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In my campaign we have a 6th level monk. She has:

Ki-Empowered Strikes

Starting at 6th level, your unarmed strikes count as magical for the purpose of overcoming resistance and immunity to nonmagical attacks and damage.

The party is fighting a homebrew boss, a Mage Eater, who is immune to damage from magical weapons:

Damage Immunities. Bludgeoning, piercing and slashing damage from magical weapons.

Damage Resistances. Bludgeoning, piercing and slashing damage from nonmagical weapons, damage from spells.

Does this mean the monk would have no way of dealing damage to it with her Unarmed Strikes? Or can she decide to make nonmagical attacks while attacking with her body?


Some notes:

  • She would be able to deal nonmagical damage with one of her nonmagical weapons.
  • This question is not about whether this homebrew monster is balanced or not.
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Ki-Empowered Strikes aren't magical attacks to begin with!

Ki-Empowered Strikes state this explicitly:

your unarmed strikes count as magical for the purpose of overcoming resistance and immunity to nonmagical attacks and damage

This ability makes the monk's unarmed attacks count as magical only for the explicit purpose of overcoming resistance or immunity to nonmagical attacks and damage. They're not magical attacks as defined by the Monster Manual ("a magical attack is an attack delivered by a spell, a magic item, or another magical source"), and they don't count as magical for any other purpose, such as when considering resistance or immunity to magical attacks and damage, like your monster has. The damage the monk does with their unarmed strike is still mundane bludgeoning damage at the end of the day, it just has this special property that allows it to hurt creatures that would normally be resistant or immune to such things.

Though your monster is immune to damage from magic weapons, that affords it no protection against the blows of a 6th-level monk. In fact, as your monster is both resistant to attacks from nonmagical weapons and separately immune to attacks from magical weapons, as written your player's monk would be able to deal it full damage despite its combination of resistances and immunities, as her strikes will overcome the nonmagical resistance yet do not interact with the magical immunity.

For balance purposes, you may wish to rule (and I probably would rule) that the actual result is that the creature ends up with resistance to the monk's attacks, as if the monk gets to choose the most favourable option between her attacks being considered magical or not; or you could rewrite the monster to be resistant to all physical damage and additionally immune to physical damage from magic weapons, so as to overlap and prevent the monk accidentally loopholing around them.

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    \$\begingroup\$ When you mentioned the resistance to magical damage, I thought of the Demilich. Then I noticed that the demilich is resistant to bludgeoning/piercing/slashing from magic weapons. "Magic weapons" is more specific than magical sources of damage though, and unarmed strikes don't count as weapons so it side-steps this anyway. But I thought I'd bring it up anyway. It is interesting that a monk's unarmed strikes bypass the demilich's resistance on account of not being magic weapons (especially since most magic weapons have the same 'for the purpose of'... clause). \$\endgroup\$ – BBeast Apr 13 at 11:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BBeast glancing through the items on D&D Beyond, it looks like the weapons mostly just say something along the lines of "this is a magic weapon"; are there any you can specifically point that have that "counts as" wording instead? (I do notice the special case that nonmagical ammunition fired from a magical weapon "counts as" magical for overcoming resistance/immunity, which I think as written would interact with the Demilich's resistance/immunities in the same way as the monk attacks.) \$\endgroup\$ – Carcer Apr 13 at 12:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah, you're right, I was remembering wrong. I thought things like +1 weapons had that clause, but checking it again I realise I remembered incorrectly. \$\endgroup\$ – BBeast Apr 14 at 7:41

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