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The paralyzed condition has the clause that

Any attack that hits the creature is a critical hit if the attacker is within 5 feet of the creature.

Suppose I move a spiritual weapon (or Tentacle of the Deep or similar effect) to be right next to the target and whack the target with it.

When you cast the spell, you can make a melee spell attack against a creature within 5 feet of the weapon.

Is the spiritual weapon the "attacker" in this case, letting it deal critical damage, or do I need to move closer myself, since I'm the one making the attack?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I’ve closed this as a duplicate since this question is just a corollary of the question “who is the attacker?”, which you ask in the last sentence of your question here. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 16, 2023 at 12:54

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Spiritual Weapon text says:

you can make a melee spell attack against a creature within 5 feet of the weapon.

As a bonus action on your turn, you can move the weapon up to 20 feet and repeat the attack against a creature within 5 feet of it.

That pretty clearly shows, that you, that is, the caster, are the attacker. Not the weapon. Thus, it only automatically critically hits paralyzed creature if you are within 5ft of that creature.

If you need a narrative explanation, then the one I use is that if you cannot clearly see, from up close, where to hit for maximum damage, then you can't choose to hit there. It's your magic holding the sword, not your hand, but it's still you who is attacking and your eyes are used to target.


For similar spells, see who is making an attack. For example, if you would cast Animate Objects on a sword, then the sword would become a creature and then it would make attacks. Thus, it would qualify for auto-criticals without a caster nearby.

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RAW: No.

Effects like spiritual weapon or tentacle of the deep do not create a new creature. Both of these effects say that you make an attack against a target. These attacks will only crit if you are within 5 ft of the paralyzed creature.

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A strict reading of the rules tells us that the hit is not a critical one.

Since the "attacker" which the description of the condition refers to may be not so clear and it is not a game term, we should use the plain English for its definition: per Oxford's dictionary an attacker is

a person who attacks somebody

Looking at the spell description, it is clear that the attacker1 is the caster, and not the spiritual weapon (emphasis mine):

When you cast the spell, you can make a melee spell attack against a creature within 5 feet of the weapon.

Per the rules of the paralyzed condition if the caster is not within 5 ft. of the target the hit is not automatically a critical hit.

This could be explained by the fact that the paralysis has a little role in damage by ranged attacks: aiming to a paralyzed target with a bow is easier, but dealing more damage is not. On the other hand, when battling in close quarters, if the target is paralyzed is easier to hit them and it is easier to deal a stronger blow, even hitting with an arrow fired by a bow in critical spots (e.g., the head).

In the case of the Spiritual Weapon spell, since the caster can control it even by the distance, the caster (hence the attacker) could be distant, hence even if it is easier to hit it is not automatic to deal more damage.

A more loose interpretation suggests that the hit is a critical one.

A DM could rule that since the target of the attack is paralyzed, it is easier both to hit and to damage them, even if the caster is not within 5 ft.


1 This Q&A deepens in the topic. See also Does making an attack with a previously cast Spiritual Weapon spell cause the Invisibility spell to end? and Can a hidden character make an attack with the Spiritual Weapon spell and still remain hidden?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I could use some feedback on the DVs, since I really do not understand where this answer is wrong... \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    Commented May 16, 2023 at 12:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think the issue is that you've opened with a definition from Oxford, which is probably unnecessary. 5th edition has plenty of rules relating to what's an attack that it's not really necessary to introduce an outside source for this. I think you've come to the correct conclusion, but you reached it in a manner that's being perceived as erroneous. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 16, 2023 at 13:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm looking at the cited duplicate, the answers provided, and the consistent assertion that the term 'attacker' isn't defined. I think you should reference those lack of definition as a foundation to introduce your common definition. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 16, 2023 at 13:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Pyrotechnical Indeed, when searching for "literature" here in RPG.SE, I saw that answer that was arguing about the word "attacker" (wrongly, imho), hence I felt that I had to provide some common ground. I'll add some bit of explanation, if it is useful. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    Commented May 16, 2023 at 13:18

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