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For information specific to the Curse of Strahd campaign, please use spoiler tags because I am a player and not the GM.

Two notes first:

  1. We are playing the Curse of Strahd, but I don't know what percentage of it is by the book and what is homebrew / improvised.
  2. I'm not a DM, and I would strongly prefer to avoid spoilers. Our DM is a good storyteller, but not really a rule lawyer. She prefers to play by the rules, just doesn't know them all by rote.

Last session, our party Wizard found a spellbook that belonged to the wizard we have slayed, or the one we have rescued. We aren't sure because the rescued one is insane. Either way, the spellbook contains a spell or two that our Wizard wants and our party could use. I know that a Wizard has to scribe spells using their own unique notation, and it costs 50gp of rare inks per spell level to write.

Our Wizard didn't enter the campaign with rare and expensive inks in his equipment. We have gold, more than we'll ever need I believe, but such inks weren't available anywhere we tried to shop. We didn't ask specifically for them, but with our party perception we are pretty sure we would have found them when we were browsing for "anything of real value".

Is there any way to make this book useful in our situation? Is there any published rule, even optional, that would allow us to procure or manufacture such inks, or allow our Wizard to prepare spells without transcription? If there are NPCs that could help, please use spoiler tags. For now, I want only to know if they exist, and my DM will decide if she wants to give us any clues about them. I'll only read spoilers after we finish.

We are playing by the rules, so when he needs ink, he needs ink. Also, the only things in Barovia that appears specifically for our characters are those we got in starting equipment but for storytelling reasons needed to obtain later, like my holy symbol shield. Thus, these inks will not materialize only because we need them now. Barovia has a very short, very specific list of shops and what can be bought there. Or so I'm told. That's why I think this situation is different from most campaigns.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Does this answer your question? Curse of Strahd and wizard spell costs \$\endgroup\$
    – Malady
    Commented Apr 3, 2023 at 22:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think that is a duplicate. The other question asks about a specific shop and assumes that inks can be bought there. This question is concerned with where inks come from. \$\endgroup\$
    – Anagkai
    Commented Apr 4, 2023 at 5:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Malady linked question assumed that such inks are available in the shop. My question assumed that they are not. As Anagkai wrote, they are related, but ask different things from different angles. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Commented Apr 4, 2023 at 6:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DanielR.Collins Please do not answer in comments.. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 4, 2023 at 9:58

6 Answers 6

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"Rare Inks" (and the needed components for experimentation) are, presumably, assumed to be available as a rule

There are no references in any 5E Adventure that I can recall (and I've read through all of them) that details anyone who sells the Rare Inks that a Wizard makes use of. Given that the ability to add spells to their spellbook is a very powerful feature of the Wizard, the assumption seems to be that a Wizard can find the ink they need when they need it.

As far as I can recall, no D&D 5E Official Adventure, Setting Book, or other Source Book goes into detail on where a Wizard can acquire these inks. A DM always has to make them available if a Wizard is to use one of their key features.

But if you really want to tighten this down.....

As you said, Barovia is a bit of a special case--being an entirely closed environment

So, since you asked, here are some potential locations or people you may be able to find these Rare Inks from. Again, they Are Not stated as being there because D&D 5E doesn't give 'Rare Inks' as loot, your DM would have to add them as loot...nor can I recall anything listing them as products at listed shops. But these are sensible places and people that would have them--spoilered out, as you request.

Option A

"The Mad Mage" which sounds like the guy you just killed. He's a terribly high level Wizard, and would presumably have such research materials available to him

Option B

Victor Vallakovich is secretly a wizard and is conducting magical experimentation in the attic of the Burgomaster's Mansion in Vallaki. Not only does he likely have some ink, he probably has a source of the ink as well

Option C

Strahd is a Wizard. He could have inks squirreled away pretty much anywhere...and of everyone, he's the most likely to have a way to get more (see Option K).

Option D

Ezmerelda d'Avenir is also a wizardess, she has an entire wagon full of neat things and, as a Vistani, is able to leave Barovia and then come back, at will--it wouldn't be unreasonable for her to have a stock of those inks.

Option E

Baba Lysaga is a Wizardess. Again, not unreasonable she'd have the inks

Option F

The "Barovian Witch" NPC type has access to Wizard spells--it's not unreasonable that they may have access to the needed inks.

Option G

Kasimir Velikov is a wizard.

Option H

The Tower of Khazan (aka Van Richten's Tower)--Khazan was an Archwizard who 'retired' to this tower. It is not unreasonable that he'd have a stock of research materials hidden here.

Option I

The Amber Temple, specifically area X30. This is a library archive that contains every single wizard spell in the Player's Handbook. While it requires some hoop-jumping to get access to those spells, it is again reasonable that there may be a stock of inks here.

Option J

A bit more of a stretch, but the three hags at Old Bonegrinder might have appropriate rare inks. They aren't wizards, but it wouldn't be a huge stretch for them to have these rare inks for some other purpose

Option K

This is not a particular character or location, but a logical conclusion. Strahd is a wizard (and other wizards exist in the valley who have come into their power after Barovia was sealed). In order to gain power as a Wizard, Strahd must have access to the appropriate rare inks needed to expand his spellbook. Therefore, Strahd must have a source for these expensive inks. If they cannot be sourced from within the valley itself, a logical possibility would be the Vistani--they are freely capable of entering and departing Ravenloft/Barovia at-will. So it would make sense for Vistani traders to leave Barovia, purchase the needed Rare Inks, then bring them back into Barovia to sell to those who need them--especially Strahd.

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    \$\begingroup\$ To condense all the spoilers down without spoiling anything: OP lists several wizards in Barovia, all of them you could assume to have Rare Inks on hand and some that could be assumed to have a supply or directly stock surplus to sell \$\endgroup\$
    – Hobbamok
    Commented Apr 4, 2023 at 8:11
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You've written:

such inks wasn't available nowhere we tried to shop. We didn't ask specifically for them, but with our party perception we are pretty sure we would have found them when we were browsing for "anything of the real value".

This is probably wrong.

Let's step out-of-character for just a moment here, and remember that you are not actually playing in a real world. Instead you are playing in a world that is simulated by the GM, and most of the details are created just-in-time when you look at something in detail.

If you look in a store for "anything of real value", the GM is not going to mentally generate the entire contents of the store and then decide which things are valuable. That would be an insane amount of work! Instead, the GM is going to generate two or three useful items and offer you those.

(source: this is what I do when people go shopping)

What has happened is you asked for "anything of real value," and it slipped your GM's mind that "fine ink" was a thing that would count as valuable, so they forgot to tell you it was there. And now you are interpreting this accidental omission as an inviolable fact.

You need to go back and ask a shopkeeper specifically for fine inks. If you like, you could phrase the question in a way that lets your DM maintain campaign verisimilitude, like "hey, do you happen to be storing any fine inks in the back room where we wouldn't have noticed it the first time we were here?"

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    \$\begingroup\$ The Inks aren't even magical as per the book. It just says fine inks, which makes sense: a cheap ink that leads to smudges and blobs because it's not as uniformly is bad for a wizard when an extra blob on a sigil could kill you. In my interpretation it's just high-quality (maybe two different colors or so) but otherwise mundane ink \$\endgroup\$
    – Hobbamok
    Commented Apr 4, 2023 at 8:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, it might be worth considering talking to your DM about the possibility that if the shop DID have rare inks (and you went there after discovering the spellbook) retconning that you bought them. If it was just a slip of miscommunication there's no real need to derail the campaign for a simple shopping task. \$\endgroup\$
    – aslum
    Commented Apr 5, 2023 at 15:04
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It's just a flavorful way to add a cost

Like expensive spell components, the transcription cost is a balancing tool. It is the GM who decides how this plays out:

  • It is okay if they let you simply pay the money and imply that you went and bought ink.
  • They can also definitely decide that for one reason or another, the inks are difficult to procure or that doing a quest is necessary for this.

You should kindly ask your GM which of these options apply to her game. This applies to 5e in general.

Note that the rules for transcription in the "Your Spellbook" sidebar of the wizard class description (PHB p. 114) say:

... 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.

The way this is written reinforces the notion that the rules are primarily concerned with the cost. How it is handled is secondary to that.

The only thing that the rules precisely demand is the cost you pay to transcribe the spells. There are no rules that say where and how the inks can or must bought.

Curse of Strahd does not include any specifics either, so your GM had to decide whether most shops would sell inks of the kind or, if she prefers, choose specific ones, saying for example that only larger or magic affine shops would sell this. But this is strictly up to her to decide.

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    \$\begingroup\$ We are playing by the rules, so when he needs ink he needs ink. Also, only things in Barovia that appears specifically for our characters are those we got in starting equipment but for storytelling reasons needed to obtain later, like my holy symbol shield. Thus, these inks will not materialize only because we need them now. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Commented Apr 3, 2023 at 13:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mołot The rules aren't so precise. It is assumed that you can buy the inks without too much effort. But the GM can of course deviate from this and make getting inks part of adventures. \$\endgroup\$
    – Anagkai
    Commented Apr 3, 2023 at 13:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mołot "By the rules" (as in "given exactly what is written") no campaign, no supplement, and no sourcebook I am aware of details that someone in particular is selling the 'Rare Inks' that a Wizard needs, and I do not recall any case where they are found as loot. So by your logic, no Wizard would ever be able to add new spells to their spellbook in any published adventure--thus making one of a Wizard's most powerful features useless. Were I you, I'd show this question to your DM and see what they say. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 3, 2023 at 13:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ It is the same in that there is no official guidance but I included a paragraph on this. \$\endgroup\$
    – Anagkai
    Commented Apr 3, 2023 at 15:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mołot then read the rules again. He nees just fine ink. Aka high-quality ink. Something that can be easily be assumed in any not-poor bookkeepers shop/place. The trick are the other material components, which likely can be cobbled together from a variety of shops since none of them directly are that special (otherwise they'd be named) \$\endgroup\$
    – Hobbamok
    Commented Apr 4, 2023 at 8:19
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The Rules About Wizards

As the wizard's Spellcasting feature explains, in the section "Learning Spells of 1st Level and Higher":

Each time you gain a wizard level, you can add two wizard spells of your choice to your spellbook for free. Each of these spells must be of a level for which you have spell slots, as shown on the Wizard table. On your adventures, you might find other spells that you can add to your spellbook (see the “Your Spellbook” sidebar).

RAW, if your Wizard gains a level, they get two spells, of their choice, for free. This means that somehow they found copies of the spells, and somehow they found enough fine inks to transcribe them, without paying anything and without having to worry about locating the copies or the inks. In your situation, that would be the bare minimum. If your DM wishes to play by the rules, she must make these spells and inks available to wizard characters when they level. Whether that simply happens 'off camera', or it has a narrative description that you play out, is her decision.

For gaining other spells, we look to the sidebar, which says:

When you find a wizard spell of 1st level or higher, you can add it to your spellbook if it is of a spell level you can prepare and if you can spare the time to decipher and copy it...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. Once you have spent this time and money, you can prepare the spell just like your other spells.

From this, note that inks are not the only costs to copying a spell - there are also material components to expend as you experiment. But also note that these 'experimental components' and 'fine inks', while they do have a defined cost, do not appear on official equipment lists as something that characters can purchase.

If your DM wishes to play by the rules, she need not make these materials and inks available to wizard characters at any particular place or time. If she does make them available, that may happen 'off camera' or it may have a narrative description that you play out.

The Nature of Barovia

Curse of Strahd is a very atmosphere-heavy adventure. Being in Barovia should feel different from other places in your campaign world. Your characters, and you the players, should feel isolated, cut off, suspicious of everyone, and often like you are being manipulated. If one of the ways your DM is encouraging those feelings is through the material economy, that is well in line with the adventure guidance. It should be difficult to access inks in Barovia, because everything is difficult to obtain in Barovia. You may have to make some uncomfortable bargains with people you would rather not negotiate with, because just to survive in Barovia may compromise your principles. Some people may tell you that they don't have such things, when they actually do, because not everyone you meet in Barovia is trustworthy. They might even sell you what they claim are fine inks, when they are normal ones and will not work for spell copying1. Spells are a source of power, and Strahd has a stranglehold on power within his realm, so you may end up dealing with him in a way you would prefer not to - or you may think you are getting them from a neutral third party, when in fact that person reports to him. If any of these things are your experience there, so much the better - your DM is playing the environment as intended.

At the same time, your DM needs to, if she wishes to play RAW, somehow permit you to access at least the spells, materials, and inks that are due you as you level. "There are no inks in the place descriptions" (and there aren't any, in fact) is not an excuse for withholding these.

Beyond what you are due as a function of class, she may allow you to find other inks and materials. But she should be aware that she needs to do so as a function of her role - "The DM describes the environment". She needs to make active decisions about where inks and materials will be available, because the DM always makes decisions about where inks may be available. She certainly can decide that there are none, but she needs to realize that is an active decision on her part, and not a consequence of them not being listed in the descriptions. A DM always needs to decide how available to make these inks and materials in their world, because in general they will not be listed. In keeping with the atmosphere of the adventure, but not severely hindering wizards compared to other classes, it would be appropriate to make these materials and inks difficult, but not impossible, to find. Any and all of the spoilered locations listed in guildsbounty's answer are reasonable places to find them, and I used more than one of them as such when I ran CoS.


1See, for example, location N9i where

Vistani may attempt to sell PC's 'magical potions' that are not, in fact, magical.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The first bit literally proves that it's not the inks that are expensive, but the components \$\endgroup\$
    – Hobbamok
    Commented Apr 4, 2023 at 8:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Hobbamok I could see that being the justification, that ink costs are negligible but that these two spells you have been working on 'all along' between levels. But you get the spells for free and instantly even if you had never heard of them before within the narrative. I think they are just two very different rules and you can't really conclude anything about one from the other. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Commented Apr 7, 2023 at 14:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Hobbamok Also, the fact that you can make a replacement spellbook for 1/5 of the cost of a new one indicates that there is some cost to the inks, since if it is a spell you already know, presumably the cost of experimental components would be minimal. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Commented Apr 7, 2023 at 16:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Hobbamok Also this \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Commented Apr 7, 2023 at 16:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Hobbamok I think that is a reasonable conclusion - except that for two spells per level, there are somehow no costs. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Commented Apr 19, 2023 at 15:10
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There are no rare inks specifically mentioned for sale in Barovia

I skimmed through all of the towns and didn't see any explicit mention of them. If your wizard would like to buy them from somewhere, your DM will have to add them in.

I would recommend having the owner of a particular castle offer them for sale; he would surely relish the opportunity to have something over the party.

I caution against treating the spellbook cost super literally

The rules on scribing spells into your spellbook are very vague. Treating the ink as particularly rare offers the opportunity for players to find or steal the inks negating the gold cost that is intended.

Additionally, it also implies that levelling up for new spells requires a visit to some sort of market which is not always possible in each campaign.

The way I interpret it

I always treated the gold cost as primarily the first portion of the spellbook rules:

The cost represents material components you expend as you experiment with the spell to master it

This means that the party cannot simply find, steal, or manufacture a bunch of ink to negate the cost as this experimentation is specific to each spell.

With this interpretation, "fine ink" is something that could be acquired anywhere and the wizard likely has on hand for their new spells from levelling. It would be just a small cost in relation to the experimentation for scribing new spells.

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    \$\begingroup\$ My literal reading of the rules agree with you: It's not rare ink, if it were, WoC would have said so. But they said "fine ink". Aka just what we modern IRL think of ink as opposed to the cheaper alternatives usually used back then by most people. Any slightly well-off bookkeeper or so would have "fine ink" because they can afford to ditch the cheap substitutes. \$\endgroup\$
    – Hobbamok
    Commented Apr 4, 2023 at 8:21
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Fine Inks aren't specifically sold ANYWHERE

I can't recall a merchant in a published adventure where the book lists inks for sale. I don' think it's even mentioned in Candlekeep Mysteries! Every case of a DM forcing a player to find ink frankly needs to include a method to find ink unless the DM has just decided that no Wizard work will occur in their world.

Barovia has a mercantile shop (in the village), several wizards, libraries, etc. If no place has supplies to copy spells then the DM has decided that they don't want any spells copied. This is not a function of the adventure, but a function of the DM.

As an aside, I have never had to search out supplies for my wizards nor have I forced a wizard to do so in my game. I prefer to adventure, not have a shopping simulator. You and your table may of course have different goals, which is fine.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Also: It's the components that are expensive, since a leveling-up-wizard is just assumed to have sufficient and decent enough ink available for them to write down their free level-up spells. The actual ink is pretty mundane (and cheap) as implied by RAW or can be crafted from vegetation in a long rest or conjured etc. \$\endgroup\$
    – Hobbamok
    Commented Apr 4, 2023 at 8:24

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