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I'm DMing for a group that has a player who is an eldritch knight level 7 and wants to multiclass into wizard to expand his spellcasting abilities. The short version of my question is as given in the title and I'd think is ultimately based on two factors

  1. When do you get access to 3rd level spell slots as an Eldritch Knight 7/Wizard X?
  2. When can you cast 3rd level spells as a multiclassed character?

First, spell slots: This seems the easier question of the two and is outlined fairly clearly in the PHB p.164

You determine your available spell slots by adding together all your levels in the bard, cleric, druid, sorcerer, and wizard classes, half your levels (rounded down) in the paladin and ranger classes, and a third of your fighter or rogue levels (rounded down) if you have the Eldritch Knight or the Arcane Trickster feature. Use this total to determine your spell slots by consulting the Multiclass Spellcaster table.

And the table is given as (again on p.164)

MULTICLASS SPELLCASTER:
SPELL SLOTS PER SPELL LEVEL
LvL. 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th
1st   2
2nd   3
3rd   4   2
4th   4   3
5th   4   3  2
6th   4   3  3

So, for an Eldritch Knight level 7, that's 7/3 = 2 (rounded down). Each level of wizard would give a full level for the table, so Eldritch 7/ Wizard 1 = table row 3, Eldritch 7/Wizard 2 = row 4, Eldritch 7/Wizard 3 = row 5 (to hit 3rd level spell slots).

The 2nd question of "when can you cast a 3rd level spell in this situation?" doesn't seem to be directly answered by the spell slots table and the best/nearest answer I can find is found above the spell slot section on PHB. 164:

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

So, taking this pretty much verbatim, from his 7 levels of Eldritch knight he'd have his same 2 cantrips, 5 spells known, 4 first level and 2 2nd level spells from his 7 levels of that class (PHB p.75). Wizard has it's own table but for the sake of brevity, doesn't give access to/spell slots for 3rd level spells until 5th level. So, my understanding is that he'd need to be an Eldritch Knight 7/Wizard 5 before he could pull off the desired "Action Surge Double Fireball" turn.

That seems to be the answer from looking online and a literal reading of the PHB but that would mean that he'd have, in theory at Eldritch 7/Wizard 3 for instance, as given above based on the table, 3rd level spell slots that... he couldn't use for 3rd level spells. The PHB does seem to support this as a possibility by saying (PHB p.164):

If you have more than one spellcasting class, this table might give you spell slots of a level that is higher than the spells you know or can prepare. You can use those slots, but only to cast your lower level spells. If a lower level spell that you cast, like burning bands, has an enhanced effect when cast using a higher level slot, you can use the enhanced effect, even though you don't have any spells of that higher level.

For example, if you are the aforementioned ranger 4/wizard 3, you count as a 5th-level character when determining your spell slots: you have four Ist level slots, three 2nd level slots, and two 3rd level slots. However, you don't know any 3rd level spells, nor do you know any 2nd-level ranger spells. You can use the spell slots of those levels to cast the spells you do know-and potentially enhance their effects.

Is that correct? My personal opinion is that's a rather long time (12 being near the end of many campaigns) and kind of lame, but I try to go by the book for the most part.

So, please tell me if any of the above is incorrect or if there's something I've overlooked. Thanks for your time and apologies for any formatting errors.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Apologies, added the Dnd 5E tag to the question. \$\endgroup\$ – Redrascal May 1 at 4:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ If I allowed the character to essentially respec to Eldritch 3/Wizard X, my understanding of the RAW for "action surge fireball" would be Eldritch 3/Wizard 5. Could even technically go Fighter 2 if you just cared about the action surge aspect but he's more focused as a fighter and just wanted bonus spellcasting, rather than focusing on the inverse. \$\endgroup\$ – Redrascal May 1 at 5:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Izzy it's been pointed out by various people that that's not the correct interpretation of the rules and it's even RAI based on a sage advice answering the exact same question here and another tweet from Crawford here. Also it's an incredibly niche thing to do that wouldn't even be a concern in most campaigns. \$\endgroup\$ – Redrascal May 1 at 14:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for clarifying. That is an interesting, though incredibly unintuitive, ruling. I deleted my comment. \$\endgroup\$ – Izzy May 1 at 15:20
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5 levels of Wizard is fastest, but 6 more levels of Eldritch Knight fighter is not much slower

Your understanding is essentially correct; a Wizard X/Eldritch Knight 7 usually doesn't get fireball any faster than if they were just a Wizard X (the exception has to do with certain readings of the Wizard spell-transcription rules that are not commonly used in play and make single-classed wizards weaker and multi-classed wizards overwhelmingly more powerful). Eldritch Knights get fireball at level 13, so multiclassing the 5 levels of Wizard it takes only gets you fireball 1 level earlier. Your player would be better advised to just wait to get it natively from the subclass or to try and negotiate a respec (Fighter 2/Wizard 5 can also cast fireball via action surge).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you elaborate on the "certain readings" comment? The main point of contention I could think of is that, technically, eldritch knight goes off the same spell list as a wizard, so there should be some "benefit" of not actually multiclassing that much. By the book that wouldn't seem to change the math though. \$\endgroup\$ – Redrascal May 1 at 5:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Redrascal Not being able to copy spellscrolls/spell book spells of a level you have slots for via multiclassing is the majority reading of the text, but it's actually less textually supported than being able to do that. That said, it's not very good for most games to take the interpretation that Wizard1/Cleric 19, for example, can learn whatever wizard spells they want from spell scrolls. It's not particularly relevant here, because the Eldritch Knight half doesn't have 3rd level slots and if it did the player could just grab fireball \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil May 1 at 5:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ But essentially if they were Wizard 1/EK7, they could, with certain interpretations, cast 2nd level wizard spells via shenanigans. I'm including the parenthetical just to avoid making absolute statements that are wrong, basically. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil May 1 at 5:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ "When you find a wizard spell of 1st level or higher, you can add it to your spellbook if it is of a level for which you have spell slots and if you can spare the time to decipher and copy it." You're correct it seems in that the only real determining factor of copying a spell into your spellbook is the material cost + "having the spell slot" and the rules for preparing spells as a wizard don't seem to directly contradict the loose interpretation. That's clearly problematic though for the reasons you described. \$\endgroup\$ – Redrascal May 1 at 6:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ Fyi the new printing of the players handbook has changed the wording to" a level of spell you can prepare". So it's no longer an issue. \$\endgroup\$ – Sam Lacrumb May 1 at 8:49
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Yes, that is correct.

The short version is: you determine spell slots by your combined levels, but spells known by your individual class levels.

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