Scrolls and Traditions


Age of Ashes


Pathfinder Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Age of Ashes - Hellknight Hill, Area A13, pg 24, has scrolls of fear and alarm.

Now, the core rulebook mentions that anyone can cast a spell from a scroll as long as it is on their tradition's spell list with a simple Recall Knowledge check of their own Tradition due to shared commonality.

But one of my players is experiencing a pain point on this particular matter. The exact contents of a scroll are kept a bit vague, but the general idea is that they contain a spell that has been cast into the paper and the scroll contains instructions on how to finish casting that spell. The stumbling block comes in where my player, a divine caster, wants to know the Tradition used by the scroll's scribe, because it's strange that an arcane caster can write the instructions to an arcane spell and a divine caster can pick it up, have no knowledge of arcane spells (not be trained in Arcana), and still follow the instructions to finish casting the spell perfectly. Did the arcane spellcaster just also write the instructions for divine casting despite possibly having no knowledge of it themselves? The rules as written just kind of hand-wave it, and that's fine for convenience purposes, but as somebody big on descriptions and IC understanding, the player is having a hard time just letting it go because they are not able to make it an associated (vs disassociated, or OoC) mechanic for their character.

Now, after discussion with one player in my game who frequently GMs 5e, we did come up with one possible solution, but checking the rulebook makes this one fall a bit apart too. The way this other player put it, a scroll could be thought of as a spell that has been sealed into a piece of paper, and the scroll itself just has a simple incantation that unlocks the spell and causes it to be cast. Your particular Tradition gives you the training to put your magic into the spell, so that's why it gains the descriptor of your Tradition and why a Recall Knowledge check based on your own Tradition does the job.

To support this, the 5e GM player pointed out that to add a scroll to their spellbook, the scroll is destroyed as an arcane caster takes the spell in the scroll apart to learn it and write it into their spellbook. But then I checked the rulebook. In PF2e, copying a scroll into a spellbook does not harm the scroll. This implies a scroll is largely instructions on how to cast a spell, and then we're back to "Is a scroll just automatically written for all the Traditions it can be associated with, even if the scribe doesn't know anything about the Traditions not their own?"

Which is the question I'm here to farm out an answer to.

TL;DR: Player having a hard time parsing scrolls being able to be used by anyone not trained in the Tradition the scribe used, even if they have a separate Tradition technically shared by the spell itself. How does the "commonality" there work?


Pathfinder Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

To clarify, player is fine with being able to cast a scroll prepared by a scribe of a Tradition not their own if they're at least Trained in the scribe's Tradition's Skill. It's where there is no crossover in Knowledge skills that creates a break in the logic train for them.

I do not want to just house rule that in order to use a scroll prepared by a different Tradition the caster must be Trained in both Traditions because you're suddenly mandating being Trained in 4 different skills for the more common spells if a player wants to ensure they'd be able to use any looted scrolls they come across.

What I seek are explanations that may satisfy the player, in other words, without reducing the usability of found scrolls.


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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Scrolls are crafted items where the parchment/ink is enchanted with the casting of a spell. There is no expectation of arcane casting to be able to make a scroll.

Just think of it as unleashing the power bound into the scroll. It's a spell on your player's list, so assuming he gave it the appropriate knowledge check, he is aware of what the spell entails and that triggering it will give him the power to cast that spell. That's how I'd parse it.

Truthfully, the only reason this is an issue is because you said it was an arcane scroll. If you had to assign a tradition to its creation, why didn't you just say it was a divine scroll and save them the headache?


Pathfinder Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I made no ruling on what type of scroll it was, we're currently just running the RAW. This is a system-wide issue, changing the titles in my example does not fix the explanation/issue.

If what's on the scroll is just magical ink with an incantation, how can a spellcaster learn a spell from a scroll written by someone not their Tradition if it has nothing else present and they are not Trained in the scribe's Tradition?


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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Anyone with a spell to cast and the ability to craft can charge a scroll. I'm just not sure where you're coming up with the idea that this absolutely must be an arcane spell here. That's for one.

It's the same with staves and wands. These are items that are crafted (usually by another) that allow you to cast spells that fit within your tradition but aren't generated by you necessarily. Staff is a little wobbly on that because you charge it, but not with your spell slots if you don't want to. The game world is full of magic items and abilities that you can gain outside of your normal spellcasting. So your magic comes from Shelyn? That's cool. She doesn't care if you use a scroll you found, as long as the spell contained within fits within the bounds of the magic she grants you and does not violate any of her anathema.

Pathfinder is really pretty literally built on the assumption that players will gain and use magic items of all sorts. If your player is having a hard time saying "My character wouldn't use this--it's not directly from my god," then they're going to have a big problem over time.

Scrolls have spells put directly into them. The spell is bound within the inks, no matter who made it. You aren't reading the recipe for how to perform it (though some can reverse-engineer the spell by reading the scroll). You are just unlocking the magic within and aiming it with your own magic ability.


Pathfinder Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Okay, so divine and arcane are literally just the examples that came up in play. Made sense the scribe was an arcane caster since they were probably a Signifier, and my typical understanding is that Signifiers are arcane casters. But that's besides the point. Replace divine with occult and arcane with primal and the issue still exists. Replace any of them with any other of them and the problem still exists. Has nothing to do with whether or not a thing comes from their god specifically. Missing the forest for the trees there.

Here's another way to think of the problem. Let's say the scribe can only cast Message in morse code. They create a scroll that casts a Message in morse code, because that's how they know to cast the spell. Let's say someone who can cast spells in psychic brain waves picks up the scroll. They know absolutely nothing about morse code, but the scroll only describes the morse code methodology of casting Message. How does this brain wave caster who knows nothing about morse code deduce the method of casting the scroll with naught but a simple glance represented by a Recall Knowledge check?


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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Still? Okay.

Because what is written is not the power. The spell itself is literally cast into the scroll, and using whatever method of writing necessary, the creator binds it all together. There's many ways to cast a spell, but the underlying spell is the same. Doesn't matter if you're a druid of the wilds casting via your connection to the earth, if you're a studied wizard casting via your understanding of the inherent magical frictions in the world, if you're a holy cleric casting via your god's direct blessing and instruction, or if you're a bard casting by tapping into the magical flow of the universe through a bizarre melody... Alarm is the same damn spell underneath it all.

No matter the language you speak or read, no matter the tradition your casting comes from, etc. It doesn't matter. You recall knowledge about the scroll if you can't naturally read it, and if you succeed, you are aware of the magic bound up in the scroll. If it's a spell you have some form of access to, whether by direct or approximate knowledge, you can consume the scroll, take the magic into yourself, and cast it. It's not about reading an incantation off the page, nor is it about comprehending what's been written. It's about activating the magic stored within.

You're operating under the assumption that an Alarm spell cast through a divine conduit is different from one cast by a primal connection to nature. It's not. Alarm is Alarm. Where that power comes from, to create the casting, doesn't change the spell. So if the power comes prepackaged within a scroll, that doesn't change how a bard handles the actual manifestation of the magic compared to if they cast it from their own repertoire.

The writing is just the lock on the door. If it's a spell you actively know, you can just open that door. If it's a spell within your tradition, you can use a recall knowledge check like a lockpick--still get it open, still have full access, but you didn't necessarily get to simply walk in. The writing is not the magic, the caster does not read the scroll to unleash its power, and the tradition/language it's recorded in does not determine anything at all about the nature of the spell within.


Pathfinder Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Now that I may be able to use. Similar to the way I described it to him, but better worded. Thank you much. I guess wizards with their spellbook take the time to work the spell out and therefore just copy it without destroying it?

On the off chance it doesn't satisfy this player, anyone else got a different headcanon/explanation they might be able to provide?

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