According to the fifth edition spell text, Wall of Force

[...] can't be dispelled by dispel magic.

Is there an in-world reason why this is the case (for any D&D setting)? Why can Wall of Force and Forcecage, almost uniquely among all spells, not be broken by Dispel Magic?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think this question has to do with game balance in regards to the designers' intent, and cannot be easily answered accurately - other than saying "Spells do what they say they can do." Meaning - everything given will be conjecture and opinion. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 6, 2021 at 7:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PlayPatrice the question asks for an in-universe reason, not a gameplay one, so it's not designer-intent. (It's entirely possible that there has never been any published in-universe explanation for the unusual interaction of the spells, but that doesn't make the question invalid - it just means the right answer would be "noone knows".) \$\endgroup\$
    – Carcer
    Apr 6, 2021 at 7:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ Okay, fair enough, it will be interesting to see where this goes. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 6, 2021 at 7:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AlexanderBetts just FYI, there is another spell which is (mostly) impervious to dispel magic - a prismatic wall's first 6 layers are also immune to being dispelled in this way, and must be dealt with before the last violet layer can be dispelled. You may also be interested to know that the resilience of prismatic wall/sphere and wall of force against dispel magic goes all the way back to 1st edition AD&D (though as far as I can tell a lore justification for this resilience is not given in the 1e PHB where it describes the spells). \$\endgroup\$
    – Carcer
    Apr 6, 2021 at 7:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ Oh, and also antimagic field (known in 1e as anti-magic shell), though in that case the fact that it is unaffected by dispel magic doesn't seem like it requires any explanation. \$\endgroup\$
    – Carcer
    Apr 6, 2021 at 7:46

1 Answer 1


The answer is because of the varied and long history of magical force. Prior editions treated anything that was created with magical force uniquely, and there are still elements of that in 5e.

I'd put it at a stub rule or a rule by convention. It's something that the rules often strongly imply but never explicitly state as a literal general rule. In general, it's because "it's always been that way" and "similar effects work this way" and "if the game world is consistent with itself, it should work this way".

The convention or stub rule was probably closest to an actual rule in 3e, when the [Force] descriptor tag was applied to spells. If you read spell descriptions, item descriptions, and monster descriptions from prior editions, you'll find a consistent theme with magical force. Over time you'll begin to read between the lines and understand what magical force is supposed to be: It explicitly extends into the Ethereal plane, affects incorporeal beings as though they were physical, and force constructs are often so potent that you can't dispel them without a higher level spell. That's why disintegrate works, although, in some editions disintegrate is also a force effect so it may simply be a greater force.

5e continues some of this convention of force effects, probably because the spell descriptions were just copied over and then changed where they had to be.

Unfortunately, the only way to actually know these conventions is to read and play many editions and modules and encounter many force effects. And because it's just convention, not all tables will play that way and they may chose to play strict, literal RAW. It depends on if the goal of your table is to have the rules be consistent, or the game world be consistent. In my experience, the longer a group has played D&D, the longer they notice these unwritten rules and the more likely they are to follow them as unwritten conventions.

There are similar conventions that some tables carry on with, such as the border ethereal versus the deep ethereal, or psionics sometimes being is different than magic, or demons not having a fixed appearance, and so on. There are some very noodley things in the game that are echoes of historic rules that no longer exist or were just historic conventions where things are themed relatively consistently.

There are other examples where natural convention can intrude. For example, fireball, fire bolt, and fire storm explicitly note that they ignite flammable objects. However, wall of fire doesn't note that. Does that mean it doesn't? You could play strict RAW and "it only does what it says it does", but at the same time... fire is fire. Fire ignites things by convention. How about if we have an ability that lets us change fire damage on spells to cold damage. Those exist in UA content if nowhere else. Does a cold fireball still ignite objects? That's where we come back to the "if the game world is consistent with itself, it should work this way" and you have to pick between game world consistency and literal rules interpretation.

  • \$\begingroup\$ You seem to be making some assumptions in your analysis here. I think references for the specific descriptors/definitions you cover in previous editions would help, but anything that you have to extrapolate from or find reasons for. This isn't an easy question to answer, but answers should be clear in where they get their information from. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Apr 7, 2021 at 19:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Fire ignites things by convention. How about if we have an ability that lets us change fire damage on spells to cold damage. Those exist in UA content if nowhere else." TCoE officially adds the Transmuted Spell metamagic option: "When you cast a spell that deals a type of damage from the following list, you can spend 1 sorcery point to change that damage type to one of the other listed types: acid, cold, fire, lightning, poison, thunder." \$\endgroup\$
    – gto
    Apr 7, 2021 at 20:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @gto Thanks, I couldn't remember if that made it out of the UA or not. \$\endgroup\$
    – Bacon Bits
    Apr 7, 2021 at 21:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is little more than a "Spells do what they say they can do," And "Use common sense when playing the game" type answer I noted we would get when this question was first posited. It does not address the in world lore the question is specifically asking for. - To illustrate what I mean, you have dedicated nearly half your answer to explaining fireball and disintegrate, and amorphous cosmic metaphysics and not wall of force. Well written, but does not address the issue at hand. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 8, 2021 at 19:25

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