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The new Cartomancer feat from The Book of Many Things has a feature, Hidden Ace, that says "when you finish a long rest, you can choose one spell from your class's spell list and imbue that spell into a card." After this you can "you can use a bonus action to flourish the card and cast the spell within."

It could be compared to the magic items wand of magic missiles and rod of resurrection, in that it does not mention anything about spell slots:

While holding it, you can use an action to expend 1 or more of its charges to cast the magic missile spell from it.

While you hold it, you can use an action to cast one of the following spells from it: heal (expends 1 charge) or resurrection (expends 5 charges).

It could instead be compared to feats like Fey Touched which do mention "without using a spell slot":

You learn the Misty Step spell and one 1st-level spell of your choice. [...] You can cast each of these spells without expending a spell slot.

I thought the operative difference between the wand of magic missiles and the Hidden Ace feature might be the phrase "from it." In that case, Cartomancer would not allow you to cast the spell from the imbued card, it allows you to cast the spell (by expending a spell slot). However, the ring of spell storing does not use the phrase "from it" and implies you cast the spell, while not requiring the expenditure of a spell slot when casting.

While wearing this ring, you can cast any spell stored in it.

So, does the imbued card from Cartomancer's Hidden Ace feature allow you to cast the imbued spell without expending a spell slot (as wands, rods, and rigns do), or must you expend a spell slot because it doesn't say otherwise (as other feats do)?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "From your class's spell list", not that you know or have prepared. That reads like Artificer's 'Spell Storing Item'. Is this then a related question? \$\endgroup\$
    – Journer
    Nov 4, 2023 at 20:10

4 Answers 4

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No spell slot required.

The feat reads similarly to other spell storing effects and features, albeit much more poorly written in how vague it is.

The card is a consumable magic item

The description for what happens after it is used is "The card then immediately loses its magic." When it's imbued, it's a magic item. This is similar to the artificer class features and in line with the rule for consumable magic items:

Once used, a consumable item loses its magic.

Similar magic items

Casting a spell stored in a item such as hidden ace's "bonus action to flourish the card and cast the spell within" is a mechanic used by other magic items. E.g.:

  • Ring of spell storing: "While wearing this ring, you can cast any spell stored in it."
  • Spell gem from Out of the Abyss: "While holding the gem, you can cast the spell from it as an action..."
  • Spell scroll: "A spell scroll bears the words of a single spell, written in a mystical cipher. ...you can read the scroll and cast its spell"

Casting from magic items doesn't use spell slots (unless stated)

Some magic items allow the user to cast a spell from the item. 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.

Hidden ace doesn't describe that it requires components or spell slots.

Components Problem

The hidden ace ability is different from a ring of spell storing, spell gem, and scroll in that imbuing the spell into it does not require casting the spell. This gets around having to expend or have expensive components for some spells. A simple house rule would remedy this.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I think this answer probably deserves a little more weight; it's the only one that (IMO) correctly points out that nowhere does it tell you to spend a spell slot. Whether it's a magical item or not, if you have text that reads "use a bonus action to cast the spell within," with no qualifiers (like quicken spell where the trigger is spend sorcery points to ALTER a spell into a bonus action), the resource cost for casting that spell is just that; a bonus action, and nothing else. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 20, 2023 at 21:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that the "similar magic items" you list aren't really that similar, since they all require a spell slot to be used when the spell is stored. Cartomancer doesn't. Also, I'm pretty sure that every feat up until now that lets you cast a spell without a slot explicitly states "without [expending] a spell slot". Finally, the feat doesn't say the card is a magic item and it doesn't belong to any existing category of magic item defined in the DMG, so it's not a magic item. \$\endgroup\$
    – pyrocrasty
    Nov 21, 2023 at 18:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't think this answer is correct. Magic Items are specific items defined in the rules. Nowhere does Cartomancer say it produces a Magic Item. The DMG also says that every Magic Item has a category and a rarity, and Cartomancer has none. Spell Storing Item gets around this by letting you "Produce the spell's effect" instead of casting it. That is also why it has to state that you still use Concentration and your Spellcasting Ability for the Spell's effects. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 27, 2023 at 6:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BobbitTheDog the ring of spell storing does state the user casts the spell. "While wearing this ring, you can cast any spell stored in it. The spell uses the slot level, spell save DC, spell attack bonus, and spellcasting ability of the original caster, but is otherwise treated as if you cast the spell." \$\endgroup\$
    – GcL
    Nov 27, 2023 at 22:05
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It doesn't matter whether or not the Ace is a magic item; it doesn't cost a slot.

Hidden Ace. When you finish a long rest, you can choose one spell from your class's spell list and imbue that spell into a card. The chosen spell must have a casting time of 1 action, and it must be a level for which you have spell slots. The card remains imbued with this spell for 8 hours. While the card is imbued with the spell, you can use a bonus action to flourish the card and cast the spell within. The card then immediately loses its magic.

Emphasis mine, the Ace is a self-contained (Feat)ure. The text tells you to pick a spell from your list and imbue it in the card (an unambiguous, discrete object within your inventory); the text is not instructing you to use your Spellcasting Feature to expend a slot and cast a spell here. The card is simply imbued with the spell.

The causal effect here is that you now have a card imbued with spell X. As a self-contained (Feat)ure, every cost associated with this card is printed in the text. Like any other text that tells you to cast a spell from an object, which the card most certainly is, regardless of whether or not it's magical, the only resource you use to cast that spell is what's printed with it; in this case, your bonus action.

One could lambaste WotC for being notorious for language inconsistencies, but that's only because there's so much printed material there's bound to be a few flubs. I think, however, that the easy tell for intentions behind the RAW lack of spell slots here, is that if you were meant to expend a spell slot they could have just recycled the language for Quicken Spell, and said when you cast the imbued spell you can expend the magic in the card to cast it as a bonus action.

Instead, they gave an object with a spell "imbued" in it, that you cast with a bonus action.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think this makes sense, and is balanced against things like fey touched with free short rest spells so not out of the ordinary not to require spell slots. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Nov 20, 2023 at 22:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BobbitTheDog "Unless the feature says otherwise." Feature says "use a bonus action to flourish the card and cast the spell within." It does not say use a spell slot to cast a spell from your spells known. Normal class spellcasting features tend to mention spell slots as part of their course, but there is no rule in the game that says a spell can't come from a slotless source or something other than the spellcasting feature; many features and monsters benefit from that exact arrangement. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 27, 2023 at 16:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BobbitTheDog that reasoning would run into a problem even with the ring of spell storing. The text of that item doesn't state it allows you to cast a spell without a spell slot. It simply states the user can cast a spell. Similarly, wand of web allows the user to expend a charge to cast the web spell. It doesn't explicitly say that casting doesn't use a spell slot. \$\endgroup\$
    – GcL
    Nov 27, 2023 at 22:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ It might be worth citing other features that allow characters to cast spells that don't explicitly state they don't require a spell slot. E.g. monk's clench of the north wind is spend ki to cast hold person, or magic initial feat allows the casting of a level 1 spell, but doesn't explicitly say it doesn't use a spell slot. \$\endgroup\$
    – GcL
    Nov 27, 2023 at 22:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ The core argument here, that "every cost associated with this card is printed in the text," would imply that one could imbue the card with Revivify and use this feat for a diamond-free casting of the spell. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kerrick
    Jan 10 at 18:00
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Yes, you must expend a spell slot.

Magic items specifically do not need to include any wording about expending a spell slot because there is a blanket rule that says magic items don't expend spell slots.

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, Ch. 8

Hidden Ace does not say the card becomes a magic item, and in the absence of a similar general rule covering Hidden Ace (or any specific wording saying you don't have to expend a spell slot in the feature itself), you must expend spell slots to cast the spell as described in Ch. 10 of the Player's Handbook.

When a character casts a spell, he or she expends a slot of that spell’s level or higher

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    \$\begingroup\$ By that logic, using spell scrolls would expend a spell slot, as it's ignore the part from using magic items that explicitly states "doesn’t expend any of the user’s spell slots" \$\endgroup\$
    – GcL
    Nov 2, 2023 at 18:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think the conclusion here is correct, but I think the reasoning provided is incomplete. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 2, 2023 at 18:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GcL Spell Scrolls are magic items, though, aren't they? If so, they follow those same DMG Ch. 8 rules I cited. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kerrick
    Nov 2, 2023 at 19:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Kerrick It's difficult to argue the card isn't a consumable magic item as the tail of the description is "The card then immediately loses its magic." \$\endgroup\$
    – GcL
    Nov 2, 2023 at 20:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GcL Not all "objects with magic" are "Magic Items". Magic Items are a specific category of objects with inherent, defined, magical properties. The DMG also states that every Magic Item has a Category and a Rarity. Hidden Ace provides neither, and no more produces a Magic Item than does the Light spell. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 27, 2023 at 7:03
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The card is not a magic item, so you need a spell slot

Not everthing that can hold magic is a magic item. There can be many items that hold magic, and still are no magic items:

  • The identify spell can identify "a magic item or some other magic-imbued object", so there can be magic imbued objects that are no magic items, or there would be no need to mention them

  • A coin enchanted with perpetual flame does not become a magic item, even though it is a magically, perpetually burning coin and will detect as magical

  • The freezing sphere spell creates a bead that is not even an object

  • illusionary script imbues a piece of paper with a potent illusion for the duration

To be a magic item, the an object needs to be either listed in a section in the rules that say the things in that section are magic items, or the rules need to tell you explicitly it is. The object itself must be magical, not just be a container or substrate for a magical effect.

Magic items are normally crafted, not created by an ability. If a feature can create one, the feature specifically tells you so. It is this specific statement that makes them a magic item. For example, look at the Artificer, which can also imbue magic into items with a feature. It explicitly states

Artificer infusions are extraordinary processes that rapidly turn a nonmagical object into a magic item.

The card does not state it is a magic item.

The rules for magic item in the DMG (p. 135) open with

Each magic item has a rarity: common, uncommon, rare, very rare, or legendary.

While this is true for items listed in the various magic item lists, items created by class features like the Artificer's infusions do not list a rarity. However, having a rarity would be a strong indication that a magical object is meant to be a magic item. The card also does not provide a rarity.

In summary, a magic items would need to either say it is one (explicitly or by being listed in a magic item section in the rules), or it would at least need to have a rarity to imply it is one. As the card does neither, it is not a magic item.

Because it is not a magic item (and with that, also not a consumable magic item), the rules for magic items that say no spell slots are expended when casting the spell do not apply here. You still have to expend the spell slot, as you are casting the spell.

The effect of Hidden Ace allows you to cast a one action spell as a bonus action, for one third of a feat pick, which is powerful enough in and of itself.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The items created by artificer's infusion do not have a rarity, yet they are explicitly a magic item. Similarly the shillelagh spell makes the weapon magical. Not all magic items, especially transient ones, have a rarity. \$\endgroup\$
    – GcL
    Nov 3, 2023 at 16:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think this should need a spell slot, but that part of the DMG is clearly referring to the magic item tables following it, rather than a strict rule covering every magic item ever. You are right about most items having a specific statement as per the design intent, but I don't think it's because that line counts as a rule. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Nov 3, 2023 at 17:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NobodytheHobgoblin But the feature does explicitly say the item loses its magic when the spell is cast, which means it was a magic item, even if the feature doesn't explicitly use those words. Remember that 5e is supposedly natural language. \$\endgroup\$
    – Journer
    Nov 16, 2023 at 14:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ @journer If I enchant a stick with light it now is magical and shedding light. Does that make it a magic item? Does the magic vanishing make it stop being a magic item? No. Not every object that is magical or enchanted is a magic item only the ones that say so. See this question. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 16, 2023 at 16:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NobodytheHobgoblin Except this item is magical because a spell has been put in it, and it stops being magical when that spell is cast, like other limited charge spellcasting items. \$\endgroup\$
    – Journer
    Nov 16, 2023 at 17:51

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