwill), remember they’re not subject to depreciation, and are declared for tax as capital gains, not income.
Last edited:


This reminds me of when we complained about the old LFQW while ignoring all the spell casting/learning limitations in the in-game mechanics of older editions, and now here we are doing the same. Good times!
Last edited:

I would also point out, that 1e training rules for level advancement was also more balanced then 5e, as the martial classes did not automatically know how to use every weapon.

The fighter that found the Vorpal bardiche, typically had to wait until they could learn to use the weapon in 1e...which might actually take a couple level advancements.

So, does team “old school training rules” also house rule limited weapon proficiencies ala 1e?

If there are only Wizards and no other types of spellcasters, whatever the intent of the rule, Helldritch is in effect enforcing a rule that impacts one player, significantly more then the others. The rule seems to have failed to yield the intended result of encouraging the play of other spell caster classes then wizard.

The point is fun. The player is not having fun....and not because they are trying to take advantage of the situation. They just want to use a very general rule, with a fairly widely agreed upon meaning found in the PHB.

I personally love detailed bookkeeping, but even as a DM, I am still only one person out of 7 or 9 people depending on which campaign I am running. Sometimes, it is fine to let rules...be it RAW, Optional, or Homebrew fall by the wayside as the campaign changes and grows.

This isn't "strict", this is just a bad house-rule resulting from an misreading/misunderstanding of the actual rules. Which makes it like about 50-70% of house-rules.

Free means free. It doesn't mean you charge them. It's not even a good house rule, because it just penalizes one class in a totally uneven way. Other classes will simply be vastly wealthier than Wizards (given the scheme suggested), as a result. In earlier editions, this might have made sense, given the vast power differential between Wizards and everyone else, and that Wizards could make $$$ by casting spells for people. In 5E it doesn't make any sense, given all the other casters will be at full capability spending 0gp. It doesn't even make sense if you bring in making $$$ by casting spells, because all the other classes will have similar earning capacities (Bards/Sorcerers might be a bit behind, because they have more fixed spells), and indeed Druids/Clerics may having a higher earning capacity.


And what about the side bar? It does not say:"Except those you had free from leveling."
Like Oofta said. Free of charge, but not of shipping.
D&D is a an exceptions based game. The sidebar is the general rule for adding spells, the spells you add when you level up are an exception, clearly stated when it's said you gain them for free. The exception trumps the general rule here, so by RAW and RAI the spells are free, what you are doing is not a rulling, it's a house rule IMHO. Now, about being strict or not, I agree with the players. the free spells are the natural way in wich the class progresses, so it's really taxing to charge for the spells, even more so if the other classes do not have to pay for levelling up. Putting a tax in character growth can be realistic, but I'd argue D&D is not about realism.


Rotten DM
5.1 srd page 54 When You find a new spell,....
For each level of the spell, the process takes 2 hours and costs 50 gp. The cost represents material components you expend as you experiment with the spell to master it.

So unless the OP told the players upfront about the change, then they are too strict.

Mythological Figures & Maleficent Monsters