It's not clear to me how to choose Spells Known when creating a new character at a higher level.

Let's take the Bard as a working example first:

Bard level 2:

  • Spells Known: 5
  • Slots per Spell level: 1st × 3

Bard level 3:

  • Spells Known: 6
  • Slots per Spell level: 1st × 4, 2nd × 2

I'm interpreting this to mean that, if an existing 2nd-level Bard gains a new level (level 3), he's gaining 1 (one) new spell known. He can then choose the new spell known to be either 1st or 2nd, correct?

What I don't understand then, is the case of creating a new character starting at a higher level; say, creating a new Bard at level 3.

In that case you're forced to choose 6 spells, which must be from the list of 1st- and 2nd-level spells, correct?

When making this 3rd-level Bard from scratch, though, can I select 2nd level spells for all 6 spells known?

As another example, say you're creating a very high level Bard from scratch, starting at level 15. The book says your Spells Known is 19, and your spell slots are 1st × 4, 2nd × 3, 3rd × 3, 4th × 3, 5th × 2, 6th × 1, 7th × 1, and 8th × 1.

So, for those 19 Spells Known, you can choose any spells from 1st through 8th spell level. Am I free then to select as many spells as I can at 8th spell level (5 in number), working backwards, and in the end ignoring the 1st, 2nd, 3rd level spells entirely?

As another example, the Ranger doesn't know any spells at 1st level, nor have any spell slots, but the book says “You know two 1st-level spells of your choice from the ranger spell list.” Does it mean at 2nd level and above?

Long story short: When choosing Spells Known for a spellcasting character created above 1st level, am I allowed to choose my Spells Known at whatever spell level I like, just so long as I have at least one spell slot of that level?

I'm working on a D&D 5e character generator and need to clarify this.


3 Answers 3


Your confusion seems to originate in how you create characters that are above level 1 when starting. The players' handbook doesn't have a way to create characters that start above level 1, other than creating a level 1 character, and then leveling him up to the appropriate level. Let's take the level 3 bard as an example.

When you create your level 3 bard, you start out with building a level 1 bard. He has 4 level 1 spells, chosen from the bard spell list. When he reaches level 2, he gains another spell known, and can exchange 1 known spell for another one. He now knows 5 level 1 spells. When he reaches level 3, he gains another known spell, along with 2nd level spell slots. He can also exchange one known spell for another one. He now knows 6 spells, and up to 2 of them can be second level.

For your character generator, I recommend either only doing first level characters, or doing first level characters you can then level up. This is most intuitive for you to program, and doesn't overwhelm the users with too many options immediately.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Thanx for the comment. Obviously never thought of walking up the character towards desired level, thanx for the recommended way of doing this and the switching mechanism :) \$\endgroup\$
    – user23608
    Commented Jun 27, 2015 at 18:24

When making a new character that starts at a higher level, you must create the character as if they had started at level 1 and slowly leveled up along the way. So for your bard example, they must have at least 3 level 1 spells.

Most classes do allow you to switch spells as you raise in level, allowing you to replace a level 1 spell with a level 2 spell, but be careful that you switch spells according to the rules as if you had started at level 1.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Thanx for the comment. So are you saying is wrong if i start, say, my Bard in 3rd level and giving him only 2nd spell level spells because that would be illogical? eg. i must "walk him" though as he was started in 1st? That make sense, tx :) \$\endgroup\$
    – user23608
    Commented Jun 27, 2015 at 18:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @vizvi Exactly correct. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMNoob
    Commented Jun 27, 2015 at 22:19

Yes, but with a limit

The PHB says:

The spells known column of the Bard table shows when you learn more bard spells of your choice. Each of these spells must be of a level for which you have spell slots.


Additionally, when you gain a level in this class, you can choose one of the bard spells you know and replace it with another spell from the bard spell list, which also must be of a level for which you have spell slots.

When you're making a 3rd-level bard from scratch, start with 1st-level and simulate the spells known as the character levels up. If you are intent on getting 2nd-level spells at 3rd-level, I'm afraid you can only get 2, at most. Here is how it would look like:

  1. At 1st-level, you know 4 1st-level spells.
  2. At 2nd-level, you know 5 1st-level spells.
  3. At 3rd-level, you can then change 1 of your 1st-level spells to 2nd-level AND learn 1 2nd-level spell: ( 4 1st-level, 2 2nd-level)
  4. At 4th-level, you can change another 1st-level spell to 2nd-level AND learn 1 2nd-level spell: (3 1st-level, 4 2nd-level)

and so on...

Caveat: Although you could abandon your lower-level spells as you say… but why?

Remember, you can cast a 1st-level spell with a 2nd-level spell slot but you cannot cast a 2nd-level spell with a 1st-level slot. If you abandon those slots, it seems like a waste, to me.

As another example, the Ranger doesn't know any spells at 1st level, nor have any spell slots, but the book says “You know two 1st-level spells of your choice from the ranger spell list.” Does it mean at 2nd level and above?

It means you know 2 ranger spells that are 1st-level slot to cast. The "1st-level" here pertains to the spell, not the Ranger.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanx for the answer. Yes, i got that i should walk my character through 1st to Nth level, although specifically for Bard 3rd level as you example, my Bard has a choice between 1st and 2nd levels as book states clearly with an example "For instance, when you reach 3rd level in this c1ass, you can learn one new spell of 1st or 2nd level." I succeeded to code this by walking the available spells to choose per level until he reaches the desired level, for example for a Bard 3rd level i give 6 spells to choose, starting from 4 initial, then another 1, then a selection between 1st and 2nd \$\endgroup\$
    – user23608
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 12:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ About the Ranger, i can't understand how he knows (or cast anyway) his 2 spells while his spell table at PHB, page 90 shows clearly that he doesn't know any spells nor have slots to it in 1-st character level? Am i missing something? It's a typo Spells known: - ? \$\endgroup\$
    – user23608
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 12:12
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ It's actually pretty simple if you reread the first paragraph of the spellcasting class feature. He doesn't gain the feature until second ranger level. There's no errors in the book there. \$\endgroup\$
    – xanderh
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 16:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @vlzvl It just means the ranger can't cast spells until he/she reaches 2nd-level, just like a Paladin. \$\endgroup\$
    – daze413
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 22:53
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ This is why I always have considered it a mistake for the publishers to have chosen to use the word "level" for both spells and characters. It would have been a lot less confusing to use a word like 'tier' or 'circle' or something else other than re-using 'level' in this way. But by now, it's ensconced in tradition so it's unlikely to ever be 'fixed' \$\endgroup\$
    – user47897
    Commented Jan 22, 2019 at 21:05

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