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After reading an interesting comment in another question, I realized there are some rare cases when the difference between a magic weapon and a weapon considered magical for the purposes of overcoming resistances (WCMFTPOOR) actually becomes mechanically relevant.

An example is the Magic Weapon spell, which explicitly requires nonmagical weapons in its casting. Another is the Animate Objects spell. A third one is the Elemental Weapon spell. Likely, there are other effects that require nonmagical weapons.

Meanwhile, there are effects that create a WCMFTPOOR. One example is the Warlock's Pact of the Blade.

So, as the title states: are magic weapons different from WCMFTPOOR?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ To clarify, are you asking specifically whether a WCMFTPOOR can be a target for spells like Magic Weapon or Elemental Weapon and other effects that require a non-magical weapon as the target? \$\endgroup\$ – Pyrotechnical Apr 18 '17 at 15:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Pyrotechnical I am only asking if they are different. That I mentioned the spells and the EK's class feature are only there to support the question, as a first glance look may garner an "of course not" or "of course they are" and generate down votes. \$\endgroup\$ – user27327 Apr 18 '17 at 15:17
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They're not magical

But first, let's clear something up: Weapon Bond doesn't turn a weapon into a WCMFTPOOR. That's not stated anywhere in the description.

The rules say precisely what they mean

The phrase "...considered magical for the purpose of overcoming resistance and immunity to nonmagical attacks and damage" means precisely that, nothing more and nothing less. If the weapon were magical, the text would say so. If it were magical for any other purposes, the text would say so (and it would've been far simpler to state it that way).

Granted, there are places where the rules rely on the everyday English and some ambiguity sneaks in, but this isn't one of those cases.

Here's an example of a related rule that's defined in a similarly pedantic way: immunity or resistance to "bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical attacks not made with silvered weapons." If you hit a werewolf with a torch, it'll take fire damage; swinging the torch was a nonmagical attack, but it didn't deal bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing damage. If you push a werewolf off a cliff, it takes falling damage; falling isn't an attack. And of course if you attack a werewolf with a nonmagical silvered weapon, it takes damage.

The text behind the rule is a mouthful, but it's written that way because the authors want it to work that way (1, 2, 3). They could've written "nonmagical damage" to cover things like torches and falling but they didn't.

Monks do not become magical creatures at level 6

Monks gain a class feature called Ki-Empowered Strikes that lets them treat their unarmed strikes as MFTPOOR.

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

There's a few things worth pointing out here:

  • This is essentially the same text that's in Pact Weapon.
  • Unarmed strikes are not weapons.
  • Ki is not magical for rule purposes. (1, 2, 3)
  • Even if Ki were magical, it would be a huge stretch to say the Monk's entire body becomes magical.

That third point requires more explanation. Sage Advice addresses this in the question "Is the breath weapon of a dragon magical?". The answer is a bit long, so I'll quote the most relevant part:

But our game makes a distinction between two types of magic:

  • the background magic that is part of the D&D multiverse’s physics and the physiology of many D&D creatures
  • the concentrated magical energy that is contained in a magic item or channeled to create a spell or other focused magical effect

In D&D, the first type of magic is part of nature. It is no more dispellable than the wind. A monster like a dragon exists because of that magic-enhanced nature. The second type of magic is what the rules are concerned about. When a rule refers to something being magical, it’s referring to that second type. 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?

If your answer to any of those questions is yes, the feature is magical.

It doesn't break anything

In terms of Rules As Fun, without any Unearthed Arcana material, a melee Warlock is generally less effective than an Eldritch Blast Warlock. The Eldritch Blast invocations are so powerful that it's almost difficult to justify using anything else. Anything that encourages diversity and lets players play how they want is a good thing. Let Blade Warlocks have their +1 weapons.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for pointing out that EKs don't actually create WCMFTPOOR. For the sake of correctness of the Q, I'll update it with that. So as not to mislead readers as well. \$\endgroup\$ – user27327 Apr 18 '17 at 17:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Yakk I can't. To be clear, I'm talking about semantic ambiguities like "what do they mean by the word wield" or grammatical ambiguities (e.g. does "melee weapon attack" mean "an attack with a melee weapon" or "a melee attack with a weapon"?) To me, the text is clear. Whether it makes sense that the rules say that a non-magical weapon can overcome immunity to attacks from non-magical weapons is a different issue, but Monks can somehow do it with their bare fists. \$\endgroup\$ – Doval Apr 18 '17 at 17:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Doval the mechanical thing that happens is that the "attack" takes on the character of "magical" If you update this with a few of the errata I think that will help. Up to you. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Nov 12 at 13:16
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Fifth edition uses natural language, and these phrases are certainly different when viewed through that lens. A weapon that counts as magical for the purposes of overcoming resistances is not magical.

First let's just look over what the two phrases even are:

a magical weapon

That would be, a weapon which is magical. If anything requires a magical (or non-magical) weapon, it will count as a magical weapon. Compare this to the following wording:

a weapon that counts as magical for the purpose of overcoming resistance and immunity to non-magical attacks and damage

This weapon is non-magical, but when it is being used to overcome resistances it counts as magical (A small thing that is unclear and matters more later is whether the weapon actually briefly becomes magical). If anything else requires a magical (or non-magical) weapon, it will count as a non-magical weapon.


This pretty clearly showcases that these are different things and for further evidence that these phrases mean different things: they both exist. Why would both phrases exist if they were equivalent; the books could simply have used one phrase every time, but instead both phrases occur regularly.


Now let's look at how this distinction ends up mattering throughout the game, first let's look at things which only work on non-magical weapons such as the animate objects spell:

[...] Choose up to ten non-magical objects within range that are not being worn or carried [...]

This spell would not work on magical weapons, but it would work on weapons that count as magical only for overcoming resistances.1


Now let's look at the Warlock's Pact of the Blade which has a feature that only works on magical weapons:

[...] You can transform one magic weapon into your pact weapon by performing a special ritual while you hold the weapon [...]

This would not work with a weapon which merely counts as magical for the purposes of overcoming resistances, but will work with any weapon that is actually magical.


There are ways to make a weapon flatly magical, for example the shillelagh spell which states:

[...] The weapon also becomes magical, if it isn't already [...]

This would work perfectly on either type of weapon here, especially since it includes the phrase "if it isn't already".


There are also ways to make a weapon that merely counts as magical for overcoming resistances such as the Warlock's Pact of the Blade feature which states:

[...] This weapon counts as magical for the purpose of overcoming resistance and immunity to non-magical attacks and damage [...]


1 Note, this creates a problem/question: Do non-magical weapons of this sort actually become magical when overcoming relevant resistances or merely count as magical? Imagine that such a weapon is animated and attacks something resistant to non-magical damage: If the weapon actually becomes magical then it would no longer be a valid target of the animate objects spell, which is a bit of a problem. This is a separate question for sure.

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WCMFTPOOR are not magic, they just count as magic for the purpose of overcoming resistance and immunity to nonmagical attacks and damage

In plain English, "counts as X" means to treat it as X.

Examples:

  • I count this as a win.
  • Did you count that one as a fair ball?
  • Does a hamburger count as healthy if it has lettuce?

What's more, "counts as magical for the purpose of" clearly says there is only 1 situation where they "count as magical".

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