In the midst of combat, you attempt checks to determine if you can damage your foe with weapons, spells, or alchemical concoctions. On a successful check, you hit and deal damage. Damage decreases a creature’s Hit Points on a 1-to-1 basis (so a creature that takes 6 damage loses 6 Hit Points). The full rules can be found in the Hit Points, Healing, and Dying section on page 459.
Damage is sometimes given as a fixed amount, but more often than not you’ll make a damage roll to determine how much damage you deal. A damage roll typically uses a number and type of dice determined by the weapon or unarmed attack used or the spell cast, and it is often enhanced by various modifiers, bonuses, and penalties. Like checks, a damage roll—especially a melee weapon damage roll—is often modified by a number of modifiers, penalties, and bonuses. When making a damage roll, you take the following steps, explained in detail below.
- Roll the dice indicated by the weapon, unarmed attack, or spell, and apply the modifiers, bonuses, and penalties that apply to the result of the roll.
- Determine the damage type.
- Apply the target’s immunities, weaknesses, and resistances to the damage.
- If any damage remains, reduce the target’s Hit Points by that amount.
Step 1: Roll the Damage Dice and Apply Modifiers, Bonuses, and Penalties
Your weapon, unarmed attack, spell, or sometimes even a magic item determines what type of dice you roll for damage, and how many. For instance, if you’re using a normal longsword, you’ll roll 1d8. If you’re casting a 3rd-level fireball spell, you’ll roll 6d6. Sometimes, especially in the case of weapons, you’ll apply modifiers, bonuses, and penalties to the damage.
When you use melee weapons, unarmed attacks, and thrown ranged weapons, the most common modifier you’ll add to damage is your Strength ability modifier. Weapons with the propulsive trait sometimes add half your Strength modifier. You typically do not add an ability modifier to spell damage, damage from most ranged weapons, or damage from alchemical bombs and similar items.
As with checks, you might add circumstance, status, or item bonuses to your damage rolls, but if you have multiple bonuses of the same type, you add only the highest bonus of that type. Again like checks, you may also apply circumstance, status, item, and untyped penalties to the damage roll, and again you apply only the greatest penalty of a specific type but apply all untyped penalties together.
Use the formulas below.
Melee damage roll = damage die of weapon or unarmed attack + Strength modifier + bonuses + penalties
Ranged damage roll = damage die of weapon + Strength modifier for thrown weapons + bonuses + penalties
Spell (and similar effects) damage roll = damage die of the effect + bonuses + penalties
Once your damage die is rolled, and you’ve applied any modifiers, bonuses, and penalties, move on to Step 2. Though sometimes there are special considerations, described below.
In some cases, you increase the number of dice you roll when making weapon damage rolls. Magic weapons etched with the striking rune can add one or more weapon damage dice to your damage roll. These extra dice are the same die size as the weapon’s damage die. At certain levels, most characters gain the ability to deal extra damage from the weapon specialization class feature.
Persistent damage is a condition that causes damage to recur beyond the original effect. Unlike with normal damage, when you are subject to persistent damage, you don’t take it right away. Instead, you take the specified damage at the end of your turns, after which you attempt a DC 15 flat check to see if you recover from the persistent damage. See the Conditions Appendix on pages 618–623 for the complete rules regarding the persistent damage condition.
Doubling and Halving Damage
Sometimes you’ll need to halve or double an amount of damage, such as when the outcome of your Strike is a critical hit, or when you succeed at a basic Reflex save against a spell. When this happens, you roll the damage normally, adding all the normal modifiers, bonuses, and penalties. Then you double or halve the amount as appropriate (rounding down if you halved it). The GM might allow you to roll the dice twice and double the modifiers, bonuses, and penalties instead of doubling the entire result, but this usually works best for single-target attacks or spells at low levels when you have a small number of damage dice to roll. Benefits you gain specifically from a critical hit, like the flaming weapon rune’s persistent fire damage or the extra damage die from the fatal weapon trait, aren’t doubled.
Step 2: Determine the Damage Type
Once you’ve calculated how much damage you deal, you’ll need to determine the damage type. There are many types of damage and sometimes certain types are applied in different ways. The smack of a club deals bludgeoning damage. The stab of a spear deals piercing damage. The staccato crack of a lightning bolt spell deals electricity damage. Sometimes you might apply precision damage, dealing more damage for hitting a creature in a vulnerable spot or when the target is somehow vulnerable. The damage types are described on page 452.
Damage Types and Traits
When an attack deals a type of damage, the attack action gains that trait. For example, the Strikes and attack actions you use wielding a sword when its flaming rune is active gain the fire trait, since the rune gives the weapon the ability to deal fire damage.
Step 3: Apply the Target's Immunities, Weaknesses, and Resistances
Defenses against certain types of damage or effects are called immunities or resistances, while vulnerabilities are called weaknesses. Apply immunities first, then weaknesses, and resistances third. Immunity, weakness, or resistance to an alignment applies only to damage of that type, not to damage from an attacking creature of that alignment.
When you have immunity to a specific type of damage, you ignore all damage of that type. If you have immunity to a specific condition or type of effect, you can’t be affected by that condition or any effect of that type. If you have immunity to effects with a certain trait (such as death effects, poison, or disease) you are unaffected by any effect with that trait. Often, an effect can be both a trait and a damage type (this is especially true in the case of energy damage types). In these cases, the immunity applies to the entire effect, not just the damage. You can still be targeted by an ability with an effect you are immune to; you just don’t apply the effect. However, some complex effects might have parts that affect you even if you’re immune to one of the effect’s traits; for instance, a spell that deals both fire and acid damage can still deal acid damage to you even if you’re immune to fire.
Immunity to critical hits works a little differently. When a creature immune to critical hits is critically hit by a Strike or other attack that deals damage, it takes normal damage instead of double damage. This does not make it immune to any other critical success effects of other actions that have the attack trait (such as Grapple and Shove).
Another exception is immunity to nonlethal attacks. If you are immune to nonlethal attacks, you are immune to all damage from attacks with the nonlethal trait, no matter what other type the damage has. For instance, a stone golem has immunity to nonlethal attacks. This means that no matter how hard you hit it with your fist, you’re not going to damage it—unless your fists don’t have the nonlethal trait, such as if you’re a monk.
Some effects grant you immunity to the same effect for a set amount of time. If an effect grants you temporary immunity, repeated applications of that effect don’t affect you for as long as the temporary immunity lasts. Unless the effect says it applies only to a certain creature’s ability, it doesn’t matter who created the effect. For example, the blindness spell says, “The target is temporarily immune to blindness for 1 minute.” If anyone casts blindness on that creature again before 1 minute passes, the spell has no effect.
Temporary immunity doesn’t prevent or end ongoing effects of the source of the temporary immunity. For instance, if an ability makes you frightened and you then gain temporary immunity to the ability, you don’t immediately lose the frightened condition due to the immunity you just gained—you simply don’t become frightened if you’re targeted by the ability again before the immunity ends.
If you have a weakness to a certain type of damage or damage from a certain source, that type of damage is extra effective against you. Whenever you would take that type of damage, increase the damage you take by the value of the weakness. For instance, if you are dealt 2d6 fire damage and have weakness 5 to fire, you take 2d6+5 fire damage.
If you have more than one weakness that would apply to the same instance of damage, use only the highest applicable weakness value. This usually happens only when a monster is weak to both a type of physical damage and the material a weapon is made of.
If you have resistance to a type of damage, each time you take that type of damage, you reduce the amount of damage you take by the listed amount (to a minimum of 0 damage). Resistance can specify combinations of damage types or other traits. For instance, you might encounter a monster that’s resistant to non-magical bludgeoning damage, meaning it would take less damage from bludgeoning attacks that weren’t magical, but would take normal damage from your +1 mace (since it’s magical) or a non-magical spear (since it deals piercing damage). A resistance also might have an exception. For example, resistance 10 to physical damage (except silver) would reduce any physical damage by 10 unless that damage was dealt by a silver weapon.
If you have more than one type of resistance that would apply to the same instance of damage, use only the highest applicable resistance value.
It’s possible to have resistance to all damage. When an effect deals damage of multiple types and you have resistance to all damage, apply the resistance to each type of damage separately. If an attack would deal 7 slashing damage and 4 fire damage, resistance 5 to all damage would reduce the slashing damage to 2 and negate the fire damage entirely.
Step 4: If Damage Remains, Reduce the Target's Hit Points
After applying the target’s immunities, resistances, and weaknesses to the damage, whatever damage is left reduces the target’s Hit Points on a 1-to-1 basis. More information about Hit Points can be found in the Hit Points, Healing, and Dying section on page 459.
You can make a nonlethal attack in an effort to knock someone out instead of killing them (see Knocked Out and Dying on page 459). Weapons with the nonlethal trait (including fists) do this automatically. You take a –2 circumstance penalty to the attack roll when you make a nonlethal attack using a weapon that doesn’t have the nonlethal trait. You also take this penalty when making a lethal attack using a nonlethal weapon.