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I'm confused about who can use scrolls in 5e. In the DMG, p139 under MAGIC ITEM CATEGORIES: SCROLLS it states "any creature that can understand a written language can read the arcane script on a scroll and attempt to activate it". This implies that ANYONE can try to cast a spell using a scroll. However, on p.200 in the "Spell Scroll" entry it states that "if the spell is on your cast list you can use an action to read it...otherwise the scroll is illegible". Then there is the bit about a DC 10+scroll spell level arcana roll if the spell is higher than a spell slot than you can cast.

So, which is it? Can anyone who can read a language use a scroll (like a fighter) if they make an arcana check, or JUST a PC with that specific spell in their spell list (only spell casters)?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, it is a bit confusing. Seems pretty clear once you seperate out a SPELL SCROLL and SCROLL, OTHER though. I'm gonna homebrew this though, mainly because I want reasons to use that nice "spell misfire" table in the DMG :P \$\endgroup\$ – Jason K Dec 11 '14 at 13:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ In case anyone is curious, my homebrew will be that PCs with spell slots can use a spell scroll not on their list with an arcana check, just as if it was a spell above their level from their spell list. PCs without spell slots make all checks at disadvantage. So a fighter without prof in arcana would have a tough time of it, but could expect to cast a low level spell scroll at least some of the time while a rogue with prof in arcana could pull it off much more often. Time will tell if this leads to my characters running around with stacks of "fireball" scrolls to solve their problems. \$\endgroup\$ – Jason K Dec 11 '14 at 20:16
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Remember in D&D RAW, specific overrides general.

The general rule for scrolls "any creature that can understand a written language can read the arcane script on a scroll and attempt to activate it" is overridden by the specific rule for Spell Scrolls: "if the spell is on your class's list you can use an action to read it...otherwise the scroll is illegible". So if it's a scroll anyone can read it and use it unless it is part of the specific category of spell scrolls then it must be on your class list to a) read it and b) use it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ An exception to the rule is the Use Magic Device feature of the 13th-level or higher Thief (Roguish Archetype): "You ignore all class, race, and level requirements on the use of magic items." D&D 5e designer Jeremy Crawford clarified, "The intent is that Use Magic Device does allow a rogue to try to use a scroll." [Emphasis added] While the tweet exchange uses scroll and not spell scroll, there would be no need to clarify a "regular" scroll since the general rule allows all classes to attempt their use. \$\endgroup\$ – sadaqah Jan 4 '15 at 19:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is again an example of more specific trumping less specific. \$\endgroup\$ – Dale M Jan 5 '15 at 0:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ Where is the rule mentioned above? I've looked through the PHB and DMG index for scroll, spell scroll, or anything like that. All I can find is the useless info on DMG 139. EDIT: NM I found it, on page 200. Would have been nice to put that in the index. \$\endgroup\$ – emery.noel Mar 4 at 0:26
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Not all scrolls are Spell Scrolls. There is a Scroll of Protection. Granted the list of scrolls that NOT spell scrolls is limited to that one scroll. The section on page 200 is specific to Spell Scrolls.

The effect of the two rules is that anybody that can read a written language can use a Scroll of Protection while you need the spell to be in your class' spell list to use Spell Scrolls.

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    \$\begingroup\$ In theory, if the DM creates another type of magic scroll, one that creates a unique effect which is not produced by any existing spell (and provided that the DM doesn't also create a custom spell with that new effect), such a scroll would become a second example of a "scroll that is not a spell scroll" in that campaign. \$\endgroup\$ – Dan Henderson Sep 1 '16 at 19:27
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Spellcasters using Arcana for casting from a scroll was mentioned in the comments, however the requirement to use the Arcana check should be for a Wizard when trying to copy a spell from a scroll to their spellbook. For using a spell on a scroll, per the SRD, the rule is as follows:

  • "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."

As such, a Cleric trying to use a Clerics' spell-listed spell of a higher level than currently available would need to make a WIS ability check using the DC formula listed, NOT an Arcana check. As an example:

  • An 8th level Cleric with a 17 Wisdom (WIS ability modifier of +3) who attempts to use a scroll with the spell Heal (a 6th level Cleric's spell with a DC of 16) would need to roll a 13 or higher on the dice for the check to succeed (13+3=16, the target number).
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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to Stack Exchange! This point reads like a suggested correction edit to the question, not an answer to it. \$\endgroup\$ – sevenbrokenbricks Feb 16 at 15:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. OP's mention of Arcana in a comment on their own question was just them stating their own houserule, not commenting on the RAW. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Feb 16 at 21:15

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