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In the 5e session I am playing a level 7 ranger was given a shortbow. The bow works as follows:

Any arrow shot from the bow turns into a force arrow, adding 1d4 force damage to the attack. This arrow knocks any target struck by it back 10 feet. The arrow has a maximum range of 30 and dissipates if fired beyond that range.

The arrow still does its normal 1d6 + stats damage in addition to the force damage. So it's 1d6 + stats piercing + 1d4 force.

So here's my question(s)... is it a magical bow? Does the 1d6 + stats overcome damage reduction? Wouldn't the fact that it's "enchanted" to turn the arrow into force automatically make it a magical item since it has a magic effect?

In my mind it should overcome because it's clearly a magical weapon and per the DMG any arrow shot from a magical bow overcomes magical resistance. My DM told me it does not, only the force arrow (the 1d4 portion of the roll) does.

Unless I am mistaken this is a completely homebrew item so he may have his reasons behind it. Obviously I will go with what I am told because I do not know this reasons but I am curious what other's opinions are because this is odd to me.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Question: Did your DM tell you that's not how the rules work, or that's not how this item works? Also, minor point of order force damage is not elemental. \$\endgroup\$ – Tim Grant Nov 6 '17 at 18:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ I am aware force damage is not elemental. It's hard to be general and specific at the same time. \$\endgroup\$ – RazorShard Nov 7 '17 at 22:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ I am aware force damage is not elemental. It's hard to be general and specific at the same time. All he said when I asked him about it is "It does not do magical damage except for the 1d4 force". This was in the middle of a session so I did not want to bog it down. That raised me to ask this question of how can a weapon with a magical effect ( add elemental/force/magic/etc ) not be considered magical. \$\endgroup\$ – RazorShard Nov 7 '17 at 22:15
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A weapon is magical or it isn't

A weapon does not do "magical" damage - it does piercing, or bludgeoning, or slashing, or force, or cold, or ..., or a combination of these.

If the weapon is magical than all of the damage it deals comes from a magical weapon, if it isn't then all of the damage it deals comes from a nonmagical weapon.

If a weapon has some form of magic (like dealing additional force damage) then it is a magical weapon - even if it has no bonus to hit or damage. Even a weapon that can, say, detect secret doors 1/day and nothing else is a magical weapon.


Most creatures have this:

Damage Resistances bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical weapons

The weapon should do full damage against this because the weapon is magical.


Some creatures (e.g. raging Barbarians) have this:

resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage

The weapon should do half damage (except the 1d4 force damage - unless you are fighting a Helmed Horror - the only MM creature immune to force) against this because it doesn't matter that the weapon is magical.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This answer could be improved by including the verbiage from the MM errata, which helps clarify these types of resistance ambiguities in the language. The section for global changes to the entire book, changes "nonmagical weapons" to "nonmagical attacks". I believe Crawford also said somewhere that it should be worded more as "attacks from a magical source" as well. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Nov 6 '17 at 3:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ Pardon me for not being familiar with 5e, but are there still creatures needing "+x or better" magical weapons to hit? If so, this item could be magical and still not affect those creatures. Creatures only needing silver/magic weapons to hit (no +x requirement) would take full damage. \$\endgroup\$ – sirjonsnow Nov 6 '17 at 13:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @sirjonsnow That verbiage went away after 2nd edition. In 3.X/PF it went to damage reduction based on +X... now it just has to be damage dealt by a magical source, which typically means a weapon that is magical. Example: Sword of Wounding has no +X but still bypasses resistances to non-magical weapons. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Nov 6 '17 at 14:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ Suppose I cast an illusion on a weapon. Detect magic on the weapon now detects magic. Does it deal full damage to creatures who take half from non-magical? I am basically saying that you may have over simplified. \$\endgroup\$ – Yakk Nov 6 '17 at 15:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mindwin, it's not so broken - it would just work like staves that strike as quarterstaves (and not as magic quarterstaves). That enchanted daggers are magic weapons is just an intelligent default. If you want a dagger that is a magic item but not a magic weapon, then just add the phrase "This item can be wielded as a (normal) dagger" to its description, and put it in the "wondrous items" section instead of the "magic weapons" section. \$\endgroup\$ – Tim Grant Nov 6 '17 at 18:09
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Attacks from a magical weapon overcome damage resistance when that resistance is limited to nonmagical attacks.

If a creature has resistance, it is to certain types of damage, and with or without certain caveats. If an attack deals multiple types of damage, the creature's resistance will apply only to that part that is of the resisted type. Each resistance might also have caveats attached, for instance that the resistance is only against "nonmagical weapons." These caveats have been clarified by the following two erratas to the Monster Manual:

Damage Resistances/Immunities. Throughout the book, instances of “nonmagical weapons” in Damage Resistances/Immunities entries have been replaced with “nonmagical attacks.”

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Vulnerabilities, Resistances, and Immunities (p. 8). The second and third sentences now read as follows: “Particular creatures are even resistant or immune to damage from nonmagical attacks (a magical attack is an attack delivered by a spell, a magic item, or another magical source). In addition, some creatures are immune to certain conditions.”

So, whether the attack deals damage that overcomes resistance or immunity to its type or types first depends on whether the resistance has a "nonmagical" caveat, and if it does, then it further depends on whether the attack is magical, which in turn depends on whether the attack is from a spell, a magic item, or another magical source.

It's unclear from your post, but it could be that your DM was ruling on a particular attack against a particular creature that had a resistance to piercing damage that did not have a "nonmagical" caveat, in which case they ruled correctly. If, however, it did have such a caveat, or if you were asking about the weapon's multiple damage types and their interactions with resistances generally, then per the rules cited here, the bow either is or is not magical, and so both of its force and piercing damages do or do not overcome damage resistances to their respective types the same when they apply.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ AFAIK 5e does not have the concept of magical or nonmagical damage. Damage is of a specific type of which force and piercing are examples. Resistance to piercing is often (but not always) qualified with "from nonmagical weapons ..." - damage from a spell is not from a nonmagical weapon, nor is damage from a magical weapon but in both cases it is just piercing damage, not "magical" damage. \$\endgroup\$ – Dale M Nov 6 '17 at 0:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't believe that any part of my post contradicts this. Further, there is possibly a concept, if not a specific conception, of magical damage (for instance, "nonmagical damage" in "This weapon counts as magical for the purpose of overcoming resistance and immunity to nonmagical attacks and damage." - PHB107), but luckily it isn't ever used in any of the relevant parts of attacks, damage, or resistances. But, again, I never make the case that "magical damage" has anything to do with anything. \$\endgroup\$ – doomtwig Nov 6 '17 at 0:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ The OP is not clear if the thing they are shooting at has the "from nonmagical weapons" caveat - your answer assumes that it does. \$\endgroup\$ – Dale M Nov 6 '17 at 0:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ It doesn't ask, "Should I have done more damage on this attack?", and it doesn't make reference to a particular attack or target, so I presumed the question to be about this weapon against damage resistances generally. Then, if any target has a resistance that doesn't have that caveat, its initial question, "Is it a magical bow?", is irrelevant. I answered the relevant part. \$\endgroup\$ – doomtwig Nov 6 '17 at 1:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ Hey, thanks! I think I agree with you on what feels natural, but leaving what may or not be natural aside for the rules, the OP asked about the "magical" clause specifically, and thanks to the DMG errata we have: "Magic Weapons (p. 140). The section ends with a new paragraph: 'If a magic weapon has the ammunition property, ammunition fired from it is considered magical for the purpose of overcoming resistance and immunity to nonmagical attacks and damage.'" I have a feeling that it still works the way you figure with silvered weapons, though. \$\endgroup\$ – doomtwig Nov 6 '17 at 5:49
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The DM has the freedom to dictate this, doubly so if it is wholly homebrew. The DMG does not give any general guidance on magic weapon damage. What type of damage is dealt by a magic item and what properties it has is only listed on a case by case basis. So if a DM invents a completely new item, he would not even be going against advice in the books, however should he wish to decide on this.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The Monster Manual errata specifies what constitutes "damage from a magical weapon". \$\endgroup\$ – Darth Pseudonym Nov 6 '17 at 20:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ The DMG may not specify but the PHB definitely says if a dagger does piercing damage. IF nothing in the DMG changes that, it stands to reason they do the same as the PHB. \$\endgroup\$ – Voromir Kadien Jan 20 '18 at 7:44

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