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D&D 5E Using Scrolls

Snoring Rock

Explorer
We have been playing 5e for two years, and just kind of assumed we understood scrolls. Page 139 of the DMG states that anyone who can read a language, can attempt to cast a spell off a scroll. Ok so on page 140 there is a mishap chart for failure. It gives a save and DC after the failure for effects. How do you determine failure for reading the scroll? Is there no arcane, divine, etc., distinction?
 
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Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
We have been plating 5e for two years, and just kind of assumed we understood scrolls. Page 139 of the DMG states that anyone who can read a language, can attempt to cast a spell off a scroll. Ok so on page 140 there is a mishap chart for failure. It gives a save and DC after the failure for effects. How do you determine failure for reading the scroll? Is there no arcane, divine, etc., distinction?

The rules are a little misleading, because the scrolls mentioned on page 139 are for specific named scrolls such as Scroll of Protection (page 199). The chance of failure is an optional rule, so it doesn't contradict page 139's rule. It just gives an alternative option.

Things get a little more confusing however when you have a scroll with a specific spell. You have to go to page 200 to get the rules for Spell Scrolls. These are specific spells such as the Fireball spell. You can cast these spells if it's on your class list, with a check for success if it's higher level than what you can currently cast. Personally I use the mishap table if you fail that check, but that's just me.

Hopefully that clarifies things.
 


KarinsDad

Adventurer
See Spell Scroll on page 200 of the DMG. Scroll of Protection is on page 199 of the DMG.

Scroll of Protection doesn't appear to have any sort of activation roll and can be used by anyone (as per the rules on page 139). Activation is automatic.

Spell Scroll does have an activation roll if used by a lower level appropriate caster, but a failure is normally harmless. It just fizzles if failed and unintelligible (apparently cannot be activated) by anyone else.

The Scroll Mishap rules are a variant rule that mostly applies to a Spell Scroll.

If a DM wanted it to apply to a Scroll of Protection, he would first have to add a rule for how such a scroll could fail.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
We have been playing 5e for two years, and just kind of assumed we understood scrolls. Page 139 of the DMG states that anyone who can read a language, can attempt to cast a spell off a scroll. Ok so on page 140 there is a mishap chart for failure. It gives a save and DC after the failure for effects. How do you determine failure for reading the scroll? Is there no arcane, divine, etc., distinction?
Mentally adding 1 to my internal list of how many times I've said non spell scrolls should not have been called scrolls, and that the fact this comes from adnd doesn't make a poor idea any better...

Sent from my C6603 using EN World mobile app
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Add 1 to me thinking "it's irritating how WotC made it outright *impossible* to cast spells not on your own list" too

After all, it's the spells nobody in the party can cast that you need the most

Sent from my C6603 using EN World mobile app
 

Snoring Rock

Explorer
Yeah, there needs to be some kind of chance to cast spells off scrolls not on your list. Sure, increase the failure chance, but make it possible. When I write abventures, and let's say it's a warlock's castle, the scrolls found there would be on the warlock list. If there is no overlap, and no warlock in the party, then those scrolls are just fire starter instead of treasure.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Sure I could houserule it, but I don't want to have to.

My players actually like not having houserules.

Adhering to RAW is a quality of its own.

And unlike some other things, this issue simply isn't important enough to fight for.

So I will use the rule as written here, all the while hoping that in some future revision of the DMG
1) if it's a "scroll", it holds a spell
2) there's an outlet for others to cast the spell. Could be something the Rogue is good at, as long as everyone has a shot.

Sent from my C6603 using EN World mobile app
 

ccs

41st lv DM
Mentally adding 1 to my internal list of how many times I've said non spell scrolls should not have been called scrolls, and that the fact this comes from adnd doesn't make a poor idea any better...

Sent from my C6603 using EN World mobile app

Why wouldn't you call them scrolls?
Some scrolls contain Arcane spells, some Divine spells, some have generic effects anyone can access, and others are just mundane writing of variably usefull info.
 

ccs

41st lv DM
Yeah, there needs to be some kind of chance to cast spells off scrolls not on your list. Sure, increase the failure chance, but make it possible. When I write abventures, and let's say it's a warlock's castle, the scrolls found there would be on the warlock list. If there is no overlap, and no warlock in the party, then those scrolls are just fire starter instead of treasure.

1) No there doesn't.

2) Only stupid people see no value in things they themselves can't use.
Sure, {I} can't use this thing. But I know a guy. Who knows another guy whose brother might need it.... ;)
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Why wouldn't you call them scrolls?
Some scrolls contain Arcane spells, some Divine spells, some have generic effects anyone can access, and others are just mundane writing of variably usefull info.
I'm having trouble discerning if this is a serious question.

Re-process the OP of this thread, and then ask yourself how good the idea was to bring back non-spell scrolls and the confusion it brings.

Alternatively: is the concept of having clear and unambiguous terminology unfamiliar to you? is the design idea that all "scrolls" work alike a surprise to you?

The question reads as if every previous post in this thread has gone you by, and that could of course be because you're just pretending to not understand, but it would be impolite to make that assumption. On the other hand, it's hard to give a straight answer without restating the obvious, so... Anyway, here goes.

The reason you would want to reserve the term "scroll" for magic items that are consumables that contain spells is because that's what the majority of players are accustomed to; that the notion of other kinds of scrolls was abandoned several editions ago.

Sure you can talk about scrolls in the general sense, but that's not what the DMG does. It introduces scrolls that aren't spell scrolls but still are magic items, and it makes spell scrolls only a subset of scrolls, so there are general scroll rules and specific spell scroll rules.

All of this is entirely unneccessary and confusing. The single non-spell scroll could just as easily have been named "volute of protection" or something similar.

This would have simplified the rules and would have avoided this and other threads.

Hope that explains it.
 

Satyrn

First Post
Sure I could houserule it, but I don't want to have to.

My players actually like not having houserules.

Adhering to RAW is a quality of its own.

And unlike some other things, this issue simply isn't important enough to fight for.

So I will use the rule as written here, all the while hoping that in some future revision of the DMG
1) if it's a "scroll", it holds a spell
2) there's an outlet for others to cast the spell. Could be something the Rogue is good at, as long as everyone has a shot.

Sent from my C6603 using EN World mobile app
If you're okay with creating magic items (homebrew, not houserule) you could also homebrew a magic item that functions much like a spell scroll but is usable without knowing the spell on the scroll.

Call it a spell papyrus.
 


Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I can see it now. After numerous postings by people indignant about the confusion between scrolls and spell scrolls, they reissue the DMG and rename scrolls as flummels.

DM Bob: Looking through the treasure pile, you find a rolled up piece of parchment with arcane writing on it. After a bit of examination you realize it's a Flummel of Protection.

Joe: Wouldn't a rolled up piece of paper just be a scroll?

DM Bob: No. It's a flummel ...

Joe (looking at his phone): according to the dictionary a scroll is "a roll of parchment, paper, copper, or other material, especially one with writing on it". Seems to fit the bill.

DM Bob: Right, but people got confused ...

Joe: Why? I mean it's literally a rolled up piece of paper with writing on it. A generic scroll. They specifically call out Spell Scrolls as something different.

DM Bob: But the text is confusing...

Joe: OK, so they should have added a line to clarify the difference between a generic scroll and spell scrolls

DM Bob: That still wouldn't have been enough ...


I agree that the text on scrolls could have been a little clearer. Unfortunately no set of rules will ever be 100% clear or complete, and one person's clear explanation is another's confusing mess. Once you realize there's a difference between generic magical scrolls and spell scrolls it's not an issue.
 

Ilbranteloth

Explorer
Add 1 to me thinking "it's irritating how WotC made it outright *impossible* to cast spells not on your own list" too

After all, it's the spells nobody in the party can cast that you need the most

Sent from my C6603 using EN World mobile app

That's always been the case, except perhaps for 4e. Don't have the book handy. But AD&D through 3.5e allowed you to only cast scroll spells from your list.
 
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Ilbranteloth

Explorer
I'm having trouble discerning if this is a serious question.

Re-process the OP of this thread, and then ask yourself how good the idea was to bring back non-spell scrolls and the confusion it brings.

Alternatively: is the concept of having clear and unambiguous terminology unfamiliar to you? is the design idea that all "scrolls" work alike a surprise to you?

The question reads as if every previous post in this thread has gone you by, and that could of course be because you're just pretending to not understand, but it would be impolite to make that assumption. On the other hand, it's hard to give a straight answer without restating the obvious, so... Anyway, here goes.

The reason you would want to reserve the term "scroll" for magic items that are consumables that contain spells is because that's what the majority of players are accustomed to; that the notion of other kinds of scrolls was abandoned several editions ago.

Sure you can talk about scrolls in the general sense, but that's not what the DMG does. It introduces scrolls that aren't spell scrolls but still are magic items, and it makes spell scrolls only a subset of scrolls, so there are general scroll rules and specific spell scroll rules.

All of this is entirely unneccessary and confusing. The single non-spell scroll could just as easily have been named "volute of protection" or something similar.

This would have simplified the rules and would have avoided this and other threads.

Hope that explains it.

It only took a sentence in AD&D: "Protection scrolls can be read by any class or race of character even without a magic spell."

Seems pretty straightforward to me. There doesn't seem to be a problem understanding that a Rod of Resurrection can only be used by a cleric, druid or paladin, yet all other rods in the DMG can be used by any class.

It seems to me that if they had said: "Unless otherwise noted, any creature that can understand a written language can read the arcane script on a scroll and attempt to activate it" then when you got to Spell Scroll, you'd know it was the exception.
 

SkidAce

Legend
Supporter
I consider "Protection" scrolls to be a type of ritual scroll, and consider any spell written as a ritual on a scroll (tablet, inscribed on bark, etc.) to be castable by anyone with a chance of failure.

The Protection Scrolls are finely tuned and standardized, and have no chance of failure.

So now my players have a third type of scroll to consider.

They can handle it. ;)
 


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