Dungeons & Dragons games are full of deep, philosophical and thought-provoking questions. Like: exactly how many times can I set these goblins on fire with my Hellish Rebuke spell during this encounter? To answer such burning questions you’ll need an understanding of spell slots in D&D 5e.
Read on for the lowdown on what you need to know about spell slots in D&D 5e: rules, uses, frequently asked questions, and some not-so-frequent questions!
What are Spell Slots?
Spell slots represent the number of times a magic wielder can cast spells before they need to rest and recuperate.
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The more experienced a caster is (AKA the higher their level), the more stamina they have to work these elemental forces. Spell slots are how magical experience is represented in D&D. The more spell slots, the more experienced the caster.
The world of Dungeons & Dragons is one where magic is vibrating just below the surface of reality, waiting to be brought forth… and it takes a lot of energy to manipulate and channel all that raw power!
How Do Spell Slots Work in 5E?
The basic rules of spell slots and spellcasting are:
- Spells have different levels
- To cast a spell, you use a spell slot of the same level (or higher)
- Some spells have more powerful versions that can be cast at higher levels, and use a higher level spells slot
- You have a set number of spell slots per spell level based on your character’s level
- You recover all spell slots after a long rest (unless otherwise noted)
- Some classes have to “prepare” spells in advance
The Players Handbook has an excellent example of how spell slots are used.
When a character casts a spell, he or she expends a slot of that spell’s level or higher, effectively “filling” a slot with the spell. You can think of a spell slot as a groove of a certain size – small for a 1st level slot, larger for a spell of higher level. A 1st level spell fits into a slot of any size, but a 9th level spell fits only a 9th level slot.Page 201, Dungeon & Dragons Players Handbook 5th edition.
One class whose spell slots don’t work this way is the Warlock. We’ll get into the differences for Warlock spells lots in more detail as we go.
How do you prepare spells?
Clerics, druids, paladins, and wizards need to prepare spells before they can use them.
To prepare spells, during a long rest, select the spells from your spell list that you want to use. Then your character must spend time studying the spells to prepare them. It’s the same amount of time to prepare spells for all prepared caster classes.
…at least one minute per spell level for each spell on your list.Page 58, 66, 84, 114 Dungeon & Dragons Players Handbook 5th edition.
How many spells can you prepare?
You may know a huge list of spells, but you can only prepare a selection of them to use.
The number of spells you can prepare = your level + spellcasting ability modifier
The spells you prepare need to be of a level for which you have spell slots. Otherwise, you can’t cast them!
You can keep track of which spells you have prepared by filling in the little ‘Prepared’ dot next to each spell on the spells page of your character sheet.
How do you change your prepared spells?
You can change your list of prepared spells when you finish a long rest.
Spell slots by class
Each caster class has a slightly different relationship with magic, so their numbers of spell slots differ as well. In your class description is a table that tells you how many spell slots of each level you have per character level.
Below we’ll look at each class, if their use of spell slots differs from the norm, and show you their spell slot tables.
Bards follow the usual rules of spell slots. They are considered “spontaneous casters” and don’t need to prepare their spells. Easy peasy!
Here’s the Bard table of spell slots:
The Cleric class uses spell slots as normal with no special considerations. However, they must prepare spells before casting. A Cleric can prepare a number of spells equal to their Wisdom modifier + Cleric level.
Here’s the Cleric spell slots table:
Druids spell slots work the same way as most classes, with the exception of their Natural Recovery feature. Details on this will come later. They also need to prepare their spells daily before casting, and can prep a number of spells equal to Wisdom modifier + Druid level.
Here’s the Druid table of spell slots:
Fighter (Eldritch Knight)
Eldritch Knights are Fighters who have some arcane training, and their spell slots work the regular way. And because they know relatively fewer spells than other casters, they don’t need to prepare them before casting.
Here’s the Eldritch Knight spell slot table:
Monk (Way of the Four Elements)
The Way of Four Elements Monk can cast a very limited number of spells, but doesn’t actually use spell slots at all.
Instead, they use their ki points to use abilities that allow they to cast a spell like this one:
Clench of the North Wind (6th Level Required)
You can spend 3 ki points to cast hold person.Page 81, Dungeon & Dragons Players Handbook 5th edition.
A Paladin uses spells slots like most classes without any special circumstances. They do need to prepare their spells though, and can prep a number of spells equal to their Charisma modifier + half Paladin level rounded down.
Here’s the Paladin spell slots table:
Spell slots for Rangers work the usual way, with no special recovery options. Rangers know their slightly smaller list of spells well and don’t need to prep their spells ahead of time.
Here’s the Ranger table of spell slots:
Rogue (Arcane Trickster)
The Arcane Trickster is a Rogue that has studied arcane magic like a Wizard, and they use spell slots the usual way. Unlike a Wizard, however, they don’t need to prep their spells ahead of casting.
Here’s the Arcane Trickster spell slot table:
The Sorcerer uses spell slots much the same as the other classes. However, they do have one feature called Font of Magic which can help them regain slots at will which we get into later. Because their magic is woven into their very being, a Sorcerer knows their spells by heart and don’t need to so any prep work.
Here is the Sorcerer spell slot table:
Warlocks are gifted the ability to manipulate magical forces by a pact with an otherworldly being. They don’t need to prepare these spells and are spontaneous spell casters.
To some degree, it’s almost like the Warlock borrows magic from their Patron. And this is why spell slots don’t work exactly the same for a Warlock as most other caster classes.
Here are the main ways that Warlock spell slots differ:
- All your spell slots are the same level
- When you cast a spell it expends a spell slot, but is cast at the level listed under slot level on your table
(e.g. you are 5th level and cast the 1st level spell Thunderwave. You use one of your spell slots, but since they are 3rd level slots the spell is cast as a 3rd level Thunderwave. Spells cast at higher levels have bigger effects.)
- You get all your spell slots back after a short or long rest
- When you learn a new spell, it can be of any level equal to or below the spell slot level on your table
- All your spell slots are recovered after a short or long rest
The Warlock spell table should help explain any lingering confusion:
Wizards operate under the usual rules for spell slots and must prepare spells. They have a feature that helps them recover spell slots called Arcane Recovery which we go into detail about a bit later.
Since their spell lists are so robust, Wizards need to plan ahead for which spells they want to cast in a day by preparing them. They get to prepare a number of spells equal to their Intelligence modifier + Wizard level.
Below is the Wizard table of spell slots. For a deeper dive into Wizard spell slots, see our article – Wizard Spell Slots 5e + Spellbooks Explained!
When Do I Get My Spell Slots Back?
All casting classes can replenish their spell slots by taking a long rest (down time of at least 8 hours).
However, a few classes can get their slots back without sleeping it off.
Starting at 2nd level you can regain some of your magical energy by sitting in mediation and communing with nature. During a short rest, you choose expended spell slots to recover. The spell slots can have a combined level that is equal to or less than half your Druid level (rounded up) and none of the slots can be 6th level or higher. You can’t use this feature again until you have finished a long rest.Page 68, Dungeon & Dragons Players Handbook 5th edition.
Using Natural Recovery, a 4th level Druid could recoup up to two levels worth of spell slots: either one 2nd level slot or two 1st level.
At level two, Sorcerers get a class feature called Font of Magic which allows them to accrue and spend “sorcery points” for a variety of effects. You start with 2 sorcery points and gain more as you level up.
From page 101 of the Players Handbook, here’s how many sorcery points you need to spend to get spell slots of different levels:
|Spell Slot Level||Sorcery Point Cost|
Because of the strange way their magics have been bestowed upon them, Warlocks work a little differently than all the other casting classes.
Right from the get-go Warlocks regain all spell slots after either a long or short rest (at least 1 hour). No requirements, just slot recovery galore!
Similar to a Druid, a Wizard can use a feature called Arcane Recovery to replenish spell slots after a short rest.
The rules around Arcane Recovery are almost identical to Natural Recovery, except that the Wizard does not need to take a long rest before using the feature again. Neato!
How Do I Increase My Number of Spell Slots?
The only way to increase your number of spells slots is by leveling up.
Good news! You gotta play more games with your friends! Oh noes, more gaming fun for you.
Want to be prepared for any eventuality and have a selection of backup spells to use, even when your spell slots are used up? Consider keeping a stash of items like these:
Which Class has the Most Spell Slots 5e?
Each caster class gets a different number of spell slots per caster level. See above for the full list of spell slot by level tables for each class.
The classes that get the most spell slots are:
These are also known as “full casters” because they all start with magic right from level one.
The classes with the next highest amount of spell slots are those that first get magic at 2nd level; the “half caster” classes:
The classes with the smallest number of spell slots are those that really just have a sprinkling of magic:
- Fighter (Eldritch Knight archetype)
- Rogue (Arcane Trickster archetype)
These are sometimes called “third casters” because they don’t get any magic until 3rd level.
How Does Casting Spells at Different Levels Work?
Some spells can be cast at higher levels than their base to have different effects. When you do this, the level you cast the spell at is the spell slot it eats up. Say you power up a level 1 spell to cast it as a 3rd level spell, you’d use up one 3rd level spell slot (not any 1st level slots).
A spell will always say in its description whether casting at a higher level is an option. Here’s a classic example:
A creature you touch regains a number of hit points equal to 1d8+ your spellcasting ability modifier. This spell has no effect on undead or constructs.
At Higher levels:Page 230, Dungeon & Dragons Players Handbook 5th edition.
When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, the healing increases by 1d8 for each slot level above 1st.
That’s right, no more piddly little spells you never use anymore or excessive bloat of four different spells just for intensities of the same effect! 5e casting is rather streamlined in comparison to some older editions.
How Do Spell Slots Work for Multiclassing?
If you are starting from a class that does not have any magic casting ability, then multiclassing into a caster means you simply use that class table to determine spell slots. Simple!
But what if you are a Wizard who wants to take levels in Paladin, for example? Multiclassing more than one caster class and spell slots get a little squidgy, so let’s just go straight to the Players Handbook for this one:
You determine your available spell slots by adding together all your levels in the bard, cleric, druid, sorcerer, and wizard classes, half your levels (rounded down) in the paladin and ranger classes, and a third of your fighter or rogue levels (rounded down) if you have the Eldritch Knight of Arcane Trickster feature. Use this total to determine your spell slots by consulting the Multiclass Spellcaster table.Page 164, Dungeon & Dragons Players Handbook 5th edition.
So if you’re a 3rd level in cleric and multiclass with a 2nd level in paladin you’d get:
3rd level + 1st level = 4th level
You use that level total to find out how many spell slots you get.
If you have more than one spellcasting class, this table might give you spell slots of a level that is higher than the spells you know or can prepare. You can use those slots, but only to cast your lower level spells. If a lower level spell that you cast, like burning hands, has an enhanced effect when cast using a higher level slot, you can use the enhanced effect, even though you don’t have any spells od that higher level.Page 164, Dungeons & Dragons Players Handbook 5th edition.
Also, spell slots for a Spellcasting class (like Wizards) and a Pact Magic class (Warlocks) are interchangeable.
Which Spells Don’t Require Spell Slots?
The dictionary definition of “cantrip” is a magical spell, trick, or prank. Perhaps Gygax and crew got a little inspiration from this because in D&D a cantrip is a kind of casual, semi-inconsequential, easy to cast spell. The effects of a cantrip are small, but when used creatively can hinder bad guys or help the party in surprising ways.
Gameplay-wise, you there are a few things to know about cantrips. They:
- Can be cast at will
- Don’t need to be prepared
- Don’t use up a spell slot
- Are spell level 0
The Players Handbook gives us a flavorful description of why cantrips are different from other spells.
Repeated practice has fixed the spell in the caster’s mind and infused the caster with the magic needed to produce the effect over and over.Page 201, Dungeon & Dragons Players Handbook 5th edition
So, if a spell is on your list of cantrips have at it! No need to keep track, just spam Mage Hand to your heart’s content.
Door locked from the other side? Get a helping Mage Hand. (HA! Get it?) Eating a sloppy sandwich? Don’t even think about getting your hands sticky – Mage Hand FTW!
Classes that get cantrips:
Some spells have a special designation (tag) which means they have the option of being cast without using a spell slot – the ritual tag.
The ritual version of a spell takes 10 minutes longer to cast than normal. It also doesn’t expend a spell slot, which means the ritual version of a spell can’t be cast at a higher level.Page 201-202, Dungeon & Dragons Players Handbook 5th edition.
However, casting spells as a ritual is not available to every magic user. Your class must have the Ritual Casting feature.
Classes that have the Ritual Casting feature:
There’s also a feat that allows you to cast a certain number of spells as rituals: Ritual Caster. With this feat, you get a spellbook just for rituals and 2 spells from a spell list of one of the classes listed above.
This feat also allows you to copy some written spells into your book to cast later as rituals, so it’s a lot more versatile than it seems at first glance.
Warlock’s Eldritch Invocations
A few of the Eldritch Invocations available to Warlocks will specify that they do not use a spell slot when cast.
You can cast speak with animals at will, without expending a spell slot.Page 110, Dungeon & Dragons Players Handbook
Can I Learn More Spells Than My Number of Spell Slots?
Yes, you can learn more spells than you have spell slots.
The two numbers are independent of one another. The number of spell slots determines how many times you can cast a certain level of spell (e.g. 3 spell slots for level 1 spells). And the number of spells known is just the total number of the spells in your spellbook.
Can you use two spell slots in one turn?
Yes, but only in very specific circumstances.
To understand why, first let’s get into what you can do in one turn of combat.
In combat, you can Move, Take an Action, and maybe take a Bonus Action and/or Reaction (when specified, not just for funsies). Actions you can take in combat are: Attack, Cast a Spell, Dash, Dodge, Help, Hide, Ready, Search, and Use an Object. Since you only get one action per turn, generally you can’t use up more than one spell slot either.
“What about spells cast as a Bonus Action?” you may wonder. Wizards has got that angle covered in the Casting Time section of the Rules of Magic.
A spell cast with a bonus action is especially swift. You must use a bonus action on your turn to cast the spell, provided you haven’t already taken a bonus action this turn. You can’t cast another spell during the same turn, except for a cantrip with a casting time of 1 action.Page 202, DUngeon & Dragons Players Handbook 5th edition.
And cantrips do not use spell slots. So, even if you cast a cantrip in addition to a regular spell that doesn’t count as using two spell slots.
To my knowledge, there is one way in the rules as they are written to cast more than one spell per turn: the Fighter’s Action Surge ability.
Starting at 2nd level, you can push yourself beyond your normal limits for a moment. On your turn, you take one additional action on top of your regular action and a possible bonus action. Once you use this feature, you must finish a short or long rest before you can use it again. Starting at 17th level you can use it twice before a rest, but only once on the same turn.Page 72, Dungeon & Dragons Players Handbook 5th Edition.
A Fighter with the Eldritch Knight archetype or a clever Fighter/caster multiclass could potentially pull off using two spell slots in one turn. Otherwise, you’re out of luck.
Can you use 2 cantrips in a turn?
Yes. The few situations in which you could cast two cantrips in one turn are:
- If you are casting class/Fighter multiclass and use the Action Surge ability
- You are have a feature that grants a bonus action (like with the Sorcerer’s Quickened Spell metamagic feature)
- Casting Shillelagh (casting time 1 bonus action) and then one other cantrip with a casting time of 1 action
Conclusion – Spell Slots 5e
With this overview of spell slots in D&D 5e under your belt, you have enough of a Shocking Grasp on spell slots to get to the fun stuff – electrocuting, bewitching, and setting your foes aflame! So go ahead, get lit and kick some undead booty!
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