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I am building a Warlock and realized that the gold cost of transcribing a spell into your Book of Ancients (4,500 gp to get them all) is completely in the ink used. So, I was wondering if there was a way to exploit the fact that it is a material component to gain it in unconventional ways...

  • Liberating a barrel from those being delivered to a mage's tower

  • Commandeering it from the wizard's lab you just conquered

I know that this might take a session's worth of side quest in shenanigans to pull off, but I was wondering if this could be something you could obtain through more nefarious means, as a fighter might be able to steal a sword, or a ranger could stockpile the slain enemy arrows...

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    \$\begingroup\$ You could just steal 4500 gp and buy it. \$\endgroup\$ May 26 at 9:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ComicSansSeraphim that is another question, but the issue at play is if pre-buying it is even possible... While 5e is great at turning all the materials needed into costs, they are really bad for planning ahead with such projects, as there isn't really a section for, say, a woodcarver who wants to collect his wood during his travels. \$\endgroup\$
    – Victor B
    May 26 at 11:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ Like @ComicSansSeraphim says, does it matter if you steal 4500gp worth of ink or 4500gp worth of gold? It saves you time to find an ink merchant, and maybe some markup... \$\endgroup\$ May 27 at 7:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JasonGoemaat It is easier to hide a barrel of ink on a wagon, disguising it as a barrel of water, than it would be to hide a sizable coin pouch from a thief, so it would especially being a smuggler and associating with people who have loose morals... \$\endgroup\$
    – Victor B
    May 27 at 8:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JasonGoemaat You can't save the markup, it just means you have to steal more \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    May 27 at 16:04

3 Answers 3

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There is no rule against this

However, if you are asking as a player, I would recommend you discuss this idea with your DM before trying to execute it.

There may be balance reasons incentivizing them against allowing you to pull it off1. If they allow trying (I would) there may be in-game consequences. The owners of the shop or wizard's tower selling the ink might call on arcane or divine help to find you and track you down. Authorities might come after you -- especially if you are an unsavory type of Warlock. Only a relatively small amount of ink may be on premises and can be stolen - not more than what is typically sold in a day or two - or even none at all. Or they might secure and protect the venue with traps and guardians, possibly quite lethal ones.

As a side note, the ink used for warlocks and for wizards is likely not the same, so trying to plunder a wizard's tower may not do you any good, depending on how your DM rules that.


1 For example, while 5e has no strict wealth by level guidelines like some other editions of the game, you can calcluate the expected wealth from adventuring by level. From this, netting that much gold would typically take you until tier 2. Your DM might not want to give you an easy shortcut for that.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Why wouldn't it be the same ink? it all costs the same... Also, I never got why copying spells was so convoluted... You need to hunt down and buy scrolls, then spend the cost making them... crafting anything else is always one or the other. For instance, a magical sword cannot exceed the half the sale cost in materials, but you need to buy the scroll (full price) then pay for transcribing it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Victor B
    May 26 at 11:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @VictorB Check out the link for that -- it's not my idea. I probably would simplify it to be the same, but the arguement can be made that only 10 gp of the 50 gp for wizards is cost for actual ink (because you can copy a spell for that if you already know it), while for warlocks all 50 gp are ink, so it can't be the same stuff. \$\endgroup\$ May 26 at 11:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah, must have been tired when I read the first link as I didn't notice the difference in wording... guess roping the wizard into my plan won't work. lol. \$\endgroup\$
    – Victor B
    May 27 at 7:56
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Not all the cost is ink

The sidebar on writing in a wizard's spellbook says, in part:

For each level of the spell, the process takes 2 hours and costs 50 gp. The cost represents material components you expend as you experiment with the spell to master it, as well as the fine inks you need to record it.

So first off, how much of that cost is ink and how much is the materials and such? It's not really specified, so how much of the spell-writing cost you can offset by stealing ink is mostly up to your DM to figure out. We can make a guess, though:

You can copy a spell from your own spellbook into another book — for example, if you want to make a backup copy of your spellbook. This is just like copying a new spell into your spellbook, but faster and easier, since you understand your own notation and already know how to cast the spell. You need spend only 1 hour and 10 gp for each level of the copied spell.

Since there's no decoding or experimentation, most or all of that 10 gp/level cost must be the ink itself. So a decent guess would be that stealing ink could offset at most 10 gp/level in costs.

The ink may vary

However, it may not be as simple as finding a cask of Wizarding Ink and running off with it. Not only is it entirely possible that Warlocks and Wizards use different inks, different wizards may use different inks (in the same way that they use different coding schemes), and a single wizard may use different inks for different spells. It says "fine inks", not "fine ink" -- it's not a single specific material called "fine ink."

Or it could be worse than that. Scribing spells might require a whole set of different colored inks, like you're trying to work in an illuminated tome like the Book of Kells. You might need ink that's mystically resonant with the spell you're writing, like ink made from the ash of a lightning-struck oak for a lightning bolt spell or ink mixed with demon's blood for a fireball. You might need ink that's been steeping with crystals and platinum for six years. Or maybe there really is just one really nice kind of ink that all the wizards use for all their spells and you can buy it by the cask. Who knows? That's up to the DM to figure out, and there are no rules to back it. All we know for sure is what it costs you to write spells the first time and subsequent times.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I noticed something in your comment.. if 10gp is the cost of ink... that is also the cost of regular ink according the the PHB... At any rate, thanks for giving me a lot to think about. \$\endgroup\$
    – Victor B
    May 27 at 7:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ Actually the spell is much, much more expensive. Ink costs 10 gp per ounce, and an ounce of ink should be enough for many, many pages of writing (perhaps 100 full pages, based on some calligraphy discussions I found). By contrast, spells cost 10 gp per spell level. The game doesn't specify how many paper pages that is anymore, so exactly how much paper we're talking about is unclear -- but in previous editions spells took up a page per spell level, so if we use that as a guideline, you'd be looking at a minimum cost of 10 gp per page written, potentially 100 times the cost of ordinary ink. \$\endgroup\$ May 27 at 11:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ Related: Inks are not the only costs of copying spells \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    May 27 at 16:06
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Treasure is treasure

A DM can present treasure to the players in any way they like: gold, a fine tapestry, a lush carpet, a sterling silver dinner set, a marble statute and, yes, “material components” and “fine inks”.

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