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In my campaign there is a wizard who is, for the purposes of comparison, a higher level than the party, and capable of casting quite powerful spells. He trusts the party, maybe not completely but enough that I am struggling to think of reasons that he would not simply hand his spellbook to the party's wizard and allow him to copy as many spells as the wizard could afford.

  • This wizard has a school that is not the same as the party's wizard.
  • The wizard is the father of a different member of the party so it is in his interest to give the party as much advantage as possible.

As a sub question: Is it necessary that I do this? The cost of copying a spell is non-trivial, at least at the party's current level. Is the cost alone enough that access to a high level spellbook is not granting a large amount of extra power to the party's wizard?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Miniman, Oblivious Sage, MikeQ, Rubiksmoose, V2Blast Apr 29 '18 at 6:36

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It's not clear from the question: do you want to limit this and are looking for justification? Or do you want to allow this and are making sure it's not a balance issue? Or something else? \$\endgroup\$ – Paul Apr 29 '18 at 5:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ What reasons = Opinion based. \$\endgroup\$ – Trish May 4 '18 at 8:30
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The power you'd be providing to the party is non-trivial, but mostly lies in the increased versatility the party wizard would have. Wizards cannot copy spells of a higher level than they could cast, so there's no concern that a wizard would get a spell "too early."

Concerns that you can use to discourage the party from liberally raiding the wizard's library include:

  • It takes time to copy spells, and materials. Unless they have a lot of downtime the party wizard won't get a chance to copy them all.

  • Father or not, a spellbook is a very expensive item. Just figuring the cost of putting all the spells your NPC wizard knows into a spellbook means it is probably worth thousands of gold pieces, and blithely handing it over is the D&D equivalent of your rich father telling you to take the Porsche to go pick up your drinking buddies... And just as likely to occur.

  • Your wizard learns two spells each level, and it wouldn't be much of a stretch to say he's learning them from the NPC already. If asked for more, the NPC could insist he's not ready to learn the rest yet.

  • He IS an NPC. He could agree to teach the wizard more spells in exchange for completing a small quest.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The NPC Wizard is not PC-Wizard's father. Other than that, I feel that except for maybe point 2 you aren't actually answering the question. \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Apr 29 '18 at 4:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ The NPC wizard IS the father of one of the PCs. Assuming the party is egalitarian and friendly, helping one PC is as good as helping another... and conversely, you'll need a reason not to help any given wizard in the party excessively whether he's that PCs father or not. The list above are suggestions to make the party as a whole consider that there is a cost and/or barrier to getting spells from the NPC without outright charging them or making it seem like the NPC doesn't want to help one of them in particular. \$\endgroup\$ – TheVagrantDog Apr 29 '18 at 4:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ I just meant the NPC Wizard is not PC-Wizard's father. Your point 2 seemed to assume it was. My bad if I misunderstood what you meant. \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Apr 29 '18 at 4:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HellSaint I could have used a different example, but if you prefer you can consider that he's handing that Porsche to his child's friend for the same reasons... honestly making it even less likely. For those who consider a quest more important than going out drinking, I respectfully point out that many a young adult would strongly disagree. \$\endgroup\$ – TheVagrantDog Apr 29 '18 at 4:46
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Giving a wizard PC access to a big spellbook is fine.

I have done this before: as a minor reward in a dungeon, I have given my party a spellbook that had all the level-appropriate spells that the party wizard could cast. In other games, my DM has given us free reign to find and copy any lower-level spells that we want.

I've found that it doesn't affect game balance much, if at all. Most wizards have already chosen their "bread and butter" spells, or the combat and utility spells they think they'll need. They do get some extra versatility out of having more spells, but it might not be worth it to spend time and money copying a ton of spells you might never actually cast. In effect, you're giving them a "long tail" versatility, or spells they might use only a few times, if ever.

If you want to restrict copying, do it by time

Remember that copying a spell costs 2 hours per spell level. A 5th level spell takes 10 hours to copy, and you need access to the original spellbook for the entire time: (PHB 114):

Copying a spell into your spellbook involves reproducing the basic form of the spell, then deciphering the unique system o f notation used by the wizard who wrote it. You must practice the spell until you understand the sounds or gestures required, then transcribe it into your spellbook using your own notation.

This time requirement means that your powerful wizard ally has to either babysit the copying wizard the whole time, or go without their spellbook. While a wizard technically doesn't need their spellbook to cast spells, a great and powerful wizard probably doesn't want to be without their spellbook for extended periods of time.

Thus, the wizard NPC could "graciously" let the wizard PC study their spellbook for, say, 2 hours a day, while the NPC is around. This puts a hard time cap on how much the wizard PC can copy, and introduces some resource management as well: does the character copy a bunch of low-level spells or a few higher-level ones?

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The same reason that this more experienced wizard wouldn't give the less experienced one a pile of gold: they haven't earned it. Spoon-feeding spells to a young wizard just creates a spoiled brat that has more power than they know what to do with or use effectively and no understanding or appreciation of what they have. A wizard needs to earn their spells through blood, sweat, and tears.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This would be a much better answer if you gave some details on what kind(s) of character would be likely to think this way; as it is, the implication is that this is simply the correct way for any wizard to think, which is not well-supported by real life, in which powerful people often do give youngsters piles of money. \$\endgroup\$ – user17995 Apr 29 '18 at 2:53
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First, I'll say that I agree with Icyfire and start from there, but I feel most of the answers aren't answering the question as framed. My suggestions for that are on the second section.

Even if you do share the spellbook, it's not that bad

As a Wizard player, if my DM just told me "You have access to every Wizard spell" (just like Clerics and Druids do), it wouldn't change too much. Yes, Wizard spell-list is more versatile and broad, but the main limitation is still number of prepared spells and only being able to cast one concentration spell at a time. Also, unless you allow very creative ways of casting spells, honestly there is a considerable difference between the top-tier spells (which are usually 4 for each spell level, max 6) and the others, so 4 spells is usually enough to get the spells you are actually going to be using most of the time.

If you just give the spellbook, it changes even less - the Wizard still has to use a lot of gold and time to copy the spells, and as you mentioned, the cost is non-trivial.

As a note, the main reason (I think) Wizards don't know every spell from start like clerics and druids do and the main thing you would break if you gave him every spell in the game: Wizards can cast non-prepared rituals, so take care mainly with the Ritual spells you are going to put on the book.

But if you really don't want to, there are a few reasons to not lend it

  1. I will start with the main one, from my point of view as a Wizard player: A wizard's spellbook is its most valuable item (unless he also has a Staff of Magi, then that's that), and I'm not talking about gold. It's all his research, his own annotations, it's everything he worked as a class-worker since ever. "He trusts the party, maybe not completely" - honestly, my Wizard would probably lend a copy of his spellbook to his parents. Unless this trust is incredibly high, it's not enough to lend your most personal treasure.
  2. Without more details on your setting, the following suggestions might be a blind shot, but... as I mentioned, copying the spells takes time. During this time, the NPC is without his spellbook, meaning he is limited to the spells he has prepared. He might fear being attacked and not being prepared during this time.
  3. He might trust the party but think they are too weak (although he's only 1 level higher) to protect the spellbook. This actually leads to my third "big" suggestion.

Note: The last two points and the following assume they weren't going to stay on NPC-Wiz house resting while copying the spellbook. You can make some excuses to why they can't if needed, or can force these solutions even if they do.

You can share the spellbook and then have some thieves steal it from the party

And there you have your sidequest (recovering the spellbook, so they don't lose NPC-Wiz trust and actually get the spellbook), in which the reward is the spellbook, without making your NPC-Wizard being the one requesting things from your party to lend some help and also without just giving them more power without any effort or consequence.

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