... now with 35% more arrogance!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Scrolls Without Magic-Users

You remember the magic research rules, right? Spend 100 GP per 1% chance of successfully researching a 1st level spell; double that for 2nd level spells, and double again for each additional spell level. Success means you have a new spell, failure means you have to keep trying.

Now, think about a campaign where you only have fighters and thieves, or maybe a single merged fighter/thief class. And there are no NPC spellcasters, but you still want magic, and you still want spell scrolls. Where do they come from? Who makes them?

Obviously, anyone. But each scroll must be researched separately, even if the scribe has researched that same spell for a previous scroll. The GM rolls secretly, and the scribe winds up with a scroll no matter what... but if the research roll fails, the scroll is a curse.

You now have a rare, powerful magic setting.


  1. This is awesome, so awesome I was briefly tempted to totally axe my current campaign to do this.

    1. You could, of course, use this on top of the default class system. Magic-Users have cheap scrolls and can memorize spells; everyone else has expensive scrolls. M-Us can expand their spellbooks with expensive scrolls, although these are more likely to be cursed. This doesn't make magic rare, though; in fact, it makes it a little more common.

    2. That's actually why I won't do it; it would make magic too common.

  2. So, let me get this straight - I could pay 10,000gp for a 100% chance of making a "sleep" scroll, or I could spend that 10,000gp on hiring retainers with crossbows (could likely hire hundreds), or buying land (which would keep earning more money over time), or or or...

    Why would anyone spend that kind of money for a 1-shot scroll of a very weak spell? Especially something like Magic Missile, or Tenser's Floating Disc. In fact, is there a single 1st level spell where you wouldn't be way, way better off just paying a few people to do the spell effect manually (i.e. carry stuff for floating disc, shoot crossbows for magic missile, etc.) and pocketing the thousands upon thousands of extra gold?

    Maybe I'm missing something...

    1. We're talking about a very rare magic setting, here. Why would there even be a spell like Magic Missile or Tenser's Floating Disk? There are other spells that might be more likely, though... Read Magic for finding command words on magic items, Read Languages for dead and otherwise untranslatable maps, Detect Magic, Charm Person... Even Sleep, in the right circumstances. The trick is not to think like a typical D&D Magic-User. This is not a setting where spells are utilitarian conveniences. You use magic when mundane solutions are impossible or ill advised.

    2. I could easily see a single scroll or potion be worth 100s of thousands of gold pieces in a spell-caster-less campaign.
      Is the life of a companion or loved one worth 150,000 to 300,000 gold pieces?
      Is it worth the 8000 to 10,000 gp for that scroll of read magic/language so you can decipher the instructions of the ancient war machine?

      And if the price too high adjust it. Maybe instead of it being 100gp per 1% chance of success, it's 50 or 10. Maybe the 100gp is just an abstraction and rare and wondrous inks that aren't worth gold but under the right circumstances are worth several times its weight in gold when used to make a scroll.
      Or maybe it's not a big deal because your party stumbled on something wondrous that they can't conceivably sell off and get more than a small fraction of its worth because do try to sell it would invite bandits or crash the economy, like rolls and rolls of mithril or adamantine foil.