Resistances and Vulnerabilities – DM’s Pocket Guide
Welcome to DM’s Pocket Guide, where we discuss the rules, spells, and monsters of Dungeons and Dragons, 5th edition.
Rachel: All right. So today we’re going to talk about Damage Resistance and Vulnerability, which is in the Player’s Handbook on page 197.
Tricia: Excellent, very excited about this one.
R: Oh yeah?
T: Yeah. It’s something that I didn’t fully understand when I had first started DMing, and so all of my monsters were very one note because I just looked at hit points and armor class. A lot of creatures that were supposed to be very difficult ended up not being very difficult because I wasn’t looking at all of the information and didn’t really understand it very well.
R: Yeah, it’s just one of those things you can add in to monsters or it’s easy to miss on the stat block sometimes – that it’s there or even remember to ask.
T: Yes. And it makes a big difference.
R: Okay, so the the rule itself, as it reads in the book: some creatures and objects are exceedingly difficult or unusually easy to hurt with certain types of damage. If a creature or object has resistance to damage, damage of that type is halved against it.
T: Okay! So if you are resistant to fire damage, I attack you with fire but it only does half as much.
R: But if you attack me with your sword, your not-on-fire sword, that’s going to do the regular amount of damage. And then similarly, if a creature or object has vulnerability to damage, damage of that type is doubled against it.
T: That makes sense.
R: Yeah, so this also gives the DM a little bit of flavor to play with as you’re describing what happens to the creatures as it’s being attacked. You can hint at whether something is resistant or more vulnerable to some type of damage or something.
T: I like that, because I am often – when I am harried and flustered as a DM, I’ll just be like, “Oh that does half damage,” or I just don’t say anything at all, and adding that flavor of like, “Oh, you know your storage should have sliced much deeper than that, but it didn’t do quite as much as you expect.”
R: Yeah, or I like the enemy just sort of turning around and doing that super intimidating thing of like, “That didn’t even hurt.”
T: Or conversely, if they’re vulnerable that, like, you start forming fireball and they just rear back in terror.
R: Mhm. Yeah, that’s fantastic. So resistance and vulnerability – these things are applied after other modifiers to the damage. So for instance, if you were to attack me, and I have resistance to the type of damage that you’re attacking with. You do 25 points of damage, but I’m within a magical aura that reduces all types of damage by five. So when I’m calculating resistance, I take the 25 points that you did to me, I deduct the 5 from my magical aura to 20 points of damage, and I will take half of that again. So an extra 10 points of damage.
T: Okay. So modifiers are still effective?
R: Your attack modifiers, yes, and damage modifier.
T: Yeah. Okay.
R: So another thing to know about resistance and vulnerabilities, it does not stack. There’s some spells that impose a vulnerability or a resistance to a certain type of damage, but you can’t make something doubly vulnerable. It can only be one kind of vulnerable.
T: So it’s like, oh, you’re vulnerable to fire. Now, you’re twice as vulnerable to fire!! –
T: Awww. Okay, that’s fair. And so I think the key to this is, what does this look like when you’re actually looking at a stack block?
R: Yeah, sure. Tell me about some creatures that have resistances and vulnerabilities.
T: Well, one that makes a lot of intuitive sense are scarecrows. If you had to guess what they were vulnerable to, what would you guess?
T: Fire! All that straw making up their bodies, that’s gonna go up in flames. So if you do any fire damage against scarecrows, it will do twice as much damage as normal. But they are also resistant to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from non-magical attacks. So that also makes sense. They’re just made of straw. If you stab it, big woop. Like, there’s no vital organs in there.
R: Yeah. It’s just a little animated straw and creature. Uh, there’s no creature in there, that’s the point.
T: Yes, exactly. Conversely, shadows, which are on the very next page of the Monster Manual – this is page 268 and 269 of the Monster Manual – shadows are vulnerable to radiant damage.
R: Oh, that makes sense. Like, that’s the spells that cast light and things like that.
T: Yeah, they don’t like it, and they are resistant to a lot of stuff. They’re resistant to acid, cold, fire, lightning and thunder damage as well as bludgeoning, piercing and slashing from non-magical attacks.
R: Oh wow, you pretty much named everything there.
T: Yes. So these are great creatures that like, their armor class is 12 and they have 16 hit points, so they look like they’re very easy. But in actuality, everything you do to try to hit them is just gonna do like minimal damage.
R: It’s only going to be half as effective. That’s the whole thing, the players trying to find out the thing that is effective. It’s nice, it’s kind of intuitive that it’s light damage that is the thing that really does…
T: Yeah. Yeah. And so, I think that playing with vulnerabilities and resistances makes fights more interesting, more creative. It allows for players to pull out different skills and different attacks that maybe they don’t normally use, but it’s going to be very effective depending on who you’re fighting.
T: One other thing that is not listed in the Player’s Handbook, but is a part of this conversation is immunities.
R: Yes. That’s right. That’s the one other thing that a bad guy or a monster from the Monster Manual would have.
T: Yeah, so if you are resistant to something, you take half the damage. If you are immune to something, you take zero damage. Which is my favorite, as a DM, to be like…that’s that terrifying, look of, “I didn’t even feel that at all!”
R: Yeah, wait until your player describes dealing 46 points of damage and like, well yeah, you think that would happen, but actually, nothing!
T: So shadows are additionally immune to necrotic and poison damage.
R: That makes sense.
T: It does. So these things are very hard to hit, basically, unless you have a magical weapon or deal radiant damage. So that is vulnerabilities, resistances, and immunities.
R: And that’s on page 197 of the Player’s Handbook.
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