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This question arises because the section on Spell Level in the PHB states:

Every spell has a level from 0 to 9

However, the necklace of fireballs can have up to 9 fireballs on it, and its description says:

You can hurl multiple beads, or even the whole necklace, as one action. When you do so, increase the level of the fireball by 1 for each bead beyond the first.

This would mean a full necklace of fireballs with 9 beads, if the entire necklace is thrown at once, would equate to an 11th-level casting of fireball. Is that even legal?

If a necklace of fireballs with 9 beads is thrown, is the resulting fireball effect equivalent to a 9th-level casting, or an "11th-level" casting?

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You can throw a whole necklace for the equivalent of an "11th-level" Fireball

The description of the Necklace of Fireballs reads (DMG, p. 182):

This necklace has 1d6 + 3 beads hanging from it. You can use an action to detach a bead and throw it up to 60 feet away. When it reaches the end of its trajectory, the bead detonates as a 3rd-level fireball spell (save DC 15).

You can hurl multiple beads, or even the whole necklace, as one action. When you do so, increase the level of the fireball by 1 for each bead beyond the first.

This means you can throw a whole necklace for the equivalent of an "11th-level" Fireball.

This is the because of the specific mechanic of this item; it is an exception to a general rule (cf PHB p.7 under Specific Beats General). In most circumstances you cannot upcast a spell beyond 9th level, simply because there are no 10th or 11th-level slots.

However, in this case, if you were lucky enough to get a Necklace of Fireballs with 9 beads (1d6+3), and threw the whole necklace, you would be causing damage equal to an 11-th level Fireball spell.

Fireball is already a 3rd-level spell, so adding +8 beads brings the spell to an equivalent 11th-level spell.

The damage would be: 8d6 + 8d6, or an average of 56 points of fire damage on a failed Dexterity saving throw - which is not much, considering a 9th-level spell like Meteor Swarm for instance can potentially inflict 20d6 points of fire and 20d6 of bludgeoning damage, or 140 average on a failed saving throw.

As a side note, you can do much more damage by throwing one bead at a time! Throwing them this way, a necklace with 9 beads, can potentially cause 9 times 8d6 damage, which would be an average of 252 (9 times 28) damage on failed saving throws.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Throwing beads one at a time potentially deals less damage, considering the fact that average encounter is way shorter than what 9 rounds. With 3 rounds, throwing whole necklace deals 16d6 damage plus two rounds of other actions. Throwing one at a time deals 24d6 but with no rounds to spare. \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Feb 23 at 21:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mołot Hi, sorry but it does not deal less damage. It may be that an encounter may only last a few rounds, but you do not have to expend the whole necklace in one encounter. In any case, if you throw 3 individual beads over 3 rounds you would still do more damage as this is 24d6, as opposed to 16d6. What you postulate depends on the character level and their abilities which is beyond the scope of this question and answer. A Necklace of Fireballs is a great item, best used one bead at a time - unless you are in a dire emergency of course! \$\endgroup\$ – Senmurv Feb 23 at 22:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that, while unimpressive in terms of damage, an 11th level spell has many other, esoteric uses. For example, you can cast it through a 10th level Globe of Invulnerability effect, such as might be created by a 20th level Cleric with the Arcana domain and the Book of Exalted Deeds. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Feb 24 at 1:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ As interesting as it might be, globe of invulnerability does not block Necklace of Fireballs, simply because it does not cast any spell. The bead detonates after it reaches the end of trajectory, which if you count that as a spell cast, happen inside the globe. \$\endgroup\$ – Vylix Feb 24 at 2:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ @eagle275 They should, but they are just doing 1 extra dice per spell level - 5e has very poor spell scaling for spells in most cases (probably to force people to use more diverse spells rather than just burning all your slots on upgraded magic missiles and fireballs) \$\endgroup\$ – Artur Biesiadowski Feb 24 at 12:48

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