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The Life Transference spell states:

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.

The Twinned Spell Sorcerer Metamagic states:

When you cast a spell that targets only one creature and doesn't have a range of self, you can spend a number of sorcery points equal to the spell's level to target a second creature in range with the same spell.

Life Transference doesn't necessarily target me, nor does it have a range of Self, but it does affect me. Additionally, Twinned Spell does not say that it copies the spell, but that it makes the spell have a second target, and the standard target receives healing based on the damage I take.


So what happens when I try to Twin Life Transference?

Do I:

  • Cast the spell, healing two targets and spend the life cost once?
  • Cast the spell, healing two targets and spend the life cost twice?
  • Fail to Twin the spell, due to the fact that it affects myself?

Or something else entirely?

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Option 1: Once Damaged, Twice Healed

Assuming Life Transference is valid for use with Twinned spell (see below), the key phrasing that leads to this outcome is the following from the Twinned Spell description:

...you can spend a number of sorcery points equal to the spell's level to target a second creature in range with the same spell.

This specifies that we don't cast the spell twice, but rather the effect of the same spell applies to two targets instead of one.

The relevant part of Life Transference is:

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 amount the target gains is equal to what you lost. Splitting wouldn't meet the effect of having each target gain an amount equal to what you lost. It's worth noting that spells that deal damage aren't split either, so it shouldn't for healing.

However...

There's an argument to be made that Life Transference targets both the creature and yourself, as you pointed out yourself in option 3. Under this interpretation, Life Transference would not be a valid spell for use with Twinned Spell.

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    \$\begingroup\$ While you can make an argument that it "targets" both creatures, that's not what the target in the spell entry says, and that has to be RAW. I don't think you need the caveats: you're right without them. \$\endgroup\$ – Michael W. Feb 26 at 22:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MichaelW. to be fair, one of the most frustrating things about 5e spellcasting rules is the seemingly scattershot way they use the word "target" and the fact that they never define it in a focused way anywhere. Designers seem to contradict the RAW and the RAW even contradicts itself seemingly several times. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Feb 27 at 14:15
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You cannot twin life transference.

Based on the extensive discussion Jeremy Crawford did in the January 19th, 2017 episode of the official DragonTalk podcast about spell targeting in general and twinning in specific, life transference is not a valid spell for twinning.

When the Twinned Spell metamagic says "target", it does not just mean "in the target line of the spell", but rather "affect in any way". He was very clear on this point; spells like green-fire blade or ice knife -- which attack a single creature but then deal damage to another creature or a zone around that initial target -- are not valid for twinning because they have the capability to affect more than one creature. Based on this, you are indeed a target of your own life transference spell, thus the spell targets two creatures and is not valid for twinning.

Podcast time codes:

  • 5:20 - Beginning of the Sage Advice segment
  • 10:20 - What do we mean when we say "target"?
  • 19:20 - Discussion of twinned spells begins
  • 28:30 - How twin works with spells that have secondary targets
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    \$\begingroup\$ Does this mean that a spell like Warding Bond cannot be twinned either? \$\endgroup\$ – Daniel Zastoupil Feb 27 at 14:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DanielZastoupil That is correct. Warding bond affects more than one creature and thus would not be applicable for twinning by JC's clarification. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Feb 27 at 15:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ Though I agree it's a compelling point and certain spells are specifically called out for affecting other creatures in specific ways, even that isn't a clear cut solution. The Jump spell says "You touch a creature". Have I been affected in any way? Well, yes, but actually no. You might say then that it must be a mechanical effect, but then what about Levitate? "You can change the target's altitude by up to 20 feet in either direction on your turn". You are clearly affected in some way by the spell, but I've never seen a case made against twinning either of those spells. \$\endgroup\$ – Mwr247 Feb 27 at 16:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ The delivery method of a spell certainly doesn't count as being affected by it. I don't see how controlling a spell you previously cast could possibly constitute being affected by the spell either, but I suppose I can at least see that being a point of discussion. However, that isn't the question at hand; if the spell is dealing damage to you or healing you, there is just no possible way to interpret that as not "affecting" you. You are absolutely a target of your own life transference. \$\endgroup\$ – Darth Pseudonym Feb 27 at 16:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ Some would argue that the damage is part of the delivery method. The challenge isn't that it's not affecting you, but rather that defining "targets" as being "affected in any way" doesn't clear things up as a general solution, because now we need a proper definition of what it means to be affected. Both the examples I gave above do affect the caster as do many other spells, albeit in different ways, but are twinnable. The point I'm trying to make is that while there are perfectly valid arguments to be made for and against Life Transference, I don't think being "affected" clears it up. \$\endgroup\$ – Mwr247 Feb 27 at 16:57

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