While reading the rulebook and class sheets of dungeon world, I had some problems. Most of them are answered somewhere, but I was unable to find information regarding rotes and cantrips. I am just not sure whether I understand them or not.

First of all, I assume the spell mechanism of clerics and wizards is basically the same from a game mechanism point of view. (The fiction behind that is of course different!) Is that correct?

Then my understanding of rotes/cantrips is that they are basically level 0 spells. Each time you commune or prepare your spells, you can add all rotes/cantrips for free. That’s clear. But are they cast as normal spells after that, i.e., using the cast a spell move?

Besides that is there anything special about rotes/cantrips? Or is it a good idea to see them as level 0 spells?


3 Answers 3


Your assumptions are correct. Cantrips and rotes are treated as level 0 spells and are subject to all rules that affect how spells work.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Cantrips and rotes are spells, but they're not quite the same as level 0 spells. They're their own thing. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 10, 2021 at 22:03

They are spells

You prepare them with Prepare Spells (or Commune) and cast them with Cast A Spell (which is why you may lose them and need to prepare them again!).

They are listed under the "spells" section in the rulebook:

The cleric knows all cleric spells of their level or lower, including their rotes. The wizard starts knowing their cantrips and three 1st level spells. [...] The wizard always prepares their cantrips; the cleric always prepares their rotes.

Rotes and Cantrips are listed on the playbook sheets that are labeled on the sidebar as "Cleric Spells" and "Wizard Spells" respectively.

Additionally, the descriptions say the following (emphasis added):

  • Light: The spell lasts as long as it is in your presence.
  • Guidance: The message is through gesture only; your communication through this spell is severely limited.
  • Prestidigitation: If you cast the spell without touching an item you can instead create minor illusions no bigger than yourself.

With one exception

It's easy to think of them as 0 level spells, but they don't have a level and therefore shouldn't be a valid target for Prodigy's "You prepare that spell as if it were one level lower" or its counterpart Chosen One's "You are granted that spell as if it was one level lower." (Allowing this would be a buff to the ability, equivalent to just allowing one more level of spell to be prepared.)

Otherwise, yes, they're zero level spells.


Rotes and Cantrips Are Not Spells

You do not make the Cast a Spell move when casting them, and they do not count for Spell Defense, or for any of the advanced moves like Chosen One, Prodigy, Empowered Magic, or Counterspell.

Where does it say that?

(I only discuss cantrips and the Wizard moves here, but the wording of the Cleric moves is so similar that my conclusions apply to both.)

The Spellbook move says:

You start out with three first level spells in your spellbook as well as all the cantrips.

And when you Prepare Spells:

  • Prepare new spells of your choice...
  • Prepare your cantrips...

Your spellbook contains spells and cantrips, you prepare spells and cantrips. They are two different things However, Cast a Spell says:

When you release a spell you've prepared ... the spell is successfully cast ... you do not forget the spell ...

It only mentions spells, never cantrips.

Rotes and Cantrips really aren't 0-level spells?

If you go over to a recent edition of D&D (3rd or later, I think) and drag back the idea that a cantrip is a level-0 spell, you can make it fit with little or no contradiction. However, you have to go to an entirely different game to get that idea; it does not natively occur anywhere in DW.

  • \$\begingroup\$ But if you don't cast cantrips with the "Cast a Spell" move, then how do you cast them? \$\endgroup\$
    – MJ713
    Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 22:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ Same way you do most things in Dungeon World: tell the GM what you're doing. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 21, 2023 at 23:50

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .