Radiant damage in 5e is the damage type caused by holy or divine energy. And it comes in many forms, ranging from a bright flash of light to a column of holy fire that descends from the heavens. It’s associated with the sun, benevolent gods, and other holy forces.
Creatures vulnerable to radiant damage take extra damage from spells and abilities that deal radiant damage. And some creatures are subject to other effects when hit by radiant damage. Luckily there aren’t more than a relative few monsters resistant or immune to it.
In this guide, we’ll take a look at radiant damage in D&D 5e. By the end of this article, you will understand:
- What is radiant damage in 5e and how does it work?
- How do you describe radiant damage in 5e as a DM?
- What spells deal radiant damage?
- What is resistant to radiant damage?
- What is immune to radiant damage?
- What is vulnerable to radiant damage?
What is radiant damage in 5e and how does it work?
Radiant damage in 5e is one of 13 damage types and divine magic causes it. That divine magic takes the form of an angel’s smiting weapon, holy fire such as the cleric’s flame strike spell, or a powerful flash of bright light, to name a few. The Player’s Handbook states radiant damage “sears the flesh like fire and overloads the spirit with power.”
There are 21 spells in 5e which cause radiant damage, and 10 of them require a Constitution saving throw to prevent additional effects.
For example, moonbeam causes additional radiant damage if the creatures caught in the beam fail the Constitution saving throw. And spells like sunburst blind creatures if they fail the Constitution saving throw.
Consequently, enemies with a high Constitution are more resistant to radiant damage. So keep that in mind when you decide what spells to use in a fight, or when you prepare spells for a tough battle.
There are only a few spells like flame strike and sacred flame that require a Dexterity saving throw. And spirit guardians is the only radiant damage spell that requires a Wisdom saving throw.
Radiant damage in 5e is one of the best damage types because few entities have resistance or immunity to radiant damage. And players gain access to a cornucopia of spells, abilities, and weapons that deal radiant damage.
How do you describe radiant damage in 5e as a DM?
It depends on the source. The spell dawn shines bright sunlight, the spell moonbeam shines a silvery beam of pale light, and the spell sickening radiance casts a dim, greenish light in the shape of a sphere. Each of those spells and the others will have slightly different results depending on who or what they’re making contact with.
But we can use extrapolate some descriptions based on how the PHB defines radiant damage.
What does radiant damage look like?
Picture a shining white light so bright you can’t look directly at it, with subtle beams of chromatic light emanating from the source. But it lasts only as long as the source of the damage.
For example, guiding bolt hits a target with a flash of light and once the flash of light fades, the target glitters with a dim light. Hitting a shield or a piece of armor with a weapon that deals radiant damage would result in sparks of that blinding light but would fade rapidly.
Then you have a spell like moonbeam that specifically states a target creature “is engulfed in ghostly flames that cause searing pain.”
What does radiant damage feel like?
Searing flesh like fire is easy to understand, but what does it mean to overload the spirit with power?
Close your eyes and imagine a source of warmth inside your chest. Visualize that warmth getting hotter and hotter until it’s unbearable. Now, depending on the cause of the radiant damage, that sensation can happen instantaneously or build up gradually.
Boom! Radiant damage!
What does radiant damage sound like?
This is holy damage so imagine the sounds of church bells, a massive cathedral organ, or blaring trumpets like those you might imagine as rays of sunlight part the clouds and angels of vengeance descend from the heavens.
If the source of radiant damage is small and brief, the sound might seem like it’s far off in the distance. But if the source of radiant damage is strong and sustained, the sound may be overwhelming.
What does radiant damage smell like?
Considering radiant damage sears flesh like fire, it’s safe to assume the smell depends on what is burning. Burning flesh, burning wood, burning hair. You burn it, you smell it!
What does radiant damage taste like?
Radiant damage is the result of a source of divine magic causing harm to a sentient entity. Asking what radiant damage tastes like is like asking what heat and light taste like.
Radiant Damage Spells
There are 21 spells in Dungeons and Dragons 5e that deal radiant damage. They range from a couple of decent cantrips all the way up to the decimating 8th level sunburst that blasts every creature within a 60-foot radius.
- Sacred Flame (Cantrip | Evocation | Cleric)
- Word of Radiance (Cantrip | Evocation | Cleric)
- Divine Favor (1st | Evocation | Paladin, Cleric (War Domain))
- Guiding Bolt (1st | Evocation | Cleric, Paladin (Oath of Glory), Warlock (Celestial))
- Branding Smite (2nd | Evocation | Paladin, Warlock (Hexblade), Artificer (Battle Smith))
- Moonbeam (2nd | Evocation | Druid, Cleric (Twilight Domain), Paladin (Oath of the Ancients, Oath of the Watchers))
- Blinding Smite (3rd | Evocation | Paladin)
- Crusader’s Mantle (3rd | Evocation | Paladin, Cleric (War Domain))
- Spirit Guardians (3rd | Conjuration | Cleric (War Domain), Paladin (Oath of the Crown))
- Spirit Shroud (3rd | Necromancy | Cleric, Paladin, Warlock, Wizard)
- Guardian of Faith (4th | Conjuration | Cleric (Life Domain, Light Domain), Paladin (Oath of Devotion, Oath of the Crown), Warlock (Celestial))
- Sickening Radiance (4th | Evocation | Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard)
- Dawn (5th | Evocation | Cleric, Wizard)
- Destructive Wave (5th | Evocation | Paladin, Cleric (Tempest Domain))
- Flame Strike (5th | Evocation | Cleric (Light Domain, War Domain), Druid (Circle of Wildfire), Paladin (Oath of Devotion, Oath of Glory), Warlock (Fiend, Celestial, Genie))
- Holy Weapon (5th | Evocation | Cleric, Paladin)
- Wall of Light (5th | Evocation | Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard)
- Forbiddance (6th | Abjuration | Cleric)
- Sunbeam (6th | Evocation | Druid, Sorcerer, Wizard)
- Crown of Stars (7th | Evocation | Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard)
- Sunburst (8th | Evocation | Druid, Sorcerer, Wizard)
Radiant Damage 5e FAQ
What is resistant to radiant damage in 5e?
There are only 23 creatures resistant to radiant damage in 5e. Radiant-resistant creatures include crystal dragons, angels, and some high-level entities.
The full list can be found below in order of challenge rating:
- Alseid (CR 1)
- Crystal Dragon Wyrmling (CR 2)
- Star Lancer (CR 2)
- Undying Soldier (CR 2)
- Couatl (CR 4)
- Battleforce Angel (CR 5)
- Young Crystal Dragon (CR 5)
- Silverquill Professor of Radiance (CR 7)
- Animated Tree (CR 9)
- Deva (CR 10)
- The Abbot (CR 10)
- Chardalyn Dragon (CR 11)
- Radiant Idol (CR 11)
- Adult Crystal Dragon (CR 12)
- Firemane Angel (CR 12)
- Pari (CR 13)
- Deathpact Angel (CR 14)
- Fazrian (CR 16)
- Planetar (CR 16)
- Ancient Crystal Dragon (CR 19)
- Solar (CR 21)
- Aurelia (CR 23)
- Zariel (CR 26)
What is immune to radiant damage 5e?
There are only 13 creatures immune to radiant damage in 5e.
The full list can be found below in order of challenge rating:
- Skulk (CR 1/2)
- Light Devourer (CR 6)
- Aeorian Reverser (CR 8)
- Aeorian Absorber (CR 10)
- Undying Councilor (CR 10)
- Aeorian Nullifier (CR 12)
- Alyxian the Callous (CR 12)
- Archon of Falling Stars (CR 12)
- Hollow Dragon (CR 18)
- Shadrix Silverquill (CR 22)
- Might Servant of Leuk-o (CR ??)
- Crystal Greatwyrm (CR 26)
- Aspect of Bahamut (CR 30)
Is radiant damage the same as sunlight?
No, radiant damage is holy light. It shines with a bright light on contact and burns it comes into contact with like fire damage. And it causes an intense burning sensation within the target as if the creature’s soul is on fire.
What does radiant damage do to vampires?
Radiant damage shuts down a vampire’s ability to regenerate health. All vampires have the regeneration trait which allows them to regenerate 20 hp at the start of every turn as long as they have more than 1 hp remaining. If a vampire is injured by radiant damage, it stops the vampire from regenerating that 20 hp every turn.
Are skeletons vulnerable to radiant damage?
No, skeletons are vulnerable to bludgeoning damage, but creatures such as reforming skeletons and vampires have the regeneration trait which gets shut down when they are hit with radiant damage.
What is weak to radiant damage?
There are 14 creatures vulnerable to radiant damage. The full list can be found below in order of challenge rating:
- Shadow (CR 1/2)
- Shadow (Variant) (CR 1/2)
- Shadowy Duplicate (CR 1/2)
- Flying Horror (CR 3)
- Puppeteer Parasite (CR 3)
- Shadow Demon (CR 4)
- Undead Bulette (CR 5)
- Gideon Lightward (CR 6)
- Gloomstalker (CR 6)
- Auril (First Form) (CR 9)
- Shadow Assassin (CR 9)
- Shadow Horror (CR 9)
- Atropal (CR 13)
- Skittering Horror (CR 15)
Radiant damage in 5e is one of the best damage types because only a handful of creatures are resistant or immune to it. And players can gain access to a solid number of spells, abilities, and weapons that cause radiant damage.
Additionally, due to the holy nature of radiant damage, you will likely encounter enemies who are vulnerable to it on your quest to vanquish evil. So if you have the opportunity to acquire a spell, ability, or weapon that deals radiant damage, take it.