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I was verifying whether my fighter's Sun Blade would in fact be a useless hilt in an antimagic field (AMF) and came across this question on a few other sites, and it piqued my interest.

My first instinct is that "no, monks can still use ki effects in an AMF because they're just awesomely in control of their bodies" ... but then I thought about the monks that nobody plays. I can't see a monk being able to cast burning hands or any other Way of the Four Elements spells in an AMF.

Antimagic Field (PHB, p. 213)

A 10-foot-radius invisible sphere of antimagic surrounds you. This area is divorced from the magical energy that suffuses the multiverse. Within the sphere, spells can't be cast, summoned creatures disappear, and even magic items become mundane. Until the spell ends, the sphere moves with you, centered on you. Spells and other magical effects, except those created by an artifact or a deity, are suppressed in the sphere and can't protrude into it. A slot expended to cast a suppressed spell is consumed. While an effect is suppressed, it doesn't function, but the time it spends suppressed counts against its duration.

Targeted Effects. Spells and other magical effects, such as magic missile and charm person, that target a creature or an object in the sphere have no effect on that target.


Argument for ki abilities being negated by AMF:

The Magic of Ki (PHB, p. 76)

Monks make careful study of a magical energy that most monastic traditions call ki. This energy is an element of the magic that suffuses the multiverse-specifically, the element that flows through living bodies. Monks harness this power within themselves to create magical effects and exceed their bodies' physical capabilities, and some of their special attacks can hinder the flow of ki in their opponents. Using this energy, monks channel uncanny speed and strength into their unarmed strikes. As they gain experience, their martial training and their mastery of ki gives them more power over their bodies and the bodies of their foes.


Argument against ki abilities being negated by AMF:

Ki-Empowered Strikes (PHB, p. 79)

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

It specifically doesn't say that being Ki-Empowered is magical, leading me to believe that it isn't magical. Therefore, it wouldn't be negated in an AMF.

Way of the Four Elements (PHB, p. 80)

You follow a monastic tradition that teaches you to harness the elements. When you focus your ki, you can align yourself with the forces of creation and bend the four elements to your will, using them as an extension of your body...

Again, it doesn't say anything about interacting with the Weave or making a genuinely magical effect. That said, it also doesn't say that the element needs to be present for it to be manipulated (thinking of Avatar: The Last Airbender imprisonment methods for different benders). As such, you're still creating the elements from nothing.

That being said, there's plenty of flip-flopping through the disciplines as to whether something duplicates the effect of a spell being cast or whether the monk is actually casting a spell.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ meta.rpg.stackexchange.com/q/1346/23970 if you're curious about the edit. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Feb 21 '16 at 14:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Way of the four elements does specifically say some of its effects are spells. under the section "Casting Elemental Spells" PHB 80 \$\endgroup\$ – John Sep 19 '18 at 15:25
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No, it is not magical

Jeremy Crawford clarified this point on Twitter, using Sage Advice to support it. It is "background magic" similar to the breath weapon of a dragon.

Grant Myers @realgrantmyers

@JeremyECrawford ki is described as magical, but nothing in stunning strike says that it's magical. Can you confirm that it is not please?


Jeremy Crawford @JeremyECrawford

Neither the Ki feature nor the Stunning Strike feature (PH, 78 & 79) is defined as magical for game purposes. #DnD


Joe Lastowski @JoeLastowski Replying to @JeremyECrawford

Except in the section called "The Magic of Ki" at the start of the Monk description.


Jeremy Crawford @JeremyECrawford

That is an example of the background magic I talked about in Sage Advice. Look for "Is the breath weapon of a dragon magical?"

Therefore, just as a dragon's breath weapon is not considered magical, a monk's ki is also not considered magical. They all work in an antimagic field.

However, Ki-Empowered Strikes are specifically magical

The feature says:

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

This is also supported by Jeremy Crawford's tweet.

Jeremy Crawford @JeremyECrawford

The Ki-Empowered Strikes feature says a monk's unarmed strikes count as magical. That magic is suppressed in an antimagic field. #DnD

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    \$\begingroup\$ You could point out that it says 'Count as magical for the purpose of overcoming resistance and immunity to nonmagical attacks and damage.' For other purposes, (such as AMF) they would not be magical, Crawford's input notwithstanding. \$\endgroup\$ – user47897 Oct 31 '18 at 22:19
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"Magical Effects" and "multiverse" are keywords / themes to resolve this

Short Answer: Ki creates magical effects that are subject to Antimagic Field's effects.

Discussion

In the boxed section covering the Weave (PHB p. 205) ki is left out. Since that PHB chapter is about "spells and spell casting" that makes organizational sense.

There is a clue in the shaded box about the Weave that should bridge the gap between the monk and the spell casters. Three points stand out:

  1. The worlds within the D&D multiverse are magical places
  2. All magic depends on the Weave, though different kinds of magic access it in a variety of ways.
  3. The caster plucks directly at the strands of the Weave to create the desired effect.

Magical Effects (PHB p. 201)

  1. A spell is a discrete magical effect.

Putting two points together all magic depends upon the Weave in order to create magical effects. You can conclude that to create a magical effect you must access the Weave.

Ki

This energy is an element of the magic that suffuses the multiverse -- specifically the element that flows through living bodies. Monks harness this power within themselves to create magical effects ... using this energy**, monks channel uncanny speed and strength into their unarmed strikes. (PHB p. 76)

An Antimagic Field's influence

Any active spell or other magical effect on a creature or an object in the sphere is suppressed while the creature or object is in it. (p. 214 PHB)

Conclusion

Use Ki to access the magic in the multiverse and create a magical effect is thus subject to the general rules on magic arriving via the Weave. That would make a use of Ki magical energy unavailable in an anti-magic field.

Caveat

There are some nuances based on this sage advice article where whether or not a dragon's breath is magical was addressed (the answer was no).

Determining whether a game feature is magical is straightforward. Ask yourself these questions about the feature:
• Is it a magic item?
• Is it a spell? Or does it let you create the effects of a spell that’s mentioned in its description?
• Is it a spell attack?
• Does its description say it’s magical?

This tweet uses the same reasoning.

Q: ki is described as magical, but nothing in stunning strike says that it's magical. Can you confirm that it is not please?

Jeremy Crawford: Neither the ki feature nor the Stunning Strike feature (PH, 78 & 79) is defined as magical for game purposes. #DnD

While this appears to be a contradiction, using the template of analyzing why dragon breath isn't magical helps to understand where Crawford was coming from in that tweet regarding ki: it isn't 100% of the time magical as a general rule, but some ki effects either replicate or create magical effects and thus must be treated as magical effects.

More RAI/Dev Support

  1. As mentioned in this answer, Mike Mearls talks in a D&D podcast about monkish Ki energy being the same "kind" of energy that is often accessed by the Weave: the energy native to the multiverse. (Credit to @nitsua60 for this dev side support to the answer).
  2. On 12 Sept 2017, Jeremy Crawford made this tweet supporting the same viewpoint.

Q: Do the monk's ki empowered strikes function when inside an antimagic field?

Jeremy Crawford‏: The Ki-Empowered Strikes feature says a monk's unarmed strikes count as magical. That magic is suppressed in an antimagic field.

Is it fluff? No.

Antimagic Field (Spell Description)

PHB p. 213: *This area is divorced from the magical energy that suffuses the multiverse.*

Based upon how the book describes Ki, the negation of magical energy and magical effects includes Ki based magical effects. Even re-fluffing, or interpreting, Ki as a different way to get at magical energy than using the Weave will run into the specifics of the spell description.

Ki independent of the Weave doesn't get around Antimagic Field's features: Ki would be one way to access that energy to create magical effects, the Weave would be another. Antimagic Field suppresses both kinds of magical effects.

Notes regarding Ki empowered strikes at level 6:

  • When you make an unarmed strike that has no Ki points spent, you still channel Ki to overcome resistance or immunity to non magical attacks and damage. (P. 79 PHB) This would be suppressed in an Antimagic Field based on the above reasoning. (Likewise the use of Ki to channel elemental energy (p. 80-81 PHB).)

  • Antimagic Field is seriously strong magic: 8th level spell. Only artifacts and deities get a pass. A monk is neither of those.

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So, if ki is the energy in the body that gives life, shouldn't everything just die in an antimagic field?

If the soul or ki is considered magic everyone should just collapse dead.

The book says that ki is used to produce magical effects, and that unarmed strikes (at 6th level and beyond) count as magical for overcoming resistances.

It doesn't say that they are magical or that they produce Magic, from what it sounds like it produces something entirely different. I feel like there needs to be an absolute.

Otherwise, players just get confused.

When I DM, monks are not inhibited upon any of their features, not even monk of the elements. To me, a monk accesses the energy of spirit of life and uses that to produce everything they can do. It may seem magical to people but it is the energy within being used.

On the flip side, if ki is magical, then it must apply to every aspect of it. It seems very confusing to me to apply it here and there but not everywhere. It is either the energy that produces life or it is simply a magical effect within oneself.

In my mind an anti-magic field would just insta kill anything living within.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPGSE. The tour and the help center are useful in showing how SW Q&A sites are not internet forum style sites. Just to let you know, wall of text answers are not acceptable on SE sites. I provided a little formatting for your answer via an edit. Please revise again in order to fit this answer to the question a little better. (I think you have a good start). When you say "the book says" it's usually best to back that up with a citation from "the book" you are referring to. For example "ki is the energy in the body that gives life" could use a citation from the PHB. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 20 at 21:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ Jeremy Crawford has explained that the "background magic" of the setting isn't suppressed by an AMF, only specific manifestations of magic. That's how they justify a dragon's breath-weapon still working in an AMF, and stuff like that. In other words, they avoid the apparent problem you point out by how they define an AMF, as well as how they define magic. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Cordes Oct 3 at 4:54

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