As the sage Ralph Wiggins once decreed, “It tastes like burning!”
How Does Acid Damage Work in DnD 5e?
Acid Damage is one of the six types of elemental damage. As such, it is subject to vulnerability, resistance, and immunity just like the other elemental types.
First, some context. The following is a general run-down and by no means covers every situation.
There are six types of elemental damage: Acid, Fire, Cold, Lightning, Thunder, and Poison.
Here is a quick reference chart for the varying types of damage:
Physical damage types are typically all you will run into at first tier, excepting, of course, the spell casters in your party.
(Shhh…. don’t tell them this, but they need that edge. Have you seen their HP and weapon/armor proficiencies? No? That’s because they have none!)
Most monsters you run into in tier 1 will deal this type of damage and will generally not have resistance to these.
Magical damage types tend to be more prevalent in tiers 3 and 4, which means certain monsters will have resistances or immunities to the physical and elemental types.
Your PCs will also have more access to spells and magic items that make use of these types while increasing their abilities with the other two.
Elemental damages are generally found in the long space between tier 3 and tier 4, overlapping a bit, obviously.
These types face the most amount of variation when it comes to matching resistance, immunity, or vulnerability in the Ro-Sham-Beaux game of damage dealing for DnD 5e. (That’s “rock-paper-scissors” for those of you who only speak Common.)
Since Acid Damage is the focus of our study here, much of what we will describe is applicable to all elemental damage types.
Concerning resistance and vulnerability, from the Basic Rules:
If a creature or an object has resistance to a damage type, damage of that type is halved against it. If a creature or an object has vulnerability to a damage type, damage of that type is doubled against it.
Keep these rules in mind as you search out how to use, avoid, and counter acid damage in your career.
Questions from the class?
How Can I Cause Acid Damage?
The easiest way to cause acid damage is to buy a vial of acid. In the Basic Rules, a vial of acid is listed as costing 25gp and doing 2d6 acid damage as a ranged attack. Easy-peasy.
Alternatively, you could easily create a magic weapon that does acid damage. We created several here at the Citadel. Use any of these templates:
Common – Acidic Ammunition
This ammunition may be loaded into a Blowgun, a Sling, a bow, or a crossbow.
In lieu of dealing the normal damage type for that weapon, the ammunition deals acid damage equal to the weapon’s normal damage die.
Uncommon – Acidic Weapon
This weapon will magically excrete an acid every time you use it. Add +1d6 to the weapon’s type.
Rare – Acid Slinger
This weapon has three charges. Using a charge takes a bonus action and results in a spray of acid in a 10-foot cone originating from you (if a melee weapon) or from a point within range you can hit (if a ranged weapon).
All targets must make a DC 13 DEX save or take 3d6 acid damage. A successful saving throw results in half damage.
Very Rare – Acid Slinging Acidic Weapon
This weapon combines the Acidic Weapon and Acid Slinger abilities.
What About Spells?
There are loads! Here’s a chart. Normally, a chart like this would be tedious and tiresome to create, so we did it for you!
Here at the Citadel, we know it is important to know these things. Especially if Acid Damage is part of your character’s flavor.
So, mostly it seems that Sorcerer or Wizard is your best bet for this type of damage on a spellcasting level. That being said, here is a short list of character types that could make the most of these spells.
Black or Copper Dragon Origin Sorcerer
- Black and Copper Dragons spew acid for their breath weapon, so it makes sense.
Ooze Obsessed Wizard of the School of Evocation or War Mage
- Oozes are usually acidic and have a tendency to dissolve their food which, usually means the poor fools who found them before you did.
- The acid spells above are mostly evocation spells, which are your go-to spells for combat.
Mad Scientist Artificer Alchemist
- It’s all chemistry, baby!
Aberrant Mind Sorcerer
- Because tentacles. Ew.
If Acid damage is your thing, make sure you look at the Elemental Adept feat. This will allow you to ignore acid resistance and treat 1’s as 2’s on your damage die.
What About Monsters? Who Can Kill Me With Acid?
Well, it’s always an option for spellcasting enemies. Remember that, DMs.
If you’re running a dungeon filled with aberrations and oozes, don’t be afraid to take any of the spellcaster stat blocks and replace their damage types with acid. It’s easy to do and adds to the ambience of your dungeon.
Furthermore, if the PCs know they are going into a situation where there could be more acid than a Grateful Dead concert and they know you are free with the rules and damage types, they can feel good about themselves by preparing ahead of time.
That way, they get to have fun and avoid dying while you get to play with a thematic dungeon crawl. Win-win.
As for monsters, it should be general knowledge that oozes, slimes, jellies, and black and copper dragons can always be depended on to try to melt your face.
The most common place to find acid, however, is in trap form!
For an easy one, consider the poison dart and poison needle traps in the Dungeon Master’s Guide.
You can make them operate in exactly the same way, except instead of poison damage they do acid damage. Instead of a CON save vs. Poison, call for a DEX save vs. acid, and voilà! Instant acid traps.
A Gift From the Citadel
What follows is a complex trap you can drop into your game tonight!
Place this trap as a seperate room in your dungeon, levels 7-12.
“This is a large, 3-story tall, circular room with what appears to be a large spout or faucet coming from the ceiling in the center. The spout is positioned over a wire metal that has been discolored.
The floor itself is curved down like a bowl, and there is a drain in the middle. A conveyer leads from a large doorway in the second story to the elevated wire platform.
The ground floor is conical. Moving toward the drain in the center is downhill, which means your speed is doubled in that direction but halved if you are going up.”
This room is used for the refining of a mineral that is mined locally. The large chunk of raw ore is hauled along the conveyor and deposited on the wire platform where it is washed with acid from the faucet until it dissolves.
The resulting acid wash is captured in the bowl-shaped ground floor where the floating chunks that remain are collected.
Triggers and Disarms:
The ground floor has a sliding security door that locks from the outside. Once it shuts, the lock is magical and can only be unlocked from a sufficient Knock spell.
However, there is no crank or doorknob with which to open the door. To open the door once it is unlocked, the party needs a way to somehow grip the door’s handle from the outside, which might be possible with a mage hand or telekinesis type spell.
If they manage to do this, require a DC15 strength or a DC20 Arcana check, depending on how they are trying to open this door.
Climbing up to the conveyor belt requires a rope as the walls are smoothed from years of acid exposure. Athletics or Acrobatics DC 20.
The spout can be turned on and off manually from the top of the faucet as a fail-safe. Getting up there requires leaping or jumping from the conveyor belt onto the supporting structure that holds the faucet and climbing.
This requires a DC 20 Athletics or Acrobatics check. The faucet will then require a DC12 Strength check to turn.
The faucet has a magical on/off switch at the entrance to the conveyor belt. This only works for the person holding the magical key.
Consider putting the key as a piece of loot in an earlier room and allowing a DC 15 Arcana check to recognize the key as the one used for this trap.
A DC 15 Perception or Investigation check will reveal the switch from the ground floor, and a DC10 will reveal it from the conveyor belt.
The On position causes acid to pour from the faucet. The Off position opens the drain in the floor and stops the flow of acid.
Consider having an NPC lead the party in a merry chase into this room from the ground floor. Then have the NPC get up to the conveyor belt with a handy levitate spell or magic item.
The NPC will hit the on/off switch and then either run into the doorway on the second story or wait on the conveyor belt to fight anyone who tries to follow.
In order to prevent any magical mishaps from the dissolving Ore, there is a limited Anti-magic field that activates as soon as the switch is turned on.
This anti-magic field works by requiring any spell that is cast to be accompanied by a DC 15 + the spell’s level, and Arcana/Religion/Nature/Performance check, depending on the spellcaster and DM discretion.
Once the acid starts falling, it spreads in a 5-foot radius every turn. Should a creature end their turn in the acid, they take 3d6 acid damage, no save.