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When a wizard is brought below zero hit points from lethal damage, does he lose the spells that he has prepared?

I have always played this way. The 3.5e PHB states under Injury and Death that:

A spellcaster retains the spellcasting capability she had before dropping below 0 hit points.

To me this seems to pertain to spells that the wizard cast before he fell unconscious. Those spells would continue for the rest of their duration at least until the wizard was dead. Please someone clear this up for me.

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up vote 15 down vote accepted

Different editions have gone different ways, but in 3.5, you don't lose prepared spells (or unused slots, for spontaneous casters). Unconscious characters can't concentrate, which may end some spell effects, but they keep any spell slots that were available to them.

That said, it is worth noting that not all editions work this way. In 2e, for example, you do lose your memorized* spells—they're "forgotten"—when you drop to zero (though 2e also had different rules concerning when you actually die). This has sometimes been a source of confusion among people who have played both.

* In 2e you "memorize" spells instead of "prepare" them, which is mechanically equivalent though slightly different fictionally.

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Yes. I think with 2nd edition we agreed that memorizing spells actually put magical energies(your spells) into your subconciousness. Going to sleep would not affect the spells memorized but knocked into a "Less than Zero" HP state, of course from lethal damage would sever that attachment to your memorized spells. I will allow the rules in PHB 3.5 under Injury and Death, but I do not agree. – DM911 May 23 '14 at 13:17

I'm really not sure where you're getting this from. Going unconscious ends concentration spells, but doesn't otherwise cancel your magic. Nor does it cause you to "forget" any spells / spell slots.

Based on the text of the rules, going unconscious has no affect on spell duration.

  • Spells with a duration listed in time units keep their duration. After they've been cast, their duration is independent of whatever happened to the wizard.

    • Dismissible spells (with a "(D)" in their duration line) would also stay in effect unless the caster specifically dismisses them (which requires being in range and performing a standard action).
  • Spells with a duration of "concentration" will end when you go unconscious, because you can no longer perform the action required to concentrate.

  • Even touch spells will hold their charge!

I can't find any reference in the rules that says going unconscious will cause you to forget memorized spells. The SRD just has this (slightly cryptic) phrase from the discussion about stabilization and recovery:

A spellcaster retains the spellcasting capability she had before dropping below 0 hit points.

If you straight-up die, there's a chance you'll forget your spells, based on the means of bringing you back (50% with Raise Dead, for instance).

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Spellcasters who fall [unconscious] retain any spellcasting ability they had before going unconscious, according to the SRD. This may be the source of the confusion somehow, not defining spellcasting ability. – Guiding Light May 19 '14 at 0:17
I've edited the question so that it no longer discusses memorization/forgetting, just preparation and losing prepared spells. – doppelgreener May 19 '14 at 0:24
Is going unconscious and losing spells a legacy thing? Did that happen in 1e or something? – user2754 May 19 '14 at 12:03
It was a 2nd edition rule. This new rule does not make reasonable sense to me, but I will go along until I figure out a better way. – DM911 May 24 '14 at 0:16

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