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On pg. 140 of the Dungeon Master's Guide there is a sidebar for handling scroll mishaps. It states:

A creature who tries and fails to cast a spell from a spell scroll must make a DC 10 Intelligence saving throw.

While interesting, it leaves a question wide open: how (or why) would a creature fail to cast a spell from a scroll? If the creature can "understand the written language" then the scroll should just work, according to the prior page. Am I missing something?

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You're missing something

Casting a spell, from a scroll, of a higher level than you can normally cast carries a risk.

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...

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.

DMG, Chapter 7 (Magic Items), Magic Items A-Z, Spell Scroll.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Awesome, thanks (and thanks @Upper_Case) - where is this written? \$\endgroup\$ – Omortis Mar 5 at 1:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Omortis It is a little bit tricky to track down. It's in the DMG, Chapter 7 (Magic Items), Magic Items A-Z, Spell Scroll. \$\endgroup\$ – Upper_Case Mar 5 at 1:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Upper_Case, thank you for that, I've added it tot he answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Steve Mar 5 at 1:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Upper_Case yes - thanks for that - I only saw Scroll of Protection and haven't really read through all the items yet. Thanks again! \$\endgroup\$ – Omortis Mar 5 at 1:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ The exact page number in the DMG is 200-201 \$\endgroup\$ – Jave Mar 6 at 11:11
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If the spell is of a level higher than your character can cast, failure is possible

From the entry on spell scrolls:

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 variant rule for spell scroll mishaps overrides that last line: instead of the scroll being used up with no effect, the would-be caster risks a mishap.

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