Another player in my party got a nice magical weapon called the Rapier of Life Stealing but we are not sure if it does magical damage. It is not a +1 weapon but does crazy things if he crits and he had to attune to it. So my question is does he do magical damage?


2 Answers 2


Our first step in clarifying the workings here is switching the concept the right way round. Magical damage isn't generally speaking a thing in the rules. What you run into is magical or non-magical attacks. That's what monsters will have resistance or immunity to. And a magical attack is:

a magical attack is an attack delivered by a spell, a magic item, or another magical source

Monster Manual, p. 8

Make note of errata, as the resistance type was reworked from referring to magical weapons, which admittedly would be even clearer here.

So now the only remaining question is whether the sword is magical, which is it is. All magical weapons are magical weapons (welcome to tautology club), even if doesn't give +1 to attack and damage roll. That's just one property/effect magic weapons can have. See also from the SAC: Do magic weapons give you a bonus to attack and damage rolls?

Every magic weapon can bypass resistances and immunities to damage from nonmagical attacks, but only certain magic weapons are more accurate and damaging than their nonmagical counterparts. For example, a +1 longsword and a giant slayer both give you a +1 bonus to attack rolls and damage rolls, whereas neither a flame tongue nor a frost brand provides such a bonus. All four weapons, however, can bypass an earth elemental’s resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage from nonmagical attacks.

† There is occasionally a distinction; which is to say there are features which actually refer to "magical damage"; however this is never properly defined by the game. Most of these are player facing rules, eg. spells (and magic items). See Is there a distinction between magical damage and nonmagical damage? for more details. Monsters' resistances doesn't (generally) use this though, and I'd assume that's what your friend will be stabbing with their life stealer more often than not.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The armor of invulnerability straight up uses the phrase “nonmagical damage”. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 30, 2021 at 9:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov Cheers, Imma put that in a footnote. I assume we have a question on the matter? \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Aug 30, 2021 at 9:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ I mentioned it in my answer here, not sure if we have a proper vocabulary question though. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 30, 2021 at 9:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ The Potion of Aqueous Form, and the Stoneskin spell also mention "nonmagical damage", as the section Damage Resistance and Vulnerability, like Thomas said in the linked answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    Aug 30, 2021 at 9:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ It is interesting that only one damage type is always considered to be described as magical and that is force... it is explicitly indicated in its description. \$\endgroup\$
    – Slagmoth
    Aug 30, 2021 at 13:03

The description of this item says (emphasis mine):

When you attack a creature with this magic weapon and roll a 20 on the attack roll, that target takes an extra 10 necrotic damage if it isn't a construct or an undead. You also gain 10 temporary hit points.

Following the SAC ruling about deciding if something is magical, we can say that the Rapier of Life Stealing is magical, because:

  • It is a magic item.
  • Its description clearly states that it is magical.

The damage dealt by this weapon is magic, so for example creatures having resistance to non magical damage suffer from the entire damage done by an attack with this rapier.


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