Fall damage in 5E can be a confusing topic, but it will inevitably come up in most games at some point. So fear not, as this article will tell you all you need to know to decide whether your character twisted an ankle, or is now a high-level pancake.
How fall damage works
The rules for falling are found on page 183 of the PHB and explain: When a creature finishes falling they take 1d6 damage for every ten feet that it fell, the damage type is bludgeoning. This damage caps out at a maximum of 20d6 damage for falls of 200 feet or higher, whilst no damage is taken for drops less than ten feet. If a creature takes damage from a fall they land prone on the ground.
These rules are expanded upon on page 77 of XGtE to better explain falls that happen from adventuring at higher altitudes, though it is important to note that any rules outside of the core books are optional at the DM’s discretion. These rules state that when you fall you immediately descend 500 feet, descending another 500 feet at the start of each of your subsequent turns until you stop yourself falling or hit the ground below. In addition, if a flying creature is knocked prone without the ability to hover or benefit from some sort of magic keeping it aloft, such as the Fly spell, then it immediately begins to fall. A DM can simulate a flying creature trying to slow its fall by removing its fly speed from the distance fallen used to calculate the damage they take. If falling from a height greater than 500 feet and using the rate of falling rule from XGtE, a creature that is still falling on its turn can stop itself falling by spending half of its flying speed to remove the prone condition, similar to standing up if you were prone on the ground.
Finally, optional rules for falling into liquids like water or onto other creatures are provided in TCoE on page 170. A creature falling into a body of liquid, such as a river below a rope bridge, can spend its reaction to make an Athletics or Acrobatics check (their choice) with a DC of 15. If they succeed on this check then the fall damage they take is halved as they hit pivot in the air to hit the water head or feet first, similar to a diver. If a creature falls into a space occupied by another creature, and neither of the creatures are tiny sized, then the creature being fallen on must make a DC 15 Dex save to avoid the falling creature. If it fails then they are both knocked prone and divide the falling damage equally between them. The creature being fallen on isn’t knocked prone if it is two sizes, or more, larger than the falling creature, for example, a gnome couldn’t knock an ogre prone by falling on it.
How to mitigate fall damage
Whether you’re being pushed off a cliff, or diving out of a high window to avoid guards, most PCs will experience falling at some point. It doesn’t have to be so painful, however! Here is a list of ways you can mitigate fall damage, not only saving your hit points but perhaps making jumping from a height something you can plan around:
- Slow Fall (Monk class feature) – From 4th level Monks are able to reduce fall damage using their reaction. The formula for this, Monk level x 5, is so generous that it will often reduce the damage to 0 so you won’t even go prone!
- Rage (Barbarian class feature) – This gives you resistance to bludgeoning damage, allowing you to half any fall damage you may take and opening up the possibility of bodyslamming enemies from great heights.
- Feather Fall (1st level spell) – Available to Artificers, Bards, Sorcerers, and Wizards this spell can target up to five creatures within 60 ft. and slow their rate of falling to 60 ft. per round. It also allows you to land on your feet and take no damage whatsoever, a very cheap solution to protect the entire party from fall damage.
- Glide (Hadozee racial feature) – This feature allows you to spend a reaction to glide horizontally up to your movement speed when you fall 10 ft. or more. This reaction also reduces any fall damage you may have taken to 0, letting you land on your feet.
- Manta Glide (Simic Hybrid Animal Enhancement option) – Available at 1st level, this option allows you to remove 100 ft. from any damage calculations for falling, allowing you to fall 100 ft. or less without taking any damage at all. In addition, it allows you to move horizontally twice as far as you fall vertically.
In addition to all of the falling-specific options above any form of damage reduction, such as a Goliath’s Stone’s Endurance, would allow a PC to take the edge off of, if not nullify entirely, the effects of falling.
We hope that this article has helped you conquer your fear of heights and maybe given you new extreme parkour ambitions. If you’re a new player learning the game, then check out our how to play section, or if you’re interested in building a character that can fall with the best of them, then check out our Monk guide. Until next time, remember to tuck and roll!
How to calculate fall damage in DnD 5E?
Fall damage is 1d6 for every 10 feet you fall, up to a maximum of 20d6.
How does fall damage work in 5E?
You take fall damage if you fall 10 feet or more and have no way to prevent fall damage.
What type of damage is fall damage in 5E?
Fall damage is bludgeoning damage.