Sublcass Deep Dive: The Order of the Scribe

Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything

Sit down and grab a tall one, today we’re diving into the Order of the Scribe, the bookish new Wizard sublcass from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. The subclass has certainly seen a mixed reception from D&D fans, but I think there’s some really good potential here. Power players are gonna want to give this one a hard pass, but for the more role-play oriented, this can be a very fun niche subclass that has the potential to bring some fresh thinking to a campaign.

A wizard from the Order of the Scribe could certainly be the typical bookish librarian type, searching through libraries and tome shops throughout the land, but there are plenty of other variants that could also send the party down the rabbit hole of arcana. They could be the Indiana Jones type, searching for relics of forgotten knowledge, or they might be a dedicated member of the Archive of All Knowledge—or at least arcane knowledge—with a direct link to the archive to upload/download. They could even be an entrepreneur, specializing in expensive magical scrolls that just might draw the ire of certain authorities and powers. I’m currently running a game with a scribe who is having fun playing with Harry Potter vibes and searching for libraries everywhere she goes.

Regardless, the subclass is going to require a decent knowledge of how its features could be used—some of which is graciously provided here—and a careful bit of planning by the DM. Things that might normally be glossed over, like how new spells are found and what sources of arcane knowledge might be available here and there throughout the adventure, are going to need to take more of a spotlight. It might be as obvious as an enemy wizard’s spellbook or as cryptic as ancient carvings on the walls of a forgotten ruin. If the rest of the party is down for it, the scribe’s search might just set off an entire expedition.

One homebrew I would suggest is allowing that vast reservoir of nerd-knowledge to be used for certain skills, similar to the Rogue’s Expertise feature. I would allow the bonus to one or two from Arcana, History, Religion, Nature, and Medicine. Although this would likely need the caveat of no Rogue/Scribe multiclassing.

Now then, on to the features…

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Wizardly Quill – Level 2
As a bonus action, you can magically create a Tiny quill in your free hand.
The magic quill has the following properties:

The quill doesn’t require ink. When you write with it, it produces ink in
a color of your choice on the writing surface.
The time you must spend to copy a spell into your spellbook equals
2 minutes per spell level if you use the quill for the transcription.
You can erase anything you write with the quill if you wave the feather over
the text as a bonus action, provided the text is within 5 feet of you.
This quill disappears if you create another one or if you die.

At first glance a lot of people seem to dismiss the capabilities of this feature. The reduction in the cost of materials has been debated, but I think a generous discount for not needing ink is certainly in order. They might also make their own paper, further reducing it, and I would assume that a good scribe would have at least most common materials necessary in their pack.

A clever wizard might also use the disappearing text for secret messages or other shenanigans, but I think the reduction in time to copy a spell is the big one here. An enterprising scribe could potentially dip in and copy a spell from a book while a party member caused a distraction, stealing a spell from a source that would otherwise not be possible to access on a short time frame.

Awakened Spellbook – Level 2
Using specially prepared inks and ancient incantations passed down by your
wizardly order, you have awakened an arcane sentience within your spellbook.
While you are holding the book, it grants you the following benefits:

You can use the book as a spellcasting focus for your wizard spells.
When you cast a wizard spell with a spell slot, you can temporarily replace its
damage type with a type that appears in another spellin your spellbook, which
magically alters the spell’s formula for this casting only.
The latter spell must be of the same level as the spell slot you expend.
When you cast a wizard spell as a ritual, you can use the spell’s normal
casting time, rather than adding 10 minutes to it. Once you use this benefit,
you can’t do so again until you finish a long rest.

This feature offers a significant role play opportunity for the wizard and as a DM I would encourage treating the sentience as another minor party member. The spell focus is similarly a good point for role play. Just look at the cover of TCE; Tasha holding a spellbook should strike fear into the heart of just about anyone with half a brain.

The spell damage swap is actually rather interesting, since it isn’t limited by type. The scribe could change Earth Tremor from bludgeoning to fire and still get the prone effect, or create a wall of poison instead of fire. Picking up Chromatic Orb and/or Prismatic Spray immediately provides those tiers with most of the damage types, while Magic Missile and Mind Spike provide force and psychic—the two damage types least likely to be resisted.

Considering the spell damage swap has no limit besides requiring the same level, the scribe can use this bad boy on nearly every damage spell—except cantrips, unfortunately. Still, if this were being neglected the DM might want to allow them to go up or down a spell level as well.

Casting a ritual spell for its normal casting time is only underwhelming because of the lack of rituals to use it with (someone should do something about that…). Fans of Phantom Steed would likely appreciate this, though, and homebrew wise I would probably allow this extra uses and/or recharge after a short rest.

Needing to replace your spellbook is usually a rare occasion, but might actually be more necessary if you are waving the thing around and doing all sorts of unique things with it. Intelligent enemies tend to pick up on things like that…

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Manifest Mind – Level 6
You can conjure forth the mind of your Awakened Spellbook. As a bonus action while the book is on your person, you can cause the mind to manifest as a Tiny spectral object, hovering in an unoccupied space of your choice within 60 feet of you. The spectral mind is intangible and doesn’t occupy its space, and it sheds dim light in a 10-foot radius. It looks like a ghostly tome, a cascade of text, or a scholar from the past (your choice).

While manifested, the spectral mind can hear and see, and it has darkvision with a range of 60 feet. The mind can telepathically share with you what it sees and hears (no action required).
Whenever you cast a wizard spell on your turn, you can cast it as if you were in the spectral mind’s space, instead of your own, using its senses. You can do so a number of times per day equal to your proficiency bonus, and you regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.
As a bonus action, you can cause the spectral mind to hover up to 30 feet to an unoccupied space that you or it can see. It can pass through creatures but not objects.
The spectral mind stops manifesting if it is ever more than 300 feet away from you, if someone casts dispel magic on it, if the Awakened Spellbook is destroyed, if you die, or if you dismiss the spectral mind as a bonus action.
Once you conjure the mind, you can’t do so again until you finish a long rest, unless you expend a spell slot of any level to conjure it again.

This one is by far my favorite part of the Order of the Scribe. I’m flashing on Bob from the Dresden Files, here. Many folks are tempted to write this off (never write off a scribe) as a glorified familiar, but there are some very important differences. Number one being that you can still have a normal familiar and use both in tandem.

Secondly, not having the limitation of only touch ranged spells cast through it is huge—though that’s likely why they gave it the proficiency limit. Any wizard worth their salt should be able to think of all sorts of mischief to get into by increasing the range of all of their spells by up to 300 ft. Not to mention that you can dismiss it as a bonus action, allowing you to cast a spell and then dismiss the source to keep anyone from knowing that it was you.

Finally, scouting with this feature also has a leg up on the familiar. Providing sight and hearing without needing an action is a welcome change for any wizard that doesn’t want to be blind and deaf for an entire round, and the fact that the Awakened Spellbook is intangible and can be summoned with a bonus action instead of a ritual allows for much more brazen scouting than is typically possible with a familiar.

Master Scrivener – Level 10
Whenever you finish a long rest, you can create one magic scroll by touching your Wizardly Quill to a blank piece of paper or parchment and causing one spell from your Awakened Spellbook to be copied onto the scroll. The spellbook must be within 5 feet of you when you make the scroll.

The chosen spell must be of 1st or 2nd level and must have a casting time of 1 action. Once in the scroll, the spell’s power is enhanced, counting as one level higher than normal. You can cast the spell from the scroll by reading it as an action. The scroll is unintelligible to anyone else, and the spell vanishes from the scroll when you cast it or when you finish your next long rest.

You are also adept at crafting spell scrolls, which are described in the treasure chapter of the Dungeon Master’s Guide. The gold and time you must spend to make such a scroll are halved if you use your Wizardly Quill.

This feature has received a lot of flak for limiting it to a 1st or 2nd level spell—with +1 increased power—which seems to make it much less useful as you get higher level (it does), but there’s good reason for that. The official rules for spell scroll creation in the DMG and XGE require enormous amounts of time and money to create a spell scroll, while the scribe can do it for free with one touch of a pen. Although, with the limitations that only they can use it and it only lasts for a single day.

The reason for these rules should be obvious: stockpiling spell scrolls could very quickly turn a group into an unstoppable machine of raging arcane forces and/or provide for some very exploitative gameplay. If a DM wants to deal with the headaches of that, they’re certainly welcome to it, but I would be very careful with how to make homebrew changes to this one. I would recommend allowing higher level spells as they progress, though. Since only one scroll can be in use at a time, it shouldn’t affect the balance too much and having a feature that gets steadily worse over time feels bad.

For anyone that wants to really get into spell scroll crafting—and what Scribe wouldn’t?—the halved time and cost of crafting actually makes it viable. Although, even then I would probably reduce the time and cost from the official rules. This does at least encourage scroll crafting, for the first time in 5e.

One with the Word – Level 14
Your connection to your Awakened Spellbook has become so profound that your soul has become entwined with it. While the book is on your person, you have advantage on all Intelligence (Arcana) checks, as the spellbook helps you remember magical lore.

Moreover, if you take damage while your spellbook’s mind is manifested, you can prevent all of that damage to you by using your reaction to dismiss the spectral mind, using its magic to save yourself. Then roll 3d6. The spellbook temporarily loses spells of your choice that have a combined spell level equal to that roll or higher. For example, if the roll’s total is 9, spells vanish from the book that have a combined level of at least 9, which could mean one 9th-level spell, three 3rd-level spells, or some other combination. If there aren’t enough spells in the book to cover this cost, you drop to 0 hit points.

Until you finish 1d6 long rests, you are incapable of casting the lost spells, even if you find them on a scroll or in another spellbook. After you finish the required number of rests, the spells reappear in the spellbook.
Once you use this reaction, you can’t do so again until you finish a long rest.

For the first part, Arcana advantage, that’s nice to have but a little underwhelming in normal circumstances. However, if you’re playing a wizard that is constantly diving into new, unknown arcana and exploring places that likely have arcane traps to protect said arcana, this can range from “nice perk” to “absolutely crucial.” Again, the DM is going to have to step up and provide some challenges for this one to actually pull weight.

As for the second part of this feature, let’s start with what this isn’t: a revive ability. This is a damage prevention feature and, while it does have a steep cost, it also has no limitations beyond the ability to use your reaction. A wizard could potentially use this to face-tank a dragon, jump off a mountain, or wade through lava– though quickly and probably losing all of their equipment in the process, but still…

The cost by level 14 might not even be that bad for a wizard that has stacked up on spells by using their Quill to sneak other wizard’s spells or constantly delving through libraries/ruins for more arcane knowledge. As their highest level feature, I think this is actually a nice one to have under the belt. The biggest downside I see to this is actually that it wouldn’t be used because of trying to save it for the most important time. As a DM, I would probably give a timid player a reduction of either the 1d6 long rest without the lost spells, or reduce the lost spells to only 2d6 levels.

Overall, the Scribe might have a steep learning curve for the average player and DM both, but with a sufficient intelligence roll I think it has the potential to be a very fun class. This is simply one of those subclasses that requires working at least some of the campaign around it. There’s plenty of room for creatively doing that though, and in ways that a supportive group should be able to get behind.

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Published by Shaun Thomas-Arnold

I'm a writer, a fantasy geek, a book-worm, a sci-fi nerd, and I'm sure a few other names you could call me. I also think that tabletop games are better than video games in nearly every way. Some of my favorite writers are: Ursula K. Le Guin, China Mieville, Jim Butcher, and Susan Kaye Quinn.

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