Arcane Script

Int ACP: No Untrained: No

Use this skill to piece together the meaning of ancient runes carved into the wall of an abandoned temple, to interpret the mysterious glyphs painted on a cave wall, to identify and create magic symbols and diagrams, and to decipher and create magical writings.


You can decipher magical symbols and diagrams, identify spell glyphs, read magical writings, draw magical diagrams, and scribe spell scrolls.

Arcane Script Uses
Task Arcane Script DC Action Try Again
Decipher a symbol or diagram 20 to 30 1 minute No, until you gain at least 1 rank in Arcane Script
Identify a spell glyph 20 + spell level No action (done in the course of viewing the glyph normally) No, until you gain at least 1 rank in Arcane Script
Read a piece of magical writing (such as a scroll) 20 + spell level 1 minute per spell level (or 1 minute per page, about 250 words) One try per day
Construct a magical diagram Usage-dependent, usually 20 or higher 10 minutes for a basic diagram (such as the one used in a magic circle spell); potentially much longer for others Yes (but materials must be used anew each time)
Learn a spell from a spellbook (wizard only) or scroll (wizard or witch only). 15 + spell level 8 hours No, until you gain at least 1 rank in Arcane Script (even if you find another source to try to learn the spell from)
Prepare a spell from a borrowed spellbook (wizard only). 15 + spell level Preparation time doubled for that spell One try per day
Use a scroll of a spell which is on your spell list 1 + scroll's caster level Varies (depends on spell) Yes (but failure might cause a mishap; see below)
Use a scroll of a spell which is not on your spell list 10 + scroll's caster level Varies (depends on spell) Yes (but failure might cause a mishap; see below)

Deciphering symbols and diagrams

You can decipher the nature, content, and purpose of symbols or diagrams that have some arcane purpose or structure. Such things might include:

(This usage of Arcane Script does not include reading magical writings which encode spells; see Reading magical writings, below. It also does not include reading text which is merely written in a foreign language, which requires the Linguistics skill to decipher.)

The DCs for deciphering symbols and diagrams typically range from 20 (for basic or common symbols) to 30 (for esoteric or complex ones).

If you fail to decipher a magical symbol or diagram, you must make a DC 5 Wisdom check. Success on this check means that you simply fail to decipher the symbol or diagram. Failure on the Wisdom check means that you get a misleading or false idea about the symbol or diagram. The DM makes both checks (the Arcane Script check and the Wisdom check) in secret, because you do not know if you have successfully deciphered the symbol or diagram, or failed to do so and drawn a false conclusion instead.

Succeeding at a Knowledge check to identify the general sort of symbol or diagram before you (e.g. "this is the sort of rune which is often written on ancient Suloise burial chambers" grants a +2 bonus on your Arcane Script check to decipher it. Succeeding at a Knowledge check to identify the specific symbol or diagram before you (e.g. "this is the rune called Nogath-Nor, inscribed here in the year CY –430 by the high priestess of Beltar") grants a +4 bonus on your Arcane Script check to decipher it.

Identifying spell glyphs

You can identify glyphs of warding, symbols, and other magical sigils which contain or constitute spell effects. Note that attempting to identify certain spell glyphs (such as those created by a symbol spell), or even looking at them, may trigger their effects. Unfortunately, it is usually impossible to determine this until it's too late.

The DC for identifying a spell glyph is 20 + the level of the spell.

Failing to identify a spell glyph generally means you fail to draw any conclusion about its nature. If you fail by 10 or more, you do not even know that it is a spell glyph.

Casting detect magic and successfully identifying the spell glyph's school of magic by its aura grants you a +4 bonus on your Arcane Script check to identify the spell glyph.

Reading magical writings

You can decipher an arcane magical writing (such as a single spell in a spellbook or on a scroll). Once you have deciphered a particular piece of magical writing, you need not decipher it again.

Deciphering a scroll allows you to cast the spell which is written on it (see Casting spells from scrolls).

Deciphering a spell scribed in a spellbook allows you to prepare it (if you are a wizard). If you are a wizard, deciphering a spell either on a scroll or in a spellbook also allows you to learn the spell or copy it into your spellbook. (See the rules for learning and preparing spells, in chapter 9 of the Pathfinder Core Rulebook, for details.) If you are a witch, your familiar may decipher a spell on a scroll (and then consume the scroll), allowing you to learn the spell (but witches can't learn spells from spellbooks).

The DC for deciphering a piece of magical writing is 20 + the level of the spell. If the person who created the magical writing is on hand to help you, success is automatic. Failure means that you can't attempt to decipher the same magical writing until the next day.

Note that while merely reading most magical writings does not trigger their effects, certain cursed scrolls, vacuous grimoires, and other texts of malicious intent may have ill effects when read.

Constructing magic diagrams

You can construct magic diagrams, such as those used in certain rituals or incantations, as well as in bindings and callings of extraplanar creatures.

The DC to construct a calling diagram to enhance the effect of a magic circle spell is 20. (See the magic circle against evil spell description for more information.) The DCs to construct other sorts of magic diagrams is given in the descriptions of the rituals or incantations that use them; see the Incantations page for details.

Failing an Arcane Script check to construct a magic diagram generally means that the diagram is ineffective. The consequences of this vary according to the purpose and nature of the diagram; see individual spell, ritual, or incantation descriptions for details. The DM makes the Arcane Script check to construct a magic diagram in secret, as you generally do not know whether the diagram is effective until it must be used.

Scribing scrolls

Casting spells from scrolls

To activate a scroll, a character must first decipher it (see Reading magic writings). Deciphering a scroll to determine its contents does not activate its magic unless it is a specially prepared cursed scroll. A character can decipher a scroll in advance so that he can proceed directly to the next step when the time comes to use the scroll.

Actually 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 (for example, Drawmij's instant summons and snare). 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. (Note that a character who lacks a caster level in a class which has the scroll's spell on its spell list makes his concentration check with an effective caster level of 0.) Using a scroll always requires speaking aloud, even if the spell normally has no verbal components. A spell cast from a scroll has no somatic components, and thus incurs no arcane spell failure chance (but does require that a character have both hands free, or have some other way to physically manipulate the scroll, i.e. unroll it).

To activate the scroll, make an Arcane Script check (against the DC given on the table above). Success means that the spell is cast successfully.

If you fail the Arcane Script check by 4 or less, the spell is not cast, and the scroll is not used up.

If you fail the Arcane Script check by 5 or more, a mishap may occur (which uses up the scroll just as if the spell had been cast successfully). The chance of a mishap is equal to 25%, plus 5% for every point beyond 5 by which you fail the check (to a maximum of 100%). (If a mishap doesn't occur, then the spell isn't cast and the scroll is not used up, just as if you had failed the Arcane Script check by only 4 or less.)

If a mishap occurs, the exact nature of the mishap depends on the specific spell you are attempting to cast. A DM may roll on the table below to determine what happens, choose an appropriate event from those listed, or invent another sort of mishap, in line with the examples given. (If rolling, the DM should make this roll in secret, as for certain sorts of mishaps, the character may not necessarily immediately realize what has occurred.)

Scroll Mishaps
d100 Mishap description
01–19 A surge of uncontrolled magical power deals 1d6 points of damage per spell level to the scroll user.
20–39 Spell strikes the scroll user or an ally instead of the intended target, or a random target nearby if the scroll user was the recipient.
40–59 Spell takes effect at some random location within spell range.
60–69 Spell's effect on the target is contrary to the spell's normal effect. For example, a fireball might produce a blast of nondamaging cold or release a burst of healing energy.
70–79 The scroll user suffers some minor but bizarre effect related to the spell in some way. For example, a fireball might cause smoke to pour from the user’s ears, a fly spell might turn the user’s arms into nonfunctional wings, or a clairaudience/clairvoyance spell might cause the user’s eyes and ears to grow to ten times their normal size. Most such effects should last only as long as the original spell’s duration, or 2d10 minutes for instantaneous spells.
80-89 Some innocuous item or items appear in the spell’s area. For example, a fireball might cause a rain of lit torches to fall in the target area; a feather fall spell might produce a cloud of feathers; a passwall spell might cause a (nonfunctional) door to appear.
90-99 Spell has delayed effect. Sometime within the next 1d12 hours, the spell activates. If the scroll user was the intended recipient, the spell takes effect normally. If the user was not the intended recipient, the spell goes off in the general direction of the original recipient or target, up to the spell’s maximum range, if the target has moved away.
100 By a freak coincidence, the spell works normally.


Varies; see Table: Arcane Script Uses.

See the Scrolls section of the Mundane & Magical Equipment? page for information about the time it takes to scribe scrolls.

Taking 10 & 20

If you are not threatened and under no time pressure, you can take 10 or take 20 on an Arcane Script check to construct a magic diagram (if you take 20, you may waste a large amount of materials in the process). You can take 10, but not take 20, on checks to decipher a symbol or diagram, identify a spell glyph, read magical writings, or scribe a scroll. (Although note that you can, in a sense, "take 20" on a check to read a piece of magical writing, such as a scroll by trying again day after day; after approximately three weeks, you will have managed to understand the writing.)


Constructing a magic diagram may require special paints or materials to trace the diagram, chisels and other tools to inscribe it on a stone surface, etc.; see individual spell, ritual, or incantation descriptions for details. Scribing scrolls requires special inks, quills, and other materials; see the Scrolls section of the Mundane & Magical Equipment? page for details. Other uses of the Arcane Script skill require no special tools.

A character may aid another in the construction of a magic diagram. Doing so requires that the assistant make an Arcane Script check against a DC 10 lower than the DC to construct the diagram. If successful, the assistant grants the character constructing the diagram a +2 bonus on his check. Failure on the aid another check incurs no special consequences. Only one character may assist at a time; additional assistants provide no further benefit.


Characters of any class may use the Arcane Script skill to do everything except scribe scrolls. Scribing a scroll requires that the character doing so be able to cast the spell he wishes to scribe.

Only wizards can learn spells from spellbooks. Only wizards and witches can learn spells from scrolls.

Category: Skills

Arcane Script