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I'm a little confused by the rules.

According to the rules on "Identifying a Magic Item" (DMG, p. 136 – or here in the basic rules), a character must use the spell identify or a short rest focusing on the item in order to discover its properties.

Then in the description of the spell scroll magic item (DMG, p. 200), it says that if the spell on the scroll is on the reader's class spell list, they can read it.

My question is:

  • Does someone need to identify the spell scroll first before anyone can try reading it?
  • Or does the person who will use the spell scroll need to identify it first (potentially resulting in the awkward situation where the person who identifies it can't use it)?
  • Or do spell scrolls disregard identification, and simply have their own rules for reading them?
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1 Answer 1

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Both options exist together

If a character finds a spell scroll, and the spell on that scroll is on the spell list for a class that character has, they are able to read the scroll, as they know of the magic it contains from their class. If not, they can't read the scroll.

On the other hand, if a character can cast identify, they can cast it on the spell scroll to work out what spell it contains. Doing so is redundant if the spell is on a spell list for a class they have at least 1 level in, as they can just read the scroll normally. If it isn't on their spell list, though, they can cast identify on the scroll so that they at least know what the spell on the scroll is (and can give/sell it to someone who can use it).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Pro tip about headers \$\endgroup\$ Feb 10, 2022 at 11:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ I wondered if "read the scroll" meant you could cast the spell from the scroll, but not figure out what spell would happen if you did that. I think that's an unlikely and probably unfun interpretation, though. Especially for spells of a low enough level for the character to cast without having to roll for it, i.e. a level they can understand and handle. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 10, 2022 at 14:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PeterCordes That interpretation has some humor value. Especially if you also ban the identify spell. \$\endgroup\$
    – Yakk
    Feb 10, 2022 at 14:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ So if the spell is one the character recognizes from their class list they know what it is immediately. If they don't recognize it then they need to work out what it is (at a short rest) or use a spell to identify it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dragonel
    Feb 10, 2022 at 16:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PeterCordes This appears to be a recipe for chocolate chip cookies... \$\endgroup\$
    – Xalorous
    Feb 11, 2022 at 12:12

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