A new way to spice up the spell research process came to my mind last night and I think it’s a potentially cool one that allows the players to both contribute to the shared setting and rewards their creativity.
While I was researching the rules for spell creation in the various editions of D&D, one facet of it was repeated in both 1st and 2nd edition AD&D. In both those rules, the cost of spell research was based on the assumption that the character had access to a library (or shrine in the case of clerics). If they didn’t, the cost of research was either increased or they had to spend funds to first acquire a library.
While this is a little more convoluted than the spell research methods I intend to use, the idea of a personal research spell library is an alluring one – especially considering my profession as a librarian and archivist. I love adding new books complete with titles and authors to the game world for players to find and ponder over. It stands to reason that part of the monies spent during spell research goes to cover the purchase of arcane grimoires and obscure religious tomes to reference during the creation process, and this is covered within the abstract method presented in the game’s mechanics.
Rather than gloss this over, I thought that I’d integrate it with actual play a bit. My thought is this: for each 2,000 gp spent on the creation of a new spell, the player must give me the name and author of one book which was used in the spell creation process. The name must be indicative of a very specialized work that would pertain to the spell his character was attempting to create. So if Mack the MU was creating his magnificent mauler, Mack’s player might say that one of the tomes Mack bought to assist this process was Inquires into the Application of Conjured Downward Forces by Schumpti Rock-Dropper. That sounds specialized enough to me. It’s certainly more of a dedicated-sounding title than The Codex Supreme: Treatises on All Known Magicks.
Having deemed the book acceptable, both Mack’s player and I make a note of the fact that Mack now owns this book. At some future time, Mack’s player decides that there really needs to be a spell that would fill the gap that feather fall usually does (check the rule books, feather fall doesn’t show up until 1st edition AD&D). Deciding to fill that gap with a new spell called Mack’s delicate descent, our exemplary MU heads back to the spell lab. Now the cost to research such a spell would usually be a minimum of 2,000 gp. However, since Mack already owns a book dealing with conjured downward forces and thus being a reasonable reference source for his proposed new spell, I decide to give him a break on costs – say 500 gp. Mack only needs to spend 1,500 gp, Mack’s player has added a bit of flavor to the campaign world, and I have a springboard to use for new set dressing on future adventures. Maybe Schumpti Rock-Dropper has written other books and there’s an Inquires into the Application of Conjured Upward Forces to be found in the next arch-mage’s tower. Simple, imaginative, and conducive to the shared world experience - it’s a win-win for everyone.