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Throughout the D&D 5e Player's Handbook, particularly in the warlock's Eldritch Invocations, there are abilities that allow the player to cast specific spells "at will, without consuming a spell slot."

However, there is no detail given on what exactly "at will" is supposed to mean.

Am I correct in assuming "at will" means "does not consume spell slot", and nothing more?

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It only means "an unlimited number of times," not that it bypasses any other normal rules about actions, casting times, and turns.

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At will abilities are almost identical to cantrips.

For example I'll cite the Warlock invocations located in the PHB. pg.110.

Numerous invocations have the repeated text:

...at will, without expending a spell slot...

Some have additional requirements, such as Chains of Carceri where the at will ability can not be cast on the same creature without a long rest in between. This does not prevent the caster from casting it on a different creature.

In addition, invocations are separate from spells known. This is important because Warlocks get most of their versatility through invocations due to the limitations on their spell slot usage. Although, they don't have to prepare spells, and have some fairly decent rituals so it's not all bad.

When it comes to Wizard at will spells, the wording is also very specific. I'll use the 18th level Wizard class ability as an example here:

Spell Mastery

At 18th level, you have achieved such mastery over certain spells that you can cast them at will. Choose a 1st-level wizard spell and a 2nd-level wizard spell that are in your spellbook. You can cast those spells at their lowest level without expending a spell slot when you have them prepared. If you want to cast either spell at a higher level, you must expend a spell slot as normal. By spending 8 hours in study, you can exchange one or both of the spells you chose for different spells of the same levels.

This clearly demonstrates that 1) you can cast them without expending spell slots at their lowest level; 2) it specifically states to pick from your spell book, but still requires you to have that spell prepared; and 3) so like Warlock Invocations, these at-will abilities function in the same manner as cantrips (with the caveat that if you want to cast them at higher level, you have to spend the spell slot to empower them.)

If you have any concern with other at-will abilities, please address them in the comments and I will be sure to answer them as soon as capable.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ It might be more useful to include about the component requirements, especially those typically consumed, if ever such a spell available at will (maybe because homebrewed) \$\endgroup\$ – Vylix Aug 26 '18 at 13:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Unlike cantrips you cannot cast two such "at will" spells in a turn. If you cast a spell as a bonus action, as an action you cannot cast a spell unless it's a cantrip. Not an "at will" spell \$\endgroup\$ – findusl May 18 at 8:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @findusl - yes you can. Action surge allows casting twice in one turn. You can cast a reaction spell on your turn (provoke an attack of opportunity and cast shield). The only spell restriction is on bonus action spells, which if you cast one means you can only cast cantrips on your turn. Technically you can get off 4 spells in a single turn using haste (use an object on a magical item that casts a spell), action surge, and your reaction. Lots of ways of casting multiple times. \$\endgroup\$ – Lino Frank Ciaralli May 18 at 19:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @LinoFrankCiaralli The comment was to notify you that you forgot to mention in your answer that it is different from cantrips in this way. I assumed I don't have to name you all the special cases for you to add that to your answer. Which I was obviously right about... There are even more special cases btw, but it is really not important for this answer. However the fact that the 'at will' spells are not like cantrips in this regard is important. \$\endgroup\$ – findusl May 18 at 21:10
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The at will here is in contrast to abilities that give you a spell X times a short/long rest/day.

You could have an ability that gives you a spell 3 times every long rest, but also costs a spell slot when used. Or have it work like normal spells on your spell list, castable at will (or as long as you have in prepared), but it does take a spell slot.

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