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Life Transference was introduced in Xanathar's Guide to Everything (Page 160) and allows a caster to take necrotic damage to heal another for double the damage taken. Unique in being the only healing spell on the Wizard's spell list.

It was Errata'd in 2020 with "You take 4d8 necrotic damage, which can’t be reduced in any way."

This clearly applies to resistances and immunities.

However, the Abjuration Wizard has an Arcane Ward that "takes the damage instead".

  • If an Abjuration Wizard has an Arcane Ward active, does the Ward take damage or is it bypassed?
  • If the Ward takes damage, how much is healed by the ally?

Similarly, Oath of Redemption Paladins have an Aura that lets them take damage their ally would've taken, which also "can't be reduced in any way."

  • Can Redemption Paladins take the Life Transference damage in place of the caster?
  • If the Paladin can take the damage instead, how much is healed by the ally?

In other words, is some other entity taking this damage for you considered "reducing" it? And if not, does this affect the healing done?

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Whether the damage can be redirected isn't crystal clear

Does redirecting damage to a new target count as "reducing" the damage that the original target would take? The rules use standard English and whether "can't be reduced in any way" accounts for redirections of damage is unclear and left to the GM.

Personally, I would rule that redirecting damage is reducing it, because you have, quite literally, no longer taken the full amount of damage. Therefore, I would rule that damage from these sorts of things cannot be redirected.


If damage is redirected, no healing occurs

The life transference spell states (emphasis mine):

[...] 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. [...]

If you do not take any damage, then no healing occurs, or rather, twice as much as zero healing occurs (so none).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Supposing it were intended not to work, how could "can't be reduced in any way" be made more clear? It's already universally scoped. \$\endgroup\$ May 5, 2021 at 17:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov "Can't be reduced or redirected" ? The "problem" is that it's ultimately up to the GM what counts as "reducing" damage because to "reduce" something isn't a game-term \$\endgroup\$ May 5, 2021 at 17:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ I guess. It just seems entirely unambiguous to me. If you take less than the full amount of damage, you have reduced the damage in some way. \$\endgroup\$ May 5, 2021 at 17:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think it's unambiguous. It depends on how you parse the sentence, specifically what "can't be reduced" is referring to. It could be saying the "damage you take" can't be reduced, which would certainly not allow transferring the damage. It could be saying the "4d8 necrotic damage" can't be reduced, which would definitely still mean no resistance applies, but seems to me like the damage could still be applied to the ward as normal. \$\endgroup\$
    – smbailey
    May 5, 2021 at 18:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ Your second section made the case for me. The healing is directly related to how much damage you take (not your Ward or friendly Paladin). With that argument in place, it is pointless to try to reduce or redirect the damage. If you find a successful way to do so, you reduce or remove the benefit of the spell. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 28, 2021 at 15:18
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You take 4d8 necrotic damage, which can’t be reduced in any way.

The spell description seems pretty unambiguous when it states:

You take 4d8 necrotic damage, which can’t be reduced in any way.

When you cast life transference, if the damage you take is anything less than the 4d8 result, you have reduced the damage in some way.

This is a case of specific beats general. Arcane Ward generally let's you reduce damage taken by placing it on the ward instead, but life transference specifically prohibits reducing its damage in any way.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Worth noting that the "which can't be reduced in any way" is errata as of the 4th printing - people running off older copies DO have that ambiguity (My copy of Xanthar's for example is first printing, doesn't mention it) \$\endgroup\$
    – Andrew
    Sep 29, 2021 at 19:34

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