Role-playing Games Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for gamemasters and players of tabletop, paper-and-pencil role-playing games. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I have looked all over this site & Google but I can't seem to get a good answer to this.

When creating a Wizard over level 1, how many spells should he have in his spellbook? I'm speaking in addition to his starting spells and his 2 free spells per level. Since Wizards can learn spells from scrolls, or even other spellbooks they relieve of dead wizards or borrow/rent from friends/libraries/guilds etc. Effectively this means he could have dozens of each level of spell which I think is a bit much. Has anyone found a good means to determine the amount of spells to give them when starting at higher levels?

Specifically I'm trying to accommodate a new lvl 15 wizard but this could apply to any upper level wizard.

share|improve this question
Comments are for singular requests for clarification only, not discussion. Provide a better answer to the question instead of arguing. – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Jan 21 '14 at 6:38
up vote 9 down vote accepted

"Pay a price based on spell level"

Note: I use the term "Pay" repeatedly. In this post this simply means to deduct from their starting cash according the published Wealth By Level (WBL) chart.

The chart at the bottom of this answer is the base amount of spells a wizard gets for free. The only answers for "how many additional spells a wizard has learned at upper levels" I've found so far are to charge 150 gp for each spell. Supposedly this is to cover the 100 gp price of the page plus the sell price of the spell in a wizard's spellbook.

This is flawed on its face since it costs 100 gp per page, but each spell takes 1 page per level of the book. So a level 2 spell would cost 200 gp to add to a book. Using the intended logic this would cost 250 gp. So this is the only answer I could come up with.

However, the biggest drawback to this system is that by upper levels the WBL table has them starting with so much coin they could effectively have nearly any spell. (level 15 starts with 200,000 GP) They would have to have additional spellbooks to hold over the 100 page limit but big deal at this point.

The other drawback is that it is ridiculous to assume that anyone has killed this many wizards or convinced that many wizards to share their books. The rulebooks make this sound like a rarity due to how wizards safeguard their research..and the normal charge is 50 gp × spell level (+the cost of writting the spell into their own spellbook). A way around this is to have them pay full price for scrolls. While this solves the "found too many wizard books" problem, it may make the price go too far in the other direction.

Ways to overcome the drawbacks:

  1. Set an arbitrary number of how many additional spells they could have. I don't like this b/c how do you fairly pick an arbitrary number?
  2. Set a limit of how many spells they get at the "found spellspook" price (100gp per spell level +50gp) and then allow them to get how many ever scrolls they want. (100gp per spell level + retail price of scroll)
    • This still has the problem of how to pick a fair arbitrary number?
  3. Give them a set amount they can use on learning new spells. Still an arbitrary number, but atleast one that is more feasible. ie, you can set a max of 30% of wealth be spent on a single item, so the same principal or even cap could be set on learning spells.

Base Wizard Spells per Level

  1. 3+Int
  2. +2 (1st lvl)
  3. +2 (any combo of 1st or 2nd lvl)
  4. +2 (any combo of 1st or 2nd lvl)
  5. +2 (any combo of 1st 2nd or 3rd lvl)
  6. +2 (any combo of 1st 2nd or 3rd lvl)
  7. +2 (any combo of 1st 2nd 3rd or 4th lvl)
  8. +2 (any combo of 1st 2nd 3rd or 4th lvl)
  9. +2 (any combo of 1st 2nd 3rd 4th or 5th lvl)
  10. +2 (any combo of 1st 2nd 3rd 4th or 5th lvl)
  11. +2 (any combo of 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th or 6th lvl)
  12. +2 (any combo of 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th or 6th lvl)
  13. +2 (any combo of 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th or 7th lvl)
  14. +2 (any combo of 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th or 7th lvl)
  15. +2 (any combo of 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th or 8th lvl)
  16. +2 (any combo of 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th or 8th lvl)
share|improve this answer
Worth noting: If you must fill a wizard's book, it's better to buy a Boccob's Blessed Book. It holds 1000 pages of spells and copying into the book costs nothing (which more than mades up for the book's cost) – Zachiel Jan 21 '14 at 10:05
When creating an NPC wizard, or even a PC wizard starting at higher than 1st level, I typically populate their spellbook exactly as you mention above (Base Wizard Spells per Level), and then add additional spells at each level equal to (the caster's max spell level)-(spell level) + 1. So for your example, one additional level 8, 2 level 7s, 3 level 6, etc. – LAK Jun 29 '15 at 19:55

By the rules, the following are all valid ways to acquire the spells:

  1. The Wizard gains 2 spells per level, as per normal, and the initial spells for character creation of course.
  2. The wizard must spend money for any additional spells. This might come in various forms, such as:
    • Scrolls to be scribed (Buy a Blessed Book of Boccob first to reduce costs!)
    • Enemy spellbooks. Spellbooks with spells in them have a defined price:

Captured spellbooks can be sold for a gp amount equal to one-half the cost of purchasing and inscribing the spells within (that is, one-half of 100 gp per page of spells).

  • Pay based on the fee given for borrowing another Wizard's spell book: spell’s level × 50 gp.

This does, as Ben-Jamin noted, lead to incredible number of spells. However, remember that at most levels there are "better things" wizards can do with their money then just spells. A few things:

  1. Backup Spellbooks, in-case everything goes wrong and a Mage's Disjunction (for instance) hits you and destroys your "Boccob's Blessed Book".
  2. Spell Components / Focuses.
  3. Belt of Battle - Because an extra turn is great.
  4. Spell recovery items, such as Pearls of Power.
  5. Craft Contingent spells, to be impossible to harm.
  6. Scrolls for spells with an XP cost - it can be useful to level up quicker to attain higher level spells faster. As such paying to have a spell with an XP cost on hand is not unreasonable.
  7. Scrolls of spells of a higher level then you can normally cast
share|improve this answer

The other answers here are good, but they miss the fact that a wizard's spells known can decrease, as well as increase. Many GMs delight in stealing, burning, temporarily confiscating or damaging player character spellbooks, and I've known more than one wizard who sold off a few spellbook pages in order to make rent. All of those things can happen to NPC wizards, too. An NPC wizard could plausibly have any number of spells from zero and up.

As for how many spells an NPC wizard of a given level should know, my advice is to throw away formulae and ask one simple question: How many spells would the wizard want to know?

Generally, a wizard wants spells that fulfill specific purposes:

  • Self defense
  • Making day-to-day life easier
  • Earning money
  • Entertaining the mage and any guests he might have
  • Making the caster appear awesome
  • Not having any other use for spell slots of the spell's level

On the other hand, learning spells costs money, and money can be spent on other things that a wizard might want:

  • Crafting magic items
  • A comfortable tower by a lake
  • A small force of kobolds to guard the upper levels of the dungeon
  • Next month's protection money
  • Other, more useful spells

What I'm getting at is that wizards have a strong motivation to only learn spells that they actually benefit from. Sure, a conjurer could learn teleport, but if he already knows teleport without error he could save the money.

So, to choose how many spells a wizard should have, start with the ones that they would want. In my experience there's plenty of these. When you run out - or when the new spells overlap with the earlier ones to the point where they don't actually provide the mage with much benefit - stop, and spend the rest of the caster's cash on other things.

EDIT: For some reason I assumed that this question was about creating NPCs wizards, but as has been pointed out to me, it could just as easily be a PC. If you are looking for a guideline as to what spells a PC wizard can know, things get a little trickier.

Artificially limiting the number of spells a wizard player character can know, given that being able to learn an unlimited number of spells is one of the most interesting and unique features of the wizard class, is a little questionable. Fortunately, most players won't try this more than once: Spells cost money, and since a PC can generally only prepare a small number of spells each day, chances are only a few of the spells a PC knows will see regular use; The rest will sit unused in the PC's spellbooks until they get bookworm. As soon as a PC realises that money spent on spells they don't use is money wasted, expect to see some significant cutbacks.

To summarize, whether it's a PC or an NPC, learning every spell isn't as useful as it sounds - So if it's an NPC, have them ignore the spells they wouldn't be interested in, and if it's a PC, point out that they're unlikely to use every spell they start with, and they can always buy extra spells later, when the need arises.

share|improve this answer

The way this works in games I have participated in is thus: First, pick spells for the cantrips (level 0 spells), free 1st-level spells (3+INT), and 2 free spells per level up. Once that is out of the way, do WBL (PC starting Wealth By Level, as outlined in Player's Handbook 2) and buy scrolls at the market prices described in the Dungeon Master's Guide for the spells you want added to your spellbook at the start of the game. To actually add them to your spellbook, you must pass the required Spellcraft check just as if you were adding a scroll you found in a chest or on a dead enemy spellcaster to your spellbook. If you succeed, you start the game with that spell. If not, your free to buy another scroll and try again. You can do this until you run out of gold, or decide you have enough spells to start with.

share|improve this answer
let us continue this discussion in chat – KRyan Jan 21 '14 at 1:14

The honest and true answer to this...

It doesn't exist... in the books.

A GM should use his own method to determine how many spells a Wizard obtained during the career.

A good method is to write down an XP amount and Gold amount and give them the freedom to build their character.

If he builds a generic character, buys ink and scrolls. Then he gets what he gets.

If he spends time building with Feats, crafting and uses some ideas... he could end up with: How do I achieve a very cheap spellbook full of spells?

A DM shouldnt worry about how many spells a starting pc gets. That's up to the player.

Did he go 15 levels without finding any enemy spellbooks? Did he never buy scrolls? Did he pay a NPC to scribe from his spellbook? Did he create a Blessed book in his career to lower costs?

A PC's spellbook should be as basic as his own personal path was designed. My example on the link shows a Collegiate Wizard turned apprentice gaining 45 1st level spells, 24 2nd-7th and 16 8th...

Point your PC to that example and say... you can aspire to tons of FREE spells... or tell them to get own choice feats, and buy NPC access to scribing spells and buy ink. Getting whatever they can buy with the XP and GP you gave them.

Pretty much, that is the DMG wealth by level way of doing it.

*Hoping the moderator likes this answer better. :P I wrestled with this question before, but this was my answer to it.

share|improve this answer
It would be more effective if you formed your thoughts into coherent paragraphs. – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Nov 18 '14 at 8:54

An option I have frequently used as DM: for each spell level, the number of spells a newly created wizard has in his spellbook is set in twice the number of spells he can cast (excluding int. bonus). It was quite simple, and players judged it satisfactory.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.