6
\$\begingroup\$

The rules for Activating a Magic Item state:

Some magic items allow the user to cast a spell from the item, often by expending charges from it. The spell is cast at the lowest possible spell and caster level, doesn’t expend any of the user’s spell slots, and requires no components unless the item’s description says otherwise.

Dungeon Master's Guide, p. 141

The phrase was added in a 2018 errata:

[New] Spells (p. 141). In the second sentence, “lowest possible spell level” is now “lowest possible spell and caster level.”

What exactly is caster level referring to in this rule? Further to this, what mechanical purpose does this phrase serve? What behavior is being restricted by this phrase? What ambiguity is being clarified by this phrase?

To be clear, I am not at all interested in any sort of speculation about why the designers included this phrase in the rule. To put it another way, if this phrase were deleted from this rule, what could I do that I couldn't do before? Or, what ambiguity would arise that would no longer be clarified?

\$\endgroup\$
6
\$\begingroup\$

One place it would make a difference is cantrips

Cantrips are fairly (but not entirely) unique in that their power is based on the level of the person casting.

For instance, the Fire Bolt spell:

This spell's damage increases by 1d10 when you reach 5th level (2d10), 11th level (3d10), and 17th level (4d10).

As a cantrip, it can only be cast as a zeroth level spell (no up casting). However, it can change based on the level of the caster. So in the case of a magic item that casts a cantrip, it will only use the weakest damage (lowest caster level).

\$\endgroup\$
9
  • \$\begingroup\$ So is the lowest caster level always 1? \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov Apr 5 at 20:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ Unless your game includes zeroth level NPCs to cast cantrips, I would say yes, 1 is the lowest. \$\endgroup\$ – MivaScott Apr 5 at 20:23
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Gus, cantrips are the only thing that came to mind, but I didn't want to say it as an absolute as eventually someone will point out that spell X also depends on caster, not spell, level. \$\endgroup\$ – MivaScott Apr 5 at 23:00
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Just nitpicking but caster level doesn't matter for cantrips they scale by character level. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Apr 5 at 23:01
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ @Slagmoth: I'm not sure there's a distinction between those terms in 5e. I know there used to be an explicit difference in some previous editions, mostly for multiclass characters. In 5e, the multiclass spellcasting rules reference a character's level in a class, but the term "caster level" isn't generally used for that as a jargon term. In the rules passage quoted in the question, I'm pretty sure "caster level" just has its plain English meaning: the level of the caster. \$\endgroup\$ – Blckknght Apr 6 at 6:04
-2
\$\begingroup\$

caster level refers to the amount of levels you have in spellcasting classes, with "half -caster" levels counting as 1/2 a level. i took this information from the phb's rules on multiclassing. while it does not offer any guidance on magic items, it does talk about spell slots in relation to the combined levels of your spellcasting classes.

your capacity for spellcasting depends partly on the combined levels of your spellcasting classes

this part is later used for determining spell slots

...half your levels(rounded down) in paladin/ranger classes, along with a third of your levels in fighter or rogue if you have the eldritch knight or arcane trickster feature.

not a concrete answer, but levels of your spellcasting classes and caster level seem like the same thing to me.

\$\endgroup\$
1
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ How does this tie back to the question? \$\endgroup\$ – MivaScott Apr 7 at 22:52

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.