[T]he “spell book” is ... a needless complication and can be dispensed with.
I don't know why it took me 20 years of being trapped in the spell book ghetto to realize this, but he's totally right. The spell book is a complication, and not one that improves the game. Think about all the ways that spell books (as written in "official" D&D) suck:
- The player has the book-keeping overhead of have two spell lists - the ones he has in his book, and the ones he has memorized that day.
- The book is a nerf-guillotine waiting to fall. If the fighter loses his sword, or the cleric his holy symbol, he can just get a new one. But if the book is lost, the 9th level wizard is little better than a 0th level human for a significant chunk of time.
- The DM has to choose between pretending the book isn't really flammable or easily subject to water damage, or pull his punches on the traps and hazards he subjects the magic-user to, or make the character useless after every dunk in a pool of liquid or explosive trap.
- When PCs are captured, even mildly intelligent humanoids should immediately take the book away for their own use or sale, nerfing the character.
- The DM cannot put in enemy magic-users with cool spells without those spells being made available to the players as soon as the enemy book is captured.
- The player has to invest significant sums of treasure into maintaining his book and making back-up copies. Money that Fighters get to spend on things like castles and custom magic armor. (In other words, while other players gain new abilities, the magic-user is spending his money just making sure he doesn't lose the abilities he has)
- The DM has to come up with a rationale for why a wizard guild hasn't sprung up that pools and shares spell knowledge, allowing every member to have access to every spell in the game. Yes, many wizards are selfish and greedy, but surely some wizards can work together in this fashion.
And those are just the reasons I thought up off the top of my head. There's probably more, but that's enough.
Anyway, after thinking about this for a few days, I've decided to get rid of spell books as we have known them. Wizards will still need access to cursed grimoires and ancient treatises for the reasons described in my post Libraries & Laboratories, but the days of carrying around a spell book in the dungeon are over.
Going forward, all magic-users in my games will be a variation of the d20 Sorcerer. They will:
- Know a number of spells, and cast any of those spells at any time, up to the maximum number of spells per day.
- Only be able to learn spells from a small, themed list depending on Sub-Class.
- Like fighters, be more dependent on replaceable equipment.
- And have access to some other stuff via rituals and class abilities.
And since the traditional book-toting wizard is gone, no need to 'balance' the two classes. The only balance will be vis a vis the other classes - Fighter, Thief, etc.
I'm pretty psyched about how this is shaping up.