When you take a tumble off of a high cliff in any game, it’s probably going to hurt. That’s the case in Dungeons & Dragons 5E; even with all of the simplified rules, falling damage is still very painful for any character that suffers it. However, there are some questions that come up with falling damage; how long do you have to fall before you start getting hurt? Are there ways to negate it? And what else should you know about a long tumble? Check out our Fall Damage 5E guide to learn about this mechanic, and how to use it.
Fall Damage 5E Guide
Fall Damage is taken when a character is forced to drop off of something, or otherwise in a somewhat of a tumble. You take 1d6 damage per 10 feet that you’ve fallen, to a maximum of 20d6. After the fall, if you’ve taken any damage, you land prone.
This is… all that is written for Falling Damage in the official character guide for DnD 5E. That’s a bit lacking, hmm?
Because these, amongst many survival hazards, are very barebones in Dungeons & Dragons 5E, players tend to add their own rules that may or may not affect your specific game. The following rules come from different guides, such as Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, as well as popular house rules.
- Rate of Falling: Sometimes, the speed at which you fall is in question. Let’s say, for instance, somebody pushes you off of a mountain. You don’t fall the mile-distance within 6 seconds; you actually fall 500 feet per round. That’s… really fast, and will only affect specific falls. But, that might give you some time to save yourself.
- Flying Creatures And Falling: While flying, a creature who is knocked prone, reduces its speed to 0 feet, or otherwise stops moving will fall. This is negated for effects that allow them to hover, like the Fly spell. These flying creatures can negate falling damage equal to its current flying speed, as long as they are capable of “flapping their wings” or otherwise struggling to negate their fall. Alternatively, if you’re using the Rate of Falling rule, they may “stand up” as they fall and thus negate falling entirely, given that their fall is more than 500 feet.
- Purposeful Falling: In real life, a human can realistically drop 10 feet and be fine, or 20 feet and maybe tuck-and-roll. However, there are no official rules for a purposeful drop. Some common rules include;
- Negate 10 Feet. If you drop on purpose, the first 10 feet of the fall are negated, to simulate the character preparing for the drop.
- Athletics to Catch. You can have them roll Athletics, and take off feet based on their DC. For instance, if they beat DC 10, they cut 10 feet from their damage, and every 5 above that decreases it by 10 more.
- Diving into Water: A practiced diver can leap dozens of feet into the water, and an unpractice one can jump from 65.5 feet without too much chance of getting hurt. In D&D, this isn’t really… looked at.
- Diving Practice. You can use Athletics checks to take less damage from a fall into water by “diving” right in. The DM sets the DC and you go for it.
- Negate 20 Feet. If you can make sure you don’t bellyflop, then you cut 20 feet from your total. This tends to be reasonable, especially if you remember cliff-jumping as a youth.
- Half-Damage. You take half-damage from your jump off of a cliff. Fair enough. The water is very brutal to a falling player, but at least your max is 10d6 now. Heck, a lucky level 2 Wizard can survive that!
Avoiding Fall Damage
Okay, so we’ve talked about some of the rules behind faceplanting, but can you avoid taking the damage in general? Well, yes! There are actually a few ways.
- Feather Fall. This arcane spell lets you flick your wrist and cause someone to gently float to the ground. It also slows their descent to 60 feet per round, letting them potentially float towards a specific target.
- Enhance Ability. The Cat’s Grace portion of Advanced Ability will ignore falling damage from 20 feet or less. Not… great, but hey, it’s there! It’ll keep you from awkwardly falling prone during a rooftop engagement.
- Monk Slow Fall. You reduce damage you take from falling by 5 x Monk Level (20 at level 4, 100 at level 20). This will negate most fall damage you’ve taken; the average damage you take from falling max height is 70, so a level 14 monk is effectively immune to fall damage. Of course, taking the Monk class just to be immune to fall damage is probably not really too crucial.
- Fly Speed. Once you reach a certain point in the game, you should have Fly Speeds whenever you’re in dangerous combats. It’ll let you be more aggressive and have better control over your position in a fight. However, if the fly speed is magical, then even being locked to 0 speed won’t get you falling! In specific fights, against Gravity-based spells for instance, this can keep you from taking a lot of d6s.
- Magic Items. There are some magic items that are specifically designed to reduce falling damage. These are usually directly connected to Feather Fall, such as the Ring of Feather Falling. However, there are a few other things that can help, such as the Pennant of the Vind Rune, which just allow someone to completely ignore falling damage.
Falling Damage is a kind of underdeveloped mechanic. Make sure you talk with your DM to see what rules they might implement to make the system feel more interesting, if they implement any at all. We hope this helped you understand some of the rules!