The Grave Domain Cleric learns the spare the dying cantrip at level 1 via the class feature Circle of Mortality, which also gives them extra benefits relating to it. Part of the description of the feature says (XGtE, pg. 20):

... In addition, you learn the spare the dying cantrip, which doesn't count against the number of cleric cantrips you know. For you, it has a range of 30 feet, and you can cast it as a bonus action.

However, what if I multiclass into cleric and I already have the spare the dying cantrip (e.g. via having taken Magic Initiate before now or, in my case, via originally being a Warlock with the Undying patron, which also grants this cantrip at level 1)?

Similar bonus cantrips usually have wording more like the Light Domain Cleric (PHB, pg. 61):

When you choose this domain at 1st level, you gain the light cantrip if you don't already know it.

The Circle of Mortality class feature doesn't say something like "if you don't already know it". Thus, if I already have the cantrip, do the extra benefits still count (i.e. increased range and option to cast it as a bonus action) since this class feature was not the one to grant me this cantrip in the first place?

up vote 14 down vote accepted

You learn it, and it works

It is possible to have the same cantrip from multiple classes, unless a feature specifically says you "only get it if you don't know it yet". If you have the firebolt cantrip as a wizard, you can still pick it when you become a level 1 sorcerer, meaning you have one that scales off intelligence and one that scales off charisma.

You effectively now have spare the dying twice, in two different spell lists. I'm not 100% certain if the RAW implication of "For you, it" implies that the version you get from a different class would still be a touch-range normal action or if "it" implies all versions of the cantrip you know, but that is hardly a problem if you can simply pick not to cast that version, it has no attribute-based scaling anyway.

  • I hadn't thought of it that way. The firebolt comparison really helps. I suppose this could potentially affect the two examples I gave differently; Magic Initiate would give me the cantrip as a cleric cantrip, whereas via Undying Warlock, it specifically says it "counts as a warlock cantrip for you". – NathanS Jul 10 at 9:08
  • The magic initiate example would result in having 'spare the dying' twice on your Cleric spell list. It's a bit odd and most likely not how it was intended, but I don't think any DM in their right mind would disallow you your first level class feature based on that. – Theik Jul 10 at 9:15
  • True, and besides, my situation is actually the warlock scenario anyway, so your answer happily concludes that I can have a "cleric one" and a "warlock one". – NathanS Jul 10 at 9:24
  • Also note that if you are playing AL and <5th level or if you are playing a home game and your DM let's you, you might be able to swap out your original choice for that cantrip with a new cantrip. This is not RAW (you can't normally retrain cantrips), but would be AL-legal and commonly allowed in non-AL games as well. – Nick Brown Jul 11 at 13:47

Yes, you gain the other benefits

The Circle of Mortality feature does not state any exceptions/restrictions on how/when you may use those additional benefits; it simply states that you gain them. This means that whenever you cast spare the dying, you can cast it either as a bonus action or as an action - and you can cast it at a range of up to 30 feet.

Also, per the rules on multiclassed spellcasters:

You determine what spells you know and can prepare for each class individually, as if you were a single-classed member of that class.

However, since spare the dying is not dependent on your spellcasting ability in any way (there's no spell attack being made or spell save DC that the target must roll a save against), there's no particular benefit or difference to knowing it via multiple classes/features.

Yes, and you wasted an earlier pick.

All the other perks from Circle of Mortality still apply. But you don't duplicate spells known; you either know them or you don't.

If you picked up Spare the Dying from the Magic Initiate feat or by being a Divine Soul sorcerer, then you don't get a replacement because it already doesn't count against the number of cleric cantrips you known. If you picked it up previously via the Warlock's Book of Shadows, then you no longer need the book to perform the cantrip; essentially wasting one of those three picks.

A permissive DM in a home game might let you swap out the cantrip from a Book of Shadows if the original is destroyed and a new bargain is struck with the patron. You wouldn't allowed to in an AL game. But, if you are playing AL, you can rebuild your character however you like before 5th level.

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