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Several abilities including feat Extra Spell and the Master Specialist class feature Expanded Spellbook allow spellcasters to learn an additional spell. However, these abiities do not specify that the spell learned must be on their class spell list.

The reason why I feel that spells outside the caster's normal class list would be permitted in the case of Expanded Spellbook, at least, is that gaining a small number of spells into a wizard's spellbook is not really a terribly useful ability; a wizard can do that pretty easily anyway. Also, it makes a lot of sense, flavor-wise, if a wizard who is an utmost master of his school of magic can cast a handful of spells that other wizards can't.

If a feat, class feature, or other ability says that a spellcaster can learn a new spell, and that ability does not specify that the spell must come from their class list, can they learn spells that are not on their class list? I'm specifically asking about D&D 3.5.

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"gaining a small number of spells into a wizard's spellbook is not really a terribly useful ability; a wizard can do that pretty easily anyway" -- sure, but Master Specialist is already an amazing PrCl; if one of their abilities is only marginally useful, well, that's ok. –  starwed Feb 2 '13 at 20:50
@starwed: Fair point. –  DuckTapeal Feb 2 '13 at 23:10
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6 Answers

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Extra Spell is specifically addressed in the FAQ (p. 40):

Can you take spells from spell lists other than your own with the Extra Spell feat (CAr 79)?

The Extra Spell feat allows you to choose a new spell, but it does not remove the restrictions of how you would normally pick your spells—so they must be picked from your own spell list.

This is the general rule -- you have a class ability that lets you cast spells from a particular class list only. For instance, the wizard has the following ability:

Spells: A wizard casts arcane spells which are drawn from the sorcerer/ wizard spell list.

For something to give you spells not on your class list, it has to explicitly call this out as an exception to the more general rule. The Master Specialist ability is worded almost identically to the wizard's regular spell book entry, so it clearly does not allow this:

When you reach 2nd level, you can add one spell of your chosen school to your spellbook. The spell can be of any level that you can cast, and it is in addition to the normal spells gained when increasing your level.

If it isn't on your class list, how would you even determine if it was a level that you can cast?

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To your final question: My assumption was that if I could cast 3rd level Wizard spells, for example, then I would be able to choose 3rd level spells from other class lists. –  DuckTapeal Feb 2 '13 at 20:41
@DuckTapeal That is absolutely not supported by the rules. Levels are decided on a per class basis, and not consistent across classes. For instance True Seeing is a L5 for clerics, L6 for wizards, and L7 for druids. Your wizard class levels let you cast wizard spells of a particular level, and that's it! :) –  starwed Feb 2 '13 at 20:47
The FAQ is not RAW, and is in this case wrong. The limitation of only choosing from your spell lists is a function of the spell-learning mechanic within each class, not a general rule as you claim. –  KRyan Feb 2 '13 at 22:27
@KRyan None of the ways wizards can choose new spells place that particular restriction on them. So are you saying they can always learn spells from any list? –  starwed Feb 2 '13 at 22:56
@KRyan - The FAQ in this case is correct. You're limited to your class list unless how you're gaining the spell says otherwise. An example is Unseen Seer's Advanced Learning in Complete Mage, which says explicitly you can take a divine spell from ANY class list (even divine ones). –  Tridus Feb 4 '13 at 12:51
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No, the class list restriction exists unless something removes it. An easy example is the Unseen Seer PrC from Complete Mage, which has this:

Advanced Learning (Ex): At 2nd, 5th, and 8th level, you can add a new spell to your spellbook or list of spells known, representing the result of personal study and experimentation. The spell must be a divination spell of a level no higher than that of the highest-level arcane spell you already know. The spell can be from any class's spell list (arcane or divine). Once a new spell is selected, it is forever added to your spell list and can be cast just like any other spell on your list.

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The wording of this ability also resolves the "what level?" problem, since you presumably specify the class list before picking the spell. (Thus allowing you to e.g. pick up Commune with Nature as a 4th level spell.) –  starwed Feb 4 '13 at 14:30
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A lot of it is based on asking your DM. However, for the two listed items, it's addressed in the FAQ. In particular:

For Extra Spell, the FAQ:

Can you take spells from spell lists other than your own with the Extra Spell feat (CAr 79)? The Extra Spell feat allows you to choose a new spell, but it does not remove the restrictions of how you would normally pick your spells—so they must be picked from your own spell list.

And for Master Specialist, in the errata:

Page 70 – Expanded Spellbook [Revision] First sentence should read, “When you reach 2nd level, you can add one wizard spell of your chosen school to your spellbook.”

In some instances, abilities will allow you to add things outside the normal list (the first example off the top of my head being Unseen Seer). Normally, if it doesn't specify, it's probably safe to say it can be from outside your list. Check with your DM in those cases. However, in the two listed cases, you cannot add spells outside the normal list.

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I would say the opposite is true. By default, all your spells must come from your class's spell list. For you to take a spell that isn't, the feat or power must say so explicitly.

Also, flavor-wise, I would expect a Master Specialist to... well... specialize. Not dabble in spells outside of his specialization, but be better in the narrow school he chose.

Of course, these are just the RAW. If there's a cool spell that's not on your spell list but you feel would fit your character concept, ask your DM and chances are it'll be approved. Coolness trumps most RAW.

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To your comment about flavor: My thought was that a Master Specialist in a particular school would be able to access spells within his specialization from other schools, broadening his mastery of his school. –  DuckTapeal Feb 2 '13 at 20:43
@DuckTapeal: No, he's just guaranteed to learn spells from his specialization, even if the campaign takes place in the middle of nowhere with no other spellcasters around to teach him and no looted spellbooks around to copy from (yes, some DMs really do this). –  Oblivious Sage Feb 2 '13 at 22:59
@ObliviousSage: O_O I'm super glad that I haven't had a DM like that. That ability seems a bit more valuable now. –  DuckTapeal Feb 2 '13 at 23:01
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The limitation of your spell list is specific to your class’s learning mechanic

It is not a general rule; any restrictions on which spells you may choose must be stated in the rule that allows you to gain a new spell, by RAW.

In particular, Extra Spell is (almost) entirely pointless otherwise.

In the case of Master Specialist, though, it does make sense to houserule that limitation.

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(1) Extra Spell is still useful for sorcerers/etc -- it's hardly pointless; (2) You are still restricted to a particular level of spell, and that is meaningless unless it's on your spell list! (3) You are still restricted from casting spells that are not on your class list, so even if by some stretch of the rules a wizard could add a cleric spell to their book, they'd have no means of casting it. –  starwed Feb 2 '13 at 22:41
I disagree with this reading. Extra Spell does not provide its own spell learning mechanic, leading me to the conclusion that it must inherit the spell learning mechanic of the associated class. –  Ernir Feb 4 '13 at 10:13
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From the character's perspective also think about it in terms of where they get their power from. It wouldn't make sense for a Devine caster to get to choose from spells that are cast by people with magic in their blood or vice versa.

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Careful with the S-word there! The question wasn't about what rules would "make sense", it was about what rules are in the D&D 3.5 rule set. –  Matthew Najmon Nov 19 '13 at 8:46
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