Part of the answer to this question what can a wizard do without a spellbook got me wondering. It states that you, as a wizard, can't cast a ritual spell without your spellbook.

And I can't help question whether that is true?

Because the rules doesn't actually seem to state that explicitly.

Let's look at the rules for rituals in the PHB.

PHB pg.202

The caster must also have the spell prepared or on his or hers list of spells known, unless the character's ritual feature specifies otherwise, as the wizard does.

So while those rules doesn't require a spellbook, they do single out the wizard's ritual feature.

So what does the wizard ritual feature say?

PHB pg. 114

You can cast a wizard spell as a ritual if that spell has the ritual tag and you have the spell in your spellbook. You don't need to have the spell prepared

Now while the rules mention a spellbook, they don't actually state that you need to use it during the ritual casting. Just that the spell already needs to be inscribed in the spellbook. Like how the general rules for rituals state that a spell needs to be on the caster's list of known spells.

And if you look at the wording, it it is very similar to other wizard features that require you to have the spell in your spellbook but doesn't require you to access your spellbook while casting.

For example, the Spell Mastery feature:

PHB. pg. 115.

Choose a 1st-level wizard spell and a 2nd-level wizard spell that are in your spellbook. You can cast those spells at their lowest level without expending a spell slot when you have them prepared.

or the Signature spell feature:

PHB: pg. 115.

Choose two 3rd-level spells in your spellbook as your signature spells.

In both examples the rules seem to treat the spellbook as a reference to the spells known by the wizard, identically to the known spell list other caster classes use. And not as a physical thing the wizard is actually accessing at that moment to use those features.

Then compare it to the Arcane Recovery feature that explicitly states that you need to be using the spellbook for that feature to work.

PHB. pg. 115

You have learned to regain some of your magical energy by studying your spellbook.

There the rule explicitly states that the wizard must be using ("studying") the actual physical spellbook for the feature to work.

So by comparing the RAW for rituals in general and the different wizard features there doesn't seem to be anything that says that a wizard needs to be using the actual physical spellbook while casting a spell as a ritual. And while, from a certain logical and thematic viewpoint, it makes sense for a wizard to read from the spellbook while performing a ritual, nothing in the RAW seem to require it.

So can a Wizard cast a spell as a ritual without physically accessing a spellbook? And is there an official ruling, either way?

  • \$\begingroup\$ "can't cast a ritual spell" — you mean "can't cast spell as a ritual", right? \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Sep 19, 2018 at 14:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes that's right. \$\endgroup\$
    – Chryckan
    Sep 19, 2018 at 21:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ But a Wizard has this spell prepared, hasn't she? You can edit your answer to clarify these things. \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Sep 19, 2018 at 22:27

2 Answers 2


Technically, they can

As per D&D 5e's paradigm of rules interpretation, the rules say what they say and no more.

While the warlock with Book of Ancient Secrets specifically requires their Book of Shadows in hand to cast rituals, and the Ritual Caster feat requires the user to have their ritual book in hand, no actual rule in the Player's Handbook defines that the wizard must have their book in hand.

Certainly, most DMs would expect the wizard to have their spellbook to cast rituals, as it makes little sense to be able to cast an unprepared spell based only on the fact that you scribed it in a book once years ago, but this is not clearly defined in the rules.

The wizard's Ritual Casting feature (p.114) defines only as follows:

You can cast a wizard spell as a ritual if that spell has the ritual tag and you have the spell in your spellbook. You don't need to have the spell prepared.

You might broadly interpret this to mean that you must "have" the spell to hand (in your spellbook), but whether this meaning is intended this is unclear.

At time of writing, nobody's specifically asked Jeremy Crawford if a wizard needs their spellbook in hand to use rituals. His answers on the topic only state that you can cast wizard rituals that are in your spellbook and that you don't need a spell prepared to cast it from your spellbook. Some have interpreted the second quote to mean that you need your spellbook to cast "from" it, but this is not clearly stated.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I'm curious; given this answer, how would you define "your spellbook"? \$\endgroup\$
    – Miniman
    Sep 19, 2018 at 12:32
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ I agree it is not explicitly indicated but I think the flavor of the Wizard heavily implies that you would need the book (simply because you need to have the book to prepare spells but you indicate that you don't need them to cast rituals and can do so from memory?). JC has a habit of glancing at questions and not necessarily asking clarifying questions and Twitter is notorious for misunderstandings. \$\endgroup\$
    – Slagmoth
    Sep 19, 2018 at 12:36
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ It is funny how things can become even more complicated. As per the rules, you can have more than one spellbook (you can have "safe copies"). All of them are your spellbook. How much of the answer would change if you have the spell in your spellbook, but not the one that you are carrying? I know that any sensible DM would say "NO" because you need the spell for reference. \$\endgroup\$
    – Chepelink
    Sep 19, 2018 at 15:00
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Contrast this with the warlock's Book of Ancient Secrets invocation: "With your Book of Shadows in hand, you can cast the chosen spells as rituals." Depending on whether they work similarly, the same could reasonably be applied to the wizard, but it's not stated. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Sep 19, 2018 at 17:12
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ For the longest time I thought that 9 of the 10 minutes was just fumbling to get the book out and trying to find the right page. \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    Jul 3, 2023 at 16:24

Yes, they can.

You quoted the relevant rules from the wizard class' description:

You can cast a wizard spell as a ritual if that spell has the ritual tag and you have the spell in your spellbook. You don’t need to have the spell prepared.

Nowhere it is explicitly stated that the wizard must have their spellbook at hand, the only requirement, beside having the ritual tag, is that the spell must be written in the spellbook.

This is confirmed by the Sage Advice Compendium:

For a wizard to cast a ritual spell contained in their spellbook, do they need to read from the book or use it as part of the ritual? No. As written, the rule doesn’t require you to read from the book. The narrative intent, however, is that the wizard is reading from their book, but the only mechanical requirement is that the wizard has the spell in their spellbook.

I do rule as suggested in the SAC: a wizard enters in a sort of trance, murmuring the arcane words and making the intricated jestures while reading the runes in the spellbook fluctuating beside them. I try to encourage interpretation and role playing in this case.

Another reason beside my ruling is that I believe that the constraint of having the spellbook couples with the ritual casting feature of druid and cleric classes (emphasis mine):

You can cast a druid spell as a ritual if that spell has the ritual tag and you have the spell prepared.

You can cast a cleric spell as a ritual if that spell has the ritual tag and you have the spell prepared.

As druids and clerics must have the spell prepared in order to cast it as a ritual, a wizard must have the spellbook available for using its ritual casting feature. On the other hand, if I ruled that a wizard can cast a spell (contained in their spellbook) as a ritual without phisically access to their spellbook, then I would allow a druid or a cleric to cast a spell with the ritual tag without requiring its preparation. In the latter case, the only constraint is that a caster must have the ritual spell in its spell list: the class' list for druids and clerics, the spellbook for wizards.


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