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Mystic Theurge has this requirement:

Spells
Able to cast 2nd-level divine spells and 2nd-level arcane spells.

My DM argues, that the arcane spell requirement is in plural, and Precocious Apprentice only gives you one.

I would say it does not require you to cast more than one per day. I can cast spells in a week. More importantly, this is the only reason to ever take Precocious Apprentice.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Early entry into mystic theurge—that includes in answers discussion of the feat Precocious Apprentice—is covered by this question. (While early entry may not be the precise and stated subject of this question, the intent of this question seems identical.) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan May 15 at 16:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ Even if your DM turns out to be right by RAW, it might be worth trying to convince him to let you do it anyway. The cost to enter the Mystic Theurge prestige class is so high that it you're almost always better off just going all the way to level 20 in one of your base classes. \$\endgroup\$ – J. Mini May 17 at 15:58
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This argument comes up from time to time, but it doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny. For example, a 4th-level sorcerer only knows one 2nd-level spell; do they therefore fail to qualify for mystic theurge? A 3rd-level wizard might be able to cast only one 2nd-level spell per day; do they fail to qualify for mystic theurge?

Really, though, the rule is ambiguous enough that you can’t really refute this argument. Someone can argue that the sorcerer qualifies by dint of being able to cast that spell more than once a day, while a wizard qualifies by having multiple options he could prepare: these are different kinds of plurals, but one could still argue that each is a plural, and the Precocious Apprentice is not. The rules do not actually expand on what it means to be able to cast “spells” of a given level.1 Precocious Apprentice certainly isn’t addressed specifically anywhere.2

Anyway, if this argument is enforced as a rule, you can still work around it. A forcused specialist wizard (Complete Mage) swaps one spell slot for two spell slots that must be used to cast spells of their specialist school: RAW, that will apply to the Precocious Apprentice slot, and the two slots you get out of it won’t inherit the restriction on Precocious Apprentice’s slot. At that point, the 1st-level wizard can cast two different 2nd-level spells in a given day, if he likes, and there is no argument I can think of that this would fail to meet the requirements of mystic theurge et al.

Ultimately, I think a DM should be more honest about this kind of thing: don’t get into a RAW argument, that’s irrelevant, just make a ruling and/or houserule. The DM isn’t constrained by what the rules say, regardless of how you interpret it. The DM is free to say the mystic theurge has no prerequisites at all if they want, or that it requires 3 levels specifically in cleric, or whatever else, and that’s legit as far as the game is concerned.3 Trying to get picky about a plural or not is just asking for trouble, because the rules simply aren’t written to that level of pedantry and a DM will set an unfortunate precedent that way. Better to handle Precocious Apprentice itself directly with a houserule than try to argue that the trick doesn’t work.

And really, that’s how all such RAW abuses should be handled. People get up in arms about RAW corner-cases, and some get really caught up in arguing that they don’t actually work, and most of the time it’s completely irrelevant. If you ask your DM to enter mystic theurge as a 1st-level archivist/1st-level wizard with Precocious Apprentice and Southern Magician, the question shouldn’t be “does it matter that mystic theurge uses a plural?” or “what does Southern Magician mean when it talks about power source?” or “should we pay any attention to CustServ?” Those questions can be relevant, ish, when discussing things in an abstract way, particularly in a theoretical-optimization project, but you have a DM there to decide things. The question for the DM isn’t “what is the absolute RAW way to run things?” the question for the DM is “what ruling is going to increase the game’s fun the most?”

A 1st-level archivist/1st-level wizard/mystic theurge might be overpowered for your game, and bad for it: then don’t let it happen. A 3rd-level archivist/3rd-level wizard/mystic theurge might be (almost certainly will be) underpowered: then don’t put that in your game either. Figure out where the balance lands that produces the most fun, and go with that—and don’t pay the least attention to what the rules say or what their authors meant or any other irrelevant details. Those are questions for another context, not the one where you’re trying to decide how to run your game.

  1. Aside from the discussion in Complete Arcane of the warlock qualifying for prestige classes, but that’s only discussing how spell-like abilities like the warlock’s invocations don’t qualify; it’s not relevant to the discussion here.

  2. The FAQ actually does—and despite the problems with the FAQ in general, it’d still arguably be better than nothing here—but unfortunately that mention doesn’t make a whole lot of sense: “In the Sage’s opinion, the Precocious Apprentice feat would not help you qualify for a prestige class or feat because it gives you a chance at casting a 2nd-level spell, not the inherent ability to cast 2nd-level spells,” (emphasis original). By that logic, a wizard wearing a chain shirt—with its 20% chance of arcane spell failure—would not qualify for prestige classes either, which hopefully we can all agree would be nonsense. The Sage is, like your DM, attempting to pretend a rules abuse doesn’t exist by torturing the wording to mean what he thinks it ought to. I cannot more strongly recommend against playing that game, as my answer discusses at length. If you don’t like Precocious Apprentice qualifying for things—an entirely reasonable position—just rule against it. Don’t try to pretend your ruling exists somewhere “between the lines” or whatever.

  3. I strongly recommend against either of those houserules, however.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Doesn't Focused Specialist also use the word "spells"? In particular, in the text describing what it replaces? I can see a harsh DM ruling something to the effect of "you don't have spellS, you have a spell". Whether or not Precious Apprentice gives you spell levels is also up to debate. \$\endgroup\$ – J. Mini May 17 at 16:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @J.Mini No, it does not. Focused specialist is a wizard alternative class feature (only requirement is “You must be a specialist wizard”). Perhaps you are thinking of the master specialist prestige class from the same book? That does indeed use the same “spells” wording that mystic theurge uses. (Full disclosure: the word “spells” does appear in the description of focused specialist, but in the context of “each level of wizard spells” which means the Precocious Apprentice definitely has “spells” since he also has his cantrips and 1st-level spells in addition to the Precocious Apprentice one.) \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan May 17 at 16:18

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