Plenty of video games feature magical spells, though some spellcasting systems are much more complex than others. While many games offer simple magical effects such as elemental damage or defense buffs, others utilize unique and complex mechanics that require a bit of trial and error. Baldur’s Gate 3 certainly belongs in the latter group of games, and its spell preparation and casting mechanics are already confusing gamers who aren’t Dungeons & Dragons veterans.
Since Baldur’s Gate 3 is a (mostly) faithful digital recreation of the current edition of Dungeons & Dragons, it copies many of the tabletop’s core mechanics, including spells. In Baldur’s Gate 3, magic is divided into multiple levels. The weakest spells are known as cantrips, while other spells are ordered from levels one through six. In order to cast the latter kinds of spells, you need the requisite spell slots. Not every class can access every spell (e.g., only Clerics can cast Guiding Bolt), and some classes naturally learn more spells than others.
While having access to a library’s worth of spells sounds like the way to go, Dungeons & Dragons (and, by extension, Baldur’s Gate 3) balances things out through the concept of preparing spells.
Prepared spells are basically the spells you currently have access to via your assigned spell slots. So, if you have five total spells available and three corresponding spell slots, the three spells you assign to those spots are known as your prepared spells. While you can still access the other spells as needed, you will need to prepare them and assign them to a slot before doing so.
The act of preparing spells is quite easy. First, make sure you aren’t in combat. Then check a character’s spellbook, either by pressing “K” to pull up one character’s spells or by pressing the Tab button and selecting the “Spellbook” page to view everyone’s magic. There, spells will be divided into rows. If you’re trying to prepare spells, the only two you need to focus on are the ones with the book icon on the left (which is highlighted) and the row underneath it. The book icon row lists all of the spells that a character currently has prepared. To replace one of these and prepare another, simply click on a currently prepared spell (which should free up a slot). Finally, click one of the spells underneath the prepared spells row to fill the slot. And that’s it. You now have a new list of buffs and weaponized fireballs at your disposal.
Of course, that small tutorial only handles how to prepare spells, but now for the biggest question: How do you know what spells you should have prepared? That’s mostly up to you. Go for whatever you think will help in a situation or will fit the theme you’re trying to roleplay. Just know that there are a few additional rules, restrictions, and requirements to be aware of when you’re expanding your caster’s mystical arsenal.
For starters, certain classes don’t need to prepare spells whatsoever. Sorcerers and Warlocks, for instance, can use any magic they’ve memorized. As a tradeoff, they can’t learn as many spells as Wizards and are thus less of a Swiss Army spellcaster.
Furthermore, certain spells are always prepared no matter what regardless of class. These include Cantrips and spells linked to specific races and subclasses. For instance, as a Trickery Domain Cleric, Shadowheart comes equipped with Disguise Self and Charm Person. These abilities still require spell slots and long rests as normal, but they are otherwise freely available.
The final spell type you don’t need to prepare are Ritual spells. If you cast one of these outside of combat, it won’t require preparation beforehand, and it won’t eat up a spell slot, either. To compensate for this seemingly overpowered benefit, you can only cast a ritual spell once per long rest. If you want to use a Ritual multiple times per in-game day, you need to prepare it and use the requisite spell slots. Not an easy decision.