Code/Switch – How Much Does the Burden of Arcane Power Really Weigh?

Hi, my name is James and welcome to Code/Switch, today I want to talk about wizard spellbooks. A wizards spellbook is essential for the wizards to cast spells, because somehow having the intelligence of Stephen Hawkins doesn’t let you memorize any spells beyond read magic. A basic wizards spellbook has 100 pages and weighs 3 pound. While the size and weight of spellbooks is often ignored in games, it’s very possible that these books may weigh enough to reconsider using strength as a dump stat. (Just chose charisma!).

BuT JaMeS, tHe BoOk iS 3 pOuNds. Yes, I can read too, but I want to examine a spellbook of medieval make and vintage, because a 3 pound spellbook would only be possible in modern times after the proliferation of cheap, light paper and bindings. A medieval spellbook would likely be made of heavier materials like parchment.  Nowadays, parchment usually refers to thick stationary paper, but authentic parchment (and vellum) is made from animal skins stretched thin. Due to its durability and availability its been used as the medium to write documents like the U.S. Declaration of Independence, Magna Carta, and it’s even used today in the United Kingdom for voting records

I was gonna write a Nicholas Cage joke, but I learned parchment was erasable, which is way more useful knowledge.

So, how big a book we talking here? Turns out very few places weigh parchment, so I’ve found an Amazon listing and a German stationary store website and both listings had a 20cm x 30cm (7.8in x 11.8in) sheet of parchment running .03 kilograms, or 1.06 U.S ounces. The German store also lists the parchment as 1mm thick. Without the bindings, this 100 page spellbook would weight 3kg or 6.625lb and it’d be 10cm or about 4 inches thick. To bind the book, we’d of course use leather. Taking the advice of this reddit post we’d use 1mm thick leather, across the front, back, and spine of the book. This thickness of leather would weigh 2.5oz per square foot, and to cover our 1.61sq sq ft of cover would add an additional 4 ounces the books weight, making our book 6lb 14oz. Lastly, we can round the book up to 7oz due to weight of glues and strings used in keeping the bindings together. 

Turns out our medieval period spellbook would weigh more than double what the Pathfinder Core Rulebooks says, and would account for 27% of the light load capacity for a strength 8 PC. Get buff nerds.

Now you know that your Wizards first quest should be to overcome the Temple of Iron and leave with its sacred gains.

Finally, I announced on our KD New Years round-up that my wife and I are having our first child. The baby is due soon, as because of that, I’ll be putting Code/Switch into hiatus until I figure out my life. I’ll still be around for the return of Stellar and if all goes well, you may start getting more James-bloging come summertime. Thank you for enjoying, if you do have any Code/Switch ideas in the meantime, feel free to message me or the rest of the KD Crew in our Discord!


James Ballod

James blossomed into geekdom like a piranha plant in the crack of a sidewalk. Watered by the muscle-brained lore of Warhammer 40,000 and nurtured in the rough bosom of World of Warcraft, tabletop RPGs came late in life to James. The rich lore and real-world influences in games like Pathfinder inspire James to explore them from every angle. When not being an annoying anime-fanboy he can be found discussing the history of various cuisines and over-analyzing real world influences in works of fiction.

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