Scrolls & Spellbooks

A scroll is a spell (or collection of spells) that has been stored in written form. A spell on a scroll can be used only once. The writing vanishes from the scroll when the spell is activated. Using a scroll is basically like casting a spell.

Physical Description: A scroll is a heavy sheet of fine vellum or high-quality paper roughly the size of a piece of modern notepaper (about 8 1/2 inches wide and 11 inches long), which is sufficient to hold one spell. The sheet is reinforced at the top and bottom with strips of leather slightly longer than the sheet is wide. A scroll holding more than one spell has the same width (about 8 1/2 inches) but is an extra foot or so long for each extra spell. Scrolls that hold three or more spells are usually fitted with reinforcing rods at each end rather than simple strips of leather. A scroll has an AC of 9, 1 hit point, a hardness of 0, and a break DC of 8.

To protect the scroll from wrinkling or tearing, the scroll is rolled up from both ends to form a double cylinder. (This also helps the user unroll the scroll quickly.) The scroll is placed in a tube of ivory, jade, leather, metal, or wood. Most scroll cases are inscribed with magic symbols (see the arcane mark spell and Arcane Magical Writings), which often identify the owner or the spells stored on the scrolls inside. The symbols often hide magic traps such as glyph of warding or fire trap spells.

Activation: To activate a scroll, a spellcaster must read the spell written on it. Doing so involves several steps and conditions.

Decipher the Writing: The writing on a scroll must he deciphered before a character can use it or know exactly what spell it contains. This requires a read magic spell or a successful Spellcraft check (DC 15 + spell level).

Deciphering a scroll to determine its contents does not activate its magic unless it is a specially prepared cursed scroll. A character can decipher the writing on a scroll in advance so that he or she can proceed directly to the next step when the time comes to use the scroll.

Activate the Spell: Activating a scroll requires reading the spell from the scroll. The character must be able to see and read the writing on the scroll.

Activating a scroll spell requires no material components or focus. (The creator of the scroll provided these when scribing the scroll.) Note that some spells are effective only when cast on an item or items (for example, Drawmij's instant summons and snare). In such a case, the scroll user must provide the item when activating the spell. Activating a scroll spell is subject to disruption just as casting a normally prepared spell would be.

To have any chance of activating a scroll spell, the caster must meet the following requirements:

If the user meets all the requirements noted above, and her caster level is at least equal to the spell's caster level, she can automatically activate the spell without a check. If she meets all three requirements but her own caster level is lower than the scroll spell's caster level, then she has to make a caster level check (DC = scroll's caster level + 1) to cast the spell successfully. If she fails, she must make a Wisdom check (DC 5) to avoid a mishap (see Scroll Mishaps, below). A natural roll of 1 always fails, whatever the modifiers.

Determine Effect: A spell successfully activated from a scroll works exactly like a spell prepared and cast the normal way. Assume the scroll spell's caster level is always the minimum level required to cast the spell for the character who scribed the scroll (usually twice the spell's level, minus 1), unless the caster specifically desires otherwise. For example, a 10th-level cleric might want to create a cure critical wounds scroll at caster level 10 rather than the minimum for the spell (caster level 7), in order to get more benefit from the scroll spell. (This scroll would, however, be more costly to scribe.)

The writing for an activated spell disappears from the scroll.

Scroll Mishaps: In a mishap, the spell on the scroll has a reversed or harmful effect. The DM determines what sort of mishap occurs, with a surge of uncontrolled magic energy that deals 1d6 points of per spell level being the default. The DM can use the default, decide what happens, or select an effect from the following list:

Randomly Generate a Scroll.


Although most folks think of them as thick, heavy tomes of parchment or vellum pages bound with ornate covers and heavy locks, a wizard's spellbooks can take almost any form. A spellbook can be made from belts of linked metal plates that serve as pages, scribed on thin sheets of ivory, or disguised by magic to look like a shield, gaming board, lute, or almost any other mundane item of equivalent size.

Whatever their appearance, spellbooks are generally classified in two groups - arcanabula and grimoires. Arcanabula, or workbooks, are a wizard's everyday working tomes. They tend to contain spells jumbled in any order, interspersed with annotations and notes of magical lore, and are often stained and bartered from travel and use in the field. Grimoires, sometimes called greatbooks, are formal, ordered collections of spells. Greatbooks tend to be locked, guarded, and hidden, either in a secure cache or in a wizard's abode. Most are composed with gilded ornamentation or inks, and they might even have plates of polished ivory or platinum within them, engraved or stamped with arcane writings. They are usually large and often of unusual proportions (such as very tall for their width), and many have metal-bound corners (ornate protective caps) and chased or relief-carved covers.

Arcane Magical Writings

To record an arcane spell in written form, a character uses complex notation that describes the magical forces involved in the spell. The notation constitutes a universal arcane language that wizards have discovered, not invented. The writer uses the same system no matter what her native language or culture, However, each character uses the system in her own way. Another person's magical writing remains incomprehensible to even the most powerful wizard until she takes time to study and decipher it.

To decipher an arcane magical writing (such as a single spell in written form in another's spellbook or on a scroll), a character must make a successful Spellcraft check (DC 20 + the spell's level). If the skill check fails, the character cannot attempt to read that particular spell until the next day. A read magic spell automatically deciphers a magical writing without a skill check. If the person who created the magical writing is on hand to help the reader, success is also automatic.

Once a character deciphers a particular magical writing, she does not need to decipher it again. Deciphering a magical writing allows the reader to identify the spell and gives some idea of its effects (as explained in the spell description), If the magical writing was a scroll and the reader can cast arcane spells, she can attempt to use the scroll.

Wizard Spells and Borrowed Spellbooks

A wizard can use a borrowed spellbook to prepare a spell she already knows and has recorded in her own spellbook, but preparation success is not assured. First, the wizard must decipher the writing in the book (see Arcane Magical Writings, above). Once a spell from another spellcaster's book is deciphered, the reader must make a successful Spellcraft check (DC 15 + spell's level) to prepare the spell. If the check succeeds, the wizard can prepare the spell. She must repeat the check to prepare the spell again, no natter how many times she has prepared the spell before. If the check fails, she cannot try to prepare the spell from the same source again until the next day (However, as explained above, she does not need to repeat a check to decipher the writing.)

Adding Spells to a Wizard's Spellbook

Wizards can add new spells to their spellbooks through several methods. If a wizard has chosen to specialize in a school of magic, she can learn spells only from schools she can cast.

Spells Gained at a New Level: Wizards perform a certain amount of spell research between adventures. Each time a wizard achieves a new level, she gains two spells of her choice to add to her spellbook. These spells represent the results of her research.

The two free spells must be of levels the wizard can cast. If she has chosen to specialize in a school of magic, one of the two free spells must the from the wizard's specialty school.

Spells Copied from Another's Spellbook or a Scroll: A wizard can also add spells to her book whenever she encounters a new spell on a magic scroll or in another wizard's spellbook. No matter what the spell's source, the character must first decipher the magical writing (see Arcane Magical Writings). Next, the wizard must spend a day studying the spell. At the end of the day, the character must make a Spellcraft check (DC 15 + spell's level). A wizard who has specialized in a school of spells gains a +2 bonus to the check if the new spell is from her specialty school. She cannot, however, learn any spells from her prohibited schools.

If the check succeeds, the wizard understands the spell and can copy it into her spellbook (see Writing a New Spell into a Spellbook, below). The process leaves a spellbook that was copied from unharmed, but a spell successfully copied from a magic scroll disappears from the scroll.

If the check fails, the wizard cannot understand the spell and cannot attempt to learn it again even if she studies it from another source until she gains another rank in Spellcraft. If the check fails, the character cannot copy the spell from another's spellbook, and the spell does not vanish from the scroll.

Independent Research: A wizard also can research a spell independently, duplicating an existing spell or creating an entirely new one. The DUNGEON MASTER's Guide has information on this topic.

Writing a New Spell into a Spellbook

Once a wizard understands a new spell, she can record it into her spellbook.

Time: The process requires 1 day plus 1 additional day per spell level. Zero-level spells require 1 day.

Space in the Spellbook: A spell takes up 2 pages of the spellbook per spell level (so a 2nd-level spell takes 4 pages, a 5th-level spell takes to pages, and so forth). A 0-level spell (cantrip) takes but a single page. A spellbook has 100 pages.

Materials and Costs: Materials for writing the spell (special quills, inks, and other supplies) cost 100 gp per page.

Note that a wizard does not have to pay these costs in time or gold for the spells she gains for free at each new level. The wizard adds these to her spellbook as part of her ongoing research.

Replacing and Copying Spellbooks

A wizard can use the procedure for learning a spell to reconstruct a lost spellbook. If she already has a particular spell prepared, she can write it directly into a new book at a cost of 100 gp per page (as noted in Writing a New Spell into a Spellbook). The process wipes the prepared spell from her mind, just as casting it would. If she does not have the spell prepared, she can prepare it from a borrowed spellbook and then write it into a new book.

Duplicating an existing spellbook uses the same procedure as replacing it, except that the task is much easier. The time requirement and cost per page are halved.

Using Spellbooks

Every wizard possesses a personal set of notations, formulas, scripts, and ciphers for recording the workings of a spell. While the underlying language and concepts are the same, no wizard can simply pick up another's spellbook and instantly prepare spells from the foreign tome. Whenever an attempt is made to understand another wizard's spellbook (including forgotten tomes discovered in ruined towers or traveling workbooks seized from the hoards of enemies), the reader must employ read magic or succeed on a Spellcraft check (DC 20 + spell level) to identify a particular spell (and its general purpose, if the spell is one nor known to the reader). Until a wizard deciphers a spell in a foreign book, its magic is useless.

Wizards can prepare spells from a foreign spellbook or copy spells from a foreign spellbook into their own as described above. Two special circumstances, discussed below, are worth noting.

Masters and Apprentices: Wizards who take on apprentices usually teach them many of the same notations and codes they themselves have perfected. A wizard attempting to decipher, prepare, or copy a spell from the spellbook of a master (or apprentice) gains a +2 circumstance bonus on the Spellcraft check.

Mastering a Foreign Spellbook: Instead of laboriously copying each spell of interest from a found spellbook into his own, a wizard might instead make a dedicated effort to master the spellbook's particular ciphers and notations. This procedure is sometimes referred to as becoming attuned to the spellbook (although it's a matter of time and study, not a mystical process). Mastering a spellbook requires a successful Spellcraft check (DC 25 + the level of the highest-level spell in the book) and takes one week plus one day per spell contained within. If the wizard succeeds, he can use the foreign spellbook as his own, requiring no further Spellcraft checks to prepare or copy spells from it. If he fails, he cannot attempt to master that spellbook again until he gains at least 1 more rank in Spellcraft.

Spellbook Construction

Aside from ornamentation and spurious false writings, all spellbooks require one page per spell level (minimum one page) to record any particular spell. The pages of most spellbooks have been treated for durability and protection against fire, mold, water, parasites, staining, and other hazards. These procedures make even a blank spellbook relatively expensive.

The base cost of 15 gp buys a well-bound leather volume of 100 parchment pages, a style also typically used for other high-quality books such as the genealogies of noble families or the master copies of sages' published writings. Exotic materials increase the cost and weight of a spellbook accordingly, and these materials are usually reserved for grimoires, not arcanabula.

CoverWeightHardnessHit PointsCost
Leather 1 lb.2+05 gp
Wood, thin1 lb.3+110 gp
Metal, soft5 lb.5+4100 gp
Metal, hard5 lb.7+5200 gp
Dragonhide2 lb.4+2200 gp
Slipcase+1 lb.+1+1+20 gp
Pages (100)WeightHardnessHit PointsCost
Parchment2 lb.+0110 gp
Paper, linen2 lb.+0220 gp
Vellum2 lb.+0350 gp:
Bone or ivory4 lb.+04100 gp
Metal foil20 lb.+18500 gp

The weight, hardness, hit points, and cost of a spellbook of unusual construction is the sum of its cover and page construction. For example, a book made with a steel plate cover (hard metal) and copper foil pages weighs 25 pounds, has hardness 8, 13 hit points, and costs 700 gold pieces.

All fine books can be purchased with a waterproof double slipcase of chased and tooled leather, strong enough to protect against driving rain or burial in snow but not against prolonged immersion. Special physical treatments (such as baths in secret herbal tinctures and alchemical solutions designed to retard fire and mold damage) are included in the above costs.

Protecting Spellbooks

Any wizard with the means to do so will carefully safeguard her spellbooks against accident, battle damage, or theft. Most arcanabula feature cheap and inexpensive protections (often a simple explosive runes or fire trap), but for most wizards, the risk of losing a workbook isn't enough to justify the expense of high-level protection.

Grimoires, on the other hand, are generally stored in the most secret hiding places (sometimes even on other planes) and equipped with mechanical traps, loyal guardians, and deadly spells of defense. The protections applied to a greatbook can take virtually any form, from magically sustained poisonous spiders or snakes, to bladders of paralyzing or sleep-inducing gases, to scything blades or poisoned needles concealed in the locks, lids, or frames of the coffers and cabinets the books are hidden in. These traps are never of a design or nature that might endanger the book, but otherwise are almost limitless in the kinds of damage they can inflict on the uninvited.

Magical protections can add thousands of gold pieces to the cost of even the simplest tome. Some of the most common spellbook defenses include the following.

Resistant to Energy (Minor): The book has resistance 5 against acid, cold, electricity, fire, and sonic attacks.
Moderate abjuration; CL 6th; Craft Wondrous Item, resist energy; Price +1,000 gp.

Resistant to Energy (Major): The book has resistance 12 against acid, cold, electricity, fire, and sonic attacks.
Moderate abjuration; CI 10th; Craft Wondrous Item, protection from energy; Price +3,000 gp.

Glamered: The book looks and feels like something else of similar size (no more than 25% larger or smaller in any dimension) and weight (between half as heavy and twice as heavy as the original). Upon command, the book switches between its normal and its glamered appearance, but anyone who touches the book in glamered form can make a DC 14 Will save to disbelieve the illusion.
Moderate illusion; CI 6th; Craft Wondrous Item, major image; Price +2,000 gp.

Pungent: The book is infused with an acrid essence that repels damaging pests. Any creature that touches the book without first speaking a command word must make a DC 14 Fortitude save or become nauseated for 1d4+1 rounds.
Moderate conjuration; CL 7th; Craft Wondrous Item, stinking cloud; Price +2,000 gp.

Levitating: The book hovers in the air at whatever point it is placed, much like an immovable rod (though the book can support only its own weight).
Moderate transmutation; CL 6th; Craft Wondrous Item, levitate; Price +2,000 gp.

Waterproof: The book is impervious to damage caused by immersion in or exposure to water.
Faint abjuration; CL 3rd; Craft Wondrous Item, endure elements; Price +1,000 gp.

Spelltrapped: A magic trap has been incorporated into the book (for example, a burning hands spell that strikes anyone handling the book except its owner). The trap can be set to operate when the book is touched, when it is opened, or when a particular page is read. Any spell appropriate for a trap may be used.

Magic in the Realms