The Darkness spell says (PHB 230):

…nonmagical light can't illuminate it.

it also specifies:

If any of this spell's area overlaps with an area of light created by a spell of 2nd level or lower, the spell that created the light is dispelled.

So my question is: what is considered magical light? is it only light from a spell or would light from a magical item (for example flametongue sword) also be considered magical and, if so, what level would that light be considered?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Flametongue is an interesting one... it's magical fire - but is it magical light? Or is it "natural" light created by the magical flames? \$\endgroup\$ – Adeptus Nov 1 '16 at 6:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Adeptus exactly. Currently its kinda ruining my drow campaign because a 80 ft magic light torch kinda nullifies drow darkness on any battlefield. \$\endgroup\$ – ArtaSoral Nov 1 '16 at 6:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ 20/20 hindsight I should have just asked this question directly about the flametongue sword \$\endgroup\$ – ArtaSoral Nov 1 '16 at 6:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ Probably means there's a second question worth posting! \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 1 '16 at 7:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ Reminder: comments are for clarifying content, not posting small or incomplete answers. Please use answer posts to submit answers instead. Prior comments containing answers have been removed. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 3 '16 at 20:41

All light sources from magical spells and effects can illuminate a Darkness spell and that includes light from items such as Flame Tongue (RAW).

Of course if light created by magical items can pierce if not dispel magical darkness we would need to calculate their level based on rarity, which to my knowledge is not present.

A good reference however is the Spell scroll conversion on page 200 of the DMG. In it rare scrolls (which are technically considered magic items) harbour spells from 4th and 5th level. Considering Flame tongue is a rare sword, it would be up to your discretion to choose whether to assign it a level of 4 or 5.

That said Jeremy Crawford's statement on twitter implies that only spells cast by characters illuminate magical darkness, which I think makes for more engaging encounters.

Matt Freeman: @JeremyECrawford Does light from a magic weapon’s characteristics (not via a spell) count as magical that can illuminate a Darkness spell?

Jeremy Crawford: Darkness cares only about light created by a spell. #DnD

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    \$\begingroup\$ It sounds to me like Crawford didn't fully read the question… \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 3 '16 at 20:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie I'm not so sure about that, he could explicitly be saying that only light created by a spell counts as magical light \$\endgroup\$ – ArtaSoral Nov 4 '16 at 0:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ The 5e DMG states that spells cast by magic items are considered cast at their lowest level unless otherwise stated. It has nothing to do with rarity (though I know that's a popular home brew option). \$\endgroup\$ – TylerH Jul 9 '18 at 6:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TylerH the DMG section on creating magic items links rarity to maximum spell level that can be cast from the weapon \$\endgroup\$ – illustro Sep 23 '19 at 12:04

Non-magical light is light from a non-magical source: torches, lanterns, a bonfire, lava, the sun (assuming a physics basis for the sun in your world) etc. None of these penetrate the darkness.

Magical light is light from a magical source: spells, class powers that are magical in nature, magic items etc. The corollary of non-magical light not illuminating the darkness is that magical light does.

The fact that the darkness dispels spells of 2nd level or lower is a furphy - yes such spells are dispelled but higher level spells are not and neither are sources of non-magical light that are not spells.

A magic item that emits light as a non-spell effect is not a spell so it is not dispelled or affected in any way by the darkness. As a source of magical light it will illuminate the darkness. Of course, for magic items that allow you to cast spell, that spell may be affected depending on its level - a spell is a spell whether innate to a class or from a magic item.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Do you perchance have a source for this? \$\endgroup\$ – ArtaSoral Nov 1 '16 at 5:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ Oxford English Dictionary \$\endgroup\$ – Dale M Nov 1 '16 at 6:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Adeptus No. Nonmagical light doesn't illuminate it. Low level spells are ended by it. Ergo magical light that is not a low level spell illuminates it. \$\endgroup\$ – Dale M Nov 1 '16 at 6:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ Here you go guys. Dale has this one precisely right. mobile.twitter.com/JeremyECrawford/status/722870799082721280 \$\endgroup\$ – Airatome Nov 1 '16 at 6:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ArtaSoral Unfortunately your original question didn't ask that. If you want to know if the light cast by the magical flames of a flametongue sword is itself magical light or mundane light, please ask a new question. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 3 '16 at 20:43

Any Spell, spellike ability or magical item that creates light as (one of its) its main effect, creates magical light inside its target area. If they also suffice the demand to be of high enough level, they can break through Darkness.

Dancing Lights (phb 220), Light (phb 255), Faerie Fire (phb 239), Sunlight (phb 279) are the most common examples, but also their item-bound variant (a sunrod for example). However, you need still to cast them as a high enough level spell.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Part of the question is, how do you determine level of an item? \$\endgroup\$ – Adeptus Nov 1 '16 at 6:23

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