A wizard’s spellbook is her greatest treasure, the link between herself and the very fabric of the cosmos. It is no surprise, then, that spellbooks often outlive their owners, turning up in ancient libraries, dusty tombs and dragon hoards. The existence of these lost manuals often motivates other wizards to adventure, pulling them out of their cramped laboratories and thrusting them into danger in the company of swordsmen and thieves.
What follows is a system by which the Dungeon Master can create, in short order, such a lost spellbook with just a few dice rolls.
Step One: Determining the Spellbook Owner/Creator
Who owned the spell book before it was lost? What sort of wizard amassed the knowledge within before the perils of wizardly life consumed him? To determine, first roll a d10 with the following results: 1-4: Apprentice 2); 5-7: Journeyman (4); 8-9: Master (7); 10: Archmage (9). The number in parentheses indicates the highest level of spells found in the book. The DM may either determine the actual spells found in the book by random roll or assume that all spells of that indicated school (see next paragraph) are found in the book.
Next, determine what sort of Wizard created the book by rolling a d8 and using the following results: 1: Abjurer; 2: Conjurer; 3: Diviner; 4: Enchanter; 5: Evoker; 6: Illusionist; 7: Necromancer; 8: Transmuter. This determines both the kinds of school of spells found in the book as well as the impact on arcane abilities granted by the book.
Example: If you roll a 5 on your first d10 and a 3 on the following d8, the owner of the spellbook was a Journeyman Diviner, meaning that it contains Divination spells up to 4th level and any other abilities the book has or enhances will be limited to the Divination school of magic.
Step Two: Determine the Name of the Spellbook
Roll 2 ten-sided dice separately to determine the two parts of the name of the spellbook. The name has no mechanical effect, but is a lot of fun to create:
Name Part 1 (d10)
1: Arcane; 2: Bewitched; 3: Eldricht; 4: Esoteric;5: Mysterious; 6: Mystic; 7: Orphic; 8: Sorcerous; 9: Uncanny; 10: Weird
Name Part 2 (d10)
1: Book; 2: Codex; 3: Compendium; 4: Lexicon; 5: Manual; 6: Omnibus; 7: Primer; 8: Tome; 9: Treatise; 10: Volume
Example: Rolling two d10 and getting 7 and 9 results in Orphic Treatise. So far, we have the Journeyman Diviner’s Orphic Treatise.
Step Three: Determine Additional Abilities of the Spellbook
In addition to merely containing spells of the associated school, all found spellbooks possess additional traits and abilities. Roll a d8:
1) When using the spellbook to prepare spells, the wizard may prepare one additional spell. The spell must be one found in the book.
2) When using the spellbook to prepare spells, the wizard gains an additional spell slot. Unlike other spell slots, the spell to be cast using this slot must be pre-determined. It must be a spell found in the spellbook, must be a lower level than the max spell level found in the book, and must be able to be improved by casting it using a higher level slot. Ex: Using a Journeyman Evoker’s book with this ability, the wizard can prepare magic missile using a 4th level spell slot for free.
3) When using Arcane Recovery, the total level of spell slots the wizard can recover is increased by 1.
4) Any spell prepared from the book has its save DC increased by 1.
5) The wizard may choose one spell when preparing spells from the book. That spell may be cast once without expending a spell slot.
6) The spellbook grants one additional known cantrip, which must be from the associated school. This cantrip is lost if the spellbook is lost, sold or destroyed.
7) When casting any spell prepared from the spellbook that has requires concentration, the wizard gains +1 to concentration checks to maintain the spell.
8) Possession of the spellbook enhances one of the wizard’s Arcane Tradition abilities:
Abjuration: gain an additional use of the Arcane Ward ability per long rest
Conjuration: Minor Conjuration may be up to 5 feet on a side and 100 lbs.
Divination: gain an additional d20 Portent die.
Enchantment: Hypnotic gaze may be maintained up to 30 feet away and the subject need only see OR hear you
Evocation: the number of creatures included with Sculpt Spells is increased to 3 + Spell Level
Illusion: increase the duration of minor illusion to 10 minutes
Necromancy: Hit Points gained from Grim Harvest a doubled
Transmutation: Minor Alchemy no longer requires concentration
Step Four: Determine Spellbook Quirks
Whether due to the eccentricities of their former owners, magical mishaps, or just the march of time, many spellbooks posses strange quirks or even dangerous curses. Roll a d20:
1) The spellbook emits a powerful, pleasant perfume.
2) The spellbook emits a powerful, disgusting stench.
3) Whenever opened, the spellbook makes a clearly audible, lovely tone.
4) Whenever opened, the spellbook makes a clearly audible, painful noise.
5) Candles, torches and other natural sources of firelight within 30 feet of the spellbook dim to half their usual illumination.
6) Candles, torches and other natural sources of firelight within 30 feet of the spellbook brighten to half again their usual illumination.
7) The wizard enjoys pleasant dreams every night while in possession of the spellbook.
8) The wizard suffers constantly from surreal nightmares while in possession of the spellbook.
9) So long as the wizard has a spell prepared from the spellbook, all food tastes like sweet buttercream.
10) So long as the wizard has a spell prepared from the spellbook, all food tastes like rancid milk.
11) The owner of the spellbook needs half as much food as normal and can go twice as long without food before suffering Exhaustion.
12) The owner of the spellbook needs twice as much food as normal and can only go half as long without food before suffering Exhaustion.
13) The clothes of the owner of the spellbook never get wet from the rain.
14) The clothes of the owner of the spellbook do not dry after having gotten wet from the rain.
15) Animals are attracted to the owner of the spellbook (+2 on Animal Handle rolls).
16) Animals are repelled by the owner of the spellbook (-2 on Animal Handle rolls).
17) While preparing spells from the spellbook, the wizard speaks loudly in an incomprehensible tongue.
18) While preparing spells from the spellbook, the wizard enters a deep trance and is unaware of his surroundings. If the wizard takes damage he emerges from the trance but no spells are prepared.
19) Opening the spellbook (such as to use it to prepare spells) requires a minor sacrifice of 1 hit point of damage. This sacrifice need not come from the wizard.
20) Roll twice, ignoring additional results of 20.
Final Step: Put It All Together
Once you have rolled or chosen all the traits of the spellbook, see if a story emerges from the collected results. Do the results suggest something about the owner that would make for an interesting future adventure? If you are designing the book ahead of time, consider what the results suggest about where it might be found; if you are rolling up the book afterward, what to the results say about how it got there in the first place? Consider also who might want the book once word gets out. Will a rival of the PC wizard come looking for it, or will a collector want to buy it off the character? Would either resort to outright theft, or worse?