The Variant Rule "Scroll Mishaps" in the DMG (page 140) has a header with the following text:

A creature who tries and fails to cast a spell from a spell scroll must make a DC 10 Intelligence saving throw. If the saving throw fails, roll on the Scroll Mishap table.

Under what circumstances can a creature try to cast a spell from a spell scroll and fail?

The rules for using a Scroll (page 139) don't require any checks and don't involve any failure chance. Or is part of this rule that the DM should set rules for how one casts from a scroll?

The failure is possible if trying to cast a spell with a level higher than you can cast from a Spell Scroll.

Spell Scroll, DMG pg.200:

If the spell is on your class’s spell list but of a higher level than you can normally cast, you must make an ability check using your Spellcasting ability to determine whether you cast it successfully. The DC equals 10 + the spell’s level. On a failed check, the spell disappears from the scroll with no other effect.

The general rule for scrolls in the DMG pg 139 is "Any creature that can understand a written language can read the arcane script on a scroll and attempt to activate it.", however, the specific rule for Spell Scrolls says "If the spell is on your class's list you can use an action to read the scroll [...] Otherwise, the scroll is unintelligible".

Basically, if you can read you can use a scroll (ex: Scroll of Protection, DMG 199), but only if the spell is on your list you can use an Spell Scroll (DMG 200).

A even more specific exception to this rule is the Use Magic Device feature of the 13th-level Thief (Roguish Archetype): "You ignore all class, race, and level requirements on the use of magic items." Jeremy Crawford tweeted "The intent is that Use Magic Device does allow a rogue to try to use a scroll." Since everyone can use a normal scroll, he meant the use of a Spell Scroll.

  • Interesting. That description contradicts what it says in the Scroll section under the main header. (pg 139) – Erik Aug 18 at 11:49
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    @Erik Like everything in D&D, specific beats general. – Aguinaldo Silvestre Aug 18 at 11:55
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    @Erik it doesn't contradict. It's an additional option for what to do when you fail the spell scroll check. – David Coffron Aug 18 at 14:24
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    @Erik I think your confusion is that Spell Scrolls are scrolls, but not all scrolls are spell scrolls. There are general rules for scrolls, and then spell scrolls are a particular type of scroll which have their own rules for who can use them, as per the general rule about trying to use scrolls: "Unless a scroll's description says otherwise..." – Carcer Aug 18 at 14:57

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