Saturday, March 28, 2009

Spellbook musings: part the third.

It is very annoying to me how, in the BEMCI ruleset (and Labyrinth Lord for that matter), there is no cost for adding spells into a spellbook and yet replacing lost or destroyed books costs a veritable fortune, to the tune of 1000gp per spell level. I'm all for paying for what you need to replace -- but gouging that much cash from a hapless MU who will be defenseless without the spellbook(s) seems a little much. Especially when first scribing the books costs the character nothing at all.

A little tinkering, says I, is required. Luckily, there are many examples to borrow inspiration from -- and a useful extenuating circumstance.

Scribing costs: A widely-used (from 1e to 3.x) and fairly reasonable standard scribing-price for a spell is 100gp per spell level to be scribed. This works nicely, to my mind; expensive enough to keep rampant scribing in check, not so expensive as to completely bankrupt the MU given the rates of treasure acquisition. (If a little randomness is desired, make it, oh, 6d10+50gp.)

Campaign-based rationale for this price can be easily made by considering the materials used. Ritual materials, exotic quills or ink-pens and most of all the ink needed for such an endeavour can easily eat up a MU's gold. Ink for imbuing the spell formula may be infused with myrrh and rosewood ashes, or distilled from cinnabar and dragon's blood, or glittering with miniscule flecks of purified jade and gold ...


Replacement costs: At a minimum, replacing a spellbook should cost as much as the initial scribing of the book; the MU is, after all, performing the same work again. However, a case could be made that replacements -- having to start from scratch, without references -- should cost twice as much, or three times if the DM prefers it (though I would argue against it).

The real cost in losing spellbooks, whether to damage or theft, is in finding the means to have any reference for the spells being replaced. One could make a good argument that -- except for any spells memorized at the time and still in memory -- a MU cannot replace lost scribed spells unless a reference is at hand. Gaining that needed reference could become costly in a different way, as the MU goes into debt with other spellcasters for access to their books for copying purposes, and rare spells may not be recoverable at all! Truly, this spectre presents a good argument for spending the gold for multiple copies of ones' spellbooks!


Duplicating spellbooks: An optional notion would be to allow a MU to re-copy their own spellbooks (so as to make two copies, one being already in hand) at half the required cost, as they are already well familiar with the material and the notation. On the other hand, it could be as easily argued that familiarity or no, material costs are material costs.

9 comments:

Jeff Rients said...

Great stuff in the last two posts! One question: what's the danger inherent in "rampant scribing" such that it should be more expensive to transcribe a spell than another document of equal length?

taichara said...

@Jeff Rients:

Great stuff in the last two posts! One question: what's the danger inherent in "rampant scribing" such that it should be more expensive to transcribe a spell than another document of equal length?

Aah! Bad phrasing on my part, I think; by "rampant scribing" I mean the extant BEMCI rules that essentially just say "and you wrote the spell down" with no cost at all, so a MU could concievably sit down with a pile of newly-plundered spell scrolls or what-have and say "I scribe all of them into my spellbook". Putting a price to it slows MUs down to a small tornado ;3

For spells being more expensive than another ("mundane", I'm guessing you mean?) document; in my own campaigns, spellbook inscriptions are tied up in a combination of infusing magic into the page that helps set the memorization of magic-flows when studied, and too much tradition of funky spell-inks. Both of which lead to -- you guessed it -- very expensive inks with often exotic components.

A campaign without the above could easily make the process cheaper, even to the point of being on-par with everyday journalkeeping. It's just a personal preference of mine.

... If the above makes even less sense, I apologize; and will try again after I've caught up on sleep *sheepish ~*

trollsmyth said...

Since I generally allow magic-users to cast spells from their spellbook as if the pages were scrolls, it only makes sense that the pages need to be infused with the magic of the spell itself. And that means extra safeguards on the book, lest the magic bound into the tome begin to leak out.

(Word verification: mononont!)

taichara said...

Since I generally allow magic-users to cast spells from their spellbook as if the pages were scrolls, it only makes sense that the pages need to be infused with the magic of the spell itself.

That too. I haven't decided if I use that variant in BEMCI yet -- but knowing me, I probably will.

And that means extra safeguards on the book, lest the magic bound into the tome begin to leak out.

Hehe. Indeed.

Do you use a risk of other spells also being "used up" when a spellbook spell is used as a scroll?

(Word verification: mononont!)

trollsmyth said...

Do you use a risk of other spells also being "used up" when a spellbook spell is used as a scroll?

I don't. I figure losing the spell out of the book is harsh enough.

Chgowiz said...

I like this! I've used a similar approach when creating scrolls, but haven't thought about how to do that for mages.

Because spell books and scrolls are rare, I'd be less likely to make it 100gp per level - I might have a sliding scale or maybe 20 or 50gp per level. That's almost like charging a fighter to use a sword he/she just found. Making them take time is another resource burner - so if they're paying for 1 month of scribing (1 week per level of spell to be scribed) for 4 1st level spells, I'm probably less likely to really charge them much more. I don't want to heap too much on the mage. Now a high level mage? Pfft... he's going to pay thru the wazoo. The poor 1st level mage? Not such much.

But that's just my campaign.

trollsmyth said...

I generally only require an hour per level of scribing, but each scribe can only work ten hours at most in a day. Magic-users in my campaigns have a history of farming out this work, either to apprentices or magical scriptoriums, depending on how widespread magical use is in the world.

In my current campaign, that's going to be a lot harder to do, so I may wave just handwave it to a half-hour per spell of any level. Or I may allow mundane scribes to be able to do the bulk of the work, and require the mage only to mix up the expensive ink and apply the finishing touches. I haven't quite decided yet.

trollsmyth said...

I figure losing the spell out of the book is harsh enough.

I should also add that finding a safe place to store back-up books is a challenge for my magic-users, so it's not uncommon for the book the PC takes on the adventure to be the PC's only book.

taichara said...

@trollsmyth:

Aah. If there's not much chance for a backup book, having no risk of additional spells lost makes good sense. No reason to penalize a PC too badly when they were likely already in dire straits (to cast a spell straight from the spellbook).

I like the idea of farming out scribal work, too ;3


@Chgowiz:

Tailoring price up or down by campaign need makes sense to me. The range I gave is more of a suggestion than a hard and fast rule; and tis true, time can be another limiting factor.