There has been a lot of debate in my D&D group about the specific wording of Dispel Magic which were not answered by the D&D Sage Advice Compendium:

Choose one creature, object, or magical effect within range. Any spell of 3rd level or lower on the target ends. For each spell of 4th level or higher on the target, make an ability check using your spellcasting ability. The DC equals 10 + the spell’s level. On a successful check, the spell ends.

What happens if one chooses a "magical effect"?

In a similar question I asked whether or not Dispel Magic could target multiple effects on a single creature or object: How exactly does the Dispel Magic spell work with multiple effects?

The answer there was that Dispel Magic does have a plural effect (it can remove more than one effect with a single casting). If this is the case, then I'm left to question what exactly is meant by targeting a "magical effect".

Targeting a creature is obvious. Remove all spells on that creature.

Targeting an object is similarly obvious. Remove all spells on that object.

However could I, for instance, target the magical effect of "Invisibility" and remove all instances of Invisibility within a 60-foot radius of the caster? Could I target "Glyph of Warding" and remove all glyphs in the area?


2 Answers 2


You only target one specific Effect, not all instances of an Effect of a certain type

You seem to be misunderstanding what it means by 'Magical Effect.'

Your interpretation of it is "A type of magical thing that is happening."

The actual meaning is "A Single, Discrete Magical Thing that is NOT a Creature or Object." You can't use Dispel Magic as an AoE Spell Purge to burn out all instances of a particular spell.

A Spell is a discrete Magical Effect


When it refers to a Magical Effect, it is talking about things like Wall of Fire, Storm of Vengeance, Illusions, and so on. An individual instance of magic that is not attached to a creature or object. If that targeting option didn't exist, you couldn't Dispel effects like that, because a spell like Earthquake is neither a creature nor an object.

The target required by Dispel Magic is a specific target. Either 1 Creature, 1 Object, or 1 Magical Effect. You cannot target a type of magical effect.

And to give an actual Sage Advice quote...

Q: If dispel magic targets the magical effect from bless cast by a cleric, does it remove the effect on all the targets?

A: Dispel magic ends a spell on one target. It doesn’t end the same spell on other targets.

  • \$\begingroup\$ You may want to add the clarification even though it is not in the original question that dispel magic only works on magical effects from spells \$\endgroup\$ Dec 18, 2017 at 19:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ Following on from that, you need to be able to see the effect in question to attempt dispelling it. Borrowing the Invisibility example, you would need to have some other method of detecting the invisible entity (ala True Sight or something similar). \$\endgroup\$ Dec 18, 2017 at 19:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Bagahnoodles: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/90228/… has a good discussion of that. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 18, 2017 at 19:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Bagahnoodles The Jan 19? podcast has a nice primer on targeting there as well. Targeting by way of hearing is totally acceptable and expected in your example assuming the target is not trying to "stealth". \$\endgroup\$
    – Slagmoth
    Dec 18, 2017 at 19:15

Ok this is a somewhat nebulous question, but let's start with an important clarification:

Dispel Magic only works on magical effects from spells

Jeremy Crawford has clarified this many times but here is one example from the Sage Advice Compendium:

Dispel magic has a particular purpose: to break other spells. It has no effect on a vampire’s Charm ability or any other magical effect that isn’t a spell.

See this Q&A for more evidence and exploration of this facet of the discussion.

Dispel Magic requires you to choose a target

Normal spell targeting rules apply here of course (a lot of the confusing aspects of which are covered in a Dragon Talk podcast here). The target of dispel magic can be:

one creature, object, or magical effect within range

Targeting one magical effect

Let us disregard the first two since they are largely covered by your previous question:How *exactly* does Dispel Magic work with multiple effects?.

The third valid target for dispel magic is one magical effect within range. Unlike the first two, this way of using dispel magic will only affect one magical effect.

Basically, the magical effect is there to allow you to dispel magic that is not attached to creatures or objects or to target a single effect on a creature or object. Examples of magical effects from spells include: an area of darkness caused by the darkness spell, an illusion created by Minor Illusion, and Wall of Fire (among many others).

The important thing to remember is that you can only end ONE effect because you are targeting one magic effect.

You cannot target a type of magical effect

You cannot declare that you are dispelling invisibility in a 30 ft radius. That will not work because you must choose a target. You must basically be able to point to the effect and say "I want to dispel that". If you pointed to an apparently empty square and tried to dispel invisibility there and there was a creature there, they would no longer be invisible!

This is made explicitly clear in the Sage Advice Compendium:

Q: If dispel magic targets the magical effect from bless cast by a cleric, does it remove the effect on all the targets?

A: Dispel magic ends a spell on one target. It doesn’t end the same spell on other targets.

So you would point to a character and say "I cast dispel magic on that character". And, assuming Bless had been cast on that character, they would no longer be under its effects. However, the other characters that were also targeted by the cleric's bless would still be under its effects.

See this Q&A for a discussion on targeting spell effects that you can't see or perceive. And this Q&A talking specifically about dispelling darkness.

Also worth noting that you must target the target of the spell effect not the caster. Targeting the caster of a spell effect will do nothing to dispel the effects.

So, for the above reasons, both of your examples about removing invisibility and glyph of warding in a 30 ft radius are both not possible. Hopefully, you now understand why.


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