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I was reading through the Dungeon Master's Guide and I came across a magic item, the vorpal sword. The description states that it is a magic weapon. If I am not wrong, magic weapons bypass resistances and immunities against damage types, but in the description it also states it ignores resistance to slashing damage. Am I missing some point?

Why would the Dungeon Master's Guide specifically state that the vorpal sword ignores resistance to slashing damage?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The source of this confusion is likely a carryover from previous editions. In 3.5 and earlier (unsure of 4th), a magic weapon specifically overcame immunities to damage type (slashing, piecing, bludgeoning) and weapon material (silver, cold iron). A lowly +1 weapon generally trumped immunities. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 31 at 15:39
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Magic weapons do not automatically bypass anything

There is no general rule for magic weapons and resistances or immunities. It is hard to prove a negative, but you can look in the DMG at page 140 for the general description of magic weapons.

What is at play here is that many creatures have a resistance (and sometimes immunity) specifically to nonmagical attacks. This is explicitly stated in their stat block however, and there are cases that are just resistant to a damage type overall, magic or not (eg. swarms, starting on MM 337, or raging barbarians).

Thus the additional ability of the vorpal sword is not superfluous, as it makes the weapon more effective against creatures that have resistance against slashing damage from all sources.

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Weapons have to bypass specific resistances that the creature has.

The Vorpal Sword is a magic weapon that ignores resistance to slashing damage.

Weapon (any sword that deals slashing damage), legendary (requires attunement)
You gain a +3 bonus to attack and damage rolls made with this magic weapon. In addition, the weapon ignores resistance to slashing damage.

You have to surpass the specific resistances to damage (see MM 8 Vulnerabilities, Resistances and Immunities), not all magic weapons ignore resistance to slashing damage.

Take for instance the Demilich (MM 48) that has the

Damage Resistances bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from magic weapons

The Vorpal Sword ignores that resistance to slashing damage.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @Slagmoth do you mean "Damage Resistances/Immunities. Throughout the book, instances of “nonmagical weapons” in Damage Resistances/Immunities entries have been replaced with “nonmagical attacks.”? The Demilich still reads "Damage Resistances Bludgeoning, Piercing, and Slashing from Magic Weapons" \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Mar 8 '20 at 15:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, sorry, only ever used a Demilich once back in 1st edition... didn't catch the specific reference. \$\endgroup\$
    – Slagmoth
    Mar 8 '20 at 18:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Slagmoth thanks for mentioning anyway, it is always good to see people remind others of errata :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Mar 8 '20 at 18:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ Whether something says "to damage from nonmagical weapons" "to damage from nonmagical attacks" or "to nonmagical attacks and damage" (which includes fall damage) is all over the place. I really wish the errata fixed every instance of any of the phrases but now we've got all three floating around the various books :( \$\endgroup\$
    – Medix2
    Mar 9 '20 at 17:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 that would be a nice treat. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Mar 9 '20 at 18:40

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