Rules FAQ How Many Spells Can You Cast in a Round in D&D 5E?

NOTE: In the light of information missed in the first version of this article, it has been revised.

Spellcasting in D&D 5E is normally a pretty straightforward thing, especially at lower levels. But there are some tricky edge cases that can and do cause more play imbalance and more arguments than they need to. So how many spells can a player character cast in a single round in D&D 5E?

spells.jpg
As many as eight, depending on your character build and the circumstances, though four or five are much more common limits, and even those don’t come up frequently.


This is the part of a weekly series of articles by a team of designers answering D&D questions for beginners. Feel free to discuss the article and add your insights or comments!


Before we get into the hows of it, though, a few key ground rules:
  • Cantrips with a casting time of one action can always be cast if you have an action available.
  • Spells (cantrips or using a spell slot) with a casting time of one bonus action impose restrictions on what you can do for the rest of the turn you use them in, but not the round. Specifically, if you cast a spell with a casting time of one bonus action on your turn, you cannot cast any other spells on that turn (before or after the bonus action spell) except cantrips with a casting time of one bonus action. This restriction is where most people get tripped up.
  • It’s possible to get multiple reactions off in a single round, provided that you have turns between them.
  • For the purposes of this exercise, a twinned spell is still a single spell.
With those rules in mind, here are the scenarios:

Four spells in a round:

This is the most a typical single-classed spellcaster can pull off, and is therefore the most common ceiling for a character’s spells per round.
  • Spell 1: After the start of the round, but before the character’s turn, another participant in the combat does something that allows the character to cast a spell with a casting time of one reaction as a response. The most common scenarios are shield or hellish rebuke in response to an attack or counterspell in response to another caster’s spell.
  • Spells 2 & 3: The player’s turn arrives and their reaction recharges. They cast a cantrip with a casting time of one action, then another spell (which can be either a cantrip or a leveled spell) with a casting time of one bonus action.
  • Spell 4: After the player’s turn, but before the end of the round, they cast another spell with a casting time of one reaction in response to something else.

This requires two things the character can react to and also requires the character to have reaction spells, but that’s a fairly common scenario for mid-level casters and up.

Five spells in a round:

If the character has two levels or more in fighter so they have access to Action Surge, they can use it to add a second one-action cantrip to the breakdown above.

It’s worth noting that if the PC forgoes the bonus action spell, they can use their Action Surge to cast two spells using spell slots. This is often the better tactical choice, as it allows two powerful spell effects in one turn (but obviously lowers the total number cast). Two levels of fighter also aren’t particularly crippling to a character’s spellcasting progression.

Eight spells in a round:

This goes deep into the realm of theoretical possibilities, because it requires not only a very specific build which is barely a spellcaster at all, it also requires an equally-specific set of circumstances to pull off. The example below uses a tiefling rogue (Thief) 17/fighter 2/sorcerer 1 (bloodline unimportant) with the Magic Initiate (gaining access to shillelagh), and Fey Touched (giving access to misty step) feats. Again, this build is not much of a spellcaster at all, with just two first-level spell slots at level 20. There also need to be “reactable” events interleaved through the initiative order, but if that all comes together, and it’s the first round of combat where the bonus turn from Thief’s Reflexes is available, here’s one example of how it could work:
  • First enemy’s turn: cast shield (sorcerer spell) in reaction to an attack. (1 of 2 spell slots used, 1 spell cast)
  • Character’s main turn: casts fire bolt, casts shillelagh, uses Action Surge, casts booming blade. (1 of 2 spell slots used, 4 spells cast)
  • Second enemy’s turn: casts racial hellish rebuke in reaction to being hit. (1 of 2 spell slots used, 5 spells cast)
  • Character’s secondary turn: casts fire bolt, casts misty step using free “slot” from Fey Touched. (7 spells cast, 1 of 2 spell slots remaining)
  • Third enemy’s turn: casts feather fall (sorcerer spell) in reaction to being shoved off the ledge they’ve been fighting on. (8 spells cast, both spell slots used)

Conclusion​

While you can use highly-specialized builds and rare sets of circumstances to push the numbers of spells per round to crazy heights, the two most likely practical caps are five (for characters with Action Surge) and four (for those without). And frankly, what self-respecting rogue is going to use a club or quarterstaff with shillelagh instead of a finesse weapon?

The single biggest stumbling block (big enough that it got your humble author in the first version of this article!) to remember is the one about spells with a casting time of one bonus action. Once you’ve used one of those on your turn, you’re cut off from leveled spells until your turn ends, and if you cast a leveled spell, you’ve by definition foregone the casting of bonus action spells that turn. This means, among other things, that bonus action spells cannot be defended from a hostile counterspell with a counterspell of your own, per RAW. So cast those healing word spells with caution around enemy casters, folks!
 
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Peter N Martin

Peter N Martin

TheSword

Legend
Do spells cast from magic items, for instance a circlet of blasting’s scorching ray count as spells. So if I as a sorcerer cast fireball as a bonus action can I cast fireball from my wand/staff of fire as well?
 

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Tormyr

Adventurer
Do spells cast from magic items, for instance a circlet of blasting’s scorching ray count as spells. So if I as a sorcerer cast fireball as a bonus action can I cast fireball from my wand/staff of fire as well?
Magic items (circlet of blasting, wand of fireballs, wand of magic missile, etc.) generally say that you use an action to cast a spell. Essentially, you draw on another resource other than your spell slots, but you are still using an action to cast a levelled spell (not a cantrip). So it doesn't change the action economy in any way.
 

TheAlkaizer

Game Designer
You can cast a spell as a reaction on your turn (using counterspell vs counterspell, walk off a cliff and cast feather fall, etc.). Crawford's tweet and Tasha's say that you cannot use your reaction on your turn to cast a spell if you used your bonus action to cast a spell (or vice versa).
On your turn, yes, it make sense. Just to be clear, here's a few scenarios.

You can do the following:
  1. I use my action to cast Cure Wounds.
  2. My opponent casts Counterspell.
  3. I use my reaction to cast Counterspell against his Counterspell.
You cannot do the following:
  1. I use my bonus action to cast Hex.
  2. My opponent casts Counterspell.
  3. I use my reaction to cast Counterspell against his Counterspell.
However, you can to the following:
  1. I use my bonus action to cast Hex.
  2. I finish my turn. It is now my opponent's turn in initiative.
  3. My opponent cast Fire Bolt.
  4. I use my reaction to cast Counterspell against his Fire Bolt.
 

Tormyr

Adventurer
On your turn, yes, it make sense. Just to be clear, here's a few scenarios.

You can do the following:
  1. I use my action to cast Cure Wounds.
  2. My opponent casts Counterspell.
  3. I use my reaction to cast Counterspell against his Counterspell.
You cannot do the following:
  1. I use my bonus action to cast Hex.
  2. My opponent casts Counterspell.
  3. I use my reaction to cast Counterspell against his Counterspell.
However, you can to the following:
  1. I use my bonus action to cast Hex.
  2. I finish my turn. It is now my opponent's turn in initiative.
  3. My opponent cast Fire Bolt.
  4. I use my reaction to cast Counterspell against his Fire Bolt.

The thread chain was about how the bonus action spell blocked using a reaction spell on your turn. Your response made me think that you were saying that reaction spells always happened on someone else's turn. Apologies for any misunderstanding.

That's curious, this Crawford tweet has (arguably) two interpretations:

A. Casting a spell as an action doesn't prevent you from casting one as a reaction in your turn. BUT casting a spell as a bonus action DOES prevent you from casting one as a reaction. (The bonus action observation replaces the first part of the previous sentence).

B. Casting a spell as an action doesn't prevent you from casting one as a reaction in your turn. BUT casting a spell as an action DOES prevent you from casting one as a bonus action. (The bonus action observation replaces the second part of the previous sentence).

I always thought he meant B (and so, the way described in the article would be correct).
Very interesting.

EDIT:

I guess @Paragon Lost post cemented that the correct interpretation is A.
Damn, this doesn't make any sense in my head!

@volanin Right!? I'm taking it to mean A as you said based on the RAW in Tasha's.

I'm pretty sure it's the opposite.

If we put aside feats and other shenanigans, just a basic caster...

On your turn (not once per round), you can cast either:
  • An full spell with your action (let's say Cure Wounds).
  • A cantrip with your action, and a full spell with your bonus action.
In either case, you can use your reaction to cast a reaction spell like counterspell, as you're not casting that on your turn, but during the round and someone's else turn.
 

TheSword

Legend
Magic items (circlet of blasting, wand of fireballs, wand of magic missile, etc.) generally say that you use an action to cast a spell. Essentially, you draw on another resource other than your spell slots, but you are still using an action to cast a levelled spell (not a cantrip). So it doesn't change the action economy in any way.
I guess there is a difference between wand of fireball that lets you cast a spell and necklace of fireballs that replicated the effects but it without casting.
 


For a total of 8 spells. The number of spells that a character can cast in one round can get (in theory) arbitrarily large if said character has access to a trait such as Reactive, which allows multiple reactions in a single round.
No replies to this? Seems... innately wrong to me.
 



timespike

Adventurer
Yeah, it's important to keep turn vs. round in mind for this.

However, much as I am ashamed to admit it, I did just straight-up miss the change/clarification in Tasha's when I was doing research (which would have actually saved me some headaches. You would not believe how many other takes on this issue I read while researching the article). So good catch there.
 

Xetheral

Three-Headed Sirrush
  • Order does not matter. If a character casts a leveled spell with a casting time of one action, they cannot cast a bonus action leveled spell that turn, though they could cast a cantrip with a casting time of one bonus action (such as shillelagh).
(Bold emphasis added.) The bolded assertion appeats to be incorrect. By my reading, casting a bonus action cantrip triggers all the same restrictions as casting a bonus action leveled spell.

I suggest replacing this bullet point with:
  • Order does not matter. If a character casts a leveled spell with a casting time of one action, or casts any spell as a reaction, they cannot cast a bonus action spell that turn.
 

FarBeyondC

Explorer
Yeah, my immediate reaction as well, but it looks legit. Keep in mind they will only have 2 cantrips and 3 1st level spells to cast, with 4/3/3 slots if my math is right.

Only 2 cantrips and two 1st level spells (Thief Rogue doesn't factor into spell slots here in any way, so you just have the slots from Eldritch Knight), plus any potential spells from whatever items you may have by this point (Use Magic Device is a wonderful drug ability).

Probably not much worth worrying about creatures with reactive. By definition they aren’t bound to the same rules as PCs so a marralith bring able to cast more spells doesn’t really matter.

To my knowledge there are no Pc races with reactive.

Marilith is a go-to form to Shapechange into for most of my characters that can because of the seven attack multi-attack action alone; the ability to react on every creature's turn would normally just be icing on the cake.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Marilith is a go-to form to Shapechange into for most of my characters that can because of the seven attack multi-attack action alone; the ability to react on every creature's turn would normally just be icing on the cake.
"...and you must have seen the sort of creature at least once."

Problem solved.
 



ECMO3

Hero
I think the maximum amount of spells cast in a round by a single player lower than 17th level is 5. I think 8 is the maximum possible by any character in a round.

5 includes a spell cast as a bonus action (either because it is a BA casting time or through quicken spell), a cantrip cast as an action, a cantrip cast using action surge, a spell using your reaction during that round on a turn before your turn and a spell using your reaction during that round on a turn after your turn.

To do that you would need to use two reactions in a round of combat, one a the beginning of the round before your turn and one at the end of the round after your turn, so if you won initiative (go first in the round) or lost initiative (go last in the round) then the maximum would be 4.

If you are not including cantrips and only leveled spells then the number is 4. One as an action, one using action surge and two as reactions (one before your turn, one after).

If you have a 17th level thief with 2 levels of fighter and one level of caster the maximum would be 8 including 5 spells and 3 cantrips. It is 6 if we are only counting leveled spells. You could cast a reaction spell before your first turn in the round; you cast 3 on your first turn using action surge cantrip/bonus action spell/action cantrip, you could cast another as a reaction between your first turn and your second turn. Cast 2 on your second turn using BA spell and action cantrip, cast one as a reaction after your second turn before the end of the round. Note in order to cast that many leveled spells in a day a character would need to have spellcasting feats as well.

Example of 5 casts in a round:
Kobold rolls a 20 initiative, sorcerer/fighter rolls a 15, dragon rolls a 5.

Start of round;
20- Kobold attacks Sorcerer, Sorcerer casts shield (1)
15- Sorcerer quickens magic missile (2), casts true strike (3), action surge booming blade (4)
5- Dragon breathes fire, Sorcerer casts absorb elements (5).
End of Round.

Example of 8 casts in round.
Kobold rolls 20 initiative, PC is (17Thief/2fighter/1sorcerer) rolls 17, Dragon rolls 15, Cultist rolls 5. The PC has a turn at count 17 and count 10. For purposes of this discussion the PC has magic initiate (warlock) and fey touched although you could do it with other feats too.

Start of Round;
20- Kobold attacks PC casts shield (1)
17- PC casts Hex(2), booming blade (3), action surge eldritch blast (4)
15- Dragon breathes fire, PC casts absorb elements (5)
10- PC casts green-flame blade (6), misty step (7)
5- Cultist hits PC and PC casts hellish rebuke (8)
End of Round.


If a character casts a leveled spell with a casting time of one action, they cannot cast a bonus action leveled spell that turn, though they could cast a cantrip with a casting time of one bonus action (such as shillelagh).
This is not true. You have the RAW slightly incorrect. If a character casts a leveled spell as an action, they can not cast any spell at all (even a cantrip) as a bonus action. The actual wording in the rule is:

"A spell cast with a Bonus Action is especially swift. You must use a Bonus Action on Your Turn to cast the spell, provided that 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."

Shillelagh is a spell cast as a Bonus Action, so if you cast that you can not cast any other spell except a cantrip with a casting time of one action.
.
 
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timespike

Adventurer
Thank you everyone for your diligence in responding to this article!

In light of the inconsistencies with the latest clarifications from Tasha's and Crawford, I will be revising the article to present more accurate information. Stay tuned for that in the near future (next day or two).
 

Tormyr

Adventurer
Thank you everyone for your diligence in responding to this article!

In light of the inconsistencies with the latest clarifications from Tasha's and Crawford, I will be revising the article to present more accurate information. Stay tuned for that in the near future (next day or two).
No worries. It's one of the more obtuse rules, and I honestly would prefer it if using a reaction was not restricted by using a bonus action. It doesn't benefit the game in any way to have the division there.

Thanks for your work, and I look forward to the update!
 



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