Damage and Resistance

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Physical damage

This broad term represents damage caused by weapons, claws, rocks, that sort of thing. Physical damage is resisted by Damage Reduction (DR). .

Weapon Damage

Weapons always do physical damage. Weapons are further subdivided into three primary category's of damage: bludgeoning, slashing, and piercing.

  • Piercing Damage: Piercing damage is physical damage concentrated into a very small point on the target. Piercing weapons do less damage than bludgeoning or slashing weapons, but have a higher chance of doing critical damage.
  • Bludgeoning Damage: Bludgeoning damage is impact damage that tends to spread over a large area upon the target. Bludgeoning weapons tend to do more damage but have a lower chance of doing critical damage.
  • Slashing Damage: Slashing damage is more focused than bludgeoning but less concentrated than piercing. As such, slashing weapons tend to do average damage and have average chances of doing critical damage.

Example – Longsword
Character Level Base Weapon Damage
1 – 7 1d8
8 – 14 2d8
15 – 21 3d8
22 – 28 4d8
29+ 5d8

Base Weapon Damage

Beginning at 8th level, base weapon dice damage is doubled. This does not double STR, feat, precision or other modifiers to the base weapon damage, just the base damage of the weapon. This applies to melee, ranged, and thrown weapons alike. This does not apply to classes with fixed damage, such as the monk or brawler unarmed damage. For example, a longsword deals 2d8 base weapon damage after 8th level. This bonus increases to triple weapon dice damage at 15th level, quadruple at 22nd level and quintuple at 29th level and above.

These adjustments DO get factored into a weapon's critical hit damage. For example, an 1st level character wielding a longsword who critically hits (longswords deal double damage on a crit) would deal 2d8 + double their strength modifier. The same character at 8th level would deal 4d8 + double their strength modifier.

Epic Damage

Epic damage has been removed from the game. Epic damage served to make all lesser forms of DR useless, which hurt the Monk, Barbarian, Paladin, Fighter, etc quite a lot. So, damage is damage, even when done by high level foes, and your DR/- always protects against it. Although, see Primal Damage, next.

Primal Damage

Primal damage cannot be reduced by any type of DR or ER or any other damage-reducing ability. Any attack dealing primal damage that hits will always do its full damage to its target. To balance this, Primal damage is rare and fraught with danger. Alchemists can inflict Primal damage at level 35, and there is a weapon property that inflicts primal damage both upon the target of your attacks and the wielder of the weapon, and that is IT.

Critical Damage

Critical damage is generally associated with weapon damage. Critical damage is based upon chance. Critical damage is used to represent the 'lucky shot' that hits a vulnerable spot. As a result, critical damage is related to precision damage, but it is not the same, and uses completely different mechanisms. As a general rule, critical damage doubles (or triples or quadruples) the number of base weapon dice you roll (extra damage dice over and above a weapon’s normal damage are never multiplied), and doubles (or triples or quadruples) the amount of damage you do based upon your Strength and the enhancement bonus of your weapon. Note that several classes have variant, different, rules for how criticals are handled, primarily the Rogue and the Brawler. In all cases, refer to the more specific class-based rules. If your character is high enough level to have increased the base dice of your weapons, a Critical multiplies the CURRENT base damage dice of the weapon. Thus a level ten fighter wielding a longsword does a base of 2d8 of damage. A critical multiples that two dice by two, for 4d8 of base damage on a critical hit.

Precision Damage

Precision damage is a form of physical damage which depends upon the skill of the attacker to strike a point in the structure of the target which is far more susceptible to harm than the norm. For example, a stab to the eye is more harmful than a stab to the meat of the arm.

  • Precision damage always requires the attacker to have a clear and unobstructed 'shot' at the target. In game terms this means that any level of concealment will stop the application of precision damage.
  • In general, precision damage is limited to only a few classes., which have the specific skills to apply precision damage. Each class description will detail how much precision damage each class gets, and what rules they must follow in order to apply that precision damage to a victim.
  • Note that precision damage is different from and handled separately to critical damage. Most physical attacks may strike for critical damage, but only a very limited set of classes have access to precision damage. It is possible to apply precision damage without making a critical strike, and vice versa. Precision damage is NOT multiplied when a critical hit is rolled.
  • With a weapon that deals nonlethal damage (like a sap, whip, or an unarmed strike), a player character can make a precision damage attack that deals nonlethal damage instead of lethal damage.
  • Some creatures are immune or specially resistant to precision damage. Despite the name, creatures "immune to precision damage" actually take half damage from precision damage. Any creature which has little to no specialized internal structure will take half damage (be immune) to precision damage.

Immunity to Precision Damage:

Creatures (or subtypes) Immune to Precision-Based Attacks (half damage from precision damage):

  • Elemental (subtype)
  • Incorporeal (subtype)
  • Ooze (Type)
  • Protean (subtype) - 50% chance to ignore precision damage.

Bonus Damage

Some classes (principally the Bard, Ranger, Prowler and Warlord) receive class abilities which apply bonus damage. In addition, some weapon properties add bonus dice to a weapon's attacks. Bonus damage has the following characteristics, except where the description of the item, feat or ability in question explicitly states otherwise:

  • Different sources of Bonus damage stack. A Ranger using a Flaming Sword with a Bard in the party would have three sources of bonus damage, all of which would contribute to his damage.
  • Bonus damage is never multiplied on a critical hit.
  • Bonus damage is not base weapon damage, so it does not improve at levels 8, 15, 22 and 29.
  • Bonus damage is not the same as precision damage, and therefore bypasses any resistance or immunity to precision damage.
  • If no damage type is specified, bonus damage deals the same damage type as the weapon or effect to which it is applied. That is, if a club has some property granting it +1d6 bonus damage of an unspecified type, the bonus damage is considered bludgeoning. If the same property were applied to a longsword, it would be considered slashing damage instead. Untyped bonus damage is never "unresistable" by DR or ER, unless it is specifically described as Primal bonus damage (see Primal Damage).

Non-Lethal Damage

Non-Lethal Damage (which is sometimes also called subdual damage or temporary damage), works differently from normal damage. Non-Lethal Damage is damage which is not intended to kill you, or is from a source which cannot kill you, but which can still impair your ability to continue fighting. Examples can include punching someone with your fist without the Improved Unarmed Strike, slashing someone with a (regular) whip, or striking someone with a sap. Exhaustion and even exposure to heat or cold temperatures can also deal Non-Lethal Damage.

When you take Non-Lethal Damage, keep a running total of how much you've accumulated. Do not deduct the Non-Lethal Damage number from your current hit points. It is not "real" damage. Temporary hit points are not affected by Non-Lethal Damage in any way, and are ignored when determining whether your Non-Lethal Damage equals or exceeds your current hit points.

When your Non-Lethal Damage equals your current remaining hit points (not counting any temporary hit points), you become Staggered. You cease being staggered when your current hit points once again exceed your Non-Lethal Damage, or when you fall unconscious.

When your Non-Lethal Damage exceeds your current hit points, you fall Unconscious.

Spellcasters who fall unconscious retain any spell-based effects (such as Shield (Spell) or Mage Armor (Spell)) they had before going unconscious.

If a creature's Non-Lethal Damage is equal to his total maximum hit points (not his current hit points), all further Non-Lethal Damage is treated as lethal damage. This does not apply to creatures with regeneration. Such creatures simply accrue additional Non-Lethal Damage, increasing the amount of time they remain unconscious.

Healing Non-Lethal Damage
Unlike normal damage, Non-Lethal Damage is healed quickly with rest. You heal Non-Lethal Damage at the rate of 1 point per hour or rest per character level.
When a spell or ability cures hit point damage, it also removes an equal amount of Non-Lethal Damage.
Inflicting Non-Lethal Damage with a Weapon that Deals Lethal Damage
You can use a melee weapon that deals lethal damage to deal Non-Lethal Damage instead, but you take a -4 penalty on your attack roll.
Inflicting Lethal Damage with a Weapon that Deals Non-Lethal Damage
You can use a weapon that deals Non-Lethal Damage, including an unarmed strike, to deal lethal damage instead, but you take a -4 penalty on your attack roll.

Example of Non-Lethal Damage in Play

A sturdy orc warrior has 100 hit points. His orc war chief grants him 50 temporary hit points. A monk, hoping to capture him alive, begins punching him, doing Non-Lethal Damage, because monks can do that.

The first punch of the monk does 45 points of Non-Lethal Damage. (Ow.) The orc warrior's temp hit points and normal hit points do not change. The war chief is frustrated, because this is bypassing his best mojo.

The second punch does 56 points of damage. The orc warrior now has 101 points of Non-Lethal Damage and drops in his tracks, despite having all 100 normal hit points and all 50 temporary hit points remaining and intact.

The orc warrior is lying there unconscious. The war chief uses Encouraging Word and heals him for 50 hit points. This healing, like all healing, also heals an identical amount of Non-Lethal Damage and leaves the orc warrior with 51 points of Non-Lethal Damage. The orc warrior wakes up, ready to go.

The Monk is tired and stops hitting the orc warrior. The Rogue steps in to "help." The Rogue doesn't want to do Non-Lethal Damage, and stabs the hapless orc warrior for a whopping 80 points of actual hit point damage. This removes all 50 of the temporary hit points and does 30 hit points of real damage, leaving the orc warrior with 70 normal hit points and 51 points of Non-Lethal Damage. The orc warrior is able to continue.

The Monk, aghast at the deadly strike of the rogue, hits the orc warrior again, doing more non-lethal, before the rogue kills the orc. The monk does only 20 points of non-lethal. This leaves the orc warrior with 71 points of Non-Lethal Damage, but because he only has 70 current hit points due to the damage the rogue inflicted, down he goes again. It's a hard day to be an orc.

Exasperated, the war chief uses Encouraging Word again, and cures the orc warrior for another 50 hit points. This both heals 50 points of Non-Lethal Damage, leaving the orc warrior with 21 points of non-lethal, and also heals the orc warrior's normal hit points by 50. However, he only has 30 points of actual hit point damage (since the other 50 came out of his temporary hit points), so he heals those 30, back to his maximum of 100 (and, as usual, he doesn't get any of the temporary hit points back). The orc warrior wakes up and decides to start using a shield. All this getting knocked out and waking up again is starting to make him woozy.

Poison damage

Poisons deal non-lethal (bludgeoning) damage, which is resistible with DR, but they also deal ability damage (energy damage) or ability drain (energy drain). Neither ER nor DR is effective against ability damage and ability drain.

Disease damage

Diseases generally do ability drain (energy drain) and sometimes level drain. Neither ER nor DR is effective against ability damage, ability drain or level drain.

Illusory and shadow damage

Illusions can cause damage, but usually of the damage type that would be caused by whatever the illusion is pretending to be. That is, an illusion of an ogre swinging a giant club would deal bludgeoning damage, while an illusion of a fire-filled pit would deal fire damage (and falling (bludgeoning) damage, if someone fell into it). As such, the illusion itself dictates what type of resistance is needed to reduce its effects. Often, this damage is completely negated by someone who disbelieves the illusion, while other times the damage is reduced due to its illusory nature.

Energy Damage

Energy damage is a broad category of damage, usually caused by spells, spell-like abilities and some supernatural abilities, traditionally in the form of elemental damage, but sometimes taking the form of more exotic energy types.

  • Elemental Damage: Elemental damage is the traditional 'fire, cold, sonic, acid, and lightning" damage types. These damage types are commonly applied via spells. Elemental damage MAY be associated with physical weapons, via weapon properties or the application of poisons via class abilities, feats, etc. In such cases, the elemental damage and the physical damage are resolved separately against their respective resistances.
  • Positive/Negative Damage: Positive and negative damage are energy damage types that are generally associated with evil/darkness for negative damage and good/light for positive damage. Positive/negative damage are traditionally associated with divine magics, but are also accessible via arcane magics. Positive/negative damage are always energy attacks, and are resisted, if at all, by ER.
  • Healing and Positive Energy ER: While healing does use positive energy, it is not considered a source of damage when used against living creatures. Therefore, ER x/positive, and ER x/- do NOT block the beneficial effects of healing. Similarly, an undead creature who is healed by negative energy, but also has ER x/-, would still receive healing from a negative energy effect cast upon him. Energy Resistance only blocks energy damage.
  • Force Damage: Force damage is 'non-typed' energy damage. Force damage always deals full damage to incorporeal creatures. It is a rare damage type, and is only resisted by ER/-.
  • Psychic Damage: Psychic damage is administered by mental attacks and certain types of spells. It is a rare damage type, and is only resisted by ER/-.
  • Other Energy Types: There are countless other types of energy damage. For example, there is 'light' damage, 'dessication' damage, 'toxic' damage, 'sunlight' damage, and 'holy' damage. All of these damage types are treated similarly to force damage, namely, if you have a special energy resistance to it, or have resistance to all forms of energy damage (ER x/-), then you have resistance. Otherwise, not.

Mixed Damage Types

Sometimes an attack will deal two or more types of damage, which can complicate how resistances can or cannot be applied. If the attack in question lists separates out how much damage each of the damage types deal, then each damage type is resisted individually, just as if it were multiple separate attacks. If, however, the attack deals more than one kind of damage, but all of that damage is made up of all of the types of damage listed, then use the guidelines below:

  • Two or more physical damage types: Some attacks, such as bite attacks (which are considered bludgeoning, piercing and slashing all at the same time) deal their damage as multiple types of physical damage. In these cases, if one of the listed damage types bypasses the target's DR, the entire attack goes through the DR. If none of the attack's damage types match the specified vulnerability of the DR, the attack is reduced by the DR.
  • Two or more energy types: An attack which deals more than one type of energy damage is only resisted by the worst resistance available to any of the listed energy types being inflicted by the attack. That is, if a character is struck by a 25 point demonic fireball, dealing both negative and fire energy, and the target creature has ER 10/fire but only ER 5/negative, he could only reduce the damage by 5 points, since his ER 5/negative is the worst resistance available against the incoming damage. If our example target creature only had ER 10/fire and no resistance to negative energy, the entire 25 points of damage would get through.
  • Both physical and energy damage: In nearly every case, this sort of attack, such as from a flaming sword, causes damage as two different damage totals, and each component of the attack (the physical and the energy) is resolved separately against the target creature's defenses. If the attack provides only a single damage number, then it is considered "untyped damage", and the type of ability being used, whether extraordinary (Ex), supernatural (Su) or spell-like (Sp), determines which resistance is used to resist it (e.g. DR or ER). See Untyped Damage for details.

Untyped Damage

Sometimes no damage type is listed for an attack. In these cases, the type of ability being used, whether extraordinary (Ex), supernatural (Su) or spell-like (Sp), determines which resistance is used to resist it (e.g. DR or ER):

  • Extraordinary Abilities (Ex): Untyped damage caused by an extraordinary ability (EX) is treated as physical damage unless the ability states otherwise, and is therefore subject to reduction by DR. However, in most cases, such damage is only blocked by DR x/-.
  • Supernatural (Su) and Spell-Like Abilities (Sp): Untyped damage dealt by a supernatural or spell-like ability is considered energy damage unless the ability states otherwise, and can be reduced by ER. However, in most cases, such damage is only blocked by ER/-.

Siege Damage

Siege damage is damage inflicted by siege weapons, and is distinguished from normal weapon damage in that it is of much greater magnitude, so that even sturdy objects can be readily destroyed by siege damage. As a rule, a point of Siege Damage is roughly equal to ten points of hit point damage. Siege Damage is only inflicted by weapons and effects which have some special property or quality which allows them to inflict siege damage. All siege weapons have the Sunder mundane weapon quality, allowing them to deal damage to unattended objects, fortifications and structures, even when those objects contain metal or stone. Rules for destroying objects, fortifications and structures are covered by the Sunder combat maneuver, and the Breaking Objects page. Most siege weapons deal bludgeoning or piercing damage, as specified in their description, but some higher level siege weapons are capable of dealing energy damage instead of, or in addition to, their physical damage.

Massive Damage

There is an optional rule in Pathfinder that any monster or PC who deals 50 points of damage or more from a single blow causes 'massive damage' and the struck creature must make a saving throw or die. We think this rule sucks for a number of reasons, the biggest one being that 'save or die' is just no fun. The GM will do 'massive damage' to the PC's far more often than the PC's do it to the GM, since he's got an infinite number of monsters to use. Furthermore, since Epic Path goes all the way up to level 35, dealing 50 points of damage with a single blow just isn't that big a deal once you get a few levels under your belt. This rule is not used in Epic Path.

Damage Resistance

Damage Resistance (DR) is a special defense which is used to reduce the amount of physical damage taken, but is often overcome by one specified type of damage. One example might be a skeleton who has DR 5/bludgeoning, meaning that the skeleton subtracts 5 points of damage from each physical attack it is subject to, unless that physical attack is made with a bludgeoning weapon. Skeletons can resist damage caused by piercing and slashing weapons because they have no 'meat' to be damaged by concentrated force. Bludgeoning weapons, on the other hand, overcome that damage resistance, since blunt force trauma is highly effective against the skeleton's bones.

DR is always penetrated by the damage type listed in its name, and blocks all other damage types. If DR has no particular weakness, it is represented with a dash (i.e. DR 10/-), meaning that any physical attacks are reduced by the amount listed (in the example, 10 points). DR x/- is therefore quite powerful, but also rare.

Type of DR Blocks Bypassed By
DR x/bludgeoning all physical attacks except those made with bludgeoning weapons physical attacks with bludgeoning damage (including most Non-Lethal Damage)
DR x/piercing all physical attacks except those made with piercing weapons physical attacks with piercing damage
DR x/slashing all physical attacks except those made with slashing weapons physical attacks with slashing damage
DR x/magic all physical attacks from non-magical weapons physical attacks from magical weapons, or creatures of CR 5 or higher
DR x/silver all physical attacks except those made with silvered weapons Silvered weapons, or those made from Bladesilver or Bloodsilver
DR x/cold iron all physical attacks except those made with cold iron weapons cold iron weapons
DR x/adamantine all physical attacks except those made with adamantine weapons adamantine weapons, or those made from dolemetal, truemetal or paramount alloy
DR x/lawful all physical attacks except those made with lawfully aligned weapons weapons with the Axiomatic magic weapon property, or aligned via a class ability
DR x/good all physical attacks except those made with good aligned weapons weapons with the Holy magic weapon property, or aligned via a class ability
DR x/chaotic all physical attacks except those made with chaotic aligned weapons weapons with the Anarchic magic weapon property, or aligned via a class ability
DR x/evil all physical attacks except those made with evil aligned weapons weapons with the Unholy magic weapon property, or aligned via a class ability
DR x/neutral all physical attacks except those made with neutral aligned weapons weapons with the Void magic weapon property, or aligned via a class ability
DR x/- all physical attacks except primal damage primal damage or non-physical (energy) attacks

Energy Resistance

Energy Resistance (ER) is used to reduce damage caused by energy attacks. Unlike Damage Resistance (DR), Energy Resistance ONLY blocks the energy type listed. For example, ER 10/fire would reduce any damage caused by fire by 10 points, but damage caused by other energy sources, such as lightning or sonic, would not be reduced.

Energy Resistance that blocks all energy types is written as ER x/- (where x represents the amount of damage to reduce energy attacks by; for example, ER 10/- reduces any energy damage by 10 points). This type of ER is highly desirable, but difficult to come by.

Note that energy resistance does not block non-damaging effects, even if it is ER x/- and blocks all energy types. This means that healing effects, which use positive energy, are not reduced or blocked by a character's ER 10/-, or even a character's ER 10/positive. Only positive energy being used to cause damage would be blocked by ER x/positive (and traditionally, only undead or very evil creatures take damage from positive energy).

Type of ER Blocks Bypassed By
ER x/fire fire damage any other energy type
ER x/cold cold damage any other energy type
ER x/sonic sonic damage any other energy type
ER x/acid acid damage any other energy type
ER x/electricity electricity damage any other energy type
ER x/positive positive damage (but not healing, if used on the living) any other energy type
ER x/negative negative damage (but not healing, if used on undead) any other energy type
ER x/- all energy types except primal primal damage or physical (weapon) attacks