Spell Rarity

by SubjectiveSloth

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Spell Rarities

The level of a spell dictates its power, but not always its difficulty or prevalence. Some spells are known only to a scarce few mages who need them for their work, or even only those who invented them, while other spells are all but erased from history, with only minor references and snippets scribbled in the margins of the most ancient tomes. Some spells that could change the world as it is known are so difficult to master that only the most skilled mages ever bother to try, while some are simple displays of pure force that any mage of sufficient power may wield with ease.

This optional system serves to contextualize spellcasting in your world, generate interesting connections between players and their spells, and simultaneously provide an internally consistent method for limiting the players' magical abilities to manageable levels for the DM.

There are four rarities used in this system, and they are detailed below:

  • Common: Almost every trained spellcaster, and even some untrained ones who have the ability to cast this spell use it often or know of it and have seen it used. Common spells are almost always easy to master for spellcasters powerful enough to wield them.
  • Uncommon: Some spellcasters know of and use this spell, either due to its difficulty, its obscurity, or its niche applications. Most spellcasters will have at least some vague knowledge of this spell.
  • Rare: Very few spellcaster know of or use this spell. This may be the personal spell of some powerful mage who created it, or it may have been forbidden long ago and only exists in the minds of a scarce few old wizards.
  • Legendary: No living person in the known world still uses this spell, but there is some remaining record of it, whether in the far memory of some considerably ancient warlock (or their patron), the pages of a legendary lost tome, or in the text of a crumbling old scroll, which can withstand but one last casting before being lost to time.

Gaining New Spells

Within this system, the way players learn new spells is tweaked in order to hold them to the laws of the world and create the desired effect of immersion and consistency.

When a player with the ability to cast spells gains a level, often they gain a number of spells, or can switch out their known spells for others of the same level. The rarities in this system take effect by requiring more of the players during this process than simply picking names from a list. Common rarity spells can be chosen as usual, as most people know of them and can learn them rather easily; however, spells of higher rarities must have a reason for being available. Uncommon rarity spells should be allowed to be chosen similarly to those of common rarity, however, the players should be encouraged to think about and provide reasons why they would have heard of these spells. For example, any wizard who has spent time in a court of nobility probably knows or has heard of the comprehend languages spell used in dealings between nations to translate, but a lowborn sorcerer might not have ever known such a spell existed. Context like this helps establish a background for the character and grants the spell itself a role in the storytelling.

Further, rare spells cannot normally be chosen from a list when gaining a level, instead, rare spells must be learned from someone or something that has knowledge of the spell, or is even its creator. Take for example Snilloc's Snowball Swarm, Depending on their fame, Snilloc may be the only mage who knows how to cast this spell, and as such a player learning it at random when leveling up makes little sense. If the players were to meet Snilloc and learn the spell first-hand, however, it would leave an interesting and lasting impression on players who chose to use that spell in the future. As such, when a player gains a level in their spellcasting class, they may not take or use any spells of rare or legendary rarity that they have not heard of or learned previously. When a player learns of a spell from any source, it becomes available to them. If necessary, they can choose to replace one of their current spells with it when it is learned.

Distributing Rarities, and Their Consequences

On the following pages I have included my distribution of rarities for all of the currently available (Pre-Xanathar's) spells in 5e (as according to The Grimoire) for my campaign setting. If you wish to use GMBinder for this as I did, you can click "Source</>" on top of this page to copy my format.

Take note when creating your own distribution as to the differences between common and uncommon rarities. The border here may become blurred at times, but know that spells within the common category should be those who most if not all magic users would know. This can have major implications on the setting of a world, depending on the prevalence of spellcasters. To take inspiration from this WebDM episode, if spells such as revivify are made common, then why would any person ever die in combat? What would the diamonds used in the casting of that spell be worth? These are things to consider when ranking spell rarities, and can serve as inspiration for innovative cultures or economies in your setting. By contrast, marking a spell as uncommon can do well in leaving it open to players, but reducing its impact upon your setting. If the spell revivify is supremely difficult, then it may only be in use by those with significant skill, and only for exorbitant amounts of gold, making its consequences much less universal.

Alternate Spell Names

When using this system to enhance spellcasting in your setting, you may find it beneficial to rename certain spells to use the names of characters, gods, or locations that are consistent within your own setting. For example, Arms of Hadar can be made into a small tidbit of worldbuilding verisimilitude if named after an appropriate old god in your setting.

Spells of the Masters

There are a number of spells included in 5e which are named after their creators, and similarly to the spell names mentioned above, these spells could also benefit from a bit of alteration or creative worldbuilding to fit your setting. Think about who these characters are and what they do based on what they've created, and what position that lends them in your world.

Applying Rarity to Specific Classes

This system as written applies mostly to wizards, and seems less applicable to other classes. In this section I will provide thoughts and examples on how to apply the ideas behind spell rarity to other classes.


The Bard is an oddity in that they have no concrete, canonical method for learning new spells (as far as I have found). Many assume that they learn similarly to the sorcerer and just spontaneously think of new spells to cast, Some think it is a function of new songs or art pieces they've created granting them new spells. Others still think they learn similarly to wizards and learn spells through some amount of study, whether it be artistic or not. For the purposes of this section, I will assume that Bards attain spells through some combination of thought and artistic expression that leads them to the discovery of a new spell.

In this sense, common spells would be represented as easily imagined and cliché ideas very common to the medium that the bard practices. These ideas would then be very prevalent and well-known to any bard worth their salt. Uncommon Spells would then represent something like a shallow subversion or a slightly different twist on one of those clichés, allowing for special ideas that could lead to more specialized spells. For example, a spell like disguise self could have arisen in the mind of a shunned tiefling from thoughts of a common story re-contextualized by their personal feelings of isolation and social anxiety.

Then there are the rare and legendary bardic spells. I would assume rare spells were some personalized work of high art created for a specific purpose. This could be something like a powerful and heartfelt ballad for a loved one that was lost in a truly horrible way bringing to mind the spell raise dead. A legendary spell would then be some powerful odyssey of incredible artistic merit, such as a massive, sweeping, epic poem that could cause even the most stubborn of men to rethink their ideals.

Additionally, Bards can be taught spells by other bards exposing them to the ideas and inspirations that brought about the spell. The more deep and multi-faceted the inspiration, the more difficult the spell is to learn.



Clerics do not learn spells, they are given their abilities through their devotion to their deity, faith, or other target of worship. Mechanically, clerics simply "know" all of their possible spells and just progress in the amount of power they have to cast more of them. This omniscient knowledge of course clashes with the idea of rarities in this system, but it can still be leveraged to function normally with a few considerations into how spells are distributed. There are three main ways to deal with clerics in this system:

  1. Deities treat uncommon spells similarly to domain spells, only allowing certain clerics access to those powers based on their needs, and treat rare and legendary spells as special, direct divine gifts, heavily limited in their distribution. This provides a reasonable hierarchy of clerics with increasing access to certain powers, ending in only the highest and holiest being able to perform true miracles never seen by mortals.

  2. Clerics know about all their spells, but may not necessarily be given the power to cast certain ones due to other factors, such as divine politics (i.e. gods of life not stepping on the toes of gods of death with spells like resurrection). This could allow for situations where a cleric has knowledge of a powerful spell, maybe even one that could resolve a problem very important to them, and they know their god holds it just out of their reach, creating a meaningful sense of doubt in one's own faith.

  3. Simply create a different rarity distribution for clerics where everything is common. This of course may have unwanted connotations in terms of worldbuilding, such as widespread resurrections, longer lifespans, overpopulation, and an eventual obsolescence of death. this can all be hand-waved away of course, but this system is singularly intended to confront the consequences of widespread spellcasting head-on, so the omission of large details like this is not ideal.

Clerics cannot simply trade spells between each other with training and education, but they can petition their gods for special spells in times of need, and most likely keep them afterwards.


Druids, similarly to clerics, simply prepare their spells from a list of which they always know, and don't necessarily "learn" spells. The difference is their source of power for these abilities: their devotion to nature and its many aspects. This can sometimes appear very similar to a cleric, such as a druid that worships an aspect of the natural world (such as the cycle of life and death) as if it were a deity. Other times, druids may gain their power from their own understanding and acceptance of natural concepts, such as the cycle of water and how it affects different creatures.

When applying this system to druids, it can be flavored similarly to the way the Circle of the Land's circle spells work, in that only druids who deal in certain aspects of druidic arts gain the appreciation for the natural aspect needed to cast certain spells. For example, a spell like ice knife would be relegated mainly to druids hailing from icy tundras. For rare and legendary spells, more mysticism could be involved in their existence. For example, faeries could inject a particularly powerful spell, such as geas, into the minds of certain unstable druids in order to cause a bit of chaos for their enjoyment.

Druids can teach other druids their spells, but it is a significantly more difficult task if the druid is not able to experience the nature they seek to learn about first hand. Without spending time learning about the spells in the environment to which their aspects are linked, I would surmise that a druid can only reasonably learn spells of 2nd level or lower. This may of course differ in your view, but it is simply an example.


Paladins function very similarly to clerics in terms of their spellcasting, and can use the spell rarity system in similar ways. Paladins derive their power from their oath, their conviction, and their belief in their deity or power. The spells they learn can be seen as gifts from that power, or simply as techniques that can be taught through training. If the case is the former, then the techniques for adapting clerics to spell rarity will work identically for paladins. If it is the latter, then uncommon spells can simply come down to a difference in training depending on where they learned their craft. For spells of rare or legendary, a divine gift suits their concepts more favorably, but they could simply be specially developed techniques specialized to one order of paladins, or even to a singular knight.

Obviously whether or not paladins can teach others their spells depends on whether they are divine gifts or techniques. However, like clerics, paladins can petition their deities for more power in times of need, and as such can sometimes be made to use special spells if the situation is dire enough.


The magic available to rangers falls somewhere between the domains of a druid and a bard: The ranger's attunement to nature fuels their spells, and they can only know a scarce few at any time. Of course there is not much written on how a ranger learns their spells, but for this section I will assume that they learn them similarly to druids: through communal with aspects of nature.




Common Spells
  • (c) Acid Splash
  • (c) Blade Ward
  • (c) Chill Touch
  • (c) Control Flames
  • (c) Create Bonfire
  • (c) Dancing Lights
  • (c) Eldritch Blast
  • (c) Fire Bolt
  • (c) Frostbite
  • (c) Guidance
  • (c) Gust
  • (c) Light
  • (c) Mage Hand
  • (c) Magic Stone
  • (c) Mending
  • (c) Message
  • (c) Minor Illusion
  • (c) Mold Earth
  • (c) Poison Spray
  • (c) Prestidigitation
  • (c) Produce Flame
  • (c) Ray of Frost
  • (c) Resistance
  • (c) Sacred Flame
  • (c) Shape Water
  • (c) Shillelagh
  • (c) Shocking Grasp
  • (c) Spare the Dying
  • (c) Thaumaturgy
  • (c) Thorn Whip
  • (c) Thunderclap
  • (c) True Strike
  • (c) Vicious Mockery
  • (1) Absorb Elements
  • (1) Alarm
  • (1) Animal Friendship
  • (1) Bane
  • (1) Beast Bond
  • (1) Bless
  • (1) Burning Hands
  • (1) Catapult
  • (1) Color Spray
  • (1) Compelled Duel
  • (1) Create or Destroy Water
  • (1) Detect Magic
  • (1) Detect Poison and Disease
  • (1) Dissonant Whispers
  • (1) Divine Favor
  • (1) Earth Tremor
  • (1) Ensnaring Strike
  • (1) Entangle
  • (1) Expeditious Retreat
  • (1) Faerie Fire
  • (1) Feather Fall
  • (1) Find Familiar
  • (1) Fog Cloud
  • (1) Healing Word
  • (1) Heroism
  • (1) Hunter's Mark
  • (1) Identify
  • (1) Inflict Wounds
  • (1) Jump
  • (1) Longstrider
  • (1) Mage Armor
  • (1) Magic Missile
  • (1) Purify Food and Drink
  • (1) Ray of Sickness
  • (1) Sanctuary
  • (1) Searing Smite
  • (1) Shield
  • (1) Shield of Faith
  • (1) Silent Image
  • (1) Speak with Animals
  • (1) Tasha's Hideous Laughter
  • (1) Thunderous Smite
  • (1) Thunderwave
  • (1) Unseen Servant
  • (1) Wrathful Smite
  • (2) Aid
  • (2) Animal Messenger
  • (2) Arcane Lock
  • (2) Augury
  • (2) Barkskin
  • (2) Beast Sense
  • (2) Blindness/Deafness
  • (2) Blur
  • (2) Branding Smite
  • (2) Cloud of Daggers
  • (2) Continual Flame
  • (2) Darkness
  • (2) Darkvision
  • (2) Dust Devil
  • (2) Earthbind
  • (2) Enhance Ability
  • (2) Find Steed
  • (2) Find Traps
  • (2) Flame Blade
  • (2) Gentle Repose
  • (2) Gust of Wind
  • (2) Heat Metal
  • (2) Hold Person
  • (2) Knock
  • (2) Levitate
  • (2) Locate Animals or Plants
  • (2) Magic Mouth
  • (2) Magic Weapon
  • (2) Misty Step
  • (2) Moonbeam
  • (2) Prayer of Healing
  • (2) Pyrotechnics
  • (2) Ray of Enfeeblement
  • (2) Rope Trick
  • (2) Scorching Ray
  • (2) Shatter
  • (2) Silence
  • (2) Spider Climb
  • (2) Spike Growth
  • (2) Spiritual Weapon
  • (2) Warding Bond
  • (2) Warding Wind
  • (2) Web
  • (3) Aura Of Vitality
  • (3) Beacon of Hope
  • (3) Blinding Smite
  • (3) Blink
  • (3) Conjure Animals
  • (3) Conjure Barrage
  • (3) Counterspell
  • (3) Crusader's Mantle
  • (3) Daylight
  • (3) Dispel Magic
  • (3) Elemental Weapon
  • (3) Erupting Earth
  • (3) Fear
  • (3) Fireball
  • (3) Flame Arrows
  • (3) Glyph of Warding
  • (3) Lightning Arrow
  • (3) Major Image
  • (3) Nondetection
  • (3) Phantom Steed
  • (3) Protection from Energy
  • (3) Sending
  • (3) Slow
  • (3) Stinking Cloud
  • (3) Tidal Wave
  • (3) Tongues
  • (3) Water Breathing
  • (3) Water Walk
  • (4) Aura of Life
  • (4) Blight
  • (4) Compulsion
  • (4) Conjure Woodland Beings
  • (4) Control Water
  • (4) Elemental Bane
  • (4) Freedom of Movement
  • (4) Grasping Vine
  • (4) Guardian of Faith
  • (4) Hallucinatory Terrain
  • (4) Ice Storm
  • (4) Polymorph
  • (4) Staggering Smite
  • (4) Stone Shape
  • (4) Stoneskin
  • (5) Antilife Shell
  • (5) Awaken
  • (5) Banishing Smite
  • (5) Circle of Power
  • (5) Cloudkill
  • (5) Commune
  • (5) Commune with Nature
  • (5) Cone of Cold
  • (5) Conjure Volley
  • (5) Control Winds
  • (5) Destructive Wave
  • (5) Dispel Evil and Good
  • (5) Flame Strike
  • (5) Hallow
  • (5) Hold Monster
  • (5) Immolation
  • (5) Passwall
  • (5) Seeming
  • (5) Swift Quiver
  • (5) Telekinesis
  • (5) Teleportation Circle
  • (5) Tree Stride
  • (6) Arcane Gate
  • (6) Bones of the Earth
  • (6) Chain Lightning
  • (6) Circle of Death
  • (6) Contingency
  • (6) Disintegrate
  • (6) Find the Path
  • (6) Forbiddance
  • (6) Globe of Invulnerability
  • (6) Guards and Wards
  • (6) Heal
  • (6) Heroes' Feast
  • (6) Investiture of Flame
  • (6) Investiture of Ice
  • (6) Investiture of Stone
  • (6) Investiture of Wind
  • (6) Mass Suggestion
  • (6) Move Earth
  • (6) Planar Ally
  • (6) Primordial Ward
  • (6) Programmed Illusion
  • (6) Sunbeam
  • (6) Transport via Plants
  • (6) True Seeing
  • (6) Word of Recall
  • (7) Delayed Blast Fireball
  • (7) Divine Word
  • (7) Etherealness
  • (7) Fire Storm
  • (7) Forcecage
  • (7) Mirage Arcane
  • (7) Plane Shift
  • (7) Sequester
  • (7) Symbol
  • (7) Teleport

Common, Cont.
  • (8) Antipathy/Sympathy
  • (8) Demiplane
  • (8) Dominate Monster
  • (8) Earthquake
  • (8) Glibness
  • (8) Holy Aura
  • (8) Incendiary Cloud
  • (8) Maze
  • (8) Mind Blank
  • (8) Power Word Stun
  • (8) Sunburst
  • (8) Telepathy
  • (8) Tsunami
  • (9) Gate
  • (9) Imprisonment
  • (9) Mass Heal
  • (9) Meteor Swarm
  • (9) Weird

Uncommon Spells
  • (c) Booming Blade
  • (c) Druidcraft
  • (c) Friends
  • (c) Green-Flame Blade
  • (c) Lightning Lure
  • (c) Sword Burst
  • (1) Charm Person
  • (1) Chromatic Orb
  • (1) Command
  • (1) Comprehend Languages
  • (1) Cure Wounds
  • (1) Detect Evil and Good
  • (1) Disguise Self
  • (1) False Life
  • (1) Goodberry
  • (1) Grease
  • (1) Guiding Bolt
  • (1) Hail of Thorns
  • (1) Illusory Script
  • (1) Sleep
  • (1) Witch Bolt
  • (2) Alter Self
  • (2) Calm Emotions
  • (2) Cordon Of Arrows (uncommon/rare*)
  • (2) Crown of Madness (uncommon/rare*)
  • (2) Detect Thoughts
  • (2) Enlarge/Reduce
  • (2) Enthrall
  • (2) Flaming Sphere
  • (2) Invisibility
  • (2) Lesser Restoration
  • (2) Locate Object
  • (2) Mirror Image
  • (2) Phantasmal Force
  • (2) Protection from Poison
  • (2) See Invisibility
  • (2) Skywrite
  • (2) Suggestion
  • (2) Zone of Truth
  • (3) Bestow Curse
  • (3) Call Lightning
  • (3) Clairvoyance
  • (3) Create Food and Water
  • (3) Feign Death
  • (3) Gaseous Form
  • (3) Haste
  • (3) Hypnotic Pattern
  • (3) Lightning Bolt
  • (3) Magic Circle
  • (3) Mass Healing Word
  • (3) Meld Into Stone
  • (3) Plant Growth
  • (3) Sleet Storm
  • (3) Speak with Plants
  • (3) Spirit Guardians
  • (3) Vampiric Touch
  • (3) Wall of Sand
  • (3) Wall of Water
  • (3) Wind Wall
  • (4) Arcane Eye
  • (4) Aura of Purity
  • (4) Confusion
  • (4) Conjure Minor Elementals
  • (4) Death Ward
  • (4) Dimension Door
  • (4) Divination (uncommon/rare)
  • (4) Dominate Beast
  • (4) Fabricate
  • (4) Fire Shield
  • (4) Giant Insect
  • (4) Greater Invisibility
  • (4) Locate Creature (Uncommon/rare)
  • (4) Phantasmal Killer
  • (4) Storm Sphere
  • (4) Vitriolic Sphere
  • (4) Wall of Fire
  • (4) Watery Sphere
  • (5) Animate Objects
  • (5) Conjure Elemental
  • (5) Contact Other Plane
  • (5) Contagion
  • (5) Creation
  • (5) Dominate Person
  • (5) Dream
  • (5) Greater Restoration
  • (5) Insect Plague
  • (5) Maelstrom
  • (5) Mass Cure Wounds
  • (5) Mislead
  • (5) Modify Memory
  • (5) Scrying
  • (5) Transmute Rock
  • (5) Wall of Force
  • (5) Wall of Stone
  • (6) Blade Barrier
  • (6) Conjure Fey (uncommon/rare)
  • (6) Create Undead
  • (6) Eyebite
  • (6) Flesh to Stone
  • (6) Harm
  • (6) Wall of Ice
  • (6) Wall of Thorns
  • (6) Wind Walk
  • (7) Conjure Celestial
  • (7) Finger of Death
  • (7) Project Image
  • (7) Regenerate
  • (7) Reverse Gravity
  • (7) Whirlwind
  • (8) Animal Shapes
  • (8) Antimagic Field
  • (8) Control Weather
  • (9) Shapechange
  • (9) True Polymorph

Rare Spells
  • (c) Armor of Agathys
  • (c) Arms of Hadar
  • (c) Hellish Rebuke
  • (c) Hex
  • (c) Ice Knife
  • (c) Protection from Evil and Good
  • (c) Tenser's Floating Disk
  • (1) Aganazzar's Scorcher
  • (1) Maximilian's Earthen Grasp
  • (1) Melf's Acid Arrow
  • (1) Nystul's Magic Aura
  • (1) Pass Without Trace
  • (1) Snilloc's Snowball Swarm
  • (2) Animate Dead
  • (2) Fly
  • (3) Hunger of Hadar
  • (3) Leomund's Tiny Hut
  • (3) Melf's Minute Meteors
  • (3) Remove Curse
  • (3) Speak with Dead
  • (4) Banishment
  • (4) Evard's Black Tentacles
  • (4) Leomund's Secret Chest
  • (4) Mordenkainen's Faithful Hound
  • (4) Mordenkainen's Private Sanctum
  • (4) Otiluke's Resilient Sphere
  • (5) Bigby's Hand
  • (5) Geas
  • (5) Planar Binding
  • (5) Raise Dead (rare/legendary)
  • (5) Rary's Telepathic Bond
  • (6) Drawmij's Instant Summons
  • (6) Magic Jar
  • (6) Otiluke's Freezing Sphere
  • (6) Otto's Irresistible Dance
  • (7) Mordenkainen's Magnificent Mansion
  • (7) Mordenkainen's Sword
  • (7) Prismatic Spray
  • (7) Simulacrum
  • (8) Abi Dalzim's Horrid Wilting
  • (8) Feeblemind
  • (9) Astral Projection
  • (9) Foresight
  • (9) Power Word Kill
  • (9) Prismatic Wall
  • (9) Storm of Vengeance

Legendary Spells
  • (3) Revivify
  • (5) Legend Lore
  • (5) Reincarnate
  • (7) Resurrection
  • (8) Clone
  • (9) Power Word Heal
  • (9) Time Stop
  • (9) True Resurrection
  • (9) Wish

Spells of Named Spellcasters

  • Abi Dalzim (Abi Dalzim's Horrid Wilting)
  • Aganazzar (Aganazzar's Scorcher)
  • Bigby (Bigby's Hand)
  • Drawmij (Drawmij's Instant Summons)
  • Evard (Evard's Black Tentacles)
  • Leomund (Leomund's Tiny Hut, Leomund's Secret Chest)
  • Maximilian (Maximilian's Earthen Grasp)
  • Melf (Melf's Acid Arrow, Melf's Minute Meteors)
  • Mordenkainen (Mordenkainen's Faithful Hound, Mordenkainen's Private Sanctum, Mordenkainen's Magnificent Mansion, Mordenkainen's Sword)
  • Otiluke (Otiluke's Resilient Sphere, Otiluke's Freezing Sphere)
  • Otto (Otto's Irresistible Dance)
  • Rary (Rary's Telepathic Bond)
  • Snilloc (Snilloc's Snowball Swarm)
  • Tenser (Tenser's Floating Disk)

Spell Rarity System (v0.5)

Closing Note

This system is meant to contextualize your world first and foremost, while secondarily making players' spells mean more than just their effects. A far third to this would be the limitation and throttling of players' power. I understand that many DM's dislike certain spells and find them unbalanced, but I feel I must urge that this system not be used primarily to restrict player choice to the DM's opinion. This system can easily be abused by a power-hungry DM and if it is misused it will never be fun for the players. Use with care!

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