‘So What’s The Spellbook Like, Anyway?’ by Landon Bellavia serves as another sister in the series of ‘So What’ supplements, this time bringing about an open invitation into libraries of grandeur. Whether elaborating upon and imbuing detail into the prized possession of a villainous wizard, populating an ancient arcane study, or even simply seeking to add progressively more intriguing nuances to an adventuring arcanist’s most precious of possessions–the many tables and reference resources herein embark to bring so much more to the scene than ‘You find a spellbook, here are the spells in it.’ Let’s crack the arcane lock, dodge the lightning bolt and summoned spiders and see what’s inside!
Utilizing ‘So What’s The Spellbook Like, Anyway?’ will depend largely on just what you’re aiming for–as there are thirteen sections altogether with different tables and functions for detail. If one is keen to put together an ancient and venerable compilation penned by a legendary wizard, the results could easily span a paragraph filled with great detail–while likewise, there’s tables present to accommodate quickly generating lightweight books with their spell contents and cost ready to go at a moment’s notice. Much comes down to simply deciding on degrees of detail–particularly since several of the tables presented could apply multiple times to a given tome.
For an example, the first section begins with spellbook titles–beneath which there is a table of descriptions coupled with another for subjects and a third for sample books; from this, one might come up with the Astonishing Ivory Folio of Heavenly Musings with five hits. Truly weird combinations could arise, but I found it entertaining puzzling out just the right feel here. The second section provides Wizard names and Epithets–so perhaps it is Hunstar the White’s Ivory Folio. Next we’re on to distinguishing features, where things really start to pick up. Did Hunstar affix his folio with ornate brass rivets? Perhaps there is silver wire stitching along its binding, or it has a quill holder built into its spine.
Of course, there’s the need for a proper cover for a spellbook–and the fourth section covers such amply. Hides, leathers, scales and all sorts of curious options are presented here–from the wyvern hide to the bizarre such as a cyclops’ eyelid. Accompanied here is a quick chart for the condition of the cover, too, if one is so inclined–with 20 entries, as opposed to just ‘mint, fine, good’–instead there may be water spots, small holes or a musty smell for instance. The fifth section offers further detail for the cover as well, proceeding into much more elaborate entries; for instance, entries on the ‘Makers’ table offer a paragraph apiece, such as one from a master taxidermist (explaining the exotic materials used, no doubt!)
Paper follows in the sixth section and was also one of my favorites–I particularly loved parchment laced with ashes from a vampire destroyed by sunlight. Cool! Another condition table accompanies, before we’re off to the seventh section: ink. From holly berry concentrate to devil blood, emerald dust in iodine to phosphorous suspended in a potion of cure light wounds–the imaginative variety here is most excellent! After seeing to the makings of a given book, there’s still quite a bit more material available; in the eighth section are preparation rituals a la those presented in Ultimate Magic–essentially boons gleaned by preparing spells from a given book. These tables present levels, costs and schools of magic and each offers an augment to casting.
The last three sections for the toolkit cover contents other than spells a book might contain (such as a map, contact information for a hobgoblin mercenary and other curious finds), potential histories for spellbooks and their authors (with basic and tough knowledge categories) and finally protection a given spellbook might have to secure its contents. This latter-most segment is particularly nice, providing a breakdown with level rangers for appropriate wards, locks and traps as well as the costs involved for each–making it an accessible resource for shrewd adventurers as well!
After so many fine details, the final two sections of the supplement buckle down for mechanical crunch in a very good way: with random spellbook costs and contents and pre-generated spellbooks. Here there is an exceptional breakdown for gold value, the number of spells of each level present within a given book and even the cost for scribing additional spells at each level on a single sheet which could be printed off and tucked in with other treasure generation resources if so desired. The thirteen sample spellbooks offer specific spells and value and could function as a baseline for starting off a more elaborate spellbook project.
More than just a collection of random tables, I feel that this supplement could serve as a powerful spellbook construction kit–and in that regard, could be enjoyed by GMs and players alike. Throughout each section are a great many interesting and inspiring offerings both curious and evocative–and really, entertaining to piece together to boot. Because of the scalability of the sections presented, the material is well-suited for everything from fashioning a villain’s iconic volume to outfitting a worldly adventuring wizard or filling out an arcane library with multiple treasured tomes on short notice; the flexibility is considerable.
Overall: ‘So What’s The Spellbook Like, Anyway?’ is 25 pages, with 7 occupied by the cover, credits, forward, OGL and an advertisement–leaving us with 18 pages to comprise the arcane intrigues of the magical tomes throughout. Raging Swan‘s high standards of editing and formatting ensure that the work here is solid and accessible. A clear two and three column layout presents tables and information neatly and is interspersed with nice black and white artwork of tomes; as well, the PDF is well bookmarked for easy reference and the whole should prove very printer-friendly. No complaints here!
‘So What’s The Spellbook Like, Anyway?’ is a compelling assemblage of a la carte wonder which wizards and their ilk everywhere are apt to want to get their hands on. Details abound, both clever and bizarre–easily scaled for as much or as little elaboration one is apt to present with a given tome. This is an imaginative and well-realized endeavor which author Landon Bellavia has clearly crafted with care. I made several spellbooks running the full run of the supplement to see what might result and was entertained and pleased with each–they’re liable to show up at the table before long.
While the writings and tables herein are ready for random rolling, I feel the real treasure comes in tailoring together stylish and intriguing thematic tomes–and with the nature of the material’s presentation, even players of spell-slinging adventurers could well find much inspiration for their personal book. This is a fantastic resource which can serve as a tool kit for both GMs and players looking for inspiration. For something as iconic as a wizard’s spellbook, scribing nuance and history for such is an excellent goal for added flavor in a given campaign. If you’ve ever been disappointed by spellbooks serving as tear-away pages of spells, with this one might once again make such tomes a more exciting find!
My hat is off to Landon and Raging Swan both–this is definitely a supplement that I would highly recommend. 5 stars!