Acolytes and Scrolls

Just ran into an issue that I don’t believe has ever come up in one of my Classic D&D games before: a 1st-level cleric came into possession of a clerical scroll with two spells. Can 1st-level clerics cast the spells on scrolls?

There is no question in AD&D, of course, since 1st-level clerics in in AD&D can cast spells. But clerics in Classic D&D (B/X in this case) cannot cast spells until 2nd level. I happen to like this rule immensely, but now I am wondering about this acolyte and his scroll.

I decided that–unless I found a compelling case saying otherwise–the cleric COULD read the holy words and tap into the holy powers that they trigger. It just seems to make sense to me and 1st-level characters are squishy enough already.

Lo and behold, I found this question asked on a Dragonsfoot thread from 2014 and it’s even specifically asking about B/X. Even more surprising, the strong majority opinion was that, yes, 1st-level clerics can use clerical spell scrolls. I feel slightly validated.

I’m definitely inclined to allow it. Especially since I have scaled back turning the undead a bit. Even though I tend to see clerics more as mystic warriors than priestly medics, their ability to access the divine power or the Light (or the Darkness) is a fundamental component of the class.

So let it be written, so let it be done. Unless someone convinces me otherwise.

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4 Responses to Acolytes and Scrolls

  1. JB says:

    Again, this is something I’d infer from the text in the basic book, specifically from Part 7 (Treasure) re: scrolls.

    The inability of a 1st level cleric to cast spells isn’t so much a prohibition as it is a reward (or “gained power”) from advancing in level. After all, there’s no stipulation that prevents a 3rd level magic-user from using a scroll with a 6th level spell (presuming the use of read magic, of course), despite the character being limited to learning/casting 1st and 2nd level spells.

    I’m certain you made the right call.
    : )

    • Kilgore says:

      Yeah I totally agree. I was surprised that it seems to be an overwhelming opinion, though. Generally this sort of thing brings out the pitchforks and polearms.

      I also want to say that I appreciate your feedback on B/X-related topics. I respect your opinion a great deal.

  2. Reese Laundry says:

    I agree 100%. The power of a spell from a scroll is placed into the item on creation – it doesn’t come from the reader. I see no reason why a 1st level cleric wouldn’t be able to cast those spells.

    • Kilgore says:

      Yes. I like the idea that the magic is somehow bound up in the scroll and that the words release it, but–since clerical scrolls are written in common–I do think that some spellcasting ability is needed to trigger it. Otherwise a fighter reading those words could unlock the power, and I don’t think that’s at all correct.

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