Roleplaying Resources

Spell Scribing

Rudimentary Spell Scribing; a Scientific Approach

Excerpt from chapter two: Materials


The majority of the cost involved in spell-scribing comes from the quality of the ink. Spell-quality ink can be made in several different ways, some of which may be better than others, but it is always of the darkest black, and lies on the paper with hardly any bleeding at all, and it lasts practically forever. Although black, it is slightly irridescent, reflecting light in any number of colors, depending on the angle at which it is viewed. Spell-quality ink is resistant to mold, fungus and even fire, to an extent that will long since have destroyed any material it might be written on.

Preparing a batch of spell-quality ink takes a goodly amount of time and effort. Assuming that all the materials and tools are immediately available, producing the ink is a process that takes the better part of a year, including, all told, about three weeks of intensive labor. This includes measuring, drying, boiling, mixing, dissolving, digesting and otherwise processing to the point where all the ingredients can be mixed for maximum effectiveness. Even after all that, it is easy to end up with an inferior batch, which might only be useful, for example, for the official gilded copy of the royal heraldry of Rang.

Earlier, we made the assumption that all the materials were immediately available. It is worth pointing out the absurdity of this premise. Some materials can only be found in the summer and others only in the winter, and they often come from widely seperated parts of the world with wildly varying climates.

Fortunately, spell-quality ink can be produced in large batches by one who is sufficiently skilled. A single person with an assistant might be able to make two or three quarts over the course of a year, while an efficient team of, say, two dozen experienced workers, led by a master inker, might produce as much as twenty gallons.

For the practical spell scriber, most of this is immeterial. In the end, it comes down, like everything else, to money. Generally, spell- quality ink sells for about ninety attles for a quarter-ounce vial, which, quite impressively, is enough to cover a full page with arcane writing.

Inferior ink will bleed, and will fail to shimmer in the correct directions and colors to permit proper spell focus. By a coincidence of ecinomics, inks of lesser quality will reduce the potency of spells and make them likely to fail, in approximate proportion to their cost. Beyond a certain point, there is no reason to write the spell at all.

It is possible, though exceptionally difficult, to make colored, irridescent ink of the same or better quality as spell-scribing ink. It is rumored that the use of such ink in the proper color combinations can significantly enhance spellcasting, though there are no well- documented cases, and no precise experiments have been performed. Such ink often sells for as much as five hundred attles per quarter-ounce. In times of shortage, the price has gone as high as three thousand.


The pens used to scribe spells are far less valuable than the ink. Any old pen can be used, actually, but considering the cost of ink and the minute portions in which it is sold, it is important to make use of every drop. Therefore, spell-scribing pens should be exceptionally smooth on the inside, and especially sharp at the tip, and should release the ink as slowly as possible. The best pens cost about ten attles, and are good for about ten pages of writing before it's no longer economical to continue using them. Even after the first ten pages, however, they're still useful for less critical tasks, such as signing a royal declaration of war.

An inferior pen will use ink twice as quickly, which is hardly worth the cost.


Spell-scribing paper, while of the highest quality, is nothing extraordinary. However, to maximize the efficiency and longetivity of the ink, it is necesarry to prime it. Unlike the ingredients of the ink, those of the primer are fairly commonplace, if expensive. Treatment materials, together with paper costs, come to around five attles per page.

Once the paper is primed, one should wait at least eight hours for it to dry completely, during which time the area around it should be kept free of dust, pet dander and other impurities. It must, however, be open to the air while it is drying, or the paper will wrinkle and warp and become unusable.

For best effect, paper should be used within ten days of treatment. If it is not, it may be cleaned of dust and re-primed with a small amount of primer. These will cost about one attle per page, and dry in about two hours, depending on temperature and humidity.

Inferior paper or improper priming reduces the effectiveness of the ink. Paper and primer of half the value increases ink usage by about twenty percent, and reduces its longevity by a considerable amount. Or more specifically, the ink remains durable, but its ability to adhere to the page decreases. One should always use cotton fiber, rather than wood fiber paper. It is not worth sacrificing durability for such a trivial increase in price.


One should scribe a spell with great precision, taking care never to rush things, and never to work without a clear mind. After the eight hour preperation of the paper, proper scribing should take no less than three hours per page, and it is not recommended to scribe more than two pages in a day, or one page if time has already been spent priming the paper.

Rushing a scroll is foolish. Some have been able to reduce scribing time to two hours per page, and to scribe four pages a day, or to work more than a total of eight hours in a given day. They have found that they have difficulty focusing on the task, and they make mistakes. Haste and impatiance have been shown to ruin about one page in six, which is a waste of both time and materials.

Alternate Forms of Scribing

Everything thus far described applies only to the more permanent form of spellcraft known as spellbook scribing. There is an alternate approach, known as scroll scribing, which follows a different set of rules. Note that, dispite their names, actual spellbooks and scrolls are not a requirement. The names merely indicate their most common uses.

Any spell, in being written down, takes with it a small part of the scribe. In the case of spellbook-scribing, this part is minute. The book, though of the finest materials, is only nominally magical in and of itself. It is a set of instructions for magic, rather than magic in written form.

A scroll-scribed spell, on the other hand, is very much the latter, and it can potentially incorporate a measurable part of the scribe, sometimes causing lapses in memory and judgement. Some of the most legendary scribes were said to have become entirely daft or completely mad in their old age. It is for these reasons that scroll-scribed spells function quite differently from spellbook-scribed spells.

A scroll-scribed spell, unlike its cousin, is a magical artifact in its own right. Once written in full, it is magic bound into ink. It can be cast once and only once, after which the materials themselves decompose into magical energy.

Since the scroll has power of its own, the scribe must be exceedingly careful with materials, ensuring that they are consumate with the power of the spell. While spellbook-scribing offers some flexibility, scroll-scribing offers none. To use inferior materials in scroll-scribing is to create an item that destroys itself before it is even created.

Fortunately, it does not take materials of exceptional quality to scroll-scribe a weak spell. While all scrolls must be primed, and a high-quality pen is always recommended, the weakest spells can be written with ink that one would never be so foolish as to use on a spellbook. It does not take much to bind a weak spell to the cotton- fiber of the paper. The most powerful spells, however, require materials far beyond those required for spellbook-scribing, including the choicest and rarest of inks. While the usefulness of colored ink is questionable for spellbook-scribing, it is absolutely essential for the more powerful scroll-scribed spells.

Note that, in order to scroll-scribe a spell, one must already have a spellbook-scribed spell from which to copy. It is possible to memorize a spell and work without a spellbook, but it is very difficult to do this flawlessly, and spells cast from such scrolls will fail about one time in five. Furthermore, the spell to be scribed must be prepared, and then cast in a special way such that its effects are negated and it is incorporated into the scroll. Theory and methods of scroll-imbuing will be discussed in later chapters.

OOC: D&D Game rules summary

Spellbook scribing costs per page:

  • Ink - 94at
    • 50at ink results in 15% spell failure and -1 save DC.
    • 25at ink results in 30% spell failure, -3 save DC and a small chance of backfire (5%).
    • 12at ink results in a 60% spell failure, -8 save DC and 15% backfire.
  • Pen - 1at
    • Subtracting 9ag increases ink costs by 100%.
  • Paper - 5at
    • Subtracting 4at increases ink costs by 20%.
lvl pages cost time
0 1/2 50at 10 hours (1 day)
1 1 100at 11 hours (1 day)
2 2 200at 14 hours (2 days)
3 3 300at 17 hours (2 days)
4 4 400at 20 hours (3 days)
5 5 500at 23 hours (3 days)
6 6 600at 26 hours (3 days)
7 7 700at 29 hours (4 days)
8 8 800at 32 hours (4 days)
9 9 900at 35 hours (4 days)

Scroll Scribing

lvl pages cost XP time
0 1/2 10at 1 12 hours (1 day)
1 1 25at 2 12 hours (1 day)
2 2 75at 6 16 hours (2 days)
3 3 200at 16 20 hours (2 days)
4 3 350at 28 24 hours (3 days)
5 3 550at 44 28 hours (3 days)
6 4 800at 64 32 hours (4 days)
7 4 1100at 88 36 hours (4 days)
8 4 1500at 120 40 hours (5 days)
9 4 2000at 160 44 hours (5 days)