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A Large or smaller creature hit by a net is Restrained until it is freed. [...] Dealing 5 slashing damage to the net (AC 10) also frees the creature without harming it, ending the effect and destroying the net. [...]

Does this mean that if you attack a net and deals less than 5 slashing damage (or other damage), you also harm the creature trapped within?

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No. The only reason that the net description states "Dealing 5 slashing damage to the net (AC 10) also frees the creature without harming it" is presumably just to clarify that attacking the net will not cause the restrained creature within to be harmed. Players might otherwise expect that attacking the net risks harming a trapped ally within.

Presumably, targeting the net with any sort of attack would not cause harm to the trapped creature; area-of-effect spells (e.g. Fireball) would still affect the creature within, though.

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