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In 3.5, the epic rules rules state that no new spell slots are obtained after level 20. But if a 20th level wizard, say, picks up a level of cleric to get to level 21 (20 Wiz 1 Clr) does that character get new cleric spells?

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The Dungeon Master's Guide in its section Epic Characters (206–10) on Epic Class Features, in part, says that a "character’s spells per day don't increase after 20th level" (207). This clearly contradicts Adding a Second Class that, in part, says

When an epic character with levels in only one class attains a new level, she may choose to increase the level of her current class or pick up a new class at 1st level. The standard rules for multiclassing… still apply….

An epic character gains the class skills, weapon proficiency, armor proficiency, spells, and other class features of the new class, as well as a Hit Die of the appropriate size. In addition, the character gets the usual skill points from the new class.

Just as with standard multiclassing, adding the second class does not confer some of the benefits for a 1st-level character, including maximum hit points from the first Hit Die, quadruple the per level skill points, starting equipment, starting gold, or an animal companion.

An epic character does not gain the base attack bonuses and base save bonuses normally gained when adding a second class. Instead, the character uses the epic attack bonus and epic save bonus progression shown on Table 6–18: Epic Save and Epic Attack Bonus. (207 and emphases mine)

Yes, those are on the same page. Here's the double-think: In that quotation from the Epic Class Features section, the DMG is discussing an epic creature that already has all of one class's nonepic spells per day; that character normally sees no increase in spells per day by advancing more in that class. (Other game elements, obviously, can increase.)

  • Example 1: A cleric 20 who advances to cleric 21 doesn't see an increase in her spells per day solely because she advanced from cleric 20 to cleric 21.
  • Example 2: A druid 20/fighter 4 who advances to druid 21 doesn't see an increase in her spells per day solely because she advanced from druid 20 to druid 21.

In the quotation from Adding a Second Class, the DMG is discussing an epic creature that opts to gain a new spellcasting class. Such a creature gets spells per day for taking that new class's first level, and that creature will see an increase in that class's spells per day as that creature advances that class's spellcasting until the creature reaches that class's maximum nonepic spells per day for that class. This is usually at class level 20 but exceptions like some prestige classes are frequent.

(This ruling, by extension, should apply to any epic creature that has less than full nonepic spellcasting in a class. For example, a cleric 30/wizard 25 who takes a level of dread necromancer gets dread necromancer spells per day as a dread necromancer 1 and can thereafter increase her dread necromancer spells per day (by advancing levels in dread necromancer or a prestige class that advances dread necromancer spellcasting) until she reaches level 20 in dread necromancer spellcasting.)

  • Example 3: A cleric 20 who becomes a cleric 20/wizard 1 does get new wizard spells per day from being a wizard and can advance wizard spells per day until the creature advances to cleric 20/wizard 20. However, at cleric 21 or higher or wizard 21 or higher, the creature's spells per day typically don't increase.
  • Example 4: A cleric 20/wizard 15/druid 3 who takes levels in the prestige class mystic theurge (192–3) can apply the class feature +1 level of existing arcane spellcasting class to her wizard class, but if she does that then she has wizard spellcasting 21 or higher, and she doesn't see an increase in wizard spells per day. She can apply can apply the class feature +1 level of existing divine spellcasting class to her cleric or druid class, but if she picks the former she doesn't see an increase in spells per day by advancing her effective cleric spellcasting from level 20 to 21. However, she would see in an increase in her druid spells per day were she to pick the latter.

It's possible to read this in different ways, perhaps by ignoring one quotation or the other, but doing so tends to run against the game's own examples. High Lady of Silverymoon Alustriel (Epic Level Handbook 300–1), for instance, is, among other things, a Wiz20/Sor2 yet still has sorcerer spells per day, and former Chosen of Gilgeam Shuruppak (305) is a Ftr20/Rog3/Wiz7 yet still prepares wizard spells. While examples aren't rules and the rules could be clearer, the epic level characters the game describes follow the processes described above.

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YES an epic character continues to earn new spells when leveling a class that is not yet level 20.

This is the section causing confusion (from Epic Level Basics: Class Features):

For spellcasters, caster level continues to increase after 20th level. However, spells per day don’t increase after 20th level. The only way to gain additional spells per day (other than the bonus spells gained from a high ability score) is to select the Improved Spell Capacity epic feat.

However, that section is specifically regarding class, not character, progression. As stated before the bullet points:

Many, but not all, class features continue to accumulate after 20th level. The following guidelines describe how the epic class [emphasis added] progressions.

The rule is stating that progressing a spell-casting class beyond level 20 does not garner additional spell slots.

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