How would the game change if I removed spell lists? Essentially, every spell would be on every spell list.

I know this would lead to balance issues with wizard's Spell Mastery and spells such as Healing Word. Are there any other spells that would cause issues?

Are there any other potential balance problems that every spell being on every spell list would cause?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Is there a specific reason you are asking this question? That is, did you think it could be fun and decided to ask (perfectly okay!) or did you or someone else get fed up with never having the right spell and think the rules were unfair or...? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 13:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MatthieuM. Partially because I thought it might be fun, but mainly because of using a lot of homebrew. If I have several homebrew classes and a bunch homebrew spells, I have to manually pick which spells are on the new classes' spell lists. So, I was wondering how bad an idea it would be to get rid of spell lists to alleviate this. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rgamer43
    Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 20:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AnnaAG Please don't submit answers in comments - I know you said it isn't detailed enough, but that doesn't change that you did submit an answer to OP. If you'd like to submit as a fully supported answer, please do so. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Aug 29, 2023 at 14:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ If the goal of this question is to figure out how to distribute spells better when making new homebrew classes, it might be good to mention that in the question so that anyone posting can provide some alternate suggestions for doing so in their answers. Or asking a separate question about that specifically and linking it to this one so that people can provide answers to that more specific question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Aug 29, 2023 at 16:58

2 Answers 2


For this answer, I'm going to try to focus on broad-strokes balance issues, rather than particular broken combos.

The classes will feel much more similar.

Druids and clerics are both prepared casters who use WIS as their casting stat, but have very different spell lists. If you remove the spell list differences, these classes' abilities will become very similar. Balance-wise, this means everyone can optimize based on which class has the best non-spellcasting features, instead of having to factor in the spell list.

In particular…

Classes won't have distinct weaknesses.

It's by design that wizards are very bad at healing, and clerics are bad at blowing things up. This is a balancing factor that's meant to counteract the 3e-era problem of "the best party is always four wizards" and incentivize playing a mixture of classes. In base 5e, four wizards will have great DPS and crowd control, but no healing and very little defense. With this change, that's no longer a concern.

Prepared casters are much more versatile.

Spontaneous casters won't get as much of a benefit from this, since even if they have access to an order of magnitude more spells, they can't learn any more. Prepared casters, on the other hand, can take advantage of this new panoply of options at every rest. (And of course classes without spells get no benefit at all: fighters and rogues get left out in the cold.)

Which also means…

Decision paralysis gets worse.

A prepared caster like a cleric now has the option of preparing any spell in the entire game at a long rest. That's a lot of options! The player has gained a whole bunch of extra power, but only if they can OOC think through all those options…and this comes up anew every day. This puts more burden on the player's OOC planning and decision-making skills to take advantage of the expanded list.

But also…

A lot of choices get taken away.

Spontaneous casters, on the other hand, still have a very limited number of spells known. With all the spells in the entire game to choose from, it's likely all of those choices will get filled in by the objectively best spells.

Currently, a ranger might take a couple of "mandatory" spells that are the best on their list, and then fill out their other choices with fun or flavorful effects that aren't as potent. But with this change, the opportunity cost for choosing those fun spells becomes much higher—because you're taking them instead of the best spells from the wizard list, the cleric list, and so on. While prepared casters may end up with too many choices to make, spontaneous casters are likely to end up with too few!

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    \$\begingroup\$ There are many spells that are considered so good they're effectively a "tax" on spells known... if you can learn them, you should. I wonder if decision paralysis would actually get worse, or if there are enough "clear winners" that everyone just takes all the same spells: eldritch blast as cantrip targeting AC w/great damage type, mind sliver saving throw cantrip with bonus effect, shield as most reliable reaction spell, revivify because most efficient way to bring back dead, etc. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 14:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @stevenjackson121 Good point! I imagine it'll remove a lot of the choices for spontaneous casters, because why wouldn't you just take the best spells. But prepared casters will still have a lot of choices to make, because those best spells aren't the best in every circumstance. \$\endgroup\$
    – Draconis
    Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 15:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ I would also include class imbalance. Wizards have the same spell slots and way worse class features than druids or bards and this is balanced by the more powerful spells they have access to. If that is given to everyone then classes like wizard become underpowered. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rad80
    Commented Aug 30, 2023 at 10:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ Quibbling on a solid answer: fighters and rogues each have an archetype with 1/3 casting. I don't know of any such for monks and barbarians. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 30, 2023 at 13:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JoelHarmon Fair point. I could have said non-Arcane-Trickers and non-Eldritch-Knights, but it seemed punchier to leave off the qualification. To quibble with the quibble, though, I'm not sure what the asker intends to do about e.g. Shadow monks; is that a "spell list" or not? \$\endgroup\$
    – Draconis
    Commented Aug 30, 2023 at 14:45

Many and Varied Implications

This is a far bigger change that it may appear on the surface. The balance of many class features is built around the spell available to that class. It also removes most of the distinct between spellcasting classes and significantly changes the balance discussion.

A bland experience

Ignoring the balance concerns for a moment, this change removes all the flavour and "feel" of the different spellcasting classes. Much of the distinction between a Wizard and a Cleric is found in their spell list. Remove that and there is far less incentive to have a variety of classes and instead just pick the class that lets you learn/cast the most spells per level.

Makes many features redudant

There are multiple class features or subclasses whose entire premise is based on giving access to spells that class wouldn't normal have access to. Some examples:

  • Bard (Any) - Magical Secrets:

By 10th level, you have plundered magical knowledge from a wide spectrum of disciplines. Choose two spells from any classes, including this one.

  • Sorcerer (Divine Soul) - Divine Magic:

Your link to the divine allows you to learn spells normally associated with the cleric class. When your Spellcasting feature lets you learn a sorcerer cantrip or a sorcerer spell of 1st level or higher, you can choose the new spell from the cleric spell list or the sorcerer spell list.

  • Warlock / Druid / Cleric - Expanded Spell List

These are just a few examples of features made redundant by your change.

Disencentivises Multi-classing

On top of weakening specific features this change largely makes multi-classing for spellcasters redundant. Gaining access to powerful combinations at the cost of high level spell is one of the primary motivations for multi-classing. Taking that away means that most players will simply pick the class that gives the highest number of spells.

Overpowered Features

While making some features redundant, it also makes some other features far stronger than they currently are. Typically by allowing access to strong combinations of spell and feature that typically requires multiclassing to achieve.

Some features that majorly benefit from this change:

  • Cleric (Tempest Domain) - Destructive Wrath
  • Sorcerer (Any) - Metamagic
  • Wizard (Any) - Spell Mastery

Unforeseen changes

This is a change that impacts so many classes at such a fundamental level that it is difficult to foresee every powerful or redundant interaction. If allowed during play it is likely players will regularly find new combinations that break the game in new ways.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Regarding the distinction between Wizard and Cleric: why would you play as a Wizard that has to learn all their spells (often using time and gold) when you can play as a Cleric that automatically gets access to the whole list? \$\endgroup\$
    – smbailey
    Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 16:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ @smbailey: Because the Wizard can ritual-cast non-prepared spells from their spellbook. With more high-value spells to prepare, and the ritual spells from every class available, that becomes even stronger if you're in a campaign with access to a lot of scrolls and stuff. If you mostly only get your 2 spells per level-up, you're maybe not going to get your hands on Commune (5th, rit) as well as all the other goodies you want. Also, Arcane Recovery, and some wizard subclasses have some different flavour (and casting bonuses) from clerics. And as OP mentioned, spell mastery for free heals! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 17:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @linksassin: note that unlike warlock, cleric / druid domain/circle spells aren't just an expanded spell list. You have them prepared for free, which is still helpful. But yes, normally access to spells from outside your class list is a big deal for domain/circle spells. Now, as long as they're all ones you'd have wanted to prepare anyway, that leaves your options open to grab the fun spells from other lists like Polymorph. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 17:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ What you're looking for in a domain-spell list now is to avoid redundancy and special-case-only spells, like Forge Cleric getting both Magic Weapon (2nd) and Elemental Weapon (3rd), the latter being better except for needing a higher slot (including for upcasting). Trickery cleric gets a pretty good selection of useful spells including Polymorph that most casters would prep anyway, with only Modify Memory being really situational. Having Blink and Mirror Image is maybe overkill, but they are different. Life Domain has a great spread of heal/buff Cleric spells you'd mostly want anyway. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 17:36

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