I am constantly seeing confusion about how multiclassed spellcasting works, and I am constantly frustrated to see people who have no idea how it works offering up incorrect garbage as though it is incontrovertible fact. It’s about high time this was properly elaborated.
Don’t forget to also check out our article Multiclassing Like A Pro, which offers helpful advice about multiclassing!
So, you have decided to multiclass. Congratulations! You have entered a whole new dimension of customizing your character, one with a long and storied history dating back many editions. Oh, and you’ve chosen to branch into a second spellcasting class? You’re in for some fun times, for sure!
Unfortunately, with more customization comes more rules, and some of the most complex rules are those surrounding how to handle multiclass spellcasting. In fact, it’s one of the most frequently misunderstood systems in the game, one that even veteran players get wrong. Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place for help. Here are the points to remember.
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Spell Slots are Calculated and Shared Between All Spellcasting Classes
The Multiclass Spellcaster: Spell Slots per Spell Level table on page 165 of the Player’s Handbook gives you the total number of spell slots you have. The number is based on your total spellcaster level, which is calculated using the following steps taken from page 164:
- Add together all your levels in the bard, cleric, druid, sorcerer, and wizard classes;
- Add half your levels (rounded down) in the paladin and ranger classes; and
- Add one third of your levels (rounded down) in the Eldritch Knight (fighter) or Arcane Trickster (rogue) classes
For example, if you are a 5th-level Eldritch Knight, a 7th-level Arcane Trickster, and a 2nd-level wizard, you count as a 5th-level multiclass spellcaster. If you are a 5th-level paladin and a 11th-level cleric, you count as a 13th-level multiclass spellcaster. If you are a 16th-level wizard and a 1st-level cleric, you count as a 17th-level multiclass spellcaster.
Editor’s Note: CorvinusRex pointed out in the comments that Jeremy Crawford’s interpretation of the so-called orders of operation of multiclassing would involve adding up the Eldritch Knight and Arcane Trickers levels before dividing them by 3, so that the first above example would actually be a 6th-level multiclass spellcaster [((5 + 7) ÷ 3, rounded down) + 2] instead of a 5th-level multiclass spellcaster [(5 ÷ 3, rounded down) + (7 ÷ 3, rounded down) + 2]. I can see the merit for both interpretations, but the decision of which to use should fall to the dungeon master. There are just as many mathematical and narrative reasons to retard the progress of spellcasters who split their focus this way as there are reasons for it to work as JC envisions.
Note that warlock levels are not included above, as the Pact Magic feature functions differently (see below).
You Know And Prepare Spells Based On Each Class
This is the point where most people go wrong. According to page 164, when you are determining which spells you can learn or preparing a list of spells, you treat each class separately, completely ignoring the multiclass spellcasting section entirely. If you have one level of druid, it doesn’t matter how many other spellcasting levels you have, you prepare druid spells as though you were a 1st-level druid.
Note that this also means that, when you gain a level in a spellcasting class, you will also gain access to cantrips available to that class at that level. Only the spell slots you gain are shared between all spellcasting classes.
Each Spellcasting Class Has Its Own Spellcasting Ability
If you are a 1st-level wizard and a 1st-level cleric, you use Intelligence as your spellcasting ability for wizard spells and Wisdom as your spellcasting ability for cleric spells, as though you were a single-class spellcaster for each of those classes. You do not get to cast your wizard spells using your Wisdom as the spellcasting ability.
You Will Probably Get Higher Level Spell Slots Than You Have Spells
Say that you are a 4th-level druid who gains a level in cleric. According to the Multiclass Spellcaster: Spell Slots per Spell Level table on page 165 of the Player’s Handbook, you have access to 3rd-level spell slots. However, the Druid table on page 65 of the Player’s Handbook shows that a 4th-level druid does not have 3rd-level spell slots. Therefore, to prepare a spell like call lightning, the character would have to take another level of druid.
This does not mean that such a character cannot use their 3rd-level spell slot. Once they have prepared their spells, they can cast a prepared spell at a higher level following all the normal rules found on page 201 of the Player’s Handbook. For example, if they prepared the 1st-level druid spell cure wounds, they could cast it using their 3rd-level spell slot.
What’s the Deal with Warlocks?
Unlike other spellcasting classes, which have the Spellcasting class feature, warlocks have something called Pact Magic. You do not add your warlock level to your other levels when determining how many spell slots you have on the Multiclass Spellcaster table. Instead, the spell slots granted by Pact Magic are in addition to the ones granted by Spellcasting. What’s really cool about this is that you can use spell slots granted by Pact Magic to cast spells from another spellcasting class, and vice versa. Also, given that all of their spell slots are of the same level, and that level gets higher as you advance in warlock levels, taking some levels as a warlock can be a very appealing option for some multiclass characters.
For example, if you are a 2nd-level wizard who takes a level in warlock, you gain the 1st-level warlock’s spell slot in addition to your three spell slots for being a 1st-level wizard, meaning that you have four 1st-level spell slots. You would not gain a 2nd-level spell slot as you would if you had taken another level in a class with the Spellcasting feature.
Don’t Trust Everything You Read Online
One of the most wonderful things about this day and age is that people can communicate about confusing things quite easily. Of course, this also means that many people who think they know what they’re talking about get to put incorrect information into the public knowledge. For example, Mythcreants put out an article a while back claiming that a 17th-level wizard/1st-level cleric multiclassed spellcaster could prepare 9th-level cleric spells. Their fallacious explanation went as follows:
Page 164 of the mutliclassing rules states: “You determine what spells you know and can prepare for each class individually, as if you were a single classed member of that class.”
It then gives an example of wizard/ranger, neither of which prepares spells like a cleric does.
Back on page 54 of the cleric class rules, after explaining how you choose a list of cleric spells to be able to cast, the book reads “the spells must be of a level for which you have spell slots.”
Note that it does not say “cleric spell slots.”
Then back on page 164: “You determine your available spell slots by adding together all your levels of bard, cleric, druid, sorcerer, and wizard…”
So when you’re preparing your spells as a first level cleric, you can pick spells of any level for which you have slots, which in this case will be levels 1-9 because when you combine your class levels together, those are the slots available to you for casting.
Now, this honestly frustrates me. It frustrates me because the folks over at Mythcreants have demonstrated that they are clearly capable of reading, and yet it seems to me that they have consciously gone out of their way to display the least degree of reading comprehension imaginable. In their attempt to justify such egregious, shameful rule-breaking, they have completely and utterly disregarded the very first words in the Spells Known and Prepared subsection of the multiclassed spellcasting write-up, which I will quote again for emphasis:
You determine what spells you know and can prepare for each class individually, as if you were a single-classed member of that class.
The fact that they themselves quoted this makes it even worse, but I will endeavour to move on before I give myself an aneurysm.
Remember the example above with the 4th-level druid who had access to a 3rd-level spell slot due to their multiclassing choice, but couldn’t prepare 3rd-level druid spells? The exact same rules apply here. Just as the multiclassed druid counted only as a druid for the purpose of preparing druid spells, so does the cleric in the example the folks at Mythcreants have conceived. In other words: according to the rules on page 57 of the Player’s Handbook, that character can only prepare a number of 1st-level cleric spells equal to their Wisdom modifier + their cleric level. If they have a Wisdom score of 16, that means they can prepare four 1st-level cleric spells. I’ll say again: 1st-level cleric spells.
Now, once those spells have been prepared, they can be cast using any available spell slot, just like the druid in our earlier example could do. Given that the character has 17 levels of wizard, that means that the 1st-level cleric spell could be cast using a 9th-level spell slot. This is the only time the previously-accumulated higher-level spell slots have any bearing whatsoever on the way that the character casts their cleric spells.
So, unfortunately for those who subscribe to Mythcreant University’s Power Gaming 101 philosophy, their thesis is definitively incorrect. This is why it is important to read the rules carefully, and why you should never trust what you see on the internet (unless you see it here first, or it comes directly from the Mouth of God via Sage Advice).
I am a wizard 5/rogue 2 and I level up rogue to get arcane trickster. What benefit do I gain?
Becoming an arcane trickster officially qualifies you as a multiclass spellcaster. From this point forward, you determine your daily spell slots using the Multiclass Spellcaster: Spell Slots per Spell Level table on page 164 of the Player’s Handbook, rather than using the tables in either the wizard or the rogue class entries. You still use these tables to determine how many spells and cantrips you know, the maximum level spell you can know and prepare, and for every other feature of your class.
I am a wizard 2/cleric 2 and I want to take my next level in wizard. Do I get to learn fireball because I have 3rd-level spell slots?
No. You determine the spells you know and can prepare independently for each class, as though you were only in that class. When determining the wizard spells you can learn, you would count as a 3rd-level wizard and therefore would not have 3rd-level spell slots according to the Wizard table. Therefore, you can’t learn 3rd-level spells.
But I would have 3rd-level spell slots?
Correct. This means that you could cast a spell like magic missile at 3rd level, but you still couldn’t cast 3rd-level spells like lightning bolt or animate dead. Think of it this way: someone studying to be a particle physicist decides to branch out and learn some rocket science. He probably became a better mathematician, but he’s no better at particle physics specifically as a result of his cross-discipline studies.
I’m a 16th-level cleric and I want to take a level in wizard. Can I prepare wish?
No. As with all spellcasting classes, the cleric Spellcasting feature specifies that spells you learn or prepare “must be of a level for which you have spell slots”. Because multiclass spellcasters know and prepare spells for each class as though they were only that class, and 16th-level clerics do not have 9th-level spell slots according to the Cleric table, you cannot prepare wish. If somehow you find a spell scroll containing the wish spell, however, you could still attempt to cast it, but you would have to roll a spellcasting check as described in the Dungeon Master’s Guide.
I’m a sorcerer 5/warlock 2. How does this work?
Unlike sorcerers, wizards, clerics, etc., warlocks don’t have the Spellcasting feature and therefore do not count toward multiclass spellcasting. You determine the spells they know from their Spellcasting classes separately from the spells that they know from their Pact Magic feature. You can still use the spell slots gained from both features to cast spells from either class.
When I gain a new spellcasting class, do I also gain new cantrips?
If the new spellcasting class has cantrips, you gain new cantrips according to what is laid out in that class’ Spellcasting feature. You do not gain more cantrips in your existing spellcasting class. For example, a 9th-level wizard who gains a level in bard would learn two new bard cantrips. They would not learn another wizard cantrip because they are not a 10th-level wizard.
Some sources from the designers which support my explanations:
- Learning 3rd-level spells with a 2nd-level wizard.
- Copying vs. learning higher-level spells. (Note: the Player’s Handbook Errata later restricted copying spells into a wizard spellbook to spells that the wizard could prepare.)
- And last but not least, a Sage Advice that definitively supports my rebuttal to the folks at Mythcreants, who really need to revise or remove their misleading article.