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Cantrips seem to be the only type of spell that cares only about your level. However, in the multiclassing section they are not mentioned, does this mean, that cantrips use your character level, instead of your class level?

Does this mean a Warlock 2 / Fighter 15 can cast an Eldritch Blast with 4 beams just like a level 17 Warlock?

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A good rule of thumb is that any time "your level" is used in chapter 3, it refers to your class level. Any time "your level" is used anywhere other than chapter 3, it refers to your total character level. I have never found an exception to this. – Derek Stucki Sep 20 at 23:31

4 Answers 4

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Cantrips level with your character, not your class

While it never explicitly states this anywhere in basic or the PHB, it only states the level at which the cantrip increases in power. One of the design goals of 5e and one of the things it imported from 4e was that there should never be a time where a magic user is forced to resort to making a weapon attack that they are ill-suited for. Cantrips act like 4e's At-Will spells and as such level with each "tier" in 5e to maintain their usefulness. Tying this to character level means that players who multiclass or for example start off with a free cantrip (such as High Elves) are still able to make use of those cantrips throughout the whole of the game.

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Per Jeremy Crawford on Twitter (Designer/Editor of D&D 5e):

A multiclass character uses character level to determine the damage of a cantrip.

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I don't have the citation for it, but I saw a tweet from Mike Mearls that addresses this, Cantrips are intended to use your character level. The example give I believe was a lvl 20 high elf barbarian being able to cast firebolt at max level. The spells refer generally to character level and not spell caster level.

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The way our play group interpreted this was to calculate caster level as per PHB pg. 164 (I.E. add levels of Wizard, Sorcerer, Bard, Druid, 1/2 levels paladin or ranger, 1/3 Arcane Trickster, Eldritch Knight). The character spell casting level is the level used to determine cantrip effectiveness.

E.G. Monk 14/Warlock 3 has a weak Eldritch blast (level 3). Whereas Sorcerer 14/Warlock 3 hits like a truck with an Eldritch blast (level 17).

High elf class feature cantrip was hotly debated, but follows the same rules as above.

Basically if you are a magic user you are good at magic, if you are a level 17 High Elf Fighter you won't be incinerating foes with fire bolts.

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