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From Xanathar's Guide to Everything:

Walloping Ammunition: This ammunition packs a wallop. A creature hit by the ammunition must succeed on a DC 10 Strength saving throw or be knocked prone.

Unbreakable Arrow: This arrow can’t be broken, except when it is within an antimagic field.

From Basic Rules:

+1 Ammunition: You have a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls made with this piece of magic ammunition. Once it hits a target, the ammunition is no longer magical.

Because +1 Ammunition stipulates that the magical effect wears off after use but these other magical ammunitions do not, I assume this means their magic is persistent. Further, the DMG states that magic items are as durable, if not more so, than common items. However, the PHB also states (without any exception that I could find for magical ammunition, emphasis added):

Ammunition. You can use a weapon that has the ammunition property to make a ranged attack only if you have ammunition to fire from the weapon. Each time you attack with the weapon, you expend one piece of ammunition. Drawing the ammunition from a quiver, case, or other container is part of the attack. At the end of the battle, you can recover half your expended ammunition by taking a minute to search the battlefield."

How does this resolve according to strict interpretation of RAW? Does Walloping Ammunition have a 50% chance of disappearing after use? Does RAW prevent a PC from spending more time searching for the arrow? Is there special consideration for magic items that I'm missing?

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Ammunition is ammunition by Rules as Written (RAW)

TL;DR According to the RAW, half of the ammo you fire, magical or not, is not recoverable regardless of how much time is spend searching.

Recovery Mechanic

Lacking a More Specific Rule, Half is Recoverable

Half of the ammunition you expend is recoverable as cited in the rule. Lacking a more specific mechanic for recovering ammunition, that is the case for both magical and non-magical ammunition. Walloping ammunition does not have a more specific recovery mechanic.

Time Spent Recovering Ammunition

By the rules, if the character spends a minute searching, they recover half the spent ammunition. There is no provision in RAW for spending more time searching to recover more than half.

Recovery Narration

The mechanics of recovery do not specify why ammunition is unrecoverable. It may be broken, lost, or lose it's "umph". The narration of the mechanic is up to the DM.

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  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ "If it hits, there is an effect on the target and the ammunition is no longer magical." Part of the issue in the OP is that it is not clear whether or not that is the case - +1 bolts say that, but other magical bolts may not. If there is a general rule that says that's how magical ammunition universally works, you need to find and cite that! \$\endgroup\$ – Carcer Oct 23 '18 at 14:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Carcer if you happen to know of a general reference for that, I'd love to have it. The most basic case I'm aware of is dndbeyond.com/magic-items/ammunition-1. Magical ammunition isn't addressed as a general class as far as I'm aware. Is there a format for citing a lack of references? \$\endgroup\$ – GcL Oct 23 '18 at 14:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ I feel like our wires might be slightly crossed. You've stated that Walloping ammunition becomes nonmagical once it strikes a target. That's a statement that is not directly supported by any of the rules we've seen quoted or referenced in the Q/A so far; you need to explain why you think that's the case (especially since this is a RAW question). \$\endgroup\$ – Carcer Oct 23 '18 at 14:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Carcer thanks for clarifying. That makes the answer a lot simpler. \$\endgroup\$ – GcL Oct 23 '18 at 14:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Carcer I think he's just offering that as a narrative explanation. By RAW, such ammunition does not lose magical effect merely because it is used, but also by RAW some magical ammunition is not recoverable, and there is nothing to say magical ammunition cannot break, so Grosscol is perhaps merely suggesting that some of this non-recovery could be due to the arrows breaking in some way renders them non-magical. \$\endgroup\$ – Pink Sweetener Oct 23 '18 at 16:09

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