We were playing a game, and I had cast Detect Magic to more easily find which coffins to loot. Within the 10 minutes, our party was attacked by an Invisible Stalker. I used my action to try to see the invisible attacker, and the DM allowed him to be shown by an outline. I could yell out to my party to attack him and follow him wherever he ran.

The description of the Detect Magic spell (PHB 231) says:

For the duration, 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.

The description of the Invisible Stalker (MM 192) says:

When it is defeated or the magic that binds it expires [...]

And also:

[...] the magic that created the invisible stalker ends and the elemental is released.

This implies that the stalker is actively bound by magic. I think this was a good call on his part because of the nature of the Invisible Stalker.

If an invisible creature, other than the Invisible Stalker, was considered, would Detect Magic still show an outline around it?

  • \$\begingroup\$ If this is just about Invisible Stalkers, can we update the title? I have a feeling it may different for other methods of becoming invisible. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Nov 20 '19 at 18:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ It was more about all invisible creatures. Well answered by @Mwr247 even given my erroneous conclusions in the question itself! \$\endgroup\$ – Kieveli Nov 20 '19 at 19:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ As a note: invisibility is only effective against sight. You can still detect the invisible stalker by sound or other senses, so it was unnecessary of you to attempt to use detect magic. You, and your party, should already be aware of the invisible stalker and its location even if you can't see it. \$\endgroup\$ – user-024673 Nov 20 '19 at 22:59


From the description you included of Detect Magic:

...you can use your action to see a faint aura around any visible creature or object in the area that bears magic...

The Invisible Stalker is not a visible creature, and therefore not qualified to be outlined by the spell.

Relatedly, you would also not be able to sense the presence of its invisibility by using the spell, since the invisibility is a feature of the creature, and not defined as magical:

Invisibility. The stalker is invisible.

Sensing the other magical aspects of the creature, such as those related to its creation/summoning/binding might be possible, but that would be up to the DM and their interpretation of the creature's origin.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I love how "Invisible Stalker" has the property "Invisibility" which has the explanation "The stalker is invisible". It reminds me of some function explanations I've seen in some source codes, i.e. a function named convertStringToUTF8 has an explanation "converts string to UTF8." :D \$\endgroup\$ – John Hamilton Nov 21 '19 at 6:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ well, that is what it does. you know, it is what it is \$\endgroup\$ – mcy Nov 21 '19 at 7:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ This sentence describes itself. :) On a more serious note, as DM I would allow Detect Magic to sense an Invisible Stalker, though not to see its aura (since it is strictly not visible as per Detect Magic). Though it is not described explicitly as a magical effect, I think it's a greater stretch to imagine that it is not magic making the Invisible stalker invisible, than that it is. Whether the magical effect is innate or conferred is not relevant. This is a case where intuition trumps strict, literal interpretation for me. \$\endgroup\$ – Steverino Nov 21 '19 at 19:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Steverino You should keep in mind that "magical" in D&D terms isn't the same as what we would consider magical in common parlance. For example, a dragon's breath weapon is not considered magical. D&D draws a distinction between the background magic present in the D&D universe and concentrated magic used to create effects. The Sage Advice Compendium has criteria for what qualifies as magical, and the Invisible Stalker's invisibility doesn't meet those criteria. \$\endgroup\$ – Ettina Kitten Mar 14 at 11:15

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