It occurred to me that since wizards in 5e are allowed, upon encountering another wizard's spellbook, to copy spells of a level that they can cast into their own spellbook (at the cost of only time and gp), a party with multiple wizards could simply collude and spread large quantities of spells amongst themselves. E.g. "Ok, Jones over there will be the one to learn Fireball as his next target of research, and then he'll let us copy it from him. Jones, what spells do you want in exchange from us?"

Is there any reason for discouraging this, especially from a roleplaying perspective? Would most wizards consider this a very un-professional thing to do? Are there strong societal pressures to avoid sharing one's hard-earned spells even with one's closest friends or allies? E.g. "I'm willing to entrust my life to this other wizard in my party, let him carry my gold, trust that he's not going to stab me in my sleep the next time I take a Long Rest, but I'm not willing to let him copy even a single level 1 spell from my spellbook. That's M I N E!".

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    \$\begingroup\$ I assume you mean other than RP reasons like Wizards being greedy, competitive, paranoid malcontents? \$\endgroup\$
    – Slagmoth
    Aug 30, 2018 at 15:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ Historical note: Sharing spells with other wizards in the same party is something that player characters have done in every previous edition of D&D, ever. Even in the editions that strictly limited the number of spells you could know. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Aug 31, 2018 at 10:51

3 Answers 3


Out of Character

The balance concerns are relatively small - Wizards are expected to have a great deal of flexibility. In DDAL organized play, it is not unheard of for people to arrange groups just like this - meet up, go on an adventure, then burn a bunch of downtime in scholarly sharing. It doesn't net the wizards any more total prepared spells or any more spell slots, just more flexibility in filling them.

In Character

Without knowing the setting, the second half of your question isn't answerable. Could it be considered unprofessional? Sure, depending on setting. Societal pressures? Sure, depending on setting.

Using Forgotten Realms as an example, the Red Wizards of Thay are very covetous of power. It's unlikely they'd share spells with anything but their most trusted apprentices, and they're very untrusting people.

By contrast, Silverymoon has the Conclave of Silverymoon, a magical university. They offer sponsorships and tuition help for certain types of people - think of it as a modern university with different colleges with in it, aid programs, and fraternities/sororities, and you're pretty much on target.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This seems correct to me. The end result is a group of wizards that are all the same. The interesting part of "role playing" is the differences between characters. If Wiz1 and Wiz2 could easily change rolls, neither one is necessarily needed. This also creates a weakness. Your party will be ill prepared if all you have are Wizs that all know the same stuff and nothing else. It seems the goal of this strat is to have all spells available in a battle. So what if you can only melee or there is an effective silence. Better to diversify than all try to be the same. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jammin4CO
    Aug 30, 2018 at 19:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Jammin4CO You've got quite a few statements that don't make much sense here. Just because two wizards can prepare all the same spells, it does not follow that they will - even if you just count spell slots, two wizards are better than one. Sharing spellbooks does not in anwyay make "neither one [not] necessarily needed. It doesn't make the party weaker either, unless they all prepare the same spells - but again, can does not mean will. As far as "diversify", that's exactly what the wizards are doing by picking different spells at each level, but they're also creating redundancy. \$\endgroup\$
    – T.J.L.
    Aug 30, 2018 at 20:06

The only reason to discourage this is a marginal concern about game balance.

Generally speaking, although 5e did a good job keeping the power level of all classes relatively close together, it's generally agreed that among spellcasters, Wizards are most powerful. The sheer variety of spells they have access to is nominally balanced by the fact that they only learn a small subset of those spells, and have to spend money/time to learn more. Wizards colluding together to gain access to a wider variety of spells than they'd be normally able to afford to stretch for can make them ever-so-slightly more powerful than the default power curve for them.

Like I said though, it's a pretty marginal concern.

The Roleplaying side of the question is probably where more concerns could be brought up, but that's almost entirely a setting-specific thing. In the Fate/ universe, for example, Mages tend to hoard their magical research to themselves because sharing their knowledge, literally, makes their own magic weaker. In Forgotten Realms, this isn't really a thing. There are individual factions of Mages that are secretive about their power, but it's not a broad, unifying aspect of Wizards/Mages in general.

So on the RP side of things, reasons for characters to not share their knowledge like this would depend on character-specific personality/ideological traits, or restrictions put upon them by the faction they serve.

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    \$\begingroup\$ they still have to pay to transcribe the spells to their book. Regardless of where they get the spell from it costs the same amount of money. The only concern is now the dn is no longer limiting the number of spells they can find \$\endgroup\$ Aug 30, 2018 at 22:34

It's reasonable to share spells; a spellbook is another matter

Imagine you have a car. A new car. A new, fast, gorgeous sport car, you've spent all your savings for a decade on. You love this car. You detail it every weekend: full polish, hover the seats, etc - the full works.

Now. Your friend wants to borrow your car.

Do you say yes?

Most people wouldn't. In the real world there are things that you share and things you don't; and if you think a beloved car is precious to you, it's got nothing on a spellbook. The spellbook is the thing that lets you work, it gives you your power; its the representation of a lifetime of work, a deeply personal, individual representation of your capabilities; without it you go from being Radigast the Mighty to Kevin wot-can-do-cantrips.

You don't need to come up with some deep social pressure; the nature of a spellbook makes it unlikely that anyone is going to be too happy sharing it with another.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Imagine you have a college course, and imagine you have a friend in that same course. You both take notes. Now. Your friend wants to compare and contrast notes. Do you say yes? Most people would. In the real world you can mutually benefit each other from the sharing of knowledge, leading to a deeper understanding of the subject. \$\endgroup\$
    – Grunk
    Sep 4, 2018 at 13:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Grunk: College notes and a spellbook are rather different things. In the D&D world, you cannot prepare a spell without the spellbook no matter how many times you've done it before and you can't easily pop into a shop and pick up a textbook covering the same material. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 4, 2018 at 15:27

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