While traveling around your fantasy world, there is a non-zero chance that you will run into a cliff or other high spot. These areas can be great set pieces, but they may also become hazards for your adventuring party.
Fall damage in 5e is a simple mechanic to determine how much damage a character takes after falling from a height. This sliding scale allows you to manipulate the damage by the distance fallen instead of subjective Dungeon Master’s choices.
Fall damage is a mechanic that makes any DM’s life easier and is a great way to create realism in your D&D game. There are so many different ways to interpret it and develop the mechanic for your table. Let’s fall right in!
What is Fall Damage 5e?
Fall damage is damage taken after your character falls a certain distance. This is typically marked as any fall from 10 feet or more. It is classified as a form of bludgeoning damage from the final impact.
Fall damage 5e is used as a mechanic for DMs to give appropriate consequences for player actions and battlefield conditions. It is imposed when your character experiences a significant fall, and some DMs may make variant rules.
When to Use Fall Damage
You can use fall damage in every circumstance. 5e fall damage can occur in any situation, from exploring manors to active battlefields. Your DM might even include traps that could deal falling damage.
DMs can use fall damage to create a narrow type of battlefield or puzzle for their players. It is a great way to increase tension and build up your players’ excitement for the solution or fight. The damage a character could incur from D&D falling is enough of a threat to create this anticipation.
You can even build certain high places into your story’s lore. For example, if you want to set the stage for a big fight with cultists or other religious enemies, you could use the cliff in a spiritual story for the region. Alternatively, there could be myths about how the cliffs were created, perhaps by giants or gods.
Falling or taking DnD 5e fall damage is a great way to increase drama and give your players a chance to roleplay. A character nearly falling or falling can foster bonding and working together to avoid taking even more damage.
They may even need to resurrect a severely injured character or be instantly killed by the fall. This has a lot of potential for moving story beats and may reveal some things about a character’s backstory.
How to Calculate Fall Damage 5e
Calculating fall damage 5e is relatively simple. Some DMs may put damage caps on the dice pool, but others may leave the pool unlimited. The calculation is simple, and any player can pull together a fall damage pool.
Fall damage is calculated with a ratio of 1d6 for every ten ft. of falling height. For example, if your character fell 100 ft, they would take 10d6 of falling damage on impact. Another example is that your character could take 3d6 of falling damage for falling 36 feet.
For falls under 10 ft, there is no damage that you can take, but your DM may impose more harm if there are other hazards, like broken glass, traps, spikes, and other dangers. They might also remove dice if there are safer falling conditions. These are reflected in homebrew rules, and your DM will make calls about this.
The most common result from these special conditions is that your DM may add or subtract dice from the 5e falling damage pool. If there is a suitably soft surface, your DM may remove a certain number of dice from the pool. However, other traps like those mentioned above may increase the damage pool beyond the typical level.
Variant Fall Damage Calculations
Some DMs will place a damage cap on the dice pool, and that will cause different rules. Other DMs may require saves that could change how your character takes fall damage. These will impact how calculating fall damage DnD 5e goes.
For example, they may say that the cap is 20d6 for a 200 ft. fall. Anything higher than that would be considered in excess and may result in an instant kill. This kind of damage cannot typically be avoided but is rarer than other damage types.
As for the saves that your DM might impose, they could be pretty much anything and could change with your DM’s mood.
If your character has jumped or fallen from a shorter height, they may require a Dexterity or Acrobatics check to stick the landing. If you fail, they might add extra damage or include conditions like broken bones. If you succeed, you might avoid taking damage entirely.
If you try to stop yourself from falling on the way down, they may impose a Strength save or an Athletics check. They might also call for this kind of check if you want to help others avoid fall damage DnD 5e.
How to Avoid Fall Damage
So, now that you know all about how fall damage is calculated and used, you’re probably wondering how you can get out of taking that much damage, especially from excessively long drops. No one wants their squishy wizard to take upwards of 15d6 worth of damage, especially during a fight.
There are several ways to get out of falling damage in DnD 5e. Sometimes, race or class features will protect your character and give them a way out. You might also use spells or negotiate with your DM to find a way out.
It all comes down to knowing your strengths and communicating your schemes effectively. Your DM will be more likely to take your suggestions and rule in favor of fun if you have a coherent and put-together plan. Your fellow players will also benefit from a solid plan of action.
Some races have features or biological components that prevent them from taking falling damage. For example, if you are from a winged race that can fly, you could open your wings and carefully land next to the rest of your party.
There are three common races with flying speeds: Air Genasi, Aaracokra, and Protector Aasimar. These are either automatically given or can earn a flying speed at early levels. Another option is a variant Tiefling race born with wings from their demonic heritage.
However, some winged races are explicitly designed not to have flying powers. For example, Kenku were cursed to become mimics and also not fly. Your Kenku monk couldn’t suddenly take to the air without significant help.
These rules are rare but out there. The popularization of certain homebrew races has increased the number of racial features that could prevent falling DnD 5e. As with other homebrew content, you should always communicate with your DM before locking down your character.
Class or Level-Based Methods
Certain classes may also have ways to nullify falling damage. You may have also taken a feature or earned a cantrip that can save you or your party. These can all be made or rewarded by your DM.
For example, if your class has a feature that gives them a flying speed, you can hypothetically fly out of a situation. A great example of this is the Level 20 feature for Oath of Devotion paladins.
You gain a feature that lets your paladin grow wings at this level. This gives them a flying speed, and the wings last for an hour. If your paladin and other characters are falling, they could take to the air and save themselves along with party members.
Sometimes, you might have certain features or spells that give you the bonuses you need. We’ll discuss the typically acquired spells in the next section.
Players can use some key tactics to avoid or minimize fall damage. These include spells, having a certain number of flying PCs or NPCs traveling together, carrying specific tools and items, and avoiding those situations. Understanding how to maximize these options will give you and your party the best chance to survive falls or prevent them altogether.
How To Avoid Fall Damage With Other Spells
Feather Fall is a classic spell that players can use to avoid fall damage. However, players can also use other spells. You need to get creative and work with your party to maximize their effects.
Fly is, of course, the easiest method to avoid falling damage. Simply cast the spell and take flight! You may still have trouble saving other PCs, but you have a better chance than them of surviving. You might even get to snatch them out of the air.
If your characters are particularly desperate, you could cast Mass Polymorph to turn fellow characters into animals who can fly. Many of the spells that you can use to get out of falling damage are higher, so you should be prepared to expend a large slot.
Here is a list of spells that grant players flight or summon flying creatures in various different forms:
- Wild Shape
- Feather Fall
- Gaseous Form
- Find Greater Speed
- Giant Insect
- Animate Object
- Bigby’s Hand
- Summon Celestial
- Investiture of Wind
- Wind Walk
- Tasha’s Otherworldly Guise
- Animal Shapes
- Mass Polymorph
- True Polymorph
This list does not include other spells that could hypothetically give you flight but are subject to DM rulings. These are less consistent than the spells above on this list.
PC and NPCs
Maximizing the PCs and NPCs that can avoid fall damage is vital for any party who is dealing with these stakes. There are several simple ways to implement these strategies.
At a minimum, you should have one flying character (or someone who can cast flying spells) for every non-flying character. For example, if you had a Level 20 Oath of Devotion paladin who can manifest wings, they could easily carry the party bard who never took falling spells.
This way, your party will never be caught off guard, and you all can survive your subsequent encounter with a cliff or precipice. You should take time with your party to discuss these strategies. If you are all on the same page, you can all benefit.
Some magic items your DM has conjured may help with falling damage. They may automatically cast Feather Fall on every player character or grant your character the power of flight. They might offer your wings or teleportation away during extreme circumstances.
These are up to interpretation, and you could even reach out to your DM about crafting a magic item to do this. They would then work with you on developing a magic item that will help prevent or minimize fall damage.
Finally, there is always the chance that your DM will rule in favor of fun or cool ideas to avoid fall damage. Something crazy enough to work may work for you and your party. You might even get other perks too!
While some DMs are rule lawyers, others follow the rule of fun. If you have a DM who follows that philosophy, you can exploit that. Come up with a brilliant, or crazy, plan and pitch it to them during the session.
Even if the plan doesn’t get you out of the situation entirely, you might gain an advantage on certain saves, the dice pool might decrease, and you could earn a really great character moment.
Avoiding Fall Damage Situations
The best way to prevent falling damage is to never worry about it in the first place. Do not jump off of exceptionally high places and avoid battlegrounds where there are cliffs. Avoid reckless behavior and decisions that could result in your character being dropped.
There are moments where your characters cannot avoid being close to heights. That being said, there are ways you can minimize your chances of falling.
The first step is to keep a reasonable distance between your character and the cliff’s edge. If you keep a wide enough distance, you can survive even knockback attacks and area of effect spells. These could hypothetically knock your character off a roof and over the edge, but space could save your hide.
Another option could be to take fights indoors instead of outdoors. If you and your party can flank an enemy and drive them inside, you do not risk going over the edge of a cliff or a roof. The worst that could happen would be getting thrown through a wall or off a second-story staircase.
5e fall damage rules are diverse and varied, with each DM ruling on them differently. The same is true for falling object damage, the subject of the second half of this article.
5e Falling Object Damage
Falling object damage is quite a bit different from the overall concept of fall damage. There are different mechanics than regular falling damage. Each DM may do things differently, and they can change the official rules.
Some DMs will use falling damage as the basis for calculating falling object damage. Instead of the distance a character is falling, the distance falling is how much damage is dealt to the target when it hits them.
How is Falling Object Damage Calculated?
5e boulder damage can be hard to understand and even more difficult to calculate. Each DM will develop their own rules for how much damage their falling objects may deal. There are two common methods DMs use: distance and weight-based dice pools.
Distance Dice Pools
The distance dice pool is based on how far the object is falling, not the size or weight of the item. Therefore, no matter if the object is a massive boulder or a little bucket, the damage is determined the same way that fall damage is.
This principle is best described with a question every middle schooler has heard before: what would happen if you dropped off a single coin the Empire State Building?
In this hypothetical, the force of gravity would turn a single penny into an incredibly dangerous projectile. As it picks up speed and momentum, the penny will inflict a massive injury on a pedestrian who stands in the way. The dice pool is calculated in this way.
The dice pool here mimics the falling damage pool. For every ten feet of falling, the object does 1d6. So, if a bucket is knocked off a balcony 30 feet up in the air, it will deal 3d6 damage to a target.
One drawback to this method is that it doesn’t account for substantial objects that have a larger weight. These items will logically do more damage, but they could have the same pool as a handheld object under the distance system.
This is starkly different from the weight dice pools, filling the gaps that the distance pool doesn’t account for.
Weight Dice Pools
The size of the item determines Weight-based dice pools. Instead of relying on the height of the fall, it is based on the item’s size classification or weight.
This would allow small objects (like a single copper piece) and large objects (like boulders) to cause proportionate damage. Massive objects will deal more damage, and small objects will do less.
Your DM may calculate the falling object damage in different ways. They may choose a weight range to add a d6 to (for example, one d6 for every 10 pounds), or they may set the range by size class.
Weight is the most straightforward calculation for falling object damage. Simply create a ratio for the object’s weight and prepare the dice pool. For example, if you chose 1d6 for every ten pounds of weight, then you can scale that up for every object your players encounter.
Tiny objects, like coins, may only deal 1d6, whereas Gargantuan objects may deal 20d6 (or more) after falling DnD 5e. Each DM will adjust their range differently, so you should talk to them about their parameters.
The drawback to this system is that it doesn’t account for smaller objects dropped from a larger distance. These objects will pick up more speed and momentum during their fall, resulting in a larger impact force.
Other Variations on Falling Object Damage
Some DMs may even use these interchangeably. For example, a boulder dropped at any distance is large enough to pose a threat, whereas a penny dropped from a height will be calculated with the distance drop rules. This blended style will accommodate situations where the other style makes more sense.
Of course, some DMs may not include falling object damage. If this is something that you want to see in the game, reach out to your DM about their reasoning and see if they would be interested in adding the mechanic.
Fall Damage – Watch Out From Above!
Falling damage is a natural consequence for player characters in every type of campaign. Some DMs may institute their own special mechanic’s rules, while others will follow the Player’s Handbook. Falling object damage is different from falling damage and is open to interpretation, with each DM making their calls about this less-utilized mechanic.
Fall Damage 5e FAQs
Fall damage is calculated depending on the height of the fall your character took. It is classified as bludgeoning damage and is taken upon impact. Typically, there is 1d6 for every ten feet your character fell.
Falling damage is calculated with 1d6 of damage for every ten feet your character has fallen. For example, if your character fell 100 ft, they would take 10d6 of falling damage. Some DMs will place damage caps that result in an automatic kill for your character.
Yes, falling damage and falling object damage are different. Falling damage and falling object damage may be calculated similarly, but they are not the same. Each DM may change the rules as they see fit to distinguish them from each other more.
Falling object damage dice pools are up to your DM, and they will make the final call about the mechanics. They may calculate the pool by weight or distance the object has fallen. They might also use these methods interchangeably.