Taking the form of blinding light or holy flames, radiant damage is a manifestation of divine power and wrath – whether it originates from a god, celestial being, or the indefinable spirit of nature.
Radiant damage is one of thirteen damage types in Dungeons & Dragons 5e. In this guide for players and dungeon masters, we’ll be taking a look at how radiant damage works, the spells and abilities that inflict it, and some of the monsters that are vulnerable, resistant, or immune to its effects.
How Does Radiant Damage Work in D&D 5e?
Radiant Damage is the Divine magic type in DnD 5e. This type of damage typically requires Constitution saving throws. Some undead, demons, devils, and other creature types are vulnerable to Radiant Damage. Radiant is also notable for being very rarely resisted, and for some creatures, it will prevent regeneration.
All damage in D&D 5e falls within the game’s thirteen damage types: Acid, Bludgeoning, Cold, Fire, Force Lightning, Necrotic, Piercing, Poison, Psychic, Radiant, Slashing, and Thunder.
Radiant damage is associated with divine magic, manifesting as bursts of light and holy fire. It burns flesh like a white hot flame and overloads the spirit with power.
Spells available to classes like the cleric and paladin commonly inflict radiant damage. Weapons of great power, blessed by a cleric or even directly by a god, or those forged to kill evil creatures like the Sun Blade also deal radiant damage.
Creatures with links to the divine, such as celestials and certain gem dragons, can inflict (and are often resistant or immune to) radiant damage, and monsters that dwell within darkness tend to be more affected by it than other damage types.
DM’s Guide: How Do I describe Radiant Damage?
While there are certainly different flavors of radiant damage – a druid’s Moonbeam may look like a shaft of silvery moonlight, while a cleric’s Sacred Flame could resemble a blast of golden fire – this damage type is pretty much always expressed as a bright light.
The color and exact appearance of radiant damage could depend on the character (or monster) inflicting it, not to mention its effects upon the other four senses. Here are some examples of how I’d use the five senses to portray radiant damage in one of my own games.
A blinding flash of white light; a burst of shimmering gold; a ball of light focused into a single orb that shimmers like diamond before bursting outwards in a shower of iridescent sparks; heavy, pouring through the air like golden syrup; falling like droplets of crystalline rain; cycling through a dizzying rainbow of colors; cold and harsh like fluorescent strip lighting; sacred runes outlined in gold, red, and silver light.
A high whine like tinnitus; the ringing of silver bells; a roaring in the ears like the ocean; a piercing crack, like glaciers breaking apart; the gentle notes of fingers traced around the lip of a crystal flute.
An incense, heavy and cloying; sharp and metallic-like the first snowfall; sweet yet bitter, like sugar starting to burn; cloves and cinnamon.
White hot, searing pain like fire; numbness and bliss, even as your skin blackens and blisters before your eyes; a tingling feeling as though all your limbs are very far away; a prickling sensation as though you are carrying a powerful static charge.
Bitter and metallic; the earthy notes of nutmeg and dried cherries; an inexplicable sweetness like honey.
Radiant Damage Spells
There are 21 spells that deal radiant damage in D&D 5e, from simple cantrips like Sacred Flame to immensely powerful spells like Sunburst, which call down the fury of the heavens themselves.
Magic that inflicts radiant damage nearly always belongs to the School of Evocation, although there are also some examples that fall within the schools of Abjuration, Conjuration, and even Necromancy.
Radiant Damage and Saving Throws
Virtually all spells that deal radiant damage and require a saving throw require the target to make a Constitution saving throw, although some spells like Guardian of Faith and Spirit Guardians require Dexterity and Wisdom saving throws.
Keep this in mind when casting radiant damage spells, as monsters with high Constitution modifiers are less likely to be subjected to the full effects of your spells.
Blinding Smite, 3rd, Evocation; Paladin
This spell ignites your weapon with holy fire. The next time you hit a creature with a melee weapon attack, the target takes an additional 3d8 radiant damage and must make a Constitution saving throw to avoid being blinded.
Branding Smite, 2nd, Evocation; Paladin, Warlock (Hexblade); Artificer (Battle Smith)
Your weapon gleams with astral radiance. The next time you hit a creature with a melee weapon attack, you inflict an additional 2d6 radiant damage and brand the target, wreathing it in holy light and preventing it from becoming invisible.
Crown of Stars, 7th, Evocation; Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard
You conjure seven starlike motes of light that orbit your head. You can use a bonus action to make a ranged spell attack, firing one of the motes at a target within 120 ft. On a hit, the target takes 4d12 radiant damage. The motes also shed bright light around you, depending on how many of them you have remaining.
Crusader’s Mantle, 3rd, Evocation; Paladin, Cleric (War Domain)
You radiate holy power, causing all non hostile creatures within 30ft of you to to inflict an extra 1d4 radiant damage whenever they hit with a weapon attack.
Dawn, 5th, Evocation; Cleric, Wizard
A cylinder of holy sunlight shines down from above, searing anything standing within the cylinder for 4d10 radiant damage if it fails a Constitution saving throw. Upon your command, you can also move the cylinder up to 60 ft as a bonus action, following your enemies across the battlefield with a giant laser made of god’s wrath.
Destructive Wave, 5th, Evocation; Paladin, Cleric (Tempest Domain)
You strike the ground, unleashing a burst of divine energy that inflicts 5d6 thunder damage and either 5d6 necrotic or radiant damage on targets within 30ft that fail a Constitution saving throw.
Divine Favor, 1st, Evocation; Paladin, Cleric (War Domain)
Imbue your weapons with an additional 1d4 radiant damage for one minute.
Flame Strike, 5th, Evocation; Cleric (Light Domain, War Domain), Druid (Circle of Wildfire), Paladin (Oath of Devotion, Oath of Glory), Warlock (Fiend, Celestial, Genie)
Call down a pillar of divine fire, forcing anyone in its path to make a Dexterity saving throw or take 4d6 fire damage and 4d6 radiant damage.
Forbiddance, 6th, Abjuration; Cleric
Ward an area of up to 40,000 square feet against magical travel and incursions by celestials, elementals, fey, fiends, and undead, which take 5d10 radiant or necrotic damage upon entering the warded space.
Guardian of Faith, 4th, Cleric, Paladin (Oath of Devotion, Oath of the Crown), Warlock (Celestial)
You summon a large spectral guardian which inflicts 20 radiant damage on creatures that fail a Dexterity saving throw and vanishes after dealing a total of 60 damage.
Guiding Bolt, 1st, Evocation; Cleric, Paladin (Oath of Glory), Warlock (Celestial)
You launch a streak of light at a creature within 120ft. On a hit, you inflict 4d6 radiant damage and give the next attack roll against the creature before the end of your next turn advantage as you wreathe the target in holy light.
Holy Weapon, 5th, Evocation; Cleric, Paladin
You imbue a weapon with holy power, causing it to emit bright light and deal an extra 2d8 radiant damage. You may also end the spell by releasing a burst of radiance from the weapon, which forces enemies within 30ft to make Constitution saving throws or take 4d8 radiant damage and become blinded.
Moonbeam, 2nd, Evocation; Cleric (Twilight Domain), Druid, Paladin (Oath of the Ancients, Oath of the Watchers)
You summon a silvery beam of moonlight which strikes your enemies for 2d10 radiant damage on a failed Dexterity saving throw. The beam also has a chance to force shapeshifters to revert to their true form on a failed save.
Sacred Flame, cantrip, Evocation; Cleric
A burst of holy fire surrounds the target, forcing it to make a Dexterity saving throw or take 1d8 radiant damage.
Sickening Radiance, 4th, Evocation; Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard
Dim greenish light fills a 30 ft sphere within 120 ft of you, forcing creatures within it to make a Constitution saving throw or take 4d10 radiant damage, suffer a level of exhaustion, and emit a pale greenish light of their own.
Spirit Guardians, 3rd, Conjuration; Cleric, Paladin (Oath of the Crown)
Angelic or fey spirits swarm forth from the aether to protect you, inflicting 3d8 radiant damage (or necrotic if your character is evil) on creatures who come within 15ft of you.
Spirit Shroud, 3rd, Necromancy; Cleric, Paladin, Warlock, Wizard
Spirits of the dead come forth from beyond the veil, surrounding you and increasing damage dealt by your attacks by 1d8. The damage is either radiant, necrotic or cold, a damaged creature may not regain hit points until the start of your next turn, and you choose an enemy to have its speed reduced by 10ft while the spell remains active.
Sunbeam, 6th, Evocation; Druid, Sorcerer, Wizard
You unleash a beam of brilliant light which forces each creature in its path to make a Dexterity saving throw or take 6d8 radiant damage and become blinded. This spell is particularly effective against oozes and the undead.
Sunburst, 8th, Evocation; Druid, Sorcerer, Wizard
A blast of sunlight erupts in a 60ft radius, forcing creatures caught in its path to make a Constitution saving throw to avoid being blinded and taking 12d6 radiant damage. Sunburst also ends any magical darkness within its path.
Wall of Light, 5th, Evocation; Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard
You summon a shimmering wall of light that forces any creature caught within it (or attempting to travel through it) to make a Constitution saving throw to avoid being blinded and take 4d8 radiant damage.
Word of Radiance, cantrip, Evocation; Cleric
A wave of burning radiance flies from your lips, forcing every creature you choose within 5 ft to make a Constitution saving throw or take 1d6 radiant damage.
Monsters and Radiant Damage
The noble or foul and undead nature of some monsters has the effect of making them either vulnerable, resistant, or even immune to the effects of radiant damage.
Within the Monster Manual, creatures with special relationships to radiant damage are somewhat rare, and edge cases tend to emerge when you look further afield into specific adventures – like Curse of Strahd, which as a horror module filled with vampires and undead is packed with opportunities to use radiant damage to your advantage.
Monsters Vulnerable to Radiant Damage
Somewhat contrary to common sense, not all undead and fiends are vulnerable to radiant damage, although Shadows, Shadow Demons, and the Undead Bulette from Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage, all take double damage from radiant sources.
Also, while Shadow Dragons aren’t technically vulnerable to radiant damage, in dim light these creatures gain resistance to all types of damage that aren’t force, psychic, or radiant.
Monsters Resistant and Immune to Radiant Damage
Creatures touched by the divine can often be resistant or immune to radiant damage, in much the same way that a red dragon is immune to fire; they are unable to be harmed by that which they are made of.
I know, by that logic I should be immune to being slapped in the face with a big chunk of sweaty ham, but them’s the breaks I guess.
No monsters in the Monster Manual are immune to radiant damage, although some gemstone and hollow dragons recently released as part of Fizban’s Treasury have this property. Pretty much all powerful celestials, like Solars and Planetars, have resistance to radiant damage, as do Crystal Dragons.
Radiant Damage Magic Weapons
There are many weapons scattered throughout the D&D multiverse that have been touched by gods or those that serve them. Virtually all weapons of divine origin and purpose inflict some measure of radiant damage.
The various adventures published for 5e are full of examples, but the Dungeon Master’s Guide and Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything offer us just four: The Devotee’s Censer, which inflicts extra radiant damage and also clouds of healing incense; the Mace of Disruption, which inflicts extra radiant damage on fiends and undead, as well as having a chance to make them frightened of you; the Sun Blade, a holy relic forged to kill the vampire Strahd; and the Holy Avenger, the granddaddy of overpowered, +3 magic swords and an iconic source of radiant damage from the earliest days of D&D.