Similar to How do I know if an ability is magical? But because of the context in which I am asking, I believe this is not a duplicate question. I am not wondering what things are magical, but what effects from magical things are magical effects. This issue comes up in several areas, I am particularly having difficulty discerning what constitutes for 'magical light' for the purpose of the darkness spell. Is, for example the light from the light cantrip or continual flame 'magical' light? (Disclosure, I am aware that darkness would dispel light or a level 2 continual flame). I can find tens of answers to threads that make an assumption that the effects are magical because it originates from a magic item, as well as the contrary, answers made assuming effects from magic items aren't necessarily magical effects; I have even found tweets from JC that assume one thing at one time, then the opposite at another time. Unfortunately, none of these threads directly answer when the effect is magical or not! They run on the assumption that a specific effect is magical, or the assumption that a specific effect is not. So when is an effect from a magical source a magical effect? I think if this question can be answered it would provide closure for a lot of the conflicting answers I am finding.

I also do not think this question is what is asked in threads like What is considered magical light for the purposes of the Darkness spell?, Does light from a flame from a magic weapon dispel Darkness?, or Does Lightbringer illuminate or dispel the Darkness spell?.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Im unclear as to how this isn't a duplicate of the first question you link to. It seems like it's asking the same thing. The difference between a magical effect and something magical seems negligible. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Dec 17, 2019 at 0:38
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @medix2 I don't think focusing on the tweets is helpful. If there are contradicting sage advice answers, that'd be interesting to focus a question on. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Dec 17, 2019 at 0:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch You're right, now that I am looking at it, I'm having difficulty seeing how it is a different question from the first question I linked. Mark it as duplicate then? I didn't like the context of the first question because it was tunneled in to character abilities. What I was wondering was more along the lines of specifically picking apart the SA on what makes something magic. Is it a magic item? yes, but the magic item's property isn't a magic item. Is it a spell? yes, but does that mean a spell's effect is a spell? When is the effect pertaining to something magical, magical? \$\endgroup\$
    – Dezvul
    Dec 17, 2019 at 1:13
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ For what reason does this matter? \$\endgroup\$
    – Mark Wells
    Dec 17, 2019 at 1:17
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ I'm unsure how the three following questions are particularly different from your question here, but if you feel something is missing from them, we can help you flesh out the best way to express what's missing: "What is considered magical light for the purposes of the Darkness spell?", "How do I know if an ability is magical?, and "How to decide if an effect is magical for Magic Resistance?. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 17, 2019 at 1:24

3 Answers 3


What makes something 'magic' (official rulings)

The sage advice compendium gives a way of determining if something is magical under 'Is the breath weapon of a dragon magical?'

Determining whether a game feature is magical is straightforward. Ask yourself these questions about the feature:

• Is it a magic item?

• Is it a spell? Or does it let you create the effects of a spell that’s mentioned in its description?

• Is it a spell attack?

• Does its description say it’s magical?

• Is it fueled by the use of spell slots?

If your answer to any of those questions is yes, the feature is magical.

That said lets point out a few things, If you have a magic item (lightbringer) that produces light, the light itself, is not a magic item, it doesn't specify that it is a spell and is not a spell attack, and the description of the light doesn't say it is magical, it is not fueled by the use of spell slots either. Given this the official ruling is that this effect is indeed not magical. Likewise, one may ask: The cantrip light causes an item to glow. Is the light (effect) caused by the spell a spell? Actually I did find evidence that suggests it is: What is a spell?, The section suggests that a spell is a discreet magical effect.

Genetic Fallacies

A genetic fallacy is when an argument or claim is dismissed or affirmed because of its origin or history. To say the effect is magical (claim) because it comes from a magic source (origin) is a genetic fallacy: affirming a claim because of its origin.

This fallacy might be avoided simply by the definition of magical. If the definition of magical were 'related to magic regardless of whether magic itself a component,' or 'created by magic regardless of whether magic itself is a component,' then there is no fallacy in the argument from the paragraph above. This would be technically strange though. It would implicate that magical light doesn't have magic as a component and thus has no magic in it, it was merely created from a different source than normal light. We don't have an example of natures laws behaving differently based on origin in the real world.

JC's interpretation of RAW

As an answer pointed out in the 'does lightbringer illuminate...' thread that I posted, Jeremy has made two tweets: tweet 1 tweet 2

Light from any magical source can illuminate the area of a darkness spell, but the darkness spell can dispel light created by a spell of 2nd level or lower, not light created by a non-spell.

If a source of magical light is not a spell of 2nd level or lower, darkness can be illuminated by that light.

This conflicts with the official rulings: The compendium is a list of official rulings. Note that it was pointed out to me that being an official ruling does not mean RAW.

Thought experiment (an implication)

From the official rulings, it appears that rarely an effect from something magical is a magical effect. A funny implication if this weren't the case is as follows: A level 1 feature from the artificer 'magical tinkering' can illuminate maddening darkness, a spell that can't be illuminated by another spell 8th level and under.


From the 'official rulings' of the SA compendium, effects from magic items aren't magical effects unless the description of the effect explicitly says that it is magical. A spell effect constitutes what the spell is, and therefore spell effects are magical. This is the official ruling, but as said, official rulings aren't necessarily RAW. Official rulings exist because of the need to interpret what RAW leaves vague. JC's interpretation runs contrary to the official rulings in the SA compendium, this might suggest that the official ruling in this scenario runs contrary to RAI.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ And hilariously, J.Crawford is the author of the SA compendium, so he runs contrary to himself. 8^D \$\endgroup\$ Dec 19, 2019 at 17:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ That is the nature of a fallacy, which is a 'failure in reasoning, leading to an unsound argument.' The one making a fallacy, if not intentional, is failing in their reasoning. They don't see that their logic is failing. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dezvul
    Dec 19, 2019 at 19:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ An important note to make: to say 'an effect is magical because its source is magical' is a fallacy, they are giving the reason for the for the effect being magical based on a faulty reasoning. Whereas to say 'effects from magical sources are magical effects' is not a fallacy, they are stating a claim rather than reasoning why the effect is magical. The claim might not be free of fallacy though, if the claim is made from the aforementioned logic it is fallacious. JC doesn't avoid fallacy because he defined when something is 'magical' then made a ruling against his previously made definition. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dezvul
    Dec 19, 2019 at 20:23

Whether something is a magical effect follows the rules of standard English

Below is a direct quote from Dale M's answer to the following question:

Non-magical light is light from a non-magical source: torches, lanterns, a bonfire, lava, the sun (assuming a physics basis for the sun in your world) etc. None of these penetrate the darkness.

Magical light is light from a magical source: spells, class powers that are magical in nature, magic items etc. The corollary of non-magical light not illuminating the darkness is that magical light does.

I believe this adequately covers when an effect is magical, by simply replacing "light" with "effects" (you get what I mean). This is shown because fifth edition uses a standard English reading when something is not rules-defined, and these are the standard ways to read "magical light" and "non-magical light".

A spell is magical, thus anything (including light) made by a spell is magical. For example, create bonfire creates fire, which thus is magical, and the bonfire might create light; if it does, then the light would be magical as it is also coming from a magical source (the fire).

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 17, 2019 at 1:56

Any effect created by magic is magical

By RAW, this is a case of normal English. "Magical" is an adjective, a magical effect is an effect created by magic. A good rule of thumb is to ask if the spell is making the effect itself, or effect is a byproduct.

An example of magical light is the Light cantrip. The spell explicitly creates light.

An example of non-magical light is the Create Bonfire spell. The spell creates a bonfire, the bonfire is magical, but the light it makes is non-magical.

To address your links: Flame Tongue explicitly says it creates light, so that light is magical. A regular flaming weapon creates fire, the fire creates non-magical light. Lightbringer explicitly says it creates light, so that light is magical.

I would advise you to ignore JC's tweets unless absolutely necessary. They are often contradictory or offer more questions than answers.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 17, 2019 at 1:56

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .