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This question is inspired by discussion here, about how Heighten Spell works with Reserve Feats. The question that I am asking here deals with whether or not players can cast spells using spell slots for spell levels that they don't have access to yet.

I feel like an example would explain this concept best.

Take Xylitol, the first-level wizard with an intelligence of 18. He has 5 0th-level spells per day and 3 1st level spells per day from his class. He also has 1 bonus 1st level spell per day from his high intelligence. The Ability Modifiers and Bonus Spells table says that he also has 1 bonus spell of each 2nd, 3rd, and 4th levels.

The question is this: Can Xylitol cast 1st level spells using the bonus slots for his 2nd, 3rd, and 4th level spells? He clearly can't cast spells that are inherently higher level than 1st, since he can't learn them, but can he cast 1st level spells using bonus 2nd, 3rd, and 4th level slots?

This has come up on these boards before, here. What I'm looking for here is a clear rules citation that clarifies this one way or the other. The wording in the section on ability scores makes it quite clear that characters cannot cast spells that are actually higher level than their class allows them to cast, but it is not clear that these higher level slots are barred until the appropriate spell level is unlocked. If a character has access to a spell level that they can't use because their ability score isn't high enough, they can freely use those slots for lower level spells, so why can't they use their bonus spell slots for lower level spells?

As KRyan's answer says, the Basics section covers this. Based on questions and comments both here and elsewhere, that section seems to be worded ambiguously enough that it's caused confusion. I'd like to find another, more clear wording to this rule if at all possible.

Answers from either D&D 3.5 or Pathfinder are acceptable, but please note which one your answer applies to.

N.B. I'd like to note that I personally don't feel that players should have access to higher level slots like this. There are a large number of locations where it's heavily implied that this is not the case, but I feel that finding a clear rules citation here would be helpful. I can't find one that is clear for either interpretation here.

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Is Xylitol an artificial sweetener? –  kleineg Aug 6 at 12:20
    
Xylitol is both an artificial sweetener and a really awesome wizard name. –  DuckTapeAl Aug 7 at 3:38

5 Answers 5

up vote 14 down vote accepted

I have to agree that the wording in the original rules is not a 100% explicit. It is clear that you cannot cast spells of a higher level than you have access to, but can you prepare them? The Pathfinder FAQ has a more complete answer, emphasis mine:

No. You only get the bonus spells if your class level grants you access to those spell levels. You can't even use them for lower-level spells. See page 16, Abilities and Spellcasters section: "In addition to having a high ability score, a spellcaster must be of a high enough class level to be able to cast spells of a given spell level. "

For example, a 1st-level wizard with 18 Intelligence has (according to table 1–3: Ability Modifiers and Bonus Spells) 1 bonus spell at spell levels 1, 2, and 3. However, he can only use the 1st-level bonus spell because as a 1st-level wizard he only has access to 1st-level spells (his class-based number of 2nd- and 3rd-level spells per day are "—", meaning "no access to spells of this level"). As soon as he becomes a 3rd-level wizard, he gains access to his 2nd-level spell slots and can use that bonus 2nd-level spell slot from his high Intelligence, and likewise for 3rd-level spells and bonus spells at wizard level 5.

Basically, ignore the columns for higher-level spells on table 1–3: Ability Modifiers and Bonus Spells until your class grants you access to those spell levels.

The Pathfinder FAQ is considered official in the Paizo community and is binding for Pathfinder Society (http://paizo.com/pathfinderSociety/faq#v5748eaic9qy5).

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Uh, yes, actually, they are 100% explicit. This point is made quite clear in the relevant rules. Specifically, on p16 of the CRB, it says that, in order to get bonus spells, among other requirements, the caster "must be of a high enough class level to be able to cast spells of a given spell level." Note that this is not some obscure reference that's easy to miss. The blurb this quote is from is the primary reference for how bonus spells work and what ones you get. It's the page referenced right in the class descriptions, including wizard, in the ONLY mention they make of such bonus slots. –  Matthew Najmon Jul 30 at 1:59

No.

From 3.5 SRD: The Basics – Abilities and Spellcasters:

Abilities And Spellcasters

The ability that governs bonus spells depends on what type of spellcaster your character is: Intelligence for wizards; Wisdom for clerics, druids, paladins, and rangers; or Charisma for sorcerers and bards. In addition to having a high ability score, a spellcaster must be of high enough class level to be able to cast spells of a given spell level.

From PFSRD: The Basics – Abilities and Spellcasters:

Abilities and Spellcasters

The ability that governs bonus spells depends on what type of spellcaster your character is: Intelligence for wizards; Wisdom for clerics, druids, and rangers; and Charisma for bards, paladins, and sorcerers. In addition to having a high ability score, a spellcaster must be of a high enough class level to be able to cast spells of a given spell level. See the class descriptions in Classes for details.

(emphasis mine)

You don’t get the bonus spell slot of a given level if you cannot cast spells of that level.

Specifically, the rules here specify two requirements to get a bonus spell slot:

  1. a high ability score

  2. [having a] high enough class level to be able to cast spells of a given level

You do have to be careful with this sentence. If you ignore the initial clause (“In addition to a high ability score,”), the rest of the sentence parses very differently, appearing to just say that you need a high enough level in order to cast spells. That is true but is not what the rule here actually says. The statement is not “casting spells of a given level requires having enough class levels,” but rather than “bonus spell slots require having class levels sufficient to cast spells of a given level,” in addition to the high ability score requirement.

To spell it all out more clearly, the sentence actually says this:

In addition to [the requirement of a high ability score], a spellcaster must [also meet the requirement] of a high enough class level to be able to cast spells of a given spell level [in order to get bonus spells slots of that level].

Not able to cast spells of that level? You don’t get bonus spell slots of that level, because you do not meet the requirements for getting one.

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The reason why I am not satisfied with that quote is that the character is not casting higher level spells; they are casting lower level spells in higher level slots. Magic Missile is a 1st level spell whether you cast it from a 9th level slot or a 1st. Clearly a 1st level wizard with high intelligence can cast 1st level spells, and that qutoe does not say anything about what spell slots a wizard has access to, only what spells they may cast. –  DuckTapeAl Apr 16 at 14:43
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@DuckTapeal That statement is not a restriction on casting spells, it is a requirement for receiving bonus slots. The rules here specify two requirements for getting a bonus spell slot: 1. a high ability score, and 2. the ability to cast spells of that level. If you cannot cast spells of that level, you don't get the bonus slots. Doesn't matter what you wanted to do with them, because you never get them. It doesn't say you get them but cannot cast spells with them, it doesn't say you get them but can't use them for spells of that level, or anything else. You don't get them. –  KRyan Apr 16 at 14:51
    
Note that this answer generated an extended discussion in chat which may be of interest. –  KRyan Apr 16 at 18:58

In D&D 3.5 at least, it depends on the character class. Some classes have zeroes in their "spells per day" columns. For example, the Bard has "0" in the column for 1st-level spells at character level 2, but "-" in the column for 2nd-level spells. This means that a 2nd-level bard can cast 1st-level spells if they have a high enough Charisma score, but they can't cast 2nd-level spells, even if their Charisma score would give them bonus spells of that level. Interestingly, the Pathfinder Bard doesn't have zeroes like this.

This clarifies the issue of the "extra spells": the character is able to cast a number of spells per day equal to the number in their class table plus the number determined by their casting-related ability score. So, a Bard with a Charisma of 17 would get 4 0th-level spells (3 + 1), and 1 1st-level spell (0 + 1). In the column for 2nd-level spells, there is a "-". This is not a number, so there's nothing to add the Charisma-related bonuses to. Therefore, this Bard cannot cast 2nd-level spells.

At this point, you can forget all about bonus spell slots. There's no such thing as "bonus spells" at this point - you've worked out your spells per day, so that's it. The fourth 0th-level spell you cast in a day is no different from the other three; the fact that you're only capable of casting it because your Charisma is high doesn't matter.

So, I'd say no, you can't use your "higher-level bonus spells" to cast more spells, because they aren't there. They're unrealised potential; an abstract idea that only has meaning when levelling up.

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In Pathfinder, you can find the "no" answer by taking a look at the Adept NPC class:

Where Table 14–1 indicates that the adept gets 0 spells per day of a given spell level, she gains only the bonus spells she would be entitled to based on her Wisdom score for that spell level.

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I always thought that the extra spell slots were used for spells which had a metamagic feat applied to them. Or at least that is their primary use when you cannot cast spells of that level. Metamagic feats make spells use a higher spell slot, but don't actually change the level of the spell. A Maximized Fireball is still a level 2 spell, it just uses a higher spell slot.

So your example wizard could cast a 1st level spell from the 2nd level slot if he applied some metamagic to it. Note that the linked questions specifically mentions the Heighten Spell feat, which does actually change the level of a spell. The answer to that question explains the problems with that approach.

As far as preparing a a plain old level 1 spell in a level 2 spell slot without any kind of adjustments, the rules are not quite as clear so I'd leave it up to the GM. But even if the ruling is no, those "useless" spell slots do still have some merit to them.

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-1: Those spell slots are not "useless", they're non-existent. This is made quite abundantly clear in the relevant rules, specifically on page 16 of the CRB, where it says that, in order to get bonus spells, among other requirements, the spellcaster "must be of a high enough class level to be able to cast spells of a given spell level." –  Matthew Najmon Apr 17 at 5:52
    
Note that this is not some obscure reference that's easy to miss. The blurb this quote is from is the primary reference for how bonus spells work and what ones you get, and is the page referenced by the class descriptions themselves, including wizard, in the ONLY mention they make of such bonus slots. –  Matthew Najmon Apr 17 at 5:52

protected by Brian Ballsun-Stanton Jul 27 at 22:37

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