Is there any way for an arcane spell-casting class other than wizard to obtain and use a spellbook without multi-classing into wizard?

I'm interested in this because a campaign my group is currently playing is in the process of switching into 5th edition from Pathfinder. I'm currently playing a Magus and (tentatively) switching into Fighter (Eldritch Knight). Problem is magical research is a large part of the character's fluff and I'm not sure how to do that as a spontaneous caster.


I don't want to drop the swordplay (I dual-wield with the War Caster feat), I'd like to have access to the spell Misty Step, and evocation spells at the very least. I'm not beyond dropping Eldritch Knight, though this seems to be the best fit so far for other fluff-related reasons. Bottom line: I'm a gish.

I'd also like to avoid Divine classes, as they don't fit the fluff of the character.

Options I've considered:

I've already picked up the Ritual Caster feat, so I can expand my library of spells that way (though only those tagged as rituals). I'm also aware of the Magic Initiate feat but this doesn't grant a spellbook. I could go wizard and gear myself towards physical combat, but that is obviously not an optimal choice. Multi-classing is also out, more so out of personal preference than anything; I'm not going to write it off completely, though. (I'm still interested in finding a method that doesn't involve wizard levels.) In the end, flavour is more important than optimization.

After taking a look at Warlock (with Pact of the Tome and the invocation Book of Ancient Secrets) I don't see much difference between that and the Ritual Caster feat. They both grant a book, but only allow Rituals¹. As a Human character the feat is much easier to pick up than investing in a 3 level dip that weakens my main class.

Note: I'm aware that, without the DMG, this may be a bit pre-emptive. I won't be accepting any answers (unless there is a definite, by-the-book, answer) until after it's released.

  1. Player's Handbook, page 110, "Eldritch Invocations", "Book of Ancient Secrets", emphasis mine:

    On your adventures, you can add other ritual spells to your Book of Shadows.


5 Answers 5


There really isn't a way to gain a spell book as a gish type class. Wizards don't yet[1] have a viable melee archtype (though building one wouldn't be too hard, we have some models in the cleric domains).

There are however other ways to handle the problem you are facing.

Since your primary issue is in background type information and characterization, I would handle the majority of this mechanically by writing a custom background. This would give your proficiency in history and arcana (or another skill if you get it from your class), and a book that has arcane writings in it. Discovering the secrets of this book should be related to one of your character's BIFT.

Whether or not the development of the story around the book ends up providing you any future mechanical benefits is kind of up to you and your DM to hash out, but it seems like a very solid starting point for a new character in a game.

[1]: This answer was written before the Bladesinger archetype was published.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for recommending the spellbook as a background feature. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 28, 2014 at 19:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ I do have a custom background to reflect the characters position within a magical academy. I'm still hoping to acquire the ability to research spells, though. Upvote for a good story idea, but not quite what I was hoping for. Keep in mind, as well, that the campaign has already started. We're just switching systems. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jason_c_o
    Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 20:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ The First paragraph could be updated to reflect the release of the new Bladesinger Archetype. \$\endgroup\$
    – daze413
    Commented Jul 29, 2016 at 9:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @daze413 done and done. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 24, 2017 at 17:18

It seems 15 EK/5 Warlock (to get Haste/Fireball) or 5 Champion/15 Warlock (to get the extra attack) are your best bets, if you want to have the highest AC possible and focus on weapon damage. The former gets 3 attacks per round, fewer spells/slots (but gets Haste twice per short rest); the latter gets 2 attacks per round, more spells/invocations (not Haste though), expanded crit range, and much higher spell slots (L8).

Different build options

A few ideas, each with a slightly different balance between raw damage (with the Attack action), AC, and versatility:

  1. Stick to Eldritch Knight with 3 levels of Tome Warlock, netting you Book of Ancient Secrets. You would get 3 attacks, plus some sweet spells/slots that recharge on a short rest (and you can use your 'Lock slots to cast EK spells). Pros: Most straightforward/simple way to get what you want, also has the highest AC (if you pick +1 AC Fighter feature). You get Constitution proficiency, making it easier to maintain buffs if you take damage. Has 1 more attack than the other builds, and the only one that can get Haste (if you go 15 EK, 5 'Lock, in which case you can cast Haste 2/short rest) Cons: Not as versatile as the others, fewer/lower level spell slots (you don't even get L4 slots), you give up a Feat/Ability Increase.
  2. Same as above (3 Levels of Lock), but with Arcane Trickster. Sure, you only get 1 attack, but it comes with a 9d6 Sneak Attack (assuming there's another melee PC who'll be adjacent to your enemies). You also get Spell Thief, which can be pretty cool. Pros: Probably the sweet spot between versatility and damage (see below for more details), though in terms of spells, you only get 2 L2 slots (which recover on a short rest) Cons: Has the lowest AC of the 4 builds.
  3. 15 L of Warlock, 5 Levels of Champion Fighter (or any other class that grants an extra attack at L5--Barbarian, Paladin, Druid, Ranger, Monk). The advantage with Fighter is that you get heavy armour proficiency, martial weapon proficiency, AND can get Two-Weapon Fighting. Pros: Can have the highest AC (same as #1), access to higher-level spells than EK, and these recover on a short rest. Also, since you won't be going EK (inefficient, leads to MAD, no access to Haste until L13), you can grab Champion and be able to crit on a 19-20. Cons: You lose a feat/ability score increase, and 9th level spells (though you don't have these with #1 or #2). You also lose access to Wizard spells, but if you wanted stuff like Fireball, Scorching Ray, Counterspell, those are also in the Warlock list.
  4. 14 L of Warlock, 6 Levels of Bard (College of Valour): Hands down the most versatile. Both classes use Cha as their main stat, so, all of your abilities will be at full force. One amazing advantage (IMHO) is that you get plenty of healing every short rest (using 'lock slots to cast Bard spells at higher levels). You give up on L8 and L9 spells, but you didn't have those with EK or AT. I haven't done a thorough analysis of the spell selection/combos, but there should be plenty of interesting possibilities. Plus, if you can't engage in melee (for whatever reason), you have Eldritch Blast (at 4d10 + 20 damage, if you grab Agonizing Blast). Pros: Largest spell selection, including healing, buffing, debuffing, and damage. Cons: Less AC than 1 or 3, less weapon damage than 1-3.

The first two provide the most raw damage, the last two the most versatility (with #4 giving a huge range of spells to choose from). I think #2 is probably a really great sweet spot between damage and versatility (since Rogues get to add Sneak Attack damage to their reaction attacks), but with the lowest AC. So, if you grabbed the Sentinel feat, for example, you're almost guaranteed to be handing out some extra pain, even outside your turn. If you managed to grab Sentinel and Defensive Duelist, with a Rapier, you'd put your reaction to good use every turn: either the enemy attacks you, in which case you use DD if they hit; or they attack your ally, and you make a melee weapon attack; or they try to move away, and you make an opportunity attack. All of these with an extra 9d6... However, as noted above, this build has the lowest AC, and the spell slots available will probably not be enough to keep you in the front lines.

Summary of options

  1. has the most AC (together with #3), the most attacks per Action, and with the 15 EK/5 'Lock, you can cast Haste on yourself (or Hex on an enemy) twice per short rest.
  2. has the most weapon damage, but the lowest AC. I don't think it would be very viable, barring some items from the DMG massively boosting AC.
  3. is probably the more 'robust' build--you can get the highest AC possible, 1 fewer attack than #1, but expanded crit range, and a bunch more spells (and higher level slots that recover on a short rest). You don't get Haste though, but in terms of damage, Hex is better.
  4. has lower AC than #1 and #3 (by quite a few points), but much more spells and can go on without a long rest for quite a while (in theory, since you'll be recovering slots that can be used for healing, and you have Song of Rest. However, if you end up taking too much damage due to low AC, you might use up all your spell slots for healing).

Hope this helps. If you want general guidelines on which class to pick first, I posted some guidelines here. Considering just the 4 combinations above, Warlock is never the best choice as your first class. If you plan to use spells requiring Concentration (e.g., Haste), L1 Fighter gives you proficiency with Constitution saving throws.

Advantages over Ritual Caster

Quite a few advantages, IMHO, though whether they contribute to your build depends on the nitty gritty of what you have in mind:

  1. You can grab rituals from any class, but they all use Cha instead of whatever the original class uses (so, greater selection and if you have high Cha, they're all pretty effective; though note that if you go 15 EK / 5 lock, you can only pick rituals up to level 3).
  2. You get 3 cantrips from any class, and they use Cha as well. A few that could be useful for your build: Thorn Whip (can pull enemies towards you, from 30 ft away; esp. effective with EK's Arcane Charge), Vicious Mockery (psychic damage, targets Wis, gives disadvantage), Shocking Grasp (attacks with advantage vs. metal armor, denies enemy's reaction), Ray of Frost (reduces enemy's speed).
  3. You can get Eldritch Blast + Agonizing Blast + Repelling Blast (push an enemy away up to 10 feet per hit; so, max 40 feet, if you hit with all 4 rays), which is the best ranged cantrip (in case you NEED to attack from afar). Together with Thorn Whip, you'd have a lot of battlefield control, pushing and pulling enemies into bad positions/away from the squishies.
  4. You can cast Haste on yourself twice per short rest (you get Haste with EK after L13, and 'Locks get 2 L3 slots that recharge on a short rest starting L5). A L20 EK can cast Haste at most 4 times per day; a L15 EK / 5 Lock can cast Haste at least 4 times per day.
  5. Note that Book of Ancient Secrets allows you to copy ritual spells that are up to half your levels in Warlock, rounded up. The highest ritual spell is L6, not sure if there's a specific spell you want to get. Plus, you can get Warlock rituals 'for free' (i.e., if you pick them at level up, you can cast them as rituals; and can then grab other classes' rituals using the Invocation).
  6. You also get access to Hex, which adds an extra 1d6 damage per hit, and the target has disadvantage on ability checks of your choice. Unfortunately, you can't have Haste and Hex active at the same time. So, Haste gives you an extra 1d6 + Dex/Str Mod (or an extra action to use some other way), whereas Hex gives you an extra 4d6 (3d6 from each main-hand attack, and 1d6 from off-hand attack). Haste gives you more options (you get to attack and Disengage/Dodge, if needed), Hex gives more pure damage.
  7. Note that with Hex, you can get about the same weapon damage as a L20 EK with Haste (see anydice analysis; the graph is easier to read than the table). Output 1 is a TWF EK with Haste attacking 6 times with a Rapier, Output 2 is a TWF 15 EK/5 Lock with Hex attacking 4 times--the average weapon damage is 57 for the EK, 52 for the EK/Lock. If you go with the 5 Champion/15 Lock build, you have an expanded crit range of 19-20, and whenever you crit, Hex dice are also re-rolled (see also a new build, at the end). Also, the same analysis about Haste castings per day applies to Evocation spells/day: a L20 EK can cast Fireball at most 4 times per day (once at L4), this build can cast Fireball 2/day + 2/short rest.

In short, you get your spellbook without sacrificing damage, you get more castings per day of your 3rd level spells (which are EK's second highest slots anyway), and access to rituals and cantrips from any class (and these use just one stat); all of which, in my opinion, are a strengthening of the main class (i.e., there's good synergy). Losing a feat due to L5 Warlock is actually a non-issue because taking Ritual Caster also costs a feat. If you don't mind giving up Wizard spells (via EK), one other build that just occurred to me is 15 Champion/5 Warlock: at L15, a Champion can get +1 AC (via L10 feature) and can crit on an 18-20, which, together with Hex, can mean a boatload of potential damage. The downside is that, except for cantrips and rituals, you'd only get Warlock spells.

  • \$\begingroup\$ @waxeagle: How could I include in anydice calculations, expanded crit range? I want to compare a TWF EK's 6 attacks (with Haste) that crit on a 20, with a TWF Champion/Lock that attacks 4 times (vs. a Hexed target), but crits 19-20 (doubling those sweet extra Hex dice)... Halp? \$\endgroup\$
    – Khashir
    Commented Oct 30, 2014 at 15:22
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Khashir, you don't need to alert people to edits. But what you wrote in that comment is a good edit history title, to tell people perusing your edit history about what you did. Also, as a note, you have over 25 minor edits to this answer. Every edit you do bumps this question up to the top of the page. Perhaps you want to do fewer, bigger, edits? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 30, 2014 at 22:52
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ The "added what you requested" is a better response than responding in comments, but is also unnecessary. You're getting this attention because the system keeps throwing us mods alerts on your actions. This, by the way, is a bad thing. And still, batch up your edits, and do proper editing passes, like you would for a real editorial/paper. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 30, 2014 at 22:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah, I didn't know I was under scrutiny... I thought I was just here doing my thing, improving my answer as I went along. Apologies for the noise, duly noted. \$\endgroup\$
    – Khashir
    Commented Oct 30, 2014 at 22:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Khashir I'd also like to mention that the answer ignores certain conditions in the OP. From your comment above (on the OP) suggests to me that you never really read the question. Misty Step has been in there since it's posting. I'm not looking for how to build a character. All I want are options (and hopefully non-multiclassing ones) for a non-wizard to acquire a spellbook. I've also edited into the question, a few days ago, my thoughts on Warlock and it's Tome. If you still have an argument for the Tome, focus on that in your answer, not different build options. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jason_c_o
    Commented Oct 31, 2014 at 17:45

The only 5E arcane-caster class (aside from the Wizard, obviously) that uses a spellbook mechanically is the Warlock.

Only, the Warlock calls it a Book of Shadows. You get it at 3rd-level for taking the Pact of the Tome class expansion feature. While not as versatile as a Wizard's spellbook, you can use it to cast 3 chosen cantrips from the spell list of any class, and if you take the invocation that goes along with it you can use the book to cast Ritual spells and scribe new Rituals into the book just as a Wizard could using scrolls or other spellbooks.

The Downsides:

  • Warlocks are only proficient with Simple Weapons to begin with. You would need to train the proficiency using the downtime mechanic, multiclass, or take a feat in order to wield a sword.
  • Warlocks don't make great melee oriented casters without multiclassing. Worse, the Warlock abilities that lend themselves to combat require that you take Pact of the Blade instead of Pact of the Tome. You won't ever be able to make more than one melee attack per round going just pure Warlock with Pact of the Tome.
  • The only factor that really differentiates Pact of the Tome from the Ritual Caster feat is the three cantrips from any spell list. If you have no interest in those, Ritual Caster may be a better fit. If that's the case, can I interest you in Pact of the Blade? See below...

My Advice:

My personal suggestion given that you have said you want to build a melee-oriented sword wielding arcane caster is to take a look at this question which I asked regarding the optimal configuration for a Dragonborn Bladelock Gish. The best-so-far answer gives a build based on wielding a Greatsword. It's a Warlock with a one level dip in Fighter. In fact, the dip in Fighter is technically optional. While it is the optimal choice, you could pull off the build with 20 levels of Warlock. I'm currently testing the build in a run through Hoard of the Dragon Queen and I was almost able to beat Cyanwrath at 2nd level during the first one-on-one encounter. He's Challenge 4, so he's designed to be an average difficulty fight to a group of four 4th level adventurers. You can forego one of the ability score improvements the build calls for in order to obtain the Ritual Caster feat which puts you no worse off than you are now with Eldritch Knight, only with Warlock you will have access to up to 9th-level spells (Foresight is crazy good for a Gish). Combined with the Sage background and favoring Intelligence over Wisdom I believe this build gives you not only the most powerful Gish but also the closest approximation to what you want. The Warlock is great for you flavor-wise because they are masters of the occult and forbidden knowledge. The Researcher feature from the Sage background, the Ritual Caster feat, and the Arcana/Religion/History skills all give you ways to employ your knowledge gained through intense research (or relaxing leisure, if you summoned an Unseen Servant to do the work for you!).

  • \$\begingroup\$ I hadn't thought of Warlock. I'll have to read it over. Pact doesn't really fit the fluff, but I'll update the question after reading! \$\endgroup\$
    – Jason_c_o
    Commented Oct 28, 2014 at 8:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ Considered warlock for my answer, but realized quickly that the build would require mutually exclusive pact features :( \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Commented Oct 28, 2014 at 10:49
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ How do wizards not "use a spellbook mechanically"? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 28, 2014 at 15:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Obviously there was an implied ("Except for the Wizard") in there :P \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 28, 2014 at 17:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Unfortunately I don't see much that separates Book of Ancient Secrets from the Ritual Caster feat. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jason_c_o
    Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 19:06

You could use your background to get the flavor your looking for, taking the Sage background for your fighter would give you access to arcane research flavor and there is nothing to say your Eldritch Knight doesn't record his spells in a spell book(no mechanics but a good DM should allow this for the sake of role-playing purposes). You could also take some of the magical feats to further this flavor such as Ritual Caster if your DM allows feats.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm aware of the Researcher background feature, and in fact almost chose it (I went with Guild Membership to reflect his position in an academy). Ritual Caster is also mentioned in the OP. Not a bad suggestion, but perhaps expand on it a little? Researcher doesn't grant a mechanical spellbook, so the answer needs to address how you'd make it work. Welcome to the site, btw! \$\endgroup\$
    – Jason_c_o
    Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 20:05

"If they don't say no, the answer is yes."

What prevents anyone from using a spellbook? They're available for 50gp in the adventuring gear list, and other information in the PHB indicates that purchasing such class-related gear should be at least possible. (Though ultimately that'll be up to your DM) The spellbook's description does say that it is "suitable for writing spells in". Nothing about any of the spellcaster class descriptions or feature descriptions exclude them from the capacity to write spells… they just don't gain anything special from doing it, aside from a hard-copy of the spells they know. From your question, it sounds kind of like that's what you're looking for. The rest of my advice is basically just a restatement of what I've read above.

Combine it with ritual caster and/or magic initiate with the eldritch knight class archetype, like you were contemplating, and I'd say you're pretty close to what you're looking for. As mentioned above, you could also do a custom background to give yourself that spellbook as part of the gear — the Sage would be the easiest to modify in this way, as also mentioned above.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Use of a spellbook is a unique class feature of Wizards. Why is it a class feature for Wizards if anyone without the class feature can also use one? The Fighter class doesn't say it cannot use the Rogue's sneak attack feature, so can the fighter use sneak attack? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 19, 2021 at 13:40

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