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The D&D Emporium: Spell Scrolls

Updated: Feb 19, 2019

The D&D Emporium is a series dedicated to exploring magic items found in The Dungeon Master's Guide and offering advice for how a Dungeon Master can introduce them into their campaign setting.


What Is a Spell Scroll?

The humble Spell Scroll! A relatively standard magical item, which can be utilized in a variety of contexts depending on what is inscribed within. Its rarity, cost, and the level of character it is appropriate for are closely linked to what's written inside.


School of Magic: It depends what is written on the scroll!


How Much Does It Cost?

Cantrips & Level 1 Spells: Common, 75-200 gold pieces

Level 2 & 3 Spells: Uncommon, up to 500 gold pieces

Level 4 & 5 Spells: Rare, up to 2,500 gold pieces

Level 6 & 7 Spells: Very rare, up to 10,000 gold pieces

Level 8 & 9 Spells: Legendary, in excess of 15,000 gold pieces


What Does It Do?

The basic function of a spell scroll is to allow a one-time casting of a spell or as a means to record for either a Wizard or a Warlock with the Pact of the Tome ability. Sometimes this will involve a spell-casting ability-check to see if the spell is successful. This usually happens when the spell is a higher level than the caster’s available spell slots.


Will It Break My Game?

The primary way this can unbalance the game is by allowing casters to use spells when they have run out of spell slots, particularly for Warlocks who have limited spell slots. It is possible to overcome this by limiting the number of spell scrolls players obtain.


What Does It Look Like?

Spell scrolls can come in any form that you want them to. For example, spells like Prestidigitation will be perfectly clean and rolled on plain paper. Others, like Lightning Bolt, could be written with blue ink on stormy grey parchment and sealed with silver ink. In some cases like druidic spells, they may be on animal hide or bark. Some evil necromancers may even use flayed human faces!


Where Might the Party Have Seen One?

Frequently on sale in magic item stores, Spell Scrolls can be found almost anywhere. Since lower-level spells are affordable, even peasants are known to sometimes have their own. As the spell-level increases, the wealth required also rises. For higher level spells, perhaps it would take an encounter with a lich king to see the use of a Power Word Kill scroll.


In theory, any creature that can speak or cast spells might have a Spell Scroll. Whether they are seen in the library of a Vampire’s castle, or perhaps the players see an Ur-Priest using a Scroll of Hunger of Hadar to summon forth eldritch nightmares upon willing sacrifices, Spell Scrolls can help show the players an enemy is a spell caster.


Sometimes giving an enemy that wouldn’t normally cast spells, a Spell Scroll can cause them to be more intimidating. A great example is a dragon. Giving an Ancient Green Dragon access to Scrolls makes it much more deadly, such as Shield raising its AC to 26 to stop a Barbarian’s killing blow.


These Spell Scrolls would add an extra incentive to defeat these enemies as it provides a power jump for players.


Where Can They Be Obtained?

One way of gaining Spell Scrolls is by buying them. Magical folks such as Wizards or Druids may sell them for profit, making an emporium or wizard’s tower an excellent place to find them.


Where and How Are They Made?

Spell Scrolls are carefully inscribed using fine parchment, quality ink, and magic. But imbuing a piece of paper with the essence of magic is no small feat, and not everyone can do it! A powerful wizard, capable of casting the spell that is written on the scroll must spend time inscribing it and using its material components. As such, creating someone with this ability can help you control the influx of spell scrolls and when/where players might obtain one!


How About a Different Way?

Maybe you have a warlock in your party whose Patron is very magically inclined, such as an Archfey. One day, the party is struggling to overcome a puzzle or monster, and the warlock awakes to a horrible freezing sensation in their inner pockets; the coldness seems to be spreading all over their body. They frantically pull at the clothing, trying to look inside. After a minute or so, they open the pocket to find a Spell Scroll for a spell that will significantly help them with the upcoming challenge.


Or maybe…


A curious wizard or druid in the party spends their spare time in libraries and reading through old tomes. Delving ever deeper into ancient lore, they find what they are looking for: a book that holds the spell they’ve been searching for, even though they cannot cast it yet. But, no! The book is rotted and barely legible, and instead can only be used as a Spell Scroll to cast the spell a single time.


Have you introduced your players to spell scrolls before? Tell us all about it in the comments below!

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