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I'm trying to recreate my old 3.5e character in 5e, who was a fighter/sorcerer with a bow, and brilliant arrows (and some archery related spells).

What I want to know is if there is an effect that's the same as the brilliant energy enchantment in 5e. For those who aren't aware, this is what Brilliant Energy does:

Brilliant Energy: a brilliant energy weapon has its significant portion - such as its blade, axe head, or arrow head - transformed into light... a brilliant energy weapon ignores nonliving matter. Armor bonuses to AC do not count against it because the weapon passes through armor... a brilliant energy weapon cannot harm undead, constructs, and objects.

If this doesn't exist, could a fighter, sorcerer, or similar class reasonably create these on their own? If so, what kind of cost would this incur?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ In 5e, armor class is calculated in a fundamentally different manner so you may run into trouble porting this kind of effect. Just to make you aware \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Jun 5 '18 at 19:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DavidCoffron I know that, but you could still create a weapon made of light that at the very least passes through non-living matter for the purposes of damaging undead , constructs and objects. You could have it state something like "attacks made with this weapon treat the target's AC as 10+any other bonuses they usually apply (dexterity, spell effects, etc.)" \$\endgroup\$ – Noelle B Jun 5 '18 at 19:31
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This doesn't exist in D&D 5e (yet, at least).

As of June 2018, a search of D&D Beyond's magic items section shows no brilliant energy weapon in the D&D 5e rules. There's also none in the homebrew rules, except for one particular very powerful artifact weapon that isn't really equivalent.

It's not necessarily going to be made (officially)

As GreySage wisely pointed out in a comment, recalculating armor class on the fly is awkward. At least, you have to open up the book to find out what bonus certain armor grants, and at worst you've got a monster with a non-standard armor.

This wouldn't have been unusual in D&D 3e, where creatures regularly had multiple armor classes depending on which bonuses the player's attack can ignore (touch AC, flat-footed AC, flat-footed touch AC...), but in 5e this has been simplified away. For these reasons, I wouldn't hold my breath for an official 5e conversion of brilliant energy weapons.

Possible rules

The first thing is that D&D 5e now sorts items into rarity, but does not price them. This makes it considerably easier to add a new magic item. It would convert something like this:

Brilliant energy weapon
Weapon (any), rare (requires attunement)

This magic weapon has its blade or striking surface transformed into light. It glows as a torch, and passes through non-living matter. Opponents who wear armor or use a shield do not gain the benefit of those items against attacks by this weapon, even magical armor. It deals no damage to objects or non-living creatures, such as constructs and undead.

However, player-crafted magic items aren't a standard thing any more in D&D 5th edition. It's purely at the DM's discretion, and there's no such thing as a Craft Magic Arms and Armor feat any more. Thus even if you had the stats for a brilliant energy weapon, there's no guaranteed way for the player character to make it, unless you ask your DM nicely.

Another way might be to create a spell which turns a weapon into brilliant energy, and has the same effect. Thematically, a creating an "ethereal arrow" might fit the warlock well, though in terms of a 3e sorcerer's spell selection, you're closer going with the sorcerer or Eldritch Knight (5e's fighter build which can cast some arcane spells).

It might be as simple as a powered-up higher-level variant of true strike which lasts for several arrow shots, but doesn't affect undead or constructs. Again, homebrew spells are at the DM's discretion.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is a good answer, but a note on the conversion: trying to recalculate AC on the fly isn't a good idea, especially for non-PCs. I think it would be better to add a flat bonus to hit, although an exception could be made for shields since they are a simple +2. \$\endgroup\$ – GreySage Jun 5 '18 at 20:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ I also might have it deal radiant damage, rather than the weapon’s normal damage type. \$\endgroup\$ – MrHiTech Jun 5 '18 at 20:44
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What you want to look at is the Arcane Archer on page 28 of Xanathar's Guide. It is a martial archetype for the fighter class.

For example piercing arrow.

You use transmutation magic to give your arrow an ethereal quality. When you use this option, you don’t make an attack roll for the attack. Instead, the arrow shoots forward in a line, which is 1 foot wide and 30 feet long, before disappearing. The arrow passes harmlessly through objects, ignoring cover. Each creature in that line must make a Dexterity saving throw. On a failed save, a creature takes damage as if it were hit by the arrow, plus an extra 1d6 piercing damage. On a successful save, a target takes half as much damage.

Not the same as brilliant energy but with some house ruled variants you could come close. If you are involved in the Adventurer's League then just rephrase the fluff as light energy instead of the descriptions in the book.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I saw that class, and so far that's the archetype I'm using (I had a previous question about that here: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/123926/…) What I was trying to find was an ability that specifically left undead and constructs unharmed. \$\endgroup\$ – Noelle B Jun 5 '18 at 19:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ The UA Soulblade from the Mystic has something similar... I think that Brilliant Energy weapons don't have as much demand now with the way AC is bounded and calculated though. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Jun 5 '18 at 19:57

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