During the course of a Pathfinder Roleplaying Game adventure I ran recently, the party defeated an evil wizard. Pretty de rigueur stuff for a fantasy tale. The player running the team wizard wanted to claim their fallen foe’s spellbook, which is also pretty standard. Other characters want cool new magic items, but wizards are always looking for new spells. I wanted to give him something batter than just the list of prepared spells the villain had handy, so I told him I’m put together a document and get back to him.
Over the course of a couple of weeks I thought about wizards’ spellbooks, and realized that they’re pretty boring. When found they are just a list of spells, maybe with a little color by way of some unusual binding or a lock or something. In just about every illustration of a spellbook in any fantasy roleplaying game, they’re depicted as huge, dusty tomes. According to the Pathfinder rules, a blank spellbook weighs 3 pounds. But also according to the rules, each spell only takes up on page. What’s in the rest of the spellbook?
Seriously, a blank hardcover journal that you can buy at a bookstore or a craft store weights far less than 3 pound, and typically has 100 pages. Most wizards don’t know 100 spells, even the high-level ones. Low-level wizards will reserve blank pages, but I can’t image that they wouldn’t make other notes in there. Observations. Sketches. Maybe ideas on possible magic items, concepts for new spells, experiments with alternate material components.
I became intrigued by what else could be in a spellbook besides spells. It certainly adds all kinds of verisimilitude, a tad more depth, some background on the world, even plot hooks. Having spellbooks with more meat to them sounds like more fun. It beats giving a player a list of spells, which they will translate from the found spellbook to their own spellbook, then throw away.
So I’m currently working on a collection of spellbooks for Pathfinder, which I will release through Asparagus Jumpsuit. I’ve already got dozens outlined, that offer not only pre-made spell lists (handy for non-player characters and new player characters) but bits of information that give bonuses to Knowledge checks, allow the reader to improve Skills and Feats, serve up plot hooks for gamemasters to develop, and add some entertainment value to the game.
What do you think? Any other tips or information? Add your thoughts in the comments below. And if you like this post, please share it via the social media buttons below, so others can join the the conversation!