Damage Types 5e

Published on July 22, 2022

Whether you want to burn, freeze, slash, or crush your foes, D&D’s damage type mechanic will make sure your attacks feel impactful.

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Doing Damage in D&D

Many players would agree that rolling damage dice is one of the most fun parts of Dungeons & Dragons. From blinding enemies with radiant light to knocking them prone with awesome force, understanding damage types will result in a versatile knowledge that can be used to hinder enemies, bolster allies, and creatively overcome challenges.

Of course, spells are one of the most prominent ways to do damage in D&D. Singeing foes with magic flames, pummeling them with elemental powers, and rotting their minds and bodies – these are just some of the many ways to deal damage with magic.

This article will cover:

  • What damage types are in D&D
  • The most and least common damage types in 5e
  • Examples of powerful and interesting spells for each damage type
  • How common creature resistances and immunities to each damage type are

What Is a Damage Type in D&D?

Spells in Dungeons & Dragons cause a variety of damage types. The Player’s Handbook lists 13 different types of damage (PHB, p. 196), ranging from elemental ones like fire and lightning, to physical types like bludgeoning and piercing.

The primary purpose of damage types is to add flavor to your game, but some types offer secondary effects. Fire spells, for example, can set flammable objects ablaze, while cold spells will often slow affected enemies or make them more vulnerable to attacks.

Additionally, some enemies are resistant or even immune to certain damage types, while a small number are vulnerable to specific elements.

Types of Damage in 5e

These are the 13 damage types listed in the main rules for the 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons:

  • Acid
  • Bludgeoning
  • Cold
  • Fire
  • Force
  • Lightning
  • Necrotic
  • Piercing
  • Poison
  • Psychic
  • Radiant
  • Slashing
  • Thunder

In addition to these 13 damage types in 5e, I have identified two more that aren’t officially named: elemental and physical.

Elemental spells refer to those that can cause more than three damage types (like chaos bolt and chromatic orb) and physical spells do either bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing damage, depending on which weapon was used (like conjure barrage and conjure volley).

Some spells can do multiple damage types depending on certain conditions or the caster’s discretion (like spirit guardians and fire shield). For those spells, the table below counts them for each damage type they can possibly do.

These are the most and least common damage types caused by D&D 5e spells in Player’s Handbook, Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, and Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything

Damage Type Number of Spells
Fire 24
Bludgeoning 23
Radiant 21
Necrotic 19
Psychic  18
Cold 14
Force 12
Elemental 10
Piercing 9
Lightning 9
Thunder 8
Acid 6
Poison 4
Slashing 4
Physical 2

Fire damage

Fantasy worlds have no shortage of fire-blasting wizards, so it’s no surprise that fire spells rank as the most common damage type in the genre’s ultimate source material, Dungeons & Dragons.

Fire magic is intuitive to understand and incredibly satisfying to use. Plus, many of D&D’s fire spells come with the added effect of igniting flammable objects. This can create tactical advantages but could also lead to unwanted collateral damage. Make sure your coveted scroll of wish is out of harm’s way before you cast that fireball spell! 

From a strategic perspective, players often like to point out that fire resistance and immunity are common among the game’s many monsters, but this shouldn’t stop you from learning fire magic. The majority of creatures resistant to fire damage are devils, demons, and dragons. So if you’re not fighting any of the above, you’ll be fine to blast away with fire spells. 

Whether you’re a full-on fire mage or just a caster looking to pick up a few good damage spells along the way, you’re sure to have a good time burning, blazing, and blasting with magic. 

Here are three iconic fire spells from D&D 5e:

  • Fire bolt: a bread-and-butter blasting cantrip that deals an average of 5.5 average fire damage
  • Burning hands: a 1st-level AoE spell that does an average of 10.5 damage and has a penchant for starting accidental fires
  • Fireball: a classic 3rd-level AoE spell that does an average of 28 damage

Bludgeoning damage

If you’re looking to pummel, beat, and smash your foes, dealing bludgeoning damage should be right up your alley.

Many bludgeoning spells in D&D involve hurling raw elemental power at your enemies, so it makes sense that druids have access to the most spells that deal bludgeoning damage. If you going to be outputting a lot of bludgeoning damage, consider picking up the Crusher feat.

Here are some of the top ways to deal bludgeoning damage with spells in D&D 5e:

  • Martial weapons: bludgeoning damage is featured in some melee weapons like the maul, warhammer, and mace
  • Falling: creatures that fall over 10 feet receive 1d6 bludgeoning damage for every 10 feet they fall, up to a maximum of 20d6
  • Catapult: a 1st-level spell that deals an average of 10.5 bludgeoning damage and gives you multiple attempts to hit if you line it up properly
  • Erupting earth: a 3rd-level AoE spell that does an average of 19.5 bludgeoning damage and creates difficult terrain
  • Meteor storm: a 9th-level spell that hits for an average of 70 AoE bludgeoning damage and an average of 70 AoE fire damage, making it the most damaging spell in all of Dungeons & Dragons

Radiant damage

Spells that deal radiant damage usually involve either the raw power of the sun with spells like dawn, or calling upon religious power with spells like holy weapon.

While radiant vulnerability is quite rare, dealing radiant damage is one of the most reliable ways to nullify undead powers like a vampire’s Regeneration ability or a zombie’s Undead Fortitude.

Here are some of the best ways to deal radiant damage with spells in D&D 5e:

  • Guiding bolt: a 1st-level spell that deals an average of 14 radiant damage and gives the next attack advantage against the target
  • Moonbeam: a continuous 2nd-level spell that does an average of 11 radiant damage to anyone who enters its area
  • Spirit guardians: a 3rd-level continuous AoE spell that deals an average of 13.5 radiant or necrotic damage per tick – however, since most players aren’t evil, it usually deals radiant damage

Necrotic damage

If you read through the spells that deal necrotic damage, it sounds a lot like a metal band’s discography: blight, finger of death, and vampiric touch are all common spells to dish out necrotic damage to their targets.

Regardless of your musical preferences, if you enjoy magic that damages enemies by rotting their bodies and speeding up decay, you’re sure to be a fan of necrotic spells.

Here are some of the best ways to deal necrotic damage with spells in D&D 5e:

  • Toll the dead: a cantrip that deals between 4.5 and 6.5 necrotic damage on average, depending on how injured the target is
  • Hex: 1st-level Warlock-exclusive spell that adds an extra 3.5 necrotic damage on average to every attack the caster makes against an afflicted target
  • Inflict wounds: 1st-level spell that deals an average of 16.5 necrotic damage on a hit, making it the most damaging 1st-level spell in the game

Psychic damage

From Pokemon to Stranger Things, fantasy worlds are full of creatures who are able to inflict damage on the very minds of their enemies. In Dungeons & Dragons, spells of this variety deal psychic damage. 

These types of spells often come with side effects that baffle or disrupt the enemy in some way.

Here are some of the best ways to deal psychic damage with spells in D&D 5e:

  • Mind sliver: a cantrip that deals 3.5 psychic damage on average and adds a negative modifier to the target’s next saving throw
  • Dissonant whispers: a 1st-level spell that does 10.5 psychic damage on average and causes the target to flee from the caster
  • Psychic scream: a 9th-level AoE spell that deals an average of 49 psychic damage and blows up enemies’ heads if it kills them – talk about memorable

Cold damage

Casters who enjoy testing their foes’ constitution by freezing them to their very core will find plenty to love with spells that deal cold damage. Cold spells often come with powerful bonus effects to slow or otherwise disable and debuff enemies that are hit with them.

Here are some of the best ways to deal cold damage with spells in D&D 5e:

  • Frostbite: a cantrip that deals an average of 3.5 cold damage and gives the target disadvantage on their next weapon attack
  • Ice knife: a 1st-level spell that deals an average of 7 AoE cold damage, and 7 piercing damage to the original target
  • Cone of cold: a 5th-level spell that deals an average of 36 cold damage in a massive cone-shaped area of effect and freezes enemies solid if they die to it – a super iconic spell that’s been around since the first edition of Dungeons & Dragons

Force damage

Often hailed by players as the least-resisted damage type in the game, force damage comes from spells that smack enemies about with magical powers. Force spells in D&D are like the Jedi’s force powers, but perhaps a tad less subtle.

Here are some of the best ways to deal force damage with spells in D&D 5e:

  • Eldritch blast: a warlock-exclusive cantrip that deals an average of 5.5 force damage, taking the throne for best blasting cantrip in the game due to the versatility it gets from Eldritch Invocations
  • Magic missile: a 1st-level spell that can’t miss and deals an average of 10.5 force damage – just look out for the Shield spell, which explicitly blocks this bit of magic
  • Disintegrate: a 6th-level spell that deals an average of 75 force damage and disintegrates anything it kills, along with objects and any walls created by wall of force

Elemental damage

To reiterate, D&D doesn’t have any spells that deal “elemental” damage. But it does have a handful of spells with indeterminate damage types that can change depending on specific circumstances or the caster’s choices. These spells are notable for their versatility…or randomness.

Here are some of the best ways to deal elemental damage with spells in D&D 5e:

  • Absorb elements: a 1st-level spell that grants the caster resistance to a damage type they were hit by, and causes their next attack to deal an additional 3.5 damage on average of that same type
  • Chaos bolt: a 1st-level spell that deals an average of 12.5 damage – the caster rolls a 2d8 to determine what type of damage it does
  • Chromatic orb: a 1st-level spell that allows the user to choose one of six damage types to deal an average of 13.5 damage 

Lightning damage

For spellcasters who enjoy zapping their enemies with the raw power of electricity, lightning damage is likely to be your favorite (along with its cousin, thunder damage). Lightning spells usually deal damage in a sizable area of effect or debuff a single enemy.

Here are some of the best ways to deal lightning damage with spells in D&D 5e:

  • Shocking grasp: a 1st-level spell that deals an average of 6.5 lightning damage and takes away the target’s reaction for a round – on top of all that, it gets advantage if the target is wearing metal armor
  • Call lightning: a 3rd-level spell that creates a storm cloud to deal an average of 16.5 or 22 lightning damage each round
  • Chain lightning: a 6th-level spell that sizzles up to four targets for an average of 45 lightning damage each as it arcs its way through each of their bodies

Piercing damage

Piercing damage in D&D is often associated with thorny spikes or penetrating weapons. As such, spells that cause piercing damage sometimes come with bonus effects to restrain, hinder, or further damage enemies who are forced to struggle against the spikes. If you going to be outputting a lot of piercing damage, consider picking up the Piercer feat.

Here are some of the best ways to deal piercing damage with spells in D&D 5e:

  • Weapon attacks: plenty of weapons deal piercing damage, including most ranged weapons, the spear, and the rapier
  • Thorn whip: a 30-foot ranged melee cantrip that deals an average of 3.5 piercing damage and pulls the target closer to the caster
  • Ensnaring strike: a 1st-level ranger-exclusive spell that restrains a target and deals an average of 3.5 piercing damage each round they remain restrained
  • Spike growth: a 2nd-level spell that creates camouflaged difficult terrain that causes an average of 5 piercing damage to any creature who travels within it

Thunder damage

Blowing out enemy eardrums with thunder damage is enticing for some, but be warned – these loud noises can warn far-off enemies of your presence. Thunder spells often affect an area, but are no good if you’re in a zone affected by the silence spell.

Here are some of the best ways to deal thunder damage with spells in D&D 5e:

  • Booming blade: a cantrip that allows you to make a normal melee attack and then deals an average of 4.5 thunder damage if the target willingly moves before the start of the caster’s next turn
  • Thunderwave: a 1st-level spell that deals an average of 9 AoE thunder damage and pushes affected creatures 10 feet back
  • Shatter: a 2nd-level spell that deals an average of 13.5 AoE thunder damage and damages objects in range as well as creatures – great for busting up structures and breaking in

Acid damage

For those intrigued by the flesh-melting potential of magic, acid damage is sure to be a hit. However, there aren’t many good spells in D&D that cause acid damage and most of the additional effects they have are poor compared to other spells of the same level.

Here are some of the best ways to deal acid damage with spells in D&D 5e:

  • Acid splash: a cantrip that deals an average of 3.5 acid damage to one or two creatures
  • Tasha’s caustic brew: a 1st-level spell that covers enemies in a 30-foot line with acid that deals an average of 5 acid damage at the start of their turns
  • Hunger of Hadar: a 3rd-level spell that deals an average of 7 acid damage and 7 cold damage per round while also creating an area of darkness that can’t be lit up, blinding enemies within the area

Poison damage

Poison damage is bad in the 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons because of how many enemies are resistant or entirely immune to it. Luckily, not many spells deal poison damage, and their additional effects are poor enough that they’d likely be ignored either way.

Here are some ways to deal poison damage with spells in D&D 5e:

  • Poison spray: a short-ranged cantrip that deals an average of 6.5 poison damage
  • Infestation: a cantrip that deals an average of 3.5 poison damage and forces the target to move in a random direction
  • Ray of sickness: a 1st-level spell that deals an average of 9 poison damage and inflicts the target with the Poisoned condition

Slashing damage

Slashing damage will slice up enemies with blades or thorns, whether mundane or conjured by magic. If you going to be outputting a lot of slashing damage, consider picking up the Slasher feat.

Here are some of the best ways to deal slashing damage with spells in D&D 5e:

  • Weapon attacks: slashing damage is a staple in some of the most popular D&D weapons, most notably the greatsword and longsword
  • Cloud of daggers: a 2nd-level small AoE spell that deals an average of 10 slashing damage to enemies within range
  • Blade barrier: a 6th-level spell that causes an average of 33 slashing damage to creatures within range and creates difficult terrain that also acts as cover
  • Wall of thorns: a 7th-level spell hits enemies for an average of 31.5 slashing and piercing damage and blocks line of sight and movement

Physical damage

Only two spells in D&D fall into this unofficial category – conjure barrage and conjure volley, each of which deals magical bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing damage, depending on the type of ammunition the caster uses to cast the spell.

Damage Resistance and Immunity in 5e

While damage types in Dungeons & Dragons have no special rules of their own, they do come into play when it comes to resistance, immunity, and vulnerability:

  • Resistance: If a creature is resistant to a damage type, they take half the total damage from sources that cause it. This can be negated for acid, cold, fire, lightning, or thunder by choosing the Elemental Adept feat.
  • Immunity: If a creature is immune to a damage type, they take no damage from it.
  • Vulnerability: If a creature is vulnerable to a damage type, they take twice as much damage from sources that cause it.

Damage type resistances and immunities are fairly common, especially at higher levels. This creates an interesting strategic play for casters preparing their spells. Going into the Nine Hells to fight devils and demons? You’ll want to stay away from fire damage. Same goes for poison or necrotic damage when fighting undead.

Vulnerabilities are uncommon but are incredibly impactful when they do come up. If it would make sense for a monster to be dealt extra damage by an attack type (like bludgeoning damage with skeletons or fire damage with enemies made of wood), it’s worthwhile to give it a shot.

Here are the most common damage type resistances and immunities in D&D 5e:

Damage Type Immune Creatures Resistant Creatures Vulnerable Creatures
Poison 207 21 0
Fire 73 94 13
Cold 38 123 4
Lightning 29 92 0
Acid 29 34 0
Necrotic 26 34 0
Psychic 21 19 1
Thunder 5 29 2
Radiant 4 10 2
Force 2 5 0

Credit to Reddit user RocksInMyDryer for their awesome spreadsheet.

It’s good to know common resistances and immunities, but you shouldn’t read too much into it. For example, while fire ranks as the second-most common damage resistance and immunity, it’s largely due to the various types of demons, devils, and dragons in D&D’s monster compendiums that all share a disregard for fire damage.

Basically, every damage type is viable, but it’s good to have a few different options in case you enter an environment that’s unfavorable to your element of choice.

Outro

We hope this article has helped explain damage types in D&D 5e and highlighted some of the best spells you can use in each category. What do you think is the best damage type? Did we forget about any of your favorite elemental spells? Let us know in the comments below!

DnD Lounge

DnD Lounge is a blog devoted to having fun with DnD’s many spells. To read more from DnD Lounge, check out their DnD 5e Spell Guides for useful in-game tips and useless (but interesting) spell statistics.

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