Riffle Scroll Activation


Rules Questions

Liberty's Edge

18 people marked this as FAQ candidate.

The text for this item is in conflict. It says both that method of activation is different and that it is exactly the same.

Does a Riffle Scroll need to be read to be activated?


I'll mark it as a FAQ candidate, sure. Here is the text in question, emphasis mine:

Inner Sea Magic wrote:


A riffle scroll is similar to a standard scroll, but its methods of activation and shape are quite different. A riffle scroll is a wondrous item that holds the power of a single spell. Each riffle scroll is a thin booklet, similar in shape to a chapbook (but somewhat smaller), containing 25 to 50 pages of eldritch symbols. When held between thumb and forefinger and riffled through in a quick manner, the motion of the pages turning activates the magic within, simultaneously completing casting of the spell and erasing the booklet.

A riffle scroll uses spell completion as its activation type, just as do normal scrolls. Characters who cannot cast the spell contained in a riffle scroll must rely on Use Magic Device to activate the magic held within. Riffle scrolls are treated exactly as scrolls for the purposes of deciphering the writing, activating the spell, and determining its effects (including the chances for mishaps), save for the fact that riffle scrolls do not require verbal components—they automatically function as if they were cast using the Silent Spell metamagic feat. Activating a riffle scroll provokes attacks of opportunity just like casting a spell. Magical silence does not interfere with using a riffle scroll. Activating a riffle scroll requires one free hand. A riffle scroll uses the normal casting time for the inscribed spell, even if the user or creator is of a class that has increased casting times when using metamagic effects.

Core Rulebook: Scrolls wrote:


Activation: To activate a scroll, a spellcaster must read the spell written on it. This involves several steps and conditions.

Decipher the Writing: The writing on a scroll must be deciphered before a character can use it or know exactly what spell it contains. This requires a read magic spell or a successful Spellcraft check (DC 20 + spell level). Deciphering a scroll is a full-round action.

Deciphering a scroll to determine its contents does not activate its magic unless it is a specially prepared cursed scroll. A character can decipher the writing on a scroll in advance so that she can proceed directly to the next step when the time comes to use the scroll.

Activate the Spell: Activating a scroll requires reading the spell from the scroll. The character must be able to see and read the writing on the scroll. Activating a scroll spell requires no material components or focus. (The creator of the scroll provided these when scribing the scroll.) Note that some spells are effective only when cast on an item or items. In such a case, the scroll user must provide the item when activating the spell. Activating a scroll spell is subject to disruption just as casting a normally prepared spell would be. Using a scroll is like casting a spell for purposes of arcane spell failure chance.

I am of the opinion that you must be able to read the scroll to cast it as the riffle scroll description states that riffle scrolls are treated exactly the same as normal scrolls for the purposes of activating the spell on the scroll. The normal rules for scrolls require you to read it, therefore the riffle scroll requires you to read it.

Edit: Here's another piece of the riffle scroll entry I completely overlooked:

Inner Sea Magic wrote:


To scribe a riffle scroll, you must use up raw materials costing half of its market price. Scribing a riffle scroll takes 1 day for each 1,000 gp in its base price, with a minimum of 1 day of work. Although an individual riffle scroll might contain more than one spell, each spell must be scribed as a separate effort, meaning that no more than 1 spell can be scribed in a day.

How do you decide which spell on the scroll to cast if not by looking at it?


2 people marked this as a favorite.

I think this is a case of reading too much into this.

A Riffle Scroll is a Silenced Scroll. Done. End of the issue. Treat it exactly identically except it's silent. The flipping through pages and whatnot is a replacement for reading it out loud, not for reading it at all--plus it's mostly fluff anyway.

Edit: What the heck is going on with my avatar? Why is a picture of some random book cover? What happened to my picture of Pharasma that my account page still says is what I have selected?

Sovereign Court

Robert A Matthews wrote:
Inner Sea Magic wrote:


A riffle scroll is similar to a standard scroll, but its methods of activation and shape are quite different. A riffle scroll is a wondrous item that holds the power of a single spell. Each riffle scroll is a thin booklet, similar in shape to a chapbook (but somewhat smaller), containing 25 to 50 pages of eldritch symbols. When held between thumb and forefinger and riffled through in a quick manner, the motion of the pages turning activates the magic within, simultaneously completing casting of the spell and erasing the booklet.

A riffle scroll uses spell completion as its activation type, just as do normal scrolls. Characters who cannot cast the spell contained in a riffle scroll must rely on Use Magic Device to activate the magic held within. Riffle scrolls are treated exactly as scrolls for the purposes of deciphering the writing, activating the spell, and determining its effects (including the chances for mishaps), save for the fact that riffle scrolls do not require verbal components—they automatically function as if they were cast using the Silent Spell metamagic feat. Activating a riffle scroll provokes attacks of opportunity just like casting a spell. Magical silence does not interfere with using a riffle scroll. Activating a riffle scroll requires one free hand. A riffle scroll uses the normal casting time for the inscribed spell, even if the user or creator is of a class that has increased casting times when using metamagic effects.

And I will counter as I did in the other thread. The mechanic of riffling the page (where it clearly states the motion of which activates the magic, completing the casting ... please note that the sentence containing this is not fluff but rather a mechanic for using the item) is for those who can cast the spell without the scroll (i.e. - it is on their spell list).

The second paragraph deals with those who must use UMD and for those individuals the item is treated as a regular scroll. This view is backed up by the inclusion of the line "including the chances for mishaps" which does not apply to those who use scrolls of spells they can otherwise cast.

Additionally, while the word "scroll" is in its name and Scribe Scroll is used to create them, it is identified as a "wondrous item" in the body of it's description. An argument could be made that this is just fluff, but as both "scroll" and "wondrous item" are clearly defined item types (though the creation for the riffle scroll would be a variant for wondrous item creation), this could be an additional counter to the rule of standard scroll activation applying across the board instead of to those who cannot typically cast the spell contained within the item.


I am not disagreeing with the fact that you riffle the pages to activate it. What I am saying is that nothing suggests that you don't have to read it in order to activate it. Whether it is a wondrous item or not means absolutely nothing, the only thing that matters is its activation type, which is spell completion. The second paragraph is not just for UMD, it tells all the rules of the riffle scroll. So how do you decide which spell to cast on a riffle scroll if it has more than one spell on it? Does it cast every spell on the scroll when you flip the pages? If all you are doing is flipping the pages to activate it, then why not?

Inner Sea Magic wrote:


A riffle scroll uses spell completion as its activation type, just as do normal scrolls. Characters who cannot cast the spell contained in a riffle scroll must rely on Use Magic Device to activate the magic held within. Riffle scrolls are treated exactly as scrolls for the purposes of deciphering the writing, activating the spell, and determining its effects (including the chances for mishaps), save for the fact that riffle scrolls do not require verbal components—they automatically function as if they were cast using the Silent Spell metamagic feat. Activating a riffle scroll provokes attacks of opportunity just like casting a spell. Magical silence does not interfere with using a riffle scroll. Activating a riffle scroll requires one free hand. A riffle scroll uses the normal casting time for the inscribed spell, even if the user or creator is of a class that has increased casting times when using metamagic effects.

A riffle scroll is the same as a normal scroll, except you can use it one-handed, and it has no verbal component. That's it.

Sovereign Court

From the PRD:

PRD wrote:
Spell Completion: This is the activation method for scrolls. A scroll is a spell that is mostly finished. The preparation is done for the caster, so no preparation time is needed beforehand as with normal spellcasting. All that's left to do is perform the finishing parts of the spellcasting (the final gestures, words, and so on). To use a spell completion item safely, a character must be of high enough level in the right class to cast the spell already. If he can't already cast the spell, there's a chance he'll make a mistake. Activating a spell completion item is a standard action (or the spell's casting time, whichever is longer) and provokes attacks of opportunity exactly as casting a spell does.

From Riffle scrolls:

ISM wrote:
When held between thumb and forefinger and riffled through in a quick manner, the motion of the pages turning activates the magic within, simultaneously completing casting of the spell and erasing the booklet.

Based off the PRD listing for spell activation (which does not specify reading as being required of ALL spell activation items), I can see no issue with having the activation of riffle scrolls function exactly as the activation method is laid out within the Riffle Scroll entry, that is the motion of the flipping pages activates the magic within the riffle scroll. This would be considered the equivalent of the "final gestures" and would meet the requirements of spell completion.

Now scrolls themselves do have an additional requirements, but if this is indeed a wondrous item that is treated as a scroll for those who cannot otherwise cast the spell themselves and must therefore use UMD, then I would argue that the scroll specific requirements would not apply to those who are not required to use UMD to activate the item.

As to the "how do you pick the spell?" question, how does one pick the spell from a ring of spell storing? I would think the mechanic would be the same in both cases.


Then what happens when you have a riffle scroll with multiple spells on it. If merely flipping the pages activates the magic, then does every spell on the scroll activate simultaneously? Also, since a riffle scroll counts as exactly the same as a scroll, it must be read as that is a requirement of scrolls.

Sovereign Court

Sorry I added an EDIT while you were responding. For multiple spells, I would expect it would function in the same vein as a ring of spell storing where the user picks the spell to be cast from those contained within the item.

And my point is, which you are repeatedly ignoring, that the way it is written, it could be interpreted as it is treated as exactly the same as a scroll for those who must use UMD to activate it. On that point we obviously disagree, so let's just drop that aspect because we are obviously not going to be able to convince either of the others view short of an official answer.


Let me make sure I understand you correctly. You state the second paragraph pertains to those who must use UMD to activate the riffle scroll and not for users who are able to cast the spell.

So I pose this question: Does someone who is using UMD to activate the riffle scroll have to read it in order to activate it?

If not, then you are choosing to ignore the fact that it specifically says they treat it the same as a scroll(therefore requiring them to read it). If they do have to read it then it would be the only item that i have ever heard of in the entire game that has a different method of activation depending on who uses it. Also, by your own argument, flipping the pages activates it, not reading it, so why would they have to?

Sovereign Court

Robert, as I said, neither of us is gong to convince the other of their view short of an official ruling on it. Hence my statement/request of just dropping that aspect. Which you apparently did not read. So, one final time:

To summarize my stance:

There are two possible scenarios for the use of the item.

1) The user can cast the spell (i.e. - it is on their spell list). This user may activate the item as per the alternate item activation mechanic as laid out within the item description (that is, "When held between thumb and forefinger and riffled through in a quick manner, the motion of the pages turning activates the magic within, simultaneously completing casting of the spell and erasing the booklet.").

2) The user cannot otherwise cast the spell (i.e. - they need to use UMD in order to use the item). This user treats the item as they would a regular scroll. This would include reading it in order to activate the magic contained within the device.

That's as clear as I can make it for you. If that does not do it, then just drop it until an official ruling is made, otherwise we will just debate this in circles and it will accomplish nothing.

As to it being the only item "in the entire game that has a different method of activation depending on who uses it" might I then point out items such as:

1) Dwarven Thrower - +2 in the hands of a non-dwarf, +3 returning in the hands of a dwarf. A successful UMD check to emulate a race (DC 25), however, would allow a non-dwarf to use it as a dwarf.

2) Sun Blade - good aligned weapons that when wielded by evil beings imparts a negative level. UMD (DC 30) would allow an evil creature to emulate a good alignment and therefore not suffer the effects of the negative level.

3) Horn of Goodness/Evil - in the hands of a neutral character it is useless ... unless they succeed in a DC 30 UMD check to emulate a good or evil alignment.

4) Robe of the Archmagi - same thing ... UMD DC30 to emulate the needed alignment.

5) Druid's Vestments - if a PC somehow manages to get the ability to wildshape via another item (but doe not have the wildshape ability), a DC 20 UMD to emulate the wildshape ability could allow them an additional use of wildshape by means of the Vestments (though this one could be debated ... and I would probably not allow it in a home game, but it is still a possibility as far as the rules go).

And furthermore, any arcane wand in the hands of a non-arcane class (requires UMD rather than simply using the device ... or divine wand in the hands of a non-divine class). Same for scrolls of the same nature (which, considering the topic at hand, I find to be surprising that you would even therefore mention the differences in activation requirements being an issue ... a non caster using a scroll needs to make a minimum of 1 UMD check if not 2 after all).

Additionally, the method of activation is really not different. Both are spell completion. The method to getting the spell completion is different. Just like using the dwarven thrower as a human to get the full power of the item is different than if the wielder were a dwarf.

All these items are in the CRB. Some have been around since 1e or 2e (if not all of them).

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

Threadromancy I know. I just couldn't find a clear answer on this. They are Wondrous Items, with spell completion. I'd point out Tattoo spells are also Wondrous Items with spell completion, and the just have to be touched. Is anyone arguing you have to be able to see them?


Yes, some folks were arguing just that above (six years ago).

The fact that they are spell completion doesn't lend much weight to either interpretation. One spell completion item might require reading/seeing it, while another might not. It depends on the specific item in question, and the description for riffle scrolls is confusing enough that folks disagreed on whether it was necessary to see a riffle scroll in order to activate it.

I don't really know what the intent was, but then I don't use them in my games. Their mechanical niche is already filled by scrolls scribed with Silent Spell already applied; and their description is verbose and confusing. The idea is interesting, but the execution is lacking.

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