Scribing Scrolls - Setting the DC


Rules Questions

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

An interesting question came up among my players during some "downtime" in the campaign.

What is the DC of a spell on a scroll? Is it the minimum amount that it could possibly be or is it set by the individual scribing the scroll? For example, a scroll of Fireball would have a minimum DC of 14 because it is a 3rd level spell and you only need a spellcasting ability score of 13 (+1) to cast it. But, if the scribe has a spellcasting ability score of 16 (+3), would the DC be 16? And if this is the case, would it also be affected by having Spell Focus (evocation)?

I've scoured the rules, but haven't found anything covering this. The cleric in my game wants to scribe a scroll of Zone of Truth while under the effects of Owl's Wisdom to raise the DC. This seems plausible, if the DC is based on the ability score of the one scribing the scroll.

Any thoughts?


The DC for the spell on a scroll is the minimum possible for that spell for that caster.


Yeah, it's lame, but that's how it is. I guess it's to stop someone from spamming a DC 22-24 Fireball around (since the creator probably had a 20 Int, added 3 points to it from being 12th level, put on a +4 or +6 Intelligence boosting item for like 29-30 Int., takes Spell Focus and Greater Spell Focus in Evocation). Though, most monsters you battle in those higher levels have ways of boosting Reflex high unless you happen to just be battling a lot of giants or something.

Then again, saving throw bonuses are easy (too easy) to accumulate in the game so I am all for something to make DCs higher. I allow my PCs to use the optional rule of rolling your spell save DC or keeping the base (basically, Take 10 on the spell DC or roll it like an attack). Saves pass so frequently at higher levels, it made no sense to cast spells that did nothing on a successful save and so more partial save spells were favored.

Now, you have to go outside Pathfinder for this, but in WotC's Epic Level Handbook there's a cool little feat on page 114 called Enhance Item that lets you use your current ability modifier to set the save DC for magic items you create.


There is another way:

You could scribe the spell with the Heighten spell metamagic feat which will definitely increase the DC:

Example:

Heighten fireball to sixth level -- you start with the DC 14 (minimum for a fireball) then add 3 more (for the increase in spell level that counts since this is heightened) and then add 2 more for the intelligence needed to cast a sixth level spell.

Unfortunately the other metamagic feats will have no effect other than raising the caster level (to the minimum needed to cast that metamagic spell -- and of course the effect the metamagic would normally have) since they don't require the ability to cast spells of the higher level (they are still treated as the lower level spell, which means even the minimum casting stat needed is the same even though they use the higher spell slot).

Both of these uses will also increase the cost of the scroll however.


You can use Heighten spell to raise the DC too since that actually makes the spell a higher level (the other metamagic feats won't do this because they don't raise the spell level -- they will still need the higher caster level though to use the proper slot to make the scroll though).


You can raise the DC of the scroll by essentially making a higher level spell and adding the heighten spell feat to it. A heightened fireball to 7th level, would have a DC 20 (10 + spell level 7 + ability mod from 17 (+3)). But it would also cost the same as a 7th level scroll.

It's not optimal, but at least its an alternative.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

As I thought. Thanks for the confirmation, guys. It's appreciated.


Abraham spalding wrote:
The DC for the spell on a scroll is the minimum possible for that spell for that caster.

Can you provide a reference?

Quote:
Determine Effect: A spell successfully activated from a scroll works exactly like a spell prepared and cast the normal way. Assume the scroll spell's caster level is always the minimum level required to cast the spell for the character who scribed the scroll, unless the scriber specifically desired otherwise.

Would indicate to me that the DC is set by the caster's int and any applicable feats, as normal.


Vestrial wrote:


Would indicate to me that the DC is set by the caster's int and any applicable feats, as normal.

Saving Throws Against Magic Item Powers

Magic items produce spells or spell-like effects. For a saving throw against a spell or spell-like effect from a magic item, the DC is 10 + the level of the spell or effect + the ability modifier of the minimum ability score needed to cast that level of spell.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

A crafter can choose to spend more and make a scroll at a higher caster level (makeing a 10d6 fireball instead of a 5d6, for instance), but this doesn't affect the DC in 99% of cases. To increase the DC, you need something like Heighten Spell.


Quote:
Determine Effect: A spell successfully activated from a scroll works exactly like a spell prepared and cast the normal way. Assume the scroll spell's caster level is always the minimum level required to cast the spell for the character who scribed the scroll, unless the scriber specifically desired otherwise.

I've always read the spell completion items (scrolls) as the DC being set by the casting stat based on the person casting the spell from the scroll, rather than the stat of the person scribing the scroll. You know what level the spell is scribed at for spell effects, but otherwise the rest of the spell was based on the current caster (DC, spell failure, spell penetration, aug. summoning, etc.)

Just my 2cp.


Sniggevert wrote:


Quote:
Determine Effect: A spell successfully activated from a scroll works exactly like a spell prepared and cast the normal way. Assume the scroll spell's caster level is always the minimum level required to cast the spell for the character who scribed the scroll, unless the scriber specifically desired otherwise.

I've always read the spell completion items (scrolls) as the DC being set by the casting stat based on the person casting the spell from the scroll, rather than the stat of the person scribing the scroll. You know what level the spell is scribed at for spell effects, but otherwise the rest of the spell was based on the current caster (DC, spell failure, spell penetration, aug. summoning, etc.)

Just my 2cp.

That's an interesting idea and creates a rather odd situation. If I hand a scroll of fireball to a 5th level wizard with 19 Intelligence, I get a DC 17 fireball for 5d6 damage. When I pass it to the level 17 wizard with 28 Intelligence, I get 10d6 damage and a DC 22 blast. From the same scroll. How do you properly price an item when it's value is now contingent on the power of the user?

The Exchange

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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

you call it a staff, since staves do use the ability score and feats of the wielder. while scrolls and wands don't.


Lathiira wrote:


That's an interesting idea and creates a rather odd situation. If I hand a scroll of fireball to a 5th level wizard with 19 Intelligence, I get a DC 17 fireball for 5d6 damage. When I pass it to the level 17 wizard with 28 Intelligence, I get 10d6 damage and a DC 22 blast. From the same scroll. How do you properly price an item when it's value is now contingent on the power of the user?

Is that really any more 'odd' than those two casters buying the same scroll, scribing it into their respective spellbooks, then casting it at the different DCs? Scrolls are spells that are 'mostly completed.' It's not a stretch to imagine that, in the act of completing the spell, the caster puts his own force of will into it, thus determining the DC.

I never realized this was RAW, though, and in my games we have always used the casters int to set the DC. Do those of you who use the RAW rules not find that scrolls with saves become worthless as the wizard levels?

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Vestrial wrote:


Would indicate to me that the DC is set by the caster's int and any applicable feats, as normal.

The caster in this case is the person who penned the scroll not the one reading it as the latter is only tripping the "on" switch. The general assumption is that the scroll is produced by the minimum requirements of spell level and the casting stat required for that spell level.

The rule for wands is that minimum is always assumed even if the caster's stats are higher. I use the same rule for scrolls becasue it makes things simpler and I can justify that these forms of casting magic have inherent formulaic restrictions. In other words if you want the best effect from a spell, you cast it yourself.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Vestrial wrote:


I never realized this was RAW, though, and in my games we have always used the casters int to set the DC. Do those of you who use the RAW rules not find that scrolls with saves become worthless as the wizard levels?

That's why at high levels you move from wands and scrolls to staves which specifically use the user's stats (and level) for effectiveness. Low level spells are for mooks and you generally don't have to worry about thier saves. And there are plenty of utility scrolls for spells you hardly use where saves aren't an issue.

It's a matter of using the appropriate tools for the appropriate tier.


Vestrial wrote:


I never realized this was RAW, though, and in my games we have always used the casters int to set the DC. Do those of you who use the RAW rules not find that scrolls with saves become worthless as the wizard levels?

Yes.

That is why my PC wizards scribe utility scrolls which don't rely on save DC such as Darkvision, Knock, etc. and save the the stuff which does rely on DC saves such as Fireball to keep in his head.

That is also why my players stock up on utility wands which don't rely on save DCs. Makes more head space :)

Worthless is a bit strong. You never know when you just need to fry a large area to clean up mooks.

Or use a Staff.

Contributor

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Lathiira wrote:
That's an interesting idea and creates a rather odd situation. If I hand a scroll of fireball to a 5th level wizard with 19 Intelligence, I get a DC 17 fireball for 5d6 damage. When I pass it to the level 17 wizard with 28 Intelligence, I get 10d6 damage and a DC 22 blast. From the same scroll. How do you properly price an item when it's value is now contingent on the power of the user?

No. A scroll of fireball (with no other information specified) always assumes the minimum caster level and DC for the spell effect. No matter who uses that scroll, it's always a DC 14 5d6 fireball. If you want more dice, you gotta pay for a CL above 5th. If you want a higher DC, you gotta pay for Heighten Spell to treat it as a higher-level spell. Scrolls are cheap, and you get what you pay for: the bare minimum.

If you want a spell effect in an item to scale with the person holding it, you need a staff.

Potion: cheap, anyone can use, limited to 3rd-level spells
Scroll: cheap, requires spellcasting or UMD to activate, requires caster level check, minimal DC built into item
Wand: cheap, requires spellcasting or UMD to activate, minimal DC built into item
Staff: not cheap, requires spellcasting or UMD to activate, DC based on user

Dark Archive

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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Sean K Reynolds wrote:

Potion: cheap, anyone can use, limited to 3rd-level spells
Scroll: cheap, requires spellcasting or UMD to activate, requires caster level check, minimal DC built into item
Wand: cheap, requires spellcasting or UMD to activate, minimal DC built into item
Staff: not cheap, requires spellcasting or UMD to activate, DC based on user

Thanks, Sean. This is a great way to explain it to my players.


Wait don't feats augment spells cast from a scroll or wand?

Example: Casting Summon Monster spell from a scroll or wand when you have the Augmented Summoning feat.

The duration would be determined by what level you created the item, but the stats of the creature would be improved.

The DC for Scroll of Fireball would be increased by 1 if you had the Spell Focus (Evocation) feat.

You could even use a Metamagic Rod to augment a scroll or wand.


harmor wrote:
Wait don't feats augment spells cast from a scroll or wand?

Augment Summoning might. It's sort of a grey area. Actual metamagic feats will not, however, you can make a wand of empowered magic missle or a scroll of maximized heightened fireball, etc.


Vestrial wrote:
Lathiira wrote:


That's an interesting idea and creates a rather odd situation. If I hand a scroll of fireball to a 5th level wizard with 19 Intelligence, I get a DC 17 fireball for 5d6 damage. When I pass it to the level 17 wizard with 28 Intelligence, I get 10d6 damage and a DC 22 blast. From the same scroll. How do you properly price an item when it's value is now contingent on the power of the user?

Is that really any more 'odd' than those two casters buying the same scroll, scribing it into their respective spellbooks, then casting it at the different DCs? Scrolls are spells that are 'mostly completed.' It's not a stretch to imagine that, in the act of completing the spell, the caster puts his own force of will into it, thus determining the DC.

I never realized this was RAW, though, and in my games we have always used the casters int to set the DC. Do those of you who use the RAW rules not find that scrolls with saves become worthless as the wizard levels?

I would allow it with a Use Magic Device check.


Vestrial wrote:


I never realized this was RAW, though, and in my games we have always used the casters int to set the DC. Do those of you who use the RAW rules not find that scrolls with saves become worthless as the wizard levels?

Not at all. You simply don't use scrolls of things like fireball. Scrolls of fly, mage armor, knock, see invisibility, haste, etc.

Things you'll want to cast but that it doesn't matter if the spell has a low DC on the save throw because no one is going to save against it.

Since you can also craft scrolls with a higher caster level they also work ok for things that don't allow a save throw but do have better effects according to caster level like, dispel magic, resist energy, mirror image, etc.


Sean K Reynolds wrote:
Lathiira wrote:
That's an interesting idea and creates a rather odd situation. If I hand a scroll of fireball to a 5th level wizard with 19 Intelligence, I get a DC 17 fireball for 5d6 damage. When I pass it to the level 17 wizard with 28 Intelligence, I get 10d6 damage and a DC 22 blast. From the same scroll. How do you properly price an item when it's value is now contingent on the power of the user?

No. A scroll of fireball (with no other information specified) always assumes the minimum caster level and DC for the spell effect. No matter who uses that scroll, it's always a DC 14 5d6 fireball. If you want more dice, you gotta pay for a CL above 5th. If you want a higher DC, you gotta pay for Heighten Spell to treat it as a higher-level spell. Scrolls are cheap, and you get what you pay for: the bare minimum.

If you want a spell effect in an item to scale with the person holding it, you need a staff.

Potion: cheap, anyone can use, limited to 3rd-level spells
Scroll: cheap, requires spellcasting or UMD to activate, requires caster level check, minimal DC built into item
Wand: cheap, requires spellcasting or UMD to activate, minimal DC built into item
Staff: not cheap, requires spellcasting or UMD to activate, DC based on user

Thanks Sean, that's how we run it, I was quoting from upthread and pointing out the ramifications of someone's ruling but clarity is always welcome.


A purchased scroll has the minimum DC. If a PC scribes it goes off the PC's stats.


Lathiira wrote:
Sean K Reynolds wrote:
Lathiira wrote:
That's an interesting idea and creates a rather odd situation. If I hand a scroll of fireball to a 5th level wizard with 19 Intelligence, I get a DC 17 fireball for 5d6 damage. When I pass it to the level 17 wizard with 28 Intelligence, I get 10d6 damage and a DC 22 blast. From the same scroll. How do you properly price an item when it's value is now contingent on the power of the user?

No. A scroll of fireball (with no other information specified) always assumes the minimum caster level and DC for the spell effect. No matter who uses that scroll, it's always a DC 14 5d6 fireball. If you want more dice, you gotta pay for a CL above 5th. If you want a higher DC, you gotta pay for Heighten Spell to treat it as a higher-level spell. Scrolls are cheap, and you get what you pay for: the bare minimum.

If you want a spell effect in an item to scale with the person holding it, you need a staff.

Potion: cheap, anyone can use, limited to 3rd-level spells
Scroll: cheap, requires spellcasting or UMD to activate, requires caster level check, minimal DC built into item
Wand: cheap, requires spellcasting or UMD to activate, minimal DC built into item
Staff: not cheap, requires spellcasting or UMD to activate, DC based on user

Thanks Sean, that's how we run it, I was quoting from upthread and pointing out the ramifications of someone's ruling but clarity is always welcome.

That wasn't quite what I said. Even though it does some what contradict what Sean posted, I respectively disagree slightly.

What I was going with was, by your example, was a 5th level wizard with a 19 INT casting a scroll of fireball scribed at 5th level would do 5d6 damage, and have a DC of 17. That same scroll cast by the 17th level wizard with the 28 INT, from your example, would therefore cast a fireball of 5d6 damage with a DC of 22.

The spell is supposed to act just as if the individual caster cast it, except that the spell level that the spell was cast at is set at the time the scroll was scribed.

I read it this way, as otherwise, how would it be that the augmented summoning feat of a caster using a scroll would affect summoning spells as Jason indicated back in August last year?

Again, just my interpretation, but wanted to clarify what I meant previously.


Think of UMD as justification. If you have a really unwise Sorc using a scroll of healing, this would break the minimum stat to cast rule which is a pretty core concept.

If it was a really problem the group agreed upon, the GM just needs to introduce another cost modifier when making scrolls.

Something like:
spell level X caster level X stat modifier X 25(12.5)
Minimum stat required to cast THAT spell being a x1 multiplier and you can increase this up to the caster level's actual stat.
The cost increase is based on GM ruling but something like,
intelligence increase squared divided by ten. (then add this to the base 1 multiplier)&(this makes it reasonable to start but more and more costly to get POWER scrolls)

example:

minimum +2 2*2=4 4/10=.4 .4+1 = 1.4
minimum +4 4*4=16 16/10=1.6 1.6+1 = 2.6
minimum +6 4.6
minimum +8 7.4
minimum +10 11

Calculator required for some, but I feel those multipliers are pretty fair at balancing power of scrolls.(and other magic items)


@ Sniggevert

Yeah there are a few spots to read on this matter.

RAW
CRB 490-491
"A spell successfully activated from a scroll works exactly like a spell prepared and cast the normal way. Assume the scroll's caster level is always the minimum level required to cast the spell for the character who scribed the scroll, unless the scriber specifically desired otherwise."

This certainly is readable the way the O.P. see's unfortunately what it really means is:

1) The scroll is a spell completion item.
2) The CL of the scroll is determined by the scroll at the time of creation.

Here are the rules the O.P. can read to affirm this as true.

RAW:
CRB 491
"Staves use the wielder's ability score and relevant feats to set the DC for saves ... "
"Unlike with other sorts of magic items, the wielder CAN use his caster level ... "

Finally the one that excludes all other magic items from this special uber DC group.

RAW:
CRB 459
"For a saving throw against a spell of spell-like effect from a MAGIC ITEM, the DC is 10 + the level of the spell or spell-like effect + the ability modifier of the minimum ability score needed to cast that level of spell.
Staves are an exception to the rule. Treat the saving throw as if ... "

So there is the sad truth. :(

I need to find a way to get stronger scrolls too, currently looking into the break down of the cost of EVERY staff in the CRB I'll post my formula findings here. Hopefully that will give us a modifier for such a DC increase. Or perhaps a cost idea for a permanent wondrous magic item that allows you to alter other magic items you use with your own RELEVANT stat.


My reasonable house rule would be to make high DC scrolls costs as much as a one use staff.

Feat:
Improved scribe scroll
Prereq's: Minimum caster level 11, scribe scroll

Cost to create:
40 x spell level x CL(Minimum 8) (cost derived from staves, which is explained later)

Special:
You can only have one spell on an "Improved scroll"

If we assume this, then the (major)trade off is:

Weight and space is more of a burden for staves
vs
Staves can recharge

Which seems like a decent/fair trade off.
Plus staves are harder to sunder and can be used as a weapon(scroll masters don't count :P)
Also staves don't need to be deciphered

Still seems balanced.

I show my work/reasoning below
please feel free to ask about something my work you don't understand.
And definitely correct any math errors.

Using wizard spell levels:
-------------------------

EXAMPLE 1 (lvl 1 spell)
Scroll of sleep CL1
12.5gp
DC 11.

Staff of sleep CL8(minimum)
400x1x8 = 3200
3200/10 = 320 (Staffs have 10 charges, and this one uses 10 charges to cast sleep once)
DC 11 + YOUR casting stat of sleep spell

320/12.5 = 25.6 times the cost
-------------------------

EXAMPLE 2 (lvl 3 spell)
Scroll of fireball CL5
12.5x3x5 = 187.5
DC 14

Staff of fireball CL8(minimum)
400x3x8 = 9600
9600/10 = 960
DC 13 + YOUR casting stat of sleep spell

960/187.5 = 5.12 times the cost
-------------------------

EXAMPLE 3 (lvl 5 spell)
Scroll of feeblemind CL9
12.5x5x9 = 562.5
DC 17.

Staff of feeblemind CL9
400x5x9 = 18000
18000/10 = 1800
DC 15 + YOUR casting stat of sleep spell
-------------------------

Since 5th level spells have a caster level above 8, the multiplier difference between scrolls and THESE kinds of staves stays the same at this point.
which is 400/12.5 = 32 32/10 charges per use and we get 3.2
Only 3.2 times the cost!

Not too bad.
Roughly 25 times the cost on low level spells.
Medium level spells quickly drops to 5 times the cost.
High level spells finish with 3.2 times the cost on all spells level 5 or higher.

Other interesting facts!
Staffs do limit you by weight and space I suppose.

You can add spells to the same staff and save space, you even save some money on that new spell, but they draw from the same charges so not so great when we are using 10 charges that will take 10 days to replenish.

RAW: An efficient quiver will let you carry 6 additional staffs! This makes it semi reasonable to carry around times of trouble super DC's that have cost that is minimized.

Best of all, is it is all very legit.

You can almost justify throwing out a consumed staff, but what is better is to just toss it in your quiver, and charge it up when you don't need the spell slot.(max 1 per day) Then, when the staff is full, you can even sell it for the price you spent crafting it!
Technically speaking, that can make it CHEAPER then scrolls :D

Spent a few hours on this, feed back is appreciated.

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