Falling in any TTRPG is a real hazard adventurers face. If your Dungeon Master likes adding elevation to their battle maps, you need to be careful or your character might find themselves plummeting straight into death saves…
…Or, mild bruising, in some cases.
In this article, you’re going to find out what fall damage is in 5e, how to calculate it, and a few other helpful tips to either present real danger to your players or remember how to keep your character alive.
- What is Fall Damage?
- How to Calculate Fall Damage
- How Do You Negate Fall Damage?
- Fall Damage Alternatives
- Fall Damage FAQ
First off, let’s start with what fall damage is in Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition.
What is Fall Damage?
A creature takes 1d6 fall damage in D&D 5e for every 10 feet they fall up to a maximum 200 feet for up to 20d6 damage. For example, a creature that falls 30 feet takes 3d6 fall damage. A falling creature then lands prone unless they are immune to fall damage.
Let’s start off with how the Player’s Handbook describes fall damage on page 183:
"A fall from a great height is on of the most common hazards facing an adventurer.
At the end of a fall, a creature takes 1d6 bludgeoning damages for every 10 feet it fell, to a maximum of 20d6. The creature lands prone, unless it avoids taking damage from the fall."
And…that’s about it.
Fall damage in 5e is how much damage you take…from falling. It’s as simple as that.
How to Calculate Fall Damage in 5e
To determine fall damage in 5e, you use 1d6 for every 10 feet fallen. For example, if you fall 30 feet, you take 3d6 damage upon landing up to 20d6 or 120 damage.
As you can see, calculating 5e’s fall damage is easy.
- Know how far you’re falling
- Roll one six-sided die for every 10 feet fell
- Add it all up
- Factor in any resistances or vulnerabilities
- Subtract from your Current Hit Points
It’s important to know the maximum for fall damage is 20d6. This means the absolute most fall damage you can take in D&D 5e (at least rules-as-written) is 120 points.
Now, there are ways to either reduce or negate fall damage altogether. So, let’s go over how to prevent your character’s squishy body from splattering over the ground.
How Do You Negate Fall Damage?
There are a few ways to reduce or negate fall damage in 5e.
Strictly from the rules, you’ll probably need magic to help. Spells like Feather Fall and Levitate prevent fall damage. Both of these are low-level spells. So, even though they’re kind of niche in terms of their uses, you’ll be glad your caster has them when you’re plummeting to your death.
Monks also get their Slow Fall feature at 4th level which reduces the amount of fall damage you take.
Also, any features that grant resistance to bludgeoning reduce how much fall damage you take. But remember: it can’t be resistance to bludgeoning damage from weapon attacks. If the feature explicitly states that you resist damage from a weapon attack, it doesn’t apply to fall damage because falling isn’t a weapons.
…Well, not in the strictest sense, I guess.
Fall Damage & the Acrobatics Skill
This is a bit of a house rule. But, I’ve seen a few people use some variation of it. So, I’m including it.
If you don’t like the finality of fall damage let your players make a Dexterity saving throw or roll a Dexterity (Acrobatics) check to reduce the damage.
A lot of traps or damage sources allow saves to prevent or reduce damage. So, it wouldn’t be outside of the theme of DnD 5e to allow some sort of save against fall damage. Whether you elect to prevent all damage or reduce it by half is up to you.
Personally, I’d say just reduce it by half rather than prevent all fall damage. But, you do you.
Fall Damage Alternatives & House Rules
Now, one complaint I often see in regards to fall damage in 5e is the lack of realism.
Not to mention the lack of consistency in the rules themselves. The most dice you can roll for fall damage is 20d6…but a character falls way faster than that at 500 feet/round. So, why wouldn’t you roll up to 50d6? Or, even 58d6 (if you listen to Chris Perkins)?
There are loads of alternatives to fall damage in 5e.
For one, you can use the optional Massive Damage rule on page 273 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Basically, it’s a table of horrible things that happen to you if you take damage equal to or greater than half of your hit point maximum.
Now, I don’t really like this rule normally. But, it can add a bit more oomph if you want falls to present more danger to your players.
Personally, I like the idea of making it a max of 50d6 (for up to 500 feet fallen) and a Dexterity saving throw to reduce it to half. Also, for falls greater than, say, 30 feet, the Massive Damage table can come into play. Realistically, 20 foot falls are deadly to normal humans (as such, the Commoners in the Monster Manual). But, I feel like 30 feet is a good starting point to let your player characters survive short-ish falls and be the heroes they want to be.
Another fun option is the Fixing Falling Damage house rule by Eventyr. In a nutshell, their rule basis the effect of a fall on a character’s Constitution score. Not the modifier, the actual score. Which, on its own, I can appreciate since Ability Scores are only ever given love for their corresponding modifiers.
And, I have one last one, it’s both a bit more and a bit less forgiving than Eventyr’s method.
Hipsters & Dragons’ Revising Fall Damage post expands on the damage while incorporating a save. I took inspiration from this method for my own house rule because I’m a weenie and don’t like seeing my players fail. Basically, H&D implements a Hard Fall rule with a Dexterity (Acrobatics) save, maxes out the fall damage to 50d6, and sets a limit as to how far a character can fall and still make a save.
It’s brutal. But, if that’s what you’re looking for, I’ve recommend trying it in your game.
Just make sure you let your players know what fall damage rules you’ll use in your DnD 5e game.
5e Fall Damage FAQ
Here are a few frequently asked questions about fall damage in 5e.
If you have others, please leave a comment. I’ll help as best I can.
What is the Maximum Fall Damage?
Max fall damage in 5e is 120 hit points.
Rules as written, you roll a maximum of 20d6 (for up to 200 feet fallen). So, 20 times 6 equals 120 hit points of damage.
Now, the average fall damage is ’round abouts 70 points. So, deadly for lower levels and enough to hurt at later ones.
Is Fall Damage Bludgeoning?
Yes. Fall damage in 5e is considered bludgeoning damage.
As such, spells, features, and other abilities that affect bludgeoning damage also affect damage taken from falling.
But, it’s important to note, the wording of certain abilities is important.
For example, lycanthropes are immune to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage from non-magical, non-silvered weapons. Since the bludgeoning damage taken from a long fall IS NOT FROM A WEAPON, lycanthropes still take fall damage normally.
It’s little, semantic things like that to keep an eye out for.
Does Rage Reduce Fall Damage?
Yes. The Barbarian’s Rage feature reduces fall damage by half.
This is because the wording of Rage is vague enough to cover it.
Since its a blanket statement without any modifiers (like the lycanthrope example above mentioning "from non-magical, non-silvered weapons"), Barbarian’s resist fall damage in 5e while they are raging.
If you want more, Mike Mearls, former Senior Manager for the Dungeons & Dragons research and design team, confirmed that Barbarian’s resist bludgeoning damage from falling on Twitter in 2017.
How Fast Do You Fall in 5e?
This wasn’t explained in the sourcebooks until Xanathar’s Guide to Everything came out. According to page 77:
"When you fall from a great height, you instantly descend up to 500 feet. If you’re still falling on your next turn, you descend up to 500 feet at the end of that turn. This process continues until the fall ends, either because you hit the ground or the fall is otherwise halted."
So, in short, in DnD 5e, you fall at a rate of about 500 feet per 6 seconds (1 round of combat). Or, 83.3 feet per second.
Since a round of combat takes 6 seconds (PHB, p. 189) and you fall once each turn, meaning it takes a full round to come back to your turn, we can roughly estimate the fall rate from the given information.
Alternatively, Chris Perkins suggested a character falls about 580 feet per 6 seconds, or roughly 97 feet/second. So, take whichever feels better for your game.
And, that about covers fall damage in 5e.
- Fall damage is an easy environmental hazard you can add to your game
- In the base rules, you take 1d6 bludgeoning damage for every 10 feet fallen, up to 20d6 (or 200 feet)
- There are a few ways to reduce or negate fall damage through spells and other class features
- If you’re looking for a more realistic take on fall damage, alternatives exist to make it a bit deadlier
But remember; the base rules work fine and don’t require a lot of work. If you don’t want to bother with throwing a frankly ludicrous amount of dice at your players or are just starting out DMing, stick with the rules as written. There’s nothing wrong with that.
What are your falling stories? Do you use an alternative to fall damage? If so, what are your house rules? Leave a comment and we can discuss the finer points of falling in 5e.