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In Adventurers League play, it is possible to find a "Shadowneedle" (Unbreakable arrow from module CCC-KUMORI-02-04), which has this special text :

One of twenty unbreakable arrows crafted with Shadowsong [A flavored Oathbow from DDEX03-07 that could be found in Adventurers League play in the past, and is still tradeable today], when this arrow is nocked onto the Oathbow and leveled at an opponent, a gentle hum fills the wielder's mind, steadying their hand and steeling their focus (this feature has no mechanical effect). When [the Shadowneedle is] fired from Shadowsong, the wielder may say the words "Needles, return to your thread" to make this arrow (and any other in its set loosed from the wielder's hand) reappear in the wielder's quiver.

However, ammunition are generally considered as Consumables according to the AL FAQ :

Consumable magic items. Scrolls, potions, soul coins [...] and magical ammunition.

And the Dungeon Master's Guide has a section on such items :

Some items are used up when they are activated. A potion or an elixir must be swallowed, or an oil applied to the body. The writing vanishes from a scroll when it is read. Once used, a consumable item loses its magic.

Does that mean that a Shadowneedle, even when shot from Shadowsong, loses its magical properties and thus won't fly back when the words are spoken ? Or am I (hopefully) missing something, making the "reappearing" property of the Shadowneedle function properly in AL play ?

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There is no general rule for how ammunition loses its magic

While true that (at least most) magical ammunition is consumable in the sense that it loses its magic after some amount of use, the actual conditions for which this is done depends on the specific magic item description. A few examples:

  • +X Ammunition:

    Once it hits a target, the ammunition is no longer magical.

  • Arrow of Slaying:

    Once an arrow of slaying deals its extra damage to a creature, it becomes a nonmagical arrow.

    Notably, if the arrow is of a specific type (such as Dragons) it only looses its magic once it has hit a dragon and that dragon has failed the required saving throw, but it can hit (and hurt as a normal magical arrow) any number of other creatures prior to that point.

If the description of Shadowneedles does not include a clause (the base unbreakable arrow does not) for it to lose its magic, it doesn't.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Also a possible consideration: specific beats general. Even if an arrow is consumable, and a Shadowneedle is therefore a consumable magic item, the text of the item description clearly breaks from (and so supersedes) that general rule. \$\endgroup\$ – Upper_Case Nov 21 '19 at 19:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Upper_Case-StopHarmingMonica Please find me that general rule it could make an exception from, and possibly ask NautArch to undelete their answer if you do. \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Nov 21 '19 at 19:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm referring to the second quote offered in the OP, which is from the Basic Rules document in Chapter 14, under the Activating an Item heading and the Consumables subheading. But my point is, more generally, that even if there is a general rule as the OP describes the text for Shadowneedle would clearly be a specific rule which overrides it. The question is directly, definitively answerable even if we grant all of the OP's assumptions on face. \$\endgroup\$ – Upper_Case Nov 21 '19 at 20:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @someone_evil I added the ALFAQ quote. Does it change anything to your question ? (Hopefully not!) \$\endgroup\$ – Gael L Nov 22 '19 at 12:53

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