[RPG] Do paper books exist in the 5th ed. of D&D


In the PHB a Spellbook is described as a

leather-bound tome with 100 blank vellum pages

The way PHB describes a Forgery Kit is:

This small box contains a variety of papers and parchments

The word "papers" implies the existence of paper in the world. Moreover, as it was pointed at in this answer, the Equipment section describes Paper as a valid commodity:

Item Cost Weight
Paper (one sheet) 2sp

However a Spellbook has "vellum pages". Why? Is it somehow special for the magical nature of the Spellbook, or there is no paper books in the D&D setting? For example, as a GM, how should I describe books in a library?

Best Answer

The traditional D&D Spellbook is far more costly than a simple codex-type book needs to be -- made that way to protect a wizard's most valuable resource. Vellum (a type of leather scraped thin, made specifically for writing and drawing) is much more durable than pulp-based paper, at least as good as papyrus and far less labor to produce, so is the obvious choice for the pages in a spell book. In a setting where the default book is a codex type (pages bound in a stack as opposed to a scroll as was the case in pre-Roman times in our world), I'd expect most such to be made of some kind of paper, simply as an economy measure. Further, loose sheets are likely to be mostly paper (either wet pressed paper, similar to what we used in the 19th century, or papyrus), with a few of parchment or vellum mixed in for more important records.

Simply based on cost, wet pressed paper should be the most common type by the time codex books are the default.

Books in a library, in a pre-press technology, will all be hand copied, so older ones might well be scroll type, while newer ones (less than a few centuries, for the typical D&D pseudo-medieval setting) will be codex type, with either soft covers (for those intended to be portable) or hard board covers (for durability and weight to keep the book from closing itself). You might, therefore, describe a library as something like "A rack of scrolls groans under an obvious overload, the standing volumes weighted down with additional pieces laid on top. Beside it, a shelf case accomodates a pitiful few bound codices -- each ornately decorated with gold leaf, however, and several heavy enough they might be a strain to lift from their overhead perch."