Copying and selling spellbooks for profit

Hi everyone,

I have a quick question. RAW can a PC copy his spellbook and sell the copy with a profit?


Well, from my own reading, (not an Autarch) a Wizard can certainly sell copies of his spells for other wizards to learn for gold. BUT! It is mentioned as a built in assumption of the setting that Mages are intensely jealous of their spell knowledge, because it is one of the ways they stand out from other wizards. Every wizard having a semi-unique repertoire. Him selling the knowledge of his spells lessens his value to others as a Mage, because now more "other" mages can do things he can do.  



Hi everyone,

I have a quick question. RAW can a PC copy his spellbook and sell the copy with a profit?



This is, unfortunately, one of the few things not well-supported by the ACKS rules.

Adding a spell to a blank spellbook takes a week and costs a grand total of 0 gp, yet a new spell is obviously worth far more than that: The other major ways to obtain new spells are to copy them from scrolls or to attempt magic research. Both of those cost about 1,000 gp per spell level, and are presumably worth it at least some of the time. If a spellbook can be copied for free, there's an absurd money-making opportunity for any adventuring mage who doesn't care too much whether their spells get spread around.

Since that would be a major departure from the settings Alex usually describes, there must be something that prevents that from being true. It's hard to say what, though. Do spellbooks need to be constantly updated for some reason? But that would make it strange that you could copy spells from scrolls found in ancient tombs. Is there some cabal who assassinates mages who share their knwoledge too freely? If so, they're not doing a very good job; Any town larger than a thorpe has multiple mages capable of casting any first-level spell you can name. Is there social pressure that makes sharing spells highly awkward or taboo? I guess that's possible, but any taboo that there's measurable advantages to breaking is going to be broken a lot, until it eventually stops being respected entirely.

I suspect this issue won't get properly fixed until ACKS second edition. In the mean time, I've ruled that in my version of the Auran Empire, spells stop working for any caster who shares their secrets too freely, for reasons that morrtals guess at but do not know for certain. (It's probably something to do with angering spirits, though. Spirits are known for being tetchy about apparently-arbitrary things.)

The economy of spellbooks is something that has bothered me as well. I'm considering a house rule that would change the nature of spellbooks considerably. Instead of spellbooks holding the formulas for individual spells, each spellbooks would be a general textbook on arcane magic that the caster would need to study for an hour or two each day in order to recover his spell slots. 

  • Despite ACKS being a neo-clone of B/X D&D I don't see what is gained by forcing wizards to have to spend weeks to acquire spells for their reportoire as they gain levels. There is no direct monetary cost for spells gained upon leveling, but this can disrupt the flow of the adventuring.
  • Starting spells would still be random.
  • The spells in the repertoire would represent semi-permanent imprints upon the casters brain.
  • As the mage leveled his repertoire would expand instantly to include the spells of his choosing. For example, a mage with a 16 INT would immediately be able to add three 2nd-level spells upon reaching 3rd level.
  • This rule would not apply to ritual spells.
  • This rule would not apply to new spells outside the established canon as represented by the mage spell list.
  • The current rule regarding making a change to an existing repertoire would essentially remain. The costs associated with the change represents the expenses of performing the rituals (or copious amounts of opium, mushrooms, etc.) needed to essentially reformat the mage's brain to cast a different spell. 
  • If there ever is a 2nd edition of ACKS I hope Alex considers making a change similar to something above. I've come to believe that the bookkeeping and game time impact of traditional arcane spellbook rules is more of a hindrance to the game than a boon. I've played other non-D&D games, and the instant acquisition of spells as you advance were not an issue.

In my latest game, I attempted to address this with "soft" and in-world solutions:

Every mage or arcane spellcaster is part of a guild, which is who you go to when you get taught new spells.  In real world terms, they behave very much like corporations, and they consider the spells they teach to be strictly "copyrighted" and expect their students to sign "NDAs".  

Anyone caught giving their secrets away to anyone else will be immediately expelled, and anyone who attempts to steal their spells and learn them or trick their students into giving out their spells will face reprisal, possibly involving hired assassins.  Moreover, anything students research using the guild's library is expected to be under the same restriction.

This creates a motivation for magic users to make their own libraries and workshops: whatever they research on their own they are free to do with what they want, include sell.  Of course, if they have no basis or power to enforce "copyright" like the guilds, they'll find they can sell a spell exactly once.  The buyer will either be a mage's guild looking for exlcusive rights to the spell, or a clever merchant who will immediately recoup their investment by reselling to anyone else who might want the spell.  Moreover, if they happen to discover a very powerful signature spell of a particular guild, they may find that while they technically know it fair and square, the guild may take matters into their own hand in order to keep something similar to their spell from getting out.

I think I agree that there’s something problematic in the spellbook/repertoire mix. Repertoire is an acks innovation, and maybe some of the details are not perfect.

How about this…?

Spellbook pages are just bound scrolls. You can cast from them as a scroll, you can sell the book page by page or as a collection of scrolls, if you want. Copying a page follows the rules for creating a scroll with a sample.

Mages are assumed to have a mentor who will give them a few pages/scrolls as they advance, as in the rules. Perhaps they extract service from them, in return. Alternatively, a found scroll can be bound into the spellbook.

Blank repertoire slots can be filled by studying any scroll/spellbook that you can read. It takes time as described in the book.

If you dont study a spell, it will start to fade, and become unusable. Attempting to cast any spell you have not been studying requires a roll on the overcasting table, with a target roll equal to the number of days you have not studied that spell.

Repertoire slots will slowly open up as spells are not studied. If a single spell is not being studied, it’s slot will open up after a week per spell level. If multiple spells are not being studied, after a week, one spell will be “ruined” and unusable. Roll randomly for the spell, with each spell weighted by spell level (second level spells are twice as likely to be ruined as first level spells, etc). This spell will cease to be castable, but it’s repertoire slot will not open until a number of weeks equal to its spell level has gone by, at which point its inventory slot opens up. Ruined spells cannot be fixed in the repertoire, the mage must wait for them to clear themselves, then memorize a new spell. After a ruined spell has cleared itself, if the mage is still not studying spells in his repertoire, after another week, another spell, chosen at random from those that remain, will be “ruined”.

This process can be accelerated and controlled by the use of expensive techniques that allow a specific spell to be swapped for another at the same time, as described on the book.

Does this work…?

Travelling Spellbooks

A mage may choose to leave his extremely valuable spellbook at home, when off adventuring. Mages who do this occasionally carry “travelling” spellbooks. These spell study guides contain enough information about the spells that a mage may study them to maintain his repertoire, but not enough for other purposes.

A travelling spellbook slows the degradation of spells in the repertoire. Daily study will stop all repertoire loss, but it cannot reverse existing repertoire loss, and a mage cannot add a spell to his repertoire from a travelling spellbook. They are therefore useful to a travelling mage, but not excessively valuable.

If a mage gets hold of another mage’s travelling spellbook, Collegiate Wizardry will allow the holder of the book to learn the mentor and spell signature of the book’s owner, along with any magic related proficiencies possessed by the owner. The book has no other value.

Under this system, mentors will typically hold a young mage’s true spellbook (the scrolls) until the mage can purchase them (and his freedom) from his mentor. Legible scrolls, then, become an alternative path to true independence from the mentor.