DnD Damage Types: What You Need to Know

In Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition, there are 13 different damage types. Each one of these DnD damage types will deal damage that can affect creatures in different ways. Some creatures are resistant or immune to certain damage types and some are vulnerable to certain damage types.

For example, bludgeoning damage can stun a creature or push them back. Just kidding, bludgeoning damage only does that if you take the Crusher feat.

In fact, the damage types mean nothing most of the time. So why include them? That’s a great question for Wizards of the Coast.

What is a Damage Type in 5e?

A damage type is the way an attack, spell, or interaction with the world (like falling or running through a fire) impact something or someone.

Different attacks, damaging spells, and other harmful effects deal different types of damage. Damage types have no rules of their own, but other rules, such as damage resistance, rely on the types.

Player’s Handbook, page 196

What is Magical Damage?

Magical damage is any damage caused by a source of magic.

Most obviously, magic spell attacks cause magical damage. Spirit guardians and guiding bolt deal radiant damage while shatter and thunderwave deal thunder damage. Fire spells deal fire damage that burns and lightning bolt deals lightning damage (which technically also burns). So on and so forth.

Less obviously, any enchanted weapon causes magical damage. Even a simple +1 sickle is considered a magical weapon and therefore causes magical slashing damage.

What is Non-Magical Damage?

Non-magical damage is caused by normal interactions with the world. That can mean normal weapon attacks, getting hit with a rock, pouring a vial of acid on your skin, or someone dropping a mountain on you.

If you’re not sure if something deals magical or non-magical damage, run through the following questions from page 18 of the Sage Advice Compendium.

  • Is it a magic item?
  • A spell? Or does it let you create the effects of a spell that’s mentioned in its description?
  • Or a spell attack?
  • Is it fueled by the use of spell slots?
  • Does its description say it’s magical?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, the thing you’re wondering about deals magical damage.

Let’s look at a black dragon’s Acid Breath attack as an example.

First, Acid Breath is not a magic item. Second, the description of Acid Breath does not mention a spell or a spell attack. Third, the word “magical” does not appear in the ability description. Therefore, we can conclude Acid Breath does not deal magical acid damage.

What are the Damage Types in DnD?

There are 13 damage types in Dungeons and Dragons: acid, bludgeoning, cold, fire, force, lightning, necrotic, piercing, poison, psychic, radiant, slashing, and thunder.

Acid Damage

Acid damage is the result of a corrosive substance dissolving through matter, organic or inorganic.

The corrosive spray of an adult black dragon’s breath, the spell Melf’s acid arrow, and the dissolving enzymes secreted by a black pudding deal acid damage.

Bludgeoning Damage

Bludgeoning damage is caused by blunt-force impacts.

Hammers, maces, falling from significant heights, unarmed strikes, and constriction deal bludgeoning damage.

Cold Damage

Cold damage is caused by extremely low temperatures that freeze living flesh.

The infernal chill radiating from an ice devil’s spear, the cone of cold and frostbite spells, and the frigid blast of a white dragon’s breath deal cold damage.

Fire Damage

Fire damage is caused by extremely hot temperatures that burn living flesh.

A red dragon’s fire breath, the firebolt and wall of fire spells, and throwing a torch at someone’s face deal fire damage.

Force Damage

Force damage is pure magical energy focused into a single point. That energy can push on an object in the case of a spell like magic missile. Or it can pull on its surroundings in the case of a spell like dark star.

Spells like eldritch blast, spiritual weapon, and pulse wave deal force damage.

Lightning Damage

Lightning damage is caused by electrical energy shocking and overloading a creature’s body.

The lightning bolt spell, a blue dragon’s breath attack, and getting struck by actual lightning deal lightning damage.

Necrotic Damage

Necrotic damage is caused by death magic which corrupts the life force in living things and forces matter to disintegrate.

Spells like chill touch and inflict wounds, and many undead creatures deal necrotic damage.

Piercing Damage

Piercing damage is caused by sharp objects. Don’t run with scissors, kids, but feel free to pick up a spear and impale your enemies on it.

Arrows, crossbow bolts, spears, rapiers, a creature’s bite attack, and a spike trap all deal piercing damage.

Poison Damage

Poison damage is caused by a toxic substance wreaking havoc on the internal structures of living things.

Venomous stings by animals, ingesting poisoned food or drink, a poisoned dagger, and the toxic gas of a green dragon’s breath deal poison damage.

Psychic Damage

Psychic damage is caused by unimaginable migraines.

The mind flayer’s Mind Blast attack, the mind spike spell, and the bard’s classic vicious mockery cantrip deal psychic damage.

Radiant Damage

Radiant damage is caused by holy or divine energy that sears the flesh like fire and overloads the spirit with power.

The flame strike spell, a paladin’s smite attacks, and angels’ weapons deal radiant damage.

Slashing Damage

Slashing damage is caused by weapons and attacks that cut through flesh.

Swords, axes, glaives, whips, a beast’s claw attack, and the cloud of daggers spell deal slashing damage.

Thunder Damage

Thunder damage is caused by LOUD NOISES.

A concussive burst of sound, the area of an explosion beyond the part where you instantly die, and spells like thunderwave deal thunder damage.

DnD Damage Types: Resistance, Immunity, and Vulnerability

Some creatures have modifiers that increase or decrease the damage they incur depending on the damage type.

If you’re like me, your first thought might be, “Oh, that’s cool, so something like a skeleton would be resistant or immune to piercing damage because a piercing weapon would simply slide between the skeleton’s bones, right?”

WRONG!

Wouldn’t it be cool if it worked like that?

This is 5e, so instead of cool features like that, the skeleton is simply vulnerable to bludgeoning damage and immune to poison.

So what do these words mean?

  • Resistant = takes half damage
  • Immune = takes no damage
  • Vulnerable = takes double damage
Art by captdiablo

DnD Damage Types FAQ

What is the best damage type in DnD 5e?

Magical bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage are the best because only the demilich is resistant to them and no creatures are immune to them. That’s one of the reasons eldritch blast is such a powerful spell.

Does the type of damage matter in DnD?

Most of the time it doesn’t matter. Some monsters are resistant, immune, or vulnerable to certain damage types but most of the time, especially in the early- to mid-game, you won’t have to worry about it.

What is the most common damage type in DnD?

Non-magical weapon damage (aka bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing) is the most common. Aside from that, fire damage, poison damage, and necrotic damage are the most common damage types.

What is the difference between acid and poison damage?

The difference between the acid and poison damage types is one represents corrosiveness and the other toxicity. Acid damage corrodes physical matter like flesh or stone while poison deals damage based on its toxicity.

How many damage types are there?

There are 13 different types of damage in Dungeons and Dragons 5e. They are acid, bludgeoning, cold, fire, force, lightning, necrotic piercing, poison, psychic, radiant, slashing, and thunder. I choose you, Pikachu!

Is force damage bludgeoning?

No, force damage is distinct from bludgeoning damage. Force damage is magical energy focused into a damaging form while bludgeoning damage is the physical equivalent of magical force damage.

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