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The multiclassing spellcasting rules (PHB p. 164, or here in the basic rules) state:

Each spell you know and prepare is associated with one of your classes, and you use the spellcasting ability of that class when you cast the spell.

According to the above, every spell you know or prepare should be associated with a class.

  • However, for spells learned from feats like Drow High Magic or Wood Elf Magic are these actually associated with a class?
  • If so, what class?
  • If not, is the PHB statement above wrong/outdated?
  • Are the spells learned in these feats (and others like it) associated with something else (like your race, in these cases)?
  • If so, does that have any mechanical implications?

For reference, the Drow High Magic racial feat (XGtE p. 74) states:

You learn more of the magic typical of dark elves. You learn the detect magic spell and can cast it at will, without expending a spell slot. You also learn levitate and dispel magic, each of which you can cast once without expending a spell slot. You regain the ability to cast those two spells in this way when you finish a long rest. Charisma is your spellcasting ability for all three spells.

The Wood Elf Magic racial feat (XGtE p. 75) states:

You learn the magic of the primeval woods, which are revered and protected by your people. You learn one druid cantrip of your choice. You also learn the longstrider and pass without trace spells, each of which you can cast once without expending a spell slot. You regain the ability to cast these two spells in this way when you finish a long rest. Wisdom is your spellcasting ability for all three spells.

In regards to the third and fourth questions, the fact that the PHB quote says "use the spellcasting ability of that class when you cast the spell" and the fact that the feats specify what ability the spell uses in these examples (independent of class) suggests to me that they are not associated with class.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Do you mean feats or racial features. Feats are a special chapter in the PHB, class and racial features are things like the Drow Magic, Teifling's Infernal Legacy, etc. Or are you asking about both? \$\endgroup\$ – J. A. Streich Dec 1 '17 at 21:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ In this case I'm talking about feats. I was not sure how to generalize the question while keeping it specific, but there are multiple feats similar to the ones I gave as examples and those are the focus of my question. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Dec 1 '17 at 21:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah, those are from Xanatar's Guide. I follow now. My fault. \$\endgroup\$ – J. A. Streich Dec 1 '17 at 21:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ Related: What makes a spell being cast considered to be a {class} spell? \$\endgroup\$ – CTWind Dec 1 '17 at 22:47
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PHB p.164 is about multiclassing. Not general spellcasting rules. It is saying that each spell you know from a class is tied to that class and can't be cast using the stats of the other class.

Spells cast as part of racial feature or feat is not a class spell, and multiclassing doesn't affect how they work.

Some previous feats and features already gave you spells outside your class, like Magic Initiate. These new racial feats work exactly the same way. The source of the spell tells you what stats to use.

Charisma is your spellcasting ability for all three spells.

Similar to how Infernal Legacy tells you to use the stat of the class the spell list you took from uses.

Charisma is your spellcasting ability for these spells.

Mechanically, they work the same as other non-class spells that already existed.

The Caveat: Sometimes they are Class Spells

If you pick the spell from a spell list mentioned in the class feature or feat, like Wood Elf's cantrip or Magic Initiate, then it technically is a class spell of the other class. The only thing this really changes is that if you happen to be that class you may, in addition to the one free casting, also cast it using a class spell slot. Also if you have a class feature that interacts with casting spells from the class, those would count (i.e. Metamagic, and Wizard Arcane tradition). Note that for wizard you would have to write the spell into your spellbook, and for Wizards, Druids, Paladins you'd also have it prepared in order to cast it using a slot.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This isn't entirely correct. While there are 'classless' spells, like the Tiefling's Hellish Rebuke, when a feature has you learn from a class' spell list it counts as a class spell of that class for you. For example, if as a Sorcerer you take Magic Initiate and pick Sorcerer for it, you can cast that 1st level spell with your spell slots in addition to the free-once-per-day instance. See the Sage Advice compendium for details. In OP's case, that'd only apply to Wood Elf Magic's cantrip- it would be considered a druid spell. \$\endgroup\$ – CTWind Dec 1 '17 at 22:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks, fixed. I think there is something about Warlocks being able to cast any spell they learn but I can't find it in the rules. I think it was a tweet, and it thinking about it might have been from Mearls and not an official ruling. If I find it I'll add that to the answer as well. \$\endgroup\$ – J. A. Streich Dec 2 '17 at 4:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ You can add: twitter.com/JeremyECrawford/status/1011775449603555329 \$\endgroup\$ – Khashir Jan 13 '19 at 0:23
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You seem to be inferring a rule based on a contradiction you find between two rules. This is a case where the specific rule of a feat overrides the general rules for [multiclass] spellcasting.

[M]any racial traits, class features, spells, magic items, monster abilities, and other game elements break the general rules in some way, creating an exception to how the rest of the game works. Remember this: If a specific rule contradicts a general rule, the specific rule wins.

p. 7 PHB 5e (emphasis mine)

I do think it is important to add the proper context to your quotation on spellcasting that you have based your assumption that "every spell you know or prepare should be associated with a class."

The original quotation is found under the Multiclassing section of Chapter 6 in the PHB. Let's expand the quotation from the PHB to get even more context:

Spellcasting

Your capacity for spellcasting depends partly on your combined levels in all your spellcasting classes and partly on your individual levels in those classes. Once you have the Spellcasting feature from more than one class, use the rules below. If you multiclass but have the Spellcasting feature from only one class, you follow the rules as described in that class.

Spells Known and Prepared. You determine what spells you know and can prepare for each class individually, as if you were a single-classed member of that class. If you are a ranger 4/wizard 3, for example, you know three 1st-level ranger spells based on your levels in the ranger class. [...]

Each spell you know and prepare is associated with one of your classes, and you use the spellcasting ability of that class when you cast the spell. Similarly, a spellcasting focus, such as a holy symbol, can be used only for the spells from the class associated with that focus.

p. 164 PHB 5e (emphasis mine)

With this context, we can see that the original quotation is not addressing the general rules for spellcasting, but rather how to associate spells with a class when more than one class provides a character with the Spellcasting feature.

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