I'm looking for the rules regarding preparation and use of alternate versions of spells for D&D 5e.

If a spell caster prepares a spell that has alternate versions of the spell is the spell caster able to change the version of the spell to the differing version without needing to wait for the next day, or are they 'locked in' to casting the spell as the specific version they prepared?

We had a situation where the cleric of the group had prepared a 'Detect Evil' spell. But after encountering a specific NPC during game play the cleric announced that she would cast it as 'Detect Good' on the NPC. For sake of not stopping play to pour over the rules, and because I knew she wouldn't need to use any other spells during the course of that day I allowed her to use her spell as 'Detect Good'.

I do know the Sorcerer class does have flexible casting, so they don't have limitations on what versions they decide to use over the course of the day as long as they have the spell slots to cast it, but most other spell casting classes need to specifically prepare their spells for the day.

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    \$\begingroup\$ There is no 'Detect Evil' or 'Detect Good' spell in dnd-5e. There is only 'Detect Evil and Good'. Are your sure, your question ist about dnd 5e? \$\endgroup\$
    – Thyzer
    Jun 21, 2017 at 13:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Thyzer It would seem that onewho thinks they are two separate, alternate forms of the spell that (maybe) need preparing separately. Which may very well be a misunderstanding rooted in previous editions, so addressing those might be a good idea. But it still looks like a 5e question to me. No other edition has had these spells appear to be alternates of each other. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jun 21, 2017 at 13:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ Ah, yes I see my error. I come from a 1e background where Detect Good/Evil are spells used to identify alignments of characters. I never actually sat down and read how the spell worked in 5e since I figured it worked the same way it did in 1e. Now that I've gone back and read it I see the spell works completely differently and doesn't actually help reveal a character's alignment. \$\endgroup\$
    – onewho
    Jun 21, 2017 at 13:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ Removing the situation that prompted the question resulted in a question that didn't make any sense, so I've restored it. I understand that you realise now there's an error, but for the sake of allowing the answers to do their job, we need the question intact, error and all. (The alternative is closing it.) \$\endgroup\$ Jun 21, 2017 at 14:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie As long as I don't suddenly start incurring down-votes due to my error, I'm fine with that. \$\endgroup\$
    – onewho
    Jun 21, 2017 at 14:10

1 Answer 1


When a spell gives you choices/options it is still the same spell, and thus you do not have to prepare for each option.

There are a few spells where you have a choice whether you want the spell to work like option A or like option B. At first 'Detect Evil and Good' is not one of those spells; as the name suggests it is both at the same time. I recommend you re-read the spell.

An actual example:


You can blind or deafen a foe. [...]

If you cast the spell, you can either choose to blind or deafen the target. This option is part of the spell, so you only have to prepare one spell for both possible effects. If there were two spells, one called Blindness and the other called Deafness you would have to prepare both individually, but this is not the case.

If a spell gives you a choice, it is part of the spell and you do not have to prepare the spell for each choice individually.


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