Life Transference is a new spell to Dungeons and Dragons and is one of those rare examples that show how necromancy is the power over life as well as death.
Acting like a reverse vampiric touch, you are able to boost another creature’s HP by sacrificing your own.
- Casting Time: 1 action
- Range: 30 feet
- Duration: Instantaneous
- School: Necromancy
- Class: Cleric, Wizard
- Level: 3
- Damage/Effect: Necrotic damage, healing
- Attack/Save: None
- Components: V, S
- Ritual/Concentration: No
Spell Description. You sacrifice some of your health to mend another creature’s injuries. You take 4d8 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 4th level or higher, the damage increases by 1d8 for each slot level above 3rd.
Through some dark sorcery and the assistance of a cursed magic item called Microsoft Excel, I was able to calculate the average damage (and healing) you can do if you cast Life Transference from any of the available spell slots.
Who Can Cast Life Transference?
Clerics can cast Life Transference because they are the game’s primary healers and Life Transference is potentially the most powerful healing spell that can be cast on a single target. Also, some clerics have a thing for martyrdom. Like, they are really into it.
Wizards can also cast Life Transference because some wizards are into necromancy to a dangerous degree. Like a moth to the flame, they appreciate what necromancy is and can do more than they appreciate their own life.
Is Life Transference Better Than Other 3rd-Level Spells?
For Clerics, Life Transference will heal your target more than any other spell that can use a 3rd-level spell slot. Cure Wounds will heal 3d8 at 3rd level, whereas Life Transference will heal 4d8 times 2. (see the chart above).
It is better than Mass Healing Word. That spell will heal many people but not very much. If you have it prepared, you should really only use it if multiple allies have been knocked.
Life Transference, on the other hand, will allow you to restore a friendly ally to full health while giving yourself a chance to back off and tend your own wounds for a round or two.
For Wizards, you have many, many great spells to choose from at 3rd level. This is where you get your signature spells in most cases — Animate Dead, Summon X Monster Type, Lightning Bolt, Fireball, and so many other popular spells.
Choosing Life Transference as a wizard is a bit of a gamble since you run the serious risk of actually killing yourself with it.
At 5th level, wizards have a maximum of 30 HP before Constitution. A 3rd level, Life Transference will deal an irresistible 3-32 necrotic damage to you.
Most times, you will be severely injured after casting this spell, and other times, you will just straight up freakin’ die.
But you should still take Life Transference if you are a necromancer for a reason we will get into next.
When Should You Cast Life Transference?
Clerics should cast Life Transference when the important people near them are rolling death saves. Restoring the
meat shield barbarian or paladin might be the only way to survive an encounter, and if you can take the hit to make that happen, sometimes that is just what you have to do.
Sometimes the adventure calls for you to keep a certain person safe, breathing, and with most of their limbs. Life Transference could be your last-ditch option to keep that promise.
Martyrdom is a great way to go, especially if you are one of those clerics who is into the whole “put others before yourself” thing or whatever.
As a healer, you should be able to back off and heal yourself for a bit if necessary, and your d8 Hit Die means you stand a better chance of surviving this spell than that weird necromancer over there.
Wizards should cast Life Transference if their meatshields are dying.
In the rare occasion that you are a wizard with this powerful necromancy spell that isn’t in the early stages of a long-term plan to lichdom, Life Transference will be a last-ditch option to save that special someone at great risk to yourself and make the adventure memorable.
If you are a shining example of necromancers, however, you will want to use Life Transference to keep your allies alive long enough for you to escape or survive the encounter.
Plus, the ability to rub it in the nose of the cleric is always fun because you know they will heal you up or revive you on their next turn.
The best way, in my opinion, to use Life Transference is to keep your Summon Monster alive. If you summoned a shadowspawn, an undead, or a rampaging fiend you can’t control, effectively doubling its life span with Life Transference is a great way to enact your contingency plan, whatever that is.
Common Questions About Life Transference
If I Die Because I Deal Too Much Damage to Myself, Does the Creature I Am Healing Heal According to the Amount of Damage I Took Before I Died or the Damage Roll of the Dice?
This is a tough question.
Let’s say you are at 5HP and you deal 15 necrotic damage to yourself. Does your target heal 30 HP or only 10HP since you could only take 5 damage before you died due to your frail wizard body?
As a DM, I would grant the target of your spell to be healed 30HP since you bought the bullet. But, in the rules as written, they would only heal 10. Sad, but true.
Will Resistance to Necrotic Damage Protect Me From Life Transference?
No. The spell says that the damage can not be resisted or reduced.
Does Life Transference Work With Beacon of Hope?
Yes! Beacon of Hope gives you the maximum amount of healing available. It does not give you the maximum amount of damage available. Therefore, the caster of Life Transference would roll damage normally, but the recipient of the healing would get the maximum amount if they are under the effects of Beacon of Hope.
Can Life Transference Be Twinned From Twin Spell?
Absolutely. The target of this spell is the creature that receives the healing. Therefore, you can deal damage to yourself normally, but two creatures receive the same amount of healing based on your one damage roll.
A Guide to Life Transference for DMs
In the hands of a villain, Life Transference is a much more effective tool than Vampiric Touch in a single round. While Vampiric Touch works over time, Life Transference, if manipulated properly, can be a much greater benefit.
The trick to this, and so many other villainous dealings, is to manipulate it properly.
- Somehow provide the PCs with cursed Amulets of Life Transference under false pretenses. If the PCs believe what they have will help themselves or each other, they will be likely to wear it. But if your villain can activate it from range, then it is a bomb waiting to go off. With such a device, it may be prudent to give the PCs a chance to make a Charisma save or take half damage. Plus, it will seriously, seriously, piss off your players. Make sure they direct that anger toward the villain and not you.
- Give those same Amulets of Life Transference to a villain’s minion. I recommend that minion being a vampire or a creature under an effect similar to a vampire’s regeneration. If the minion can heal or repair HP passively or can be within range of a Healing Spirit spell, that will make them a better pool of HP to draw from.
- Finally, a trap of Life Transference is always a good standby. However, give the PCs a saving throw of some type for half damage. I recommend either a Constitution save (as life is drained from them) or a Charisma save (as they maintain the willpower to keep their life).
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I played the game a lot as a kid, back in first edition. Over the past few years since 5e was released, I’ve really started getting back into it. Currently, I run a campaign online for some friends and my brothers, and we also play a side-sesh just to mix things up.