Preparing Spells in greater slots

If I can memorise one 3rd circle spell, but only have 1st and 2nd circle spells in my spellbook can I use that 3rd circle spell slot to memorise a 2nd circle spell instead?

If I was an Elf Ranger and skipped all the 2nd Circle spell level benefits but then opted for the 3rd circle spell benefit, do I also become eligible to learn 2nd circle spells? What about their scrolls?

No, you can’t use higher circle slots to memorize lower circle spells. The reason why it isn’t allowed is related to your other questions.

If an Elf Ranger doesn’t take the ability that allows them to cast a certain circle of spells, they do not have access to it, even if they later gain access to a higher circle. To be able to learn a spell, a character must be able to cast spells of it circle (pg 42 “Known Spells). Since the character can’t use their higher circle slots to cast lower circle slots, they still don’t meet the requirements to learn spells of the circle.

Similarly, in order to cast a spell from a scroll, a character must be able to cast spells of that circle (pg 43 “Scrolls”). Since the Ranger still can’t cast spells of that circle, they can’t use scrolls from it, even when they gain the ability to cast higher circle spells.

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It’s interesting. I realised that the eventual spell limitation isn’t so much the number of spells slots you have but the space in your travelling spellbook. Plus spells known for scribing scrolls.

That’s the crux of it. If a character could prepare lower circle spells in a higher circle slot, then they could learn/memorize/scribe and use scrolls of lower circle spells as well. So an Elf Ranger could take all the non- spell casting abilities from levels 2-8 and on 9th level gain access to 4th circle spells, and then be able to learn and scribe scrolls of 2nd and 3rd circles as well.

As you hit upon, the real limitation at higher level is known spells as you can just keep scribing scrolls. The Ranger who took all the non spell casting abilities except the 4th circle ability wouldn’t be at much of a spell casting disadvantage compared to one who took one 2nd circle and one 3rd circle ability, especially if they had a scroll scribing instinct, and would have all the advantages of the other levelling abilities.