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Adding Variety to the Scrolls in your Campaign

By Steve Allen

Within the AD&D game, a scroll is a convenience and luxury for most spell casters. Often, the discovery of a scroll is a mundane event that barely causes a murmur within the party. Usually the scroll is contemptuously dropped upon the mage or priest within the party and not regarded as real treasure. Most players are bored with the usual scrolls found in treasure collections. Want to spice up the types of scrolls found within your campaign?

My own campaign uses a slight modification of the scrolls found within the Dungeon Master's guide. On page #86 of the DMG, is a description of scroll creation and details creation of a cursed scroll. The changes I suggest are to allow mages and clerics of at least 9 th -level to create purposefully cursed scrolls with a successful ability check. This check is identical to that described within the DMG for creating a normal scroll, but the creator is now using the same process to knowingly create a cursed scroll. Should the scroll creator fail their proficiency check, then they may have created a cursed scroll but may not be able to discern the details of the curse.

Within my campaign, I split scrolls into three unique types and modify the rules concerning the use and proficiency of scrolls.

The first type of scroll is called a spell scroll. Known as a "cake mix" scroll, this is a new name for the usual scroll found within the AD&D game as described in the DMG on page #85. These scrolls can contain 1d6 spells and require a Read Magic spell to read. They can contain either priest or mage spells, but never a combination of both. The spells found on these scrolls can be cast without any of the material components and without studying. These scrolls may be copied into spell books or onto other scrolls with appropriate proficiency checks. If there is more than one spell upon a scroll, when a spell is cast from the scroll, there is a five percent chance that the other spells on the scroll will be destroyed, similar to the effect of casting spells directly from a spell book. When all spells have been cast from the scroll, it crumbles into dust.

The second type of scroll, called a “recipe” scroll is a type of scroll that resembles pages ripped from a spell book and can be several pages long determined by the level of spell found upon them. Only a single spell is ever recorded on this type of scroll. These scrolls contain all of the information necessary to memorize the spell and only requires diligent study and the proper components (if required) to cast. By making the proper ability checks, the spell caster can add the spell to his spell book (or request the spell from his deity) by copying the spell. A spell caster can cast the spell, providing he has all required components, without studying the spell, just like casting the spell from his spell book. When the spell is cast, the scroll (all the pages of it) will crumble into dust.

The third type of scroll is a cursed scroll, or commonly referred to in my campaign as a "spoil-sport" scroll. These scrolls are cunningly-created magical traps that appear at first glance to be a normal scroll of either type. These scrolls are useable by all characters capable of reading a magical scroll and often appear to contain extremely rare or unique spells. Only one spell is ever found upon a cursed scroll. A Detect Magic spell does not identify the trap and just by merely scanning the contents of the scroll, the reader can trigger the scroll's trap. A Legend and Lore spell will identify the scroll as cursed, but not render the scroll safe for use nor detail the curse. A Remove Curse spell causes a cursed scroll to crumble into dust destroying it. Cursed scrolls can also be protected with other spells such as Sepia Snake Sigil. Cursed scrolls may not contain the spells Wish, Contingency, or Chain Contingency, and are limited to spells from the Invocation and Evocation schools.

Reading a cursed scroll can have several effects but ultimately destroys the scroll. The creator of the cursed scroll determines the effects of the curse while creating the cursed scroll. There are three effects that the creator can choose but only can afflict the reader per cursed scroll. The most common effect is that the reader suffers the effects of the spell found upon the scroll. The reader is allowed any applicable saves versus the magic unleashed by the reading of the cursed scroll. The second type of effect is that the reader suffers a single curse which can be humorously benign or evilly malicious. For suggestions on curses see the following Dragon Magazine articles: " Curses: Never Get Even - Get Ahead !" in issue #77; " Curse are Divine " in issue #145, and " Twenty Good Ideas for Bad Tidings " in issue #167. The third effect and the rarest cause the reader of a cursed scroll to suffer a random effect from the following table:

Die Roll Effect

01 - 10

Reader opens a gate either to a parallel world or to another plane of existence.

11 – 20

Reader is Teleported without Error to a random spot within the campaign world.

21 – 30

Reader suffers 2d8+1d8 hp per level of the scroll's creator of electrical damage as per a Call Lightning spell (save versus magic for half damage).

31 - 40

Reader and all beings within a 10' radius are Teleported without Error to a random location within the campaign world.

41 - 50

Reader and all beings within a 10' radius suffer 1d4 hp of fire damage from a small fire ball (save versus magic for half damage).

51 – 60

Reader suffers the effects of random Growth and Shrink spells for 1d4 days.

61 - 70

Reader acts as a monster beacon for 1d4 days, summoning all hostile creatures within a 10

71 - 80

Reader randomly discharges all memorized spells centered upon him; casting one spell per turn, until all memorized spells are exhausted, caster is slain, or knocked unconscious, or 24 hours elapses. During this time, no other spell casting is allowed, and afterwards spells may be normally memorized and cast. If reader is not a spell caster, re

81 - 90

Reader suffers the effects of a Ring of Contrariness for 1d4 days.

91 - 100

The reader suffers the effects of a Power Word, Kill spell equivalent to the level of the creator of the scroll.

The DM should modify the above table to reflect his campaign and so that the players do not become familiar with the tables contents.

The following are new proficiencies to add to your campaign.

Create Cursed Scroll – INT 2

This proficiency is extremely rare and most difficult to find a teacher knowledgeable enough that can teach this proficiency to another. Once famous within a ruined great magical kingdom millennia ago, this proficiency has become extinct in most parts of the world. Only a few great lich, most survivors of an ancient ruined kingdom know this proficiency, and they may be loath to teach someone else, unless an equitable trade could be arranged with the lich.

Detect Cursed Scroll – WIS 2

This proficiency is unavailable until after reaching the 9 th level and is only available to mages and clerics. This proficiency is as rare as Create Cursed Scroll and may be as difficult to locate a teacher. Utilizing this proficiency requires 1d4 days of uninterrupted study per level of the scroll studied.

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