I would like clarification on some points, if possible with rule sources, regarding Magic Dead Zones (and, maybe, Anti-Magic Fields):

  • Do potions work at all? In an MDZ, there is no conduit for magical Energy. It's clear to me that a potion is used up, but what about the (clearly magical) effect? as I do it now: potions work.
  • It is clear to me that if the weave is not existent, wands/dorjes¹ won't work. Do they still lose charges? I am tempted to have these things ignore/"miss" their triggers altogether
  • In an AMF, incorporeal undead cannot exist (winking out). Does that work the same way in MDZ? I am doing the same as for AMF: Incorporeal undead do not work
  • What about corporeal undead, animated by magic? These "work" (read: continue to be animated) inside AMF; what about MDZ? I also let corporeal undead work along with any (Ex) they might have

¹psionics-is-magic rule is in effect in my games.

I do have my own adjudications of the matter, but I am asking for rules backup (possibly with sources).

As for the system question: I am using 3.5 and Pathfinder (a mix) with PF taking precedence wherever it contradicts 3.5 rules (I might consider other options). The setting I run is Forgotten Realms, which might carry yet another different set of rules. All rulings in there for these things are of interest.

Edit: clarified title.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Wish I could give you points for you username \$\endgroup\$ – Joshua Aslan Smith Apr 25 '13 at 18:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've deleted the extensive comment warring. Contribute your answer, live with it - arguing your points on someone else's answer is bad form. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Apr 26 '13 at 21:25

This will be based mainly on Pathfinder, as this is the system I play in. Adjust for your own rules. Note that for a lot of your questions, there is no very specific RAW answer (this is often the case with Antimagic Fields). I indicated all the RAW points and the most probable/logical result, but in the end there is still a lot of room for DM interpretation.

First, let's mention that technically, DMZ are AMF for all purposes. There is one big exception that I will mention below, though. Now, on to your questions.

Do potions work at all? In an DMZ, there is no conduit for magical Energy. It's clear to me that a potion is used up, but what about the (clearly magical) effect?

This is a tricky one. You can find a discussion about it here. Remember that potions are "a magic liquid" that "duplicates the effect of a spell". There seems to be 4 possible situations, based on the effect duration (instant, not instant) and where you drank it (outside or inside the zone).

  • Drunk outside: no issue for an instant effect, as the effect has been applied already.
  • Non-instant effect, drunk outside: the effect is suppressed, but not dispelled. Time spent inside the zone count against the duration.
  • Non-instant effect, drunk inside: logic would seem to dictate that as for a spell, the effect is suppressed, but not dispelled, and time spent in the zone counts against the duration. So a character using a fly potion would not start flying, unless he got outside the zone before the duration expires.
  • Instant effect, drunk inside: if we follow the same logic as the previous point, the potion wouldn't work when drunk, and since the duration ends immediately, would have no effect when outside the zone either.

It is clear to me that if the weave is not existent, wands/dorjes won't work. Do they still lose charges?

Grab a pencil next to you, and yell "Fireball!". Chances are, nothing happened (if it did, I am really sorry).

Normal items don't recognize triggers, this is a function of magic items only. Since a wand in an AMF is just a piece of wood, it has no ability to recognize the triggers. The magic triggers and even the magic charges don't exist while in the field.

Again, this is subject to DM interpretation, as you can cast spells inside AMF.

In an AMF, incorporeal undead cannot exist (winking out). Does that work the same way in DMZ?

That's very interesting and I never realized it before. I mainly use the SRDs (d20pfsrd and Paizo's), which both say:

Summoned creatures of any type wink out if they enter an antimagic field.

No mention about Incorporeal. Searching around, I finally went to get my Pathfinder Core book, which reads:

Summoned creatures of any type and incorporeal undead wink out if they enter an antimagic field.

As you said in a comment below, this seems to result from an errata, and the correct version does not include Incorporeal undead winking out.

However. Incorporeal undead live in the Ethereal Plane. Affecting the Material Plane is done through (Su) abilities, and seem to be definitely magic by nature. So we can assume than in a DMZ as in an AMF, Incorporeal Undead are stuck in the Ethereal Plane with no way to affect the Material Plane.

What about corporeal undead, animated by magic? These "work" (read: continue to be animated) inside AMF; what about DMZ?

As you said, it works in an AMF, and a DMZ works similarly to an AMF, with a non-negligeable exception that I will mention soon. However, instead of just saying "Undeads work in an AMF, DMZ are AMF, undeads work in DMZ", let's check the logic behind.

Animating dead is an instant effect, not a long duration one. Therefore, once animated, the Undead are not magical. They cannot be dispelled, the same way that you can't dispel a Cure Light Wounds spell after it has been applied. So since their being animated is not a magical effect, it does not need the presence of magic.

The other reason is a balance one. AMF is not intended to destroy creatures. It can hinder them, but not kill them. That's why it has no effect on golems or outsiders either.

Finally, note that controlling undead is in some cases a sustained magical effect. So while being animated is not affected by an AMF or a DMZ, being controlled can be. This can lead to... interesting situations.

The one difference between Antimagic Fields and Dead Magic Zones: Shadow-weaving

In the Faerun setting, Dead Magic Zones represent a dead part of the Weave, the fundamental part of magic (arcane and divine).

However, the Shadow Weave is distinct (and even opposite it seems) from the Weave, and thus is not affected by DMZ. This means a Shadow Weaver can cast spells in a DMZ without any issue. You could argue he would be restricted to Enchantment, Illusion and Necromancy though, as they are the most 'Shadow Weavey' schools.

Note that this also mean that magic items crafted by a Shadow Weaver could theoretically work in a DMZ. This would affect the potions and wands points above. No effect on incorporeal/corporeal undead points, except a Shadow Weaver would be able to control Undeads in a DMZ.


“The dead magic trait functions in all respects like an antimagic field spell”


This doesn’t cover other forms of Dead Magic Zone, which are not actually addressed specifically (that I can find), but presumably those are also equal to antimagic field.

So in all ways, a Dead Magic Zone is identical to an antimagic field except, most likely, for the duration and area.

Incorporeal Undead have no issue with antimagic field

Nowhere in either the spell’s description or in the description of the Incorporeal subtype are they called out as suppressed by antimagic field. The spell itself says that

Elementals, undead, and outsider are likewise unaffected unless summoned.

Antimagic field “prevents the functioning of any magic items or spells within its confines”


Potions and wands (or dorjes) are magical items, and their effects are suppressed:

An antimagic field suppresses any spell or magical effect used within, brought into, or cast into the area, but does not dispel it. Time spent within an antimagic field counts against the suppressed spell's duration.

Nothing about an antimagic field prevents activating a magic item, the effect will simply be suppressed until not under the field. In fact, nothing here says someone in the field is prevented from casting spells, either: you simply get no effect until you are no longer under the field.

So if you use a wand or dorje, you spend a charge, the spell effect goes into place, but is immediately suppressed. If you drink a potion, it is consumed and gone, with no magic taking place immediately. But in both cases, if you leave the antimagic field, the magic springs to life and the effects function normally for any duration they have remaining (assuming they would have any; instantaneous effects are out of luck).

These effects are poor game design and I recommend against using them.

Antimagic field is a weak spell because it is high-level and has a small area. As a result, its caster is guaranteed to be shafted by it – he’s a high-level mage, after all – and his targets can easily escape it. The ability to cast instantaneous Conjurations into the field only makes it more pitiable.

Dead Magic Zones have the opposite problem. They aren’t cast, their area can be huge, and their duration can be infinite. There’s typically no source so they cannot be turned off by attacking something. That means they’re just pure DM-fiat, and there are no relevant tactical decisions that can do anything about them.

Worse, Dead Magic Zones are highly asymmetric: spellcasters can be left with literally nothing to do, warriors stripped of magic items are in a lot of trouble, and plenty of monsters don’t care in the least. So some people are basically told “you don’t get to play,” others get “here’s a challenge that you have to complete without any of your usual abilities,” and some (most normally, the enemy) are told: “hey, your enemies have been stripped of most of their ability to fight, have fun!”

I therefore suggest not using them at all. If you insist on using them, use them sparingly, and make sure that there are plenty of options for dealing with it. A fight, or series of fights, or a whole dungeon, that takes place entirely within a Dead Magic Zone that has no source and cannot be removed, is boring and poor design. Some characters may literally be relegated to cheerleader status, without even the Bard’s ability to make his cheers count for something (even if he was a Bard, since Inspire Courage is supernatural).

Instead, a fight can be made more interesting by temporary or small Dead Magic Zones, or Dead Magic Zones which can be moved, turned on, or turned off (or which simply do these things automatically, so you have to try to predict/time your positioning to take advantage of them/avoid getting screwed by them). This makes the DMZ add tactical dimensions to the situation, rather than detract from them.

Despite the use of the word “tactical” in these points, this isn’t purely about combat. Combat is a major part of Dungeons & Dragons; the overwhelming majority of the rules are related to it, so it gets proportional coverage here. But plenty of non-combat situations are impossible to deal with without magic, as well.

In short, D&D 3.x is extremely high-magic, and after about level 4 or so the game starts assuming that you have it. By the time antimagic field is available, magic is very nearly everything. Removing magic tends to work poorly and has to be done very carefully.

DMZs also work OK as a way of attempting to enforce non-combat solutions to disagreements with NPCs. They could be a great way to force the PCs to actually talk with someone rather than dash their brains out, if said someone is, say, on the far side of a long chasm with a DMZ between them so they cannot fly over it. This is basically an attempt to intentionally use the fact that DMZs prevent regular play in order to force some non-mechanical roleplaying. In some cases, these may be necessary even among good roleplayers, since it's hard to justify, in-character, not just killing the BBEG when he wants to talk, if you have that opportunity.


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