As we all know the wizard is a physically weak class that relies on his spells to perform in his adventures. Other than the spells gained at each level-up however he needs to spend 32 hours learning and scribing a single spell in his spellbook for future preparation and casting.

My particular problem is the lack of downtime needed to do the above in my campaign. Our characters have only rested less than a week over the last 2 levels and the DM has the tendency to throw main/side quest hooks at our party within a few days of us arriving and resting in any town (quite often small ones too, which makes finding spells quite time-consuming on its own).

Considering a level 5 +2 LA drow wizard with very scarce access to higher level scrolls and about 8.000gp available, in what ways can I learn new spells in a more time-efficient manner (or obtain the time needed to master/scribe them independently from my group's time progression)? Choices that can be made available in the future with sufficient in-game resources will be appreciated too.

I am already aware of the following options:

  • Elven Generalist Taken
  • Collegiate Wizard feat Not Available (due to PrC requirements)
  • Eidetic Spellcaster ACF from Dragon Mag. Not Available

Note: I do have in mind that talking to my DM would probably be the most direct approach however I happen to know that he wouldn't be very keen on helping with this issue and would rather reserve that as my last option. He has said that 1) none of the other party members and casters require downtime so he wants to keep the action going and 2) he considers wizards a dangerous class that unless controlled and restricted massively has the potential to ruin a campaign and game balance. I consider the former a bad excuse while the latter requires a level of abuse I do not aim for. I simply want my drow wizard with 21 hp to do more than struggle to not be a burden for the group.

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    \$\begingroup\$ How does it not keep the action going to say "Three days later, the wizard has his new spell and the plot hook happens" as opposed to "The next morning, the plot hook happens"? \$\endgroup\$ Dec 17, 2012 at 16:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Yamikuronue Because if I do stay inside doing nothing but writing spells the rest of the party will try to find other things to do, possibly resulting in shenanigans and boring RP. The DM will then refrain from giving them side-quests in order to not cause an exp. gap... To conclude, I have a feeling he is trying to avoid giving us too much nothing-to-do-time. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eldebryn
    Dec 17, 2012 at 17:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JohnAthanasiou Are you playing out the spell scribing? I'm confused as to how the party members are sitting around doing nothing instead of just skipping past the boring bits to the next interesting part. I play a similar type of character in a different system, and we tend to just literally start a session with "After two days, Erika has her new item crafted and you guys are ready to go break into the museum." There's no downtime for people to get squirrelly during. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 17, 2012 at 19:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ Related: How do I stop my PCs from acting like insomniac monkeys on crack? \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Dec 18, 2012 at 3:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Yamikuronue I've seen this before. GM says "It takes Bob three days to scribe his spell, and then a strange visi --" "Wait, hold on, I want to do X and Y and Z if I've got three days free!" \$\endgroup\$
    – Jim Kiley
    Dec 18, 2012 at 21:31

8 Answers 8


The best answer is to come to an agreement with the DM. While there are avenues you might pursue to mitigate what he’s doing, getting into an arms race is a losing proposition and isn’t any fun. Explain that you are aware that the Wizard class is phenomenally powerful, but that you have no interest or intent on breaking his game. Point out how you’ve already taken an almost-crippling LA +2 race, which is clearly not an optimal option: you have already shown dedication to making the game about more than just becoming as powerful as possible.

If that fails, I’d very seriously consider leaving the group. Not because the Wizard is unplayable like that – you can remain pretty powerful on your automatic 2 spells per level – but because that’s a sign that your DM is unwilling to trust you, and that’s a really bad sign.

Otherwise, Pulsehead and Jacob’s answers are good. Even if your DM gives you a little time, you may need to take advantage of them.

If things get very bad, but you don’t want to leave, you do have another option: have your Wizard refuse to go on the next inane little side-quest, so that he can stay home and finish scribing that spell. This should state very clearly to your DM that you do not appreciate what he is doing, and that you are not going to accept it. Obviously, if your character stays home, you’re not getting to play: you are telling the DM that you would rather not play than continue to play as you have been. This is, hopefully obviously, a measure of last resort.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 I would also seriously consider leaving the group if the talk doesn't work. DMs who assume people will 'cheat' or overpower the game, as it were, tend to assume that people are doing that. And such a crippling constraint is merely another problem, not a solution \$\endgroup\$
    – LitheOhm
    Dec 17, 2012 at 19:41

From the SRD:

Spells Gained at a New Level

Wizards perform a certain amount of spell research between adventures. Each time a character attains a new wizard level, she gains two spells of her choice to add to her spellbook. The two free spells must be of spell levels she can cast. If she has chosen to specialize in a school of magic, one of the two free spells must be from her specialty school.

Since you are specifically asking about leveling up, here's your answer. You level up, and pick 2 spells to write into your book that you want. Based on my read, it's a "free action" since you have been doing experiments between adventures in dribs and drabs all during your previous level of experience.

However, your question also is very close to "I have this nifty scroll, how can I get the time to write it into my spellbook?"

My answer? Get DM Buy-in first. Then realize the SRD does not say specifically that the 24 hours be uninterrupted time. Maybe when your party arrives in town, the rogue goes to work the tavern for rumors, the fighter takes any gear that needs repairs to the smithy, and the cleric patches up any characters who are hurting. However, the Wizard need not head down to the pub, the Wizard could logically stay in the room working on writing the spell(s) down into his spellbook. It may take 2 weeks worth of evenings, but as long as you and the DM agree that this is doable then you will get the spells eventually. If the DM does not agree, you should ask him (outside of game) when you are supposed to copy spells into your spellbook since the plot moves too fast. Likely the DM doesn't realize that you need a day or two every town just to write spells into the book and can easily be covered with "Fighter goes to the blacksmith, and it will take 3 days to get the items back, Rogue is working the crowds in the pub, and Wizard is being his book-nerd self" bam, fast forward 3 days, the rogue has the rumors, the fighter has fixed gear, and you have spells written in your book.

EDIT: Unfortunately, I don't think you will be able to proceed much further without discussing this with the DM. If the DM wants you to be churning so much on quest/side quest so much that you can't write spells, there should either be a reason (which he can confirm directly that a reason exists, if not the whole reason), or he is not realizing that if you can't write spells into your spellbook, you are losing power relative to the rest of the party. Either which way, the easiest path is talking with the DM, but the slightly harder path is to just declare every opportunity you get that you are working on scribing the scroll/spell into your spellbook and will work until X event ("I'm scribing until dinner, I'll scribe after dinner until bedtime, and tonight on my watch, I'll scribe some then too").

EDIT2: I totally spaced on the 24 consecutive hours part. The craft/profession rules have limited the productive time to 8 hours per day. What I should have said was the 24 hours need not be: 8 hours today, 8 tomorrow, and finally 8 the third day until the 24 hour requirement is satisfied. Hopefully the DM will allow a few hours here or there as necessary to get the job done.

EDIT 3: One final option if you don't want to go to the DM is to recognize when a side-quest is available and knowingly sit it out because your character is scribing. The downside of this is that you will start to fall behind the rest of the party. To put some example numbers to illustrate my point, if the whole party is 10th level, you will be a 9th level wizard with the spells consistent with a 9th level wizard, or under the current structure you will be a 10th level wizard with the spells of a 6th (or lower) level wizard. I would personally prefer the 9/9 wizard instead of the 10/6 wizard.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I didn't mention the 2/spells per level because I found it too obvious. However the rest is very helpful. I have the impression the "24 consecutive hours" thing is house-ruled but will check again. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eldebryn
    Dec 17, 2012 at 17:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for squeezing time in where possible. Also for mentioning the nerfed balance for the DM undermining the wizard. \$\endgroup\$
    – LitheOhm
    Dec 17, 2012 at 19:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JohnAthanasiou, I've always looked at the 2 spells per level thing as a freebie since there is the assumption (in the SRD as well) that between adventures, you are experimenting and your spellbook is both the list of "complete, correct magical formulae" as well as "lab notebook". You don't need the 24 hours because as you've experiemnted you have ALREADY put in the 24 hours. \$\endgroup\$
    – Pulsehead
    Dec 17, 2012 at 20:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ And another point - if the freebies are because the hours have been put in in bits and pieces, then this proves that time CAN be put in in bits and pieces... so the "24 consecutive hours" thing shouldn't even be a discussion. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ryno
    Dec 19, 2012 at 20:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ 24 consecutive hours is highly unrealistic. Generally you can't do any action in game for more than 8 consecutive hours without stopping to rest for the rest of the day. This includes craft skills and travelling. With respect to read magic, however, you're explicitly allowed to read the magical writing again freely at a later date: "Furthermore, once the spell is cast and you have read the magical inscription, you are thereafter able to read that particular writing without recourse to the use of read magic." \$\endgroup\$
    – Bacon Bits
    Jan 2, 2013 at 10:03

Insist on the downtime.

You're a wizard, you need a certain amount of downtime to level up. Letting the party hustle you out to sidequests would be like the fighter getting told he doesn't have time to buy new armor. Given that you can simply handwave the time ("OK, it's four days later"), you're not putting any burden on the party.

So, when you get to your next town, declare you're sitting down and catching up on your homework. When the side quest appears, turn it down. A few gold trinkets is nothing compared to mastering your arcane arts, right?

Here's the important part - if the DM pushes the rest of the party to bite on the side quest (and thus start the game clock again), let them go. Seriously - be prepared to smile and sit on your hands for a session if need be. Unless the rest of your group hates wizards as well, they'll likely opt to take the five-second handwave and wait for the next plot hook at full strength. If the DM pushes them, just make it clear that you need the time, and they're free to sidequest without you.

Most likely, the table will opt to keep the party together. Worst case, the DM will punish you by sending the side quest to the mountain of Suspiciously Rich and Weak Goblins, at which point you know where you stand in the party.

TL;DR - if the DM didn't want wizards at his table (or has game-balance concerns), he should have prevented you from rolling one up until his concerns were discussed. Being passive aggressive to screw you over at the table is poor gaming, and you shouldn't need to tolerate it.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Why has this been voted down ? Please consider adding a comment when voting down. \$\endgroup\$
    – BlueTrin
    May 14, 2014 at 8:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ The downvote wasn't from me, but re: the last paragraph, there's a difference between not wanting wizards at the table and only wanting weakened wizards at the table. \$\endgroup\$
    – Brilliand
    Jul 15, 2014 at 16:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ Possibly in theory, but in practice it amounts to the same thing - messing with a player arbitrarily. To throw a variant example, it's no different in my mind than starting a game then telling the archer that there are no arrows in stock in towns. Ever. Can't buy 'em. (But I will edit the question to make clearer). \$\endgroup\$ Jul 15, 2014 at 20:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ Gotta say, +1 for the last paragraph alone. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jul 15, 2014 at 20:26

Pulsehead's answer is good: every "town" day has hidden downtime by nature. Just because the action/story is non-stop doesn't mean that you're busy every hour of the day.

I'll just add that the same goes for "out-of-town" days. Frankly, most parties tend to plan adventure time around the casters. Once the wizard and cleric start getting low on spells, it's time to start looking for a defensible position to hole-up in until they get their spells back. If the action is even medium or so, that point comes after only a few hours, all-told. So you spend sixish hours fighting the good fight (that's medium to low level intensity, really), that means you have another 16ish hours left before the cleric gets her next boost and only 8 of those hours are you resting. That leaves you another 8 hours to do what you need to for your spell maintenance.

Even on days with all travel gives you options. Leave setting up camp and meal prep to the peons, you have some serious business to attend to. There's an hour or two every day applied to spell transcribing. Having extra spells is an advantage to you, sure, but really it's an advantage to the whole party. You having extra options directly benefits them later on down the road, so getting their buy in shouldn't be too hard. Plus, that gives good RP opportunities for them to rib the bookworm. Plus, if it's a true travel day, it isn't like you even need 8 hours of sleep to regenerate your spells—you haven't used them up, so they'll still be there for the next day.

  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for find time and squeeze it in where you get it. That really sounds more realistic to me. Though - not sure I follow the lack of requirement on eight hours of sleep as more than spell preparation falls in there. Otherwise a good answer \$\endgroup\$
    – LitheOhm
    Dec 17, 2012 at 19:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ For wizards, 8 hours is needed primarily for spell prep. You're right, though, that you can run into other issues if you short rest time. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 17, 2012 at 22:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Correct on the rest requirement, but spell preparation time takes more... This link might be useful in your answer, too. d20srd.org/srd/magicOverview/… \$\endgroup\$
    – LitheOhm
    Dec 18, 2012 at 1:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ Agreed. Every class requires downtime. Swords need sharpening, leather (whether armour straps or weapon binding or boots or saddles) needs cleaning and oiling, cloth needs laundering. Horses, in particular, need a lot of downtime. Sure, the PCs could be paying for these services but they still need to be sitting around waiting for the tailor or weaponsmith or groom to finish. After all, Craft checks to repair items are made daily or weekly, not hourly. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 15, 2014 at 23:16

If all of your party is close in level, why don't they require downtime? After a balanced level all the characters should require several days of rest to heal.

Each class should have to do something to maintain their skills, and Items (especially magic ones...) need to be cared for and repaired. You could ask the DM to make some of the side quests more personal for each character so you get your time. Fighters need to find someone and somewhere to practices, clerics need to pray, thieves need to rig a card game.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Hi, welcome to the site! Solid answer, +1 from me. If you haven't, you should take a look at the Tour, and when you get 20 rep (you're halfway there!), feel free to join the Role-playing Games Chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jul 15, 2014 at 20:18

A different idea: hire someone to write spells in a book.

True, you need to go to town every now and then to get the scrolls to your copist, to pick up your new spellbooks and precious materials are left in the hands of possibly unfaithful servants, and depending on which book you want your spells written in you might need to leave home some useful spells (or buy lots of books), but...

Wizards can borrow spellbooks and prepare from them with a Spellcraft check. For wizardlike usual spellcraft modifiers, the check is trivial.


I've had this problem before; wanting to follow the rules when the DM is undermining your mage character.

I don't want to say the solution is neglecting the rules just the same as the DM but I will say something more about playing mages (sorcerers, wizards, etc) that should help 'Be assertive!' Like the others suggested, take the obvious down time amongst quests, but always say,'this IS what I'm doing', and if others interrupt just say 'hang on, let me finish'

I get the feeling this is less about the rules and requirements of the wizard and more about your DM and how to deal with his hate/dislike of Mages. The scribing of the spell can be done over a few sessions, but consecutive means to follow continuously, unbroken or in logical sequence and not non stop, right away or now. It makes sense though that you can't decide to switch writing spells part way through and then expect not to lose the progress.


Like many of the others have said, the trick is really in making the time for it.

In one of the games I was in, two of us played really booky wizards, and the other 2 were a great brutish meat-shield, and a miniature sword-tornado.

The first major investment we made as a group was a wagon, with a pair of horses, and we stocked it up with various tools necessary for doing all of our book-scribbling. (Meaning, we threw a pile of gold at it, as determined by the DM.) So every time we were travelling (and there was a lot of time on the road!) the two mages were scribing away for the first 8h of the day. 7 days on the road? That's 2 full spells copied, and a third of the next.

Take advantage of the holes in time that are available.


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