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Damage is a numeric value which causes harm to a character, creature or object by reducing their hit point total.


Dealing damage[]

In Dungeons & Dragons, damage is frequently dealt during combat. Common causes of damage include attack by weapons and monster attacks, spells, traps, and environmental dangers like fire and falling.

The amount of damage dealt varies considerably by source. Damage is usually calculated by rolling dice, although some sources of damage may deal a flat number. From D&D 3rd edition onward, where twenty sided dice are used for most conflict solution, most other dice are used primarily for rolling various sources of damage.

Characters and creatures usually have a way to avoid taking some or all damage. Physical attacks require an attack roll, which must overcome the target's armor class in order to deal damage. Spells and effects like fire usually allow the target to roll a saving throw to avoid part or all of the damage, but this varies between effects and editions to the rules: some spells instead require the caster to make an attack roll, especially in D&D 4th edition which uniquely uses Defenses instead of saving throws.

Damage type[]

In many editions of Dungeons & Dragons, attacks can have a keyword or descriptor which describes the type of damage. This type designation usually has no effect, but it frequently interacts with other game mechanics which can increase or decrease the amount of damage.

Weapons are usually divided into three types based on how they deals damage: bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing. Mechanics which interact with this include AD&D 2nd edition's optional Weapon Type vs Armor Modifiers, which made certain weapons more or less effective based on an opponent's armor type.

Spells, magical and environment effects, some monster attacks and some magic weapons often deal damage of a certain type. These include spells which deal familiar elemental types of damage: for example, fireball deals fire damage, while lightning bolt deals lightning type; others include cold and acid. The exact types available vary by edition of the D&D rules; for example, D&D third edition's positive energy, negative energy, and sonic damage types were replaced with radiant, necrotic, and thunder, respectively, in 4th and 5th edition. Other common types include force, psychic, and poison.

Damage type primarily interacts with resistance, vulnerability, and immunity rules, such as a creature who is immune to fire. Some damage may be untyped, meaning that it has no type.

Resistance and vulnerability[]

Some creatures have resistance to certain damage types, taking less damage from that source. For example, many creatures take reduced damage from fire. Some, such as fire elementals, may have immunity to an element, and take no damage at all.

Other creatures have vulnerability to damage, causing them to take more damage. The exact amount of additional damage depends on the rules edition.

Items in some editions of D&D possess hardness, a property similar to resistance.

Damage reduction[]

Some creatures take reduced damage from most physical melee and ranged attacks. In D&D 3rd edition, this trait is known as damage reduction. A character with damage reduction takes a reduced amount of damage from each hit unless it is dealt with a specific type of weapon. Common requirements include silver weapons, a magically enchanted weapon, or holy weapons.

Some creatures have complete invulnerability to certain damage. This is particularly the case in D&D 5th edition, where lycanthropes have immunity to attacks dealt with weapons not made from silver.

Massive damage[]

In AD&D 2e and D&D 3e, a character who takes 50 or more damage in any single attack must roll a saving throw or die instantly.[1][2] However, this rule rarely comes into play except in very high level D&D 3e games, in which case the Epic Level Handbook (2002) encourages ignoring it.[3]

In D&D 5e, massive damage is an optional rule, and applies when a creature takes half of its hit point maximum or more in a single attack. Failing a saving throw has a random effect between dropping to zero hit points (though not killing the creature outright) and merely preventing it from taking reactions for one turn.

Publication history[]

Original D&D[]

In the original D&D boxed set rules, only six-sided dice are used to calculate damage. All weapon attacks and most monster attacks deal 1d6 damage.[4] Spells may deal multiple six-sided dice of damage, such as fireball which deals 1d6 damage per caster level. Some monsters also deal multiple dice, such as the stone giant which deals 2d6, and frost giant which deals 2d6+1. Some creatures are immune to a type of damage, such as a fire giant's immunity to fire, but there is otherwise no formal damage type system.

Supplement I: Greyhawk (1975) introduced variable weapon damage. For example, daggers now deal 1d4 damage, swords 1d8, and two-handed swords 1d10. Weapons deal different damage against opponents larger than humans; daggers are decreased to 1d3, while the two-handed sword increases to 3-18 (3d6) damage. Monsters now have variable damage amounts, as do some new spells.

Basic D&D[]

The Basic Set (Holmes) (1977) continued to use variable dice for player character hit dice and monster attacks, but retained six-sided dice for player character weapon attacks.

The Basic Set (B/X) (1981) used six-sided dice for weapon attacks, but also included variable weapon dice as an option. Likewise, the Basic Rules (BECMI) (1983) introduces beginners to six-sided dice for weapons, but recommends switching to the more complex variable weapon damage dice after a few games.

The Rules Cyclopedia (1991) uses variable weapon damage as a standard feature.

AD&D 1st edition[]

As in the Greyhawk supplement, weapons deal different damage to Large creatures than to Medium or smaller.[5]

AD&D 2nd edition[]

Weapons are divided into bludgeoning, piercing and slashing. Optional rules give strikes against each armor type an attack bonus or penalty based on the weapon's damage type; a simplification of a more complex AD&D 1e weapons vs armor table.[6]

As in AD&D 1e, weapons still deal more damage to large creatures than to Small or Medium.

D&D 3rd edition[]

D&D 3e included such game mechanics as damage reduction, damage type resistances, and damage immunities. These properties frequently appeared on monsters. Creatures immune to weapon types were rare; for example, the werewolf has damage reduction to silver weapons, but not complete invulnerability, allowing a character without the correct equipment to still deal some damage.

All weapons and natural attacks have a type: bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing. Some weapons have multiple types; bite attacks have all three.[7] The massive damage rule applies to instances of 50 or more damage, but rarely applies and, anecdotally, the rule is rarely actually used. Spells and special monster attacks deal a variety of different energy types of damage, most commonly acid, cold, fire, lightning and sonic.

Weapons no longer deal different amounts of damage based on the size of the opponent. Weapons made for larger creatures, such as a sword wielded by a cloud giant, now deal more damage.

The D&D 3.5 revision in 2003 made several notable changes to damage. Weapons sized for smaller creatures now deal less damage. Damage reduction values for most creatures were reduced, and now tended to require specific types of weapon instead of a certain level of magical enhancement. Elemental resistances now tracked per-hit instead of per-round.

D&D 4th edition[]

To speed play in D&D 4th edition, minion creatures and ongoing effects such as poison deal a fixed amount of damage, rather than rolling damage. The incorporeal status now halves all damage, instead of making half of attacks miss; this makes a player less likely to waste the use of an entire daily or encounter power.

Ten damage types dealt by powers are defined in the Player's Handbook (4e) (2008), p.55: acid, cold, fire, force, lightning, necrotic (similar to negative energy and described as purple-black), poison, psychic, radiant (white light or shimmering color), and thunder (replacing D&D 3e's sonic type). The three weapon damage types (bludgeoning, piercing and slashing) do not appear, and normal weapon damage is instead untyped.

D&D 5th edition[]

Creature attacks in D&D 5th edition now give both a dice rolled value and a fixed average value in order to speed play. Lycanthropes have their traditional immunity to non-silver weapons restored. All resistances, whether elemental or weapon type, reduce damage by half instead of by a certain amount.

Thirteen damage types are defined in the Player's Handbook (5e) (2014), p.196: acid, bludgeoning, cold, fire, force, lightning, necrotic, piercing, poison, psychic, radiant, slashing, and thunder. This includes all ten of D&D 4e's types and restores the three traditional weapon damage types from earlier editions.

There are also two additional damage types not found in the Player's Handbook: custard, from The Wild Beyond the Witchlight (2021), and blueberry, from Misplaced Monsters: Volume One (2023). Both could be considered 'joke' damage types, and each only appear a single time.


  1. Dungeon Master Guide (2e revised) (1995), p.104.
  2. Player's Handbook (3.5) (2003), p.145.
  3. Epic Level Handbook (2002), p.110.
  4. Men & Magic (1974), p.19.
  5. Players Handbook (1e) (1978), p.37.
  6. Players Handbook (1e) (1978), p.38.
  7. Monster Manual (3.0) (2000), p.7.