I think it’s safe to say that most people read “force damage” and start to think about Star Wars. I might be a bit biased in that assumption, but the fact remains that reading force damage doesn’t really conjure up a concrete image of what happens when a spell of this variety is cast.
In this article, we’re going to be talking all about force damage; what it is, how it works, and what spells and creatures you can expect to see it with. That’s right… it’s time to use the force.
What is Force Damage in 5e?
Force damage is pure magical energy channeled into a harmful form. The rest of the magical 5e damage types have some connection to elemental energy or some sort of greater theme, while this is just straight-up magical power. Because of this, force damage is almost exclusively reserved for spells.
This damage might sound extremely vanilla, but it can really be thought of as raw magic so powerful that it needs no gimmick to get the job done. Two of the most popular spells for casters that want to pump out barrages of damage are force damage spells. I’m sure you’ve heard of both Eldritch Blast and Magic Missile.
Spells like these two which just fire off blasts of magical power can be really appealing for the amount of damage they deal, but that’s not the end of it. D&D is a storytelling medium, and force damage is the kind of thing that gives you as the player or DM so much liberty with the details of that story.
When we deal fire damage, say through a fireball, there is a very clear picture that comes to mind for most people. I mean, it’s a ball of fire. You can embellish and say it looks like a phoenix, or make up whatever story you want (which I fully support, bring the game to life), but at the end of the day, fire is fire.
Now, force? You tell me what that is supposed to look like.
There isn’t a standard definition, so we get to decide what goes down, and that can really impact the story. To me, something like an eldritch blast is a rippling stream of golden energy that hits its target and explodes like a light show.
Maybe for you, it’s a nearly invisible ball of energy, a sort of ripple through the air similar to the way the heat above a fire bends light.
Mechanically, all of this has zero importance, but the game is so much more than mechanics and I cordially invite you to explore how force damage works for your character because it can be entirely different for everyone!
How Good is Force Damage?
Force damage is an exceptional damage type, and is arguably one of the most powerful in the game. While spells that deal this damage are typically extremely powerful, what really sets it apart is its extreme unlikelihood of being resisted by your foes.
Asking if a damage type is good is often a bit of a silly question. Spells that are good in some situations might be absolutely awful in others. Not to keep going back to fire damage, but a fireball is pretty lackluster when thrown at a bunch of fiends, even if it has an incredible AOE damage output.
The reason it’s hard to measure the quality of damage types is because resistances and immunities exist. Even looking at how many creatures are resistant is a mixed bag, because we don’t come across creatures at random. Our foes are largely decided by our campaign, and a bit by our DM.
With force damage, all of that philosophical mumbo-jumbo goes right out the door. Asking how good force damage is in 5e is like asking another question…
What monsters are resistant to force damage?
Shockingly few creatures are resistant or even immune, to force damage in 5e. In fact, there are a total of 10 creatures out of the 2074 currently published which have the capacity to resist any force damage.
Force damage (shown above as that dark blue sliver) has by far the lowest weighted resistance of any damage type in 5e. What do I mean by that? I like numbers, so I calculate a damage type’s weighted resistance by counting a resistance as +1, immunity as +2, and vulnerability as -1.
Force damage has a weighted resistance of 12. Compare that to poison (the big purple section), the most resisted damage type, which has a weighted resistance of 1146.
If you’re looking to have a spell that is almost always going to hit your target for full damage, use the force. Oh my god, Ben Kenobi was just trying to help Luke get better at D&D optimization!
Which Spells Deal Force Damage in 5e?
So you’re trying to fill up your spellbook with good spells now? I like it. Spells that deal force damage are mostly evocation spells. There are only 20 all together, so I’ll list them all, and because I think you’re cool, I’ll even explain a few in-depth.
- Eldritch Blast; Evocation Cantrip
- Sword Burst; Conjuration Cantrip
- Chaos Bolt; 1st-Level Evocation
- Jim’s Magic Missile; 1st-Level Evocation
- Magic Missile; 1st-Level Evocation
- Magnify Gravity; 1st-Level Transmutation
- Zephyr Strike; 1st-Level Transmutation
- Spiritual Weapon; 2th-Level Evocation
- Pulse Wave; 3th-Level Evocation
- Gravity Sinkhole; 4th-Level Evocation
- Bigby’s Hand (Arcane Hand); 5th-Level Evocation
- You may see this spell listed as either name, both are accurate. WotC has done this for a few spells, creating a generic name for the spell when they add it to the SRD.
- Banishing Smite; 5th-Level Abjuration
- Steel Wind Strike; 5th-Level Conjuration
- Disintegrate; 6th-Level Transmutation
- Gravity Fissure; 6th-Level Evocation
- Draconic Transformation; 7th-Level Transmutation
- Mordenkainen’s Sword; 7th-Level Evocation
- Dark Star; 8th-Level Evocation
- Blade of Disaster; 9th-Level Conjuration
- Ravenous Void; 9th-Level Evocation
If I didn’t talk about EB I think the warlock community would find me and take my cat hostage. Eldritch blast is an excellent warlock cantrip that starts out dealing 1d10 on a hit with a ranged spell attack.
It’s also a spell that gets stronger as you level up, increasing the amount of streams or blasts every few levels, up to four streams at 17th level.
On its own, it’s a great spell and a wonderful representation of the might of force damage. Thanks to eldritch invocations though, it has the potential to become even more powerful. There are several of these warlock abilities that improve the spell.
Agonizing Blast lets you add your charisma bonus to damage; Eldritch Spear increases the range to 300 ft; Lance of Lethargy slows a creature when you hit them with the spell.
There also happen to be two similar invocations, one which pushes a creature 10 ft away, Repelling Blast, and one which pulls a creature 10 ft closer, Grasp of Hadar. You could almost call these… force push and pull. Okay, I think that’s my last Star Wars joke.
This spell lets you conjure up “a sword-shaped plane of force.” Think of this like compressed, focused magical energy in the shape of a sword, since I know plane often refers to a much larger concept most of the time. Anyways, when you conjure this sword you make an attack that deals 3d10 damage on a hit.
Then, since it’s a concentration spell, you can use a bonus action on each subsequent turn until the spell ends to move the sword 20 ft and make a new attack with it. That’s potentially 300 damage coming out of this spell, or let’s say an average of 180. All the while, you can still cast other spells during your main actions.
This is a great spell to start off combat with, especially if you’re good at holding concentration.
What Deals Force Damage in 5e?
Force damage is typically dealt by spells, but there are a few creatures, items, and abilities that can dish it out as well. It is one of the more rare damage types, so it shouldn’t be a huge concern when you’re building your character and trying to pick up resistances.
The answer to which creatures deal force damage in 5e is pretty simple and doesn’t get its own section here. Creatures that can cast spells can deal force damage.
There are oddities like a Beholder. One of its eyes can shoot out a disintegration ray, similar to the spell itself, but not technically spellcasting.
Then there are some living spells, namely a Living Bigby’s Hand, which can deal force damage. Those count as spell adjacent in my book, but they’re really fun to know about.
Now, onward to other things that can deal force damage.
- Planar Warrior – This 3rd level feature of the Horizon Walker ranger conclave turns all of the damage for a weapon attack into force damage, along with tacking on some extra damage. You can use this ability as much as you want, but it requires targeting a creature on a previous turn with a bonus action. This is functionally like a stronger version of hunter’s mark.
- Steel Defender – The Battlesmith artificer creates a steel defender construct that has a force damage dealing attack. The attack is titled Force-Empowered Rend, and deals
- Arcane Jolt – Another ability the Battlesmith gets, this one comes a bit later and lets you deal extra force damage when you or your defender hit a target.
- Eldritch Cannon – The Artillerist artificer has a special cannon type called force ballista which deals force damage and pushes targets back.
- Wild Surge – The wild surge table of the Path of Wild Magic barbarian has quite a few instances of abilities that bring force damage into the mix. My favorite is an exploding pixie that deals force damage.
- Awakened Spell Book – The order of scribes wizard can change the damage type of a spell for the damage type of another spell they have in their spellbook that is of the same level. With the right spell list you can make just about any damage dealing spell deal force damage. Namely, a forceball (force dealing fireball) is probably one of the most powerful AOE spells you can create at 3rd level. Sorry DMs.
- Bead of Force – A bead that when explodes on impact when thrown and deals force damage to creatures in a 10-foot radius
- Blackstaff – A sentient version of the Staff of Power with extra abilities.
- Dragon Wing Bow – This bow is infused with the essence of a dragon, the color, gem, or metallic type of which determines it’s damage type. You don’t need to load it with ammunition, as it creates its own, and it deals extra damage of the specified type on a hit. Amethyst is the dragon type you would need to deal force damage.
- Dragonlance – This weapon deals extra force damage when you use it against dragons.
- Ring of the Ram – A ring with daily refreshing charges which you can expend to deal force damage to a creature and push them back.
- Ruinblade – This is a unique sentient weapon which deals extra damage to undead, along with a slew of other abilities.
- Sphere of Annihilation – This “item” is actually a hole in the multiverse that deals 4d10 force damage to anything that touches it. Of course, you can control it with your mind and push it towards other creatures. It actually can make for a fun (terrible) game of reverse mental tug-of-war.
- Staff of Power – This staff deals additional force damage when you use it as a melee weapon, although it’s main benefit is that it has a number of charges and potential spells to cast. Also, when the staff is broken it deals out a lot of force damage to nearby creatures.
- Staff of Striking – This staff is like a wizard’s smite stick. You can expend 1 to 3 charges when you hit a creature with it to deal additional force damage. It’s considered a very rare magic item for monks as well.
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As a kid, I was often told to get my head out of the clouds and to stop living in a fantasy world. That never really jived with me, so I decided to make a living out of games, stories, and all sorts of fantastical works. Now, as an adult, I aspire to remind people that sometimes a little bit of fantasy is all you need when life gets to be too much.