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The spell Life Transference says that you can deal 4d8 necrotic damage to yourself, then one creature within range, that you can see, regains twice this many hit points.

Is the caster of this spell a viable target? Could a wizard use this spell to effectively heal himself 4d8 points of damage (assuming he doesn't kill himself first)?

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The intent is apparent from the first line of the spell description (NO!)

The first line does state (emphasis mine):

You sacrifice some of your health to mend another creature’s injuries.

This heavily implies that you are not eligible, but the mechanical description sentences that follow (see below) do not list a requirement such as that when actually choosing the recipient of the hit points.

Jeremy Crawford does reinforce the importance of that first line and that You should not heal yourself with Life Transference (emphasis mine.)

The first sentence of life transference expresses how the spell works: "You sacrifice some of your health to mend another creature's injuries." That's someone else getting healed, not you.

Physician, heal thyself?

The spell language seems to contradict itself. The second sentence describing the mechanics of the spell (Xanathar's, pp160) requires the following (emphasis mine):

You take 4d8 necrotic damage, and one creature of your choice that you can see within range regains a number of hit points equal to twice the necrotic damage you take.

The mechanical requirements per that sentence are that you take damage, and that you then choose one creature within 30' that you can see to regain hitpoints.

It does not state that it must be one other creature or that you can't choose yourself, so there really is no limitation here that precludes you taking the damage and receiving the hitpoints.

Self-Transference?

This is highly unlikely. Crawford has clarified that is not how the spell works, and this is most likely a problem with the wording of the spell in that second sentence.

We can take from the name Life Transference and the language of the first sentence to conclude that you are not supposed to be able to do this to yourself.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I really don't see how this is at all legit RAW. "Another" is, by definition, an other creature aka not you. You say "It does not state that it must be one other" but this is entirely not true. That is exactly what the word another means. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Jun 6 '18 at 18:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Rubiksmoose It's the difference between the language in the first line giving the general description of the spell and the language in the 2nd line giving the mechanical direction for it's use. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jun 6 '18 at 18:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ All lines of spells are intended to be read mechanically. There is no flavor text in 5e. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Jun 6 '18 at 18:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Rubiksmoose So would you say Burning Hands requires that both your hands be empty? (Thumbs together, fingers separated) \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Jun 6 '18 at 19:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2: RAW? Sure absolutely. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Jun 6 '18 at 19:48
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No.

The spell description states:

You sacrifice some of your health to mend another creature’s injuries.

From your point of view, you yourself are not another creature. Therefore, you're not a valid target for the spell.

Jeremy Crawford, lead designer for , supports this point of view.

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No, life transference only works to give HP to other creatures

You sacrifice some of your health to mend another creature’s injuries. You take 4d8 necrotic damage, and one creature of your choice that you can see within range regains a number of hit points equal to twice the necrotic damage you take.

In this case, the first sentence tells us that the spell transfers health from you to another creature. Another means:

different or distinct from the one first considered

Thus, it is saying that the spell works to transfer health only to other creatures not yourself.

The second sentence tells us that you can choose that creature from among creatures you can see. The fact that the second sentence does not repeat the restriction written in the first sentence does not mean that that sentence is now somehow invalid.

Spells are made to be read in their entirety and there is no flavor text in 5e spells. Everything is meant to be read as mechanically describing how the spell works. When read together (as the rules are designed to be), the spells form a complete thought about how the spell functions.

Jeremy Crawford agrees

Jeremy Crawford has confirmed this is the intended reading as well:

The first sentence of life transference expresses how the spell works: "You sacrifice some of your health to mend another creature's injuries." That's someone else getting healed, not you.

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