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The magic item rob of absorption

... absorb a spell that is targeting only you and not with an area of effect.

Although the Staff of the Magi only states

... when another creature casts a spell that targets only you

and nothing else

Does this mean the Staff of the Magi can absorb area of effect spells as long as it is only targeting the individual who wields the Staff.

For example if fire storm was cast against a party the item wielder could not absorb the spell but if the item wielder alone was being affected they could absorb the spell.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @Erik Answers and answer-like things go in answer posts. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Oct 25 '16 at 23:20
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Let's look at the staff again (emphasis mine):

STAFF OF THE MAGI (DMG, pg 203)

... Spell Absorption. While holding the staff, you have advantage on saving throws against spells. In addition, you can use your reaction when another creature casts a spell that targets only you.

Looking at Fire Storm (for example, again emphasis mine):

A storm made up of sheets of roaring flame appears in a location you choose within range. The area of the storm consists of up to ten 10 foot cubes, which you can arrange as you wish. ...

That, to me, reads as though you are not targeting a creature but an area. You can use that spell just to burn down a forest if you wish. No real target.

I think that the staff and the spell work the same in that regard.

If you look at a few other spells:

Fireball: A bright streak flashes from your pointing linger to a point you choose within range and then blossoms with a low roar into an explosion of flame.

Prismatic Spray: ... Each creature in a 60-foot cone must make a Dexterity saving throw. For each target, roll a d8 to determine which color ray...

It should not work with those, but these:

Finger of death: You send negative energy coursing through a creature that you ean see within range, causing it searing pain...

Friends: For the duration, you have advantage on all Charisma checks directed at one creature of your choice that isn't hostile toward you. The target must make a Constitution saving throw..

Some tricky ones:

Magic Missile: You create three glowing darts of magical force. Each dart hits a creature of your choice that you can see within range.

or other single target spells that target others at higher levels.

RAW: I don't really know for those, and I don't think there is a concrete answer. Someone should ask the game developers.

My Thought: With these tricky ones, the part of the spell that targets the holder of said staff could be absorbed. Those do specifically say that they target a creature, so they are eligible for absorption. A DM could possibly say that it absorbs the whole spell (including the parts not targeting the wielder of the weapon). As a DM, I'd allow the wielder the chance to absorb the part of the spell that targeted him. I think these just come down to the DM.

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    \$\begingroup\$ In the case of your Magic Missile example (assuming multiple targets) and of, say, Hold Person cast at the next level slot (assuming multiple targets), it no longer targets "only you"... \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Oct 25 '16 at 20:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Slagmoth updated based on your comments... To be honest... i'm not sure? \$\endgroup\$ – Jeff Oct 25 '16 at 20:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think your finger of death example would do much better with the next sentence included in the quote. That sentence says "the target must make a Constitution saving throw...." \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Oct 26 '16 at 0:24
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So the deal is that you're wondering about what counts as targeting only you. The thing that comes to mind is the Twinned Spell Meta-Magic feature of Sorcerers. That feature uses the wording:

Whenever you cast a spell that targets only one creature and doesn't have a range of self....

To be eligible, a spell must be incapable of targeting more than one creature at the spell's current level. For example, magic missile and scorching ray aren't eligible, but ray of frost and chromatic orb are.

Now let's look at Targets on PHB Page 204:

A typical spell requires you to pick one or more targets to be affected by the spell's magic. A spell's description tells you whether the spell targets creatures, objects, or a point of origin for an area of effect.

So when someone casts a Fireball spell they target a point of origin in range from which the sphere of fire emerges. When someone casts Sending they target a creature with which they are familiar within the spell's unlimited range.

I believe your Staff of the Magi cares about the spell's targets, not what it happens to affect.

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As cited, unless the spell targets only you, neither of the magical items can absorb it. This means, that you, the wielder of the magical item(s), has to be the only designated target of a spell i.e. the spell specifically targets only one creature at that one point in time, that creature being you. This does not include an area around you being targeted, nor does it include any spell which targets anything else other than you. For example, you can absorb a Magic Missile, if all of the darts hit you. If not, you cannot absorb the spell, and neither could you absorb a spell which targets an Area of Effect which would include only you, since the area around you and not you is the target.

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They have this in common:

  1. you must be a target of the spell, meaning the spell must target a creature, not an object or a point in space. "A spell's description tells you whether the spell targets creatures, objects, or a point of origin for an area of effect" (PHB p.205)., and
  2. You must be the only target. If the spell can target multiple creatures but only targets you with this casting then you can absorb it. For example, Magic Missile can be absorbed if all of the missiles target you but if just one targets another creature, it can't be.

They differ in that:

  1. The Staff cannot absorb a spell cast by you, the Rod can. So spells with a Range of "Self" can be absorbed by the Rod but not the Staff.
  2. The Rod cannot absorb a spell with an area of effect, the Staff can. The Rod is easy: if a spell has an area of effect it cannot be absorbed. The Staff is tricky and is spelled out in more detail below.

We have established that the Staff can absorb a spell that is cast only on you by someone else irrespective of if it has an area of effect or not. For spells without an area of effect this is easy.

Most area of effect spells target a point in space, for example Fireball says "... to a point you choose within range and then blossoms with a low roar into an explosion of flame." However, there are some spells which target a creature and have an area of effect (e.g. Spirit Guardians).

If you were the target of such a spell the Staff could absorb it (but the Rod couldn't - AoE). However, AFAIK all the ones published so far have a target of Self, so the Staff is ruled out by the proviso that the spell must be cast by someone else but, theoretically, there could be a spell that targets another creature and has an area of effect; if that were cast on a holder of a Staff, they could absorb it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I believe you have conflicting statements in your second section. You indicate you can't absorb "Self" with the staff but in the second bullet you say you can. I am a bit tired so maybe I am misreading that? \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Oct 26 '16 at 13:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hmm, what spells "target" a point in space? A fireball explodes at a point in space, but it’s the creatures within the AOE are called "targets" in the spell description. \$\endgroup\$ – Tim Grant Oct 26 '16 at 23:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Slagmoth I think you are misreading it but since it is confusing you I will redraft it. \$\endgroup\$ – Dale M Oct 27 '16 at 0:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @timster The victims of a Fireball are not called targets in the description.: the exact quote is "Each creature in a 20-foot-radius sphere centered on that point ...". The first sentence specifically says it targets a point in space: "A bright streak flashes from your pointing finger to a point you choose ..." \$\endgroup\$ – Dale M Oct 27 '16 at 0:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ And then: "A target takes 8d6 fire damage on a failed save...” \$\endgroup\$ – Tim Grant Oct 27 '16 at 0:32
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TL;DR Yes. But no to firestorm.

There are a lot of good answers here with tons of good information, but I wanted to underline the single answer to the post. If the spell targets the holder of the staff, he can absorb it. Not if the target is a point in space, that includes an area of effect with the holder of the staff. Not if the holder is one of many targets. Not if the target is an object near or on the holder. Only if the target IS the holder of the staff and there are none other targets.

The difference between the rod and the staff is that there are (presumably) spells with a single target and an area of effect, which the staff absorbs, but the rod does not.

Firestorm does not target an individual who might be holding a staff. Firestorm targets a location and it's just circumstance that the holder of the staff would be the only one affected.

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