Spellbooks

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I haven't played a lot of spellcasters, but I'm running a mage now and for pretty much the first time I have a spellbook to consider after every rest. But I'm not sure how to take advantage of this seemingly-important class feature.

The basic problem is that he doesn't have much if any knowledge about what he's likely to face on a given day. Therefore, I feel like I should always take the most generally useful spells. That's been working pretty well, but it makes me wonder when and why I would ever break out his other spells, except on a whim.

So, what can you advise? I'm not seeking absolute optimization, which is why I haven't listed the spells that he has or any of his other details. I'm just interested in general strategies for knowing when to prepare which spells.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Divination rituals help, though a lot of it is dependent on the DM.  If your DM drops you a plot hook that mentions a specific monster type, or perhaps even an environment, that can give you a hint as to what to prepare (or not prepare).
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
Divination rituals help, though a lot of it is dependent on the DM.

Interestingly, mages are not ritual casters by default. In fact, if they're not integrated with non-Essentials rules, I don't think they have access to rituals at all. But, for spellbook users with access to divination I agree. I suppose even Hand of Fate could work, but that hinges quite a bit on the DM himself knowing what spell would be better.

If your DM drops you a plot hook that mentions a specific monster type, or perhaps even an environment, that can give you a hint as to what to prepare (or not prepare).

That's what I've done so far. The villagers mentioned undead, so my mage has been leaving Sleep in his spellbook.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

That's what I've done so far. The villagers mentioned undead, so my mage has been leaving Sleep in his spellbook.



Being undead doesn't inherently make you immune to sleep effects, just to mention.  It would be a great reason to keep Stinking Cloud in the book, though, since the vast majority of them are immune to poison.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
That's really all you can do.  Sometimes you may know you're going into a solo encounter, or an important encounter in a tight space, or something else that can help you make your decision, but you'll probably prepare the generally better one almost all the time.  I've never been a big fan of the Spellbook feature for this reason, although I understand the design intent to leave some vestige of spell preparation, if only to ease the 3.5-4e gap.

In terms of a Wizard feature for versatile spellcasting, I'm much more partial to Tome of Readiness.  A Human Tome of Readiness Wizard can have an impressive array of spells and control effects available, even at very low level, and the immediate versatility is fun to have.
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