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A +3 arrow loses its magical property once it hits a target, but the description on the Arcane Archer fighter's Piercing Arrow (XGtE, p. 29) says that the target takes damage as if it was hit by the arrow.

Does that mean that if an Arcane Archer uses Piercing Arrow with a +3 arrow and hits multiple targets with it, the arrow doesn't stop being +3 after the first target?

And if it doesn't lose its magic, is it the same with arrows of slaying?

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All creatures take the same [base] damage

5th Edition D&D doesn't stipulate that there's an "order" to which creatures get hit first by Area-of-Effect effects, and the effect of the Piercing Arrow Shot is to turn an arrow into an area-of-effect.

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.
The piercing damage increases to 2d6 when you reach 18th level in this class.

Arcane Archer, Xanathar's Guide to Everything, pg. 29

So while some DMs might interpret this to logically mean "it hits the first target in the line, then the creature behind them, then the creature behind them, ...", the rules don't expressly say that this is how it is meant to work, and in most other terms (things like Saving Throws, etc.) the damage is occurring simultaneously against all targets.

So by my reading of the rules [and their absence of any clarifying information in relation to this question], if the damage occurs simultaneously for all creatures, then that also means the arrow must "hit" all creatures simultaneously as well. So because no one creature is hit before any other, all of them must take the bonus damage associated with the arrow, if it applies to them (like in the Arrow of Slaying example).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Actually, the arrow doesn't "hit" any of the creatures per the description, it just deals damage as if it hit the creatures. So RAW it's kind of questionable if the +3 or slaying arrow loses its magic at all (aside from the fact that the arrow disappears in the end anyway). \$\endgroup\$ – Cubic Jul 17 at 16:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Cubic Well, "as-if it hit" has to imply, mechanically, that all effects triggered by a creature being hit by the arrow have to go off. It has to be symmetrical in that regard: we can't choose to be hit by the extra damage on the arrow but then insist that the "this arrow becomes normal once it hits something" part doesn't apply. \$\endgroup\$ – Xirema Jul 17 at 16:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Cubic I think you'll find that that very much depends on the specific arrow, actually. For example, +3 Ammunition definitely says "when the arrow hits a target", not "when the arrow deals damage". The wording is not perfectly consistent from item to item. \$\endgroup\$ – Xirema Jul 17 at 17:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Cubic Do you have a reliable source in front of you? Mine definitely does not have them worded the same: mine reads "Once an arrow of slaying deals its extra damage to a creature, it becomes a nonmagical arrow." (Arrow of Slaying, DMG 152) and "Once it hits a target, the ammunition is no longer magical." (Ammunition +3, DMG 150). The former does not mention hitting a target, it only mentions dealing damage; the latter does not mention dealing damage, only hitting a target. \$\endgroup\$ – Xirema Jul 17 at 18:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ @RapidRabid Narratively, sure—but mechanically, it's not possible to sequence events in-between the damage taken by a creature in front and a creature in back. So as far as the game is concerned, those two damage sources must be simultaneous. \$\endgroup\$ – Xirema Jul 17 at 20:00

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