Becoming a stain on the stone at the bottom of a castle is a nasty way to go, in any world. Since you’re here, I’m sure your curious about how Fall Damage works in D&D 5th edition.
The short answer is you take 1d6 bludgeoning damage for every 10 ft. you fall (maximum of 20d6). If you want the long answer, you’ll have to read on to find out.
What is Fall Damage?
As obvious as this sounds, there’s a lot of nuance involved in figuring out how gravity works in Faerun. Here’s what the player’s handbook says about the basic rules of fall damage 5e:
“A fall from a great height is one of the most common hazards facing an adventurer. At the end of a fall, a creature takes 1d6 bludgeoning damage for every 10 feet it fell, to a maximum of 20d6. The creature lands prone, unless it avoids taking damage from the fall.”
Of course, there are ways to mitigate how much damage the player character takes, but we’ll get into that later.
How to Calculate Fall Damage
A simple rule of thumb is to remember that the player takes 1d6 bludgeoning damage for every 10 feet they fall to a maximum of 20d6. They also land prone unless their damage total is 0. This is incredibly brutal as a 20-30 feet fall can ruin any low-level character with 16 hit points. If the Dungeon Master rolls high, it’s all over.
Say a player character is pushed off the edge of a cliff that’s 70 feet tall. The Dungeon Master would then toss out a 7d6 damage roll on your very specific fall damage dice. The average damage would be about 24 or 25 points of bludgeoning damage. Ouch! Clean up on Aisle 7d6.
Be aware, that everything is at the dungeon master’s discretion. Later in this post, we’re going to cover clever ways for the Dungeon Master to make falls more interesting and less party wiping.
The Rate at Which you Fall
In the real world, we call this terminal velocity which is 9.8m/s. Doesn’t quite have a fantasy ring to it so we’ll break it up like this:
Say you’ve fallen off of an airship that’s 1000 feet in above the ground. Because you fall 500 feet per turn (which is 6 seconds in game) it would take two turns to hit the ground. You can try to write a short letter, flap your arms at incredible speeds, but ultimately, you’ll hit the ground at the end of a fall.
“It’s not the fall that kills you, it’s the sudden stop at the end.” -Douglas Adams
How to Calculate Falling from Flying
What if you’re on a flying creature and suddenly the poor thing has a heart attack? You’d better cross your heart and hope the Dungeon Master rolls low. Typically, the same rules apply to a falling creature’s rate as they do a player character’s rate.
Let’s say some large flying insects were knocked out of the sky, they will fall at the usual rate of 500 feet per turn (assuming their fall is more than 500 feet, otherwise roll that damage cap of 20d6). If they had passengers, they would still be knocked prone upon landing unless the damage is mitigated fully.
There are some other quirks a Dungeon Master can work in such as falling onto another creature (which I highly recommend) as that would hurt both parties as well.
Ways to Mitigate Fall Damage
Not a fan of falling to your death? Don’t worry, there’s ways to avoid taking (most) damage from falling in 5th edition. There are plenty of ways to mitigate different damage types, but falling is a bit sneakier. Check out these solutions.
Enhance Spell (Cat’s Grace)
Ever wondered how cats always land on their feet? Wonder no more! If you’re a Sorcerer, Cleric, Bard, Artificer, Druid, or an Oath of Glory Paladin, then you have the amazing 2nd level spell Enhance. Enhance has 6 modes, one of them being Cat’s Grace. This mode allows you to fully negate damage from a 20-foot fall or less. Honestly, this is perfect for most scenarios, a must-have if you’ve picked any of the listed classes.
Some races can fly naturally such as the Aarakocra, but it’s heavily advised to limit flying because of how easily overpowered it can be. Sorcerers, Wizards, and Warlocks can cast Fly once they unlock 3rd level spells. The spell reads as follows:
“You touch a willing creature. The target gains a flying speed of 60 feet for the duration. When the spell ends, the target falls if it is still aloft, unless it can stop the fall.”
At Higher Levels:
“When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 4th level or higher, you can target one additional creature for each slot level above 3rd.”
Keep in mind this spell is completely useless for situations where you fall for less than 500 feet because you won’t have enough time to cast the spell unless you’re falling over 500ft (which happens to be 1 action worth of falling). If you picked Fly to avoid falling damage, you’ll need to cast it before you fall because it takes 1 action’s worth of time to cast.
Slow Fall Ability
At level 4, Monk’s universally gain the ability Slow Fall. As a reaction, a player can reduce the amount of damage they take by 5 times their Monk level. At a high enough level, you can fully mitigate the average damage from the 20d6. You can easily live out that One Punch skydiving entrance!
Feather Fall Ability
Feather Fall is a 1st level spell that Sorcerers, Wizards, and Bards can get. This spell can be cast as a reaction and reads as follows:
“Choose up to five falling creatures within range. A falling creature’s rate of descent slows to 60 feet per round until the spell ends. If the creature lands before the spell ends, it takes no falling damage and can land on its feet, and the spell ends for that creature.”
Perfect to save the party from a 70-foot cliff tumble into a troll trap. Just make sure you remember that it’s a reaction!
Falling into Various Substances
So, we know how to calculate short and long falls, but how do we make it more interesting? Most Dungeon Masters will naturally work this into their explanation of mechanics but not always. Here’s some substances to be aware of when working with fall damage. Note: these are optional rules and are not official.
Falling Into Water
This happens surprisingly often and there’s not an explicit rule for it. Real-life is obviously different from fantasy gaming worlds, anyone diving from 10 feet can be damaged if it’s done wrong so it would be entirely up to the Dungeon Master to decide how it’s going to go down.
Did the player belly flop? Did they do a swan dive and make a tiny splash? I’d recommend having the player roll an athletics or similar check to either fully mitigate the damage from certain heights or at least halve it.
Falling Into Lava
Aside from the obvious burning alive thing (some players may have an appropriate fire resistance for this), falling into lava would be like hitting solid ground. The top part of lava is often denser than the liquid below so I would roll for normal fall damage (and then start the rolls for burning)
Falling Into Slime
This is a fun one. There are so many variations of slime that it rests entirely on the Dungeon Master to create the scenario. If it’s a typical slime, I’d imagine it’d be like landing in a pool of Jell-O. Hard, as, heck. Then, depending on the slime, start rolling for being dissolved! You could always make the slime into a soft surface to deceive the player as well!
Other Environments and Mechanics
I haven’t met many Dungeon Masters that want to rip up a level 1 character sheet due to fall damage. Also, like in real life, there are often things around to break our falls. What if they’re wearing full plate? Make up some house rules, why not? Check out some possible further choices for your campaign.
Falling in a wooded/mountainous area may drag the player through branches to slow down their fall. Maybe they take some piercing damage on the way down but then mitigate the fall damage entirely. Just keep terrain hardness in mind at all times.
Snow cushions a fall by quite a bit. You can have a full tumble down a mountain, fall 70 feet into a 10 feet pile of snow and be fine though you may have to dig yourself out.
Have a player that’s really into Assassin’s Creed and they want to “SKREEEE” like an eagle and jump off the tallest building in town? Perhaps a nice pile of hay will break their fall. We all know that you would likely die in this case, but it’s all fantasy anyway, so have fun!
Is the player in full plate? Swimming would be really difficult. Digging out of snow would be as well. Consider the material and amount a player is wearing; you can create some interesting moments with that information.
Is the player tangled up in something? Are their heavy clothes getting in the way of moving well enough to avoid damage? The player is already prone after the damage unless they mitigate it, but maybe they need to untangle themselves first.
Another interesting thing to keep in mind, is there anything sticking out of anyone? Does the player character have horns? Perhaps an arrow is still sticking out somewhere? Take into account anything that might change any aspect of the fall mechanic. Keep it interesting!
You may get tired of throwing players to the monster that is gravity. Why not have them do some ability checks? Acrobatics to see if they tumble and reduce fall damage. Athletics to see if their girthy legs take the brunt of the force. Surviving due to the result of an ability check could empower the player to make for a more enjoyable experience.
Again, these are just some examples, there are so many more. Make sure to use the environment as a Dungeon Master. Players beware too. Ask if there’s a branch to reach out and grab on a cliffside tumble. You can always have fall damage be nonlethal damage as well.
How Do I Stop Fall Damage in D&D 5e?
There are a limited number of ways to stop fall damage in 5th edition:
- Pick up the Fly spell upon unlocking 3rd level spell slots (Sorcerer, Wizard, Warlock).
- Be a level 4 monk and gain access to Slow Fall.
- Pick up the Feather Fall spell upon unlocking 1st level spell slots (Sorcerer, Wizard, Bard).
- Pick up the Enhance spell upon unlocking 2nd level spell slots and use Cat’s Grace (Sorcerer, Cleric, Bard, Artificer, Druid, or an Oath of Glory Paladin).
Other than that, you’re at the Dungeon Master’s mercy.
Does Rage Reduce Fall Damage?
Yes. A raging barb is intended to reduce ALL bludgeoning damage including damage from falling. That means that a Barbarian under the effect of Rage will take half damage from any fall. Imagine being so angry that even gravity hits like a wet noodle.
How Far Do You Fall in a Round in D&D 5e?
As a non-official rule, you fall 500 feet per round. So, if you fall and it’s not your turn, you’ll start your turn 500 feet lower than your prior turn. If you haven’t hit the ground yet, you’ll have a short window of time to cry before becoming pavement decoration.
Is Falling Damage Bludgeoning?
Yes. There are other things you can collide with mid-air. Branches, debris, etc… But more often than not, the Dungeon Master will make you take primarily bludgeoning damage. It makes sense, right? You’re being hit with a mostly blunt object: the ground.
How Far Can You Fall without Taking Damage in D&D 5e?
You start taking damage at a 10 foot fall or one story. Jumping out of the first floor of the Inn will come with some complications and a 1d6 worth of bludgeoning damage.
How Does Falling Object Damage Work in D&D 5e?
Again, not a hard and fast rule, but for objects weighing over 200lbs, I would apply the same bludgeoning damage per 10 feet up to the terminal velocity damage of 20d6. You may want to do the same for objects under 200lbs and then just halve the damage.
What is the Max Fall Damage in D&D 5e?
According to the rulebook, the maximum damage a player can receive from fall damage is 20d6, which averages around 75 damage. At maximum, it’d be 120 and the lowest would be 20. I would not recommend falling from that high.
What is Feather Fall in D&D 5e?
Feather Fall is a 1st level spell available to Sorcerers, Wizards, and Bards. The spell reads as follows:
“Choose up to five falling creatures within range. A falling creature’s rate of descent slows to 60 feet per round until the spell ends. If the creature lands before the spell ends, it takes no falling damage and can land on its feet, and the spell ends for that creature.“
It’s one of the more useful 1st level spells if I do say so myself.
Wrapping Things Up
In the end, you’re likely to fall a few times over the course of a campaign. It’s up to you as a player to decide if you would like to build your character around the chance of falling or not.
As a DM, be sure to make falling interesting and fun for your players. It’s at the very least an opportunity for some comedy or drama!