Monday, November 26, 2012

Scroll Week Day 1: Number of Spells per Scroll

Ever since I wrote the post Scrutinizing the Scroll: Papyrus, Parchment and Vellum back in February of this year, it has continually been the most-viewed page in the history of this blog. With Comprehending the Quill and Investigating Ink, it's formed a trilogy that I hope someday finds life as a stand-alone supplement with a comprehensive approach to scroll creation for OSR editions (generically). After all, no matter which old-school edition you prefer, the rules regarding scroll creation are skimpy at best. So with that in mind, I put forth this week's post to cover some of the bases that I feel are uncovered by the rulebooks, but easily addressed. Today, I'll address the need for rules regarding the number of spells that may be inscribed on a single scroll...

Scroll Space Requirements

More than one spell may be inscribed on a single piece of papyrus, parchment, or vellum. However, the total space required for inscription is dependent upon the level and type of spells being inscribed, as well as the level of the spellcaster inscribing the scroll.

The maximum number of spells that a spellcaster may inscribe on a standard-sized sheet is a sum of spell levels no greater than the level of the spell caster (e.g., a 9th level magic-user may inscribe one 4th level spell and one 5th level spell on the same page, but may not inscribe two 5th level spells on the same page).

The maximum number of spells allowed on a standard-sized sheet (while not accounting for the scribe's spellcasting level) is a sum of spell levels no greater than 20 (e.g., two 9th level spells and one 2nd level spell would fit on the same scroll, but two 9th level spells and one 3rd level spell would not.)

Scrolls requiring more space must utilize a larger sheet, rather than a series of “attached” sheets. Any attempt to glue or bind multiple sheets together will cause impurities and “blemishes” to the scroll’s surface, hindering or possibly even nullifying the intended effects of the scroll.


  1. How about

    Since you can roll up into one roller and unroll from the other, you can expose just one spell at a time. Have the player record the scroll like this on the character sheet: M-U scroll (vellum): Magic Missile, Haste, Sleep. Just a check next to the spell you would see if you opened it (it's the first spell if there's no mark). It takes one full round to shift to the next spell in any direction.

    So why not have all your spells on one scroll? Because the rollers take up weight and space. It's probably best to use 2-3 spells per scroll. If you go without rollers, your scroll needs to be unrolled and exposed down to the spell you want, which may take longer and leave more of the scroll open to disaster.

    Or, you can put your spells on individual scrolls and roll them up into a scroll tube. The problem here is that you need a tube per scroll, or else jam a bunch of scrolls into one tube and fumble with them every time you take them out.

    Or, you can bind the scrolls into a book, with the covers being the protective shield. In this case you need to spend time flipping to the correct page, and if you want to change the order of the spells it's a huge hassle.

    Or, you can have a square protective cave that looks like a book, but there's no binding. The pages are bound together without individual covers, a few pages each, each comprising one spell. This way you can swap out the order all you like.

    I don't think there's a best method. Maybe if you have only a couple scrolls the easiest thing is to stick them in tubes. But it's not like all the adventurers will need to use the same method.

  2. You've made some interesting points, but for me it's not so much an "access" issue, as it is a "purity" issue when inscribing the spell on the original sheet of paper. Let me explain...

    "Longer" scrolls on rollers that most people think of traditionally (e.g., the torah, or some of the Egyptian scrolls) are actually composed of separate "sheets" of vellum or (more commonly) papyrus that have been "glued together" to form "longer sheets". If you read the DMG literally, the "unblemished" sheet required for a scroll could not be blemished by the addition of a glue. So each scroll would have to be prepared first, then (once the magic has been "infused" into the sheet) you could (within reason) glue the prepared spell scroll to another prepared scroll however you see fit. And I don't believe a scroll scribe should able to put part of a spell on one sheet and the rest of it on another. The limitation, therefore, is simply the size of the (pre-glued) sheet.