Thursday, November 10, 2011

Scrolls for 4E - Part 1

Looking through the random treasure tables in Pathfinder’s Gamemastery Guide made me realize that I miss scrolls in 4E. I've noticed I'm not the only one as Blog of Holding has been thinking about this too. I’ve parsed out rituals as scrolls in my game, but I miss honest-to-god, one shot spell scrolls. I always felt they gave the PCs a little flexibility. Plus I think they represent classic loot for some baddies. Nothing like raiding a necromancer’s tower and scoring a few scrolls in the process. So here is a few house rules I use for scrolls in my game:

Players must be trained in the ritual feat to use scrolls. Using a scroll is a standard action. The scroll must be read from one free hand (typically a minor action to produce from a pouch, tube, backpack, pocket folds of a cloak, etc.). The reader must be unrestrained and able to speak. Once the scroll is used the magic fades from the page and the parchment becomes too brittle to write on.

The spell (or power) expended from the scroll is based on the reader’s abilities and skills. The spell cannot gain any implement or weapon modifier bonus from the player. The spell’s power emits from the scroll, and the player can manipulate it somewhat, but not direct the spell through a wand, staff, or other magical focus as an implement.

Characters may use scrolls for any spell equal to their level or lower. If a player is not trained in the power source of the spell on the scroll, they must make a moderate DC check to successfully cast it. The DC value is based on the level of the spell being read from the scroll.

This check has no skill training or ability bonus modifier. The player does gain a level bonus for this check. If the player fails this check, they expend their standard action but the scroll is not used (and may be attempted again). In effect, the player gets about halfway through the spell and begins to fumble lines, and not understand specific symbols and words on the scroll. Note this check is not made if the scroll user is trained in the same power source of the scroll spell.

Example, a 4th level wizard is attempting to cast cure light wounds (2nd level divine utility power). They must make a moderate skill check to use it, as the wizard draws power from the arcane. The DC for using the scroll is 13 (appropriate for a moderate level 2 check), and the player would only get a +2 bonus to this roll (level modifier bonus for a 4th level PC). If they were attempting to cast Shadow Veil (2nd level utility warlock spell), no check would be needed as the power is drawn from the arcane source.

I use this as it allows PCs to dabble in other spell sources, but still requires a bit of luck to pull it off. Granted the higher the level of a player in relation to the spell being cast means they will get a better shot at reading the scroll correctly. However if they want to avoid this completely, it’s best to stick with similar spells that draw from the same source of power.

I also have tinkered around allowing rituals to be cast from scrolls too. However this is a bit much for now. I’ll get on to how I allow players to make scrolls in part two.