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I had recently gotten into an argument with a fellow player on the subject of how spellbooks work. Specifically, does a Wizard require access to his book in order to cast spells, or just to prepare them? In context we were facing against an enemy party that included a wizard, and the player mentioned suggested trying to shoot the Wizard's spellbook using his bow in order to sunder it and, he assumed, disable all her prepared spells. I and some other players contested that and in the end he decided to just shoot her in the head instead, but just to double check: would that have worked or not?

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Just For Preparation

The short version is: you're right. Wizards need a spellbook to prepare spells (from the book), but not to cast. The book is not a component/material/focus/requirement of casting the spell.

Long version:

The preparing spells rules are here, and to prepare from a spellbook you need the book. That part is pretty straightforward. Here's an important part:

Until she prepares spells from her spellbook, the only spells a wizard has available to cast are the ones that she already had prepared from the previous day and has not yet used.

The casting rules are here, including what you need. Here's one useful note:

First you must choose which spell to cast. If you’re a cleric, druid, experienced paladin, experienced ranger, or wizard, you select from among spells prepared earlier in the day and not yet cast

You'll note that in all the rules for casting a spell, the word "book" never appears. Wizards can cast anything they have prepared, provided they have the requirements listed in the spell. Those include things like material components, focus, the ability to speak or do somatic gestures, and anything else that a spell might list. Spellbooks are never listed for the Wizard class.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "Until she prepares spells from her spellbook, the only spells a wizard has available to cast are the ones that she already had prepared from the previous day and has not yet used." And cantrips, which don't require preparation and can still be cast without a spell book. \$\endgroup\$ – RobertF Oct 21 '17 at 16:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RobertF Got a source for that? I see nothing that states cantrips are special in the rules. \$\endgroup\$ – Tridus Oct 25 '17 at 12:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ My copy of the D&D Basic Rules states on p. 30: "Spellbook: At 1st level you have a spellbook containing six 1st-level wizard spells of your choice." More nonzero (= non-cantrip) spells are added to the spellbook as the wizard levels up. On p. 78: "A cantrip is a spell that can be cast at will, without using a spell slot and without being prepared in advance." Since preparing wizard spells requires studying spells from the spellbook, and cantrips are not included in a wizard's spellbook, it stands to reason that cantrips can be cats without a spellbook. At least that's how I read the rules. \$\endgroup\$ – RobertF Oct 25 '17 at 14:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RobertF That must be a basic thing. The 3.5 rules don't say that, they say this: "A wizard begins play with a spellbook containing all 0-level wizard spells (except those from her prohibited school or schools, if any; see School Specialization, below) plus three 1st-level spells of your choice. For each point of Intelligence bonus the wizard has, the spellbook holds one additional 1st-level spell of your choice." There's also a column for how many 0 level slots you have. Pathfinder changed it as well. \$\endgroup\$ – Tridus Oct 26 '17 at 16:30
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Spellbook to prepare is correct. Imagine the spellbook like a cookbook. You know what the recipe is, but you can't really remember every single detail, so before cooking, you look over the recipe book, and refresh your memory, then you cook your dish.

The Spell Mastery feat will allow a certain number of spells to no longer need their spellbook to prepare that particular spell. Imagine that same chef, who doesn't need to look at his cookbook anymore for a particular dish. He has cooked it so many times he can recall it from memory. Now he will stop to think every now and then, but it is so deeply engrained in his memory, he doesn't need to consult his cookbook anymore.

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