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The description of the feign death spell (PHB, p. 240) says:

For the spell’s duration, or until you use an action to touch the target and dismiss the spell, the target appears dead to all outward inspection and to spells used to determine the target’s status.

To me, using detect magic on a corpse to see if it is still under a spell is actually using a spell to determine the target's status, since when a creature dies, all spell effects requiring concentration on it are ended — thus, using detect magic to determine whether the creature is still alive (under a magic spell effect) or not (an inanimate object, a corpse). So the feign death spell would effectively prevent the magical aura from being detected by the detect magic spell.

Am I incorrect in this determination?

RAW please, no opinions or interpretations.

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    \$\begingroup\$ If you want "RAW, no opinions or interpretations" then you can read the rules for yourself, and you've done that. Every possible answer to this question is an interpretation. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells Nov 5 '19 at 4:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @markwells Okay but you (hopefully) know what they meant. Literally everything requires interpretation, RAW is just a more specific way of interpretating \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Nov 5 '19 at 4:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ The tweet you've linked says that any concentration spells end when the caster dies, not the target. Which makes sense, because you can't concentrate on something when you're dead. \$\endgroup\$ – anaximander Nov 5 '19 at 13:38
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Yes, they register as magical

Firstly, you are wrong when you say all spell effects on a creature vanish when it dies. If you need proof then check out the finger of death spell.

Secondly, detect magic is designed to detect active magic. It isn't designed to detect a creature's status as alive or dead. As such, the clause in the feign death spell is irrelevant, and an aura of magic will be detected on the target creature.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Finger of death does not indicate that the zombie that rises after the creature is dead is magic in any sort of way. It will not produce a magical aura. A zombie is a zombie and unless stated in the spell description or rule, it it not a magical. Can you provide supporting evidence where you identified that finger of death keeps the corpse with a magical aura ? \$\endgroup\$ – KilrathiSly Nov 5 '19 at 7:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ can you provide a few example of what kind of spells are used to detect creature status, there does not seem to be that many.. It seems feign death is a pretty useless spells if it can be foiled that easily is it not ? \$\endgroup\$ – KilrathiSly Nov 5 '19 at 7:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KilrathiSly An enemy has to actively expend a lvl 1 spell to use Detect Magic. It is unlikely that many people go around Detect Magic'ing every single corpse they see. \$\endgroup\$ – user-024673 Nov 5 '19 at 7:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ @jgn: Note that detect magic is a ritual; spell slot expenditure is not always necessary, though it will take more time to cast in that case. (...Though I'm not sure if there are rules on whether monsters/NPCs can ritual-cast, in the absence of a Spellcasting feature that says they can.) \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Nov 5 '19 at 10:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KilrathiSly: if the existence of Feign Death causes your opponents to waste their time and spell slots casting Detect Magic on every corpse they pass, I wouldn't say it's useless. You don't even have to cast it for it to be useful, you just need your opponent to suspect you know it. And if it doesn't cause them to do that, then you can use Feign Death to sneak someone into their... um... mortuary? I think Feign Death just has the same limitation as any deception-type spell which is detectable with the "right" detection spell and not with the "wrong" one. \$\endgroup\$ – Steve Jessop Nov 5 '19 at 16:40
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The feign death target will appear magical

Detect magic says

you sense the presence of magic within 30 feet of you. If you sense magic in this way, you can use your action to see a faint aura around any visible creature or object in the area that bears magic, and you learn its school of magic, if any.

Detect magic would not directly tell you that the body is alive and under the effects of a feign death spell. Rather, it will only tell you that the body is under the effect of a necromancy spell or other magical effect of the school of necromancy. Detect magic works on both objects and creatures. Furthermore, the clause in feign death does not make any provision for concealing itself, only the status of the body. Because the information provided by detect magic is non-specific and does not directly tell you about whether the body is dead or alive, detect magic would function normally.

But what conclusions can be drawn when you detect necromancy magic on a body? That the body is under feign death is definitely one possibility. A greater possibility is that the body is an undead creature of some kind, or soon to be undead\$^1\$. It could also be under gentle repose, although gentle repose also requires a copper piece laid on each eye so that would be a clue. It could also be magic jar or astral projection, although the body is catatonic rather than dead in those cases so proper inspection would reveal the body to not be dead. Those are all the necromancy spells from D&DBeyond which you could find on a body. There could also be other magical effects, such as from special abilities or magic items or homebrew.

To summarise, if you detect necromancy on an apparently-dead body, the body can be alive (as per feign death), dead (as per gentle repose) or undead (as per danse macabre or assumptions about magic\$^1\$). Since all three are possible, detect magic does not definitively tell you the body is not dead, so feign death should not inhibit detect magic.

If you suspect that you need to fool detect magic, there are a few things you could do. You could place some copper coins over the target's eyes to make them appear to be under the effects of gentle repose - which definitely applies to corpses. Or you can use the False Aura option of Nystul's Magic Aura to hide the magic.

Weakness to detect magic aside, feign death has other uses. It can be used to suspend the effects of poison and disease. And not everyone has detect magic available or always active, so feign death is far from useless.


  1. The typical spells for creating undead, animate dead and create undead, have a duration of instantaneous. This means that, very strictly speaking, a creature created by animate dead should not show as magical under detect magic. It is still possible to get zombies which detect as magical using danse macabre, because it has a duration of 1 hour. Also, even if animate dead should not strictly trigger detect magic, most adventurers and NPCs would likely assume that a corpse radiating necromancy magic must be undead. Further, in real play, I have found it quite common that undead will detect as having an aura of necromancy regardless of minutiae in the definitions of what is 'magical'.
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