Libraries and laboratories are important places for Wizards, and I have been thinking that they should figure mechanically In to the spell research system, but if the spell research system has been replaced with spell research = adventures then what do we do with the 'ol Lib and Lab?
Library = Adventure Hooks
Laboratory = Dream Quest = How Magic Items are Made = a different kind of adventure
If a Magic-User character has access to a library then at the beginning of each session they can roll to find some juicy rumors or clues to locations of ancient treasures. Each Library has a level. Pretend like the library itself is a Magic-User according to your favorite Adventure Fantasy Game rules. The amount of gold that the books are worth is the equivalent level of the library. The M-U can roll for a chance to find a clue to a treasure of the equivalent level by rolling under his INT on a d20, or they could try for clues to multiple smaller treasures that add up to that level.
For example, if your library is worth 2500 gp, then it's second level. The M-U can roll once to try and find a clue to a Lvl 2 treasure, or she can roll twice to try find two Lvl 1 treasures.
There is a catch to looking for clues in shared libraries. Like if your M-U doesn't have their own library and they have to use their mentor's or the library at the Wizard Guild or whatever, then for each clue they have to also roll a d6. On a 1 or 2 there will be someone else who is also looking for that treasure. The DM will need to roll up a NPC wizard and his or her accomplices and load this other adventuring party into the encounter tables.
Now for laboratories. These are the places where magic items are made. But I'm not satisfied with the pseudoscientific images of beakers bubbling and alembics smoking or whatever alembics do. And really it comes down to just spending GP and a few weeks. I want making magic items to be a whole kind of adventure. Bear with me now, this thought is half formed, but I want it to be a bit like this:
"As he took his father's sword the young man thought of the witch.
It was scarcely dark in the valley when he left the Castle of Erl, and went so swiftly up the witch's hill that a dim light lingered yet on its highest heaths when he came near the cottage of the one that he sought, and found her burning bones at a fire in the open. To her he said that the day of his need was come. And she bade him gather thunderbolts in her garden, in the soft earth under her cabbages.
And there with eyes that saw every minute more dimly, and fingers that grew accustomed to the thunderbolts' curious surfaces, he found before darkness came down on him seventeen: and these he heaped into a silken kerchief and carried back to the witch."
-The King of Elfland's Daughter
I think maybe making a magic item starts just the same way that scribing a spell does, by finding some bit of lore or weird item that clues the M-U to the potential existence of the item. Just like with spells, this initial piece gives the Wizard a 1/6 chance to make the item. Finding more bits will increase his chances. Aha! Maybe the adventure hook system for libraries above could also have clues about items or bits of lore the wizard has found.
Example: In his travels a Wizard finds a few worms in a jar that appear to fade into and out of reality. But what are they about? The next session the wizard rolls for clues in his library and finds mention of phase worms, which can be used to fashion cloaks of invisibility. Now with just the worms the wizard could roll to make such a cloak, but with only a 1/6 chance of success. He instead decides to try and find more bits of lore and weird items.
That's a wise choice, because a failed attempt to make a magic item results in a cursed or flawed item.
Alright, that's enough for now, here's more Dunsany:
"Nobody can tell you about that sword all that there is to be told of it; for those that know of those paths of Space on which its metals once floated, till Earth caught them one by one as she sailed past on her orbit, have little time to waste on such things as magic, and so cannot tell you how the sword was made, and those who know whence poetry is, and the need that man has for song, or know any one of the fifty branches of magic, have little time to waste on such things as science, and so cannot tell you whence its ingredients came. Enough that it was once beyond our Earth and was now here amongst our mundane stones; that it was once but as those stones, and now had something in it such as soft music has; let those that can define it."