If I start play with three levels of Sorcerer (allowing me four spells), must I choose spells as if I began at level 1, or can I choose any four spells?

If I began at first level, I would have two level 1 spells. Per level up, I can forget one spell and learn a new one. Since level 3 is the first time the Sorc can get 2nd level spells, I can only have two level 1 spells and two level 2 spells.

But beginning with three Sorc levels right away, if allowed to choose any four spells, I would be able to choose four level 2 spells and no level 1 spells.

I realize this isn't optimal since there are only two level 2 slots at level 3, but this could be useful, if not without its drawbacks, in the case of a multiclassed Sorc. Anyway, any rules that can be quoted to support your answer would be great, but any reasoning to support either case would be good as well.


3 Answers 3



You cannot have 4 2nd level spells by starting at Sorcerer level 3.

Here's why:

No matter what level you start at, we will say 10 for the purposes of this example, you always level your character starting from level 1 and going up.

Thanks to Nitsua60 for finding the relevant entry

DMG p. 38

"...creating a higher level character uses the same character creation steps outlined in the Players Hand Book..."

Which sends us back to character creation at level 1 and then 'Gaining levels' , and each class specific leveling chart found in the separate entry for each class.

So your level 10 Sorcerer? Would start at level 1 with starting HP, starting spells and cantrips. You then level from 2 to 10 gradually, manually rolling for HP, adding spells and cantrips, and slowly replacing them as needed and when possible as you level up to 10 just like you would have if you had actually earned those 10 levels the hard way.

This prevents an entire string of imbalance possibilities, like the aforementioned 4 2nd level spells; while in your case could be circumvented by other means, does not hold true for every class.

  • \$\begingroup\$ A clarification on imbalance: note that there are only three level 2 spell slots, max, and a Sorc has no ritual casting. Ordinarily, this means the Sorc has wasted at least one spell choice, and cannot use any level 1 slots unless by Font of Magic (four bonus actions to create one level 2 spell slot-- that's expensive), or by multiclassing into another full caster class (denying the capstone ability of both classes). Is that truly a great imbalance possibility? \$\endgroup\$
    – user27327
    Mar 10, 2016 at 14:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @markovchain in this very particular case? No. Apply this to a level 20 Sorcerer, or Paladin, I think even Cleric achieves a level of spell power imbalance..... where if you are not leveling from 1 to ?? manually and just see what level 20 offers you and choose spells of only the highest level; you end up with stacked odds you would never of had otherwise. This prevents that on all possible examples. \$\endgroup\$
    – Airatome
    Mar 10, 2016 at 14:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @markovchain: if you had it your way then it'd be an "imbalance" between Sorcs created at level 3 vs those created at level 1 and then levelled up through experience. They're intended to be equivalent, and you'd be making them not equivalent. Look at it another way: when you get to 10th level, do you want to be facing 10th level NPC opponents who use the same principle to have better spells than you? Of course nothing is perfectly balanced, and whether it's right that Sorcs have these particular spells is another matter, but this is what they do have :-) \$\endgroup\$ Mar 10, 2016 at 16:02
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ @markovchain The essence is that there's no such thing as "starting at 3rd level". Your game may begin with 3rd-level characters, but the character's life started some time before that, and they learned things as they went along. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 10, 2016 at 16:44

No, a 3rd level sorcerer can't start with 4 2nd level spells

The rules

Let's begin with the "Starting at higher level" section (DMG p. 38):

Creating a higher-level character uses the same character creation steps outlined in the Player's Handbook. Such a character has more hit points, class features, and spells, and probably starts with better equipment.

However, the PHB describes only how to create a level 1 character, and what happens each time it levels up.

Each class with arcane spellcasting (that has to learn spells, opposed to the divine spellcasting classes, which simply know all spells) has a section called "Spells Known of 1st Level and Higher" that describes how spells are learned; this section has the same structure for all arcane spellcasting classes - the only differences being that some subclasses have a limitation on the spell schools, and the example varies based on full/half/third progression. For example, as a sorcerer:

The Spells Known column of the Sorcerer table shows when you learn more sorcerer spells of your choice. Each of these spells must be of a level for which you have spell slots. For instance, when you reach 3rd level in this class, you can learn one new spell of 1st or 2nd level.

Additionally, in the "Spells Known and Prepared" of the multiclassing spellcasting section (PHB p.164), the following example is given, which implies that leveling up is done progressively:

If you are a ranger 4/wizard 3, for example, you know three 1st-level ranger spells based on your levels in the ranger class. As 3rd-level wizard, you know three wizard cantrips, and your spellbook contains ten wizard spells, two of which (the two you gained when you reached 3rd level as a wizard) can be 2nd-level spells.


So it's reasonably safe to assume that characters that start at higher level are created as if they started at level 1 and then incrementally leveled up.

What does this mean for your sorcerer?

  • at 1st level, you know 2 1st level spells
  • at 2nd level, you learn one additional 1st level spell, and can, if you want, change one of the previous known spells into another (still 1st level) spell
  • at 3rd level, you learn one spell that can be 1st or 2nd level, and can, if you want, change one of your previous known spells into another (1st or 2nd level) spell

So at 3rd level, you can end up with at most 2 2nd level spells.


No, a 3rd level Sorcerer can't have all 2nd level spells; a 5th level sorcerer can

Other answers have indicated that to make a higher level character you start from first level and "level up" as per the rules.

From PHB p. 101:

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

So, a 2nd level has 3 spells known, all 1st level. On reaching 3rd they gain 1 and can swap out 1 giving 2/2. Ditto for 4 (1/4) and 5 (0/6).