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Discussions about Dispel Magic seem to imply that as long as you can perceive a magic effect in range of the spell, you can try and dispel it.

See Can dispel magic end a darkness spell? and this quote from @Miniman: > knowing where it is means that you know where it is. This allows you to use spells like Dispel Magic to remove its invisibility.

But what if you can't perceive it?

Two scenarios come in mind:

  1. In combat, an evil wizard casts Invisibility on himself, walks away from the fray and uses the hide action on his next turn. Since PCs know/assume/deduce he's invisible and certainly in range of the spell, can one use Dispel Magic to end the spell?

  2. PCs enter a 80'x80' room. Can one declare : "I dispel any Invisibility spell in range", thus revealing one (the closest?) invisible enemy in the room?

What's enough to enable a caster to cast Dispel Magic on a magic effect :

  • perceiving (seeing, hearing, smelling, etc.) it?
  • knowing/assuming/deducing it's there?
  • or merely suspect/predict it?
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Can you dispel a magic effect you can't perceive?

Yes, as long as you can locate it somehow. If you can't find it somehow, then no. This reduces down to the related question: Can you target a target that you can't perceive? And the answer to that is a qualified yes. Yes, if you can land your dispel magic on the desired target somehow.

As we'll see, your example situations don't allow you cast the spell yet, because you haven't targeted anything. But first, let's look more at how targeting works.

Targeting spells

To target something, you need two things per Targets on PHB page 204 (unless the spell's own description lifts one of these, or adds new requirements):

  1. The ability to choose the target

    A typical spell requires you to pick one or more targets to be affected by the spell's magic.

    And dispel magic does require the ability to pick the individual target:

    Choose one creature, object, or magical effect within range

  2. A clear path to the target

    To target something, you must have a clear path to it, so it can't be behind total cover.

    This isn't a problem in either situation you're asking about.

So in order to target something, you need to be able to individually choose it. To be able to do that, you need to know that it's there and where specifically it is. You often gain that information by sight, but sight is not required, only knowing the location of your target is required. This information can be gained by many other means: hearing, touch, divination magic, etc.

Now, about that qualified “yes” above: can you target something you can't perceive at all? Only if you have enough knowledge from something other than perception in order to correctly target it.

  • For example, if a god granted you divine intervention and whispered in your ear to say “the invisible wizard is hiding behind the third barrel in the south-east corner!”, then you'd be able to target that invisible wizard without needing to use a perception ability of your own. This choice would be “I target the invisible wizard right there, behind that barrel.”

  • As another example, if you had a note from a wizard that said, “cast dispel magic on the centre of the wall between the 11th and 12th statues on the left of the entry hallway of the Grand Palace”, that's enough knowledge to correctly target your spell at the illusion the wizard put in that exact location and reveal the secret door (or whatever is there). This choice would be “I stand in front of the wall between the two statues, and I target the magical effect that is right in front of me.”

Other than unusual help like that though, you generally need to be able to locate your desired target, which will almost always require some kind of perception on your part. We can't literally require “perception” in all cases though, because being too literal about that though would rule out some cases like the above where you obviously know enough to target the spell correctly — and we don't want that. D&D 5e is, after all, supposed to be sensible rather than literal-but-counter-intuitive.

The examples in the question lack targets… so far

So you could target something you can't see, but in the examples, no targets can be selected yet without changing the situation somehow.

Notably, you can't just choose a general type of magical effect and hope it is somewhere in range, because that's not targeting an individual magical effect. Dispel magic is not an area of effect spell! Just like you can't choose a magic missile at “any orcs in the room”, you can't dispel magic “any invisibility effects in the room”. You have to be able to pick a specific target and cast your spell at that target specifically.

That means that in both your examples, you can't just cast the spell at nothing, say “Invisibility, I choose you!”, and have dispel magic find the invisibility effect and dispel them just because it's within range. You didn't pick your target! Instead, in each situation, you have to do some more work to acquire and choose your target:

  1. You have to locate the invisible hiding evil wizard somehow; most likely by using Perception checks (but divine intervention would work too). Once you positively acquire the knowledge of the position of the evil wizard, then they can be targeted by dispel magic.

  2. You can't can't dispel magic on “any and all invisibility effects in range” because that's not how targeting works — that's not one, as dispel magic requires, that's multiple. You would have to pick one instance of an invisibility effect somewhere specific in the room:

    • Try to detect the presence of invisible things in the room somehow,
    • Then, if there are any, locate one of them specifically somehow,
    • Then target dispel magic at that one magical effect specifically.

Anything else isn't targeting, it's throwing a spell into the wind and hoping it magically does something its description doesn't say it does.

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Basically you need to target something

Unlike Antimagic Field with Area of Effect, Dispell Magic is a target spell.

Choose any creature, object, or magical effect within range.

If you can't see, smell, touch or hear your target, you are unaware of it's location, so you can't target it.

Other possible option with an acceptance of GM

Accordingly to rules fromg Page 194

Unseen Attackers and Targets

If the target isn’t in the location you targeted, you automatically miss, but the DM typically just says that the attack missed, not whether you guessed the target’s location correctly.

With GM's agreement, you could target an area where could possibly be a magical effect. It would be more like games of chance, but it would be possible.

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According to the spell description, you have to

Choose one creature, object, or magical effect within range

The description is not 100% unambiguous. However, I assume that the logic behind this spell is that you have to be aware that there is a magical effect in a specific position within the spell's AoE. As a DM, I would allow the first scenario with a successfull Perception Check and I would not allow the second, because you cannot choose a magical effect.

Another possibility is to allow the first scenario without any check, because the awareness of the magical effect's presence is sufficient to choose it as a target.

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Yes, you may cast dispel magic when you merely suspect it.

Choose one creature, object, or magical effect within range.

You are choosing a magical effect (invisibility) which you believe to be in range.

When you have a list in a sentence in English, removing any/all of the other list items should leave the sentence with the statement that sentence says. Thus, all of the following is the logical equivalent to the quote above:

Choose one creature within range, choose one object within range, or choose one magical effect within range.

That is exactly what the rules say, as written. It may or may not be Rules as Intended, but it appears to be based on the Crawford quote bellow.

As such, the spell would be cast, and if that magical effect is in range, you do dispel it. Note, if the effect isn't in range, the spell fails and you still spend the slot. So, if the wizard cast blink, and you think it was invisibility, you'll lose the spell slot, and remove the effect.

Jeremy Crawford even ruled that visual isn't needed for dispel magic.

A spell says if its target must be visible. Magic missile's target must be visible, whereas dispel magic's needn't be.

https://twitter.com/JeremyECrawford/status/512363621532172288?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

Ruling?

Searhing for a official ruling, I ran across a post by Mike Mearls -- which isn't a cannon source for rules, but he does quote an interesting point I've seen Jeremy Crawford apply in other places that is:

[I]nvisible does not equal hidden = can target if invisible but not hidden, but not if the invisible creature is hidden.

https://twitter.com/mikemearls/status/512283254280294400?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

Rules as Written, in order to be hidden, you must take the hide action. Your location/square is still known by the sound of you moving around and such. So, indicating the correct square shouldn't include a blind guess. You would still know where the creature is, unless they take the hide action and perform a stealth check (v passive perception of other creatures in the area). I believe most tables house rule this away, because keep track of which 5 feet an invisible person is in seems hard enough to allow the creature to be hidden.

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No

Per the question above, OP is asking if you can dispel magic if you can't perceive it. If you can't perceive an evil wizard with invisibility, then the assumption must be made the evil wizard is also actively hiding. Without a viable target (the creature under invisibility) there is nothing to target. Without a target, there is no successful dispel magic.

When casting Dispel Magic, you have your 3 choices (a creature, an object, or an effect.) Casting Dispel Magic on a creature that is under Invisibility is not dispelling an effect. It is dispelling the magic on the creature.

Related: Dispel Magic: What is the difference between a Creature under the effects of a spell vs a Magical Effect?

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Looking at some of the ‘Detect’ spells (Detect Magic, Detect Poison and Disease, Detect Evil and Good) descriptions, they specifically state within 30 feet you sense magic/poison/disease/good/evil. The player would not be targeting or choosing something, implying they are an AoE type of spell. I purposely did not include ‘Detect Thoughts’ as it has its own set of very specific rules and targeting, but the principle of the other detection spells appear to apply making it a logical conclusion that they are an AoE type of spell by reviewing the descriptions on pgs 231-233 of the PHB.

In any event, the Dispel Magic spell DOES specifically say, you must choose something. To me, that implies it must be targeted.

However (BIG however), it seems to me, the name of the spell ‘Dispel Magic’ really doesn’t seem to match its effects based on its actual description, which could be the cause of confusion and this question being posed . . . which is what the thread is really about.

If the name of the spell reflects the outcome of the spell, it could mean that by casting a Dispel Magic spell upon a +15 magical sword, you could remove the +15 making it a normal sword regardless of what the +15 could do (acid, fire, frost, melee, etc). I realize I’m overpowering this sword, but it’s just an example. Of course, this would not include sentient magic items. If it were sentient, the magic could not be dispelled without ability DC checks based on Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma as outlined in the DMG pg 214.

I personally do not believe that it was intent of the game designers with this particular spell to really dispel magic per sè. In my very limited opinion, the spirit of what I think the designers were trying to accomplish, it should be called “Remove Spell”, not “Dispel Magic”. If it was truly a “Dispel Magic” spell it could remove the qualities of ANY non-sentient magical item, thus skewing the D&D universe. But, if it were a “Remove Spell” spell, it could then remove any spell effect cast upon the object or creature.

That being said, it still comes down to being able to target or focus the magical energy of the spell upon something (person, object, creature).

Seeing how the current definition of Dispel Magic does not specifically refer to an AoE, such as a cone, cube, cylinder, sphere, within 30 feet, etc., but DOES refer to choosing something, I take it that something must be targeted. If you can’t target something, there really is no way the spell could hit and have some type of effect. To me, it would be a VERY high DC to have the chance to hit the wizard to remove the invisibility spell.

So maybe a ‘Detect Magic’ spell could be used first to find the wizard. It has a 30 foot AoE and if he’s within that range, you could now detect him for targeting and tell your party where he is so another magic user could ‘aim’ their Dispel Magic spell thus making him visible, or a melee player could try to attack (with disadvantage as it’s just your words and the wizard is still invisible).

Bottom line and ultimately, it truly comes down to the DM. Based on RAW, from what I can ascertain, your question is a quandary of the D&D universe leaving it up to the DM of the adventure.

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You do not need to be able to perceive any magic effect in order to cast dispel magic on it, but you do need to specify a target. This means that the answer to both of your scenarios is yes.

The spell description states,

Choose one creature, object, or magical effect within range.

There are three scenarios that relate to your question:

  1. A wizard can cast dispel magic on apparently mundane items. If it is magical, then any hidden effects would be dispelled.

  2. The magical effect does not need to be visible. If a wizard sees that charm person was cast on someone, he/she may not see the magical effect, but definitely knows that that someone is magically charmed, for example.

  3. The magical effect doesn't need to exist. Wizards under the effects of the Weird spell would see things in their mind that aren't real (potentially beyond the range of the Weird spell itself). If they believe that they are illusions, they could choose those visions as targets, even though they don't exist, as magical effects or otherwise. It wouldn't dispel the manifestations, because the magical effect is not that particular illusion, but the Weird spell.

Based on these, it seems plausible to cast dispel magic based on a suspicion that there is some magic nearby, although the caster still needs to specify some target. If they can't specify a creature or object, then they must choose a particular magical effect. For example, they could declare, "I cast dispel magic on any invisibility spell within rage," or "I cast dispel magic on this chair," but not "I cast dispel magic on anything magical in this room."

While the word "choose" seems to imply that you have some knowledge that there is a potential target, there's not really a difference between "knowing/assuming/deducing" and "suspect/predict" in practical play. If a player suspects that there is an invisible wizard in an apparently empty room because they saw a wizard enter a room but not leave it, is that a suspicion or a deduction?

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