Sources of Magic

Arcane Source

A spell might be Arcane if it:

  • Detects, suppresses, ends, or otherwise interacts with mechanical aspects of spellcasting.
  • Harnesses elemental energy (acid, cold, fire, lightning, or thunder).
  • Interacts with a creature’s senses, whether to fool them or to extend their capabilities.

Divine Source

A spell might be Divine if it:

  • Specifically interacts with another creature’s life force, whether to heal or harm.
  • Harnesses radiant or necrotic energy.
  • Specifies interaction with a deity or includes the word “faith” in the description.

Primordial Source

A spell might be Primordial if it:

  • Alters or enhances a creature’s biological characteristics.
  • Specifically interacts with plants or animals.
  • Replicates an effect that could possibly occur as a natural phenomenon.

Wyrd Source

A spell might be Wyrd if it:

  • Summons a creature from a different plane or realm of existence.
  • Harnesses energy that isn’t elemental in nature.
  • Allows travel between different planes of existence.

Spell Circles

Every spell has a circle, ranked from 1st to 9th. The higher a spell’s circle, the more energy it requires to cast and the stronger its effect.

Like the rings within a tree trunk, circles of magic encircle one another. A novice spellcaster starts at the center of the circle with access only to the 1st circle. As a spellcaster grows in ability, their power expands outward, giving them access to higher circles. The further a circle is from the center, the higher level a spellcaster must be to use that circle’s spells.

Each class provides a table of what spellcaster level you must achieve before you gain access to new spell circles. Typically, a spellcaster must be at least 17th level before they can cast spells from the 9th—and final—circle.

Spell Slots

Spell slots are a measure of the reserves that a caster has to hold spell energy, like the reservoir behind a dam. Check the progression table for your spellcasting class to see how many spell slots your character has at a given level. As you gain levels, you gain new slots to cast spells from higher circles and additional slots to cast spells from lower circles.

A caster who has used all their spell slots is spent physically and mentally. They’re out of reserves for further spellcasting. To replenish spell slots, you must complete a short or long rest. Each class specifies which type of rest is required and how many slots you regain when you complete one. This rest represents the time needed to recover from the toll spellcasting takes on the body and mind.

Casting at Higher Circles

Some spell descriptions end with an At Higher Circles section. Casting a spell at a higher circle uses a higher spell slot and increases the spell’s power.

When you cast a spell at a higher circle, the spell assumes all aspects of the higher circle for that casting. For instance, if a wizard casts magic missile using a 2nd-circle spell slot, that magic missile is considered a 2nd-circle spell. Effectively, the spell expands to fill the slot into which it is put.

Schools of Magic


Abjuration spells use wards, shields, and other means of deflection to defend a target. Such spells might look like creating a force shield to block incoming missiles or imbuing a homestead with a ward to deter unwanted pests.


Conjuration spells restructure space, enabling objects, creatures, and other targets to be transported from place to place. Such spells might look like causing a lost key to appear in your hand or creating a portal that allows for instantaneous travel to another plane of existence.


Divination spells collect information, allowing a user to glean locations, outcomes, or sensory feedback beyond the limitations of standard perception. Such spells might look like sensing the location of a hidden entrance or predicting the outcome of future events.


Enchantment spells influence the minds of creatures, allowing a user to manipulate emotions or behavior. Such spells might compel a creature to behave erratically or convince a former enemy to perceive you as a trusted friend.


Evocation spells amplify and focus energy, allowing a user to create awesome—and often destructive—unnatural effects. Such spells might look like causing an object to emit light, causing the air to explode into flames, or stirring the skies into a raging storm.


Illusion spells deceive the senses, allowing a user to mask or alter the truth and create objects that seem real. Such spells might allow a caster to completely alter their appearance or torment enemies with nightmarish visions.


Necromancy spells manipulate the forces of life and death, allowing a user to heal, harm, or even raise creatures from the dead. Such spells might cause a missing limb to regrow or cause living flesh to instantly rot.


Transmutation spells alter the forms of creatures or objects, allowing a user to change or enhance them. Such spells might change lead into gold or transform an enemy into a toad.

Known Spells

A spellcaster must be extremely familiar with a spell or possess a magic item imbued with the spell to cast it. Each spellcasting class solves this familiarity issue differently.

For example, a wizard catalogs their known spells in a spellbook and can add to it when they discover a new spell. Your character class defines how many spells you know and can potentially learn as you gain more class levels.

Prepared Spells

A prepared spell is ready to cast quickly, in the heat of battle—all the reading and setup is done beforehand. Due to the intense mental fortitude necessary, the number of spells a caster can prepare at one time is generally limited.

Some spellcasters, such as clerics and wizards, must prepare all their spells ahead of time through study or meditation. Different spellcasting classes with shorter known spell lists can automatically prepare all their known spells.

Your character class defines what you must do to prepare spells and how many spells you can have prepared at any given level.


Some spellcasters can cast a simple type of spell called a cantrip. A caster can cast a cantrip without using a spell slot and without preparing it. Repeated practice has fixed the spell in the caster’s mind and infused the caster with the energy needed to produce the effect on demand. A cantrip’s spell circle is 0.

Your character class defines whether you can access cantrips and how many cantrips you know at each class level.


Ritual spells are uniquely powerful magic that take 1 minute or longer to cast and often require costly material components. A caster can only learn ritual spells associated with their source spell list. Your character class defines whether you can access ritual spells and how many rituals you know at each class level.

Ritual spells don’t use spell slots and therefore can’t be cast at higher circles in the way standard spells can. However, certain ritual spells automatically increase in power as a caster gains access to higher circle spell slots. This represents how casters channel greater amounts of magic as they advance in level. For example, a 3rd-level cleric can cast the base version of the 2nd-circle ritual spell prayer of healing to heal up to 2d8 + WIS modifier hit points. When that same cleric gets access to 3rd-circle spell slots at 5th level, their prayer of healing spell automatically becomes more powerful, allowing them to heal up to 3d8 + WIS modifier hit points.

For the purposes of setting DCs for effects like dispel magic, ritual spells that scale are always assumed to be cast at the highest circle the caster has access to or the spell’s listed circle, whichever is higher.

Otherwise, ritual spells follow normal spellcasting rules.

Casting in Armor

Because of the mental focus and precise gestures required for spellcasting, you must be proficient with any armor you are wearing to cast a spell. You are otherwise too distracted and hampered for spellcasting.

Combining Magical Effects

The effects of different spells combine while the durations of those spells overlap. The effects of the same spell cast multiple times don’t combine, however. Instead, the most potent effect, such as the highest bonus from multiple castings, applies while their durations overlap.

For example, if two wizards cast mage armor on the same target, that target gains the spell’s benefit only once; they don’t get multiple AC bonuses.

Elements of a Spell

Casting Time

Most spells require a single action to cast, but some can be accomplished in a shorter or longer span.

Bonus Action

A spell cast with a bonus action is fast. You must use a bonus action on your turn to cast the spell, provided you haven’t already taken a bonus action this turn. If you use your bonus action to cast a spell from the 1st circle or higher on your turn, you can’t also use your action to cast a spell from the 1st circle or higher during the same turn.


Some spells can be cast as reactions. These spells take a fraction of a second to bring about and are cast in response to specific triggering events. If a spell can be cast as a reaction, the spell description specifies the trigger condition that must be met before the spell can be cast.

Longer Casting Times

Certain spells (particularly rituals) require more time to cast, often minutes or even hours. When you cast a spell with a casting time longer than a single action, bonus action, or reaction, you must spend your action each turn casting, and you must maintain concentration while you do so. If your concentration is broken, the spell fails, but the attempt doesn’t expend a spell slot or material components unless the spell states otherwise. To try casting the spell again, you must start over.


The target of a spell must be within the spell’s range. For a spell like magic missile, the target is a creature. For a spell like fireball, the target is a point in space where the ball of fire erupts.

Most spells have ranges expressed in feet. Some spells can target only a creature (including you) that you touch. Other spells, such as the shield spell, affect only you. These spells have a range of self.

Spells that appear in cones or lines that originate from you also have a range of self, indicating that the origin point must be you.

Once a spell is cast, its effects aren’t limited by its range unless the spell’s description says otherwise.

Area of Effect

Spells such as burning hands and cone of cold cover an area, allowing them to affect multiple creatures at once.

A spell’s description specifies its area of effect, which typically has one of five different shapes: cone, cube, cylinder, line, or sphere. Every area of effect has a point of origin, a location from which the spell’s energy erupts. The rules for each shape specify how you position its point of origin. Usually, it is a point in space that you choose within the spell’s range, though some spells originate from a creature or an object.

A spell’s effect expands in straight lines from its point of origin. If no unblocked straight line extends from the point of origin to a location within the area of effect, that location isn’t included in the spell’s area. To block one of these straight lines, an obstruction must provide total cover.


A cone extends in a direction you choose from its point of origin (typically the spellcaster). A cone’s width at a given point along its length is equal to that point’s distance from the point of origin. A cone’s area of effect specifies its maximum length.

A cone’s point of origin isn’t included in the cone’s area of effect unless you decide otherwise.


You select a cube’s point of origin, which lies anywhere on one face of the cubic effect. The cube’s size is expressed as the length of each side.

A cube’s point of origin isn’t included in the cube’s area of effect unless you decide otherwise.


A cylinder’s point of origin is the center of a circle of a particular radius, as given in the spell description. The circle with the point of origin must either be on the ground or at the height of the spell effect. The energy in a cylinder expands in straight lines from the point of origin to the perimeter of the circle, forming the base of the cylinder. The spell’s effect then shoots up from the base or down from the top to a distance equal to the height of the cylinder.

A cylinder’s point of origin is included in the cylinder’s area of effect.


A line extends from its point of origin in a straight path up to its length and covers an area defined by its width.

A line’s point of origin isn’t included in the line’s area of effect unless you decide otherwise.


You select a sphere’s point of origin, and the sphere extends outward from that point. The sphere’s size is expressed as a radius in feet that extends from the point.

A sphere’s point of origin is included in the sphere’s area of effect.


A spell’s components are the physical requirements you must provide to cast it. Each spell’s description indicates whether it requires verbal (V), somatic (S), or material (M) components. If you can’t provide one or more of a spell’s components, you can’t cast the spell.

Verbal (V)

Most spells require the chanting of mystic words. The combination of sounds, with specific pitch and resonance, sets the magic in motion. Thus, a character who is gagged, affected by the deafened condition, or in an area of silence, such as one created by the silence spell, can’t cast a spell with a verbal component.

Somatic (S)

Spellcasting might include a forceful gesticulation or an intricate set of motions. If a spell requires a somatic component, the caster must have free use of at least one hand to perform these gestures. Note this means spells with somatic components typically can’t be cast while holding a weapon in one hand and a shield in the other.

Material (M)

Casting some spells requires specific objects detailed in parentheses in the component entry. A character can typically use a component pouch or a spellcasting focus in place of material components specified for a spell. However, if a specific cost is indicated for a material component, a pouch or focus can’t substitute for it. The character must have that specific component to cast the spell. If a spell specifies a cost for a material component, the component provided must be worth at least the listed amount, but a suitable component worth more than the specified amount can be used.

If a spell states that a material component is consumed by the spell, the caster must provide this component for each casting of the spell.

A spellcaster must have a hand free to access a spell’s material components—or to hold a spellcasting focus—but it can be the same hand that they use to perform somatic components.



Many spells are instantaneous. The spell harms, heals, creates, or alters a creature or an object in a way that can’t be dispelled, because its magic exists only for an instant. Some spells list an instantaneous duration but create long-lasting effects described in detail in the spell description.


Some spells require concentration to keep the magic active. If you lose concentration on a spell that requires it, the spell ends.

If a spell must be maintained with concentration, it will say so in its duration entry, and it specifies how long you can concentrate on it. You can end concentration at any time (no action required).

Normal activity, such as moving and attacking, doesn’t interfere with concentration. The following factors can break concentration:

  • Casting another spell that requires concentration. You immediately lose concentration on the first spell if you cast another spell that requires concentration. You can’t concentrate on two spells at once.
  • Taking damage. When you take damage while you are concentrating on a spell, you must make a CON save to maintain your concentration. The DC of this save equals 10 or half the damage you take, whichever number is higher. If you take damage from multiple sources, such as an arrow and a dragon’s breath, make a separate save for each source of damage.
  • Being incapacitated or killed. You lose concentration on a spell if you are incapacitated or if you die.

The GM might also decide that certain environmental phenomena, such as a wave crashing over you while you’re on a storm-tossed ship, require you to succeed on a CON save to maintain concentration on a spell.



A typical spell requires you to pick one or more targets to be affected by the spell’s magic. A spell tells you whether the spell targets creatures, objects, or a point of origin for an area of effect.

Unless a spell has a perceptible effect, a creature might not know it was targeted by a spell at all. An effect like crackling lightning is obvious, but a more subtle effect, such as an attempt to read a creature’s thoughts, typically goes unnoticed unless a spell says otherwise.

A Clear Path to the Target

To target something, you must have a clear path to it, so it can’t be behind total cover.

If you place an area of effect at a point that you can’t see and an obstruction, such as a wall, is between you and the point, the point of origin appears on the side of that obstruction nearest to you.

Targeting Yourself

If a spell targets a creature of your choice, you can choose yourself unless the spell says otherwise. For example, some spells specify that the target must be hostile to you or specifically a creature other than you. If you are in the area of effect of a spell you cast, you can target yourself.

Spell Saves

Many spells specify that a target can make a save to avoid some or all of a spell’s effects. The spell specifies the ability the target uses for the save, such as DEX or WIS, and what happens on a success or failure.

The DC to resist a spell equals 8 + your spellcasting ability modifier + your PB + any special modifiers. Your spellcasting class typically dictates which spellcasting ability modifier you use.

Spell Attack Rolls

Some spells require the caster to make an attack roll to determine whether the spell effect hits the intended target. Your attack bonus for a spell attack equals your spellcasting ability modifier + your PB. Your spellcasting class typically dictates which spellcasting ability modifier you use.

Most spells that require attack rolls involve ranged attacks. Remember that you have disadvantage on a ranged attack roll if you are within 5 feet of a hostile creature that can see you and isn’t incapacitated.

Ad Blocker Detected

Our website is made possible by displaying online advertisements to our visitors. Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker.