The Oral Tradition Wizard (no spellbook; still prepares)


Homebrew and House Rules

Sovereign Court

So since I'm running a setting with distinct stone age tendencies, in a jungle, spellbooks seem a bit out of place. But I'm not opposed to the concept of "learned magic" (wizard magic) as an alternative to "born magic" (sorcerers) or "given magic" (witches).

So I'm trying to make an archetype for wizards that doesn't use a spellbook, instead relying on an oral tradition. The trick is getting a new "drawback package" to compensate for not bothering with spellbooks. I was thinking about the following:

* Do not gain Scribe Scroll as a bonus feat.
* You must have Perform(Oratory); you cannot learn spells of a level higher than the number of ranks in P(O). You don't gain any additional skill points though, so this will cost you.
* Learning spells from a written source is impossible for you. You can however learn spells on the wizard list from any arcane caster that knows it who is willing to teach you.
* When you learn a new spell, you need to compose a tale/poem/song to remember it by; this takes one hour per level of the spell. (So you can still use Blood Transcription, which is actually a vital spell if you want to plunder the knowledge of dead oral tradition wizards.)
* All your spells have verbal components, although those can be bypassed with Silent Spell as normal.

An Oral Tradition Wizard still prepares spells like an ordinary wizard. The archetype is compatible with other archetypes and makes no particular choice in types of schools or arcane bonds, so you don't shoehorn all pre-alphabetical wizards into one type.

Now I wonder - is this a fair deal? Is it better or worse, or comparable enough?
+ No worrying about spellbooks
- Costs 1 skill point per level
- No Scribe Scroll
- Harder to learn spells from defeated wizards
+ Can learn spells from friendly witches, sorcerers, bards, alchemists
+ No money spent on transcribing spells
- No spells without verbal components (although those are rare to begin with anyway).

What do you think? If you think it's too powerful, are there adjustments possible to bring the power level in line?


Instead of spellbooks they could have token items per spell (runes on rocks in a bag) or tattoo's instead of a spellbook.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I like it, and think its pretty nifty.

Another option might be spell tattoos or scars, each spell has a particular symbol associated with it like an animal, object or something more abstract like dots and lines. The scarred wizard scribes their spells on their skin. Each spell takes up an inch/spell level.


Ascalaphus wrote:
* Do not gain Scribe Scroll as a bonus feat.
That makes sense.
Quote:
* You must have Perform(Oratory); you cannot learn spells of a level higher than the number of ranks in P(O). You don't gain any additional skill points though, so this will cost you.
Meh. It's just a skill-point tax. Instead, how about denying these wizards the option to leave slots open and memorise spells later in the day? They regain their spells in one long oral litany, so it's all or nothing in one sitting.
Quote:
* Learning spells from a written source is impossible for you. You can however learn spells on the wizard list from any arcane caster that knows it who is willing to teach you.
Makes sense.
Quote:
* When you learn a new spell, you need to compose a tale/poem/song to remember it by; this takes one hour per level of the spell. (So you can still use Blood Transcription, which is actually a vital spell if you want to plunder the knowledge of dead oral tradition wizards.)
Better yet: a new verse for your spell-preparation song.
Quote:
* All your spells have verbal components, although those can be bypassed with Silent Spell as normal.

This strikes me as unneeded. Instead, stipulate that spell preparation cannot be done in silence (obviously).

Quote:
Now I wonder - is this a fair deal?

Money may become an unbalancing factor. Regular Wizards spend gold to add spells to their grimoire, and even more gold to create copies of their spellbooks. Your pre-literate Wizard doesn't have that expense.

Sovereign Court

On the whole, I don't think scribing spells is a big chunk of WBL anymore, it seems PF scaled down those costs a lot compared to earlier versions. Not getting Scribe Scroll might also cost money.

About Perform: on the one hand it makes sense to me that anyone skilled in an oral magical tradition is a damn good talker. But besides that, I like the skill point cost. Books relieve the burden on your memory, freeing up space to learn other things. If you don't use books, you need to devote memory (skill points) to remembering the whole spell.

There's something to be said for preparing everything at once.

I've also considered the token/tattoo version. I do like them, but I wanted to go past that towards the entirely un-written wizard.

I'm also still trying to come up with a catchy name for it; Oral Tradition sounds a bit too anthropological and not enough fantasy to me.


Well, if it weren't already taken by the Druid, I'd say Shaman, since that's what Shamans were for back in the day.

Maybe call 'em the Seanachie or a Scoppish Wizard based on the old words for oral storyteller?

Bard's already taken, sadly.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

There are lots of ways information can be stored other then the written word.

Take the Incan Quipu. it is a series of knots and cords used for storing numerical information as well as I believe more complicated concepts.

Someone earlier mentioned tatoos....Perhaps another possibility could be patterns in clothing.....etching on shells etc

Lots of possibilities.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

There was a spellless wizard variant in one of the dragon magazine class acts (for 3.5, natch). Ironically enough, I forget which issue it was though.

Sczarni RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

ElyasRavenwood wrote:
Take the Incan Quipu. it is a series of knots and cords used for storing numerical information as well as I believe more complicated concepts.

I like the idea, the caster would have to take and/or wear the quipu-like arrangement with them like a spellbook and prepare spells using it. Weaving or tying in bits of bone, shells, rocks, and other items could help each spell be unique. Add in the possibility of certain items correlating with certain schools to create more depth to the system and allow the player to personalize it more.


How about Chanter, Cantor, or Intoner as a name?

It's an interesting concept.

Sovereign Court

Quipus are certainly interesting, maybe I'll use those as well, but I think that's still essentially doing "written magic", just using a different writing system.


Scythia wrote:

How about Chanter, Cantor, or Intoner as a name?

It's an interesting concept.

"Incantator", perhaps?

I like it, and might steal it.


I like the idea, it would give a lot of flavour to wizards in your setting.

The main disadvantage is that the only way to learn spells beyond levelling up is through friendly colleagues/mentors. This I a significant drawback (to my mind, being able to learn heaps of spells is one of the wizard's biggest, if not the biggest, strengths), and pretty much compensates for not needing a spellbook or paying for transcriptions etc.

I'm not a fan of the skill tax, but it could be an option - having ranks in Oratory or Singing could make it quicker to learn and memorise spells. That would make it attractive, but not necessary.

I don't think the verbal component thing is necessary, either. The oral thing is not necessarily just verbal components, it could also be a description of the other processes (physical, mental, whatever) that are part of the casting.

Over all, I think it's great. I'd like to use this myself.


Is Spellsinger taken?
Cave paintings and Hiroglyphics may have been developed as a way to preserve the spells of a lineage. Cave paintings and Hiroglyphics each take a language slot. You can learn spells from them, but not prepare spells from them as a spellsinger. An Archiologist Mage would, and could make spellbooks using copied cave paintings and Hiroglyphics.

Dark Archive

1 person marked this as a favorite.

What if once per day, the wizard could recall a spell cast by someone else and weave that into his poem?

Sovereign Court

Mergy wrote:
What if once per day, the wizard could recall a spell cast by someone else and weave that into his poem?

That's a really nice idea! I like that using "secret tech" where it can be observed and reverse-engineered is a risk. The flavor of wizards not wanting any peeping toms when they do their work, that really works for me.

Although I'd want some sort of check (spellcraft?) involved with it - and no Take 10 if the other guy isn't cooperating - because it shouldn't feel like a sure thing. Maybe a countdown - once you've heard a spell, you have X time to turn it into a poem (which takes 1 hour per level, in a calm environment), before you can't recall enough specifics anymore to do it.


Looking at this from an Australian aboriginal perspective. Magic is in the landscape, sacred sites, rock carvings and paintings, ritual scaring, body paint, the patterns and carvings on thier instruments and the song lines.

A Wandjina could learn his spells for the day by singing and doing sacred dances. To learn the Jump spell he may need do the Kangaroo dance. For fly he may need to do a brolga dance.

The Crane Dance .


I think the skill tax is what offsets the cost of not having to scribe spells into a book.

I do not think you will have any problems running this as written.


Yeah it's hard to come up with a name that doesn't sound bard-ish...


Orator (ex): Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate, and Perform (oratory) are class skills for you. You add half your leve (minimum 1)l to Diplomacy and Perform (oratory) skill checks. The DC for your Spellcraft checks is 15 (or 20) plus twice the spell's level. You can learn a spell by spending time with a willing spellcaster. Learning a spell in this way takes 1 hour per level of the spell (0-level spells take 30 minutes), and a successful Perform (orator) check of 15 plus the spell's level.

This would replaces Scribe Scroll. Replacing the Spellbook feature would require a deal more write up. Coming up with replacements for the Bonus Feats would be appropriate too.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Thomas LeBlanc wrote:
ElyasRavenwood wrote:
Take the Incan Quipu. it is a series of knots and cords used for storing numerical information as well as I believe more complicated concepts.
I like the idea, the caster would have to take and/or wear the quipu-like arrangement with them like a spellbook and prepare spells using it. Weaving or tying in bits of bone, shells, rocks, and other items could help each spell be unique. Add in the possibility of certain items correlating with certain schools to create more depth to the system and allow the player to personalize it more.

Those are some neat ideas to incorporate into a campaign.

a spell book is from what i understand, essentially, a wizards work book, a repository of short hand, notes observations thoughts and yes spell formulae.....

Information can be recorded in all sorts of ways.....the Quipu is one interesting way....i think the Incans had what we would call "stone age" technology, and they were pretty good at that. If memory serves, they didn't have the wheel....at least, while it may have been on toys, they didn't use the wheel for carts etc....i guess given their terrain..a pair of feet, or four Llama feet had to do for carrying things.

I suppose with a "wizard" one of the key characteristics is to be able to encounter new magic, study it, record it in some fashion, and then make it your own. wether you use a spell book, quipu, woven patterns in a robe, clay tablets written in cuniform, or a collection of tortise shells with glyphs marked on the shells, doesn't really matter. I guess the point is you are accumulating the knowledge in some form, and the medium the magical is recorded in is perishable.

In evolvutionary terms , it seems that first one might get his or her power through pacts, witch, then those magical pacts might affect your off spring....sorcerer...and eventually you get to the point where people can learn how to cast the magic through study.

Well it is a fun idea.


This is a really great concept, Ascalaphus. In fact, it inspired my creativity and I've developed a Wizard/Bard MultiClass Archetype based on a lot of what is talked about in this thread.

He's called the Quipu Mystic. Uses a quipu (thank you Elyas Ravenwood) as his arcane bond, but he "knows" his spells, is a spontaneous spellcaster, learns new spells by orally learning them from other spellcasters or from scrolls and books, but must get 8 hours sleep and spend 1 hour reciting his Oral Traditions passed down from his ancestors to gain his daily allotment of spells. Uses the Wizard's spell progression.

Also uses his Oral Tradition like bardic performance (reciting ancient tales and ancestral lineage) to inspire competence, courage, heroics, and greatness. Gets some versatile performance (only oratory) and the lorre master ability too. Was fun amalgamating all the concepts I had running through my head. Really came together.

Great stuff everyone! Thanks again.


Well as of WBL unbalancing - he must pay wizard for the time that wizard is giving him. 1 hour would cost 5gp and we got WBL back online:) Although if you have a spellbook wizard in the party you skip that part:) Of course 5gp per hour for wizard work is not that much... but by doing profession you get less in a day anyway so seems pretty balanced to me.

Community / Forums / Pathfinder / Pathfinder First Edition / Homebrew and House Rules / The Oral Tradition Wizard (no spellbook; still prepares) All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.
Recent threads in Homebrew and House Rules