In the default GURPS 4e Magic rules, it's not very clear who can cast a spell by reading a scroll, or under what conditions.

In a "Normal Mana" region, one must have at least Magery 0 to cast a spell one knows -- but there are variations on this based on local mana level. In High Mana, anyone (Mage or not) can cast a spell they know, while in Low Mana a -5 modifier to spell skill is used to determine casting success even by a Mage.

Assuming the scroll is written in a language the would-be caster can read fluently enough, does casting from a scroll follow the same variations based on mana level (with the scroll substituting for "knowing" the spell), or is it always accessible to mages only?


1 Answer 1


All of this is described in the Scroll enchantment on p. 57 of Magic.

Reading a scroll aloud, to make it cast its spell requires that you be a mage. That's a shorthand which means you have some level of the Magery advantage.

You also need Accented or better comprehension of the language the scroll is written in; scrolls seem to be possible in any language.

There is no skill roll required to read a scroll unless the spell is one that is resisted. Then there is a roll against the skill of the mage who wrote the scroll. That is what will take modifiers for low or high mana. If the mage reading the scroll has Accented comprehension of the language; the roll against the writer's skill is at -1. There's an inconsistency in the description of the Scroll enchantment: the first paragraph says you need Accented comprehension; the second allows it at Broken for resisted spells, with a penalty of -3. I'll report errata.

I don't see anything that indicates that high mana allows non-mages to read scrolls, and there's an FAQ entry that argues against the idea:

4.7.1 Can Mage-Only items enchanted with enough Power to be considered "always on" be used by non-mages? If a "mages only" item would produce an ongoing effect on the user (e.g., Flight), and has Power enough to reduce both its cost to cast and its cost to maintain to 0, then it will generate its magical effect at all times. As such, it is irrelevant who uses it. On the other hand, a "mages only" item that actually empowers the user to cast a spell (e.g., Deathtouch) will only ever work for a mage even if energy cost is reduced to 0. When in doubt, ask yourself the following question: "Does the item effectively grant the user an advantage, or does it just let him cast spells?" If the former, then anyone can use it once cost is reduced to 0; if the latter, then it remains "mages only."

This isn't exactly the same question, but it is quite suggestive.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, the requirement to use a scroll is Magery 0+, and I think there is no mention of a mana level exception. However I feel compelled to add, since you mentioned there is no skill roll for unresisted spells, that that is an error in the book. Most spells involve penalties to cast, and if there were no roll, it scrolls would become highly abusable as a way to avoid extreme penalties, such as casting at great range (normally -1 per yard, no sight of the target (-5), etc etc). \$\endgroup\$
    – Dronz
    Dec 19, 2019 at 23:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ In fact, checking the Scroll rules in DF RPG, the (later) wording there is that you need to roll if the spell is cast at range, too. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dronz
    Dec 20, 2019 at 6:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ As I learn repeatedly in the RPoL game in which I run four characters in four different groups, DFPRG cannot be assumed to be the same as GURPS with Magic. Lots of stuff is specifically and intentionally changed in DFRPG to preserve/restore the "classic dungeon crawl" flavor. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Dec 20, 2019 at 12:08

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