The Avatar of Death is an undead summoned by one of the bad cards in the Deck of Many Things.

It has the Reaping Scythe action as its only way to deal damage to other creatures, and it has no feature to make its attacks magical or silvered.

Reaping Scythe. The avatar sweeps its spectral scythe through a creature within 5 feet of it, dealing 7 (1d8 + 3) slashing damage plus 4 (1d8) necrotic damage.

If a Werewolf (which is immune to slashing damage from nonmagical, nonsilvered attacks) is targeted, does it take 11 damage or only the 4 necrotic?

Alternatively, if a Black Pudding (which is immune to slashing) is targeted, does it take 11 damage or only the 4 necrotic?


2 Answers 2


Now here is the funny thing, from the description of Reaping Scythe, it is NOT an attack. Nowhere in the description does it say that an attack is made, it is simply an ability that allows that Avatar of Death to deal damage to creatures within 5 feet of it. No attack roll is made, there is no chance for this to crit, it just happens.

So going by RAW, a Werewolf would take the full damage from Reaping Scythe since they are specifically immune to

"Bludgeoning, Piercing, and Slashing from Nonmagical Attacks that aren't Silvered"

Since no "Attack" (Note that its a capital 'A') was made its not immune to any of the damage

A black pudding on the other hand is a different case as they are specifically immune to -

Acid, Cold, Lightning, Slashing

There is no restriction of attacks here so going by RAW it would be immune to all of the slashing damage from Reaping Scythe. (Though it would still take the full necrotic damage since it has no immunity to that)


There is strong support for house-ruling that "spectral" implies "magical", based on how the word "spectral" is used in 5e

The accepted answer to this question about Spiritual Weapon states that there is "a decent argument for 'spectral' being equivalent to 'magical force'. However, that determination is up to each table."

Along those lines, the description of Reaping Scythe does not contain the words "magic" or "magical", but generally, effects described as "spectral" in 5e materials are magical. Among spells, here are some examples:

Armor of Agathys:

A protective magical force surrounds you, manifesting as a spectral frost...

Guardian of Faith:

A Large spectral guardian appears and hovers for the duration...

Spiritual Weapon:

You create a floating, spectral weapon within range...

Mage Hand

A spectral, floating hand appears at a point you choose...

Spirit Guardians

...If you are good or neutral, their spectral form appears angelic or fey (your choice).

And generally the word "spectral" doesn't appear to have non-magical application in the 5e sourcebooks. Which makes sense. For what mundane item could be spectral? Therefore, by examination of the meaning of "spectral" in 5e, I would house-rule that attacks or effects from spectral "objects" inherently are magical (it does not matter if we consider them to be attacks or just effects that do damage).

Further rationale for the rouse-rule would be to note that its widely accepted to infer "magical" from descriptions that don't contain the word, all the time. Note that spell descriptions often don't say the word "magic" to describe their effects -- we just take it that to say that a damage effect comes from a spell implies it is magical. In other words, we infer "magic" from the word "spell". The house-rule would be that, likewise, to say an attack is from a spectral instrument implies the same. We would infer "magic" from the word "spectral" because this is consistent with every other occurrence of the word "spectral" across 5e literature.

Besides spells, some class archetype features introduced in XGtE introduce "spectral" abilities that have effects it's hard to imagine not being magical, like passing between planes with the Horizon Walker's Spectral Defense or summoning spiritual warriors with the barbarian's Ancestral Protectors.

But again, none of these say literally that "what is spectral is magical", so you could call it a house-rule (that I would happily make at my table).

Based on this, the answers to your specific questions would be as follows:

  • The Werewolf would take the full 11 damage, since the spectral slashing is magical.

  • The Black Pudding has immunity to slashing damage, period (regardless whether magical or not -- if it was only immune to non-magical slashing damage, it would say so), so it takes only the 4 necrotic damage.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Just because something is produced by magic doesn't mean it deals magical damage. For instance, Conjure Animals creates animals through magic, yet those animals don't deal magical damage except when a different class feature says they do. And given that all the other examples deal non-BSP damage - and are directly produced by spells - I'm not sure they're a good precedent for the spectral scythe. \$\endgroup\$
    – Speedkat
    Commented Jan 23, 2020 at 6:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks -- after reflection on your comment, I think it does merit clarification that the crux of the issue (as I understand it) is that it is spectral -- not whether we call it an attack vs. just calling it "an effect" -- I have edited accordingly. (Animals that appear from Conjure Animals are just called creatures, never referred to as "spectral"). \$\endgroup\$
    – Valley Lad
    Commented Jan 23, 2020 at 6:38
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I'm still not sold on the word spectral being valuable here. Mostly because we do have specific game language to denote when BSP damage is magical in nature, as the Marilith has under its Magic Weapons header. And having that specific language consistently used in other cases makes it seem more likely that this would be clarified as magical (or at least say "Magic Reaping Scythe" in the action header), rather than relying on assumptions. \$\endgroup\$
    – Speedkat
    Commented Jan 23, 2020 at 7:00
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I hear you. But if this Reaping Scythe's damage is not magical, it would stand alone in all of 5e as the only spectral, damage-dealing item that somehow has its damage not be counted as a magical. I can't see how that assertion can be justified. \$\endgroup\$
    – Valley Lad
    Commented Jan 23, 2020 at 7:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ Even if we focus on a single word, the guideline is usually that an unclear phrase is resolved by using the standard English definition of the word, not inferring from a common usage in D&D 5e, and spectral does not mean magical. This answer would be strengthened if you could include any examples or an official ruling of spectral being paired with magical outside of a spell-- as written your argument seems to be that spectral means magical specifically because it is never explicitly defined that way. \$\endgroup\$
    – Upper_Case
    Commented Jan 23, 2020 at 21:35

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