How Do Clerics Learn Spells in DND? (Ultimate Guide)

Clerics interact with spells differently than other magical characters in Dungeons and Dragons (DND).

How do Clerics learn spells in DND?

Clerics do not learn spells in DND. They innately know all 106+ Cleric spells. However, Clerics can only cast spells based on their level. They receive spells from their diety, then prepare and cast them during gameplay. Clerics automatically unlock new spells in DND by advancing to higher levels.

In this article, we will explore everything you need to know about how a Cleric learns spells in DND.

How Do Clerics Learn Spells in DND? (Full Explanation)

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Graphics of Clerics in a magical location—How Do Clerics Learn Spells in DND?
Image by the author via Canva—How Do Clerics Learn Spells in DND?

To fully understand how Clerics learn spells in DND, you must understand the class.

Dungeons and Dragons (DND) has a variety of spellcasters, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Clerics are the masters of divine spells, which can be cast to heal wounds or harm hostile creatures.

The Dungeons and Dragons (DND) Player’s Handbook describes Clerics as a “Priestly champion who wields divine power.”

The Player’s Handbook goes on to say:

Clerics are intermediaries between the mortal world and the distant planes of the gods. As varied as the gods they serve, Clerics strive to embody the handiwork of their deities. No ordinary priest, a Cleric is imbued with divine magic.

Therefore, Clerics derive their strength and spells from ritual and worship.

Every Cleric follows a deity, pantheon of deities, or sources like Nature or Karma.

For their allegiance, the deity or source bestows spells onto the Cleric.

All Clerics know all 106 of their spells from day one in the game. However, a Cleric can not access or cast every spell at the first level.

While Clerics do not mechanically learn new spells, they do unlock them as they gain levels in DND.

See the easy-to-understand chart in the next section for even more Cleric spell-level details.

How Do Clerics Learn Spells in DND at Each Level? (Chart W/ Explanation)

Clerics may know all of their spells at all times but they liberate their ability to use spells as they level up in the DND game.

Here is a simple chart that shows the number of cantrips and spells Clerics can access at each level:

Cleric LevelCantripSpell
Cleric Spell Chart—How Do Clerics Learn Spells in DND?

As you can see, Clerics start out knowing and accessing 3 of 9 available cantrips.

According to the Player’s Handbook, they might know:

  • Mending
  • Guidance
  • Sacred Flame
  • Light
  • Thaumaturgy
  • Resistance
  • Space the Dying

Clerics prepare a list of spells based on their number of spell slots, level, and Wisdom Modifier.

By the time they reach level 9, Clerics have complete freedom to prepare and cast any of the 106+ Cleric spells and cantrips.

I say “+” because spells regularly get added to the official spell lists.

As DND releases new editions, more spells may be added to the total number of official spells available to Clerics (or any class).

How Do Clerics Learn Domain Spells?

As Clerics advance in experience and levels, Clerics gain access to new sets of spells.

Some of these spells are known as “domain spells.”

A domain is essentially a specialty for a Cleric. Each Cleric chooses a domain at the first level.

The domains are:

  • Knowledge
  • Life
  • Light
  • Nature
  • Tempest
  • Trickery
  • War

Each domain includes a list of domain spells. Once a Cleric unlocks a domain spell, the spell is forever and always prepared.

In other words, a Cleric does not need to prepare a domain spell to cast it.

Domain spells do not affect the list of prepared spells. They also do not reduce how many spells a Cleric is able to prepare and cast each day.

How Do Clerics Learn Divine Domain Powers?

Along with domain spells, Clerics also unlock domain powers at certain levels.

Using domain powers is called “Channeling Divinity” in DND.

Just like spells, Clerics do not mechanically learn domain powers. They gain access to them by advancing levels in the game.

For example, a level 6 Cleric with the Knowledge domain can use an action to read another character’s or creature’s thoughts.

Then, within one minute of gameplay, the Cleric can cast a Suggestion spell.

Effectively, the Cleric takes limited control of the other character’s mind.

Most domain powers require one or more of the following:

  • A specific level in the DND game
  • A domain
  • An action or bonus action
  • A ritual (prayer, meditation, etc.)
  • Holy symbols

How Do Clerics Learn Cantrip Spells?

Clerics unlock cantrip spells the same way they access other spells and powers. A deity bestows cantrips on them.

At the first level, a Cleric knows a minimum of three cantrips.

If a Cleric chooses certain domains, they might also get additional Cantrips at level one.

Then, a Cleric gains additional cantrips as he or she moves up in DND levels.

Unlike standard spells, a Cleric can not change out Cantrips after a long rest.

Do Clerics Need Spellbooks in Order to Learn Spells?

Clerics do not need spellbooks in order to learn spells in DND.

Clerics don’t need spellbooks to cast spells, either. They perform spells by praying, performing rituals, and using their holy symbol that is usually kept on their person at all times.

Since Cerlics wield divine magic, they do not need to write down spells like Wizards.

The exception would be if a Cleric multi-classes as a Wizard (or another magical character).

In this case, your Cleric-Wizard character would need a spellbook.

Just not for their Cleric spells and abilities.

If a Cleric chooses the Ritual Caster Feat, he or she would need a magical ritual book to learn non-Cleric spells.

Can Clerics Learn Spells from a Wizard’s Spellbook?

Most Clerics can not learn spells from a Wizard’s spellbook.

However, a Cleric can select the Ritual Caster Feat and the Wizard class within the feat.

Then, they can write down and use some Wizard spells from their ritual book.

As mentioned earlier, a Cleric with a Wizard multi-class can also learn Wizard spells from a Wizard spellbook.

Otherwise, Clerics can not learn spells from a Wizard’s spellbook or Wizard’s scroll.

At least, not according to the official rules as written (RAW).

Your Dungeon Master can come up with any magic-related rules for your campaign and character.

So, it is possible to “homebrew” a way for Clerics to learn spells from a spellbook.

Can Clerics Learn Spells from Scrolls?

Clerics can only learn spells from scrolls with the Ritual Caster feat or multi-class feature.

Even then, they can only learn spells from scrolls that match their chosen Ritual Caster class or multi-class.

For example, a Cleric with a Ritual Caster Feat can choose a Druid class.

If that Cleric runs across a scroll with a Druid class, the Cleric can write down the spell in their ritual book.

If the Cleric’s level matches the level of the Druid spell, the Cleric can prepare and cast it.

How Do Clerics Learn Spells in DND Compared To Wizards?

Clerics unlock spells from their deity or “power source.”

Wizards learn spells by writing them down in spellbooks, memorizing them, and practicing rituals.

The major difference is that Clerics inherently know their spells.

Wizards must actively learn them in the game.

How Do Multi-Classed Clerics Learn Spells in DND?

Multi-classed Clerics learn spells according to each class.

Multi-classing does not change how Clerics innately know or access Cleric spells.

At the same time, multi-classing does impact how the character learns spells from other, non-Cleric classes.

Here’s a concrete example.

A Cleric with a Sorcerer multi-class will learn Sorcerer spells by leveling up.

Similar to Clerics, Sorcerers do not study spells.

They’re capable of supernatural abilities because they have a bloodline link, have been exposed to other dimensions, or have acquired power from another source.

Like Clerics, they innately know and wield their magic.

Do Clerics Need Rituals or Prayers to Learn Spells in DND?

Clerics do not need rituals or prayers to learn spells in DND.

Clerics already know all of their spells. They unlock them by moving to higher levels.

However, Clerics may need to pray or perform a ritual to cast a ritual spell. Official ritual spells will include a ritual tag in their descriptions.

To cast a ritual spell, a Cleric must prepare the spell before performing the ritual.

One cool feature of ritual spells is that they do not expend spell slots.

How Do Clerics Memorize their Spells?

Clerics do not memorize spells.

They know all of their spells but can only use the spells available to them at each level.

They don’t need to memorize spells to prepare them, either.

It’s only possible for Clerics to prepare a small selection of unlocked spells that can be used in various situations during a DND campaign or adventure.

Do Clerics Ever Lose Spells That They Know?

Clerics have a limited number of spells that they can access, prepare, and cast at any one time.

As they cast these spells, they use their available spell slots.

Once Clerics use all of their spell slots for the day, they can no longer perform magic that requires spell slots.

However, Clerics do not lose spells that they cast.

Since Clerics do not study and memorize spells like other magical characters, it is impossible for them to lose spells.

Even after casting a spell, the spell remains in their prepared spell list.

However, a Cleric can not re-cast the same spell until after a long rest. A long rest usually takes place after 8 hours of sleep or meditation.

Can Clerics Learn Spells from Any Domain?

Yes, Clerics can perform spells from any Cleric domain.

Choosing a domain does not preclude a Cleric from unlocking any standard Cleric spell.

However, a domain does grant additional magical abilities. Only a Cleric in a specific domain benefit from those extra, domain-specific powers.

These “special” powers exist outside of the standard Cleric spell list.

How Do Clerics Use Their Spell Slots?

Clerics use their spell slots to cast spells.

A Cleric has a number of spell slots based on their level in the game and Wisdom modifier.

The higher the level and higher the modifier, the more spell slots they get.

Clerics can prepare as many spells as they have slots available. Cantrips and domain spells do not take up spell slots.

Here is a good video that covers the Cleric as a Class, including how they get and use spells:

YouTube video by Don’t Stop Thinking—How Do Clerics Learn Spells in DND?

Final Thoughts: How Do Clerics Learn Spells in DND?

Playing Clerics and unlocking spells makes for a fun campaign.

However, there is a lot more to running an exciting, memorable DND module, so browse this site for other tips and tricks.

Here are some other spell-related posts:


Wizards of the Coast (Players Handbook)