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I was verifying whether my fighter's Sun Blade would in fact be a useless hilt in an antimagic field (AMF) and came across this question on a few other sites, and it piqued my interest.

My first instinct is that "no, monks can still use ki effects in an AMF because they're just awesomely in control of their bodies" ... but then I thought about the monks that nobody plays. I can't see a monk being able to cast burning hands or any other Way of the Four Elements spells in an AMF.

Antimagic Field (PHB, p. 213)

A 10-foot-radius invisible sphere of antimagic surrounds you. This area is divorced from the magical energy that suffuses the multiverse. Within the sphere, spells can't be cast, summoned creatures disappear, and even magic items become mundane. Until the spell ends, the sphere moves with you, centered on you. Spells and other magical effects, except those created by an artifact or a deity, are suppressed in the sphere and can't protrude into it. A slot expended to cast a suppressed spell is consumed. While an effect is suppressed, it doesn't function, but the time it spends suppressed counts against its duration.

Targeted Effects. Spells and other magical effects, such as magic missile and charm person, that target a creature or an object in the sphere have no effect on that target.


Argument for ki abilities being negated by AMF:

The Magic of Ki (PHB, p. 76)

Monks make careful study of a magical energy that most monastic traditions call ki. This energy is an element of the magic that suffuses the multiverse-specifically, the element that flows through living bodies. Monks harness this power within themselves to create magical effects and exceed their bodies' physical capabilities, and some of their special attacks can hinder the flow of ki in their opponents. Using this energy, monks channel uncanny speed and strength into their unarmed strikes. As they gain experience, their martial training and their mastery of ki gives them more power over their bodies and the bodies of their foes.


Argument against ki abilities being negated by AMF:

Ki-Empowered Strikes (PHB, p. 79)

Starting at 6th level, your unarmed strikes count as magical for the purpose of overcoming resistance and immunity to nonmagical attacks and damage.

It specifically doesn't say that being Ki-Empowered is magical, leading me to believe that it isn't magical. Therefore, it wouldn't be negated in an AMF.

Way of the Four Elements (PHB, p. 80)

You follow a monastic tradition that teaches you to harness the elements. When you focus your ki, you can align yourself with the forces of creation and bend the four elements to your will, using them as an extension of your body...

Again, it doesn't say anything about interacting with the Weave or making a genuinely magical effect. That said, it also doesn't say that the element needs to be present for it to be manipulated (thinking of Avatar: The Last Airbender imprisonment methods for different benders). As such, you're still creating the elements from nothing.

That being said, there's plenty of flip-flopping through the disciplines as to whether something duplicates the effect of a spell being cast or whether the monk is actually casting a spell.

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meta.rpg.stackexchange.com/q/1346/23970 if you're curious about the edit. – nitsua60 Feb 21 at 14:56
up vote 18 down vote accepted

"Magical Effects" and "multiverse" are keywords / themes to resolve this.

Short Answer: Ki is magic and subject to Antimagic Field's effects by RAW and RAI.

Discussion

In the boxed section covering the Weave (PHB p. 205) Ki is left out. Since that PHB chapter is about "spells and spell casting" that makes organizational sense.

There is a clue in the shaded box about the Weave that should bridge the gap between the monk and the spell casters. Three points stand out:

  1. The worlds within the D&D multiverse are magical places
  2. All magic depends on the Weave, though different kinds of magic access it in a variety of ways.
  3. The caster plucks directly at the strands of the Weave to create the desired effect.

Magical Effects (PHB p. 201)

  1. A spell is a discrete magical effect.

Putting two points together all magic depends upon the Weave in order to create magical effects. You can conclude that to create a magical effect you must access the Weave.

Ki (PHB p. 76)

This energy is an element of the magic that suffuses the multiverse -- specifically the element that flows through living bodies. Monks harness this power within themselves to create magical effects ... using this energy, monks channel uncanny speed and strength into their unarmed strikes.

Antimagic Field's influence (p. 214 PHB)

Any active spell or other magical effect on a creature or an object in the sphere is suppressed while the creature or object is in it.

Conclusion:

Any use of Ki is an act to access the magic in the multiverse and create a magical effect, and is thus subject to the general rules on magic arriving via the Weave. That would make a use of Ki magical energy unavailable in an anti-magic field.

RAI/Dev Support

As mentioned in this answer, Mike Mearls talks in a D&D podcast about monkish Ki energy being the same "kind" of energy that is often accessed by the Weave: the energy native to the multiverse. (Credit to @nitsua60 for this dev side support to the answer).

Is it fluff? No.

Antimagic Field (Spell Description)

PHB p. 213: *This area is divorced from the magical energy that suffuses the multiverse.*

Based upon how the the book describes Ki, that negation of magical energy and magical effects includes Ki -- regardless of its relationship to the Weave. Even re-fluffing, or interpreting, Ki as a different way to get at magical energy than using the Weave will run into the specifics of the spell description.

Ki independent of the Weave doesn't get around Antimagic Field's features: Ki would be one way to access that energy to create magical effects, the Weave would be another. Antimagic Field suppresses both.

Notes regarding Ki empowered strikes at level 6:

  • When you make an unarmed strike that has no Ki points spent, you still channel Ki to overcome resistance or immunity to non magical attacks and damage. (P. 79 PHB) This would be suppressed in an Antimagic Field based on the above reasoning. (Likewise the use of Ki to channel elemental energy (p. 80-81 PHB).)

  • Antimagic Field is seriously strong magic: 8th level spell. Only artifacts and deities get a pass. A monk is neither of those.

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