Wizards… how do they work?

by lyletealeaf

Wizards… how do they work? No, I do not mean how do they get their magical powers. I mean how do they participate in the fantasy economy around them? Like any specialist, the wizard will be far behind in achievements if he tries to develop every spell on his own, hand-pick is own spell components, and make his own paper for his spell book. There are a variety of prices mentioned in the rules related to casters and wizards especially, and I am going to spend a couple posts discussing those rules, what they might imply about the Pathfinder wizarding world, and what rule changes might make the wizard prices align better with other fantasy settings.

I would like to start what Pathfinder has to say about a wizard’s costs and then his potential revenue sources.

* Recurring life maintenance costs. A wizard has a  cost of living,  the same as anyone else. The “Average” cost of living is 10gp/month, “wealthy” is 100gp/month, “extravagant” is 1000gp/month.  I think it is safe to assume that wizards worthy of the name certainly won’t fall below the “average” lifestyle in most settings. Note that “average” almost certainly isn’t the lifestyle of the typical inhabitant of most settings.
* One-time costs to record spells. A wizard needs a place to record his spells, typically a book. This takes:
    * One hour per spell level (with a DC15+spell level spellcraft check to understand the spell) in time to copy.
    * 0.15gp per spell level in cost of paper sufficient to record the spell (.15gp for 0 level spells, too).
    * 5gp for a 0-level spell or 10gp x spell-level-squared for suitable ink to copy the spell, unless the spell being recorded is one of the two spells automatically gained per wizard level. The automatic spells are free.
    * To borrow another wizard’s spells to copy them, the typical charge is half the copy cost. That is, 2.5gp for a 0-level spell or 5gp x spell-level-squared. Rarities will cost more.
    * Researching a new spell in addition to the ones gained by gaining wizard levels costs at least 1000gp per spell level and 1 week with mandatory spellcraft and arcana checks.   Each attempt requires a DC20 + 2 x spell level spellcraft AND arcana or the time is wasted. Each attempt takes 1 week for 0-3 level spell, 2 weeks for 4-6 level spell, or 4 weeks for a 7-9 level spell. Up to two research assistants are allowed to aid with the skill checks. The 1000gp base research cost is increased at GM discretion, perhaps based on the spell being researched and faciities available.
* Per casting costs
    * Casting from memory costs no gold because the spell components are effectively free unless specifically noted otherwise.
    * Casting costs from scroll are paid in advance to make the scroll and are 12.5gp x spell level x caster level + special component cost.
    * Casting costs from wands are paid in advance, in bulk (50 charges) for 7.5gp x caster level x spell level + special component cost per charge.
These are the costs listed as associated with being a wizard. On the typical day of a wizard’s life he probably has no marginal gold costs for using his powers.  Even when adventuring, he can avoid substantial use of scrolls with good planning. This observation about marginal casting cost is interesting because we have several Pathfinder rules about revenue sources available to wizards.
* Scrolls retail for 25gp x caster level x spell level,and can be sold to shops  for half that.
* Wands retail for 15gp x caster level x spell level, and can be sold to shops for half that.
* Spell casting services retail for 10gp x caster level x spell level + component

There are two interesting observations that come immediately from this. First, the raw material cost of scrolls is the same as the cost a retailer will buy them for. Second, the charge for spell casting services is less than the raw material cost to make a scroll.  What can we infer about the wizard markets in a standard Pathfinder setting?

    1. The magic item market (scrolls, wands, and the rest of the commercially available magic items) has retailers (strongly implied by the settlement rules), but it doesn’t have wholesaler or manufacturing firms or agents making money selling magic items. This inference comes from  the fact there is no money to be made between the wholesale price paid by retailers and the raw material cost.  The magic item creation section says that players cannot make money this way, and says to use the downtime system if you want to, but the 0gp margin has implications for more than just your wizard’s inter-adventure money woes.
    2. Wizards earning money in the market selling spell casting services are not going to be casting from than a scroll, since you certainly can’t operate with negative margins selling on a per-unit basis.  They might be casting from wands or permanent use magic items, which have a marginal casting cost lower than the price listed, and that would make sense to do so for spells needed immediately in large numbers.
    3. The cheapest way to acquire a new spell is to pay another wizard to lend you his spell book.  The most expensive way is to research it yourself.
    4. Time is the constraining resource for wizards, since money doesn’t limit spell casting once a spell is acquired.  
With these observations in hand, I invite you to think about the setting implications, because they are many and I am sure I haven’t thought of them all.  Here are a few I plan to discuss in future posts, but if you have any more ideas please leave them in the comments:    

* Why can’t anyone make money making or wholesaling magic items?
* Since you cannot make any money making them, who makes magic items and why?
* Why do casting services sell for more than marginal cost?
* Would or would not wizards cooperate on spell research when they are each other’s cheapest paths to new spells?
* Time is a major constraint on a community’s  aggregate magical capacity. How is this dealt with in terms of training new wizards?