I have a first-level character who would like to keep a journal, but is on a very tight budget, and I am dissatisfied with the idea of using charcoal, given how easily it smudges and smears in real life. The PFSRD has this to offer for writing utensils:

  1. Chalk (1 cp)

This fat piece of white chalk easily marks wood, metal, or stone. You can write with it for about 24 hours before it is expended. Chalk also comes in other colors, but these are rarer and can be more expensive.

This can be used on wood, metal, or stone, but doesn't mention paper. Common sense says it makes sense for chalk to not work on paper, so this is no good for a journal.

  1. Charcoal (5 sp)

Sticks of charcoal are useful for marking floors and walls, writing on paper or parchment, and making rubbings of engravings or other markings. In a pinch, they can even be burned to stay warm. A good quality rubbing generally takes 1 minute per sheet of paper.

This explicitly states it can be used on paper, but from a reality-check point of view, I can't imagine being capable of keeping any kind of long-term journal written in charcoal. The pages would smudge against each other and smear into illegibility almost immediately.

  1. Inkpen (1 sp) + Ink (8 gp)

This is a wooden stylus with a metal tip that retains a small amount of ink after you dip it in a vial of ink.

This vial contains 1 ounce of ink. Ink in colors other than black costs twice as much.

The inkpen and ink don't mention usage at all, but common sense fills in the details that this would be a very efficient option for long-term writing on paper. However, the journal costs 10 gp, making this an 18.1 gp expenditure in total, which is out of the price range of my 1st level character after mandatory equipment expenses. Ideally, my writing utensil would be 1gp or less.

  1. Quill, Poisoned (30 gp) + Ink (8 gp)

I'm not even bothering to quote this because it's vastly more expensive than the inkpen and doesn't even include the cost of ink. Ironically, the page only lists a poisoned quill and not a normal one, which surely must be implied to also exist.

Those are the only four options the PFSRD seems to have entries for. However, the Pantograph entry on the same page describes the existence of the holy grail item: a pencil (emphasis mine).

This metal framework of parallel strips is used to duplicate drawings, allowing enlarging (up to twice the original size) or shrinking (down to half the original size) of the copy in the process. The pantograph is anchored, then fitted with a stylus and a writing implement such as chalk, an ink pen, or a pencil. As the stylus is traced over the drawing or other item to be duplicated, the pantograph reproduces the motions, creating a copy. While handy for making quick, accurate copies of ancient carvings, runes, and drawings, a pantograph is unable to produce a convincing forgery. More elaborate and expensive pantographs allow even larger or smaller copies to be made, or multiple copies to be made at the same time.

Outside of this entry, there is no other mention of such a thing anywhere on the SRD, and external searches for "Pathfinder pencil" predictably turn up nothing else useful. Is there any other reference to a pencil (or any other writing implement) in any other source material that might not be listed on the SRD? Or do I really need to just ask my DM for an off-the-top-of-their-head fiat ruling?


4 Answers 4


The Scrivener's Kit costs 2gp and appears to include the ability to make your own ink, though the process of making ink is not detailed.

This soft leather case contains a vial for holding ink, an ink pen, spare pen nibs, a small container of pigment for making ink, a tiny knife for cutting quills into pens, a blotter, and a small ruler.

I was also able to find a couple more references to pencils even though there doesn't appear to be an entry for them. Similar to the Pantograph, it's a component of the Automatic Writing Planchette. Keeping within that area, pencil and paper is listed as a way to perform the Automatic Writing skill unlock within the description of the Talking Board, though not actually within the description of the skill unlock itself (which doesn't bother with the logistics of how you are writing what the spirits tell you).

Most interesting is the spell Decollate, which lists "a red wax pencil" as a focus. Firstly, this implies that at least some of what are referred to as pencils are closer to what I would call crayons instead of using a thin rod of material in a wooden frame. Secondly, since there is no cost listed, it comes free with a 5gp spell component pouch. That doesn't help with finding a cheap writing implement compared to the scrivener's kit unless you were already getting the pouch, unfortunately. Wax in general is cheap if purchased in the form of candles (1 copper each), but I unfortunately lack knowledge of how effectively you can write with them both in and out of game.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think "making ink" in this case is just adding water to the included pigment. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 13, 2022 at 14:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ink sticks are typically rubbed onto a stone with a little water, producing a perishable ink, so there's more than one way of turning a pigment into ink. Although it probably doesn't change which materials are needed. \$\endgroup\$
    – user117529
    Commented Oct 13, 2022 at 22:50

Traveling Spellbook + Pyrography Kit = 11 gp

The traveling spellbook is a lightweight (1 lb) kind of spellbook of 50 pages. It costs 10 gp. The spellbook description tells us that spellbook pages are made from parchment, that is leather.

A spellbook has 100 pages of parchment

The pyrography kit costs 1 gp, and is described as follows:

Also called a “woodburning kit,” this set of metal needles, styluses, and brands is used to draw on leather or wood by burning it. Using the kit requires a fire source; the needle or stylus is heated in the fire and held in a thick leather handle, then used like a pen.

Because the spellbook's pages are made from leather, not paper, you can use the pyrography kit to write into it.

You will need a fire source to use it, but those should be essentially free, as you already will have a way to make fire for camp fires, and very likely will have access to oil lamps for purposes of lighting. The main downside might be the writing ease and speed here, as I imagine you have to write quite slowly to give the kit time to burn the pages sufficiently.

Metalpoint pencils

With this rules text supported solution out of the way, I would like to suggest a pencil that, while not proffered by the rules text explicitly, would be cheap and has been used historically to write: a silverpoint pencil or lead pen. Essentially, you can write with lead or silver leaving rather light, but readible markings. I've tried it, it works pretty well, you can even use a coin. So you could bang a silver piece in shape with a hammer or rock, or maybe buy such a pencil at the cost of a few sp, with your DM's OK. The amount abrased is small, so such a pencil will last you a long time.

Several spells also include bits of lead as a component, so you could use it from a component pouch for free (for example, Mages Private Sanctum has a sheet of lead).

Interestingly, I could not find a lead ingot, and the trade goods table does not list lead, even though many divination spells can be blocked by lead, and one would expect there is some demand for it. However, the spell Fabricate Bullets lists as a material component "1 pound of lead or other soft metal worth 2 gp", so it would be reasonable to assume 1 pound of lead is worth 2 gp. Lead is extremely heavy, and 1 pound would just be about 2.4 cubic inches. The volume of a modern-day graphite pencil is about 0.33 cubic inches, so one pound of lead would be good for 7 pencils and you should be able to buy a large enough piece of lead for about 3 sp.

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    \$\begingroup\$ In real life you can't use pyrography on leather that thin. It wrinkles and breaks. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Commented Oct 13, 2022 at 6:31
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @Mołot Thank you for sharing, interesting! I also like the idea that you get a cheap silver pencil to write better, no need for fire. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 13, 2022 at 10:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ With regard to metalpoint pencils -- there's also the possibility of piercing the paper. Think writing in Braille. Any small bit of metal would do, though it does mean that a single sheet of paper can only be written on one side. Bonus point, though, you can read and write your journal in complete darkness. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 13, 2022 at 16:42

Soil, 0CP. Wood Splinter, 0CP

Well, technically not any soil, but a chunk of clay, and a wood splinter. Now, learn cuneiform and you have not just the cheapest writing implement and material combo, but also one of the oldest. If you mix your clay to be somewhat sandy, working with it is super clean.

Candle 1CP & Wood Splinter, 0CP

A simple candle can be molten down onto a simple piece of flattened wood to create a wax tablet. This is even cleaner than clay tablets. The wood would cost way less than 1 CP, which would get you a night's worth of firewood, so all in all, the costs account for about 1 CP total.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I upvoted this as both are great historical methods. They do have the disadvantage that the journal would be much heavier and bulkier than a paper/paryus/parchment based one. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 13, 2022 at 16:55

I would definitely handwave this - several kits and class features use writing in some form, and only magical writings like spellbooks and scrolls are ever tracked. Pretty sure it's just assumed you can write in a journal. However... for my actual rules-supported answer...

Prestidigitation allows one to "...color, clean, or soil items...". As anyone who's tried to erase pencil with a poor eraser can attest, pencil marks and pen inks should qualify as "soiling" the paper. Funny enough, your mileage may vary if attempting to remove that writing the same way - prestidigitation can't duplicate another spell's effect, so you can't clean legible writing off the page without switching to the erase spell. But if you smear it into illegibility first, you can probably reuse a page this way as well.


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