D&D 5E Spellcasting Rules Explained In A Way That Actually Makes F**king Sense

D&D 5E Spellcasting Rules Explained In A Way That Actually Makes F**king Sense

?What is a spell slot? Spells have levels, right? Are they the same as spell slot levels? How many spells do I know? Do I have to prepare spells? What the actual f**k is going on??

If there is one thing that crops up all the time with new people learning D&D, it?s that the rules around spell casting are just super hard to ?get?.

It?s great that different classes that cast magic do so in different ways, as it allows for an awesome variety in both flavour and mechanics. But hot damn the PHB?s rules for magic are spread just a touch all over the place, and so I seem to spend my entire life explaining the rules of magic to new players.

So, lets explain it once and for all. Step by step, with examples.

I?m gonna start with the rules that apply to all classes, and get more specific from there. So, spell slots. Let?s do this.

Author Note: If you?re a player who already has it in mind that you want to play a Warlock, then while all of the below is still completely relevant to you, Warlocks do have a couple of extra rules to them (pesky Warlocks!) Get your DM to cover them with you, or hang tight for a specific article dedicated to just Warlocks, coming soon!

Image for post?I roll to make a tiny water ball?

?First and foremost; the f**k is a spell slot??

A spell slot is D&D 5E?s mechanism through which a spell is cast. Think of a given spell slot as being like a barrel of a revolver ? every time you cast a spell, you ?use up? a spell slot, and you get them all back every time you take a long rest. Each class gets a number of spells slots to use per day.

Both spells and spell slots have levels. When it comes time to cast a spell, you use up a spell slot that is the same level as the spell or higher.

For example: your character has two 1st level Spell Slots, and one 2nd level Spell Slot. You want to cast Burning Hands, a 1st level Spell. You can expend (?use up?) one of your 1st level Spell Slots, or your 2nd level Spell Slot in order to cast Burning Hands through that slot. Easy!

?Why would I want to use my 2nd level Spell Slot in order to cast a 1st level Spell? Surely I should save that to cast a 2nd level Spell?? ? you, totally justifiably.

You?re absolutely right! However, there are a couple of reasons you might wanna use a spell slot of a higher level than the spell itself.

  • maybe you?ve used up all your spell slots of the same level for the day, but you still really wanna cast that spell.
  • some spells become more powerful when used in a spell slot higher than their own level. Think of it as like ?charging up? a spell by ?firing it through? a higher level slot.

Every class has a number of spell slots per day based on their level. For example, a 4th level Druid has four 1st level spell slots, and two 2nd level spell slots. The more spell slots, the more spells you can cast before needing to rest and recover your expended spell slots.

OK, everyone understand spell slots? Sick. Let?s move on ? knowing spells.

Image for post?I?m not saying glowing eyes are always a bad sign, I?m saying they?re usually a bad sign? ? anyone who has ever fought a Sorcerer

?How many spells do I know??

It depends. Some classes know all of their spells. They don?t have any concept of having to learn new spells. A class like this is the Cleric ? a Cleric never needs to actively learn new spells. The entire pool of Cleric spells is available for them to work with.

On the other hand, other classes do need to expressively learn new spells. An example of this is a Wizard ? Wizard?s have their spellbook, and they can only work with spells that they know. Another example would be the Sorcerer ? though they don?t have a spellbook, they have a limited number of spells that they know and thus can make use of. Classes like this learn new spells every time they level up, plus they can sometimes learn new spells via in game actions (for example, a Wizard finding a spell and copying it into her spellbook)

For those classes which expressively do learn new spells each level, the actual process is easy: simply consult the PHB and choose which new spells you want to learn from your classes spell list.

More examples!

Bill is playing Wraxan, a 3rd level Sorcerer.

At 1st Level, Wraxan knew two 1st level spells. Bill chose:

Burning Hands (A 1st level Spell)Mage Armour (A 1st level Spell)

When Wraxan hit 2nd Level, he knew 3 spells. As he still only had access to 1st Level Spell slots (and therefore could only learn 1st Level Spells), Bill chose Witch Bolt (A 1st Level Spell).

As Wraxan hit 3rd level, he gained his first two 2nd level Spell Slots, and he knew 4 spells in total. This means Bill could have chosen another 1st level Spell for Wraxan to learn if he wanted, or his first 2nd level Spell. He decided to go for a 2nd Level Spell, and Wraxan learned Scorching Ray (A 2nd Level Spell).

So, as it stands, Wraxan knows the following spells:

Burning Hands (A 1st Level Spell)Mage Armour (A 1st Level Spell)Witch Bolt (A 1st Level Spell)Scorching Ray (A 2nd Level Spell)

As a 3rd level Sorcerer, Wraxan has four 1st level Spell Slots, and two 2nd level Spell Slots. Therefore, a day of spell casting for Wraxan could look like any one of the following:

  • he ends up needing to cast Burning Hands a whole bunch (hey, Goblins don?t cook themselves). He casts it three times using three 1st Level Spell Slots, then twice more using his two 2nd Level Spell Slots (as Burning Hands gets a nice bonus when cast with a higher level Spell Slot) then finally one more time with his last 1st level Spell Slot. Goblins cooked, he takes a long rest, and gets all his Spell Slots back.
  • he casts Burning Hands, Mage Armour, and Witch Bolt once each, all with 1st level Spell Slots. He ends up not needing to cast any more magic that day. He takes a long rest, and gets all his Spell Slots back in the morning.
  • he casts Scorching Ray twice, using up both his 2nd level Spell Slots. He wants to cast Scorching Ray another time (Goblins don?t scorch themselves either, OK?) but is out of 2nd level Spell Slots! So he casts Burning Hands instead (as he hasn?t used any of his 1st level Spell Slots yet).

And that?s that! Many classes work in the same way, knowing a limited selection of their class spell lists.

?But?!?, I hear you cry, ?my class page says stuff about preparing spells?!?

Image for post?Oh for fuc- Kev, dude, the invite said ?smart casual?, what the fuck??

?So what is this ?preparing? spells nonsense??

So, you?ve got the spells that you know, and you?ve got spell slots through which to cast them. What does preparation have to do with any of this?

Many classes need to prepare their Spells before they actually cast them. This means choosing Spells from your known Spells and, after a long rest, ?placing the spells into your mind?, ready for casting.

Hoho! Another example!

Mary is playing Alais, a 3rd level Cleric. That means she knows four 1st level Spell Slots, and two 2nd level Spell Slots.

The PHB says (and I?m paraphrasing here, plus emphasis is mine):

When you prepare your spells, choose from the Cleric list. Choose a number of spells equal to your Cleric level plus your Wisdom modifier. The spells must be of a level for which you have Spell Slots.

Well, Alais has a Wisdom of 16, putting her Wisdom modifier at +3.

That means she can prepare six Cleric spells, up to and including 2nd level Spells (her highest level Spell Slot).

So, after a long rest, Alais decides to prepare the following spells:

Bless (A 1st level Spell)Detect Magic (A 1st level Spell)Inflict Wounds (A 1st level Spell)Hold Person (A 2nd level Spell)Prayer of Healing (A 2nd level Spell)Zone of Truth (A 2nd level Spell)

Now, as she?s out-and-about on her adventure, she can cast any of these spells she likes, using the spell slots rules explained above.

A day of spell casting for Alais could look like any one of the following:

  • she ends up needing to cast Bless a whole bunch. She casts it three times using three 1st level Spell Slots, then twice more using her two 2nd level Spell Slots (as Bless gets a nice bonus when cast with a higher level Spell Slot) then finally one more time with her last 1st level Spell Slot. She takes a long rest, and gets all her spell slots back.
  • she casts Bless, Detect Magic, and Inflict Wounds, all with 1st level Spell Slots. She ends up not needing to cast any more magic that day. She takes a long rest, and gets all her Spell Slots back.
  • she casts Prayer of Healing twice, using up both her 2nd level Spell Slots. She wants to cast Zone of Truth, but is out of 2nd level Spell Slots! So she casts Inflict Wounds instead (as she hasn?t used any of her 1st level Spell Slots yet) hoping that a little pain will get the truth out of orc.

Notice how she didn?t have to prepare the same number of spells by level to Spell Slots by level, or that she doesn?t have to prepare the same Spell twice to cast it twice.

Another way of thinking of it is like:

?OK, my Class has 30 spells. I prepare 10 in my mind, ready for casting. When I want to cast one, I use up a Spell Slot (of which I have 6 of varying levels)?

Couple of things to note here:

  • a spell caster doesn?t need to re-prepare her spells after every long rest ? only if she wants to prepare new ones. Once prepared, they are in her mind permanently until others are prepared and take their place.
  • casting a prepared spell only ?uses up? a Spell Slot ? it doesn?t remove the spell from your list of prepared spells (same as the point above; the prepared spells are in your mind until you prepare new ones).
  • those readers with a mind for game design will have guessed the pattern here ? typically, spell casters that ?know? all of their class spells are the ones who need to ?prepare? spells too.

?Wait, wait! You missed ?cantrips?? What the hell is a cantrip??

O, ye? of little faith. I didnae? miss them ? I left them to last, cus? they?re so easy.

Cantrips can be cast without preparing them and they don?t use up any spell slots. Yep, that?s right ? if you know a cantrip, you can cast it for free, whenever you want, however many times you want. Boom ? free magic, all day err? day.

Image for postColour coordination taken to an extreme level

And that?s that.

Final tl;dr points;

  • Every class uses Spell Slots to cast their Spells.
  • A Spell must be cast in a Spell Slot that is equal to the Spell?s level or higher. Why cast a Spell in a Spell Slot higher than itself? Cus? it usually gets a sweet buff.
  • Some classes know a limited selection of their classes? spell list. They learn new spells when they level up or via in-game actions. These classes cast any of the spells they know, whenever they want, via their Spell Slots.
  • Other classes know their entire class spell list. These classes (usually) have to prepare spells ahead of time. They prepare a number of spells in their mind at the end of a long rest. They can then cast these prepared spells via their Spell Slots.
  • Cantrips are free magic ? if you know a cantrip, you can cast it as many times as you want, whenever you want. Cantrips don?t need to be prepared, and they don?t use up spell slots.

That?s it! From here, every class has quirks as to how they cast magic (Sorcerers have Sorcery Points, Warlocks have Invocations, Paladins don?t get cantrips, all sorts of madness) but these extra bits of fluff should be easier to understand now that you get the core rules of how every spellcasting class works.

Now go forth, and do yo? magic!

?If I ever have to type the words ?spell slot? again I?m gonna lose my f**king mind? ? me, just now.

Hopefully that clears some things up!

Found this link somehow, and you have no idea what D&D is but all of the above sounds, like, totally rad? Check out my intro to D&D piece.

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Images are, in order;

Voidwalker by Chase StoneUsurper by Yongjae ChoiBlood Shaman by Conor BurkeLey Weaver and Lore Weaver by Livia Prima

Images originally found from ImaginaryWizards and ImaginaryWitches


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