In old D&D, spells were like Pokémon; if you encountered one you’d never seen, you could put it into your collection. This is a time-tested, addictive form of gameplay that I miss in 4e. Luckily, it’s easy to add back in.
4e wizards still have a spellbook, in which they can transcribe more daily, utility and encounter spells than they can cast. If there’s a spellbook, we can re-introduce spell scrolls.
spell scrolls for arcane classes
To return wizards to their place as library-ransacking completists, just add a few scrolls containing daily spells into the next treasure haul. As in earlier editions, these scrolls can be used to cast a spell a single time, or be transcribed into a wizard’s spellbook, permanently expanding the wizard’s reportoire.
I’d allow other arcane classes to transcribe scrolls into spellbooks too: they’d gain the wizards’ ability to swap daily powers, but only with spells they found as treasure.
Since 4e wizards already choose their two favorite spells for every spell slot, it’s hard to get excited about expending your spell repertoire: at best, you’re getting your third-favorite spell. Let’s say that some spell scrolls (20%?) might contain improved versions of spells. For instance, a wizard might find a scroll called “Flame Jester’s Improved Fireball”, which teaches a version of the Fireball spell that does +1 damage per tier. The benefit of such an improved spell is limited to that spell, and might be equivalent in power to that of a feat. Possibilities include:
- +1 to hit or damage
- adds a new damage type
- conditionally adds a condition (for instance, dazes targets if you have combat advantage)
There’s a lot of daily spells, so this opens up a lot of design space for treasure. It also allows DMs to boost iconic but mechanically weak spells like Fireball without having to resort to house rules. I’d even think that a character could find an improved version of an at-will power. Gaining +1 damage to an often-used at-will power would be almost as good as finding a new magic weapon.
With improved spells, we can bring back another staple of early D&D: spell research. If a PC can’t find a specific spell, they can research it. DMs and players can go crazy with rules for spending money on research, libraries, and labs.
To keep non-arcane classes from egtting jealous, they might need ways to upgrade their powers too. I’ll have to think about that.