Take the 2-minute tour ×
Role-playing Games Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for gamemasters and players of tabletop, paper-and-pencil role-playing games. It's 100% free, no registration required.

It seems that in DnD 3.5 RAW, cantrips are not included in the ability modifiers and bonus spells progression chart, meaning that beyond level 2 a wizard cannot increase his number of cantrips per day, no matter how powerful he is.

(That seems to have been completely turned around in pathfinder and 4e, where cantrips are unlimited.)

What is the reasoning behind the limits imposed on cantrips?

share|improve this question
It makes more sense when you remember that PF and 4E came after 3.5 - Having unlimited uses for a class feature was almost unheard of in 3E, and became more common in 3.5E's expansion books. I'm guessing that they were limited just as anything else was, and not specifically marked as requiring limitation for balance issues. I think the idea that it won't hinder the game not to limit 0 level spells is relatively new in D&D... –  G0BLiN Jun 28 '14 at 17:48
This is just a guess (so I'm not posting this as an answer). Since you get 1 bonus daily spell for each level equal or lower than your relevant ability modifier, and since you can't cast spells tied to an ability lower than 10 - wouldn't that mean that every character capable of casting 0 level spells will necessarily also gain a bonus spell for 0 level? –  G0BLiN Jun 28 '14 at 22:31
It might be relevant that a caster can prepare 0-level spells in spell slots of any level, so in a way, every extra spell slot of any level is a potential extra cantrip per day. –  GMJoe Jun 30 '14 at 5:06
Goblin, you don't get only 1 bonus spell for each ability modifier, after 4 points you start getting more, for example at 20 Int you get one 5th lvl and one 1st lvl bonus spells. d20srd.org/srd/… the easiest houserule is to take that table and copy numbers from second column to first column (0th lvl) and move them upwards one line. Nobody should complain about a few more cantrips and it helps us (me) deal with our (my) OCD –  Simanos Jul 9 '14 at 10:57

1 Answer 1

I don't think you'll find a record of any particular reasoning unless you ask a designer, but it appears to be mainly another one of those quirky holdovers from ages past. In AD&D, bonus spells from abilities were only given to clerics, not magic-users. Magic-users were the first to get cantrips, introduced in Dragon Magazine #59 in 1982 and Unearthed Arcana in '85. Clerics didn't get orisons until Dragon #108 in 1986 though.

Switching to 2nd Edition, orisons disappeared, and all the cantrips became a single first level spell à la Prestidigitation.

Wizards only got the bonus spells from high Int in 3e. As for why cantrips (and orisons) didn't get the ability bonus when separated back out into individual spells in 3e, there are a few possibly reasons. Most likely is that it was simply an oversight in the cross-over. Wizards got bonus spells from the cleric, the cleric got orisons from the wizard, but the bonus slots didn't appear for 0th-level slots since neither class had had both parts before.

It's also quite possible the designers did not consider them to be worth anything, essentially a little fluff addon from the AD&D era. Having the bonus slots would have also generated extra bookkeeping, since any character with the score necessary to cast spells at all would automatically get at least one extra 0th-level slot at first level, and probably wouldn't care too much about the extra two or three at 20th.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.