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Xanathar's ranger subclasses are the only subclasses in the game that give free spells to a learned-spell caster (besides Divine Soul Sorcerer's Affinity spell). As rangers can replace a spell that they know when they level up, can they use this to replace the free spell they are given, essentially turning it into an extra known-spell from the full ranger list?

As an example, can a Gloom Stalker replace Rope Trick (the 5th level free spell) with Lesser Resoration when he levels up?

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I'd say no

My reading of this is as follows. Consider the text in the Gloom Stalker Magic feature from Xanathar's Guide (page 42):

The spell counts as a ranger spell for you, but it doesn't count against the number of ranger spells you know.

Compared to a Ranger's Spellcasting feature of the PHB (page 92):

Additionally, when you gain a level in this class, you can choose one of the ranger spells you know and replace it with another spell...

This might seem like a pedantic reading and interpretation of "spells you know", though. However, I'd say that the intent is that these are specific to your archetype, and therefore they aren't meant to be swapped out for just any old spell (from the ranger's spell list).

But I admit that the reasoning of using the wording of "spells you know" is weak, since the extra spells you learn via Gloom Stalker Magic, etc., are spells you know insofar as you can cast them.

However, unless there's been any clarification from the designers on this kind of issue, simply going by the books, it seems as though the answer would be no.

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An alternate interpretation: Yes

The opposite reading of this to my other answer. Consider the text in the Gloom Stalker Magic feature from Xanathar's Guide (page 42):

The spell counts as a ranger spell for you, but it doesn't count against the number of ranger spells you know.

Compared to a Ranger's Spellcasting feature of the PHB (page 92):

Additionally, when you gain a level in this class, you can choose one of the ranger spells you know and replace it with another spell...

So, we could instead focus on the fact that the spell is a ranger spell "for you", meaning that it can be replaced. As per the PHB, to replace something, it has to be a ranger spell you know, and according to the XGtE quote, it is a ranger spell for you, so therefore it can be replaced.

As I mention in my other answer, though, you lose the flavour that this gives to the archetype, given that the spells are chosen to fit that flavouring. However, if it's effectively just giving you extra ranger spells, then there's nothing stopping you (except my other answer, of course, or rather, a DM who prefers my other answer) from swapping them out as per the PHB quote above.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ A DM may also rule that you are no longer of that subclass if you swap out the class feature spell. \$\endgroup\$ – ravery May 22 '18 at 8:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ You say that you couldn't get the spell back at a later level, but since "<spell> counts as a ranger spell for you", I would actually argue that you could get that specific spell back again! But I agree that it would remove the flavour of the subclass if the DM just allowed it to be swapped out. RAW, but maybe not RAI. \$\endgroup\$ – PJRZ May 22 '18 at 8:52
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Yes they can be replaced

The Lore Bard's Additional Magical Secrets feature states:

At 6th level, you learn two spells of your choice from any class. A spell you choose must be of a level you can cast, as shown on the Bard table, or a cantrip. The chosen spells count as bard spells for you but don’t count against the number of bard spells you know.

While the Gloom Stalker Ranger's Magic feature states:

Starting at 3rd level, you learn an additional spell when you reach certain levels in this class, as shown in the Gloom Stalker Spells table. The spell counts as a ranger spell for you, but it doesn't count against the number of ranger spells you know.

These have, effectively, identical wordings and we already know from the question "Can College of Lore magical secrets be traded at level up?" that you can trade out Additional Magical Secrets spells, and thus you are also able to trade out the Gloom Stalker Magic spells.

Additionally, as user @MikeQ points out, the Divinie Soul Sorcerer gets the Divine Magic feature which states:

[...] In addition, choose an affinity for the source of your divine power: good, evil, law, chaos, or neutrality. You learn an additional spell based on that affinity, as shown below. It is a sorcerer spell for you, but it doesn't count against your number of sorcerer spells known. If you later replace this spell, you must replace it with a spell from the cleric spell list.

Which definitively shows that such a spell can be replaced.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ But the Bard's spells are included in the number in the Spells Known column of the Bard table, and the Ranger's aren't. What would you say? \$\endgroup\$ – BlueMoon93 Oct 7 at 15:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BlueMoon93 Additional Magical Secrets are not, which is what I have quoted and linked to \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Oct 7 at 15:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 Another example would be the divine soul sorcerer. Their extra spell "doesn’t count against your number of sorcerer spells known" (like the bard and ranger) and says "If you later replace this spell" (suggesting that these spells can be exchanged) \$\endgroup\$ – MikeQ Oct 7 at 15:40

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