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I'm looking to use life transference as a healing spell, but I don't want my resistance to necrotic damage to get in the way.

The School of Necromancy wizard has the Inured to Undeath feature:

Beginning at 10th level, you have resistance to necrotic damage, and your hit point maximum can't be reduced. You have spent so much time dealing with undead and the forces that animate them that you have become inured to some of their worst effects.

The description of life transference, a 3rd-level necromancy spell, says:

You take 4d8 necrotic damage, and one creature you choose and can see regains hit points equal to twice the damage you take.

Life transference is one of the very few ways that Wizards can heal.

Can I choose to shut off my resistance to necrotic damage to cast life transference at full power? Without doing so, it would heal a total profit of a 9 health average, and be great waste of a level 3 spell.

(Personally, I'd rather let the wizard take half damage and still heal for full, because why not. Mass healing word is a level 3 spell, uses a bonus action, and with a +4 mod heals 39 average, my suggestion for LT heals 27. But I'd still like to know what the actual answer is.)

Note: I am fairly certain there was an official statement that class features are optional to use, and players can choose to ignore them, but I don't remember the exact statement or where it was, but it would help provide a solution to this question.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd rather let the wizard take half damage and still heal for full, because why not. Just interpret the damage you take to mean damage dealt, so before resistance, and that's exactly what you get. I'd allow it (but check with your DM, obviously). \$\endgroup\$
    – Jorn
    Aug 8, 2018 at 14:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jorn It could have been easily written that way if that was the intent. "Heal for double the value of what you rolled for damage", or "regain 8d8 hitpoints", but instead it says "twice the damage you take", which is mitigated by resistance. RAW, it deals less damage and heals less, but I don't think it should be that way. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 8, 2018 at 16:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DanielZastoupil By that logic, the spell description was written with the intention of clashing with one of its own school's arcane tradition features; it does not make sense for a Necromancy arcane tradition feature to make Necromancy spells less effective \$\endgroup\$ Aug 8, 2018 at 16:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JaredGoguen That's what make sense, but take a look at Concentration: "Whenever you take damage while you are concentrating on a spell, you must make a Constitution saving throw to maintain your Concentration. The DC equals 10 or half the damage you take, whichever number is higher." It makes more sense for Life Transference to be just a bad spell for necromancers than it does for resistance to not help you concentrate. If "damage you take" didn't take resistance into account, resistance wouldn't help damage-concentration checks. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 8, 2018 at 16:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DanielZastoupil My comment was in regard to "it could have been easily written that way." In my opinion, it is clear from this question that Life Transference is not a well-written spell, so I don't really buy the argument that the wording in the spell reflects a conscious design decision with regard to resistance. Thematically, Life Transference should be a good spell for Necromancers. (I agree with your RAW interpretation.) \$\endgroup\$ Aug 8, 2018 at 19:30

3 Answers 3

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By RAW, No.

5E generally uses a plain-English approach to explaining things. When it speaks of optional abilities, it uses words like Can or May. When it speaks of things that are non-optional, it uses words like Must or Is.

With regards to resistance, the rules say...

If a creature or an object has resistance to a damage type, damage of that type is halved against it.

By Thematics, still No.

Resistance is an innate attribute of a creature, so even looking at it thematically, it doesn't make sense that it could be turned off.

A Vampire is resistant to Necrotic Damage because that's the same sort of magic that animates them in the first place. It makes no more sense for them to decide that they want to take full damage from Necrotic damage, than it does for a Red Dragon to decide they feel like taking Fire Damage today. Their resistance to the damage is part of their physical being.

If you want Resistance you can turn on or off, well...that's what spells like Protection from Energy are for.

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No, resistance is always on

If a creature or an object has resistance to a damage type, damage of that type is halved against it.

Nothing lets you choose to turn resistance off in general so a specific ability would have to allow it. Inured to Undeath does not have such a clause.

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No Rules Specifically Allow for Opting out of Resistance.

There is no rule that provides an opt out for resistance and there are no secret rules.

Similarity to Saving Throws

Resistances, immunity, and saving throws are similar in that they negate or ameliorate effects or damage. Using saving throws as a ortholog of resistance, the statement of optional failing for some effects indicate that it is a specific exception.

There is no rule that allows you to opt out of a save. As such allowing it is DM fiat.

With saving throws, some spells, such as scrying, specifically have provisions for optional failing.

If a target knows you're casting this spell, it can fail the saving throw voluntarily...

Theme of Necromancer

Thematically, this could be explained as the wizard schools change the nature of the wizard. The necromancer is fundamentally different in some small way from a diviner. In the same way a fire elemental cannot defy its nature and choose to be burned by fire, the necromancer cannot choose to defy their nature and not resist necrotic damage.

Another way to thematically explain it is that the necromancer has developed an immunity in the same way a person might become immune to the effects of allergens or irritants they work with for a long time.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Regarding that JC quote about failing saves, it is important to note that he does not say you cannot intentionally fail. He just says there are no rules about it and therefore it is a DM call. So is that your conclusion here as well? \$\endgroup\$ Aug 7, 2018 at 18:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ Which is why I offered the example of the spell with a specific provision for it. I assume if it were always an option, it would not need to be stated. \$\endgroup\$
    – GcL
    Aug 7, 2018 at 18:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ I find that logic actually not very compelling at all. There are plenty of examples of specific things in the rules restating general effects as part of their descriptions. It is not really logically sound to deduce general rules from perceived specific exceptions. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 7, 2018 at 18:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ I concur, but if it were restating a general rule, there would be a general rule to cite. \$\endgroup\$
    – GcL
    Aug 7, 2018 at 19:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ More relevantly though, I'm still unclear what point you are making by using that ruling as part of your logic. Could you maybe elaborate on it in your answer? \$\endgroup\$ Aug 7, 2018 at 19:00

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