5E The power of magical attacks

ad_hoc

Adventurer
I've seen a trend of people brushing off abilities which make mundane attacks magical. This must be because in their games magic weapons are plentiful.

Even when people bring up that 5e monster balance is designed without magic items assumed, people still say that this cannot be the case because many monsters have resistance.

My counter to that would be - why bother having monsters have resistance if we're assuming all attacks are magical.

Our table uses random treasure hoards for magic item generation and as such magic weapons are fairly rare. This means even a +1 weapon is a wonderful and memorable item.

So we have some abilities out there like the Horizon Walker's force damage of the Devotion Paladin's Sacred Weapon which turns mundane damage into magical damage. I think these are good abilities and I think WotC does too.

Some evidence:

DMG pg 277 gives advice for how effective resistance to non-magical damage is by tier. So they do assume magic weapons will come about but the rate is much different than what I see people assuming online (where I've even seen some people assume them by level 3).

Levels 1-4 - HP x2
Levels 5-10 - HP x1.5
Levels 11-16 - HP x1.25
Levels 17+ - HP x1

So it's not until tier 4 when WotC assumes that all damage coming from the party is magical. Certainly through tier 2 it is a significant factor. Most of these magical damage abilities occur between levels 3-6 when they are most potent.

When evaluating how good an ability is, take into consideration that other tables may be playing with entirely different paradigms. Also keep in mind that there are many ways to play and it might be fun to mix things up a bit. Make magic items more rare and they become special.
 

Seramus

Adventurer
5E doesn’t require magic weapons to have fun, but people love their shinies. It’s such a staple of fantasy to have a few glowing/flaming bits and bobs. Imagine Middle Earth without Sting or the One Ring, etc.
 

S'mon

Legend
DMG pg 277 gives advice for how effective resistance to non-magical damage is by tier. So they do assume magic weapons will come about but the rate is much different than what I see people assuming online (where I've even seen some people assume them by level 3).

Levels 1-4 - HP x2
Levels 5-10 - HP x1.5
Levels 11-16 - HP x1.25
Levels 17+ - HP x1
I've only ever seen this distribution, with only 50% of Tier 2 attacks being magical, when running an official 5e campaign - Princes of the Apocalypse. It was notable last session when the level 8 PCs fought an Efreet & 2 Salamanders as the Efreet did not have resistance to mundane & the Salamanders did. It made the Salamanders much tougher and forced the group to consider their tactics differently, eg the barbarian with the +1 greataxe really wanted to be fighting the Efreet as it was the biggest enemy.

More commonly I'm running conversions (Red Hand of Doom currently) from 3e or OSR, where magic weapons are much more common. So I think you're exactly right; people running in a 3e style won't see magic attacks as a big deal, but the official expectation is that a typical Tier 2 PC may well not have a magic weapon.
 

Sword of Spirit

Adventurer
5e converted adventures (such as from Tales From the Yawning Portal) sometimes still hand out magic items like candy. Our party came out of Forge of Fury with 2 magic weapons, and I think I even cut magic items about in half because I require more xp to level.

That being said, I agree that the low magic item assumptions are the ideal way to go, and that otherwise resistance can be pretty trivial. But I will point out that even without magic items, 3 out of 5 members of the party had good damaging cantrips, so we still had little issue with weapon resistance, even at tier 1. I think there was a bit of a mistake in design, because it seems too easy for most of the party to have ways of overcoming that issue at low tiers without even intentionally thinking about it when creating their characters.
 

ad_hoc

Adventurer
5e converted adventures (such as from Tales From the Yawning Portal) sometimes still hand out magic items like candy. Our party came out of Forge of Fury with 2 magic weapons, and I think I even cut magic items about in half because I require more xp to level.

That being said, I agree that the low magic item assumptions are the ideal way to go, and that otherwise resistance can be pretty trivial. But I will point out that even without magic items, 3 out of 5 members of the party had good damaging cantrips, so we still had little issue with weapon resistance, even at tier 1. I think there was a bit of a mistake in design, because it seems too easy for most of the party to have ways of overcoming that issue at low tiers without even intentionally thinking about it when creating their characters.
Well, cantrips are designed as the fall back option for casters. They do less damage than regular attacks (with the exception of the SCAG weapon cantrips which are overpowered).

3 out of 5 is pretty close to the x2 recommended for tier 1. I think in a standard party size of 4 then 2 out of 4 not having reliable magical attacks is about right.

I find in these fights casters are much more pressured to use their leveled spells. They take the spotlight but that just means the non-casters will be more relied upon in future battles.
 

S'mon

Legend
5e converted adventures (such as from Tales From the Yawning Portal) sometimes still hand out magic items like candy. Our party came out of Forge of Fury with 2 magic weapons, and I think I even cut magic items about in half because I require more xp to level.
Well Forge of Fury is supposed to be an old dwarven magic weapon forge, and seeking the magic weapons is the PCs' likeliest motivation.
 
Even as I've embraced the fact that my players love getting magical loot, I've tried to keep magic weapons are rare and special. Thus, there's lots of potions, scrolls, magical doo-dads, weird trinkets, and common items from Xanathar's. But the magic weapons have been few and far between...

The first was the Lifeblade which was a holy macahuitl imbued with the spirit of the first Mage Hunter, and which ultimately the PCs destroyed in a ritual to spare the life of a PC's husband.

Then there was a javelin of lightning which belonged to the grung hero Guipguip and had been buried in the tree the grung was buried within; reaching it required figuring out a bit of a puzzle and contending with some guardians.

There was also the burning spear of Asharra which the PCs had commissioned by an allied aarakocra mage using pyrohydra teeth that they recovered. It took 3 weeks and several sessions while the party continued adventuring.

Most recently they acquired a Batiri war didj in a trade with goblins, which is an interesting and versatile item with some history linking it to the great goblin queen one of the PCs is descended from.

Currently at 10th level, the rogue/warlock can make his own magic pact weapon, the druid has the javelin if needed but primarily relies on spells, the paladin has the burning spear & war didj, and only the wizard/rogue lacks a magic weapon. There are about four more magic weapons for them to discover in our Tomb of Annihilation campaign, such that by 11th-12th level they will probably all have magic weapons of some shape or form.
 

Hussar

Legend
/snip

So it's not until tier 4 when WotC assumes that all damage coming from the party is magical. Certainly through tier 2 it is a significant factor. Most of these magical damage abilities occur between levels 3-6 when they are most potent.

When evaluating how good an ability is, take into consideration that other tables may be playing with entirely different paradigms. Also keep in mind that there are many ways to play and it might be fun to mix things up a bit. Make magic items more rare and they become special.
Well, while it's good to look at the DMG, I think a lot of people are basing their experience on the WotC modules. And, frankly, the WotC modules are pretty darn magic heavy. Our Storm King's Thunder campaign had everyone save my cleric with a magic weapon by 3rd level. Our Ravenloft campaign, again, save my ranger, all had magic weapons by 3rd (maybe 4th) level. Our Dragon Heist adventure had everyone with magic weapons by 5th level at least (mostly because we were in Waterdeep and you can just BUY magic items there).

In fact, almost all of our campaigns have seen the entire party (or at the very least all the primary weapon users) with magic weapons by 5th level.

So, while the table in the DMG is fine and all, WotC has certainly chucked that out the window for it's adventures.
 

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