If a Wizard fails the Arcana check to copy a spell from a spellbook, can they try again immediately if they have the time and money to commit to the task again?

My understanding (which may be wrong) is that there is an Arcana (Int) check for copying from spellbooks as well as scrolls. DC = 10 + Spell Level. For a Scroll, that attempt causes the scroll to poof regardless of success or failure.

Or do they have to wait until they level up before retrying? (which I believe was the rule in older editions)


1 Answer 1


A wizard can never fail, he copies exactly what he means to.

The rules for copying spells from sources other than spell scrolls say:

When you find a wizard spell of 1st level or higher, you can add it to your spellbook if it is of a spell level you can prepare and if you can spare the time to decipher and copy it.

Notably, there is no mention of an arcana check here. No check required means no failure is possible. As long as you spend the resources, you succeed.

The arcana check only comes into play when copying from a spell scroll:

A wizard spell on a spell scroll can be copied just as spells in spellbooks can be copied. When a spell is copied from a spell scroll, the copier must succeed on an Intelligence (Arcana) check with a DC equal to 10 + the spell's level. If the check succeeds, the spell is successfully copied. Whether the check succeeds or fails, the spell scroll is destroyed.

It should be noted that spell scrolls create an exception to the general rule for copying spells, leaving a DM with generous room to put learnable spells in unique places, for example, in Storm King's Thunder:

Five rocks have the following wizard spells inscribed on them: antimagic field, conjure elemental, fabricate, legend lore, and stone shape. The rocks function like pages of a spellbook, but each weighs 600 pounds. A character who has a spellbook can record these spells in it.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This is correct, OP is confused between two game mechanics. I think the way the ability is written, it's even implied that you don't even have to do all the studying all at once, as long as you end up having spent 2*spell-level hours worth of time and 50*spell-level gold in total. \$\endgroup\$
    – Theik
    Commented Jul 9, 2020 at 12:25
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ Perfect, thanks! I hadn't realized that there was an additional mechanic for Scrolls that doesn't exist for Spellbook. I believe this is a deviation from older editions of the game... \$\endgroup\$
    – RhinoTX
    Commented Jul 9, 2020 at 12:26
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ @RhinoTX Correct this is a deviation from previous editions. However previous editions also had the ability to 'take 10' on the dice roll, meaning for most wizards failing the check wasn't a possibility unless they were under serious pressure. \$\endgroup\$
    – linksassin
    Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 1:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks linksassin; by "previous editions" in this case I'm referring to 2E. I don't recall the "take 10" rule there, but I may be misremembering. Perhaps that was a 3E or 4E mechanic? \$\endgroup\$
    – RhinoTX
    Commented Jul 11, 2020 at 10:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't remember a "take 10" in 2E. In 1E and 2E there was always a risk that you couldn't copy a spell even under relaxed circumstances. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 18:47

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