So my players have been hired by a wizard to recover 3 copies of a spell he created.

Three other wizards have copied the spell into secondary spellbooks (which required them to break a copy-protection spell he placed on the scrolls he sold them). They're then making scrolls/magic items of the spell and undercutting the wizard's prices.

Of the three, two were students at the Mage's University. Getting their copies wasn't too hard - one was fairly gullible and allowed the rogue access to his room. She cast sleep using her feminine charms and exited with the spellbook he had concealed. It had his Arcane Mark on it, but was otherwise not really defended.

The next student who had a copy had it defended better: his door had a better-than-average lock, his book was better concealed, and the party had to deal with a Sepia Snake Sigil to retrieve it.

The students were fairly easy. They lived in relatively open dormitories, were kept busy casting for much of the day in their classes (which limited the available spell slots for defenses), and weren't experienced enough to know that a skilled couple of people could essentially walk past the school's existing minor defenses.

The last copy will give them some trouble, though. It's in the hands of the owner/operator of a magic shop. He's got access to a decent number of minor and lesser magical items (no weapons or armor with more than a +2 bonus, but he'll have a decent number of protective items). He's 7th level and doesn't have much in the way of required daily casting - he might do a Prestidigitation in the morning to help him clean the shop and entertain customers, but otherwise will have most of his spell slots.

He's also going to get word very early in the day about what happened, and will likely make the intuitive leap that the party will be after his copy of the spell next.

He does have a few constraints:

  • He can't use excessively damaging spell effects, as he's going to be guarding the spellbook in his shop. He is unwilling to risk destroying his inventory.
  • He can't kill the party unless they are legitimately trying to murder him. The town's laws do not permit setting fatal traps, even within your own home.
  • He doesn't know the identity of the group, or their capabilities. He will know that they can cast Continual Flame, as it was used in the break-in. He may have to use Divinations to find out something about them.
  • The town's guard force will not be willing to station guards at his shop, but he does know he can get guards there within 10 minutes if he alerts them.

Within those limits, what steps can a relatively intelligent 7th-level wizard take to defend his secondary spellbook?


For those interested, yes, I made a copy-protection spell. A wizard of middling talent but with a conniving mind researched it, and is using it to protect A Spell Called Catherine. I stole some initial ideas (and the Catherine spell) from that article, but plopped it into my world and said, "Okay...what would happen?"

The PCs are in the very early days of the ramifications of this spell, which will be felt throughout the campaign, even after the battle of DRM is lost.

Edit 2:

The wizard landed upon a decent plan, which the characters (by dint of being completely insane) eviscerated. He had 8 decent swordsmen (who cost almost 6x the normal price due to in-campaign reasons) hidden in the 'main' shop (which was full of low-value merchandise, his 'good stuff' being hidden off-site) with Rope Trick while he hid upstairs under Invisibility.

He made copies of the spell, and had his home set up with several fake magical items (with false magic auras). His real items were not easily discoverable.

The party managed to sneak into the shop fairly easily, got up the stairs (spreading caltrops behind them) under the effects of a Silence spell. They proceeded to rob the mage blind, as he *Invisib*ly watched. He made sure they didn't take anything of real value, just the false magic items and the copy of the spell (which he wanted them to have, so he didn't keep getting pestered by groups trying to steal it back).

He was prepared with several spells that would have been able to injure and incapacitate, but not kill, the party. He figured that it would be relatively easy to ensure that at least the one with the spell would escape.

The Silence spell hampered him, as almost every prepared spell he had left had verbal components. He didn't predict Silence, and didn't have anything ready to handle them while that spell was active. The spell didn't end until just before the party left. They declined to go down the stairs again, instead using an Enlarged dwarf with a flaming urgosh to batter a hole in the wall. With a little bit more magic and some lucky rolls, they avoided immediate capture.

The wizard minimized his losses to effectively nothing, suffered no real damage to his home or business, and had several minutes to study the party. The party will not find him so easy a mark the next time.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Related: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/28452/… \$\endgroup\$
    – Tridus
    Commented May 12, 2014 at 16:37
  • 26
    \$\begingroup\$ A "copy protection" spell? You... you made a DRM-themed adventure? \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 13, 2014 at 0:36
  • 8
    \$\begingroup\$ Thaumatological Rights Management? \$\endgroup\$
    – Rob Church
    Commented May 13, 2014 at 10:32
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @MartianInvader: yup. Essentially, it's a second level spell that has a 1-round casting time. It embeds a spell within up to your caster level in scrolls that makes them self-destruct (doing 1d6 fire damage to anyone holding them) if you attempt to copy them into a spellbook instead of casting from the scroll. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jeff
    Commented May 13, 2014 at 13:10
  • 10
    \$\begingroup\$ I like that you came back to outlined what these answers resulted in for your campaign. +1 simply for doing that. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ellesedil
    Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 17:22

6 Answers 6


The best way for the wizard to defend a spellbook is the same as the best way for you to protect your precious computer files - have multiple backups.

But, if he hasn't had time to make a copy, if he knows someone is trying to steal the book back, he wouldn't leave the book in the shop overnight. He'd keep it on himself, likely guarded by as many guards as a 7th level wizard can afford to hire on a temporary basis.

If he must leave the book in the shop for plot points, he'd certainly have the book very well protected and secured. He's 7th level, so he knows 4th level spells. He might, for example, use Stone Shape to fabricate a 'doorless' safe in a wall or floor block. And he'd certainly know to keep the book in a lead box to block scrying and detection attempts. He could also use illusions to hide/conceal the book. And decoy books and safes to waste the thieves' time. And of course, a 1st level Alarm spell on the shop would work wonders. He might hire a dozen men at arms who hang out in a neighboring building waiting for the alarm to go off.

You say he can't use anything too damaging in terms of traps. Well, poison gas doesn't cause much physical damage and dissipates after a while. And while you say its illegal for him to create fatal traps, a) he may not care, b) bribes and Charm Person can get the well-to-do out of trouble, and c) dead thieves can't report you to the town guard. If you don't want to do that, you can always fill the shop with a Web.

Beyond defending his shop, since he knows there's likely going to be a break-in, he might have a familiar watch the shop from a distance and follow the thieves back to their home/inn/hideout. And when they aren't looking, he can rob them blind.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ You don't need the guards/hired guards to be waiting around the corner. 2nd level Transmutation spell. Rope Trick: Hide up to 8 creatures in an extra dimensional space right in the ceiling. They are already there ready to spring on the party. 3rd level illusion: Major Image: This is your big chance to make everything look normal if they fail their save. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 12, 2014 at 16:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ He is somewhat limited in what he can do, fiscally. He lives above his shop and has no other property in easy reach. He doesn't have a lot of liquid assets - most of his money is tied up in his building and inventory. He has a few thousand GP worth of funds he can access quickly - enough to hire guards for a short term, but he'd have to know when the players intend to attack. Decent guards would be expensive to hire for more than a few days...but that will give him time to prepare...hmmm. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jeff
    Commented May 12, 2014 at 17:06
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ Compromise. He hires a few cheap bullyboys for a week. \$\endgroup\$
    – user2754
    Commented May 12, 2014 at 17:09
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ If you're going by prices in the SRD, a basic armed guard should only cost about 3sp per day. So he has more than enough money to keep a dozen over the short term, and enough to hire a few permanent guards. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 12, 2014 at 17:25

Here's the thing: An intelligent Wizard would realize that it's easier to play to expectations than it is to outwit them. So, here's what I would do if you dumped me into this scenario as a Level 7 Wizard.

Step one: Take a back room or a corner of the basement. Use Illusory Wall to conceal it.
Step two: I'm a merchant, meaning I have connections with other merchants. As soon as I realize this other guy's hired thugs to get his spell back, I start buying as many spellbooks as I can.
Optional step: Depending on how much time I've had since I started stocking up on books, I use spells like Secret Page and Illusory Script on as many books as I can.
Step three: Put some token traps behind my wall, along with the piles of spell books.
Step four: The real spell book is in my Alarmed study, among several cookbooks and on the wall opposite my books on magical theory. If I can put a fake cover on it, all the better. Only use the book after I've checked for scrying and mundane observers.
Optional step: If I have enough time, I also get some land outside of town, preferably near a cave system. Build a small house, dig tunnels to hook in to the caves. Leave the deed in my study in a Nondetectioned strongbox and behind a Sepia Snake Sigil.

If I know my adventurers, by the time they figure out that they've been breaking in each night to steal empty books and that the "secret lair" is nothing but spiders and bat guano I'll have made enough money to retire to a tower in the tropics. If they seem like they've caught on too soon, screw it. I'll just keep the stupid book in a bag of holding. I own a Magic Shop.

Edit: I see what you said about his assets. Honestly, even a fake deed would work for the second optional step.


The Wiz7 NPC's Magic Shop

The wizard has, according to Table 4-23: NPC Gear Value (DMG 127), 7,200 gp. Assuming the magic shop's inventory is consigned instead of self-made, and he spends half his wealth to bolster his personal capabilities to improve his saving throws and Armor Class and whatever, he'll spend 3,600 gp better defending his most valuable inventory by keeping it in a lead-lined enveloping pit (Magic Item Compendium 159) (3,600 gp; 0 lbs.).

He'll keep the pit on his person or in a safe place in his shop. If the latter (I don't know why--maybe if everybody knew the pit were on him he'd be a more likely target for attacks?) he could stuff the pit pretty much anywhere in the shop--it's a piece of black cloth in a magic shop, after all.

He's added to his spellbook the 2nd-level Sor/Wiz spell dragoneye rune [div] (Dragon Magic 66) to his spellbook as one of his level-up spells and cast it upon his valuable items. If you've not read the spell, go do that. It's crazy, and it's what all shopkeepers should use. In fact, smart wizards put throughout books bookmarks that've been targeted by the spell dragoneye rune and leave scattered around valuable-looking but worthless trinkets (perhaps the target of the 1st-level Sor/Wiz spell Nystul's magic aura [illus] (PH 257-8) that have also been the target of dragoneye rune. The spell dragoneye rune has no material components, after all.

He's also added to his spellbook the 4th-level Sor/Wiz spell Halaster's fetch I [conj] (City of Splendors: Waterdeep 153) and filled the shop with friendly (to the wizard, anyway) celestial owls or fiendish hawks--possibly hundreds of them, given enough time--who've been ordered to attack (at a -4 penalty for making nonlethal attacks or via a mess of touch attacks followed by an equal mess of really bad grappling checks) anything that enters the shop without him. If anything, they'll wake up the neighbors.

The crew's finder would need a fantastic bonus to his Search check to discover the pit's whereabouts, and the crew's wizard better be prepared to dispel a lot of spells. And the crew should invest in birdseed. Lots of birdseed.

  • \$\begingroup\$ You need to spell out an abbreviation you use the first time it crops up. DMG and PHB are probably common enough there's no need, but anything else will be obscure to someone. \$\endgroup\$
    – starwed
    Commented May 12, 2014 at 17:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @starwed You're right, of course, but it's habit. I'll point out, though, I use the Product Index official abbreviations, which are also in this answer. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 12, 2014 at 17:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ The enveloping pit requires the user to be evil to open or close it. The more I dig into different things people point out on here, the more I find that the ideas just aren't that workable - either way too expensive, or the caster has to be evil, or they have to be descended from a one-eyed hunchback with halictosis or something. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jeff
    Commented May 14, 2014 at 14:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jeff "If you are lawful evil, lawful neutral, or neutral evil, an enveloping pit functions like a portable hole," says MIC 159, so not necessarily evil. Commanding a pit to open at range requires the "proper divine connection" though. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 14, 2014 at 14:09

Are you in a large city or a small village?

If you're in a large city, how would you keep something valuable safe in the real world? Pay someone with a lot more resources than you to keep it safe: put it in a safe deposit box. Think Harry Potter & Gringotts; that vault was locked up tight.

But, more likely, you're in a small village, such things are not particularly common. If I've been 7th level for awhile, anything I really wanted to keep secure would probably be in a secret room in a completely random place (a bear's cave, maybe?) behind a stone shape wall... which, after creation, I would never open. I could then use dimension door to get in and out, which has the added bonus of being useful in a combat situation as well. He could even get in and out in the same day if he has an 18 int... does he have a Headband of Intellect?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ He does, in fact, have a headband of intellect. It boosts his Int to 18. They are in a large city, large enough that it has more than 1 magic shop (I do run a magic-heavy campaign, though, with even well-off commoners having 'magic' items such as ever-sharp saws or hard to dirty clothing). \$\endgroup\$
    – Jeff
    Commented May 13, 2014 at 13:13

Why stick around to get robbed? As GrandmasterB pointed out, the best defense against losing the spell is to have lots of backup copies in lots of different locations. The PCs' boss gets one back, just go get another. However, this takes time to set up, and the PCs are likely to be here tonight. Thus, the objective is not to "stop the PCs", the objective is to "escape and buy time".

My plan if the lvl7 wizard were my PC: First thing, drop that book in a lead box. Drop the lead box in a Handy Haversack or other ED container. Drop a cheap illusion of myself to keep up appearances. (It doesn't have to hold up to scrutiny, I just want them to know I'm gone when they interact with the illusion, not when they hear it amongst the buzz around town.) Then bug out. Use teleportation magic or polymorph effects or whatever I've got, to ensure no one sees me leave. If I can, get a trusted merchant friend to visit "to drop off some stuff I've ordered", then have them leave carrying me in a Portable Hole.

Once I'm out of town, start on the road to the nearest town, make sure several other travellers see me, tell them I'm headed to said nearest town to visit a friend, drop my real name, make sure they remember me well and would recognize me from a description. Then, when no one's around, take off cross-country (accelerated by flight or other magic if possible) to another road leading to another town.

Go to that second other town, use alter self or the like so no one in town is likely to recognize me by description. Buy a couple travelling spellbooks, then keep travelling.

From this point, I spend 8 hrs a day making a moving target, and the rest of the day making copies of the book and stashing them in every hollow tree and train-station locker (or your world's closest equivalent) across the continent. After a month or so, go to the biggest city that's not the one the PCs' boss lives in, and resume selling copies of the spell. Sell them there until the monopoly wears thin from everyone I've sold them to now being able to pass them on as well, then head back home and paint a f*** MURAL of that spell formula on the outside of the town wall, before returning to my shop and resuming business as usual.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Worth noting: The leaving-in-a-portable-hole step is mutually exclusive with the book-in-a-handy-haversack step, as one of the two spaces will rupture (I believe the larger one) when they are placed inside each other. This could be mitigated by having the merchant friend carry the box separately, but that raises the risk of having it stolen. \$\endgroup\$
    – Passage
    Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 17:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Passage That depends on your DM. By strict RAW, such bad interactions between ED spaces happen only in the two very specific cases in which one involved space is a Portable Hole, and the other a Bag of Holding. Some DMs will insist on having similar interactions occur with pretty much any ED space inside any other, and if that's the case some adjustments will need to be made (same as for any other relevant point of the rules that your DM changes), but even then, they should be easy enough. RAW, though, HH is not a BoH, and so can go in a PH just fine. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 6, 2016 at 18:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Passage Actually, on further review there's no problem anyway: the plan doesn't call for a Haversack specifically, just for the lead box to be in an ED space, any ED space. A portable hole will do just fine, and can be the same one I myself ride in on my way out of town. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 6, 2016 at 19:06

Preventive measures:

  1. It is over his level, but, if the owner can pay for it, protecting the shop with a permanent mage private sanctum would be a great inversion for any paranoid wizard. It interferes with magical searching and scriying, and the sound-blocking effect can be used to insulate the players from the exterior of the shop, allowing the wizard to take on any player that remains on the outside while his partners plunder the shop, or bring on the guards without the players noticing their arrival. Additionally to this, Arcane locks on every door and judicious use of alarm spells are mandatory.

  2. Fill the shop with trapped fake spellbooks. They serve both as a distraction and as a way to weaken the party while the owner plans his attack or make time for the city guard to arrive. Also, they are a very fancy decoration for a magic shop. For this to work, you should do the following:

  3. Enchant the true spellbook with a permanent Shrink Item, magic aura, obscure object, etc. That way, the book can be hidden much more easily.

Once the figth has started:

  • The shop owner should focus first in bringing the fight out of the shop. Magical wares are delicate things.
  • Given that we are talking about a 7th level wizard, he should be inteligent enough to know better than to take on the players by himself. Instead, he should use grease or web to cover his back, and then flee at top speed, preferently while making a beeline to the city guard quarters.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .