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Questions like this and this show that you cast Thunderwave as a cube, and you (the point of origin) stand at one of the cube's faces. From the PHB (emphasis mine):

You select a cube's point of origin, which lies anywhere on a face of the cubic effect. [...] A cube's point of origin is not included in the cube's area of effect, unless you decide otherwise.

If

  • I'm on the ground
  • I cast ThunderWave at ground level
  • I choose to be at the center of the cube's bottom face

Can I choose not to be affected by the spell's area of effect?

enter image description here

So I could potentially explode and push 8 creatures away from me, without damaging myself.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You should clarify whether you want to affect "adjacent" creatures that are "on the ground". The question in the title, and the bolded section, seem like a different question to the bolded section. \$\endgroup\$ – Andrzej Doyle Apr 1 at 16:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AndrzejDoyle Edited and added images for clarity \$\endgroup\$ – BlueMoon93 Apr 2 at 15:53
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Unfortunately, no (with one possible exception).

Although this isn't the place to say perhaps, I think I have a slight contention with the answers to the related questions on whether the caster including themselves in the area of effect, is completely inside the area in the way portrayed. I see this more as just the point of origin affecting the caster (as it says) but not that the entire area of effect has shifted.

Typically this would be so the caster can affect himself with a beneficial effect, which is likely the intention. In other words, the area of effect projects out in front (see the diagram below), but the caster, right on the point of origin, can be affected or not.

 xxx
cxxx
 xxx

Nevertheless.

Even accepting the ruling given on the previous question, your scenario would only possibly work against larger creatures.

Either you are in the area and hence affected by the spell. Or you are not, which would mean the only way you could be in the center square of a cubic area of effect, yet not affected, would be if the cube was above you (or below you if you were somehow flying?). In this case a DM may rule it would only affect creatures that are taller than you, and tall enough to be affected by the blast that has just gone off above your head.


Nahyn Oklauq points out that it would be possible to lie down and cast Thunderwave from the ground, hence affecting same-sized creatures. This is playing a bit fast and loose with the rules (which are really geared towards a 2D map rather than these kind of 3D shenanigans), so would probably be DM fiat as to whether he would allow it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ For your "Nevertheless", I would add another case : if the caster is prone (or go prone on purpose) and cast it from the ground, Medium and even Small creatures could be in the area. But that's only if the GM is okay with a bit of "tactical 3D combat" trickery \$\endgroup\$ – Nahyn - support Monica Cellio Apr 1 at 15:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ This would only work with GM Fiat ("because it makes sense"); you are not any lower (on a grid system) when prone than you would be standing. You still occupy the same 5ftx5ftx5ft 'box' and your range is unchanged. \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Apr 1 at 17:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've edited the answer a bit (mostly grammar and style). Please revise. I think I will accept this, it was the most helpful for me, even if it didn't have the most upvotes \$\endgroup\$ – BlueMoon93 Apr 2 at 15:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, that's fine. And totally accept Ifusaso's comment that the "lying prone" scenario would only work if the DM ignores the grid system (and this is really starting to drift from the intention of the spell IMHO) \$\endgroup\$ – PJRZ Apr 2 at 15:55
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Yes, assuming you are casting Thunderwave straight up

The spell states:

A wave of thunderous force sweeps out from you. Each creature in a 15-foot cube originating from you...

And as you quoted from the PHB:

You select a cube's point of origin, which lies anywhere on a face of the cubic effect. A cube's point of origin is not included in the cube's area of effect, unless you decide otherwise.

Together we can deduce that you (the caster) are the point of origin (from the spell), and the point of origin needs to be a point on a face of the cube (from the spellcasting section), and you can choose to include the point of origin in the spells effect or not (also from the spellcasting section).

Subject to your DMs philosophies on grid-maps, you can orient the 15ft cube of the spell in any direction you want, including straight up or down. If you choose the point of origin to be in the centre of a face (of the cube) creatures directly beside you (on the plane) would be inside the area of the effect and thus be subject to making the saving throw. Directing the cube to fill the 15ft of the air above you would catch creatures on your level and above, pushing them "10 feet away from you", as per the spell.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Out of the box thinking to address a box-of-thunderwave going off above you. 3D FTW! Nice answer. Death to Stirges and Bats! \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Apr 1 at 15:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ Would it really catch creatures on your level? Or just creatures above you? I guess it depends on whether the "point of origin" is defined to be a specific point (e.g. your fingertip) or the entire 5-foot cube that you occupy. \$\endgroup\$ – Ryan C. Thompson Apr 1 at 17:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ I guess you could fall prone, cast the spell, then stand back up. \$\endgroup\$ – Ryan C. Thompson Apr 1 at 17:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ I didn't understand how I can cast the cube above me, and creatures next to me on the ground are also affected. Can you clarify? \$\endgroup\$ – BlueMoon93 Apr 2 at 8:35
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No, and No

Firstly, thunderwave only specifies that it harms creatures in its area of effect (no other creatures):

Each creature in a 15-foot cube [...]

If you were to be in its area, then you would be subject to damage (and presumably the push effect). However and secondly, thunderwave repeatedly used the word from:

A wave of thunderous force sweeps out from you.
Each creature in a 15-foot cube originating from you must make a Constitution saving throw.

(emphasis mine) This indicates that the cube must be pointed away from you, and so you can't put yourself into its area of effect.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ If you're at the center, the cube can still originate from you, similar to a spherical explosion, don't you agree? Anyhow, I think you should make an answer with your argument on the questions I've linked, and narrow this answer to my question \$\endgroup\$ – BlueMoon93 Apr 1 at 13:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Except as you state in the question you are at its face, so for you (the point of origin) to be at its bottom face, the spell effect would be above you, and so only affect creatures that occupied more vertical space. \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Apr 1 at 13:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah, you argue that I (the point of origin) must be outside the cube. I don't agree, but I understand your answer now \$\endgroup\$ – BlueMoon93 Apr 1 at 14:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ (Edit was for some prose/usage corrections. Nicely reasoned answer. +1 ) :) \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Apr 1 at 15:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ Could "from" not mean "source?" That is, from the caster instead of originating from a point she can see in 30'? In this sense, couldn't the caster have the cube emanate (say) centered on/from her big toe upward? \$\endgroup\$ – Rykara Apr 1 at 18:55
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Yes, if you are a Storm Sorcerer at 18th level.

Wind Soul
At 18th level, you gain immunity to lightning and thunder damage. (XGtE)

If you are a sixth level Storm Sorcerer, you have resistance to your own damage.

Heart of the Storm
At 6th level, you gain Resistance to lightning and thunder damage. (XGtE)

You can maybe do it from the Top Face as a First Level Storm Sorcerer

Tempestuous Magic
Starting at 1st level, you can use a Bonus Action on Your Turn to cause whirling gusts of elemental air to briefly surround you, immediately before or after you Cast a Spell of 1st level or higher. Doing so allows you to fly up to 10 feet without provoking Opportunity Attacks. (XGtE)

This would work better when standing on a bridge or a ledge than on a hard floor.

But if, as you noted in comments, you are playing a wizard ...

Yes1 - if you are a Wizard(Evoker) of 2d level or higher.

The sculpt spells feature allows you to do this if you are a wizard of the evocation school.

Sculpt Spells
Beginning at 2nd level, you can create pockets of relative safety within the effects of your evocation spells. When you cast an evocation spell that affects other creatures that you can see, you can choose a number of them equal to 1 + the spell’s level. The chosen creatures automatically succeed on their saving throws against the spell, and they take no damage if they would normally take half damage on a successful save. (Basic Rules, p. 34)

You can see yourself, so you can include yourself in the protected zone.

On a failed save, a creature takes 2d8 thunder damage and is pushed 10 feet away from you.

As I don't see a way to push yourself away from yourself, the caster would not be subject to the pushing effect in this case.

1Caveat

@illustro points out that this interpretation may not fit RAW as strictly as possible, since "other" generally doesn't include one's self. While I think it fits - we can call that a RAF view of this feature - a given DM may take illustro's point on a strict reading of the rules and not allow sculpt spells to apply.

(FWIW, this did come up in a game where I was DM, and since the Wizard was an evoker, I allowed it since it makes sense to me. I can see the other ruling as well).

Rulings and Rules ...

Mike Mearls (one of the devs) is of the opinion that you can save yourself, but I have not found Jeremy Crawford's take on that question - his rulings are more authoritative than Mike's. Sculpt spells is not addressed in the most recent Sage Advice Compendium (version 2.3), nor in the PHB errata.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The Sculpt Spell ability only enables you to make other creatures save automatically, not yourself unfortunately. Though as a DM and RaF I'd allow it! \$\endgroup\$ – illustro Apr 1 at 14:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @illustro I'll add your point as a caveat, thanks! \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Apr 1 at 14:56
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A Caster is always immune to the effects of Thunderwave (unless they want to be damaged)

The rules on a spell's "point of origin" are widely misunderstood: and with good reason. Nearly all of the language in the Player's Handbook suggests that a spell's "point of origin" is always a "point": a zero dimensional location (either mobile or immobile) from which a spell's energy emanates. But that isn't always the case. The rules on points of origin have some strange but essential wording (PHB, p. 204, bold added):

Typically, a point of origin is a point in space, but some spells have an area whose origin is a creature or an object.

Note that it doesn't say that the some spells have points of origins "in" or "on" a creature or object, but rather that the creatures or objects are the origins of the spells. In these cases, the entire creature or entire object follows rules on points of origin. So when a rule says that "A cube's point of origin is not included in the cube's area of effect, unless you decide otherwise", this can potentially apply to an entire creature, if the creature is that spell's "point of origin."

Before you object...

Naturally, there are plenty of reasons to object to this line of reasoning. It seems like a "point of origin" must always be a singular "point." If not, why would they call it that? But note that there are similarly strangely worded features elsewhere in DnD. The spell Spiritual Weapon creates a "spectral weapon", but attacks with it are not weapon attacks. "Mage Armor" creates protection for creatures that alters their Armor Class, but doesn't count as "armor." Although it is linguistically confusing, it is not impossible that the "point of origin" could be something other than a point.

More importantly, this solves several difficulties with the rules on points of origin and "clear lines to a target". Consider the fact that the rules state that (PHB, p. 204, bold added):

A spell’s effect expands in straight lines from the point of origin. If no unblocked straight line extends from the point of origin to a location within the area of effect, that location isn’t included in the spell’s area.

Consider spells like Aura Of Life (Range: Self (30-foot radius)). If the point of origin of this spell had to be somewhere on the caster's body (for example, the point of their fingertip), then the effect of this spell could only apply to creatures that are on one side of the caster's body: otherwise, any "line from the point of origin" towards that creature would be blocked (by a fingertip). Even if the point was placed on the very top of the creature's head, that would mean that no creature shorter than the caster would be effected by this spell (because no matter how sharply a creature's head comes to a point, a single zero dimensional point on its top will effectively be on a flat surface).

For reference, consider the image below: the solid lines are extending from the spell's hypothetical zero dimensional point of origin. But all the dotted lines are "blocked".

enter image description here

These concerns are often brushed aside, and rightly so: it's clear what the designers meant the spells to do, so we can safely ignore the precisions of these details. But note that if the entire caster of Aura of Life becomes its "point of origin", this concern need not be ignored, as it is a non-issue! In that case, anything within a 30 foot radius of any point on the casters body will be within the spell's area of effect.

Jeremy Crawford has clarified this several times (though disparately and unofficially)


Jeremy Crawford, lead designer of DnD 5e has clarified on twitter that creatures (or their spaces) can be the point of origin of spells. For example, when he stated:

Question: How do spells with range Self (X-foot radius) work for bigger creatures? Is the radius from center or creature?

Jeremy Crawford: When you create an area of effect with a range of self, your space is the point of origin, whatever your size.

Reply Question: So an Ancient Dragon with Destructive Wave has the potential to wreck more than a Medium cleric doing the same? (Awesome)

Jeremy Crawford: That's correct.

Or elsewhere, where he made a more directly relevant statement:

A range of self means the caster is the target, as in shield, or the point of origin, as in thunderwave (PH, 202).

Again, Crawford points out that the caster is the point of origin. Not that the point of origin is on the caster, or in them. At first, this may seem like an odd slip of the tongue. But in combination with the concerns above, we can see that this is likely intentional language that means exactly what it says. In the case of Thunderwave, the entire caster is the "point of origin", and any rules on "points of origin" apply to the caster.

How do we know when the caster is the point of origin or not?

Ideally, this would be spelled out explicitly somewhere in the rules. Unfortunately, it isn't. However, Jeremy Crawford has given us some relevant guidance above that we can form into a viable and trustworthy answer: a caster of a spell with the range of Self is either the target of the spell or the point of origin. And if a spell has a range of "self (X feet Y)" where X is a number and Y is either nothing or a shape, then the caster is the point of origin of the spell. Put another way, if the spell has a range of Self and an area of effect, the spell's entire caster is its point of origin.

Since Thunderwave has a range of "Self (15-foot cube)", the rules on the "point of origin" apply to the entire caster of Thunderwave. Most notably:

A cube’s point of origin is not included in the cube’s area of effect, unless you decide otherwise.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ In practice I've usually let the caster pick the point on their body that they want to treat as the spell's origin, but you seem to be saying that's still incorrect, because their entire body is the origin. In that case, how do you measure distance to it? \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells May 7 at 20:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ In effect, most spells with areas of effect will cause you to select a point on the caster's body because the shape of an effect they create originates at a singular point (such as cones or lines) and spreads out from there. But in the case where the spell has an area of effect of "Self (10-feet radius)" (for example), you measure distance to the caster's space. So anything within 10 feet of the caster's space is in the area of effect. \$\endgroup\$ – Gandalfmeansme May 7 at 20:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ In the case of Thunderwave, you also don't need to measure distance, since the effect created is a 15 foot cube: this distance doesn't define distance to the caster (or the point of origin), but rather the dimensions of the cube itself. The point of origin simply must reside on its surface (which you've done if any part of your body is on the surface of the cube). \$\endgroup\$ – Gandalfmeansme May 7 at 20:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ "Within 10 feet of the caster's space" is not "within 10 feet of the caster". A creature's space is not the same as the size of the creature itself. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells May 8 at 0:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ Agreed. I am going off of Crawford's statement that "When you create an area of effect with a range of self, your space is the point of origin, whatever your size." Usually, I would say that the creature is the point of origin, so you should calculate by "within 10 feet of the creature". But first of all, there's what Crawford said, and second of all it could be hard to calculate distance from a creature, especially for creatures with elongated bodies (like dragons). \$\endgroup\$ – Gandalfmeansme May 8 at 0:15
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You can definitely include yourself

It is right in your cited explanation of cube range:

A cube's point of origin is not included in the cube's area of effect, unless you decide otherwise.

That is akin to putting yourself in the range of the spell. Even if this were not the case, you could still have the origin outside the range, and have yourself in it.

You might be able to avoid damage, if and only if you are an Evocation Wizard

Evocation wizards can sculpt spells to avoid hitting allies. However, whether you can do this is subject to interpretation:

Sculpt Spells
... that affects other creatures you can see ...

(emphasis mine)

It is up to you and your DM whether other refers to non-target creatures or not yourself, but I believe it is the former.

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