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I've been reading and writing some adventures for my level 18 party. Currently we are exploring Epic Magic. I've described the realm of Netheril, Karsus's Folly, and Mystra's Ban. I've explained that's the reason they can now only cast spells up to level 9. I've described how Elven High Magic is still possible, and they will learn about it in the following adventures. But I don't understand the concept of Epic Magic.

From random places online, you see things like

Part of the confusion came from the fact that previous to Mystra's Ban mythals could be created by both high level (10+) spells and Epic magic. After Mystra's Ban only the Epic magic option remained.

Or

Epic Spells - The following spells known in the Realms were created after Karsus's Folly. Some were known by the same names as the Netherese high-level spells, or were recreations.

So I understand it is different from Elven High Magic or spells of level 10 or above. But what actually is Epic Magic? It comes from 3rd edition, and you can see stats for spells like Ioulaum's Longevity or Diluvial Torrent. What does it mean for a spell to be Epic? Can it be learned by anyone? And casted? I've never played any other D&D edition except the 5th, so maybe this is a very obvious detail which I have never grasped before.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I answered this question strictly from a D&D 5e rules perspective, but am now realizing you might be asking more about the lore implications. Is my answer satisfactory, or would you rather have answers address the background lore from past editions? \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Dec 9 '20 at 20:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DavidCoffron Given that there is no 5e rules, I'd love the additional lore-related answer! After reading your answer, I hoped some poster made a more lore-based one indeed \$\endgroup\$ – BlueMoon93 Dec 9 '20 at 21:24
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It's a third edition concept which might exist only in a world's history.

Epic magic is an idea which dates to earlier editions of the game, and which isn't available to player characters in fifth edition (yet, at least). However, it is something which canonically existed in many worlds, such as the Forgotten Realms. How it exists or existed in a 5e campaign is largely a matter of setting-specific history.

The general concept of epic magic is that it's a form of magic which is not limited to the level 0-9 range of normal spells. When you wield epic magic, you're weaving the raw components of magic together, in ways which can even exceed the power of ninth level spells.

The idea goes back to Bruce Cordell the 1997 AD&D 2nd edition sourcebook College of Wizardry, which introduced the concept of the Language Primeval or Aleph, a sort of ancient language of magic. Complete understanding of this form allows one to construct words and sentences which have magical effect. The sense is that when you hear legends of wizards of long ago who wielded seemingly godlike levels of power exceeding even ninth level spells, this ancient form of magic is what they were using. It has since become a forgotten lore.

The third edition Epic Level Handbook, not concidentally written in part by Bruce Cordell, revives this idea in the form of epic spells, a form of spellcasting which is not bound by the constraints of spell levels. Epic spells are constructed by combining basic "seeds" or magical concepts. The power of an epic spell is only limited by the caster's skill with magic. Since the Epic Level Handbook allowed characters to exceed 20th level, this allowed players to wield spells of practically unlimited power.

D&D 5th edition doesn't allow player characters to exceed 20th level, so if epic spells existed in the world, it would be generally beyond the ability of anyone to cast. However, in settings with continuity of storyline between editions, such as the Forgotten Realms, epic level magic is something which definitely existed in the past, and has merely become unavailable to modern heroes.

How exactly epic magic appears in any given D&D setting will vary:

  • In the Forgotten Realms, powerful spellcasters such as Iyraclea had the power to cast epic spells. (Epic Level Handbook p.303).
  • In Eberron, epic spells are known to dragons of Argonessen (Dragons of Eberron p.24).
  • In Greyhawk, Mordenkainen knows many epic spells (Epic Level Handbook p.309). A popular fan article considers that the ancient magic which caused the Twin Cataclysms, which destroyed two nations in ancient times, were in fact epic spells.
  • Some settings had little or no official D&D third edition support, and so there's no canonical definition for the use of epic spells in that setting (e.g. Dark Sun, Ravenloft, Dragonlance, Spelljammer).
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There are no rules for Epic Magic in D&D 5e

As of writing this answer, no rules have been released for Epic Magic in the 5th edition rules. Elven High Magic isn't mentioned anywhere, and spells are officially between 0th and 9th level:

Every spell has a level from 0 to 9.

...the only exception to this is the artifact Book of Exalted Deeds which allows for 10th level spells through the Enlightened Magic feature:

Enlightened Magic. Once you've read and studied the book, any spell slot you expend to cast a cleric or paladin spell counts as a spell slot of one level higher.

However, this is not comparable to the concept of Epic Magic in previous editions.


If you search D&D Beyond for the phrase "Epic Magic", you get one reference in Wayfinder's Guide to Eberron sourcebook:

Argonnessen is home to the oldest civilization on Eberron. The dragons wield epic magic, and their homeland is shielded against divination and teleportation.

...and later in the same chapter describing the effects of this magic.

Since Elven High Magic, and Mystra's ban on certain magic are both from the Forgotten Realms lore, this must be some other form of epic magic. Quadratic Wizard's excellent answer dives more into what epic magic (including this Argonessen magic) is from a 3rd edition perspective.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Technically, the Book of Exalted Deeds doesn't create tenth-level spells, it just creates a de-facto 10th-level Spell Slot, which can be used to cast (at most) a 9th-level spell. \$\endgroup\$ – nick012000 Dec 11 '20 at 10:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nick012000 See this Q&A. Any spell cast with a 10th level spell slot is a 10th level spell. \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Dec 11 '20 at 13:52
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It doesn't necessarily exist in fifth edition, as that is more of a third edition thing. The closest thing you can come to is probably something attainable if a bunch of people cast wish simultaneously. If you want to include it in your campaign, there are plenty of homebrew resources for you to use, if you are interested.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site! Please take our tour for some information on how the site works. While this answer is a good start, we typically want answers to be backed up a bit more with evidence from the text, or experience from your gaming. Have you implemented epic magic using simultaneous wishes, or have you seen a textual references to this mechanism? You may also want to point out which specific homebrew resources you've used and provide a brief explanation of their strengths and weaknesses from your experience. In any case, happy gaming! \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Dec 10 '20 at 15:17

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