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I'm running a prewritten module, and after a first level boss fight the party found a spellbook with several spells in it (burning hands, disguise self, false life, shield, unseen servant, and witch bolt).

Now, my party doesn't have a wizard. The only arcane caster they have is a warlock. I don't know if there is anything they can do with the spellbook other than possibly sell it?

If the only option is selling it, where does this item fall on the magic item rarity categories? My best guess is common because all spells are level 1.

This is an item the party has had in their inventory for several sessions being ignored by me (but not the party) because I keep forgetting to check how to deal with it, so I feel I should add a bit more than just "sell it over there". Mind you that this is just my personal take on the matter, the party wouldn't mind it being just an extra source of cash.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Would(/could) any of your party multiclass into wizard? How many spells does the book have in it? And does the module give any background for the book? \$\endgroup\$ May 10, 2023 at 10:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ Does use as an improvised weapon count? Books are heavy after all \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    May 10, 2023 at 12:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ This question has several rules-based answers (sale value, new Wizard, Warlock Pact) - how is this "opinion based"? \$\endgroup\$
    – Davo
    May 10, 2023 at 20:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes, Role-playing Games Meta would be the appropriate place to ask. \$\endgroup\$
    – Oblivious Sage
    May 11, 2023 at 13:31
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3 Answers 3

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Selling it

A blank spellbook is worth 50 gp and a spellbook with 6 spells is worth much more. For such an item, you have several option for deciding a suitable price.

You may use as starting point the Salable Magic Items table in Selling Magic Items section together with the information therein [DMG, pages 129-130]:

Rarity Base Price
Common 100 gp
Uncommon 500 gp
Rare 5000 gp
Very rare 50000 gp

You may also adapt the rules for buying magic items in XGtE:

Rarity Asking Price
Common (1d6 + 1) × 10 gp
Uncommon 1d6 × 100 gp
Rare 2d10 × 1,000 gp
Very rare (1d4 + 1) × 10,000 gp
Legendary 2d6 × 25,000 gp

You may find in DotMM, page 8, (courtesy of Groody from the comments, who brought this to our attention) the following text, that provides some guidance:

Obaya is also interested in buying spellbooks for Wakanga O'tamu. She prices a spellbook based on the highest-level spell contained in it: 5 pp for 1st level , 25 pp for 2nd or 3rd level, 100 pp for 4th or 5th level, 250 pp for 6th or 7th level, and 500 pp for 8th or 9th level.

Be aware that allowing the party to sell it for a too large amount of money could be unbalancing in the first tier, as such they can buy plate armor.

Mechanical usage

The answer by matszwecja provides good examples how it can be used from a mechanical point of view.

Levelling up

Without focusing on the actual spells contained in the book, at the moment of levelling up the warlock can anyway study it, performing arcane rituals invoking their patron to unlock new powers, maybe offering the item to the otherworldly entity. This is just pure roleplay, and it is not even needed for levelling up.

Plot hook

This suggestion is actually for you as DM. You may use it as a plot hook for another adventure, for example the defeated wizard belonged to the Evil&Mad Secret Society of Spellcasters and the arcane knowledge of the members cannot be shared with the disbelievers.

If you are running a prewritten module, you can create some links with the subsequent parts of the story, making such item an important one in some missions or just a MacGuffin.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm very hestitant about gold value being much more than blank book. Such a book is useless without spending gold and DT to copy it into your own book. And because these are all 1st level spells, gaining access to another spellbook to copy them would be trivial anywhere but very low-magic environments/settings. \$\endgroup\$
    – matszwecja
    May 10, 2023 at 14:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @matszwecja You have to consider that the wizard that created the spellbook invested time, money and components in writing the spellbook. The information contained there is much more valuable than the one contained in blank pages, even for a character that wants to copy the spell into their spellbook. Following your reasoning, a spellbook with just the Wish spell is worth 50 gp, which has not so much sense. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    May 10, 2023 at 14:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ @matszwecja Obviously, it is your game and you know how much magic is common in your campaign. What I am saying is that by selling the spellbook you are giving to a wizard the possibility to have six more spells without requiring them to research, or to dig in dungeons for searching for scrolls. Spellbooks are the most valuable items to wizards. But if does work at your table to sell it for 50 gp, that's fine. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    May 10, 2023 at 15:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ Unfortunately, the linked question on spellbook prices is closed as opinion-based: there are at least documented examples of prices for spellbooks with spells in published adventures, for example in DotMM, p.8. "Obaya is also interested in buying spellbooks for Wakanga O'tamu. She prices a spellbook based on the highest-level spell contained in it: 5 pp for 1st level , 25 pp for 2nd or 3rd level, 100 pp for 4th or 5th level, 250 pp for 6th or 7th level, and 500 pp for 8th or 9th level." We sold the ones we found to her, after copying what we needed for my wizard. \$\endgroup\$ May 10, 2023 at 16:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Eddymage thank you for all the info you've added. Especially Obaya's prices, as I am running Dragon Heist, so using here or another collector with similar prices makes sense. \$\endgroup\$
    – 5ar
    May 11, 2023 at 13:19
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Gold

A spellbook is not a magic item. The rules don't take the contents into account when determining the value, and the price stays fixed at 50gp, same as a blank spellbook.

Mechanical usage

Among spells written there, there is an Unseen Servant, which is a ritual - there are 2 ways such a spell can be used by someone other than wizard - someone could take a ritual caster feat or a warlock of the tome could have the Book of Ancient Secrets invocation, both of which let non-wizards copy spells written in another book into their own.

Story usage

Are any of your players planning to multiclass into a wizard in the future? If so, it would be a great roleplay opportunity to have them study the book in their spare time, deciphering the writings and developing their own magical skills through this.

If, given those options, the party still doesn't decide to do anything with the book, let them. Maybe the opportunity to use it will show up later on its own - for example, some aspiring mage wants a spellbook to learn wizardry, later becoming useful NPC ally for the party.

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Both Eddymage's and matszwecja's answers offer worthwhile suggestions for what to do with the spellbook you mention, including selling it, using it as a plot hook, and several other possibilities.

In addition, I note that you are running Waterdeep: Dragon Heist, based on both your description of the spellbook:

I'm running a prewritten module, and after a first level boss fight the party found a spellbook with several spells in it (burning hands, disguise self, false life, shield, unseen servant, and witch bolt).

which exactly matches the spellbook of Grum'shar, a low-end criminal in Chapter 1, "A Friend in Need", Q7, Boss Fight; and also because you said as much in comments to Eddymage's answer.

There is information in Waterdeep: Dragon Heist, where this spellbook is from, which is useful in giving the party options for selling or otherwise disposing of it

This information will hopefully prove useful to you or anyone else running Dragon Heist.

Valuing the Spellbook

As noted in Eddymage's answer, in Waterdeep: Dungeons of the Mad Mage, Obaya Uday will buy spellbooks, and according to that adventure, Obaya will pay based on the highest level spell in a spellbook. So according to that metric, this spellbook is worth 50 gp.

However, there is a better metric available in Dragon Heist.

Using the Book Wyrm's Treasure to value the spellbook

The Book Wyrm's Treasure in Trollskull Alley, described in "Chapter 2: Trollskull Ally", is a bookstore in an alley familiar to the PCs.

Rishaal, the proprietor, makes spells for wizards to copy available for a fee:

Rishaal has a small collection of spellbooks and allows wizards to copy spells from them at the cost listed in the Spells for Sale table.

Rishaal allows wizards to copy first level spells for 25 gp each, and this spellbook has 6 first level spells in it. Using that as a metric, this spellbook has a nominal value of 150 gp.

Of course, nominal value is one thing, but in the end, something is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it.

Selling the Spellbook

There are multiple people in Waterdeep to whom the PCs should be able to sell that spellbook.

Selling to Rishaal, at the Book Wyrm's Treasure

Rishaal is an obvious possibility, and maybe the most likely possibility. He might be willing to buy the spellbook and add it to his small spellbook collection. He doesn't have four of the spells that are in this spellbook, so acquiring the spellbook from the PCs would allow him to expand his spell offerings.

How much is Rishaal willing to pay? We have no idea. We can speculate -- for instance, if you assume Rishall can sell access to a given first level spell once a month, then such a spell would generate 300 gp a year. But if he can sell them much more often, say, once a tenday, then a first level spell would generate 900 gp a year. But any speculation is just that. However, it's certainly reasonable that Rishaal would be interested in buying. After all, his collection of spells is very small, and growing it can only make his business more profitable.

So how to set a price? You can let your story be your guide. If you want the PCs to have a bit less money, maybe Rishaal is willing to only pay 100 gp or 200 gp. If you want them to have a bit more money, maybe he's willing to pay 500 or 1000 gp, or even more. Maybe it's worth that much to expand his collection, or maybe he doesn't want someone else to set up a competing business, so he's willing to pay premium.

So, somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 to 1000 gp is reasonable, enough to be a windfall for a party of first level characters, but not an incredible amount of money. But really, you have a great deal of latitude here.

Regardless, selling to Rishaal is an excellent option, likely to make Trollskull Alley more interesting and vibrant to the PCs, and may well give them a valuable connection for selling future spellbooks, or for anything else.

Selling to Obaya Uday

We've already established that Obaya is willing to pay 50 gp. And she's right there in the Yawning Portal. But only 50 gp! What a cheapskate! But we know she's not a practitioner herself, and has little interest in the actual contents of the spellbook, so her value is really a floor.

Selling to Obaya should be easy. The players may already know Obaya from the Dragon Heist Introduction, section "Familiar Faces", where it says:

Give the Yawning Portal Familiar Faces handout in appendix C to the players, and allow each of them to select one NPC as a friendly acquaintance — someone the player’s character knows and trusts. More than one player can select the same NPC.

Even if none of the PCs selected Obaya, any of the other "familiar faces" NPCs (Or Volo, for that matter) might easily point them in her direction.

Unless you have a particular plot reason for the PCs to sell to Obaya, or the PCs do, selling to Rishaal is likely a better option, both monetarily, and for story advancement.

Selling to someone else

The PCs might be able to find someone else willing to buy. The PCs have many opportunities to establish connections in Waterdeep, who might point them to someone willing to sell. In addition to the "familiar faces" at the Yawning Portal, and to anyone they might happen to meet around town, there are ample opportunities to the PCs to have other connections.

Some of the PCs may have guild or faction membership. See the section on guild membership or the https://www.dndbeyond.com/sources/wdh/introduction#FactionMembership in the Introduction.

Finally, both Volo and Renaer have connections that might help the PCs find someone to sell the spellbook to, as described at the end of Chapter 1, in "Fine Friends".

What would someone else pay? Hard to say, but probably not much less than what Obaya will pay, and probably not much more than what Rishaal would pay.

The price

Using Obaya and Rishaal to set soft lower and upper ranges for what the PCs might sell the book for gives us the very wide range of 50 gp to 1000 gp. Someone might offer less than 50 gp, if they think the PCs will sell, because the buyer could turn around and sell it themselves to Obaya. Someone might buy it for more, if they have specific reason to, but the very speculative upper range I gave for Rishaal of 1000 gp is probably a good upper bound.

Otherwise disposing of it

Maybe, just maybe, the PCs find something more useful to do with the spellbook than sell it. Maybe they can use it for leverage with some NPC. If so, that would be a fun and useful further development of the story.

Or they could sell it.

What to do with the money

So, let's say you've given the PCs 1000 gp, or 2000 gp. What will they spend it on? There are lots of options. Trollskull Manor is a hole to throw money into, for sure. The choices are endless. After all, Waterdeep is the City of Splendors, the Crown of the North, and the PCs are likely to come up with something fun to spend the money on. After all:

Almost anything can be bought or sold in Waterdeep. There’s no need for adventurers to shop elsewhere.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for your in depth answer. I didn't consider Rishaal valuing the spellbook as a learning resource. The players did end up using him and exchanging the spellbook for two lvl1 scrolls, which fits with the lower end of what you estimate he'd be willing to pay of around 100 gp value. \$\endgroup\$
    – 5ar
    Mar 11 at 18:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ In our playthrough of W:DH and W:DotMM, our DM has Uday pay per spell that she does not yet have, instead of per the highest level spell in a spell book. After all, she is aquiring them for the merchant princes of Port N., some of which are wizards. Prices are roughly based on what it would cost to copy that level of spell from Rishaal. This has the downside of needing to track what spells we already had sold, so for a less documented campaign, its probably not worth it. You also could buy them from Rishaal, make an extra copy for 50 gp/level, and recoup some cost at higher levels. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 11 at 23:05

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