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We were having an "argument" about what happens when the Javelin of Lightning misses its target.

Here's the important text for the item:

When you hurl it and speak its command word, it transforms into a bolt of lightning, forming a line 5 feet wide that extends out from you to a target within 120 feet. [...] The lightning bolt turns back into a javelin when it reaches the target. Make a ranged weapon attack against the target. On a hit, the target takes damage from the javelin plus 4d6 lightning damage.

If you miss the shot with the javelin, does it ever actually reach its target? Or does it continue to be a five-foot corridor of lightning until it hits something? Does it use the momentum of speed-of-light motion to carry itself miles away?

As a note, I feel like the answer is a straightforward "No, it turns into a javelin before you make the ranged check, so it should just fall like a normal javelin."

However, I seem to be the only one who sees it this way in our group. DMs can determine whatever they want of course, just curious of its behavior as written.

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The description says "reaches the target." It does not say "successfully hits the target."

So I agree with your interpretation that the javelin stops being lightning and behaves like a javelin as it gets near the target whether it actually hits them or not.

Also consider that failing the ranged check does not always mean a miss. It could also mean that you hit them but it failed to penetrate their armor.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ It may also be worth mentioning that the javelin's piercing damage (not counting the lightning) is the same as when it's thrown normally, which suggests that on arrival at the target, it's moving about as fast as a mundane javelin would. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells Mar 19 at 22:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ Not only is the javelin doing normal damage, but there is no modification to the to-hit roll. Compare this to shocking grasp (an electrical attack with a to-hit roll) where the attacker gets advantage if the target is wearing metal armor. \$\endgroup\$ – krb Mar 19 at 22:50
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I say it reaches your target as well but it is a miss and remains in the air until gravity takes hold dropping it up to 120 feet away or on the ground if blocked/wall/etc...

By 'reach' I would have to rule distance. ie: target is 20' away, you throw said weapon and say word, it travels 20' before turning back and starts to act as a normal weapon in flight. Since the description reads "When you hurl it and speak its Command Word" you're most likely changeling the distance and target to the weapon or we would be talking about how a object knows where/what your target is/at with out have int. I would see it as traveling at rate of throw to justify a saving throw imo is more scary then a flash and the 30/120 distance restriction as well as the uncommon rating or it would be a rare+.

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