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Looking at other questions about casting spells as a bonus action has left me trying to keep a lot of information in my head about whether a given combination of spells is legal according to the official 5th edition spellcasting rules.

So I'd like to consolidate all these rules into a single easily accessible table, containing all the possible combinations of spells that could possibly be cast in a single turn, and hopefully create an easy reference for future use. But I'm not certain about how some of these combinations should be treated.

Based on the second question I linked, the ordering doesn't matter, so I've simplified the chart to ignore order of these actions, and only focus on what actions are being taken. But if I'm mistaken (i.e. the answer provided to that question was wrong) then this table will need adjusting.

Action Bonus Action Action Surge LEGAL?
Non-Cantrip Yes
Cantrip Yes
Non-Cantrip Yes
Cantrip Yes
Non-Cantrip Cantrip No
Cantrip Non-Cantrip Yes
Non-Cantrip Non-Cantrip No
Cantrip Cantrip Yes
Non-Cantrip Cantrip Yes
Non-Cantrip Non-Cantrip ?Yes?
Cantrip Non-Cantrip ?Yes?
Cantrip Cantrip Yes
Cantrip Non-Cantrip Non-Cantrip ?No?
Non-Cantrip Cantrip Non-Cantrip ?No?
Non-Cantrip Non-Cantrip Non-Cantrip ?No?
Non-Cantrip Non-Cantrip Cantrip ?No?
Cantrip Non-Cantrip Cantrip ?Yes?
Non-Cantrip Cantrip Cantrip ?No?
Cantrip Cantrip Non-Cantrip ?No?
Cantrip Cantrip Cantrip Yes

Is this table (Column 4 in particular) correct?

The core issue for me is that it's not clear to me how Action Surges interact with the spellcasting rules, hence the question marks listed there. It seems like an Action Surge might permit 2 leveled spells to be cast in a turn, unless a Bonus Action is used to cast a spell, in which case this is no longer permitted. If this is correct, then my table above should be correct, minus the question marks. But I need that validated.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The table would be more helpful as an answer \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    Oct 16, 2018 at 17:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ Your table is missing a column for reaction spellcasting, which is impeded by bonus action spellcasting just like action surge spellcasting is. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 26, 2020 at 3:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ Specifically, reactions performed on the caster's turn. This prevents a caster from hitting themselves with Fireball and then using Absorb Elements to mitigate some of it or from casting Counterspell against an opponent's Counterspell (which was countering the caster's spell). \$\endgroup\$
    – Axoren
    Feb 26, 2020 at 3:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ ...or using a cantrip in place of an opportunity attack (via War Caster) to hit someone that you'd forced to run away via dissonant whispers. Not legal, as it is a cantrip, but not with a casting time of one action. Reaction spellcasting is actually impeded just a little bit more. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben Barden
    Feb 2, 2021 at 19:35

4 Answers 4

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The table is entirely correct

Action Surge does not interact in any way with the bonus-action spell rule (other than being limited in the same way as other spells if you use a bonus action spell). The bonus-action rule is only used for spells with a bonus-action casting time:

A spell cast with a bonus action is especially swift. You must use a bonus action on your turn to cast the spell [...] You can’t cast another spell during the same turn [that you would cast a bonus-action spell], except for a cantrip with a casting time of 1 action.

This is also further explained in one of the answers in the official rules clarification document Sage Advice Compendium (which is also here on D&D Beyond):

Is there a limit on the number of spells you can cast on your turn?

[...]

If you cast a spell [...] with a bonus action, you can cast another spell with your action, but that other spell must be a cantrip. Keep in mind that this particular limit is specific to spells that use a bonus action. For instance, if you cast a second spell using Action Surge, you aren’t limited to casting a cantrip with it.

Basically, if you cast (or will cast) a bonus-action spell (cantrip or non-cantrip) in a turn, no other non-cantrip spells (even ones using the action from Action Surge) can be cast.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The last sentence captures the rule perfectly. No need for a big table or long discussions. It's a simple rule to follow. \$\endgroup\$
    – GreySage
    Oct 16, 2018 at 16:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ @rpeinhardt Those situations are accurate. If you cast a bonus action cantrip, you cannot cast a non-cantrip with your action. No matter what type of bonus action spell is cast, all other spells in that turn must be cantrips. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 16, 2018 at 17:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @3C273 I'd love to understand what you mean as you may be right, but that would be the realm of discussion. If you'd join me in this chat room I'll here you out and perhaps we can reach an agreement (or perhaps not, either way would help me understand the game better). \$\endgroup\$ Oct 17, 2018 at 5:47
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Your table is correct, but can be dramatically simplified to this one, which I threw together in sheets, sorry for relative simplicity: enter image description here and a text-friendlier version:

Level of Spell Cast As Action(*) Level of Spell Cast As Bonus Action Legal?
Any None TRUE
None Any TRUE
Cantrip Any TRUE
Level 1+ Any FALSE

(*) Including during Action Surge

As above, this is based upon the summary in David Coffron's answer:

Basically, if you cast (or will cast) a bonus-action spell (cantrip or non-cantrip) in a turn, no other non-cantrip spells (even ones using the action from Action Surge) can be cast.

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The table of allowed spells can be simplified:

Bonus Action spells Action spells Action Surge spells Reaction spells (on caster's turn)
Any Cantrip Cantrip None
None Any Any Any

Anything not on this table, is not allowed.

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The table is correct

The rule from page 202 PHB is:

A spell cast with a bonus action is especially swift. You must use a bonus action on your turn to cast the spell, provided that you haven’t already taken a bonus action this turn. You can’t cast another spell during the same turn, except for a cantrip with a casting time of 1 action.

By this text, you only can cast only a single additional cantrip on the turn where you cast a spell as a bonus action. The text says "you can't cast another spell during the same turn, except for a cantrip", it does not say "you can't cast other spells during the same turn, except for cantrips".

However, in Xanathar's Guide to Everything which was printed later, under Ten Rules to Remember (page 5), this same rule is described as follows:

BONUS ACTIQN SPELLS
If you want to cast a spell that has a casting time of 1 bonus action, remember that you can't cast any other spells before or after it on the same turn, except for cantrips with a casting time of 1 action.

This is exactly the wording needed to allow multiple cantrips. Because that section is not about optional, additional rules like most of Xanathar, and because it is printed later, it overrides the PHB text.

It is the use of a bonus action spell, no matter if used for a cantrip or levelled spell, that is imposing a restriction. The table thus can be arranged differently to show the rule more clearly, with the bonus action as predicate in the first column. (You can further simplify it, as it makes no diffrence if you cast a cantrip or a leveled spell with your bonus action):

Bonus Action Action Action Surge* Legal
Cantrip Yes
Cantrip Yes
Leveled Yes
Leveled Yes
Cantrip Cantrip Yes
Cantrip Leveled Yes
Leveled Cantrip Yes
Leveled Leveled Yes
Cantrip or Leveled Cantrip Yes
Cantrip or Leveled Cantrip Yes
Cantrip or Leveled Leveled No
Cantrip or Leveled Leveled No
Cantrip or Leveled Cantrip Cantrip Yes
Cantrip or Leveled Cantrip Leveled No
Cantrip or Leveled Leveled Cantrip No
Cantrip or Leveled Leveled Leveled No

(*) Action Surge could also be a Reaction. One could have both an action surge and a reaction in the same turn, which would blow the table up to triple the size (as you need another column with values of empty, Cantrip and Leveled), but it would not change the rule that as soon as there is a bonus action spell of any kind, more than one other cantrip is illegal, and all other combinations are legal.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Downvoters: can you provide some feedback on why you think this is not right? Thank you. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 2 at 10:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ Personally, I just don’t think the rule means what you say it means, so I downvoted. There’s no feedback for improvement I can give, I just think it’s incorrect. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 2 at 12:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov Thank you for the explanation, I appreciate it. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 2 at 12:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't agree with the conclusion presented by this answer, but I do like having it, because it further justifies for me my decision to completely strike the Bonus Action Spellcasting rule from use at any table I DM—that is to say: any time I am DMing, this rule doesn't exist and spells cast as a bonus action do not impose restrictions on any further spellcasting that occurs during the same turn. It further cements for me the opinion that WotC did a poor job vetting and testing this rule in play. \$\endgroup\$
    – Xirema
    Jun 3 at 0:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Xirema, I today found another piece of rules text in Xanathar which supports your view and is worded allowing multiple cantrips. Since this is printed later than the PHB text, I think it technically is overriding it, so your reading is correct after all. I update the answer to reflect this. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 26 at 11:17

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