DnD 5e Damage Types Explained

Okay, so in this post, DnD 5e Damage Types Explained, we will learn pretty much everything you really need to know about the numerous damage types that are in DnD 5e.

Here’s what we’ll go through:

  • What a damage type is and how it fits into the game
  • A quick look at the different types of damage in the game
  • Examples of what would cause each damage type

So let’s begin!

Bit of Background

When we talk about damage types in DnD 5e, we’re talking about what kind of damage a creature would take after being hit by a physical object/force, or what kind of damage a spell would inflict upon a creature when a spell hits it.

Damage types play a role in the game in that a creature could have resistances or even immunities to certain damage types.

Every source of damage from a dragon’s breath attack to falling off a cliff has a damage type.

DnD 5e Damage Types Explained

Acid Damage

This damage type is a pretty simple one to understand, it comes from a creature getting some kind of acid on them.

Imagine the creature from Alien, if it were a creature in DnD its spit would inflict acid damage on creatures and objects.

For more info check out our specific post on Acid Damage.

Notable Sources:

  • Black Dragons – Instead of breathing fire, this Dragon can breathe out acid over a target, melting anything in their way.
  • Gelatinous Cubes – An infamous creature from DnD, a massive living cube of acid jelly, this creature engulfs anything in its way into its body which immediately attempts to digest them.

Bludgeoning Damage

This damage type comes pretty much from some kind of physical force being inflicted upon a creature.

It generally comes from physical objects, imagine a creature being hit by a brick, that would be Bludgeoning Damage.

If a creature was to fall down a hole, or off a cliff, when it hit the bottom, it would take Bludgeoning Damage.

For more info check out our specific post on Bludgeoning Damage.

Notable Sources:

  • Blunt Weapons – There are many blunt weapons within DnD 5e, such as Maces, Fists and Hammers, things that would be used to pummel a creature or object.
  • Falling – When a creature falls from a height that would harm it, when it hits the bottom it would take bludgeoning damage.

Cold Damage

This damage type typically comes from magical sources, either cold themed spells of creatures that are cold themed.

The idea is that the damage would be akin to being frozen. Being hit by a quick burst of cold damage would be like having liquid nitrogen quickly thrown on your body.

For more info check out our specific post on Cold Damage.

Notable Sources:

  • White Dragons – These Dragons can breathe out pure cold energy, causing anything in its path to freeze.
  • Ray of Frost – This spell shoots fourth a beam of icy energy towards a creature which inflicts cold damage upon the creature if successful.

Fire Damage

Fire Damage is fairly common in DnD and most people could imagine creative ways that this could come into play, from being caught in a fire itself to getting hit with a firebomb.

Interestingly enough, this type of damage is one of the most commonly resisted damage types in the game by creatures and magical effects.

For more info check out our specific post on Fire Damage.

Notable Sources:

  • Red Dragons – These are the fire breathing Dragons most will be familiar with; they can bring fiery destruction down upon anything in its path.
  • Fireball – This spells shoots a beam to where the caster points and causes the target to become the center of a fiery explosion that radiates outward from that center point.

Force Damage

Force damage is pure raw magically energy. Magic that hasn’t been infused with any elements. It’s almost the equivalent to being magically punched when it hits its target.

Also, it is one of the least resisted types of damage in the game.

For more info check out our specific post on Force Damage.

Notable Sources:

  • Eldritch Blast – Fires a beam of pure force energy at the target which does direct damage.
  • Will-o’-Wisps – An example of a creature that is partially incorporeal, it can move through another creature and when it does so it causes that creature to take force damage.

Lightning Damage

Shockingly (sorry for the pun) most people could imagine what this damage would look like. It’s electrical damage. Think of Thor shooting electrical bolts from his hammer at his targets.

In a fantasy setting, this would generally come from spells and weather effects, but depending on the world your game takes place in, a creature could electrocute itself if that world has tamed electricity.

For more info check out our specific post on Lightning Damage.

Notable Sources:

  • Blue Dragons – This Dragon can effectively summon forth a lightning storm when it uses its breath weapon causing anything in its path to be consumed by lightings bolts.
  • Lightning Bolt – This famous spell does what it says on the tin really, it allows the caster to fire a bolt of lightning at their target.

Necrotic Damage

This damage gets its namesake from Necromancy, one of the schools of magic, which deals with life energy.

You can think of this kind of damage as not one that affects the physical body so much but harms the soul of the creature being targeted by it.

It tends to be a common damage type when dealing with undead creatures, especially ones that pose more of a challenge than your run of the mill zombie.

For more info check out our specific post on Necrotic Damage.

Notable Sources:

  • Mummy Lords – Due to its undead nature, when this creature attacks with its melee attack alongside the bludgeoning damage it does it also inflicts necrotic damage upon its targets.
  • Vampiric Touch – When a creature casts this spell it allows them to touch a target and steal some of their life force, healing the caster while causing Necrotic Damage to the creature it touched.

Piercing Damage

This kind of damage comes from anything that would harm you via some kind of stabbing function.

For instance, if there were guns in DnD a target being shot would very likely be considered to take piercing damage.

For more info check out our specific post on Piercing Damage.

Notable Sources:

  • Pointed Weapons – Weapons such as Arrows, Spears, and Rapiers all deal piercing damage as their primary use is to cause puncture wounds in a target.
  • Minotaurs – When this big bull charges and gores a target with its horn, that would also cause piercing damage.

Poison Damage

Toxic in nature, be it in liquid form and imbibed or inhaled via a gas.

Damage of this nature is normally inflicted via poisonous creatures, snakes, spiders. If you’re not careful though it could just as easily be slipped into your drink.

For more info check out our specific post on Poison Damage.

Notable Sources:

  • Green Dragons – This Dragon spews forth a stream of vile toxic, withering, and choking anything in its path.
  • Ray of Sickness – When this spell is cast it fires a beam toward the target and if successful it causes their body to pulse with poison.

Psychic Damage

Damaging the mind directly. Think Professor X from X-Men, the ability to use pure mind energy to harm another creature’s mind.

If you were to contextualize this damage it would be like someone being able to instantly give you the worst migraine of your life.

For more info check out our specific post on Psychic Damage.

Notable Sources:

  • Feeblemind – A psychic blast spell that on success can scramble the mind of the target and cause its intelligence and charisma to drop to the lowest possible score.
  • Githyanki – A race of creatures that, due to their psychic nature, when they attack with their weapons they also deal psychic damage to their target.

Radiant Damage

Pure holy energy. This is a strange damage type to contextualize. We don’t really have anything akin to it in the real world.

Think of Raiders of the Lost Ark, when they opened the Ark and were obliterated, that would have been radiant damage.

Because of its holy nature, creatures of an undead nature are generally vulnerable to this type of damage causing them to take extra effects from sources of radiant damage.

For more info check out our specific post on Radiant Damage.

Notable Sources:

  • Guiding Bolt – A ranged missile of pure holy energy slams into the target.
  • Planetars – A creature very similar to an angel or angelic being, when these creatures attack with their weapons they also deal radiant damage.

Slashing Damage

Generally, physical objects, designed to cut or tear would cause this damage. Not one that needs much explanation.

Creatures with claw attacks will do this damage type when they use their claws or talons to attack a target.

For more info check out our specific post on Slashing Damage.

Notable Sources:

  • Edged Weapons – Weapons such as swords, halberds, and axes, which are designed to cause cuts and gashes on its intended target.
  • Owlbears – This large creature’s huge claws can rake across its target and tear it to shreds in one swipe.

Thunder Damage

This is actually a fairly rare damage type. It’s almost like force damage, except it’s not always magical in nature, but within DnD context it usually comes from a magical source.

A real-world context would be getting caught in the shockwave of a large explosion, the damage the shockwave would do would be considered thunder damage.

For more info check out our specific post on Thunder Damage.

Notable Sources:

  • Djinni – Most known for granting wishes, these creatures can and will fight other creatures if they feel the need, when they attack with their weapons they also cause thunder damage.
  • Thunderous Smite – This spell is cast and then imbues the casters next melee attack with thunder damage as well as the damage it would normally do with a melee attack.

Wrap Up

That’s our intro to damage types in DnD 5e, this should give you a nice base understanding of the types, and will also help you in your descriptions of these damage types when you cast a spell or describe an effect in the game.

Thanks for taking the time to have a read through this post and until next time, may your day be a critical success!