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The general rules provided in the DMG for Magic Item Scrolls states:

Most scrolls are spells stored in written form, [...].

[...]

[...] Whatever the nature of the magic contained in a scroll, unleashing the magic requires the user to read the scroll. [...]

Unless a scroll's description says otherwise, any creature that can understand a written language can read the script on a scroll and attempt to activate it.

So the general rule for scrolls is that only reading is required to attempt to activate the magic stored on the scroll.

A spell scroll, and thus more specific, states (emphasis mine):

A spell scroll bears the words of a single spell, written in a mystical cipher. If the spell is on your class’s spell list, you can read the scroll and cast its spell without providing any material components. Otherwise, the scroll is unintelligible. Casting the spell by reading the scroll requires the spell’s normal casting time. Once the spell is cast, the words on the scroll fade, and it crumbles to dust. If the casting is interrupted, the scroll is not lost.

There are two sentences I'm concerned about in this description:

[...] you can read the scroll and cast its spell without providing any material components

and

Casting the spell by reading the scroll requires the spell’s normal casting time.

The first, pretty clearly, by any reading, removes the need for Material components from the underlying spell, but appears to say nothing about Somatic components. That being said, the m in material is not capitalised (intentionally? See action vs Action), so material could instead be using it's regular english meaning (as opposed to it's game proper noun meaning), which includes things like:

  • the matter from which a thing is or can be made. ("goats can eat more or less any plant material")

  • things needed for an activity. ("cleaning materials")

  • items, such as songs or jokes, comprising a performer's act. ("a watchable band playing original material")

  • significant; important. ("the insects did not do any material damage to the crop")

  • denoting or consisting of physical objects rather than the mind or spirit. ("the material world")

All of which could be reasonably interpreted to mean that any "physical" components like objects, or waving your hands in specific gestures, or indeed spell slots. This is ambiguous, and thus up to the DM, but isn't definitive.

The second sentence, similarly, has a couple of potential interpretations in my eyes:

  1. It is calling out that the casting time remains the same when you use the scroll (and says nothing about
  2. It is calling out that you can cast the spell by simply reading the scroll (without needing to vocalise anything potentially), and no other components are required to cast it, but that doing so takes as long as it normally would to cast the spell without the scroll.

Which of these interpretations is the correct one, or is there a rule/offical ruling I have missed which clarifies this?

References to the published rules, or official rulings from the Sage Advice Compendium will carry significant weight for the purposes of accepting an answer.

Note: Jeremy Crawford's tweets and twitter feed are not an official source of rulings, nor is the unrelated Sage Advice website that collects such tweets

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    \$\begingroup\$ Just to note, capitalization of "material" is not relevant, e.g. see the rules for spell components, in which none of verbal, somatic, and material are capitalized even in the sentence that introduces them as concepts: dndbeyond.com/sources/basic-rules/spellcasting#Components \$\endgroup\$ – Ryan C. Thompson Feb 24 at 17:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ This question is very relevant, although unfortunately the current answer is inconclusive: Does using a Spell Scroll always include a verbal component? \$\endgroup\$ – Ryan C. Thompson Feb 24 at 17:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ Related on When casting spells must you provide all of the components? \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Feb 24 at 17:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @illustro However, that answer also shows that the updated text for scrolls seems to ambiguously contradict that text, leaving the answer as a whole inconclusive. \$\endgroup\$ – Ryan C. Thompson Feb 24 at 17:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @RyanC.Thompson I don't agree that the updated text is ambiguous when read in conjunction with the "there are no hidden rules" principle (the ambiguity in that answer comes from the attempt to infer hidden rules) \$\endgroup\$ – illustro Feb 24 at 18:41
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The DMG errata shows us that spells from spell scrolls require all non-material components

The DMG (page 200) used to state the following in the "Spell Scrolls" section:

If the spell is on your class's spell list you can use an action to read the scroll and cast its spell without having to provide any of the spell's components. Otherwise, the scroll is unintelligible.

This was then updated in the DMG errata:

If the spell is on your class’s spell list, you can read the scroll and cast its spell without providing any material components. Otherwise, the scroll is unintelligible.

Though there were other changes made in the later sentences as well, there is no reason to believe this one was not a made deliberately. Thus we know that scrolls are meant to ignore only the material components of their spells.

This could be concluded using the "specific/general" concept

One of the biggest rules of 5e-dnd is specific over general, and here we have the specific rules for spell scrolls (ignore material components) going against the general rules on magic items (ignore all components). Because the Spell Scroll is specific than just "a magic item" its rules are applied and it only ignores material components.

(This is an alternative possible way to conclude the same thing, though I do not believe it is necessary; the errata, at least to me, is rather convincing)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Feb 25 at 8:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Essentially, you're argument relies on the assumption that rules writers never include redundant information, or that all information in the rules text is non-redundant. However in the rules text, redundant information is included in a lot of situations (including magic item descriptions). \$\endgroup\$ – illustro Feb 25 at 10:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ For example, the category of Magic Items that is scrolls states this "Whatever the nature of the magic contained in a scroll, unleashing that magic requires the user to read the scroll.". The spell scroll item itself says this "Casting the spell by reading the scroll requires the spell’s normal casting time.". In both cases there is redundant information, that casting the spell from the scroll requires reading the scroll. \$\endgroup\$ – illustro Feb 25 at 10:18
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No, spells cast from spell scrolls do not require Somatic components (or indeed any components beyond what is specified in the spell scroll magic item)

The most general rule of D&D is the Specific vs General Rule:

This compendium contains rules that govern how the game plays. That said, many racial traits, class features, spells, magic items, monster abilities, and other game elements break the general rules in some way, creating an exception to how the rest of the game works. Remember this: If a specific rule contradicts a general rule, the specific rule wins.

(PHB Introduction)

General rules govern each part of the game. For example, the combat rules tell you that melee weapon attacks use Strength and ranged weapon attacks use Dexterity. That’s a general rule, and a general rule is in effect as long as something in the game doesn’t explicitly say otherwise.

The game also includes elements — class features, spells, magic items, monster abilities, and the like — that sometimes contradict a general rule. When an exception and a general rule disagree, the exception wins. For example, if a feature says you can make melee weapon attacks using your Charisma, you can do so, even though that statement disagrees with the general rule.

(Xanathar's Guide to Everything Introduction)

It's so important they said it twice! Reading these two sets of rules text it is clear, and exception to a rule must be:

  • Explicit not implicit
  • Specific

With that in mind, we are going to examine the rules for using a spell scroll, from the most general (casting a spell from a magic item), through the rules for the specific type of magic items (scrolls), to the rules for the specific item in question (a spell scroll).

Casting a spell from a Magic Item

The DMG section on spells cast from magic items has this to say (emphasis mine):

Activating some magic items requires a user to do something in particular, such as holding the item and uttering a command word, reading the item if it is a scroll, or drinking it if it is a potion. The description of each item category or individual item details how an item is activated. Certain items use one or more of the following rules related to their activation.

[...]

Spells

Some magic items allow the user to cast a spell from the item, often by expending charges from it. The spell is cast at the lowest possible spell and caster level, doesn't expend any of the user's spell slots, and requires no components unless the item's description says otherwise. The spell uses its normal casting time, range, and duration, and the user of the item must concentrate if the spell requires concentration. Certain items make exceptions to these rules, changing the casting time, duration, or other parts of a spell.

(DMG > Treasure > Magic Items > Activating an Item)

Spells cast from spell scrolls thus must start from this default position, unless the description of either magic item scrolls or spell scrolls adds back in component requirements. This requirement is a specific, additive requirement. It also agrees with the principle of there are no Hidden Rules that guides 5e design. In order for something to be a rule, it needs to be written down.

Magic Item Category: Scroll

The description of scrolls from the DMG, is more specific, and applies to all scrolls. It states:

Most scrolls are spells stored in written form, while a few bear unique incantations that produce potent wards. Whatever its contents, a scroll is a roll of paper, sometimes attached to wooden rods, and typically kept safe in a tube of ivory, jade, leather, metal, or wood.

A scroll is a consumable magic item. Whatever the nature of the magic contained in a scroll, unleashing that magic requires the user to read the scroll. When its magic has been invoked, the scroll can’t be used again. Its words fade, or it crumbles into dust.

Unless a scroll's description says otherwise, any creature that can understand a written language can read the script on a scroll and attempt to activate it.

(DMG > Treasure > Magic Items > Magic Item Categories)

So, scrolls require the user to read a scroll (although it's not clear if this reading is out loud or not). This is an additional requirement for scrolls in order to "[unleash it's] magic". You might even call it a component!

Now in order to read the scroll, you must have it open and be able to see the text, as you need to be able to see text in order to read it. This doesn't, however, mean you need to hold a scroll to read it.

The game provides optional rules in the DMG for restricting reading and writing:

[...] In a region where one race has subjugated another, the language of the conquerors can become a mark of social status. Similarly, reading and writing might be restricted by law to the upper classes of a society.

(DMG > A Wold of Your Own > Languages and Dialects)

Since this is an optional restriction, we must conclude that unless otherwise specified, if you can understand a language, you can also read that language (in general).

Thus we can conclude two things:

  1. Once you understand the language you can read it
  2. In order to read it you don't need to speak it (as even someone unable to speak can still read, ala the Kenku)

Specific Magic Item: Spell Scroll

Now we drill down to the most specific subset, the spell scroll specific rules (emphasis mine):

A spell scroll bears the words of a single spell, written in a mystical cipher. If the spell is on your class’s spell list, you can read the scroll and cast its spell without providing any material components. Otherwise, the scroll is unintelligible. Casting the spell by reading the scroll requires the spell’s normal casting time. Once the spell is cast, the words on the scroll fade, and it crumbles to dust. If the casting is interrupted, the scroll is not lost.

(DMG > Treasure > Magic Items > Magic Items A - Z)

This description doesn't add back in any of the spell components (as would be required from the general magic item rule on spells, or indeed for an exception to exist).

It also reiterates the need to read the scroll, and emphasises that the casting of the spell via reading must use the spell's normal casting time. It does limit who can read the scroll however to only be spellcasters with the spell on their spell list.

Thus, the spell scroll requires no components to cast the spell beyond the act of reading the scroll over the period of the spell's normal casting time.

Conclusion

As a result it does not require Somatic components, or indeed Verbal or Material components either.


But what about the Intent of the Errata Change?

As an aside on what was intended, or not, by an errata update, we can use WoTC's official outlet for Rules As Intended (RAI), the Sage Advice Compendium, which states:

Which is correct in the Dungeon Master’s Guide, the rule for scrolls or the rule for a spell scroll?

They’re both correct. The rule for scrolls (p. 139) is for scrolls in general, including a scroll of protection, and it allows you to try to activate a spell if you’re literate. The rule for a spell scroll is specific to that type of scroll and introduces an additional requirement: the spell on the scroll must be on your class’s spell list for you to read the scroll.

[...]. No matter how its name appears, a spell scroll follows the same rule.

[...]

The intent behind the spell scroll rule, and the exception it is meant to provide over and above the other two general rules is clearly laid out in this SAC Q&A (emphasis mine):

The rule for scrolls (p. 139) is for scrolls in general, including a scroll of protection, and it allows you to try to activate a spell if you’re literate. The rule for a spell scroll is specific to that type of scroll and introduces an additional requirement: the spell on the scroll must be on your class’s spell list for you to read the scroll.

The intention is that the additional requirement the spell scroll rules adds is that to use a spell scroll the spell contained on it must be on your spellcasting spell list.

It doesn't remove any other restrictions, nor does it add any hidden restrictions requiring obtuse logic to work out the intention (eg the fact verbal and somatic components aren't called out in the most specific rule as being not required in means that they are required, even though the more general rule for the magic item says no spell components are required).

If further evidence for the intent behind what that rule means, we have this exchange between Jeremy Crawford and a querant on twitter:

@DakotaHansen13 · Apr 24, 2018

@JeremyECrawford Casting from a spell scroll. It doesn't say it requires V/S components, but specifically lists not using M. Does that line override the general rule about not needing V/S/M for any spells from magic items, so you would need V/S?

@JeremyECrawford · Apr 24, 2018

Spell scrolls follow the normal rule for casting a spell from a magic item: you don't need to provide any components to cast the spell (V, S, or M). Spell scrolls have a twist, though: you must read the scroll to cast its spell. This is effectively an ad hoc component. #DnD

While this is not an official source of rules, it is an interpretation provided by the main rules designer, and can be used to reinforce a RAI interpretation. It also happens to agree with the RAW interpretation I have provided here.

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Yes.

You say:

The first, pretty clearly, by any reading, removes the need for Material components from the underlying spell, but appears to say nothing about Somatic components. That being said, the m in material is not capitalised (intentionally? See action vs Action),

(Aside: ignore anything anyone says about capitalization mattering. D&D 5e doesn't generally capitalize game terms such as "action" or "material component". I think the one you're thinking of is the oft-cited "attack vs. Attack", which is simply wrong. It's really "attack vs. 'the Attack action'".)

You're referring to this line from the description of a spell scroll:

you can read the scroll and cast its spell without providing any material components

The only reason to single out material components this way is to show that they are receiving different treatment than other components, those being somatic and verbal. Spell components are described here:

A spell's components are the physical requirements you must meet in order to cast it. Each spell's description indicates whether it requires verbal (V), somatic (S), or material (M) components.

Three points here:

  • They're referred to as "material components", lowercase. See, I told you to ignore capitalization.
  • "Material" doesn't simply mean "physical" in this context. All spell components are physical. A matetial component is something more specific.
  • You must provide all the components in order to cast the spell.

So, when the spell scroll says "you can read the scroll and cast its spell", this doesn't exempt you from the need to provide components. You're still casting the spell. The only component you don't have to provide is the material, as stated.

About that magic item rule

At the moment, there's another answer that cites this rule about magic items:

Some magic items allow the user to cast a spell from the item. The spell is cast at the lowest possible spell level, doesn't expend any of the user's spell slots, and requires no components, unless the item's description says otherwise.

That last phrase is slippery, and I'm annoyed at how often the 5e rules resort to "X, unless otherwise stated", because then we have to figure out whether it is, in fact, otherwise stated. But here we are.

However, the spell scroll's "without providing material components" is saying otherwise, and here's why: if no components were required, there would be no reason to say "without providing material components". That phrase would be superfluous. It's not even useful as a reminder of the general rule, because it's misleading: why remind us only about material components, when it's more accurate to just say "components"?

For that phrase to have any effect, it has to be taken as a statement (by exclusion) as to which components are required.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Essentially, you're argument relies on the assumption that rules writers never include redundant information, or that all information in the rules text is non-redundant. However in the rules text, redundant information is included in a lot of situations (including magic item descriptions). \$\endgroup\$ – illustro Feb 25 at 10:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ For example, the category of Magic Items that is scrolls states this "Whatever the nature of the magic contained in a scroll, unleashing that magic requires the user to read the scroll.". The spell scroll item itself says this "Casting the spell by reading the scroll requires the spell’s normal casting time.". In both cases there is redundant information, that casting the spell from the scroll requires reading the scroll. \$\endgroup\$ – illustro Feb 25 at 10:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @illustro To be brief, my assumption is not that there isn't ever redundant information; it's that there isn't additional text in the rules for no reason. If you want to discuss this further, please open a chat. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells Feb 25 at 15:38
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To activate spell scrolls you read them; they require no components but the scroll itself.

Spell scrolls (DMG 139, 200) are magical items (DMG 133 and following) to activate magical items (DMG 141)

The description of each item category or individual item details how an item is activated.

we look at the category (scroll, for categories see DMG 139):

Most scrolls are spells stored in written form, [...] unleashing that magic requires using an action to read the scroll. [...] Any creature that can understand a written language can read the arcane script on a scroll and attempt to activate it.

We are interested in spell scrolls (DMG 200-201) which contain spells (DMG 141):

The spell is cast at the lowest possible spell level, doesn't expend any of the user's spell slots, and requires no components, unless the item's description says otherwise.

To be able to cast a spell from a spell scroll we have to have fulfill further pre-requisites (DMG 200, DMG errata 2.0 1):

If the spell is on your class’s spell list, you can read the scroll and cast its spell without providing any material components. Otherwise, the scroll is unintelligible. [...] Once the spell is cast, the words on the scroll fade, and the scroll itself crumbles to dust.

The spell scroll description does not specify that it requires spell slots, and components (whether material, somatic, or verbal), so the general rule of casting spells from magical items applies as there is nothing more specific (it merely confirms, again, that you, indeed, do not need material components), it doesn't expend any of the user's spell slots and requires no components.

An additional note, you do not need to read aloud what you are reading, understanding the written language and using an action to read the scroll is sufficient in that regard (see quote above on DMG 139).

While reading the scroll only takes one action, the casting time is the regular casting time of that spell (DMG 141).

The spell uses its normal casting time, range, and duration, and the user of the item must concentrate if the spell requires concentration.


So why does the errata of the spell scroll text in the DMG emphasise the material component-part of the text?

We can assume that it does so to prevent arguments at the table (yes, you really don't need this 1000gp component to cast the spell), but we don't know.

We cannot conclude that the intention was to make it clear that somatic and verbal components have to be part of the reading (as the description would have specified this otherwise, see DMG 141). We can conclude that the advice emphasised that, indeed, material components are not required. We can assume that this might have been a point of contention, but we don't know.

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