A Guide to Psychic Damage in 5e, Psychic energy radiating out from a person

Your Beginner’s Guide to Psychic Damage in D&D 5e

Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition has many ways of causing harm to the various monsters it features. One of those ways is assaulting their metaphysical form or psyche through the use of Psychic damage.
 
But, what is Psychic damage in 5e? How can players cause it? And, what monsters are resistant or immune to id?
 
This beginner player’s and Game Master’s guide gives you everything you need to know about the Psychic damage type in D&D 5e.

Let’s start off with defining what Psychic damage is in 5e and how to describe it.

Psychic Damage Description

Psychic Damage 5e, Woman in center of geometric shape with hands over her eyes and a third eye open in her forehead

Psychic damage is essentially an attack on a creature’s mind. As such, it becomes difficult for players and Game Masters to describe what happens when a creature suffers it due to its more magical and metaphysical nature.

At its most basic, Psychic damage is one of D&D 5e’s many damage types. It’s essentially a way of describing how a creature takes damage and how it differs from other methods. Certain spells, features, and traits interact with Psychic damage and not other damage types, so it’s more than for flavor.

Unfortunately, the description of Psychic damage from the Player’s Handbook doesn’t give players and GMs much to go off of.

Psychic. Mental abilities such as a psionic blast deal psychic damage.

Source: DnD Beyond | Basic Rules – Chapter 9: Combat

That’s it.

Understandably, describing Psychic damage is a bit difficult. It’s a metaphysical form of harm that doesn’t necessarily, directly hurt a creature’s physical form.

Describing Psychic Damage in 5e

Describing Psychic damage in 5e often involves explaining a piercing headache but can go beyond that.

Honestly, using a headache with maybe the beginnings of a nosebleed is a good way of describing Psychic damage. You don’t need to go much further than that to convey how this damage type causes harm.

Now, if you want some variety or to flex your descriptive abilities, you can go beyond this.

Some way’s I’d describe Psychic damage in 5e:

  • You feel your connection to reality wavering as your consciousness gets bombarded by the psychic energy.
  • Visions of vaguely humanoid faces flash before your eyes and the inhuman screams of the void echo with your mind.
  • You feel a disconnect with your body. For the briefest, painful moment, you feel as if your body is no longer your own.
  • You feel a pang of empty, hollow pain in your stomach and you feel your astral body suffer the impact.

Basically, treat Psychic damage as an event which attacks a creature’s very existence not just their body. They may have physical aftereffects, but your descriptions should convey that something hurts or is thrown off at the existential, almost spiritual level.

List of Psychic Damage Spells in 5e

Psychic woman holding a mirror ball between her hands

Player characters and spellcasting monsters have a few options for dealing Psychic damage with spells. These spells range the Tiers of Play, so both players and Game Masters have the ability to deal this damage type throughout any given game.

Of course, spells are the easiest way of dealing Psychic damage in D&D 5e. Some class features let you deal this damage type, but spells are easier.

Now, 5e has 18 Psychic damage spells available to players and GMs. Luckily, these spells run the gamut of the Tiers of Play, so you have access to them pretty much all game. Unfortunately, many of these spells come from sourcebooks outside of the Player’s Handbook, meaning you’ll need to get more sourcebooks to have access to all of them.

The Player’s Handbook (and the Basic Rules) has 8 spells, Xanather’s Guide to Everything has 7, Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything has 2, and Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons has 1.

D&D 5e Psychic Damage Spells

  • Mind Sliver – Cantrip (TCoE)
  • Vicious Mockery – Cantrip (Basic Rules)
  • Chaos Bolt – 1st-level (XGtE)
  • Dissonant Whispers – 1st-level (PHB)
  • Wrathful Smite – 1st-level (PHB)
  • Mind Spike – 2nd-level (XGtE)
  • Phantasmal Force – 2nd-level (PHB)
  • Shadow Blade – 2nd-level (XGtE)
  • Tasha’s Mind Whip – 2nd-level (TCoE)
  • Phantasmal Killer – 4th-level (Basic Rules)
  • Raulothim’s Psychic Lance – 4th-level (FToD)
  • Staggering Smite – 4th-level (PHB)
  • Synaptic Static – 5th-level (XGtE)
  • Mental Prison – 6th-level (XGtE)
  • Feeblemind – 8th-level (Basic Rules)
  • Maddening Darkness – 8th-level (XGtE)
  • Psychic Scream – 9th-level (XGtE)
  • Weird – 9th-level (Basic Rules)

Class Features That Deal Psychic Damage

Man holding his face as psychic energy swirls around his head

Some subclasses have features which deal Psychic damage though they are relatively few in number.

While spells are the easiest way of dealing Psychic damage purely in terms of availability, some player subclasses can deal it as well.

You have a few different options both in martial and spellcaster classes for gaining features which deal Psychic damage. So, you’re not entirely forced into one playstyle.

List of Psychic Damage Class Features

  • Warlock (The Fiend) – Hurl Through Hell: 14th-level (PHB)
  • Bard (College of Whispers) – Psychic Blades: 3rd-level (XGtE)
  • Fighter (Arcane Archer) – Arcane Shot Options – Beguiling Arrow & Shadow Arrow: 3rd-level (XGtE)
  • Paladin (Oath of Conquest) – Aura of Conquest: 7th-level (XGtE)
  • Warlock – Eldritch Invocation – Maddening Hex: 5th-level (XGtE)
  • Cleric (Order Domain) – Divine Strike: 8th-level (TCoE)
  • Ranger (Fey Wanderer) – Dreadful Strikes: 3rd-level (TCoE)
  • Rogue (Soulknife) – Psychic Blades: 3rd-level (TCoE)
  • Warlock – Eldritch Invocation – Rebuke of the Talisman: 3rd-level (TCoE)

Psychic Damage Mitigation for Monsters

Animated, humanoid statue head with psychic energy radiating around its head

Psychic damage is a relatively rare damage type in terms of monster resistances and immunities.

Few monsters in 5e have any sort of mitigation to Psychic damage; either resistance or immunity. This means players should feel relatively confident their Psychic damage spells and features will do full damage. On the other hand, GMs may need to be more selective in their creatures if their players start gravitating towards Psychic damage as their damage type of choice.

Creatures Resistant to Psychic Damage

51 creatures in D&D 5e are resistant to Psychic damage.

Psychic resistant creatures in 5e work the same way as any other damage resistance; they take half the total Psychic damage dealt.

Unfortunately, none of these creatures are available in the Basic Rules. Even worse, only one, the Revenant, comes from the Monster Manual.

A majority of monsters with a resistance to Psychic damage come from either Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons (14 creatures) or Eberron: Rising from the Last War (10 creatures). So, if you want to throw some psychic-resistant creatures at your players, you might want to look into these sourcebooks.

Creatures Immune to Psychic Damage

90 creatures in D&D 5e have an immunity to Psychic damage.

This might sound like a lot, but D&D 5e has a little over 2,100 creatures across all its sourcebooks. So, creatures with an immunity to Psychic damage make up roughly 4% of those available.

With that out of the way; creatures immune to Psychic damage in 5e simply suffer no harm from this damage type. This means they take no damage when they otherwise would when subjected to a spell, feature, or ability that deals it.

Now, since there are so many creatures with Psychic damage immunity (relatively), I’ll only list the ones found in the Basic Rules. You’ll have easy access to these creatures and can look into the full list to see which sourcebooks they all come from.

List of Creatures Immune to Psychic Damage in 5e by CR

Is Psychic Damage Good?

Man holding his head as psychic energy bombards him

Psychic damage in 5e is a fairly good damage type. Since few creatures resist or have an immunity against it, spells and effects which deal this damage type often do full damage. On the other hand, only a single creature has vulnerability, so player characters shouldn’t expect to deal more damage than normal.

Let’s look at the numbers.

Across all sourcebooks, D&D 5e has over 2,100 monster stat blocks. 51 of those have a resistance and 90 have an immunity to Psychic damage. That’s roughly 2.35% and 4.14% of creatures for each, respectively.

From this perspective, Psychic damage is a pretty good damage type. Few creatures mitigate it, so you’ll more often than not deal full damage with your Psychic spells and features (both players and GMs).

On the other hand; exactly 1 creature has vulnerability to Psychic damage: the Flumph.

So, your damage probably won’t get reduced or ignored, but you also won’t deal additional damage through vulnerability.

Despite this, Psychic damage in 5e is generally pretty good.

D&D 5e Psychic Damage FAQ

Visualization of a woman's psyche breaking

Does Psychic Damage Affect HP?

Yes, Psychic damage in 5e affects a creature’s hit points or HP. This damage type functions the same as others.

Flavor aside, Psychic damage is just a different way of describing harm befalling another creature. As such, it affects a creature’s HP just like any other damage type in 5e.

Are Constructs Immune to Psychic Damage?

Constructs in 5e often have an immunity against Psychic damage but not all of them do. Some construct creatures have only resistance and others don’t have any Psychic damage-mitigating features.

Many of 5e’s construct creatures are immune to Psychic damage. It makes sense as a constructed, non-organic entity which is basically a machine often doesn’t have a consciousness for Psychic damage to assail.

That said, some monsters lack this immunity. For example, the Bronze Scout from Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes has neither immunity nor resistance to Psychic damage despite being a construct.

It’s a matter of reading the monster stat blocks closely and not making assumptions based solely on 5e’s creature types.

Are Undead Immune to Psychic Damage?

Undead in 5e are more often not immune to Psychic damage. There are a few monsters which are, but the vast majority of undead creatures take Psychic damage normally.

Most undead creatures aren’t immunity to Psychic damage. So, they’ll usually take the full amount of this type of damage.

That said, there are a few undead which are immune to Psychic damage like the Demilich. Also, a handful of undead have resistance to this damage type like the Revenant.

Are Oozes Immune to Psychic Damage?

Oozes in 5e are almost universally not immune to Psychic damage with only one creature as an exception.

It might make sense to think that oozes would be immune to Psychic damage. They’re barely sentient creatures made of ambulatory goo; how could they possible suffer harm through psychic means?

But, pretty much all ooze creatures in 5e lack an immunity to Psychic damage with the exception of the Inkling Mascot from Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos. Even better, there are no oozes with a resistance to Psychic damage, so you’re almost guaranteed to deal full damage to any base-stat block ooze.

 

Summary of Psychic Damage in 5e

That covers everything you need to know about Psychic damage in 5e.

It’s one of the many damage types found in the game which harms a creature’s psyche or metaphysical self. As such, it functions like any other damage type through subtracting hit points. But, it has relatively few sources through spells and class features. Luckily, few monsters in 5e resist or have an immunity against it, so players will usually deal normal damage with it.

What’s your favorite Psychic damage spell? How did your players handle a creature which was immune to this damage type? Share your stories or thoughts in the comments below!

Make sure to follow Role Player’s Respite for more rules breakdowns, player guides, and inspiration for your game!

2 thoughts on “Your Beginner’s Guide to Psychic Damage in D&D 5e”

  1. So, when I Shadow Demon successfully attacks a PC with his claw attack, as far actual damage it is applied like any other forms of HP damage? Are there any long terms effects from this type of damage?

    1. Yep, the Psychic damage from a Shadow Demon’s Claws gets deducted from a PC’s hit points like any other attack. By default, this attack doesn’t do anything else, so no long-term effects simply because it’s Psychic damage.

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