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New to D&D, and thought about creating a Beast Master. I was wondering if spells with a range of "Self" would count you as the "target" of the spell. There's some debate in my group, as unlike something such as Cure Wounds, which specifies "A creature you touch," there's technically no mention of a target in a Self range spell within the description. A fair amount of people in my playgroup come from a TCG background, where the presence (or lack thereof) of keywords like "target" are essential for determining interaction.

tl;dr Would Paladin Smites or Thunderwave count as "targeting" yourself, and therefore be affected by Beast Master's Share Spell?

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I asked Jeremy Crawford the same question and they clarified the situation with this tweet:

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

In your example, spells like Thunderous Smite or Wrathful Smite could be made to also affect the caster's beast companion through the Share Spells feature of the Beast Master. However, Thunderwave would not work because it is an area of effect spell and thus it lacks a target.

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D&D 5th edition is not a keyword-driven game; quite the opposite: the designers deliberately avoided writing using keywords where possible in favour of describing the rules in what they dubbed “natural language.”* Lacking the word target is therefore not significant. What is significant is if the spell literally doesn't target you, in the normal meaning of the words.

Does the spell designate a creature as the direct recipient of its effect (i.e., what “targets” means in plain language)? Is that creature you? Then it targets you.

Yes, you can share Smite spells and Shield and various other “self” spells. The ability would be pretty limited if not!

* Ironic that, to convince a readership conditioned to look for keywords, they had to raise the phrase “natural language” to being nearly a keyword itself to indicate that the rules should be read as normal English!

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The Rules As Written seem pretty clear. "Self" is a range, not a target. The section on Range (PH 202) says that a spell can target a creature, an object, or a point in space. Then it says that some spells "affect only you. These spells have a range of self." Notably, the word "target" is omitted in the description of the range of self.

Minor additional support can be inferred from the section on Targets (PH 204), which lacks any mention of the "range of self". This section specifies that "If a spell targets a creature of your choice, you can choose yourself, unless the creature must be hostile or specifically a creature other than you." This seems to imply that you can't "target" yourself unless you could target someone other than yourself. Since spells with a range of self can't affect anyone other than you, there is no choice and they are not targeted.

All that is perhaps boring rules-lawyering. But consider the kinds of spells that can target creatures (including yourself) and the kinds of spells that have a range of self. Either kind of spell might grant an instantaneous benefit or an ongoing ability. Examples include Aid and Fly. Some targeted spells give a damage boost, e.g. Bless. You might look at the paladin's various Smite spells (range of self) and think they function more or less like Bless, why can't they be shared? But it seems that many of the range of self spells have other characteristics that would make spell sharing complex or overpowered. Range of self spells may:

  1. Require complex choice on the part of the caster, and not specify who gets to make the choice if someone other than the caster were affected. Example: Alter Self, Disguise Self.
  2. Grant ongoing capabilities that allow multiple choices throughout the duration of the spell. Example: Control Weather, Shapechange.
  3. Have a beneficial effect that radiates out from the caster. Example: Aura of Life (30 ft radius, moves with caster), Globe of Invulnerability (10 ft radius, doesn't move).
  4. Have a harmful effect that radiates out from the caster. Examples: Thunderwave (mentioned by you), Cone of Cold, Sunbeam.

The issue of the damage-radiating spells is just ripe for abuse if you choose to interpret "range of self" as "targeting yourself". Thuderwave is 1st level, so it seems pretty innocuous. You build a Ranger 17/Wizard 1. She casts Thunderwave using a 5th level slot. The spell does 6d8 damage. Her falcon is sitting on her shoulder and she shares the spell. Now two Thundewaves hit the same area for 12d8 damage. Boom.

Even the non-damaging spells raise issues of how they would work if shared. Alter Self lets the caster choose among various effects, including water breathing, natural weaponry, etc. Now imagine that you have cast Alter Self on someone else. Who gets to choose which effect manifests? The rules say "you", i.e. the caster. But what if the other party doesn't want the effect? Do they get a saving throw? Do they have to be willing (as is often specified for many of the beneficial targeted spells)? If you think these issues wouldn't come up in relation to a shared spell--i.e., the caster decides and the sharer doesn't--the DM still has to decide whether the caster can choose different effects, or does it have to be the same effect? I'm not saying these questions aren't answerable, but the fact that they need to be answered at all points to the fact that the game designers made no provisions for a self-affecting spell to ever affect a creature other than the caster.

These issues of power doubling of attack spells, choice of spell effects, and adjudicating spell effects, seem to indicate that the game designers never intended spells with a range of self to affect any creature other than the caster (either directly or through sharing of spells). Thus, while the rules seem quite clear, even if they were ambiguous, as a DM I would rule against sharing of these spells.

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Spells with range of Self do not target. They simply affect the one who casts them. They cannot affect anyone but the caster (unless an ability or affect specifically says that it affects something other than the caster).

Range

A spell's description specifies its range. The range is the maximum distance from you that you can place the spell's effect. The effect might extend beyond that range. All that matters is that when you cast the spell, you place its initial effect or chose a target that is not beyond the range.

Most spells have a range expressed in feet. Some spells, such as cure light wounds, can target only a creature (including yourself) that you touch. In other words, you must be able to reach the target.

Other spells affect only the caster. For example, the shield spell protects you, and only you.

From this, we can infer that there is no target, and that spells with range: Self simply affect the caster.

Setting aside the argument of whether a blinded creature can target itself, the distinction is important because targeting requires line of sight:

You must be able to see a creature that you target directly with a spell. This requirement does not apply when you include a creature in an area of effect. A particular spell might override one or both of these rules.

To answer your tl;dr: Paladin Smite spells, like Shield and other spells with range: Self, do not target and cannot be affected by Share Spell.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I see I was downvoted for my answer. Care to elaborate on the reason? \$\endgroup\$ – LegendaryDude Dec 3 '15 at 21:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Isn't this literally the same argument the OP mentioned? You've basically just said the lack of the word target means you can't target. (One inherently has line-of-sight to one's self.) Do you have any supporting evidence, either from the rules or from the designers? \$\endgroup\$ – Wesley Obenshain Dec 3 '15 at 21:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ I provided rules evidence. A spell such as cure light wounds can target a creature, including yourself. A spell such as Shield does not target anything. It simply affects the caster. Spell stat blocks back up this interpretation. Spells that can target show target: [valid targets]. If a spell with range "Self" targeted the caster, it would say Range: Self, Target: Self. \$\endgroup\$ – LegendaryDude Dec 3 '15 at 21:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @WesleyObenshain no, the OP is asking if spells with a range of self 'target' the caster. This is the question. The answer is: while spells with a range of self EFFECT the caster, they do not TARGET the caster. I don't see what the confusion is with the answer in question...? \$\endgroup\$ – Airatome Dec 3 '15 at 21:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ I am not confused by the answer. I don't see it as useful as it isn't presenting new information. The answer parrots the question and provides a rules reference but nothing in those rules actually says that something without the "target" parameter is not considered to be a target. In English the definition of a target is the thing to which attention is being directed. This would seem to apply to spells with a Range of Self. Can you provide an example of a spell with Range: Self and a Target? Are there examples of spells with Target: Self? \$\endgroup\$ – Wesley Obenshain Dec 3 '15 at 21:52

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