D&D 5E Buying Your Spellbook? (Quick Poll)

Do you play that wizard PCs must spend starting gold for their initial spellbook?

  • Yes, wizards must buy their starting spellbook.

    Votes: 5 9.6%
  • Yes (sort of), but we generally use starting equipment for the wizard class (spellbook included).

    Votes: 10 19.2%
  • No, wizards get their first spellbook for free (do not have to pay for it with starting funds).

    Votes: 36 69.2%
  • Other (please explain)

    Votes: 1 1.9%


The High Aldwin
I was just looking over the equipment list in the PHB and saw the spellbook for 50 gp and wondered:

Do you play that wizard PCs must spend starting gold for their initial spellbook?

For reference, here is the spellbook description:

Given that wizards start with 4d4 x 10 gp, you have about a 2% chance of rolling just 40 or 50 gp, barely enough (or not enough) to buy a spellbook, and nothing else...

If you tack on the cost of a spell focus or spell component pouch (why would anyone buy this when foci are cheaper...?), even getting 50 gp really isn't enough for your base costs.

So, how do you handle this?

EDIT: FWIW, if you tally up the starting equipment options, it gives you the following:


Going with the most expensive options would be dagger, component pouch, scholar's pack, and spellbook for 117 gp, towards the higher end of a wizard's starting fund (not including the value of items gained from background).

The least expensive options (quarterstaff, staff (focus), explorer's pack, spellbook) would be valued at 65.2 gp.

So, it would seem based on starting equipment options wizards are expected to buy their first spellbook... :unsure:

UPDATE: Averaging out the starting equipment based on all the backgrounds in the PHB is about 30 gp worth of equipment.

I went through all the classes starting equipment options, taking the average, and adding 30 gp for the average equipment for backgrounds, and the starting funds by rolling is pathetic.

Barbarian: Max 80, Average 100, 0%
Bard: Max 200, Average 142, 33%
Cleric: Max 200, Average 127.5, 50%
Druid: Max 80, Average 87.5, 0%
Fighter: Max 200, Average 194.5, 1%
Monk: Max 20, Average 49, 0%
Paladin: Max 200, Average 196, 1%
Ranger: Max 200, Average 137, 35%
Rogue: Max 160, Average 117.5, 25%
Sorcerer: Max 120, Average 93, 30%
Warlock: Max 160, Average 143, 5%
Wizard: Max 160, Average 129, 14%

What the above means: The max is the most you can roll, the average is the average starting equipment by class + background, and the % is the chance of rolling enough to purchase the average starting equipment and background combined. Only the cleric has a 50% chance of rolling enough money, most classes are 15-35%, and some are just 1% or 0%!

Clearly, whether intended or not, you are better off just picking starting equipment by class and adding background--otherwise you probably will have less...
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Patron Badass
I imagine that description comes in handy for if you happen to lose your spellbook somehow, but most PC wizards are probably prepared enough to start the game with a spellbook in hand.
Yeah. Seems like it's be unnecessarily complex and unfun otherwise.


Steeliest of the dragons
Absolutely not. A 1st level mage starts with their "starting spellbook." What I always picture/imagine is, like,...I dunno, a "primer." Like your most filled apprenticeship notebook...just a kind of plain leatherbound journal. Your cantrips and starting 3 first level spells are in there. Probably not more than 50 pages total.

Now, as you level up, you want a hardbound book? How about some nice metal strapped corners (I hate it when the edges of my spellbooks get all bent). Precious metal/stone gilding/embossing?

You want a book with a latch on it? A lock and key? A trapped lock? Magical lock? Magical trap? Magical protections -like, say, against burning in fire. Sure, there's yer classic "Explosive Runes!" or Bestow Curse or Blindness on the first page. But I mean more advanced enchantments like...ensorcelled to appear as gibberish (or a harmless work of fiction) to anyone except its owner. Or unable to be opened by demons (or clerics or warlocks or anyone who doesn't share the owner's alignment or etc..., etc...). Held/kept in/create an extradimensional space...able to be "conjured" or "put away," at will, by the mage.

All those sorts of fun flavorful spellbook additions on some or all of your grimoires as you advance is all chargeable...and can get verrrry 'spensive.


If starting at level 1, I normally do one of these options, in this order of probability. Most campaigns start at level 3, making the top option the default.

  1. Everyone starts with maximum roll for wealth by class
    1. It's just easy, and makes sure everyone has enough to start (yes the wizard has to buy their spellbook).
  2. Everyone starts with class + background equipment
    1. Makes interesting setups (such as the unarmored barbarian for level 1), but the equipment from background can greatly influence their decision. They're really not balanced at all, and I hate the idea of a player changing their background concept solely for the money/equipment. If backgrounds change significantly (such as providing a feat), this concern will obviously go away.
  3. Choice of rolling or class + background equipment
    1. I think this is officially RAW, but I'm not a huge fan. It can create some oddities though, since someone might take a rich background for their monk instead of rolling their poor option. A greedy player could fail to afford a spellbook for their wizard, as the OP suggests.

Even in harsh old school style the wizard was starting with his spell book.
It would be very funny in 2022 to say to a player that his character dont have enough money to buy his spell book. 5ed more harsh than old school style!?


I look at it like a basic book. It can get you to around level 5 and may have some of the free spells that wizards get already in it that you are studying but do not know how to cast yet. Wizards and casters in general tend to pay more along the way and get scrolls and such to help out, so the free book at 1st level is fine.

I have seen parties give the casters more of the share of gold to make up for buying more scrolls and such. I have also seen a party share where something like this or potions come out of.


The class states the following in the class description:
At 1st level, you have a spellbook containing six 1st-level wizard spells of your choice. Your spellbook is the repository of the wizard spells you know, except your cantrips, which are fixed in your mind.
This is a feature of the class, and independent of the equipment section. They redundantly list the spellbook in the default equipment, but it is a feature of gaining one level of wizard that you obtain a spellbook.

If your first level is as a wizard, this is easy to explain. If a PC multiclasses into wizard, we work in an explanation. Often, the PCs will have befriended someone capable of arcane magic early in their career, and it is often easy to have that person provide it to the PC in gratitude for prior service. Alternatively, they might find a spellbook of 6 spells and a blank spellbook out there in treasure, as well as the materials to copy those 6 spells into their own book. Regardless, we work it in pretty easily - but the PC is never required to pay for their (first) spellbook.
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