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I enjoy casting spells in D&D, but spell slots have always felt big and important to me. Regardless of the build I make, I always feel some compulsion to save them for a more important and pivotal moment, or not pick more fun and interesting spells because there is the potential I will be found lacking in a pivotal moment.

In the spirit of fixing this so I stop hoarding slots, what is the largest amount of reusable spells one can have at the same time that do not require spell slots to cast?

Expectations:

  • If an ability functions like a spell or offers a seemingly magical effect at will, it can be considered a "spell" for the purposes of this question
  • If a spell specifies an amount per long rest, I would prefer it not being included unless it has 2 or more uses. If it's use count depends on one of the 2 modifiers we pick as our spellcasting scores for this, it can be included
  • If a spell functions as the above but is instead per short rest, any amount of uses is acceptable
  • If a leveled spell requires concentration and allows repeated use or direction of its continuous damaging / CC effects (such as Storm Sphere or Call Lightning) while you maintain concentration, this is also acceptable to include despite costing a slot
  • If a leveled spell has a duration of 1 minute or longer and repeatedly / consistently increases Armor Class (Like Mage Armor), Saving Throws (Like Bless), assists in catching enemies with Spell Saves (Like Bane), grants the caster a useful ability (Like Far Step), or otherwise disables an enemy for its duration, it can be included despite costing a slot
  • If a spell draws upon different ability scores for its spell saves or mechanics, a maximum of 2 distinct ability scores may be used at one time i.e. if we're building a character with high Charisma and Intelligence, a Cleric ability / spell that is not in some way altered to use Charisma / Intelligence would not count
  • Your answer can be particular to a given level from 5 to 20 i.e. "At 5th level, the answer is ____ based on the following..."
  • Effects like Warlock Invocations, which grant the effects of a spell ad infinum, such as Eldritch Sight or Fiendish Vigor count
  • Ideally, this would only use official material and not Homebrew or Unearthed Arcana, however you may answer it with Unearthed Arcana material if it's specified it's from UA and is not from Archived Unearthed Arcana
  • Ideally, a character would be semi-viable in a standard campaign, but answers that are just looking for the hypothetical maximum are also welcome

Objective

I'm trying to find a character build that could help me distance myself from my fear of not having backups for when I'm out of spell slots, so answers in the spirit of that would be the most helpful. The obvious answer is to play a weapon class of course, but I'd like to try a pure caster if possible.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ We generally try to avoid answering the question within the question, however, the answer you provide would be appropriate to post as an answer. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 10, 2023 at 21:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah, okay--shall move it; thank you \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 10, 2023 at 22:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ Related question on How many cantrips can you learn by 20th level? \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Oct 11, 2023 at 1:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ Too late to change it now, but you've included a lot of stuff that doesn't fit the question title, that includes a huge amount of spells, basically all concentration buffs / debuffs and area and single-target damage-over-time. I could see including efficiency choices you cast once and spend an action or bonus on in later turns, like Call Lightning, Bigby's Hand, or Flame Blade, but the interesting part was at-will spells like being able to cast Mage Armor via the Armor of Shadows invocation. (Which as an abjuration wizard, lets you refill your arcane ward for free.) Or a Ring of Telekinesis. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 11, 2023 at 18:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that the boon of the fire soul, boon of the stormborn, and boon of spell mastery all give at-will spells. \$\endgroup\$
    – User 23415
    Commented Feb 9 at 19:24

4 Answers 4

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You can get 47 reusable spells and magic activated abilities (78 if you count rituals).

The Build

Our character is a level 20 Variant Human {8,10,10,13,16,20} with the following classes:

  • Warlock (The Celestial) 8 ------------------- (for cantrips, Pact Magic, Eldritch Invocation, Pact of the Tome, Healing Light, and 2 ASIs)
  • Bard (College of Glamour) 3 ---------------- (for cantrips, Bardic Inspiration, and Enthralling Performance)
  • Sorcerer (Clockwork Soul) 1 ---------------- (for cantrips and Restore Balance)
  • Cleric (Grave Domain) 2 --------------------- (for cantrips, Circle of Mortality, Eyes of the Grave, and Channel Divinity)
  • Druid (Circle of Stars) 2 ---------------------- (for cantrips, Star Map, Wild Shape, and Starry Form)
  • Artificer (Artillerist) 2 ------------------------ (for cantrips, Magical Tinkering, Infuse Item, and Eldritch Cannon)
  • Wizard 2 (College of Transmutation) ------- (for cantrips and Minor Alchemy)

...and the Magic Initiate bonus feat (from Variant Human).

The Calculation

Here is the breakdown of our reusable spells and activated abilities:

  • Cantrips (28)
    • 2 from Magic Initiate
    • 3 from Warlock levels
    • 2 from The Celestial's Bonus Cantrips feature
    • 3 from Pact of the Tome
    • 2 from Bard levels
    • 4 from Sorcerer levels
    • 3 from Cleric levels
    • 1 from Grave Domain's Circle of Mortality feature
    • 2 from Druid levels
    • 1 from Circle of Stars' Starmap feature
    • 2 from Artificer levels
    • 3 from Wizard levels
  • Reusable Spells (8)
    • 2 from Pact Magic
    • 4 from various Eldritch Invocations
    • 1 from Circle of Stars' Starmap feature
    • 1 from Artificer's Infuse Item feature (Replicate Magic Item for sending stones)
  • Magic activated abilities (11)
    • 1 from The Celestial's Healing Light feature
    • 1 from College of Glamour's Enthralling Performance feature
    • 1 from Clockwork Soul's Restore Balance feature
    • 1 from Grave Domain's Eyes of the Grave feature
    • 1 from Channel Divinity
    • 1 from Wild Shape
    • 1 from Circle of Stars' Starry Form feature
    • 1 from Artificer's Infuse Item feature (Armor of Magical Strength)
    • 1 from Magical Tinkering
    • 1 from Artillerist's Eldritch Cannon feature
    • 1 from Minor Alchemy

Rituals

If you want to count rituals towards the total, you should replace the wizard level with one more level of Warlock, and select the new Invocation as Book of Ancient Secrets to let you get any ritual spell up to 5th level. This decreases our cantrip count by 3, but gives us:

  • 13 1st level rituals
  • 8 2nd level rituals
  • 7 3rd level rituals
  • 1 4th level ritual
  • 5 5th level rituals

...totaling 34 - 3 = 31 new reusable spells.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Damn, that's a super cool list! I struggle to think of how to make it viable, but 40-80 is way higher than I thought it would go to! What level do you think warlock would have to be to offset the detriment of a setup like this, if dropping some of the abilities and levels in favor of functionality? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 11, 2023 at 5:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MiloKurain I mean, it is reasonable viable by just sacrificing one Eldritch Invocation spell for Agonizing Blast. Your damage is just fine, but your utility and support is crazy. You get Healing Light early on which is quite strong, eventually you get all the utility cantrips, a bunch of utility spells and abilities, you get 5 bardic inspirations, Expertise in Charisma skills, and trade the two infusions to get better buffs for your party members (a +1 AC on your tank for example is still good even at level 19). \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 11, 2023 at 6:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DavidCoffron Thank you very much, David! I did notice one small thing, which is that because sorcerers can't have more sorcery points than their maximum, a character with only 2 levels in sorcerer would cap out at 2! The one bit about turning 2 4th level slots into 4 1st level spells would technically be incorrect, since breaking the 4th level slot would just give 2 points, which can only make 1 first level slot. Everything else is incredibly helpful though; much appreciated! I love playing support / utility roles in groups, so this is my ideal actually \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 11, 2023 at 8:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MiloKurain I'm always shocked that I'm still learning new rules. I never realized that the sorcery point was a cap until now. I always thought you could go higher. Thanks for the find; I've updated the answer accordingly \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 11, 2023 at 14:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ With 2 more levels of bard, Bardic Inspiration comes back on a short rest, which makes it much more usable across multiple combats and for out-of-combat skill checks. So if you were actually going to play a build anything like this, @MiloKurain, you'd probably want to sacrifice one of the 2-level dips to get more bard. Perhaps the Wizard dip, although that means giving up ritual casting of 1st-level wizard spells that aren't even prepared. Maybe take the Ritual Caster feat instead to get a ritual book, or the warlock invocation mentioned in this answer. Sorc 1 could be dropped, too. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 11, 2023 at 18:37
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At 20th level, a possible answer is a character with 4 levels in Sorcerer and 16 levels in Warlock.

  • 4 levels are spent in Sorcerer to have a total of 5 Sorcerer Cantrips (+5) and the Magic Initiate feat, by which one could select 2 additional Sorcerer cantrips (+2).
  • Metamagic, which theoretically allows conversion of spell slots gained with Warlock levels into Sorcery Points, which one could turn into some of their expended 2nd or 3rd level Sorcerer slots before taking a short rest (In theory, an average of +3-5 technically reusable on short rest spells, though reliant on not using one's warlock slots)
  • The Lunar Sorcery origin which grants an improved Sacred Flame Cantrip (+1).
  • 16 levels in Warlock which grants 4 cantrips (+4), the Spell Sniper feat (+1 Cantrip), and 3 spare Ability Score Increases (thank you to the other answers for enlightening me that the Book of Ancient Secrets invocation is greatly superior to a wasted ASI from the Ritual Caster feat).
  • The Book of Shadows pact boon which allows 3 additional cantrips from any class that count as Warlock spells (+3)
  • 15 spells one can technically cast 3 of every short rest (or flex into sorcerer slots to cast something else instead, or potentially get more lower level casts); Summon Fey (+1), Fear (+1), and Far Step (+1) come to mind as repeatedly usable concentration spells
  • 7 invocations which can grant: Casting Levitate at will (+1), Casting Speak with Animals at will (+1), Casting Detect Magic at will (+1), Casting Disguise Self at will (+1), Casting Alter Self at will (+1), Casting Silent Image at will (+1), and Book of Ancient Secrets which grants access to 2 1st-level ritual spells from Cleric plus any written ritual spells you come across over a campaign (at least +2)
  • 3 Fiend patron abilities that recharge on short rest or are constantly usable on a trigger (+3).

In theory, this makes the total number of reusable magical "spells" I have somewhere around 32-37 (or more, depending on how many ritual wizard spells you can find and copy).

Still looking for other alternatives, though

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    \$\begingroup\$ add to that items that grant abilities that act as if they were the spell, but those are hard to quantify \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Commented Oct 11, 2023 at 1:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Trish Very true! I guess I felt a little awkward planning around magic items I wasn't sure the build could count on getting, but for a hypothetical, maybe I should be looking... Maybe nabbing some racial cantrips as well could improve this answer--thank you \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 11, 2023 at 2:00
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Maximize rituals spells

In addition to the various schemes you outline in your own answer, a simple and straightforward way to cast spells without using up spell slots is using ritual spells: they by definition do not use up spell slots, in exchange for an extra 10 minutes of casting time. And there are lots of useful effects that you can use outside of combat with them.

As a wizard, you have access to 19 ritual spells. The highest level ones are the 5th level contact other plane and Rary's telephatic bond and the 6th level Drawmij's instant summons, which means you would need only 11 levels of wizard to access all of them. All the rest are level 3 or below, with excellent spells like detect magic, floating disk, and phantom steed, that you can spam at your heart's desire. Plus, another 4 cantrips that a wizard has, plus the mage armor spell that you also count as a slotless effect. Some schools also grant you further access to spell-like reusable effects, like the School of Conjuration's minor conjuration, or the School of Illusions free and improved minor illusion cantrip.

You already plan on heavily using a warlock and pick the Pact of the Tome and the invocation Book of Ancient Secrets, which lets you record two ritual spells of any class, plus any other ritual spell that you find if the spell level is up to half your warlock level, so technically, you do not need any wizard levels if you take 12 levels of warlock with this feature, as all wizard spells might be found in spellbooks or scrolls, and you can pick for example Cleric rituals like commune or meld into stone for the initial two. (Technically, you can add rituals from any class if you find them on scrolls, but wizards are the only ones that normally write down their spells in books for you to copy). Taking 5 levels of wizard will make you independent of finding the spells in game and add 13 guaranteed rituals of which are not on the warlock spell list, plus 4 cantrips, plus a wizard feature, plus at least mage armor, for 19 guaranteed additional spells (more if you use optional rules in Tasha's Cauldron of Everything that add ritual spells like augury, and divination to the wizard list).

You only could take 13 levels in Warlock then, but all that would cost you is one invocation, you still get 6. That means you would get 18-20 more guaranteed slot-free spell effects from this, getting you to over 50.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I hadn't thought about the Book of Secrets invocation, but David Coffron suggested the same thing--smart! I guess that's directly superior to the Ritual Caster feat I originally thought about using myself... So to clarify, the Book of Ancient Secrets invocation specifies the rituals can be from any spell list--is there a rule in place that ensures future rituals can only be warlock spells..? The RAW would read to me as though any class's rituals could be copied into the book, but rather, is there something that makes the extra Wizard rituals you mentioned excluded from just using the book? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 11, 2023 at 5:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MiloKurain David is just the best when it comes to this kind of optimization questions. He puts in such a detailed and knowlegable effort. To your question: my understanding is any of the rituals could be from any list; the issue is that outside of Wizard spellbooks, there is no other written source for rituals for you to find and copy, as clerics, druids etc. do not write down their spells, they get them from nature or their deity. If you had one of those written, you could copy it. So in practice you'll be limited to Warlock and Wizard ones after the first two you pick. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 11, 2023 at 6:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ What about a scroll containing a ritual cleric spell? \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Commented Oct 11, 2023 at 15:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Trish, Ah, yes, that could work too. I'll edit to cover it. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 11, 2023 at 15:28
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Bit of a frame challenge in the spirit of "I'm trying to find a character build that could help me distance myself from my fear of not having backups for when I'm out of spell slots":

Play a warlock

The other answers are great in listing effects that can be considered magical and do have some great gems. However, imho, most of them are quite limited in power - no class will give you fireballs at will.

Why do I feel a warlock is the right solution here?

  1. Eldritch blast + Agonizing blast (and potentially more invocations that add effects to it) is crazy good; in most situations you can just spam that and do 90% of what a warlock can contribute.
  2. Hex at level 3/4 lasts for 8h, at 5 it lasts for 24h - that's as permanent effect you can get and quite nice too (needs concentration)
  3. Access to invocations that give at-will effects, along with pact of tome, along with Book of Ancient Secrets for rituals for small, varied effects
  4. Most importantly: spell slots refresh every short rest, so you'll be nudged towards using them more often, instead of hoarding them for the last fight of the day. Communication with the DM is also important and if you describe your problem it's likely they'll give you some hints about when a short rest can happen.

Alternatively

A level 18 wizard will you give you one unlimited level 1 and one unlimited level 2 spell (spell mastery); and at 20 you get a level 3 spell once/short rest. But at that point, does it really matter? Especially as cantrips are better for damage.

The other approach would be to play a necromancer/summoner, with spells such as Summon Undead/Fey/Shadowspawn/Elemental etc for Tasha's Cauldron. They last 1h (concentration) and give you a minion with various abilities - you could even reflavour them as an ongoing magical effect instead.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ While I do respect the answer, I'll clarify that maybe I poorly worded the context of the question's motivations. While it is to make it so that I'm less scared of using my spell slots, it's not as much for the purposes of "I would like a build that does amazing damage without using spell slots"; it's very clear that Eldritch Blast investment tends to be the way to do that. Most of my actual personal interest, which I guess I just implied, is that using my spell slots on utility spells feels bad because I feel like I need those slots for other things. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 12, 2023 at 5:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ As additional clarity, what I liked most about David's answer was not the presence of a lot of damage options, but more the amount of freedom it presented, with lots of utility effects available and even mildly specializing into healing one's party over having access to more damage, what with celestial over the fiend patron. That said, I do respect Warlock as a class, and it has become my defacto favorite, right up there just above Sorcerer. I've been mostly using the suggestions here as inspiration to try varied, unorthodox things that rely on creative solutions over just using eldritch blast \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 12, 2023 at 5:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ If your spell-mastery choice is an AoE like Shatter, you can wreck hordes of weak enemies all day every day, something most classes can't do. Or damage objects. It's not much damage, though, and the area is much smaller than Fireball. (Shatter is 3d8 thunder in 10 ft radius sphere, vs. 8d6 in a 20 ft radius. All the low-budget level 2 AoEs are much weaker than Fireball, so yeah, aren't generally useful. A normal wizard wouldn't pick them as spell-mastery choices, instead spells like Misty Step or Vortex Warp, Invisibility, flock of familiars, hold person, see invis, suggestion) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 12, 2023 at 6:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MiloKurain that makes sense! my answer was more geared towards a class that'd encourage spell slot usage which the warlock does by having slots refresh at short rest acting a bit as training wheels (and EB acts as a safety net in the sense that even if you "suboptimally" spend your slots on less impactful effects you can still do most of the work needed). but it's true that a warlock is probably not a great idea if you want a great variety utility effects as they get only a couple of big spell slots :) \$\endgroup\$
    – falsedot
    Commented Oct 13, 2023 at 12:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PeterCordes well, you can always retrain them so if the DM is planning a tower-defence encounter it's great :D i'm mostly saying that at that level infinite lv2 spells might sound amazing but in most cases it'd be better to nova instead of dragging on the fight with multiple castings. \$\endgroup\$
    – falsedot
    Commented Oct 13, 2023 at 12:12

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