As DMs we are always looking for different rewards for our players. Magic weapons and armor will always be the go too, but what if you are looking for alternative options? Keeping in mind some of the environments in which adventures often find themselves, I find that nefarious wizard workshops and ancient libraries are often underutilized when it comes to discovering powerful items. Surely there’s powerful knowledge held within the pages of these texts or the villain wouldn’t have taken the time, right? You can always gift your magic users with a new spell, but that can certainly unbalance the game rather quickly.  Also, what about the rest of the party? Looking through the Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition: Dungeons Master’s Guide, I noticed something that I hadn’t before: Manuals. These are magical tomes that, upon studying, give the player a permanent bonus. Three such books are outlined in the magic item section, but using the same concept, you can craft magical manuals for any skill or ability that would feel rewarding to your players.


All manuals are required to have the player spend 48 hours studying over the course of about 6-7 days.  The character absorbs this magical text and begins to practice the concepts covered in the book. Upon receiving this bonus, the manual loses its magic, but will regain it over the course of a century. This way the book is not simply passed around to the entire party like 50 shades of Half Orc Gray. I would also recommend adding a fun role play element here. What does the book teach you? Maybe the Druid has a new morning Yoga routine?  Keep it simple, but feel free to add some fun if a clever idea strikes you. Below are three of the bonus’ listed in the DMG:

  • Manual of Bodily Health: Increases your Constitution by +2
  • Manual of Gainful Exercise: Increases your Strength by +2
  • Manual of Quickness of Action: Increases your Dexterity by +2

When creating your own manuals, make sure to flavor them to your players. The bonuses don’t have to be core abilities, so look to skills or saving throws as possible bonuses. As we discussed, manuals make great rewards when defeating a mad mage or evil necromancer in their lair. The villain may have magic items on them, but you know powerful magic users will have libraries of books at their disposal as well. These tomes can act as additional rewards, but it would be fair to make your players work for them a bit. Especially if you have a character in the party that enjoys learning, is trained in knowledge arcana, or has the scholar background, then role-playing this investigation could add to the feel of finding a fount of knowledge. The fighter my flip through the rusty tomes finding nothing of interest, but one such book catches the young wizard’s eye! This increases the excitement when the party comes across locations that hoard such knowledge, and varies up your rewards.  Throw a few of these items in your game, and I assure you, even the barbarian will be rummaging through books soon enough. 

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