A Complete Guide to the 13 Damage Types in D&D: Part Three

Content warning: these posts mention bodily harm in some detail.

Today is the final article looking at the 13 different damage types in 5e D&D. For this post, I am looking at what I consider to be the four ‘magical’ damage types. These ones don’t actually exist in the real world, so we have a bit of creativity as to how we imagine them.

Today’s damage types are as follows: force, necrotic, psychic, and radiant. You can follow the links below to read my other posts:

Post 1

Post 2

💥 Force damage

‘Force is pure magical energy focused into a damaging form. Most effects that deal force damage are spells, including magic missile and spiritual weapon.

Also known as: arcane energy.

Common sources: spells like disintegrate, eldritch blast, magic missile, and spiritual weapon, and monsters like beholders, shadow demons, and incorporeal undead.

Vulnerable: none.

Resistant: none.

Immune: helmed horrors – that’s it. Like thunder damage, force damage is often listed as one of the most reliable damage types in the game.

How does it cause harm? On the one hand, force damage sounds a bit like bludgeoning damage – a kind of slam attack. But it’s more than that. Think about a disintegrate spell, for example: this thin green ray can reduce you to a pile of fine grey dust! Of course, this is one particular example of force damage, but still. I would infer that force damage involves some kind of disruption or interference at a molecular level: a jolt that interferes with the systems of a living creature.  

What does it feel like? Probably like a mix of bludgeoning, electrical, fire, and thunder damage. I imagine force damage as a sharp, piercing pain or jolt, perhaps like being slammed into by something, followed by a sustained throbbing ache or even a burning sensation.  


  • 5 (1d10): a minor magical explosion; being hit by two magic missiles or passed through
  • 11 (2d10): the slam attack of a poltergeist, or being hit by all three magic missiles
  • 22 (4d10): perhaps the shockwave of an artifact breaking, or the pulse wave spell from Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount
  • 55 (10d10): a nasty hit from a beholder’s disintegration ray; the explosion of a highly-charged magical artifact.
  • 99 (18d10): an 8th-level disintegrate spell; absorbing the collapsing energy of a god’s seal breaking
  • 132 (24d10): being at the centre of a catastrophic disruption in the Weave; a massive magical explosion.

💀 Necrotic damage

‘Necrotic damage, dealt by certain undead and some spells, withers matter and even the soul.’

Also known as: corruption,entropy, enervation, soul drain, negative energy.

Common sources: spells like blight, chill touch, finger of death, and hex; undead creatures like wights, wraiths, vampires, and liches; creatures that can rot flesh like nothics, violet fungi, and chasme demons.

Vulnerable: none.

Resistant: shadow dragons, shadow demons, various types of undead including vampires, liches, and will-o’-wisps.

Immune: solars, helmed horrors, and (unsurprisingly) a bunch of undead.

How does it cause harm? Necrotic damage is not the same thin as necrosis. As the Player’s Handbook description states (above), it doesn’t just wither the flesh: it affects the very soul. So, as well as causing a kind of chilling decay and tissue death, it saps your very life essence. 

What does it feel like? The decay and decomposition is akin to real-life necrosis (think gangrene and frostbite), which doesn’t necessarily feel painful if nerves have died. There might be a tingling sensation, or a swelling or burning, but the effect is more visual (tissue turning black, yellow, or green) and perhaps olfactory (the smell of dead flesh is putrid – overpoweringly rancid like rotten eggs or meat). However, that’s only part of what necrotic damage would feel like. As well as the withering of the flesh, you also have the dread and anguish caused by the harm to your soul, the lethargy and weakness of energy drain, the nightmarish trauma of exposure to necrotic magics, and perhaps a feeling of cold or despair.


  • 5 (1d10): a low-level chill touch spell; a wight’s life drain.
  • 11 (2d10): a vampiric touch spell; a banshee’s corrupting touch; a nothic’s rotting gaze.
  • 22 (4d10): a lich’s disrupt life ability or a wraith’s life drain; a 2nd-level inflict wounds injury
  • 55 (10d10): a finger of death or symbol of death spell; a death tyrant’s death ray.
  • 99 (18d10): the breath weapon of an ancient shadow dragon; absorbing the essence of a potent necromantic artifact.
  • 132 (24d10): having one’s soul wrenched from their body by an ancient undead entity.

🧠 Psychic damage

‘Mental abilities such as a mind flayer’s psionic blast deal psychic damage.’

Also known as: psionic damage

Common sources: banshees, fomorians, incubi/succubi, slaadi, and shadow demons, pluspsionic creatures like aboleths, gith, intellect devourers, mind flayers, and some grey oozes;spells like dissonant whispers, feeblemind, phantasmal force, and vicious mockery.

Vulnerable: none.

Resistant: revenants – that’s it.

Immune: constructs, couatls, sphinxes, demiliches.

How does it cause harm? This was one of the hardest for me to think about. I suppose psychic damage might be based on brain damage, migraines, and/or psychological trauma.     

What does it feel like? Perhaps like a sensory overload. Probably invasive or unsettling – certainly overwhelming and distressing. Exhausting, draining, numbing maybe, like sudden, intense fatigue. The physical sensation might feel like a blinding, throbbing headache with nausea, tinnitus (ear ringing), tingling, and dizziness. Your environment might become temporarily dazzling or foggy.


  • 5 (1d10): a haunting whisper in your mind; a wave of unsettling thoughts
  • 11 (2d10): a disturbing vision that leaves you shaken; intense mental pressure like a migraine
  • 22 (4d10): a surge of intrusive and traumatic memories; an assault that leaves you unable to distinguish between illusion and reality
  • 55 (10d10): being trapped in a nightmarish illusion; a cosmic void of overwhelming hopelessness
  • 99 (18d10): an encounter with a Great Old One which shatters your sanity; witnessing cosmic horrors through some kind of rift
  • 132 (24d10): experiencing the combined anguish of countless tormented souls; direct contact with the mind of a Great Old One

🌟 Radiant damage

‘Radiant damage, dealt by a cleric’s flame strike spell or an angel’s smiting weapon, sears the flesh like fire and coverloads the spirit with power.’

Also known as: holy damage, divine damage, energy

Common sources: spells like guiding bolt, moonbeam, and sacred flame; the paladin’s divine smite ability;sun blades; angels like devas and planetars;futuristic firearms.

Vulnerable: shadows, shadow demons.

Resistant: a few celestials – couatls, devas, planetars, and solars. Surprisingly, they are resistant, not immune.

Immune: none.

How does it cause harm? There is maybe a real-life equivalent for radiant damage: lasers! (In fact, blaster pistols in the DMG are described as dealing radiant damage.) Lasers cause burns much like any heat source, so radiant damage should certainly cause some kind of burning (hence flame strike, sacred flame, and similar spell names). But just as necrotic damage is more than necrosis, radiant damage is more than a burn: it ‘overloads the spirit with power’, which is a much more abstract and metaphysical description than almost any other damage type in the game. 

What does it feel like? Burns we know about; they are described in my previous post on Patreon (see fire damage). But radiance, as in divine, spiritual power: that’s hard. I imagine it feels overwhelming, draining, disorienting, maybe even resonant like a deep vibration, and however you might describe it, there must be a sense of awesome power and vulnerability: a sudden rush of blinding insight into the workings of the Multiverse, and the full weight of divine judgement.


  • 5 (1d10): the radiance of a sacred flame spell;
  • 11 (2d10): a low-level paladin’s divine smite; a blast from a laser pistol; the radiance of a holy avenger
  • 22 (4d10): the searing light of a planetar’s greatsword; a 3rd-level guiding bolt spell
  • 55 (10d10): a critical hit with a high-level divine smite; prolonged exposure to a sacred artifact.
  • 99 (18d10): the rays of a divine beacon; attempting to wield a god’s personal weapon without being deemed worthy.
  • 132 (24d10): gazing upon the raw form of a god.

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