I think, that out of all of the player classes, the wizard is by far one of the most difficult classes to play, and to DM for. In the past, my group always kind of goofed this one up. We made them have access to all of the spells in the PHB and in those Wizard Spell Compendiums (which I had never read). The logic behind doing this was because the guy who always played the wizards in my group was also a DM and said, "I bought these books, and god-damn it, I'm gonna use them!"
The results of doing this got rid of spell books, and we created a spell point system. We thought that the player ignoring the game and constantly reading through the spells was realistic, and I guess that it was in a way, but it also hurt the game. As a DM, I couldn't plan for the spells that the wizard had, thus if I was trying to put a block in the game to keep them out of areas where they didn't belong yet, they could always bypass them! It also made DMing wizard characters into a giant, and very unattractive mess because of the law which states that if the PC's can do it, then it applies to NPC's as well.
But the WORST foul that using this system created was that all wizards were the same. There was no mystery to them. I make no bones about how much I totally suck with magical strategy, and I became very predictable, all wizards attacked in the same manner. IT WASN'T FUN!!!
In-game spell books seem like a very limiting thing to enforce, however I think that they are required to balance the game, it also helps in regards to specialist wizards, the former way severally weakened them and this just shouldn't be the case! They should be more powerful then the standard wizard.
But . . . how do you go about using spellbooks?
The DMG actually has these rules in it, but the low down on them is that they are Expensive, the first book is free, and you can chose to fill it up prior to game play. It was a gift from their teacher, this book is written in a way that it gives them access to one or two spells per spell level that they can't access until reaching the appropriate level. They also get a small traveling spell book for free, another gift. This one is empty. Every time they gain a lever, they get a free spell that they aren't required to learn, it just pops into their heads! This free spell can be either randomly generated, picked by the Dungeon Master, or picked by the Character.
Spells are acquired by you as the DM making them available in loot, and possibly from successfully witnessing an NPC casting the spell (passing a proficiency check with a negative modifier depending on the situation) In order to actually LEARN the spell, they first have to research it, this requires setting up a lab where all of the elements of the research can be controlled. Spell research should be role-played some what, and end with rolling the check to see if the spell can be learned. If this check is passed, then the wizard can add it to their spell book, the space that it takes up is at least 1 page per spell level, another check should be made to see if this spell was copied correctly, if this is passed, then the wizard has properly learned the spell and now has access to it.
A LOT OF WORK!!! But, this does help, if a spell can't be learned at that time, you can make it available to be learned later on in the game, but that research attempt has failed and all of the lab supplies were destroyed.
Here is where I differ from the DMG and PHB. I DO use spell components, but only for spells that would make them appropriate. This kind of depends mostly on casting times, the longer the casting time, the more logical it would be to enforce the spell components rule, but for little spells that are cast quickly, enforcing this rule would just be too much of a hassle, you could just assume that the wizard keeps a supply of this stuff and it doesn't need to be written on the character sheet, but for learning the spell, he should have to go out and collect these things.
How DMs handle magic is interesting to me, how do you handle this headache?
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