Follow TV Tropes


Web Animation / Animated Spellbook

Go To
He probably won't need the healing potion... Probably. note 

"Haha, it was an animated Spellbook the whole time!"
Zee Bashew

A series created by YouTuber and animator Zee Bashew meant to explain the intricacies of Dungeons & Dragons spells, although his definition of "Spell" can be rather loose.

The first episode was released in February 2018, and it has since then come out 21 episodes, not counting a few spinoffs and specials. Each episode takes a look at one or more spells from fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons, often including a short story about a situation where Zee or one of his players used the spell, to varying effect. The series is narrated by the wizard Bashew, acting as an avatar for Zee himself, though he's sometimes replaced by different characters depending on the story being told. More recently, he's just been playing himself as a cashier at a card shop (who has to deal with a wargaming regular who either tries to correct him or gets angry at his advice).


While the spells themselves are the main draw of the series, he has also made a few spinoffs and specials, though they are rarely as consistent as the Spellbook. These includes the Cold Road Campaign diaries, an illustrated story that happened in a game, the Animated Sword, like the animated Spellbook, but for strategies and ideas that often come up in D&D, and Druidic Tome, a series focused solely on druids. For the sake of simplicity, they're all on this same page.

    Spells and Magic 

    Other Mechanics 

    Advice for DMs and Players 

Watch his work on youtube Here, while you can donate to his Patreon for more animations Here

The Non-Animated Tropebook:

  • Achilles' Heel: The frost goblins.
  • Action Pet:
    • Team Funsize's owl is far from useless.
    • The Druidic Tome also has an entire episode on how you get max amount of pets, as long as you're cool with multiclassing.
    • The Find Familiar video has a familiar doing most of the scouting (and even some fighting) while the caster is hiding in the paladin's backpack.
    • Also Al the al-Miraj. Generally very achievable with Find Familiar.
    • Being a Sorcerer or Wizard, you can further empower your companions with Dragon's Breath.
  • Adaptational Ugliness: In canon, Laeral Silverhand appears to be in her 40s, and is rather attractive, kept young and healthy by her divine blood. Zee's version, on the other hand, looks like Yzma.
  • Aerith and Bob:
    • Mostly subverted, since the characters have either joke names or actually fantasy names, but the trio of Wade in Shadows, Sweet William and Dave counts. Note that Dave is pronounced Daveh.
    • The party that went into Khundrukar consisted of Urko Greenbeard, Gideon Rusk, Johan von Generico, and later Skenk Mcgenk.
  • Affably Evil: Skenk Mcgenk is very casual in explaining how he liberated a group of creatures from their mortal coil.
  • Affectionate Parody: His Carpet of Flying "review" is a parody of youtube product reviewers.
  • Attractive Bent-Gender: The Warlock in the Haste video attempted a seduction roll on a guard. It went... Poorly. Since the warlock was a changeling, it's possible that they were gender neutral, thus subverting this trope, but Zee's statement that they "turned into a woman" seems to imply they did not usually identify as female.
  • An Aesop: In the Clone video: If it was easy to kill a high level necromancer, you probably didn't kill him.
  • And I Must Scream: According to Laeral this is what happens if you try to conjure multiple objects at once.
  • Anti-Hero: Brit'ny may be out to protect Waterdeep, but she won't let something like civilian casualties get in her way.
  • Artifact of Doom: Helgar's Spear. We never get to see what it does, but it apparently has the potential to destabilize the entirety of Faerûn. Shifty Wick stealing one piece of it was serious enough that the Unmasked Lord themselves hired a group of adventurers to retrieve it.
  • Attack! Attack... Retreat! Retreat!: The orcs guarding Glitterhame. Outrunning team Funsize is a fool's errand.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Zee suggests Golems are more of a status symbol for wealthy and powerful wizards than anything. Given the significant investment of time, stats, and money, as well as the fact that you can only use a Manual of Golems once, using the gold to hire a small army of mercenaries instead would be a more practical investment.
  • Axe-Crazy: Gabriella shows shades of this, being disturbingly okay with slitting Zee's throat (he got better).
  • Badass Beard: One of his more recognizable features.
  • Baleful Polymorph: The assassin did a poor job checking for magical alarms.
  • The Big Guy: Gideon appears to be this for team Funsize.
  • Body Horror: The description of Sweet William's shot at Wick is quite graphic. So is the goblin zombie's attack on Daveh in the followup video.
  • Book-Ends: Part 3 of the Cold Road ends the same way part 1 started: Shifty Wick in danger, and the party contemplating whether or not to save him.
  • Boring, but Practical: Zee provides multiple examples of spells that aren't terribly flashy at first glance but can be very useful:
    • Magic Missile is a simple first-level spell that does reliable damage, but it is also fantastic for breaking another spellcaster's concentration, since the spellcaster has to roll a 10 DC concentration check every time they take damage, and with a minimum of three bolts hitting with each cast, the target has a good chance of failing.
    • Mending is good at fixing things, though what it can do in specific situations is GM-dependent - it can repair certain types of constructs, and combined with Gentle Repose, you could potentially repair a corpse before casting Revivify.
    • Tenser's Floating Disc basically exists to carry loot that the party can't carry by themselves. It basically makes your party's life easier if they need to carry a lot around at a time.
  • Born Lucky: The entire idea of the Build Murray build. With a halfling divination wizard and the lucky feat, you can get five rerolls a day.
  • Breath Weapon: Par for the course for dragons and Dragonborn. Daveh and Kalatrax the Blue has lightning ones. It can also be accomplished through the use of the Dragon's Breath spell.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Pelathyon Hawkryn may have some weird mannerisms, and certainly a few conflicts of interests, but everything he says about abjuration, with one exception, is true. He provides a detailed overview of the abjuration school, and even his claims about moonstone, while exaggerated, are technically true. The only time he blatantly misleads the viewer is in claiming that reactions are useless to a wizardnote , and even then, Zee admitted that that was his mistake.
  • Bus Crash: Urko Greenbeard died sometime between the Mage Hand video and the Silent Image video.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: 12 years after Skenk Mcgenk used the Circle of Death spell to murder everything the orphan Trevor loved, they met again. Skenk didn't even remember the name of the town (Red Larch), much less what he did.
  • ...But He Sounds Handsome: "...Killer of the handsome necromancer Skenk Mcgenk?"
  • Call-Back: Shifty Wick's backpack contains an invisible dagger and a blink arrow. The same artifacts he stole from Wade and Sweet William.
    • Sweet Tooth's Potionary from the Feather Fall video reappears in the Three goblins stole a deck of many things video.
    • When confronted by Trevor (who in and of himself was a character from the previous video), Skenk asked if this was about the thing with Pelor and the lizardfolk.
  • The Cameo: In his Sending video, both Puffin Forest and Dingo Doodles make minor appearances.
  • Catchphrase: One of Zee's old D&D buddies had "Transmutation is the key, my boys, transmutation is the key".
  • Chaotic Stupid: The internal debate of Skenk Mcgenk. In the Mage Hand video, he ultimately decides to warn Gideon Rusk about the danger of the golden mold instead of prioritising loot acquisition over party (and personal, long term) survival.
  • Charm Person: Skenk Mcgenk knows the Friends cantrip (using it For the Evulz), and Bashew made an entire video on Glibness, which makes it impossible to tell if you're lying.
  • Cold Equation: The Sorcerer in the fireball video did a cost-benefit analysis, and ended up casting Fireball on the many guards surrounding the monk. The gamble pans out; the monk, having both the Evasion feat and the high saves monks tend to have, is completely unharmed, while the guards are toasted.
  • Complexity Addiction: Minor example with Skenk Mcgenk. He could have easily killed Trevor in a myriad of ways, such as stopping time with Time Stop and fired of a Delayed Blast Fireball for massive damage, but instead he sacrificed one of his clones (each costing 3000 gold) and spent god knows how long to inscribe a bunch of cupcakes with individual glyphs of warding (200 gold each).
  • Continuity Nod: In the Sending video, his sanctum is burned down (as well as the library in Luskan where he kept his backup spellbook) because JoCat threw a fireball at it in his Wizard video.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Pelathyon Hawkryn opened a school that teaches how to use moonstone as a replacement for other spell components. His family owns a moonstone mine.
  • Critical Failure:
    • Team Funsize got three in a row in the bowels of Glitterhame. Especially depressing, considering that the Random Number God had been with them all night.
  • Crossover:
    • He's been in multiple live streams with Dingo Doodles and Puffin Forest. The Christmas stream of 2018 also featured Dingo's boyfriend Felix.
    • The Sending video revealed that his cameo in "A Crap Guide to D&D" was canon to his series, and that JoCat actually burned down his sanctum. At the end of the video, he challenges Jocat to a wizard duel, but Jocat either doesn't get the message or ignores it. Zee gets his revenge in the Technology Wizard by transforming Jocat into a whale while atop a building in the middle of the city.
  • Deal with the Devil: Warlocks, of course. The players in his Curse of Strahd campaign also made a bargain with Mother Night, one of the two deities of Barovia.
  • Deity of Human Origin: As per usual, Kuo Toa can believe something hard enough to make it real. In Zee's games, this tends to present itself as numerous Kuo Toa surfacing for a "birthing" ceremony where they create a new god; when a Kuo Toa dies, they have a chance to deify whatever the last cool thing they saw (usually the thing that killed them) with more dead Kuo Toa bolstering its power. By the end of the birthing process the Kuo Toa have a new god-like version of whatever that earlier cool thing was.
  • Demonic Possession: Quintus ends up possessed by a wraith, nearly killing Wade.
  • The Determinator: Brit'ny doesn't let anything stop her from catching the thieves. Not thick smoke, not a lost trail, and certainly not civilian casualties.
  • Didn't Think This Through: During the PvP event, he promised an opponent 100 gold from the winnings for throwing the match, and promised the same to a bard for giving him inspiration. He did win, but it turns out that the award was a title, land, and a mystical artifact. No money.
  • Dirty Coward: Zee shows this tendency from time to time, polymorphing into horses to run away, or casting Invisibility on himself and a cleric, leaving the fighter to die.
    Zee: [agressivley defensive] Hey don't you judge me! You try fighting twenty guards!
  • Dismemberment Is Cheap: Restoration is not.
  • Doomed Hometown: Red Larch, after Trevor pissed of the wrong necromancer.
  • Even the Subtitler Is Stumped: Pelathyon Hawkryn is so hoarse that the subtitles have trouble comprehending him, and often confusing him drawing his breath (or laughing) for choking.
  • Exact Words: Skenk didn't poison the hero of Calimshan. He used glyphs of warding instead.
  • Eye of Newt: In the Erratic Hammering video, the dark magician lists the components of the ritual as the toenails of a lich, the stone of infinity, and the blood of a virgin. He has a band-aid on his finger.
  • Failed a Spot Check: The team completely forgot to check the end of the cave they were in, thus letting the frost goblins set up an ambush.
  • Fan Disservice: Seeing Khelben "Blackstaff" Arunsun dancing in his underwear will require some Brain Bleach.
  • Fantastic Racism: All waterdhavians hate goblins.
  • Fireball Eyeballs: In the Prestidigitation video, when he talks about the astronomical numbers of lives lost to Prestidigitation's create fire effect.
  • Fluffy the Terrible: Team Funsize performs a lot of morally questionable or outright evil actions, such as manipulating a town's religion to turn them into servants and stealing their stuff, casting Circle of Death in the middle of a shop to get components for a necromancy spell (namely a corpse), and Skenk even considers letting his companion die to get a larger cut of the treasure.
  • Foreshadowing: In the Alarm video, he jokes that without late night intrud... Visitors, he wouldn't have anyone to talk to save his puppets. In the end, he uses a warded chair to turn the intruder into a puppet.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Trevor went from a poor orphan who lost his friends, to a lv. 17 paladin (at least), gifted with a magical sword by the Sons of Durgeddin, known as Vengeance and the Twice King. He also killed a necromancer in a single blow.
    • Skenk as well, who started out as a minor adventurer who ventured into Glitterhame to retrieve treasure, and ended up as a powerful necromancer who once wiped out an entire town and made himself functionally immortal with clones.
  • Funny Background Event: In the Silent Image video, "Pelor" order the villagers to leave "all [their] possessions, and go to the fortress Family Size". The next picture is of them marching naked toward Family Size.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: Dee, in his Spellbook video, points out that the rule that players can only learn new spells and not cantrips from scrolls and book makes more mechanic sense than common sense, since a wizard with every cantrip would be ludicrously overpowered.
  • Genre Savvy: The Countdown Puzzle counts on the players being this, as they would expect a death trap, but the actual solution is just letting the countdown reach its end.
  • God Guise: The team used Silent Image combined with some voice acting to imitate the sun god Pelor.
  • Golem: His episode about Create Golem is about the magic item Manual of Golems, which can be used to create golems, although he treats it as a spell.
  • Good Is Boring: Gabriella certainly thinks so.
    Zee: Bring me my good and lawful book.
    Gabriella: This book utilitarian book. Good book no fun.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: We are mercifully spared the image of Skenk crawling out of his clone vessel.
    • But not during the Animate Dead video, where we get a brief shot of all the villagers at the barn dance burning alive from Skenk's fireball.
  • Hand Puppet: Uses these on a few occasions.
  • Happy Ending Override: Oh, so you thought Trevor and Ghost Pig had finally killed Skenk and avenged their old friends? Fool, Skenk had several clones hidden somewhere, and was ready to take revenge.
  • Hit-and-Run Tactics: Heat Metal is very good at this against opponents with metal armor if the GM permits it, due to its range (and the ability to move outside of casting range for the concentration duration), continuous per-turn 2d8 fire damage and the ability to maintain that damage for ten rounds at least (medium and heavy armor requires 10 rounds to doff their armor if unassisted) if you can outrun your target, which is made easier since it forces the target to either drop any metal weapons or suffer disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks - the video itself revolves around the "Cook and Book" strategy. The only real downsides is that it can be morally questionable and also the moment a caster uses it all enemies will likely focus on them to stop the spell.
  • Human Shield: Well, Halfling. He didn't last long.
  • Ignored Epiphany: Skenk McGenk takes a moment to ask if he's too cartoonishly evil, to which his brother replies "We have fun!". The two proceed to burn down a barn dance to have material for their new undead army.
  • I'm a Doctor, Not a Placeholder: Jim is a driver, not a servant.
  • Improvised Weapon: After failing the sweet-tooth potionary heist, the party used the stash they'd stolen against the guards.
  • Inevitable Waterfall: The ultimate fate of Johan von Generico.
  • Invincible Incompetent: The intent of the Build Murray build is to create a character who has no business adventuring but bumbles through life-threatening situations on sheer luck.
  • Killed Off for Real: He made a video on death in D&D, and actively encourages permadeath.
  • Killer Game Master: He's been on both ends of this. His expedition to Khundrukar had Johan von Generico thrown off a cliff because of this, his first D&D character was killed by his awesome entrance, and he himself threw survival rules in the face of the players who thought they got away.
  • Kung-Fu Wizard: With a dash of Magic Knight. The Sorcerer in the True Strike video was designed to be "a single class Gish". Zee built him to jump around the battlefield with movement spells and strike hard and quickly with his quarterstaff. His first mistake was taking True Strike.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: During a PvP tournament event he plays as a villainous and dishonest knight who magically buffs other competitors to knock out the real threats. In his own matches, he hires a bard to buff him with his theme song, and bribes the remaining dangerous competitors to take a dive. Unfortunately, he promises to pay them all with a share of the winnings... which turn out to be a title of nobility, land in Cormyr and a Pearl of Power. He quickly realizes that he'll have to sell one of these to pay off the group of angry adventurers he'd bribed.
    • This is also why the party from Heat Metal targets the rich noble - the gnoll bard is resistant to the idea due to how grisly the spell can be, until he hears the target gloating about doing something evil.
  • Look Behind You: Zee got tricked by Pelathyon Hawkryn.
  • Magic Knight: Since Armor and Magic Don't Mix, the True Strike sorcerer is more focused on Dexterity. See Kung-Fu Wizard.
  • Master of Illusion: Dave conjures up both a dwarf and a dragon.
  • Mechanical Lifeforms: Warforged, as usual.
  • Meaningful Name: Trevor is called the Twice King, and has two crowns on his pauldrons.
  • Mood Whiplash: The end of the invisibility video. Thus far, it had been a pretty normal episode. At the end, however, to demonstrate the effects of Greater Invisibility, Gabriella slit Zee's throat. He bleeds out while desperately reaching for a healing potion.
  • Munchkin:
    • Zee's tricks seesaw in and out of being various kinds of creative munchkinnery, and he often pulls a lot of sneaky tricks (e.g. charging his party-mates 20 gp for Familiar revivals due to deaths in combat... when it actually costs 10gp; he was pocketing the change for potions/etc.), but he rarely pulls off anything extremely broken — or at least anything unwarranted, considering run-ins with Killer Game Masters.
    • He played it like this during the PvP event. He paid off opponents to throw the match, secretly aided weaker contestants so they could take out the larger threats, and paid a bard to give him inspiration before combat. It all came back to bite him.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Ghost Pig, the College of Valor Bard who's also the ghost of a pig.
  • Non-Indicative Title: The Healing Word video does not actually contain Healing Word. He explains the spell, but no one uses it; the player who had it was new and didn't realize he had enough spell slots to cast it.
    • He also complains about the spell Chill Touch, which is a ranged spell that deals necrotic damage, not a touch spell that deals cold damage.
  • No Name Given: Averted, Zee names most of the characters in his video. Even the wizard narrator is referred to by Laeral as Bashew (it's unclear if his name is Zee Bashew like his creator or just Bashew). The only exceptions are the members of the sorcerer's party, who remain unnamed.
  • No Social Skills: Laeral Silverhand is this in Zee's head, a side effect of the years of studies it takes to become a skilled wizard. Not only does she talk in an unnerving tone, and practically never blinks (half goddess, after all), but she demonstrates a teleport spell on Bashew without his consent ("we're friends, just say yes"), creepily affirms their friendship, and considers Bashew a "jokester" when he gets sick from the afore mentioned teleportation.
  • Not Quite Flight: Kenku can't fly. They can, however, glide. Also applies to the Feather Fall spell.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: Cold Road Wraiths have the life drain and fear of sunlight that's common to D&D wraiths (although these are actually harmed by sunlight, whereas typical D&D wraiths are only uncomfortable), but they also have the Mark of the Wraith ability, which allows them to possess a victim from any distance. Quintus was affected, and nearly kills Wade.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: An entire video about them, actually. Zee suggests reducing their hp to 1, so they die in one hit (but can outlive that thanks to Undead Fortitude), but give them the ability to infect player characters with The Plague.
  • Pit Trap: A suggested use of the Mold Earth spell.
  • Precision F-Strike: At the end of the PvP video.
  • Raised by Wolves: Skenk Mcgenk was apparently reared by lizardfolk.
  • Reality Ensues: So it turns out falling from the heavens with enough force to create a shockwave that almost knocked a party of adventurers over is very lethal.
  • Red Baron: Trevor has got himself an impressive list of titles, including the Blade in the Dark, Vengeance, Strahd slayer and the Twice King.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Trevor, though this only fits if you're Skenk Mcgenk, the very evil necromancer.
  • Robe and Wizard Hat: Bashew fits the trope to a T, the other narrators generally ditch the hat.
  • Shared Universe: Downplayed. His characters all inhabit the Forgotten Realms.
  • Shout-Out:
    • "I'm pickle Zee!!!!!"
    • Several of his videos tell stories from existing modules. His Mage Hand episode and Animated Sword about the potential of using water against the players are both about the same campaign. The Forge of Fury, specifically. He also mentions the Barovian witches who sell dream pastries from Curse of Strahd in his Mold Earth video.
    • Build Murray is a play on Bill Murray and the character he uses is a caricature of him.
    • The Detect Magic video has wizard Batman. The spell is even portrayed as looking similar to detective vision.
    • The intruder in the Alarm video turns out to be Corvo Attano.
    • Zee's 'utilitarian raiment' is a Big Daddy suit.
    • The Warforged Paladin in the Find Familiar video looks a lot like Alphonse Elric.
    • The cleric that shows up in several of his videos looks like Lucio.
    • When trying (and failing) to remember who Trevor is, Skenk Mcgenk mentionsTrevor the werewolf. Some of the videos also take place in Red Larch, settinng for The C-Team, and you can see The Dran and Courtier in the background of some shots.
  • Sole Survivor: Out of the party that originally entered Glitterhame, only Gideon Rusk made it out, although he picked up some new companions along the way.
  • Staying Alive: The cloning episode is all about this, and Skenk Mcgenk does this twice. If all of the sealed vessels in Skenk's lair are also cloning jars, he can pull the same trick a considerable number of times.
    Skenk Mcgenk: Now, the moral of the story is pretty clear. If it was easy to kill a high-level necromancer... you didn't kill 'em.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: It's not like that poor orphan who looks suspiciously like Skenk Mcgenk would poison the great hero of Calimshan or anything... He didn't. Blow him up, on the other hand...
  • Take That!: Half the video about True Strike is about how awesome the spell sounds on paper. The other half is about how useless it actually is.
  • Tempting Fate: Trevor the Orphan ponders how everything he loves fits within a 60 foot sphere. Cut to Skenk Mcgenk casting Circle of Death.
  • There's No Kill Like Overkill: Skenk Mcgenk kills Trevor by serving him several plates of cupcakes, each engraved with a Glyph of Warding. And then raises his entire village as zombies.
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore: The Manual of Golems magic item contains knowledge of how to construct a golem, and a variant of the Conjure Elemental spell to animate it.
  • Too Dumb to Live: C'mon, when have mold in D&D ever been a good thing?
  • The War on Straw: He's used puppets to illustrate both sides of an argument.
  • Wizarding School: Both mancerclass videos are narrated by the founder/headmaster of one, each famous for one specific school of magic.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: