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Supposing the party encounters a monster or group of monsters with immunity to mundane weapons (in other words, that unenchanted weapons can't harm)- could offensive spells such as magic missile, witch bolt or others hurt such monsters?

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2 Answers 2

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Yes.

When a monster has resistance to "mundane weapons", the statblock will usually specify "Resistance to non-magical bludgeoning, piercing and slashing." This means that the monster has resistance to any non-magical sources of those damage types, such as slashing from a sword or bludgeoning from a club. Spells such as magic missile and witch bolt are inherently magical due to their nature as spells, and so would hurt such monsters. Furthermore, magic missile does force damage and witch bolt does lightning damage, neither of which fall under the categories of "bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing" damage.

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In general, yes, however, the specifics of the spell matter.

In D&D 5e there are 13 damage types (PHB p.196):

  • Acid
  • Bludgeoning
  • Cold
  • Fire
  • Force
  • Lightning
  • Necrotic
  • Piercing
  • Poison
  • Psychic
  • Radiant
  • Slashing
  • Thunder

The default is that a creature takes normal damage when exposed to any one of these damage types. However, a creature may instead be immune (no damage), resistant (half damage) or vulnerable (double damage) to one or more types of damage.

Further, particularly with Bludgeoning, Piercing and Slashing damage it is not uncommon that a creature is immune or vulnerable to "bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from non magical weapons"; this means that it takes normal damage from a) magical bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing weapons or b) bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing damage that is not delivered by a weapon, like an unarmed strike or a fall.

An example

COUATL Medium celestial, lawful good

Damage Resistances radiant

Damage Immunities psychic; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from non magical weapons

Any spell or effect that does psychic damage is a waste of time and effort as is any bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing damage from a nonmagical weapon, however, bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing damage that is either caused by a) a nonweapon or b) a magical weapon will do normal damage. In addition any spell or effect that does radiant damage will only do half the normal amount. All other types of damage affect the Couatl normally.

Magic Missile does force damage so it affects the Couatl normally. Witch Bolt does lighting damage so it also has its normal effect. Other spells do different types of damage - of particular interest here is Flame Strike which does 4d6 fire and 4d6 radiant - you need to roll these separately because the fire damage has full effect but the radiant damage is halved.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You missed one damage type: Magic weapon. This bypasses immunity to normal weapons, while simultaneously dealing slashing, bludgeoning or piercing. I've already +1 the answer, but this is an important damage type. I know you explained it after anyways, but your list would be more complete with the addition. \$\endgroup\$ May 30, 2016 at 3:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @lino is it a full damage type though? Is "magic weapon" a type in itself? Or just a property that bypasses certain DRs? Because I've always seen it as the latter \$\endgroup\$
    – Patrice
    May 30, 2016 at 4:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ Since it's not mundane damage, it's still a type. I mean, a magical sword with the Light property still only does slashing damage, but it's magical damage and bypasses werewolf immunity to mundane, non-silvered weapons. Oh right, and I guess Silvered is also a damage type. \$\endgroup\$ May 30, 2016 at 4:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @LinoFrankCiaralli A magic weapon does damage of its underlying type: e.g. a magic longsword does slashing damage. I addressed that it would do normal damage to the Couatl. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    May 30, 2016 at 4:59
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Magical or nonmagical is probably described better as damage sources rather than types. \$\endgroup\$
    – CTWind
    May 30, 2016 at 5:29

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