The description of the green-flame blade cantrip (SCAG, p. 143) reads:

As part of the action used to cast this spell, you must make a melee attack with a weapon against one creature within the spell’s range, otherwise the spell fails. On a hit, the target suffers the attack’s normal effects, and green fire leaps from the target to a different creature of your choice that you can see within 5 feet of it. The second creature takes fire damage equal to your spellcasting modifier.

Since the caster fits the bolded criteria, does this mean he must target himself if no other creatures are available?


You don't have to target another creature, per rules intent

As quoted in the question, green-flame blade has you make a melee attack with a weapon as part of the cantrip; on a hit, green fire also leaps to another target of your choice within 5 feet. However, it is not directly stated in the spell description whether you have to target yourself if no other creature is around, or if you can choose not to target anybody at all.

Lead rules designer Jeremy Crawford unofficially answered this question in a November 2015 tweet:

What does the leap effect of green-flame blade do if there are no hostile targets nearby? Does it jump to allies?

The intent is that you can choose no one. If you can't see, you can't choose anyway, and the flame halts

While the wording might suggest that the spell has to target another creature, Crawford clearly states that that is not the intent; you can choose not to target anyone if there is no desired secondary target in range.

This makes sense to me. Given that if the attack hits, you choose what creature the green fire leaps to, it makes sense that you can use the same control over targeting to prevent it from jumping to any creature (e.g. fizzling harmlessly against the ground, or extinguishing itself).


Mike Mearls leaves the choice to the caster.

As always, every DM can rule differently.

Please note that, while they could make their way into erratas, tweets should not be treated as RAW.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think it's always worth throwing in the caveat that Mearls himself always reminds us: he is not the authoritative word on RAW, but is an authoritative word on designer intent. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jun 27 '16 at 14:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ Jeremy Crawford tweets are official rulings, so saying that no tweets are is absolutely false. \$\endgroup\$ – Derek Stucki Jun 27 '16 at 21:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ Links to external resources are encouraged, but please quote the most relevant part of an important link, in case the target site is unreachable or goes permanently offline. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Jun 28 '16 at 4:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ The quote from the linked article is stronger evidence than you give it credit for, and the comment, "you can always choose nobody for an effect worded that way" would make the answer cogent in a general sense. \$\endgroup\$ – Tim Grant Jun 28 '16 at 11:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @timster I'm kinda looking for that ruling myself since the book would be a better source, but so far coming up short. \$\endgroup\$ – Premier Bromanov Jun 29 '16 at 15:59

It's up to the DM, there is no official ruling

As noted in Sent_'s answer, Mike Mearls tells us that you needn't target yourself.

While Mike Mearls is a lead designer of DnD 5e -- as nitsua60 reminds us -- he is not the authority of rules and rulings. Mike Mearls concedes that there is no printed rule on his ruling. Thus, his ruling is simply that: A ruling. It carries as much weight as your own ruling as far as rules-as-written goes.

Until there is an official ruling, this is up to your DM.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Could you cite how "no creature" is a valid response to an instruction to pick "a different creature of your choice"? No creature isn't a creature. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jun 28 '16 at 4:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener I suppose I'll ask Mike Mearls lol \$\endgroup\$ – Premier Bromanov Jun 28 '16 at 15:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Whatever reasonably backs up that you can choose nothing will work fine. D&D 5e has loosened up on RAW being the only valid source iirc. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jun 29 '16 at 21:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hmm, perhaps there is a counter-example of a spell that requires a second target? Then you could contrast the wording. \$\endgroup\$ – Tim Grant Jun 30 '16 at 21:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener My answer has changed significantly since Mike answered a tweet of mine. I'm not sure if that's definitive enough for an answer, but there it is \$\endgroup\$ – Premier Bromanov Jul 1 '16 at 3:37

...and green fire leaps from the target to a different creature of your choice that you can see within 5 feet of it.

Emphasis mine.

Even if your DM rules that it will jump back and hit you against your will, just close your eyes at the right moment so you're unable to see a target; The spell subsequently fails.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is what leads me to believe that you needn't target yourself, because if you had to, why not just make yourself not an eligible target? just nip it in the bud. \$\endgroup\$ – Premier Bromanov Jun 29 '16 at 20:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree, but strict RAW this is how it seems to work. \$\endgroup\$ – Jason_c_o Jun 29 '16 at 21:05

I would say no. PHB p. 204

Targeting Yourself

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

It seems to me that Green-Flame Blade is by definition used against hostile creatures.

Further, a caster decides whether he is affected by his own spells when he is in the area of effect. So even if the flame was coming back at him, he would not take the damage if he chooses not to.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Re: your last paragraph: where do you get that a caster can choose not to be affected by their own spell? RPGSE doesn't agree, for instance, and there's nothing in targeting rules to sustain that. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jun 27 '16 at 14:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 "If you are in the area of effect of a spell you cast, you can target yourself.", meaning that by default you probably don't include yourself if the effects are damaging? \$\endgroup\$ – Alexis Wilke Jun 27 '16 at 17:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ That sounds just like the argument Jonathon Wisnoski's making over on the question I linked--perhaps you should weigh in over there? \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jun 27 '16 at 17:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes. That looks about right. The sculpt feature of the wizard would be the exact same thing as what I say here. Only that feature is limited to the caster by default and in case of a wizard with the evocation specialty, he can further protect other people. \$\endgroup\$ – Alexis Wilke Jun 28 '16 at 22:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 Also, as per sent_'s answer, Mike Mearls clearly says that if the caster is given the choice, the caster can choose either way and therefore in this case can choose to not target oneself. \$\endgroup\$ – Alexis Wilke Jun 28 '16 at 22:33

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