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I have a druid with the ability to cast 5th-level spells. If I multi-class this druid to have 1 level of cleric, in theory, I should be able to read and use any cleric spell scrolls.

But the relevant part of the description of the spell scroll magic item says (DMG, page 200):

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 + spell's level. On a failed check, the spell disappears from the scroll with no other effect.

Say I were to use a 5th-level spell scroll for a spell on the cleric spell list (like Hallow). I can normally cast 5th-level spells - even some cleric spells because of my druid circle.

Would I have to make this spellcasting ability check because I am only a level 1 cleric?
Or do the rules mean what they literally say here – that as long as the spell is not above a level which I can normally cast, I do not have to make the check?

Is there a further clarifying rule about this that I am missing, or is this just something inherently vague that the DM would have to decide?

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4 Answers 4

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You have to make the ability check to use the spell scroll.

The description of the spell scroll (page 200) that you quoted has the solution (emphasis mine):

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 + spell's level. On a failed check, the spell disappears from the scroll with no other effect.

Take a look at the rules for multiclassing in the PHB (page 164) or basic rules, too (emphasis mine):

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.

Here, since you have two different spell lists (which may overlap, in this case):

  • Druid's list: you can prepare spells up to 5th level
  • Cleric's list: you can prepare spells up to 1st level

Since your total level is 10 (or 111), you have 5th-level spell slots available, but you can cast only 1st-level spells from the Cleric's spell list. If you try to cast a Cleric spell2 of 2nd-level or higher from a spell scroll, then the quoted parts of the rule for casting from a spell scroll applies: the spell is in your class list, but it is of a higher level than you can normally cast as a Cleric – not as a character of level 10 (or 11).

Consider, for example, a spell scroll with Daylight: it is a 3rd-level spell, and it belongs to both the cleric and druid spell lists. You can decide which class to use to read this scroll: as a druid, you don't need to make an ability check to do, while as a cleric, a 3rd-level spell is beyond your maximum and then you have to do the ability check.


Another interesting point refers to the rule on Casting a Spell at a Higher Level:

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.

This does not contradict the above ruling, since the wording "higher level than you can normally cast" does not apply here. In your case, your character can not normally cast (i.e., prepare and cast) 5th-level Cleric spells; at most, you can only upcast 1st-level Cleric spells using a 5th-level spell slot. This rule refers to special cases when the effective casting level matters (e.g. a 3rd-level Counterspell against an upcast 5th-level Fireball).


1 Depending on your Druid level when you decided to multiclass.

2 By as a Cleric spell I mean as a spell belonging to the Cleric's list, as clarified also in the Spells Known and Prepared section under the multiclass spellcasting rules (emphasis mine):

[...] Each spell you know and prepare is associated with one of your classes, [...]

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    \$\begingroup\$ You should defend why you've added "as a cleric", a stipulation the rules do not actually have. (I'd likely argue that the rules assume you aren't multiclassing, and try something from there, but perhaps there's a better explanation) \$\endgroup\$ Jan 6, 2021 at 12:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 I will expand that part, trying to clarify it. I find the rules poorly written indeed, and there is no indication in the Sage Advice Compendium too. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    Jan 6, 2021 at 12:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Eddymage I appreciate your breakdown, but I am not convinced by the argument. The rule says "a higher level than you can normally cast" not "a spell that you can not normally cast" and the rules do not seem to stipulate that it has to be from the same class. The other rule you cited applies to spell slots and while it may be reasonable to to rule that way as a DM, I'm just not seeing that in the actual rules so far. Of course house rules trump everything, but that is not really the question. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 8, 2021 at 12:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ What if you had a 5th-level scroll of Guiding Bolt (i.e. a 1st-level cleric-only spell upcast to 5th level)? Would an ability check be requried? \$\endgroup\$ Feb 8, 2021 at 18:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ You've inserted the "as a cleric" clause into the rule. It doesn't say "of a higher level you can cast with that class". If you can cast any spells of that level, with any class, you've satisfied the requirement. I'd argue that they can cast a cleric spell of 5th level (and do in my answer) by upcasting, but even if you reject that, the fact that they can cast a 5th level druid spell still satisfies the requirement. \$\endgroup\$
    – DCShannon
    Apr 1 at 20:16
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Yes, you need to make the check

You have to treat each spell you are trying to cast from a scroll individually.

For your example of hallow, it is a spell that is a higher level than you'd be able to cast as a level 1 cleric. You can only cast level 1 cleric spells at that level. As such, you'd need to make the ability check.

If you were trying to cast something like greater restoration then you wouldn't need to make a check since you can already cast that spell.

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I'll repeat the text of the relevant rules here:

If the spell is on your class’s spell list, you can read the scroll and cast its spell without providing any material components.

and

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.

So, there are two requirements to cast the spell without making the check.

1 The spell is on your class spell list.

Since you have a level of Cleric, all Cleric spells are on your class spell list, regardless of level. Any 5th level Cleric spell is on your class spell list.

2 The spell is of a level that you can normally cast.

Since your Druid can cast 5th level spells, this requirement is fulfilled. If you can cast 5th level spells, then a 5th level spell is of a level that you can normally cast. Done.

It's been suggested that you need to be able to cast a 5th level spell of the same class as the spell from the scroll. This isn't supported by the text of the rule, but let's imagine that's a requirement, just for the sake of argument. You can still cast the spell.

Since you can cast a 5th-level druid spell, you must have 5th level spell slots.

Since you are a 1st level cleric, you can cast Cure Wounds.

Note that, on page 201 of the Player's Handbook, it says

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. For instance, if Umara casts magic missile using one of her 2nd-level spell slots, that magic missile is 2nd level.

Therefore, since you have a 5th level spell slot and can cast Cure Wounds, you can cast Cure Wounds at 5th level. This means you can cast a 5th level spell.

So no, you don't have to make the check.

Therefore, since any 5th-level cleric spell is on your class spell list, and is of a level you can normally cast, you do not need to make the check.


Just to be clear, this is not contradicted by the multiclassing rules.

On page 164 of the Player's Handbook, it says

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.

One might misread this, as appears to have been done in another answer, to mean that you cannot use the higher slots to upcast your spells. However, that same section goes on to clarify, regarding a hypothetical multiclassed Ranger 4 / Wizard 3 character

... you have ... two 3rd-level slots. However you don't know any 3rd-level spells ... You can use the spell slots of those levels to cast the spells you do know -- and potentially enhance their effects.

So this character can clearly upcast the lower level spells they know with the higher level spell slots available due to multiclassing rules, even though neither of this character's classes are able to know spells of that higher level.

They are casting a spell of lower level, such as a 1st-level Cure Wounds spell, and then for that casting it becomes a higher level spell.

This means that a Level 8 Druid / Level 1 Cleric also would not need to make the check as they also have a level of cleric and a 5th-level spell slot, even though they haven't learned any spell with a minimum level of 5.


One additional note:

If upcasting a spell doesn't count as being able to normally cast a spell at that level, as some have suggested, then we get an absurd result. If a 9th level Wizard chooses not to learn any 5th level spells, then, by that logic, the Wizard wouldn't be able to cast a 5th level scroll. What about a 9th level cleric that just happens to prepare zero 5th level spells for the day? Do they lose the ability to use their 5th level scroll for the day, only to regain it the next day when they prepare a 5th level spell again?

It seems clear that this is not intended.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This seems to mix up "you can cast a Cleric spell at 5th level" and "you have a 5th level Cleric spell on your class list". Casting Cure Wounds in a 5th level slot does not put Cure Wounds on the Cleric spell list as a 5th level spell, the spell itself is still on the spell list as a 1st level spell. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Mar 14 at 15:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @erik All the cleric spells are on every cleric's class spell list. If you have one level of cleric, 9th level spells are on your class spell list. I didn't say that Cure Wounds is on your list as a 5th level spell, nor does it need to be. \$\endgroup\$
    – DCShannon
    Mar 31 at 16:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ "The spell is of a level that you can normally cast": you can't cast 5th cleric level spell with a 11th druid/1st cleric PC. You can upcast 1st level Cleric spells, using one of your 5th level slots, but for example you can not cast (because you can not even prepare) *Hallow". \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    Apr 4 at 6:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ You don't need to cast a 5th level cleric spell. You can, as I explain in this answer, but you don't need to. If you can normally cast a 5th level druid spell, then a 5th level cleric spell is a of a level you can normally cast, because you can normally cast 5th level spells. I guess I'll make this even more clear. \$\endgroup\$
    – DCShannon
    Apr 4 at 7:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ I hardly think that the last note supports your claim, the reading that you proposed of the other answers in this note is misleading. A 9th level wizard without 5th level spells (known or prepared) still can cast "pure" (i.e. not upcast) 5th level spells, it is able to do so, no one implied the contrary. What you are implying is a non sequitur of the ruling from other answers. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    Apr 4 at 12:28
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Simple answer; Yes, you need to make the ability check

Long answer; It looks like you have fallen into the trap of merging together what level you can cast, and what level spell slots you have.

Watch how often the word level comes up in this discussion...

Your character is a 1st-level Cleric and a 9th-or-higher-level Druid. I have a character that is the opposite; a 16th-level Cleric and a 1st-level Druid.

Because these are both multi-class full-spellcasters, the number and the level of spell slots they have is not diminished in any way. But when it comes to the level of spell at which a class can cast, that is determined by the level of each single class. Per the PHB:

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

Being a Druid/Cleric, you have a number spells that are common to both, and spells that are unique to each.

As a 1st-level Cleric, you have access to Bane, Bless, Command, Guiding Bolt, and a few others that a pure Druid would not be able to cast. But since you are only a 1st-level Cleric, you can only know and prepare, and thus cast, 1st-level Cleric spells. Since your character is 10th level (or higher) they can cast those 1st-level spells using a 5th-level spell slot for a biggest affect. But you cannot know or prepare spells like Aid, Remove Cruse, or Hallow because those are 2nd-level or higher spells; out of reach for a 1st-level Cleric. They are of a higher level than you can cast.

Now let's apply that to scrolls:

If you had a scroll with the spell Meld into Stone, that is a 3rd-level spell. It is a Cleric spell, but it is also a Druid spell. Since your Druid can know and cast 3rd-level spells, it would not require any check. But Hallow is a 5th-level Cleric-only (and a couple of subclasses) spell. So you can only go by the level of spells your Cleric can cast; only 1st-level. This makes Hallow, "of a higher level than you can normally cast," and thus, the need for an ability check.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I think you are confused about what I am asking. What I am asking has nothing to do with spell slots. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 5, 2021 at 21:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @UrsineFavor, you are saying that your first level cleric is able to cast 5th-level spells (like Hallow) which is incorrect. You can cast 1st-level spells like Bless and Cure Wounds, but you can use 5th-level spell slots to cast it because of your levels in Druid. Hallow is "of a higher level than you can normally cast". Per the PHB, "You determine what spells you know and can prepare for each class individually, as if you were a single-classed member of that class." You cannot prepare a Cleric-only 5th-level spell as it it too high. Same goes for scrolls. \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    Jan 5, 2021 at 22:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ It is true that "hallow" is a spell that I can not normally cast. It is not, however a spell "of a higher level than I can normally cast". I think you are missing the core argument here which has nothing to do with spell slots or which spells I can prepare. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 8, 2021 at 13:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @UrsineFavor, but it does. As I pointed out, when dealing with Cleric-only spells, you cannot know, prepare, or cast spells above 1st-level. Therefore, a 5th-level cleric spell is higher than you can cast. I have the exact oppisite character; a 16th level Cleric/1st level Druid. He only gets to use 1st-level Druid-only spells. But he can use 5th-level spell slots to cast them. It does not mean he can cast 5th-level Druid-only spells. \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    Jan 8, 2021 at 16:41

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