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Spiritual weapon claims that you make a melee spell attack against a target adjacent to your spiritual weapon. The rules for attacking while being unseen state that if the target cannot see you, you gain advantage on your attack against them.

Does this mean that if the enemy can't see you (such as if you were in complete darkness), but they can see your spiritual weapon, you gain advantage to attack them with the spiritual weapon bonus-action attack?

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Rules As Written, you get advantage if you're unseen

The rules say:

When you attack a target that you can't see, you have disadvantage on the attack roll. This is true whether you're guessing the target's location or you're targeting a creature you can hear but not see. If the target isn't in the location you targeted, you automatically miss, but the GM typically just says that the attack missed, not whether you guessed the target's location correctly.

When a creature can't see you, you have advantage on attack rolls against it.

If you are hidden--both unseen and unheard--when you make an attack, you give away your location when the attack hits or misses.

"You", written here in these rules, means you, the caster.

If your target can't see you, you would get advantage against it even though they can see your spiritual weapon.

If you can't see your target, then you also get disadvantage against it and they cancel.

The third paragraph also applies: if you attack with your spiritual weapon, it will give away your position.

Clearly This Is Stupid

This is a loophole in the rules. A reasonable DM should house-rule that, when attacking with a spiritual weapon, you can get advantage if the spiritual weapon is unseen, but you cannot get advantage because the caster is unseen.

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    \$\begingroup\$ While I don't love the "clearly this is stupid", this clearly is correct :) \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    Oct 28 '20 at 18:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ I love the "clearly this is stupid". This is the first and probably last time I'll upvote an answer that starts with "Rules as Written,". \$\endgroup\$
    – Mark Wells
    Oct 29 '20 at 2:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think this is the correct answer, but I don't believe it is so stupid. I have a good reasoning, imagine the spiritual weapon itself attacks quite fast and from any angle, and the only warning that you usually get of the attack, is the caster pointing at you or something similar. Then if you do not see the caster, it will be harder to dodge/deflect the attack. \$\endgroup\$
    – findusl
    Oct 29 '20 at 9:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @findusl it's true that, if you're willing to house-rule a bunch of stuff about how the spiritual weapon spell works, you can get the RAW to make sense. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dan B
    Oct 29 '20 at 15:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MarkWells True, if it quacks like a duck... \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    Oct 30 '20 at 15:20
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Well... You.

This is a pretty easy one actually.

You create a floating, spectral weapon within range that lasts for the duration or until you cast this spell again. When you cast the spell, you can make a melee spell attack against a creature within 5 feet of the weapon. On a hit, the target takes force damage equal to 1d8 + your spellcasting ability modifier. As a bonus action on your turn, you can move the weapon up to 20 feet and repeat the attack against a creature within 5 feet of it.

Ok, So you make an attack against a creature.

The Spiritual Weapon spell doesn't change any rules, in any way.

Unseen Attackers and Targets: When you attack a target that you can't see, you have disadvantage on the attack roll. When a creature can't see you, you have advantage on attack rolls against it.

The only questions you have is whether or not You and the Creature can see each other. Who can or can not see the spell effect (the spectral weapon) is irrelevant.

The rules are clear in that if you are unseen, you gain Advantage. And if you can't see the target you get Disadvantage.

So, "What can't be seen by the target for me to gain advantage?" You!

Naturally, this applies to the attack you make when you initially cast the spell, and on the attacks you make using a bonus action on subsequent turns.

Note: Perhaps it will help people to remember that the spectral weapon created by this spell is not a creature. You don't summon anything, it is just a spell effect like a fireball or illusion. It doesn't take up any space or prevent movement, it can't be grabbed or attacked (it has no AC), it can't take any actions, it doesn't even have a speed (which is why "you move it" as part of the bonus action, and that can be in any direction like up if you want).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Nice reasoning, now does he gain advantage or not? I would be nice if you mention the answer to the question explicitly. \$\endgroup\$
    – findusl
    Oct 29 '20 at 9:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ Hmm, I'm unsure how including the rules on Unseen Attackers doesn't explicitly answer "What can't be seen by the target". But I've added a paragraph to connect the dots for those still unclear. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 29 '20 at 18:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is good reasoning. Functionally, the mechanic is the same as firing an arrow from darkness into light, but it's a melee attack, not a ranged attack. \$\endgroup\$
    – Valkor
    Dec 23 '21 at 9:26
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The weapon, most likely.

This is an edge case where the unseen attacker's implicit assumption--that there is an "attacker"--breaks down. My premises are that:

  1. The unseen attacker rule represents the additional difficulty in defending against an attack that you can't see coming. This implies that what matters is being able to see the direction of the incoming attack so that you can get out of the way.

  2. The immediate source of an attack from spiritual weapon is the weapon, not the caster. That is, to defend against it you must avoid getting hit by the weapon. My evidence for this is that:

  • It takes the form of a specific weapon.
  • It makes a melee attack, and must be within melee range to do so.
  • It's an attack against the creature's AC, so dexterity and armor can both protect. You can, for example, deflect it with a shield.

Consider one possibility: if Alice casts spiritual weapon and sends it to attack Bob, and Bob can't see the weapon, he can defend just fine as long as he can see Alice. This makes no sense. She isn't doing anything, just mentally commanding the weapon to strike. In fact, since this is only a bonus action, she can be doing something completely different while the weapon attacks Bob. We're left with inexplicable behavior.

Whereas with the other interpretation--that Bob needs to see the weapon--is completely explicable: if Bob can't see the weapon, then he can't reliably dodge it or get his shield in front of it. It also brings spiritual weapon in line with the behavior of the Dancing Sword, and therefore also the Flying Sword: if there's a sword magically hovering around trying to stab you, and you can't see it, then it gets advantage on its attacks.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "It" most certainly does NOT make any sort of attack. The Spiritual Weapon spell is quite clear that "you can make a melee spell attack against a creature". The Spiritual Weapon is not a creature, can not make attacks, doesn't take up space, etc. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 28 '20 at 3:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @OrbitalBliss It functionally can make attacks. It, not you, needs to be in melee range of the target to attack, and it, not you, determines the damage from its attacks. "You" make the attack in the sense that you choose the target and you roll the die, but in terms of the mechanics of a melee attack, the spell effect occupies the role of the attacker. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mark Wells
    Oct 28 '20 at 17:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ In 5e there is just one AC, so Dex works against all attacks, so that point seems irrelevant to your argument. Dex and shield protect against unseen attacker too. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 28 '20 at 20:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ Anyway, why would the bonus action to command the Spiritual Weapon be imperceptible by the target if attacker is not unseen? It makes much more sense to think it requires attacker to intentionally look at the SW and target at least (or attack at disadvantage). \$\endgroup\$ Oct 28 '20 at 20:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mark Well The weapon does NOT occupy the role as attacker. The spell would say the weapon can attack if it could, it doesn't. The attack is made by YOU (but only against a creature within 5 feet of the weapon) and uses YOUR attack modifier proficiency etc. Everyone needs to stop reading into the spell what they want to see but isn't really there. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 8 '20 at 5:42
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I think this situation falls under the general rule for advantage/disadvantage in the PHB:

You usually gain advantage or disadvantage through the use of special abilities, actions, or spells. Inspiration can also give a character advantage (as explained in chapter 4, “Personality and Background”). The DM can also decide that circumstances influence a roll in one direction or the other and grant advantage or impose disadvantage as a result.

While a strict reading of the rules seem to imply that the caster is the attacker for the purposes of the hidden attacker rule, if the target can see the weapon, but not see the caster (maybe the caster is under the effects of greater invisibility?) the DM is free to decide that the circumstances do not give advantage to the attack.

If the caster cannot see the target, the caster gets disadvantage on the attack. There is no question that the weapon can see. If the target cannot see the weapon nor the caster, then the caster gets advantage.

The remaining cases are where the target can see the weapon, but not the caster (greater invisibility on caster) and where the target can see the caster but not the weapon (weapon just in darkness).

The rules give the DM the latitude to decide what is appropriate in these two situations, by deciding that circumstances influence the roll. I would choose to give advantage if the weapon cannot be seen, and not give advantage if the weapon can be seen.

If the DM doesn't think that these situations are circumstances which influence the roll, then you would get no advantage from the hidden weapon, and you would get advantage from the invisible caster.

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Note: I have the sense that the "canonical answer" that David is asking for with their bounty would involve some documented rule that specifically addresses the "melee attack at range" scenario. I'm not aware of any such rule, so I provide the following instead, expecting that it won't qualify for the bounty but will still provide a reasonable foundation for in-game rulings.

The question:

Does this mean that if the enemy can't see you (such as if you were in complete darkness), but they can see your spiritual weapon, you gain advantage to attack them with the spiritual weapon bonus-action attack?

No, it does not mean that.

In the spell description, we see three sentences, each of which have important and specific implications about how the spell works:

You create a floating, spectral weapon within range that lasts for the duration or until you cast this spell again. When you cast the spell, you can make a melee spell attack against a creature within 5 feet of the weapon. On a hit, the target takes force damage equal to 1d8 + your spellcasting ability modifier.

  1. You create a weapon.
  2. You are making a melee attack.
  3. The target takes force damage.

Okay, I admit that last one isn't as important as the first two.

But the first two make clear that an actual weapon is being created, and that this weapon acts, effectively extending your own reach at a distance, in the capacity of a melee attack. This means that the attack comes from the weapon and not from your own person.

This is reinforced, though I admit not proven, by the fact that the damage is force damage. I.e. the weapon is itself causing the damage.

Since the weapon itself is what makes the attack, it is the visibility of the weapon that is relevant. The "you" in the reading of the visibility rules for attacks would be the weapon in this case. The caster is simply the marionettist, directing the movements of the weapon. But for the target to avoid the attack, they must respond to the weapon that is within melee range of them. As long as they can see the weapon, there is no advantage on the attack.

In other words, as a weapon that extends one's own reach, even when one's body is not visible to the target, the weapon one is wielding is visible to the target. So "you" are not actually entirely invisible. And the part of "you" that actually matters to the target is visible.

If one could somehow contrive to have the weapon not visible to the target — perhaps you are attacking through an opaque cloth that is obscuring the target's view of the weapon, but not your view of the target, or the weapon is within an area of Darkness while you can still see the target — then the Spiritual Weapon would have advantage.

Conversely, the caster's own visibility doesn't matter at all. The target is concerned with the thing that is attacking it, not the creature controlling that thing. The caster being invisible doesn't obscure the threat that exists within melee range of the target, nor is there anything that the caster might do themselves that would in any way affect the target's perception of the attack, whether to their advantage or disadvantage.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ See, what I find odd is, especially the bit I bolded, from "an actual weapon is being created, and that this weapon acts, **effectively extending your own reach at a distance, in the capacity of a melee attack. **This means that the attack comes from the weapon and not from your own person." make me feel more like the caster is making the attack. Similar logic would say that all melee attacks come from the weapon, not the attacker. All ranged weapon attacks come from the ammunition, not the weapon ... etc. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 21 '21 at 15:05
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Spiritual weapon obeys line of sight rules with you as the Caster/Attacker

Jeremy Crawford has explained that spiritual weapon ignores cover, but obeys any visibility concerns. Visibility is determined based strictly on the line of sight between the caster and the target.

Crawford: The spell doesn't require you to see its target. It follows the normal rules for attacking a target you can't see.

Questioner: caster could leave the room and leave a spiritual weapon floating in the doorway for a minute w/ disadv to hit?

Crawford: Yes, assuming there's actually something there to hit.


And the rules for attacking while unseen:

When you attack a target that you can't see, you have disadvantage on the attack roll. This is true whether you're guessing the target's location or you're targeting a creature you can hear but not see. If the target isn't in the location you targeted, you automatically miss, but the GM typically just says that the attack missed, not whether you guessed the target's location correctly.

When a creature can't see you, you have advantage on attack rolls against it. If you are hidden–both unseen and unheard–when you make an attack, you give away your location when the attack hits or misses.


Since it's been explained that attacking while you can't see the target would impose disadvantage, and the circumstances for the advantage/disadvantage both depend on the line of sight between you (the caster) and the target, you would have advantage to hit the target with spiritual weapon if the target cannot see you (and disadvantage if you can't see the target).

This could be explained through the target not recognizing your bonus action to strike, much in the same way that a fire bolt or an arrow shot from the darkness could be seen, while occurring too suddenly to react to.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure you're reading Crawford's answer correctly. He's talking about a scenario where the caster and the target are in separate rooms. Presumably in that case neither of them can see each other, but the attacker still has disadvantage. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mark Wells
    Oct 16 '18 at 23:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MarkWells That's a definite possibility, but you can also have both advantage and disadvantage on the same roll (netting to be a standard attack). There's not much clarification whether advantage was provided or not since the primary concern was cover, not the unseen attacker rules, so I assume it follows the standard LoS rules of only caring about visibility between the caster and the target. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 16 '18 at 23:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DanielZastoupil Does attacking with the spirit weapon immediately let the target know where the caster is? \$\endgroup\$
    – GcL
    Oct 17 '18 at 13:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ You may want to update this answer as Crawford's tweets are no longer considered official. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 27 '20 at 21:07
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You make the attack, but the attack originates from the weapon

The rules on advantage and disadvantage are written assuming that the creature making the attack is the one the target sees making the the attack, and is in the place from which the attack 'originates'. That is a reasonable assumption most of the time, so these rules work most of the time. When that assumption does not hold, however, the rules no longer make sense. This is the natural outcome for violating the basic assumptions of the rules.

Knowing that the rules no longer make sense, we have two options - we can apply them anyway - 'This is RAW, even though it is stupid' - or we can adjust them for this edge case situation that they were not designed for. I think the second option is better.

If we modify the rules because we recognize that the original assumptions don't apply, we have some target results: regardless of how we adjust the rules, our special-situation modified rules should (1) draw on the larger body of 5e rules and rulings and make sense within that framework, and (2) add to verisimilitude by seeming like a reasonable adjustment. Any ruling or rules modification that can do both these things is doing well.

You, the caster, are making the attack

The spiritual weapon is a 'spectral weapon'; it is not a creature and perhaps not even an object. It cannot attack without you using a bonus action to make it do so, and cannot reason or decide. You cannot tell it to 'attack when something comes into range' (readied action), you cannot make an opportunity attack with it, you cannot tell it to 'keep attacking that creature on the next round'. You are the author of its intent - it has no capability you do not give it. Most importantly, it cannot select a target - you have to do that. Thus, you have to see the target, or select a square and use the rules for attacking a target unseen.

If you, the caster, cannot see the target, your attack has disadvantage. It does not matter the line of site or proximity of the weapon to the target. No rules give the weapon specifically or objects or forces in general the ability to see. If the sight of the weapon to the target mattered, the weapon would always have disadvantage, because the weapon cannot see.

The target of the attack is trying to avoid the weapon, not avoid you

To be damaged by the spell, the target must be within five feet of the weapon - it is the weapon that is swinging at the target. To avoid being hit, the target needs to avoid the weapon itself; if the target has sufficient distance from the weapon, it cannot be attacked, regardless of the target's distance from you. You, the caster not being able to see the target may mean that the weapon is swinging wildly and aimlessly - but if it hits the target, it will do just as much damage as if it was well-aimed.

Note that the spiritual weapon spell explicitly says that the weapon is the "spell's effect", while the rules on Cover state that

A target can benefit from cover only when an attack or other effect originates on the opposite side of the cover.
Even though you are making the attack, the attack itself originates from the weapon, and so only cover between the weapon and the target matters.

This situation is analogous to the barbarian's danger sense ability:

At 2nd level, you gain an uncanny sense of when things nearby aren't as they should be, giving you an edge when you dodge away from danger. You have advantage on Dexterity saving throws against effects that you can see, such as traps and spells. To gain this benefit, you can't be blinded, deafened, or incapacitated.

Barbarians gain advantage on Dex saves when they can see the effects of spells, not their casters. If a wizard threw a fireball (the blast of which is not an attack, but is a damaging spell effect) so that it exploded around a corner, the barbarian on the other side would not be penalized for not seeing the wizard - rather, they would have advantage for seeing the bright ball of flame headed their way!

The target is trying to avoid the damage the weapon represents, trying to avoid the attack whose physical point of origin is the weapon. You, the caster, have advantage on attacks with the spiritual weapon when the target cannot see the weapon. It does not matter if they cannot see you.

To summarize: Your attacks with spiritual weapon are at disadvantage when you cannot see the target. Your attacks with spiritual weapon are at advantage when the target cannot see the weapon.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "A spectral weapon is a source of damage" how does this interact with Hellish Rebuke? How is this different if I'm holding the weapon in my hand? Is it only the source of damage if it's not held? \$\endgroup\$ Dec 21 '21 at 21:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AncientSwordRage I don't think you can hold the spiritual weapon in your hand - it is spectral, which the game doesn't define, but which I would say means it is insubstantial or not solid. How would this interact with Hellish Rebuke? Like any other spell. If you take damage from a fireball, you can still use Hellish Rebuke on the caster. The fireball is the source of the damage, but the caster is the creature who damaged you. Spiritual weapon would interact the same. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Dec 21 '21 at 22:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ I disagree on using 'source' that way. Perhaps 'implement' is clearer? Regardless, the rules say "When a creature can't see you, you have advantage on attack rolls against it" not "When a creature can't see a source of damage from an attack you control or initiated, you have advantage on attack rolls against it". You introduce the term 'source', but that's not a game term. Perhaps reusing 'effect' would be more affective? My point about holding the weapon was meant to be a regular weapon, btw, and whether your 'source' term affects it. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 21 '21 at 22:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AncientSwordRage As I explain in the preamble, typically the person attacking you is the source of the damage and the one you need to watch. The only reason spiritual weapon is an issue is because those expectations are not met. As such, you have a choice - insist on something RAW that doesn't make sense, or something that makes sense that is not RAW. The words themselves - source, implement, effect (used in this manner) are none of them game terms and so the specific word is unimportant - substitute something that makes sense to you. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Dec 21 '21 at 23:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AncientSwordRage You may think RAW make sense, which is fine. The currently-most upvoted answer (after more than three years) is 'RAW in this case are stupid'. The next most upvoted answer is 'RAW are not made for this situation, adv/dis should be based on the weapon'. The third-most upvoted answer, practically tied with the second, is that RAW are fine. I think it is fair to say that people disagree about this. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Dec 22 '21 at 5:06
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If my caster is looking at a person and casts spiritual weapon BEHIND the target- and the weapon strikes that person from behind- It is 100% NOT the same thing as a caster throwing a fireball from their hands at a person.

The Target never sees the weapon, and therefore isn't aware of it attacking them, they are looking at the caster.

The spiritual weapon in this case should absolutely have advantage on the attack.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Slade, welcome to RPGSE. The tour, help center, How to Ask, and How to Answer provide guidance on how to best interact with this site's format. (It's not a discussion forum). Please provide more support for your answer (you can look at some of the other ones to see how that is done). \$\endgroup\$ Feb 25 '21 at 15:46

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