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9/24/2019 5:56 am  #1

Read Magic & Read Scroll abilities

This is my first, and perhaps only 'RAW' question on this forum, and if it's been addressed elsewhere please forgive me.

Looking at the _read magic_ class ability of magicians and their subclasses (2e, p.15), I see two different ways to interpret how it works.  I'm curious which one is closer to the authors' intent:

A) It is a mundane skill no different from knowing other written languages.  This interpretation suggests that all magical writings (including all _sorcerer mark_ spells) use a common alphabet or set of symbols, which magicians and others are trained to read.

B) It is a "spell-like ability" whose use actually enjoins a measure of magical energy, though less than what is tied up in memorized spells proper.  This latter view is natural for Old Schoolers familiar with OD&D/AD&D/Basic, where _read magic_ was a first level MU spell (and then codified by the 1979 DMG to be known to every MU), as well as later editions in which it became a cantrip or an "at-will ability."

One might ask, what difference does it make?  Well, one instance that comes to mind is when a magician suffers the effects of exhaustion or extreme distraction (as from eg. the musk of a Giant Ferret).  In that case she still might use the ability under reading (A), but not reading (B) since she is unable to cast spells.

The question further applies to the _read scroll_ ability of all sorcerers, though it's perhaps less of an issue since there is no real departure from the AD&D rules in this case.

I look forward to your thoughts on this matter.


9/24/2019 8:01 am  #2

Re: Read Magic & Read Scroll abilities

It's somewhere in between I think, but more towards the mundane.

If it was spell-like then there would be a spell for it rather than just a class ability.

Also, it's generally agreed upon that not all magic writings are the same. Only those in the magician "tree" of classes can read magician class writing. I think some might restrict that further to saying that a magician can read all magician class writings (cryo/necro/pyromancer lets call them derived classes) but the reverse might not be true. The "derived" classes can't read the other magician tree writings. They could know that "hey, this is cryomancy" or the like. Same goes for thief/fighter/etc subclasses that derive from the class.

This is also extrapolated to clerics and such. Although some go even further in that each religion can't read other religion's writings. And some go even further in saying that shamans each have a unique writing unto themselves. However, you can still say, "this is shamanistic or the writings of a priest of Yig".

I think each makes sense. It's up to you and your group. Just so long as it's clear what your interpretation is.

What? Me worry?

9/25/2019 9:07 am  #3

Re: Read Magic & Read Scroll abilities

I play it as a Class Ability, and as such there are very few ways to counter it: in this case blindness would (obviously), or a confusion ability might. But exhaustion I would not allow as a preventative, at most either a ST to resist the effects of exhaustion or simply slowing down the rate of reading.

"Rhialto said sternly: 'Sarsem, your conduct has been less than wise. Need I remind you of this?'
'You need say nothing! In sheer disgust, discharge me from my indenture! The humiliation will be an overwhelming punishment.'
'We are not so cruel,' said Ildefonse."
Jack Vance, Rhialto the Marvellous

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