While D&D combat takes place on a grid, it’s important to remember that these combats take place in a living world in unique environments.
As we’ve seen time and time again in movies, books, and other media, clever use of the environment can swing a fight in one side’s favor.
So, when the players or monsters get creative with their environment, how is the Dungeon Master supposed to know how much damage these objects do?
Turns out the designers added something into D&D 5e to help tie all kinds of environmental hazards and their damage together when the edition was first released.
How To Determine Falling Object Damage in D&D 5e
Falling objects deal damage based on what kind of object tumbles toward the creature and how dangerous that object would be if it collided.
Unlike previous editions, D&D 5e opts to provide Dungeon Masters with a couple of tables of examples instead of a formula that determines how much damage the object does when it collides with the target.
In earlier editions, both the weight and the distance fallen would determine how much damage a falling object would do.
So, the heavier an object was or the further it fell, the more d6s of damage the DM would roll for the overall pain being dealt.
While this is still true to some extent in D&D 5e, there’s not a calculation to be done. Instead, the Dungeon Master is directed to a couple of tables.
Improvised Damage Table – Values and Meaning
On page 249 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide, the Improvised Damage tables give a Dungeon Master what various environmental hazards and falling objects typically do as their damage.
Rather than calculate these values every time, a Dungeon Master instead refers to this table and makes their best judgment.
Here is what that table contains:
- 1d10: Burned by coals, hit by a falling bookcase, or pricked by a poisoned needle
- 2d10: Struck by lightning or stumbling into a fire pit
- 4d10: Hit by the falling rubble of a collapsing tunnel or stumbling into a vat of acid
- 10d10: Crushed by compacting walls, hit by whirl steel blades, or wading through a stream of lava
- 18d10: Submerged in lava or being hit by a crashing flying fortress
- 24d10: Tumbling into a vortex of fire on the Elemental Plane of Fire, or being crushed in the jaws of a godlike or moon-sized creature
Basically, the higher up you go in damage value, the larger or more threatening the hazard is.
While the examples from the lower-damage values are more commonplace, the higher-damage values sound like part of tales of great heroism and fantasy.
In other words, a low-level group of adventurers probably won’t experience those higher-damage values at most tables.
However, what happens if you want to tell a grander story than your players’ level suggests? How do you know if your environment will immediately kill a player or not?
That’s where the Damage Severity table comes in.
Damage Severity and Character Level – Values and Meaning
On the same page as the Improvised Damage table is the Damage Severity and Level table. This table’s job is to explain at a glance how significant a certain amount of damage is to a character based on their level.
The table is divided up into three columns: Setback, Dangerous, and Deadly. Here’s what that table looks like:
Damage Severity and Level
The categories explain in a word how severe an amount of damage would be for the character.
So, 4d10 damage would be deadly for a low-level adventurer, but once they hit double-digits levels, 4d10 matters much less to them.
Putting Both Together
As a Dungeon Master, you should combine the Improvised Damage and Damage Severity tables to paint a picture of what you can throw at your group.
Say, for example, you want to include a collapsing-tunnel trap inside a dungeon. According to the Improvised Damage table, you’d deal 4d10 bludgeoning damage to the creatures caught in the trap.
You’d also have to figure out if there are any saving throws or ways to notice the trap before it goes off since the party Rogue will most likely be on the lookout for a trap.
Using the Damage Severity table, we can see that this trap could be Deadly for a low-level party. Meanwhile, a group of players between fifth and tenth level would be threatened but most likely would survive that trap given its Dangerous nature.
Standard Falling Rules For Creatures
Anyone who has played a character getting flung off a ledge or flying creature will notice that falling damage is different from the damage caused by falling objects.
So, let’s draw some comparisons here.
Creatures that fall take d6s of damage equal to the number of feet they fell divided by 10.
So, a creature that careened down a 50-foot cliff would suffer 5d6 bludgeoning damage with no chance to save or reduce the damage minus special abilities or spells. Also, at the end of the fall, the creature lays prone.
Note that these rules don’t mention objects at all in their wording. So, this fact means that objects don’t add falling damage to any damage they deal with creatures.
A Dungeon Master might decide that the falling damage is significant enough to roll to see how much damage the object takes, but that should be reserved for objects the players might care about being unbroken.
Falling Object Damage FAQs
With how open-ended the falling-object-damage rules can be, some questions come up frequently.
Here are some of those questions and their answers as a quick reference:
How Much Damage Do Falling Objects Do in D&D 5e?
For the most part, falling objects do as much damage as the Dungeon Master feels is appropriate.
D&D 5e has several tables that help DMs figure out how much damage a falling object should do, but it doesn’t have any specific calculations you can make to create a balanced number.
For the most part, falling objects do what the DM believes is correct.
How Many Feet Do Objects Fall per Round in D&D 5e?
Both creatures and objects fall 500 feet per round of combat in D&D 5e.
If something falls a number of feet below that 500-foot threshold, then the object or creature hits the next surface on the same round of combat that it fell.
For long distances, the creature falls 500 feet every round until it hits a surface or stops falling.
Falling object damage in D&D 5e falls under environmental hazards and other improvised damage.
To figure out how much damage your hazard or trap does, referring to the Improvised Damage table will tell you how much damage you could roll.
The Damage Severity table will show you how deadly that hazard’s damage might be for your party.
Together, these tables give DMs a quick reference on how dangerous their encounter environments and falling objects should be.