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The contingency spell description states:

Choose a spell of 5th level or lower that you can cast, that has a casting time of 1 action, and that can target you.

What intrigues me is

The contingent spell takes effect only on you, even if it can normally target others.

For instance, the crusader's mantle spell (PHB, p. 230) says:

Holy power radiates from you in an aura with a 30-foot radius, awakening boldness in friendly creatures. Until the spell ends, the aura moves with you, centered on you. While in the aura, each nonhostile creature in the aura (including you) deals an extra 1d4 radiant damage when it hits with a weapon attack.

Does this mean that if I cast Contingency with an area-of-effect/aura spell, it will only affect myself?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you provide examples of specific "area/aura" spells? \$\endgroup\$ – Marq Sep 3 '18 at 16:22
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Area of Effect spells don’t all work the same. What contingency cares about is how they target.

AoE spells like fireball pretty much all target a point in space, not a creature or you, so they can’t be used with contingency.

The “takes effect only on you” part of contingency doesn’t provide further explanation because it doesn’t need to explain how spells like fireball will work, since they’re already invalid choices. Any valid spell is much more obvious how it works with only one target creature.

Single-target auras like crusader’s mantle are more obvious: they’re valid since the spell will take effect only on you. That only means (as contingency clarifies right after) that no other targets are possible to affect. Crusader’s mantle will still affect those inside the aura though, because those aren’t spell targets. The benefit of the aura isn’t part of the spell’s targeting, that’s just part of what the spell does to its single target.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ So in other words, if the spell says "you can target x creatures", then the spell can only target you. Whatever effects take place after the spell cast on you is not limited by Contingency "affects only you"? \$\endgroup\$ – Vylix Sep 3 '18 at 16:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Vylix That’s right. (It gets iffy with spells like chain lightning because its effect after it affects the first target also involves “targets”, in which case consult your DM. RPG.se could answer that probably, but may have conflicting answers.) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Sep 3 '18 at 16:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ "AoE spells like fireball pretty much all target a point in space, not a creature or you, so they can’t be used with contingency." - I don't think this is entirely accurate, or at least fitting with Jeremy Crawford's rulings. The reason a sorcerer can't use Twinned Spell on fireball or any other AoE spell is that they can have multiple targets. According to Crawford's rulings, it seems like the rules treat every creature in an AoE as a "target". That said, I don't know how this would work for a buff spell like crusader's mantle and whether buffed allies are considered targets. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Sep 3 '18 at 17:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast There’s targets of the spell (for fireball, a point in space), and then there’s sometimes targets of the resulting effect. They usually work differently when something cares about how a spellcaster chooses targets for a spell. (E.g., a spellcaster can only pick the point in space for fireball.) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Sep 3 '18 at 17:23

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