Dungeons and Dragons may seem complicated at times. There are still some things my friends and I are unsure of when it comes to gameplay, like magic scrolls in the 5th edition. After a little research, I wanted to share what was helpful to us.
Who can use scrolls in DnD 5e? The simple answer is that any creature that can understand written language can attempt to use a scroll. Whether it will be effective or not depends on the type of scroll, if the scroll is on your class’s list, and if the scroll is within your spellcasting level.
Many things can impact scroll usage in DnD 5e, and it may take playtime and practice before you feel fully confident in your character’s ability to use them. I hope the information I’ve gathered will benefit your gameplay.
How do Scrolls Work in DnD 5e?
There are two types of scrolls in Dnd 5e. A scroll of protection is very rare. Spell scrolls are essentially a scroll with a spell written on it that must be deciphered by the caster. Spell scrolls come in different levels that will vary from common to rare, and their attack bonus increases the higher the level of the scroll.
A scroll of protection can be used by any creature with the ability to read, but you must make sure the scroll of protection you use is specific to the monster you are attempting to protect yourself from. After using an action to read the scroll, this barrier will follow you for five minutes, the duration of the scroll. When moving with the protective barrier, use caution. If you encase the creature, it will end your protection.
The rules for spell scrolls are a little more complicated. You will know the spell scroll is in your class’s list if you can decipher the spell written on it. If you are unable to read the spell on the scroll, you aren’t able to cast the spell. If you can read the spell but aren’t sure if the spell level is too high for you to cast, it is best to do an ability check. Unsuccessful casts will result in a useless scroll.
Scroll levels range from Cantrip to the 9th level. The level of a cantrip spell is 0, and it is so immersed in the caster’s mind they can use it over and over. As the level increases, so do the rarity of the scroll and the damage it will produce. Follow this link for a helpful chart on spell levels.
Game Masters are also able to create spell scrolls, and may even allow their characters to create them in their downtime. These spell scrolls would function as the ones already found in gameplay.
What Scrolls Can My Character Use Depending on Their Class?
So your character can use a scroll depending on if the spell on the scroll is in their class, and if the spell is on their class’s spell list. Classes like Sorcerers, Bards, and Warlocks will know however many spells are in their “known spells” and are not able to learn more. If the scroll contains a known spell and is within your character’s casting level, you will be able to use that scroll.
- Every class can use a scroll of protection. Non-magic classes, or classes without spell lists, like Fighter’s and Barbarians, would only be able to use a scroll of protection.
- Druids and Clerics will only know the spells on their list and also are not able to learn more. So if a scroll contains a spell from their spell list, they can use that scroll.
- Wizards are the only class that can learn spells from scrolls instead of being restricted to only using the scrolls. The spells on scrolls will come from one of the eight schools of magic.
How Scrolls and Schools of Magic Work
In Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition, schools of magic have no impact on the rules for how scrolls are used scrolls.
In D&D 3.5e it worked like this:
- You can specialize in a particular school of magic, which will give you the ability to learn extra spells in your chosen school. Choosing to specialize will force you to choose two schools of magic that you will no longer have the ability to learn or use spells from.
- There is an exception for those that specialize in Divination. They only give up one other school of magic. Any spell that doesn’t fall into one of the categories is a universal spell. So as long as a scroll doesn’t have a spell from the one school of magic a Wizard that specializes in Divination can’t learn from, they will be able to cast the spell if it’s within their level.
|School of Magic||Wizard Classification||Spell Power|
|Abjuration||Abjurer||Protect, block, or banish|
|Conjuration||Conjurer||Brings creatures or materials to the caster|
|Enchantment||Enchanter||Gives a property to the caster or grants power over another being|
|Evocation||Evoker||Manipulates energy or creates something from nothing|
|Illusion||Illusionist||Alters perception or creates false images|
|Necromancy||Necromancer||Manipulates, creates, or destroys life or life force|
|Transmutation||Transmuter||Transforms physically or subtly changes its properties|
This website lists the schools of magic and all of the existing spells for scrolls in more detail.
What Happens When a Scroll Fails?
If the spell cast succeeds, the spell fades from the scroll, and the scroll crumbles to dust. If it fails, the spell words simply disappear from the scroll. But what kind of mishaps can occur if your character attempts to use a scroll and the spell cast fails?
If your saving throw fails, a six-sided die is rolled to reveal the outcome. The number shown on the die reflects the outcome listed.
- A surge of magical energy will be dealt, equal to the level of the spell.
- The spell will rebound or you or an ally randomly. If the caster was the target, it would affect a random target nearby.
- Affects a random location within the spell range.
- The spell effect is neither harmful nor beneficial and is reversed.
- You suffer a minor, yet odd effect for the duration of the spell.
- The spell activates after 12 hours.
Are Monsters and NPC’s able to use scrolls?
If a monster is intelligent enough to read the spell written on the scroll, I would have to say yes. The scroll would have to be a scroll of protection. Alternatively, the scroll would have to include a spell from the type of magic the creature can perform spells from a certain class. They could use a scroll with a spell from that class’s spell list.
Non-classes NPCs would not be able to use a scroll, except, of course, a scroll of protection. If the NPC has a class, they would be able to use any scroll that had a spell from that class’s spell list.
This is according to the rules for using scrolls in Dnd 5e. Of course, a Game Master can decide whether or not they want monsters and NPC’s to have the ability to use scrolls in their campaign.
How are Scrolls Beneficial to Game Play in DnD 5e?
You might be wondering why scrolls are an element of gameplay if your character can only use one if they are able to perform the spell anyway. It was something that I didn’t quite understand when I started researching scrolls, but only because I didn’t really understand how spellcasting works.
- Save time and Money: To cast a spell, it first needs to be on your character’s spell list, just like with scrolls. However, all the materials and ingredients needed to cast a spell are “baked” into the scroll, saving you time and money since you no longer need to gather those ingredients or materials.
- Save spell slots: Your character also has a limited amount of spell slots, which are necessary for spell casting. Using a spell scroll doesn’t require a spell slot. A spell scroll allows you to use a spell if your spell slots are full or if you don’t want that spell to take up a slot because you only need to use it once.
- Perform more powerful spells: Spell scrolls also give you the chance to perform more powerful spells than normal. Be sure to do a skill check before using a scroll with a spell that is a higher level than you’re able to cast, or the scroll will be useless.
- Store spells: You can even use spell scrolls as a way to store rarely used, but useful spells, and bypass the preparation time of some spells. Wizards can even copy spells from scrolls into their spellbook to learn a new spell.
The best thing about Dungeons and Dragons, in my opinion, is that the rules are really just guidelines. You can adjust them for your group or campaign if you find them too restrictive or not restrictive enough. The best way to learn about scrolls is to play the game. Don’t worry about being new or not understanding something fully. The most important thing is to have fun with your friends because that has always been the heart of Dungeons and Dragons.
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