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In the past we've seen feats that require ("The ability to cast at least one spell"), the War Caster feat (PHB, p.170), is an example of that.

I recently aquired the book "Bigby Presents: Glory of the Giants", and noticed it states "Spellcasting Feature" as a requirement for the "Rune Shaper" feat (page 18). Digging a bit deeper, I then saw this too in Tasha's, where we see it (among others) on the "Eldritch Adept" feat (page 79), which states as prerequisite "Spellcasting or Pact Magic feature". I suspect that the design goal here is to only allow this feat to be taken by "class-based" casters (Bard, Ranger, Eldritch Knight, etc..) instead of characters that happen to get an odd spell through a racial feature (eg. "Drow Magic"), another feat, etc.

However, I find it a bit odd that the Rune Shaper feat does not mention the Warlocks Pact Magic. RAW this probably means that the Warlock cannot take this feat*. Am I correct to think that?

*) Ignoring the fact that you can take the "Rune Carver" background to get this feat. It states that you get the Rune Shaper feat. I assume that when a background gives you a feat, any of the feat's prerequisites are waived in that case, right?

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    \$\begingroup\$ On your footnote: The feat's prerequisites (at least according to D&D Beyond) are "Prerequisite: Spellcasting Feature or Rune Carver Background", so there is no need to assume anything about whether backgrounds that give you a feat satisfy the prereqs for that feat implicitly; the prereqs here explicitly say the background alone removes the need for the spellcasting feature. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 21 at 20:03

3 Answers 3

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Spellcasting and Pact Magic are distinct features.

As you have observed, the feat Eldritch Adept makes this distinction apparent in its prerequisite:

Spellcasting or Pact Magic feature

“Spellcasting” is the name of the class feature that provides wizards and other casters with the ability to cast spells. However, warlocks have no feature called “Spellcasting”, but they do have a feature called “Pact Magic”. So a warlock cannot take a feat requiring a class feature called “Spellcasting” because they have no such feature.

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There are two ways to qualify for the Rune Shaper feat

The Rune Shaper Feat states:

Prerequisite: Spellcasting Feature or Rune Carver Background

This first of all answers your question as to why a Rune Carver can take this feat. It's not because the background talking about the feat enables it, it's because of the feat specifically talking about this particular background being a valid way to qualify for it, even if you aren't any kind of spellcaster.

That being said, your main question is do Warlocks qualify for this and similarly worded feats? For this you need to know:

There are at least four different ways to learn spells

  1. Spellcasting. This is the Class feature that teaches Bards, Clerics, Druids, Paladins, Rangers, Sorcerers, Wizards and Artificers as well as Eldritch Knights and Arcane Tricksters how to cast Spells.
  2. Pact Magic. This is the Class feature that teaches Warlocks how to cast Spells.
  3. Innate Spellcasting. This is a feature that player characters, such as High Elves or Drow can get through their race and some monsters have aswell.
  4. Other methods. There are other ways to learn to cast a spell that aren't from your race and don't specify being the Spellcasting or Pact Magic features either. Examples are the Magic Initiate feat and the spells that the Monk of the Four Elements can cast. I am not sure if these might also qualify for being Innate Spellcasting, but I couldn't find anything on that, so I am putting them in their own category for now.

Rune Shaper is not for all spellcasters

As quoted above and also already mentioned by you Rune Shaper does not specify that "The ability to cast at least one spell" or the Pact Magic feature qualify you for it, as is the case for other feats. Rune Shaper is only for characters that either have the Rune Carver Background or the feature explicitely called Spellcasting, which only those classes listed above have. Any other form of learning how to cast spells will not qualify you for this feat.

Why the distinction?

If you are wondering why they chose to exclude Warlocks and Innate Casters from this feat. I would presume it's because it is heavily focused on long rests as the method to restore your uses of this feat's abilites, while Warlocks regain theirs at short or longs rests and then because it specifically mentions being able to use spells slots for the spells you learn through it, which wouldn't make sense for innate casters, who don't have any spell slots.

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When reading 5e rules it is a bad idea to say "elsewhere it was more precise, so the difference here is significant". That was not how 5e rules are written or edited. Doing so leads to wonderful interpretations like "when you can see an invisible creature, they still have advantage on attacks and you have disadvantage against them". 5e was meant to be read and written in a conversational style, not a lawbook.

First, "Spellcasting feature or Pact Magic feature" is a lot of extra, redundant text. Dropping it down to only "Spellcasting feature" as shorthand for "has spell slots" makes the text simpler, and is a plausible thing someone would do.

You should then examine the consequences of both interpretations. Is there anything about the feat (in theme or in mechanics) that would interact poorly with pact magic compared to normal Spellcasting?

It provides you with additional spells known which can be cast using spell slots. None of the spells are specifically ones that would be abusive if cast every short rest, and a warlock could get access to them anyhow with a mere 1 level dip.

It does provide you with a once per long rest "slot free casting", but even that doesn't conflict with the pact magic feature.

Thematically, grabbing magic from knowledge of giant's runes is as much in line with a pact magic of a warlock as it is with the intersection of the "Spellcasting feature" classes of druid, cleric, paladin, ranger and wizard.

Looking at the argument by exclusion (which shouldn't be fully ignored!): The "Eldritch Adept" case is also from another book, so we'd expect different editorial standards to have applied; if it was in the same book (another feat in the book) the argument that the excluding was intended and meaningful is a stronger one.

With next to no thematic reason not to, no mechanical or balance issues, and only an argument by exclusion from a single feat published in a different book, I'd argue that Warlocks should be allowed to grab this feat.

But like all things, ask your DM.

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    \$\begingroup\$ If they meant for “Spellcasting feature” to refer more broadly to being able to cast spells, they would have instead just said “Spellcaster”, because that’s exactly what they did for other feats, and then clearly defined what “Spellcaster” means in the DMG. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 22 at 16:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ The question was whether or not a Warlock can take this feat RAW. Of course any group/DM can decide otherwise. Can you give us a source for your quote "That is not how 5e was written"? The example with the invisibility you mention is actually something one of the game's designer specifically clarified in a video interview to be the case RAW. Even though it might not be popular, it is still the official ruling. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 22 at 17:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov They did for other feats in other books. You are doing negative "subtractive" reasoning - "In another book, they said X or Y. Here they said X. This must have been intentional! Y is intentionally excluded!" - which I directly address. \$\endgroup\$
    – Yakk
    Commented May 22 at 17:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TreeSpawned The OP did not say by which standard the rules should be interpreted. Don't insert "by strict RAW" into questions that don't include it. I actually mentioned that reading 5e rules this way causes that problem: I am not hiding how I am reading 5e rules, but being explicit about it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Yakk
    Commented May 22 at 17:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Yakk Quote from the Question "RAW this probably means that the Warlock cannot take this feat*. Am I correct to think that?" \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 22 at 17:38

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