The Art of Finding Spellbooks

This is another rule from the wizard-campaign. It was introduced because, we needed some mechanic to handle the acquisition of spells. Since we don’t play D&D in a regular manner, equipment is not gained in the usual fashion, and we needed some way to handle this.

The character’s are students at The Great School of Magic, and they can thus require spells from their mentors, from their families (if they are wizards), from the marketplace, from stolen spellbooks, from fellow students and from the library.

The Many Sources of Spells

Spells gained from family members is regulated by the GM, spells from the marketplace from the amount of gold, the character has, from the mentor is gained spells negotiated between player and GM (to represent the fact, that the mentor some times have other views on, what should be learned – this also covers the spells gained, when levels are gained), stolen spellbooks are dangerous, from fellow students are rare, since sharing is uncommon, and that leaves us the library. A library without spells is not a proper library, but how to regulate that?

Studying or Searching?

Spells from other sources are either based on money or social relations, but not the library. Here it is a matter of time. Since XP is gained from passing exams, you want to spend as little time as possible with things that distract you from your studies. Each day spend looking for spells in the library delays your study time – so levels or spells?

Here is the mechanic:

The Art of Finding Spell Books

  • Finding the spell: Knowledge (Arcana) Dc 15+spell level
  • Search time: 4 days -1 day pr. 5 points rolled above the DC. (min. 1 day)
  • Describe the book: Gain +2 bonus to the skill check to find the book (the description must include the title of the book and it’s subject).

Here’s the trick with the mechanic. Describing the book is the important aspect of the rule. It adds flavor to our setting, just as the foot notes in the book Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrel or in the Harry Potter books. It creates anecdotes, and since everybody can create anecdotes, it invites all the players to participate in the creation of the setting, thus sharing the ownership. The anecdotes are fun, and sometimes I choose as the GM to re-incorporate elements from the anecdotes – a name, a book, a detail on magic theory etc. – thus expanding the setting.


  1. Very cool premise:) It sounds like a really cool campaign. For the magic school campaign what served as your inspiration? I’m assuming Harry Potter was one of them 🙂

  2. Harry Potter did a little bit 🙂
    The major source is actually Gaz 3: The Principalities of Glantri from 1987, which describes the wizard realm of Glantri, it’s Great School of Magic and some suggestions on running a school-based campaign.

    With the guide comes a detailed city-map with a detaillevel greater than most supplements. The gazetteer also covers various aspects of the realm, but it is done in a quirky and charming manner. It is one of the better gazetteers of the Mystara-line and one of my great favorites.
    We are having immense fun with the campaign, and it has been running on a regular basis for some 5 years now.

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