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The Morkoth (Volo's Guide to Monsters page 177-178) has a reaction called "Spell Reflection."

Spell Reflection. If the morkoth makes a successful saving throw against a spell, or a spell attack misses it, the morkoth can choose another creature (including the spellcaster) it can see within 120 feet of it. The spell targets the chosen creature instead of the Morkoth. If the spell forced a saving throw, the chosen creature makes its own save. If the spell was an attack, the spell is rerolled against the chosen creature.

My question is if this applies to AOE spells. The early wording only specifies it has to be a spell that forces a save or is an attack roll. However, "The spell targets the chosen creature instead of the Morkoth" seems to imply that it requires the spell to target the Morkoth specifically. Fireball isn't a spell that mentions having any "targets."

Does the Morkoth's Spell Reflection trait work on Area of Effect spells like Fireball?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Related: "What counts as a target for a spell?" Basically, people disagree what a given spell targets \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Jun 17 at 14:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ It might be worth pointing out that fireball actually does mention targets: "[...] A target takes 8d6 fire damage on a failed save [...]" though whether or not those "targets" count as actual targets of the spell for the purpose of various features is not something people agree on \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Jun 17 at 15:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ Though it's also worth pointing out that those are not its targets in the sense used in the Spellcasting rules. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells Jun 17 at 15:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MarkWells Depends who you ask, which is exactly why I posted that related post at the top. I edited my comment to account for that though \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Jun 17 at 15:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ Huh, apparently this is a point of debate in quite a few places...namely because the Spectator has a very similar feature. The only thing I could find was a Mike Mearls "how I would rule it" statement, which is hardly an answer. \$\endgroup\$ – guildsbounty Jun 17 at 15:51
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It doesn't reflect fireball.

The key words are "The spell targets the chosen creature instead of the Morkoth."

"Do B instead of A" means "In a situation where you would do A, don't do A, and rather do B." (You are doing B in A's "stead".)

Fireball doesn't target the Morkoth, so it can't target another creature instead of the Morkoth.

"But fireball says 'a target takes 8d6 damage'"...

Yes, but it's wrong. Those aren't targets. These are targets:

Targets

A typical spell requires you to pick one or more targets to be affected by the spell's magic. A spell's description tells you whether the spell targets creatures, objects, or a point of origin for an area of effect (described below).

Note that the caster picks "one or more targets". For fireball (and area-damage spells generally), you don't pick the specific creatures; you pick the point of origin.

The rules sometimes, confusingly, use the word "target" to mean "anything affected by the spell". For example:

Saving Throws

Many spells specify that a target can make a saving throw to avoid some or all of a spell's effects. The spell specifies the ability that the target uses for the save and what happens on a success or failure.

Why do I acknowledge the point of origin as the real target of the spell, rather than the "targets" who are making saving throws? First, because one of them is described in a paragraph titled "Targets" in large bold letters. And second, because of this:

Range

The target of a spell must be within the spell's range. For a spell like magic missile, the target is a creature. For a spell like fireball, the target is the point in space where the ball of fire erupts.

That seems fairly conclusive: for purposes of the spellcasting rules, the target of fireball is the point of origin. Since you can't choose the Morkoth as the target (you have to choose a point!), its Spell Reflection can't choose something else as the target "instead".

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This was my reasoning as well (see my deleted answer), but according to Medix2's comment under the question, there's some debate as to whether fireball does technically target the creatures in it's AOW or not... \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Jun 17 at 15:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NathanS There are many posts about various features that involve or revolve around what a spell does or does not target coming to various conclusions. This was a large reason I asked this more general question. But yeah... nobody agrees what a given spell does or does not target \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Jun 17 at 15:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NathanS There's "some debate" over lots of things. In this case I don't think it's justified and I'll edit to address that concern. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells Jun 17 at 15:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ That's far better supported now that what my answer was; I mean, I always agreed with tge reasoning, but it is now taking a stronger stance than mine. +1 \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Jun 17 at 16:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 I'll see what I can do. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells Jun 17 at 16:41

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