Our group has some uncertainty regarding area of effect spells, specifically sleep. If a wizard were to cast sleep centered on herself - regardless of whether she gets included within the spell's hitpoint cap - does the spell affect her?

The uncertainty comes from the word 'can' in this line in the PHB, p. 204:

If you are in the area of effect of a spell you cast, you can target yourself.

It sounds like the caster has a choice as to whether or not to target herself. Under the section on spherical areas of effect on the next page, however, it says:

A sphere's point of origin is included in the sphere's area of effect.

If sleep cast a sphere, that'd be the end of it, but it targets some sort of bastard child of a sphere (p. 276):

Creatures within 20 feet of a point you choose within range are affected

Is there a RAW answer I've missed in my scouring?


The line about affecting yourself is in a section titled “Targets” and only applies to spells which allow you to choose targets. Spells like sleep don't let you choose targets, so that section doesn't apply at all, and everyone is affected, including you.

Now, sleep in particular has one minor saving grace in that it affects creatures with lower hit points first, so if you're the highest hit-point creature in the area of effect and the spell's hit point limit gets used up on your enemies, you won't be affected by the spell. That's a gamble though, as you have to guess the total hit points of the creatures around you correctly to pull that off, and guessing wrong can put you to sleep along with them. Unless you're an elf, in which case — go to town with it!


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