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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  • If not, is the PHB statement above wrong/outdated?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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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
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    \$\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
  • \$\begingroup\$ Couldn’t have said it better. Why is this still bountied? \$\endgroup\$ – TheDragonOfFlame May 19 at 22:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @LaecLorentzen Either Medix really likes this answer, or likes a different answer better. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast May 20 at 1:57
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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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Reading the quote in context reveals its meaning, it even comes with examples:

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. As 3rd-level wizard, you know three wizard cantrips, and your spellbook contains ten wizard spells, two of which (the two you gained when you reached 3rd level as a wizard) can be 2nd-level spells. If your Intelligence is 16, you can prepare six wizard spells from your spellbook.

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.

Spells acquired from feats are not discussed at all, they are not part of the multiclassing mechanic.

However, for spells learned from feats like Drow High Magic or Wood Elf Magic are these actually associated with a class?

No.

If not, is the PHB statement above wrong/outdated?

It isn't wrong, just confusing when taken out of context because it appears to be referring to the class of a spell. When read in context it becomes obvious that it's talking about an unrelated mechanic unique to multiclassing.

Are the spells learned in these feats (and others like it) associated with something else (like your race, in these cases)?

For the purposes of multiclassing, there is only "association with one of your classes". No other kind of "association" is defined.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ When you say "feats like Drow High Magic or Wood Elf Magic" I assume you are not including the Magic Initiate feat? The Sage Advice Compendium states that choosing your own class and learning a spell from that feat results in it counting as a class spell for you. Or are you saying the "class spells" do not exist? \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 May 20 at 1:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 Class spells exist and are an unrelated (though similar, it is independent) concept. \$\endgroup\$ – gszavae May 20 at 1:40
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Only select feats associate their spells with a class

Let's look at the Sorcerer's Spellcasting feature:

[...] The Sorcerer table shows how many spell slots you have to cast your sorcerer spells of 1st level and higher. [...]

From this we can conclude that the spell slots from the Sorcerer class can be used to cast a spell only if that spell is a Sorcerer spell (whatever that means).


The Sage Advice Compendium (pdf link) states the following about the Magic Initiate feat (emphasis mine):

Q. If you have spell slots, can you use them to cast the 1st level spell you learn with the Magic Initiate feat?

A. Yes, but only if the class you pick for the feat is one of your classes. For example, if you pick sorcerer and you are a sorcerer, the Spellcasting feature for that class tells you that you can use your spell slots to cast the sorcerer spells you know, so you can use your spell slots to cast the 1st-level sorcerer spell you learn from Magic Initiate. [...]

In short, you must follow your character’s normal spellcasting rules, which determine whether you can expend spell slots on the 1st-level spell you learn from Magic Initiate.

From this we can conclude two things:

  1. A spell granted by a feat that explicitly links the spell to a given class is associated with that class (a Sorcerer taking Magic Initiate under Sorcerer and choosing to learn magic missile can use their spell slots to cast magic missile; therefore, magic missile must be considered a Sorcerer spell).

  2. A spell that is granted by a feat and appears on our class spell list is not necessarily associated with our class (a Sorcerer taking Magic Initiate under Wizard and choosing to learn magic missile cannot use their spell slots to cast the spell; therefore, magic missile must not be considered a Sorcerer spell).

Thus, most spells gained from feats are not associated with any class whatsoever. The most notable exception is Magic Initiate, which associates the spell with whichever class you pick. Other examples would be Ritual Caster and Spell Sniper as well as the Wood Elf Magic feat's cantrip in particular which is required to be a Druid cantrip.


The rule you quoted applies to multiclassing not feats

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.

This rule is found in the multiclassing section because it applies to multiclassing; it has no bearing on spells learned from feats or even characters that do not multiclass. This rule means that means that if you learn the magic missile spell normally as a Sorcerer it does not count as a Wizard spell for you.

As further evidence that this rule does not apply to feats, what would happen when a Wizard learned a spell exclusive to Druids? Would it suddenly count as a Wizard spell for them? And what if this were a Wizard/Sorcerer multi-classed character; would they get to choose which class the spell was associated with? This rule is in the multiclassing section of the rules because it applies only to multiclassing and the spells learned from your classes, not your feats, race, background, or anything else.

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