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Title is the main question, loosely an extension of a previous question I'd asked about Eldritch Knight/Wizard multiclass and their access to spells.

Note: I'm NOT asking if the proposed character of EK9/W2 can upcast lower leveled spells to 3rd level (they can) but rather if base level 3 spells can be learnt and cast by the character (i.e. Fireball, Haste, etc.)

From previous question

From that post and other research online my understanding is that spell slots and the ability to cast the spell are different things.

Spell slots are fairly straight forward as laid out in the multiclass section of the PHB and, additionally on p.164, this line seems to be the key for casting ability (emphasis mine):

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

Eldritch Knight has spells known and by the given example of level 9 can learn and cast up to 2nd level spells based on their table. Wizards have their spell book from which they prepare spells for the day and at 2nd level their table allows them to prepare 1st level spells. From this and taking the "prepare for each class individually" literally it seems that the spells known from EK would be at most 2nd level and from the Wizard levels at most 1st, so the answer to "can I cast 3rd level spells?" seems to be No.

The possible exception

Now, the only point I'd really think needs clarification is the fact that the Eldritch Knight uses the Wizards list of spells to pick from for their spells known. I think RAW the comparison is ultimately Fighter vs Wizard and thus clearly not the same class but a case could certainly be made that an Eldritch Knight would understand the basics of magic by 9th level and it seems weird that they wouldn't gain spell levels any faster by taking levels in Wizard. In fact, if this player in particular at EK L9 wanted to take levels in Wizard to expand their spellcasting, which it certainly would do as then they could prepare from their book as well, they wouldn't get 3rd level spells until EK9/Wizard5. Eldritch Knight gains 3rd level spells at 13th level so, if that was the only goal, it's actually faster to just keep leveling as an Eldritch Knight, needing only 4 more levels, rather than taking 5 levels of Wizard.

Similar but somewhat unanswered questions also from Stackexchange are:

  • this one about Arcane Trickster 9/Wizard 2 which is probably the most direct comparison as the Arcane Trickster has nearly identical wording to the Eldritch Knight in that they pull from the Wizard spell list (though EK is based on Evocation or Abjuration while AT is based on Illusion and Enchantment).

  • this question seems to be asking the same question I am indirectly with their main question being (emphasis mine):

Now, since in that peculiar case the spells are from the same spellcasting class (the wizard), can I learn spells of higher level, for which I have spell slots, even if my single class level could not permit it?

Both of the above questions don't have a selected answer by the asker but both are marked as duplicates to a question clarifying multiclass rules for spellcasting. The answer to that question seems to be based on the earlier quote from preparing spells as a multiclass (here again for emphasis):

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

The book gives the example of a Ranger 4/Wizard 3 which clearly are different. The real question then is if an Eldritch Knight, or an Arcane Trickster by extension through the same logic, multiclassing into Wizard are exceptions to the above rule since they already use the Wizard spell list. Again, my understanding is that the answer is No.

Should I allow it anyway?

While I believe the above is true... it's frankly kind of lame. The player in question agrees for obvious reasons and I'm trying to think what I can do about it without making insane balance considerations. If we go off the assumption that the above is correct then the L9 Eldritch Knight would need 5 levels of Wizard (or 4 more if they just kept leveling as an EK). If I allowed ignoring the "as individual classes" bit and instead went with "you have the spell slot you can prepare/learn it" then I'm effectively allowing 3rd level spell casting at half the needed levels and everyone knows 3rd level is where the big jump in power comes for spells. This seems like a big balancing issue and causes all kinds of other problems if other characters try to use the same logic and if I only allow it for EK/Wizard or AT/Wizard multiclasses that's edging toward special privileges for the player. My only real counterpoint to that is how weirdly well Warlocks and Sorcerer's tend to mesh together and, while RAW, feels like a similar exception if a player wanted to play the infamous Sorlock.

My Conclusion

From all of the above the answer seems to be No (though personally that's just kinda lame) and would just like input to make sure I'm reading the rules correctly.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Heavily related: "If I multiclass into 2 or more spellcasting classes, how do I determine my known/prepared spells?" \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 May 15 '20 at 22:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 I linked that in my question and ultimately I think is the answer here. I wanted to try and pose the explicit question for this circumstance (hence the length) in case there was something I was missing. \$\endgroup\$ – Redrascal May 15 '20 at 22:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ Is the answer you're looking for "Can" you do it, or "Should" I do it? As the title would suggest you are asking if it is possible. But you're closing the question by saying you already know it's not possible, but you want to know if doing so breaks something ("being lame"). \$\endgroup\$ – MivaScott May 15 '20 at 22:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MivaScott the actual explicit question is "RAW, CAN the player do this?" From my research I acknowledge the answer seems to be No but wanted to clarify I wasn't missing the possible exception laid out as that's a bit of a let down answer wise. "Should I allow it" was brought up as just general considerations past the expected answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Redrascal May 15 '20 at 22:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ Ultimately, the question is mostly a duplicate... Since you're already aware of the general multiclass spellcasting rules, I think it's certainly valid to ask if classes/subclasses using the same spell list are an exception to the general spellcasting rules, though you should probably edit the title and body of the question as a whole to clearly focus on that issue. You should probably also edit your guess at the answer out of the question, and leave that as a self-answer to your question instead. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast May 16 '20 at 5:33
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Can cast, but cannot learn 3rd level spells

It is important to distinguish the lowest level a spell can be cast at (often referred to as the level of the spell) and the level of a spell as it is cast.

When a spellcaster casts a spell using a slot that is of a higher level than the spell, the spell assumes the higher level for that casting. (PHB 201)

You are right that the character prepares and learns spells based on its classes separately. The knight/wizard can only learn 2nd level spells as a knight and can have only 1st level spell in their book as a wizard.

However, they are actually a 5th level multiclass spellcaster, and will have spell slots according to that table (PHB 165). So they do have two 3rd level spell slots. They do not know any spells with a "base" level of 3, but they can cast any spell they know or have prepared as a 3rd level spell by using a 3rd level spell slot.

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    \$\begingroup\$ TBH I have a feeling that this is not 100% what you wanted to ask about, but this is what you did ask about. If so, feel free to edit your post to switch cast with learn. Please drop a comment here too then so I can update my answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Szega May 15 '20 at 23:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ Technically correct is the best kind of correct. \$\endgroup\$ – Joel Harmon May 15 '20 at 23:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Szega the literal example I'm looking into is my player, who's currently EK9, is looking into taking levels in Wizard to expand their spellcasting. Part of their intent seems to be to get to 3rd level base spells ASAP (who wouldn't) like Haste or Fireball and they believe that only 2 levels in Wizard would suffice. RAW I don't believe that's correct but wanted to clarify, hence the question. If you think this example is important enough to include in the main question I can edit accordingly. \$\endgroup\$ – Redrascal May 16 '20 at 0:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Redrascal That would make it clearer. It is just that the title asks about "cast" and the texts seems to imply "learn". Though if this is the main point of the question, I feel that I did manage to answer it after all. Do you agree or is there something else I should address? \$\endgroup\$ – Szega May 16 '20 at 0:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Szega I believe you have, you at least agree with my understanding of it. I'll leave the question up for a day or so before I pick an answer in case there are other opinions, just to be thorough. \$\endgroup\$ – Redrascal May 16 '20 at 0:34
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Since it's a little unclear what you're hoping for, this will just cover all the basis.

We will use Nodwick. Tired of being a henchman, he wants to be a great and powerful spellcaster. However, he's not sure what avenue to pursue so he becomes a Druid 1 / Cleric 1 / Wizard 1 / Sorcerer 1 / Bard 1.

All together, that makes him a 5th level character. Looking at the PHB about multiclass spell casters:

"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 Nodwick learns a ton of 1st level spells (Druid and Cleric based on Wisdom, Wizard based on Intelligence, Sorcerer and Bard by their own rules). So even though you are 5th level, each class is only 1st level so you only learn spells as if 1st level.

For spell slots...

"You determine your available spell slots by adding together all your levels in the bard, cleric, druid, sorcerer, and wizard classes..."

So you add classes together, total of 5, and look up on the table. That gives you 4 1st-level, 3 2nd-level, and 2 3rd-level slots. So while you cannot learn any 2nd or 3rd-level spells, those slots are available for upcasting all the 1st-level spells.

Here is some further interesting facts...

"When you find a wizard spell of 1st level or higher, you can add it to your spellbook if it is of a spell level you can prepare and if you can spare the time to decipher and copy it."

You have 3rd-level slots, but you cannot prepare 3rd-level spells. That means you cannot add 2nd and 3rd-level spells to your book yet.

Also, per the DMG:

"If the spell is on your class's spell list but of a higher level than you can normally cast, you must make an ability check using your spellcasting ability to determine whether you cast it successfully. The DC equals 10 + the spell's level. On a failed check, the spell disappears from the scroll with no other effect."

So if you find a scroll with 2nd or 3rd-level spells, you can attempt to cast it, but it's not a sure thing. The level of the spells you can cast are only 1st, even though you can cast them at 3rd level. So a 3rd-level spell is higher than the maximum level of spell that is on your spell list.

So all this boils down to: the level of spell you can learn is based on each class individually regardless of overlap or total character level.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is a great example. I attempted to highlight similar logic by stating that if EK9/W2 was 3rd level base spells available it would skip 3 levels effectively but your version is much more obviously "wrong" (or at least would be horribly broken in that you could in theory cast basically any 3rd level or lower spell with a 5 way spellcaster multiclass when using the incorrect interpretation). \$\endgroup\$ – Redrascal May 16 '20 at 6:04

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