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My ("plain vanilla" dnd 5e) wizard is now near level 8, and I was thinking to equip him with a straightforward reduced version of "Life Transference".

The purpose of this is merely as an emergency maneuver to prevent the other members of our party (or mainly the cleric) from staying unconscious (or dying) when reduced to 0 HP, for which a 3rd level spell as "Life Transference" seems to me a bit over-killing (also, given his reduced HP, it can be dangerous for my wizard to sacrifice those 4d8 HP in a single round)

This is what I come up with:

Sacrifical Leech

1st-level necromancy
Casting time: 1 action
Range: 30 feet
Components: V,S
Duration: Instantaneous

You sacrifice some of your health to mend another creature’s injuries. You take (1d8 + your spellcasting ability modifier) necrotic damage, which can’t be reduced in any way, 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.

At Higher Levels: When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 1st level or higher, the damage increases by 1d8 for each slot level above 1st.

Spell Lists: Cleric, Wizard

BTW: the section "At Higher Levels" is not that important to me so maybe it can be removed altogether.

So my question is: does this sound balanced for the game?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already and see the help center or ask us here in the comments (use @ to ping someone) if you need more guidance. Good Luck and Happy Gaming! \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Mar 29 at 11:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ Is the spell balanced isn't the right question to ask. Wizards are not supposed to heal, so this spell is changing what the class can do, that's a big issue. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Mar 29 at 12:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri Life transference is a wizard spell \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    Mar 29 at 13:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Jack one at reasonably high level, can't be cast often, doesn't heal much and almost kills the wizard. The op is talking about how it is too risky and wants an easier to cast version but the risk is entirely the point of it. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Mar 29 at 15:50

2 Answers 2

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This seems balanced compared to Life Transference

Life transference, at 3rd level, costs 4d8, and heals for twice that. Your spell, at 1d8 + spellcasting ability modifier, compares proportionally to that.

It does heal for twice what cure wounds does, and at a distance, but, of course, it has the disadvantage of the necrotic damage.

Is it balanced otherwise?

As @Darth_Pseudonym points out in his answer, life transference is supposed to be dangerous to the wizard. And it's relatively costly, requiring a 3rd level slot. By making emergency healing relatively cheap for wizards, they're encroaching on other classes skills.

Is it balanced within the party?

Bards, clerics, druids, paladins, rangers, and artificers can all cast cure wounds. There are many other ways to heal -- healing potions, for one. So, maybe within the party it makes more sense for the wizard to let other healing classes do the healing, and stick to what wizards are good at.

Does the DM think this is balanced?

That's the real question. You'll have to ask them.

Some DMs might be just fine with it; after all, there are many ways to heal just a few hit points. Lots of classes have cure wounds, there are other features such as the paladin's laying on of hands, and there are also healing potions.

Other DMs might think the game has enough healing, and wants that emergency maneuver to cost a 3rd-level slot, plus the risk of significant damage to the wizard.

But . . . should wizards even heal?

In comments, @SeriousBri points out, "[w]izards are not supposed to heal", and @Joel_Harmon notes that the role of the wizard "does not generally include cheap healing."

Indeed, life transference is from Xanathar's Guide to Everything, and in both the Basic Rules and the Player's Handbook, wizards have no spells which heal others.

So, another consideration for the DM is to what extent they want to allow wizards to do healing, even slightly expensive healing.

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The fact that life transference drains a dangerous amount of HP from the caster is a feature, not a bug. It's intentional that one of the only ways a wizard has to perform healing magic requires a heavy price. Cutting the price down doesn't make for a weaker but still balanced spell; it makes for a role-breaking effect.

Wizards aren't supposed to be able to heal very well. There are classes that heal and classes that don't, and a wizard is on the "don't" list. The spell may well be balanced in terms of spell-slot-per-HP, but it's not balanced in terms of the class roles.

In fact, the DMG specifically warns about this; p283 has advice for when you're creating custom spells, and the last bullet point says:

Make sure the spell fits with the identity of the class. Wizards and sorcerers don't typically have access to healing spells, for example, and adding a healing spell to the wizard class list would step on the cleric's turf.

Frankly, if you want an emergency heal that just restores a handful of HP at the cost of an action to get the cleric off the floor, that's just called a potion. The need is covered without having to invent a new spell to do it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Mage hand is a viable option too, but its speed is 1/2 of owl's speed and it disappears if it is more than 30 feet from the wizard. The owl is generally faster and has the flyby feat (but I am fully aware that it may be easily killed anyway) \$\endgroup\$
    – sigmud
    Mar 29 at 18:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @sigmud: 8th level is high enough that your wizard should have access to Dimension Door. At lower levels, there is Misty Step (but range is a problem, as you identify). Either way, the whole point of the game is to confront players with problems and challenge then to find solutions, not to hand them solutions on a silver platter. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kevin
    Mar 29 at 20:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Reaching him to administer the potion may be risky to say the least" - good? The game is functioning as intended and forcing you to make some hard decisions. That's also a feature, not a bug. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 30 at 1:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ Or be a Mark of Healing halfling to get access to healing spells as a Wizard, and break all roles =D in my table, we have a level 20 Mark of Healing wizard, and the Spell Mastery for the 1st level spell is Healing Word. Free BA healing! (at the cost of being unable to cast leveled spells with action or reaction that turn [not round]) \$\endgroup\$
    – justhalf
    Mar 30 at 7:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SeanSutherland As I remember, that particular subclass is pretty widely considered to be moderately broken. More to the point, a feat or multiclassing or a specific subclass are pretty significant costs to add heals to your list. Adding a low level spell to a wizard's list is virtually free. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 1 at 17:49

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