Saturday, August 19, 2017

A Ramble On Spells As Treasure

I feel that a lot of people, myself included, don't really like the standard rules for spell acquisition and research in old Dungeons and Dragons. I tend to hand wave the whole affair, simply letting players choose what spells they learn as they level up.

However, the concept of spells as treasure has recently interested me a great deal. The concept of wizards delving deep into the Earth, facing monsters and traps to acquire a dusty old book of spells is quite interesting to me.

Such spell books are likely to be written in a strange language or cypher, or maybe the book is damaged. In this way, a game master could both rule that only some spells may be readable easily, perhaps 1 or 2 per book.  If a wizard wanted to get more use out of a recovered tome of spells, they would have to enlist the aid of a translator.

I picture that while fighters and other warrior types are looking for ancient magical swords, or powerful suits of armor, the magic users are scrounging through piles of old tattered books, desperately trying to find something of use.

These magic books could also be cursed, perhaps containing the soul of the wizard who wrote it, or as a vessel for a demon (like that one Buffy episode with the robot). Reading ancient books could be a sort of random encounter, rolling on a table to determine the exact kind of book. Perhaps something like this:

  1. The book is indeed a tome of magic, but requires translation in order to be read.
  2. The book is mostly blurry or damaged, but 1d3 spells can be read.
  3. It seems this spell book was written by an apprentice, and only contains a single, low level spell.
  4. This is a spell book of some kind, but the formulas are all wrong, and completely alien to you. There is a 50% chance of failure when trying to cast spells found in this book.
  5. A demon is trapped in this book. Any who cast the spell that it is bound to will be possessed by it.
  6. The spells' titles and descriptions have been written out of order. When casting a spell, the effects are of a random different spell of the same level.
Books of spells may also contain primarily one kind of magic. For example, a war mage's notebook would be mostly full of destructive incantations, and a demon cultist's mad scrawls would primarily be instructions on summoning beings from beyond. This could help add to the flavor or a dungeon, finding spell books left behind by the previous occupants.

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