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What Dispel Magic enables you to do is to end a magical effect.

Say someone casts an illusion on a small room with Major Image to make it appear to be on fire. But, to add some real danger to it, they lit specific points of it on fire.

Now, say a person comes along and knows that part of it is an illusion, but isn't sure which parts.

What would happen if only part of the illusory fire was targeted by Dispel Magic? Would only that portion disappear, or would all of the illusory fire disappear?

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The description of Dispel Magic states:

Choose any creature, object, or magical effect within range. Any spell of 3rd level or lower on the target ends. For each spell of 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.

By RAW, Dispel Magic ends spells, not just end individual magical effects caused by those spells. So if someone cast Dispel Magic on a magical effect within range, and the spell was of an equal or lower level, then the spell would end - taking any ongoing magical effects with it.

Your DM can rule differently, but that's how Dispel Magic works by RAW.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ How does the wording in the "At higher levels" section mesh with your conclusion here? It says "end the effects of a spell on the target", notably different from ending the whole spell. Does the spell work differently at higher levels? \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Jul 29 at 19:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rubiksmoose: I probably need to rework this answer substantially, but yeah, you're right. The real question here becomes "what's the target?". I'd say that if they targeted any part of the illusory fire, it'd dispel the entire illusion (from a single casting of major image) on that area. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jul 29 at 19:18
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The description of dispel magic says

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.

The part that says

Choose one creature, object, or magical effect within range. Any spell of 3rd level or lower on the target ends.

Basically you need to target a location for it to take effect and any magic effecting that location ends immediately assuming you succeed at the casting check.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ So, if a large illusion was poking through a wall, and you dispelled only the part you could see, the whole illusion would disappear? \$\endgroup\$ – Jay Kay Feb 27 '18 at 0:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ Correct unless it was compromised of multiple illusions. For example if the part that is poking from the wall is a different image from the other illusions that exist in the other room then only that illusion is dispelled. \$\endgroup\$ – Maiko Chikyu Feb 27 '18 at 0:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ Technically, you don't "target a location". You choose [target] a creature, object, or magical effect. In this case, you target the illusion magical effect. \$\endgroup\$ – keithcurtis Feb 27 '18 at 1:16

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