Sunday, May 12, 2013

Scribe Skill


SCRIBE skill measures one’s familiarity and understanding of the hieroglyphics that make up the written languages of Barsoom. “All Barsoomians speak the same tongue from ice clad north to ice clad south, though their written languages often differ.”  (P XV).  Scribe skill applies to identifying, comprehending and using books, scrolls, tomes and other writing of mundane, literary, technical or esoteric nature.  Many writing encountered are instruction manuals, knowledgeable compositions or self-improvement guides (+1 to select ability score after 1 month of study); however, scrolls may be found that are a divine or arcane nature.

            When a scroll is found; it will have d4 – 1 spells inscribed, treating a result of ‘0’ as a treasure map.  These spells will be at d4 caster level (p.44).      Scroll usage is basically like casting a spell but the scroll must be read aloud and no material or somatic components are required.  Unlike a memorized or known spell which usually takes just one round to cast, a spell read from a scroll requires one round per level to read, or the duration listed under spell description, whichever is greater.  Written upon parchment or velum, scrolls store their magical power within their inscription and the substrate of their specially prepared inks.  The writing vanishes from the page when the magic is activated. 

DC = 10+ Twice Spell Level,

            +2  if caster of different race than transcriber,
            +5  if caster of different class than transcriber,
             -3  if caster is also the transcriber of the scroll.

No personal energy, karma or casting ability is lost when casting a spell from a scroll. Multiple spells might be contained on a single scroll or sheet.    Once a scroll is discerned or identified, the DC of casting a specific spell equals ten plus twice the spell level. Protection scrolls may be read or cast by a member of any class without penalty. There is generally no ill effect from improperly reading any scroll unless it is secretly cursed, 

Examples; a 5th level priest finds a scroll with the iconic third level magic-user spell, fireball, hence, his DC would be twenty one (21= 10 +3x2 +5).  The same priest also prepared his own scroll with the second level spell, phantom bowman; the DC to cast this spell would only be eleven (11 = 10 +2x2 -3) and the casting or reading time would be two rounds.

When using or transcribing a scroll, if the character fails the attempt, the enchanted writing fades from the page, lost forever, but no ill effect is noticed. When reading a scroll, if the character rolls a natural ‘1’, the spell will fail with undesirable and unpredictable effects according to this table:


d6 is rolled for  spell  failure   

            1)         Caster ages d6 years
            2)         Caster is subjected to spell’s effects  
            3)         Caster has body change; tail, ears, feet, etc. 
            4)         Spell affects random friend or foe in range
            5)         Spell effect delayed for d4 rounds
            6)         Obscuring cone of glitter, insects or mist _


A scroll, spell or enchanted item also will fail if centered or cast upon another spell caster and that target rolls a natural twenty on his saving throw.

            If a priest desires to transcribe or write a spell onto a scroll that he already ‘knows’; DC is 10+ twice Spell Level. Materials are available at GM’s discretion.  The typical cost is 100 gold coins and one week’s work for each spell of the first level, 200 gold coins and two weeks work for each spell of the second level spell, and so on.  

Unless your GM wants to explore the Valley of Lost Souls making the campaign high fantasy; it is best that most gadgets or items that are found, ‘liberated ’or stolen by the players are modeled after Post-Apocalypse or Science-Fiction themed games such as Gamma World ©, Mutant Future © or       D20 Modern © to name a few inspirational works.

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