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I'm playing a 5th edition druid and am getting close to 2nd level spells. I'm aware of these rules (PHB, page 66):

You prepare the list of druid spells that are available for you to cast, choosing from the druid spell list. When you do so, choose a number of druid spells equal to your Wisdom modifier + your druid level (minimum of one spell). The spells must be of a level for which you have spell slots.

and

You can also change your list of prepared spells when you finish a long rest. Preparing a new list of druid spells requires time spent in prayer and meditation: at least 1 minute per spell level for each spell on your list.

My question: do druids have full access to their entire spell list when it comes time to switch out? I ask because it seems an unfair mechanic when compared to the wizard, who must expend time and money to copy new spells into a book (PHB, page 114):

For each level of the spell, the process takes 2 hours and costs 50 gp.

Perhaps this restriction is in place since wizards have almost double the choices, but I'd like to be certain of how this mechanic works.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Have you read the box on page 205 of the PHB about the weave, and the distinction between arcane and divine magic? \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Feb 25 '17 at 1:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ Possible duplicate of How do spellcasters know what's on their spell list? \$\endgroup\$ – user17995 Feb 25 '17 at 1:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ Asking how characters know in-fiction what spells are on their list, and asking out-of-fiction what spells are on a class's list, aren't duplicates. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 25 '17 at 2:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ Note that the question's quoted section on learning new Wizard spells for a cost applies to additional spells they find as they adventure; Wizards learn a certain number of spells for free at level 1 and more for free at each Wizard levelup thereafter. \$\endgroup\$ – CTWind Feb 25 '17 at 6:14
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My understanding is that druids do get to pull from their entire pool of spells. Druid spells tend to be lower impact than wizards, reducing the harm.

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Short Answer: druids learn their spells from a divine source

The divine source of druidic spells is usually characterized as "the divine essence of nature", but it could be directly from a god of nature (like Sylvanus of the Forgotten Realms).

p.64 PHB (Power of Nature)

Druids revere nature above all, getting their spells and other magical powers either from the force of nature itself or from a nature deity.

Whatever spell they wish to choose will, or won't, be granted to them via either their deity or "the force of nature itself." It's up to the DM to choose to curtail any such choice, or not to.

My question: do druids have full access to their entire spell list when it comes time to switch out?

Yes. There is no specific rule that limits the druid to less than that list, so the list on PHB p. 208 is the general rule of "what's available" to include more spells being available if they are druids who choose "The Circle of the Land." (PHB. 68) Depending upon which circle the druid chooses, other spells are available, and always "prepared" as a default. See also Specific beats General (PHB p. 7).

The game distinguishes between divine casters and arcane casters

Regarding your concern about wizards versus druids: druids and wizards get their spells differently due to being different kinds of spell casters. Wizards (a particular kind of arcane caster) get their spells through learning. Divine casters get their magic, and their spells, through prayer or otherwise communing with some divine conduit to the Weave, to include "the divine essence of nature" itself.

All magic depends on the Weave, though different kinds of magic access it in a variety of ways. The spells of wizards, warlocks, sorcerers, and bards are commonly called arcane magic. These spells rely on an understanding - learned or intuitive - of the workings of the Weave.
{snip}
The spells of clerics, druids, paladins and rangers are called divine magic. The spell casters' access to the Weave is mediated by a divine power - gods, the divine forces of nature, or the sacred weight of a paladin's oath. (p. 205 PHB)

  • Under Spellcasting for a Druid (PHB p. 66)

    Drawing on the divine essence of nature itself, you can cast spells to shape the essence to your will.

  • Under Spellcasting for Wizard (PHB p. 114)

    As a student of arcane magic, you have a spell book containing spells ...

Different kinds of casters, different ways to get spells. It's not unfair. It is a way that the game designers chose to differentiate the character classes. (You noted that a wizard has access to more spells. Whether this distinction "balances" the classes is beyond the scope of this answer).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This answer would be improved if you included a rules reference that actually states how each class's available spells are determined. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Feb 25 '17 at 22:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GMJoe I think that's stretching the scope. Each class has its spell's available deterimined in the class description. That's 12 references. I am not sure that is necessary to respond to the question as asked, but am open to your further elaboration of your point. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Feb 25 '17 at 22:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you referring to the reference I made under the question \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Feb 25 '17 at 22:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ No, I meant that the OP is asking whether druids have access to all the spells on their spell list, and you haven't actually said whether or not that's the case. You have mentioned the in-fiction justification for it, but you haven't actually mentioned the rule that justification is used to justify. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Feb 25 '17 at 23:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GMJoe The answer now addresses that explicitly \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 6 '17 at 12:36
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Druids know all the spells they have the slots to cast. They work exactly like clerics in this regard, reflecting the fact that back in 1e AD&D, druids were actually a subclass of clerics.

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