One of the players in our group, a wizard with the Spellslinger archetype, has asked me the possibility to research spells on his own. With this I mean that he is not concerned neither in creating new spells nor copying (or buying) them from other sources, scrolls included. He simply wants to sit down and spend his downtime doing "experiments" and learning thus new spells.

Actually the player has found that the cost for learning new spells is equal to the spell level*1000 gp. Unfortunately, I'm running a low money campaign and so he cannot simply afford such a price.

Of course, I know that I could easily rebalance the prices to meet the campaign requirements, but I would like to do something different: I'm looking for alternative ways that could involve other mechanics instead of just asking lots of money (even if a fair amount, in the order of hundreds of gp, is allowed).

Please, feel free to suggest house-rules, if they fit the task, and to reword my question if I didn't make myself clear enough!

  • \$\begingroup\$ I am recommending this post be closed, not because the question did not generate useful opinions and ideas, but because there is no "correct" answer. The phrasing of the question has left it open to opinions. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 14, 2018 at 14:14

3 Answers 3


Yes, Pathfinder recomends that

The cost to research a new spell, and the time required, are left up to GM discretion, but it should probably take at least 1 week and cost at least 1,000 gp per level of the spell to be researched.

But the corresponding section in PHB 3.5 reads only

A wizard also can research a spell independently, duplicating an existing spell or creating an entirely new one.

And that's it. No costs, no time for research given. Everything is up to DM with no guidelines.

But there are lots of ways to hand out spells for wizards. You can have a powerfull wizard with lots of spells allow your PC to copy spells from his spellbook. The general guidelines for it are

In most cases, wizards charge a fee for the privilege of copying spells from their spellbooks. This fee is usually equal to half the cost to write the spell into a spellbook (see Writing a New Spell into a Spellbook). Rare and unique spells might cost significantly more.

So if you want to give the wisard access to spells via research it is reasonable to have these costs. Or you can set the cost equal to the price of a scroll. Whether you give it via research or from another wisard or any way is only a matter of how you roleplay it, not balance.

At the same time in the DMG 3.5 at page 35 we read

Introducing an unbalanced spell does more damage to your game than handling out an unbalanced magic item.

Handing out any spell the player wants can be disbalancing, no matter how you roleplay it. If you are going to run a low money campaign, you have to be even more cautious about handing out spells freely, because nonspellcasters will have a more limited access to resources.


If your PC can get any spell from an NPC wisard he can get the same by research for the same price without breaking the balance. But mind what spells you give, no matter how you roleplay it.

To summarize:

  • You can give wizard spells for free. It doesn't contradict the rules (at least 3.5).
  • There are several ways to give wizard spells described in the rulebooks. They have different prices for a spell and times for copying, but they have no other restrictions. While you take prices and time from one of these and roleplay it the way you like, you are not breaking the balance.
  • \$\begingroup\$ So, your answer is "a wizard can't research spells without spending money, but can buy spells as an alternative?" \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 1:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Not exactly that. The PHB 3.5 suggests that wizard can reserch spells any way the DM allows. Without money included. My personal opinion is: it is risky especially in a low resource campaign. I've edited my answer to be more specific. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ols
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 9:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, the Pathfinder RAW are for an optional cost. It explicitly says it's up to GM discretion and suggests time and gold expenses it should cost. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 21, 2016 at 1:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @heathenJesus I haven't mentioned it in the answer, but you are right. I've corrected the answer to outline it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ols
    Commented Apr 22, 2016 at 0:01

The spell level * 1,000 gp price is a abstract representation of the resources required to research a spell. Nominally you are paying for the materials and equipment gathered and built by somebody else and then spend the time use it to develop the spell.

If the character is willing to spend even more time then it is plausible that he gathers those resources himself. It could even act as an adventure hook.

The process would take a lot longer but done right it could greatly enhance the campaign.

How much it will cost?

According to pathfinder magic item creation rules. Half of the prices is actual material goods.

Magic supplies for items are always half of the base price in gp. For many items, the market price equals the base price. Armor, shields, weapons, and items with value independent of their magically enhanced properties add their item cost to the market price. The item cost does not influence the base price (which determines the cost of magic supplies), but it does increase the final market price.

Now you have to look at how to craft stuff. Which according to Pathfinder follows this rule.

  1. Find the item's price in silver pieces (1 gp = 10 sp).
  2. Find the item's DC from Table: Craft Skills.
  3. Pay 1/3 of the item's price for the raw material cost.
  4. Make an appropriate Craft check representing one week's worth of work. If the check succeeds, multiply your check result by the DC. If the result × the DC equals the price of the item in sp, then you have completed the item. (If the result × the DC equals double or triple the price of the item in silver pieces, then you've completed the task in one-half or one-third of the time. Other multiples of the DC reduce the time in the same manner.) If the result × the DC doesn't equal the price, then it represents the progress you've made this week. Record the result and make a new Craft check for the next week. Each week, you make more progress until your total reaches the price of the item in silver pieces.

So the character would have to find 500 gp of magical components per spell level through adventuring. The remaining 500 gp per spell level would have to be crafted at a cost of 166 2/3 gp per level. The character would have to possess the right crafting skill or have somebody willing to to help.

And it would take a lot of time.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't really follow your logic, here. Why are the magic item crafting rules relevant to spell research? Assuming that they are, why does the fact that the materials cost of a magic item is half its market price mean that both halves of the cost of spell research are in components, but that only one of those halves can be crafted? \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 1:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ Spell research is just form of magical research the same as creating magic items. Half of the cost of creating magic items are concrete tangible items. As such they can be crafted with the right crafting skill. So it follows if a character doesn't want to shell out actual gps to learn a spell. That he has to gather part that is magical components. Then craft the part that isn't magical components. Likely vellum, inks, and experimental apparatus. \$\endgroup\$
    – RS Conley
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 2:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ Do you have a reference for the "Spell research is just form of magical research the same as creating magic items" point? (If that were true, wouldn't that mean that someone researching their own spells would only have to pay half the research cost, the same as a spellcaster making magic items only has to pay half the market price?) \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 3:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes it called common sense because they are both dealing with the same system of magic. If it was spelled out exactly I wouldn't be making my suggestion and the OP wouldn't be asking his question. As for your 2nd point, spell research is a cost the same as the price for creating magic items is a cost. \$\endgroup\$
    – RS Conley
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 10:58
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Ah, you should cite those earlier editions of D&D in your answer, since they support your point. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 2:22

You've asked for house-rule suggestions in addition to RAW, so I figure I may as well chime in with how I tend to think about running these things in my own games. Note that the following material has not been actively used in play, as my players have little interest in magic, but has been made available to them. (Further, this is heavily inspired by content in the AD&D DMG.)

You might allow, either as an alternative to the standard costs or as the only option, for PC spell-casters/researchers/artificers to actively seek out a way to accomplish their ends. RAW, this involves simply sitting in a laboratory and spending some cash on your studies, but that doesn't make for a very interesting adventure! (Barring "incidents" with summoning spells, of course.)

Instead, consider coming up with a list of reagents that the caster must collect and study in order to complete their research/construction. Some short time into their studies, they realize that they will require additional (rare) components to complete the research. This should typically be something tied to the nature of the spell (powdered red dragon scales for a Fireball, for instance) and works best if material components are already in the campaign to some extent, because of course you need to have the materials for the spell in order to study it!

This provides you, as the GM, an adventure hook that at least one player has already explicitly stated their interest in. Let them know where they might expect to find the materials they need and send them on their way, to gather components in whatever way they deem appropriate.

As an added benefit, this gives you an in-universe way to refuse research of spells that you don't want the character to have. Sure, you can research Wish, but you'll need to go retrieve and study the essence of the north star and the heart of the god of magic-- good luck, hero!

  • \$\begingroup\$ Have you used these house rules in your own game? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 17:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have made them available to my players, but have unfortunately not had the chance to put them into practice as my PCs have little interest in magic. This is why I avoided putting any hard numbers in the answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Passage
    Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 17:49
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ You should mention that in your answer. (That's 'cause the bar for an answer consisting solely of a house rule is typically that the house rule has been used in play; otherwise, the site believes, such answers devolve into scattershot random suggestions lacking the practical experience to know if the suggestions are actually good — a position with which I don't wholly agree, but that's neither here nor there. But your having made the house rule available to the PCs (even if, for whatever reason, the PCs haven't taken advantage of it), for example, is valuable experience.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 18:16
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ That's a good point. Will edit. \$\endgroup\$
    – Passage
    Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 18:31

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