Antimagic Fields: How they work and how to beat them

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antimagic spell

Fantasy worlds in general, and those which act as home to campaigns for DnD 5e adventures are not just magical places, they have magical energy making up their very DNA. Whether it be priests or paladins tapping into the powers of their gods, wizards drawing on the eldritch energies which surge unseen through the world or creatures with natural magical abilities due to their otherworldly origins, magic is everywhere.

And, just as real-world physics tells us that for every force, there is an equal and opposite force, in fantasy worlds, for every ounce of constructive and creative magical energy, there is an opposite, destructive entropic magical energy. Such a force is known as Anti-magic.

Anti-Magic as a spell

The Antimagic Field is an 8th level spell that falls into the abjuration category, is available to both Wizards and Clerics and is focused on the caster. Once cast it brings into being an invisible, anti-magic field that occupies a 10-foot radius around the caster. This field will last up to an hour and requires the concentration of the person who brought it into existence.

Its effect, as the name suggests, is to nullify, suppress and generally counter, but not negate, any spells or other magical effects that are aimed at the caster whilst the field exists. The only exceptions being those created by a powerful artefact or deity, the reason being that these items and beings, rather than being subject to the regular laws of magic, actually transcend those laws; these are the source of magic rather than a subject of it.

Using the Anti-Magic Field

Once the field is created it can be used both passively and aggressively. In its passive application, it acts as a shield deflecting direct magic attacks against the caster, everything from simple charm spells to more aggressive magic missiles will have no effect. In its more aggressive application, the caster can move through existing magical spells such as Walls of Flame which will part as the Anti-magic Field’s sphere of effect overlaps the fire. The ability to do this will remain for the duration of the spell and provided that the caster remains concentrated on holding the spell in place.

Magic Items and Anti-Magic

Magic items caught in the area of effect of the spell will have any powers and properties suppressed for the duration. +1 Longswords will become non-magical weapons and any additional powers of a weapon or item will cease to function. And, just as any missiles were thrown into the sphere of influence, such as a magic spear or +1 arrow, will cease to be anything other than an ordinary weapon as soon as it passes into the affected area, any magic missile which is thrown from within at an external target regains its magic ability upon leaving the sphere.

Other Benefits

 In addition to the above, magic travel within the sphere of influence is suppressed. This means that Teleportation, Planar Travel and portals such as Rope Trick spells will not work inside the Anti-Magic Field. This applies to both portals being opened by an aggressor as well as allies trying to use them to your advantage. The Anti-magic spell simply stops such portals, doors and points of contact to fail.

Although the Anti-Magic Field doesn’t dispel any summoned magical creatures who come into contact with the spell’s area, if the caster does manage to pass close enough to such an inter-dimensional beast or spirit, they will temporarily blink out of existence whilst they remain in that zone.

Overcoming the Effects of an Anti-Magic Field

The main way to defeat an Anti-Magic Field is to break the concentration of the caster. When the caster of a spell takes damage or are suitably surprised, a vague rule which is largely at the Dungeon Master’s discretion, they will have to make a concentration check to avoid losing control of the spell entirely.

There are three possible scenarios where concentration checks might be asked for by the Dungeon Master.

Damage based concentration checks, where you have to make a Constitution Saving throw to ensure that you manage to keep the spell active whilst the slings and arrows of attackers bounce off you. (Note: always keep your spell casters surrounded by a healthy layer of armoured fighters, shielded Paladins and muscle-bound Barbarians.)

Shock based concentration checks, where some part of your environment reasonably impedes your ability to concentrate. Normally it’s not small things like thunder or sudden darkness, but it’s at your DM’s discretion. Things like falling off a cliff or being run over by a horse and cart will potentially do the trick.

Auto-fail concentration checks aren’t really checks as such, more like events that cause you to automatically drop concentration. Dying, obviously, or dropping to 0 HP or becoming incapacitated such as falling unexpectedly in a lake will drop concentration.

Spell Duration

The spell’s duration is one hour, subject to the above concentration rules, and spells are not negated but merely suppressed. What this means is that if a Wizard cast a spell that those inside the Anti-Magic Field the spell exists but is subjugated by their protective spell. But as soon as the Anti-Magic Field has run its course (or the caster loses concentration) and incoming spells or magical items regain their potency. They weren’t defeated just countered. 

So a smart Wizard might choose to cast Charm Person on a target inside the Anti-magic Filed, for example, and if that spell lasted longer than the field (which it will since its duration is 1 hour but it does not require concentration) it would not function for the duration the target is in the field but then would kick in right afterwards. This applies to both the target leaving the field or the spell having run its course.

The Pros and Cons of The Anti-Magic Field

Magic is the glue that holds the fabric of any fantasy world together, the ability to turn that off, which is effectively what this spell does, is a very powerful ability. Everything below the level of legendary and god-like is turned to the eldritch equivalent of mush. Fireballs fizzle like damp squibs. Magic wands turn into gaudy pieces of tree. Even demons are temporarily winked out of existence and sent into some sort of inter-dimensional holding area.

The spell lasts for up to an hour and can’t be dispelled, because it would take a magic spell to do so and magic doesn’t work inside the zone. This means that, provided you can shield the caster from any violent shocks, unnecessary damage or concentration shattering events, you have a sport of magical tank with which to surround your party of adventurers.

On the downside, the spell is only available at higher levels but it does mean that by the time that you get access to it, the sort of spells and magic items that it is able to fend off are in themselves quite powerful.

The biggest drawback of the Anti-Magic Fieldis that it’s a double-edged sword. It doesn’t just suppress your enemies’ spells, it turns yours off as well. While you’re in the field you can’t be healed, can’t cast Shield spellsto ward off incoming arrows and can’t rely on the magic items that you’ve been stocking up on over the campaign.

Overpower and DMing the spell to suit your campaign

Depending on the nature of your campaign, the Dungeon Master might have to use their discretion as to how this spell is used, especially if your campaign is one that is deliberately below the usual levels of magic.

If shielding an entire party of adventurers from fireballs and lightning bolts, reversing the effects of invisibility and scrying magic, and causing a flying fortress to drop from the sky on an enemy’s head doesn’t seem impressive enough, consider what happens if you’re fighting a Lich. With a little bit of foresight, you can run up to the undead beastie, activate your Anti-Magic Field and then laugh as a member of the part lifts it off its feet, completely unable to fight back or unleash its ghoulish followers on you, because of its purely magical nature.

If you feel that this might perhaps overpower your DnD campaign, then feel free to change the rules to keep everything more balanced. Designate the Lich to be a god-like creature or at least something which draws its power from some legendary dark deity and so above such spells. If the players moan, remind them that it isn’t ruled that are important but balance and playability, although if your players are mature and sensible enough they will already have this in mind when they sit down to play.

Final Thoughts

Who would have thought that one of the greatest spells available to the players was one that turned all the others off? With a bit of thought and a pinch of luck, this spell is capable of some truly incredible results. Any player who has the option of adding this spell to their magical arsenal should do so without a moment’s hesitation.