Content of the article: "A Comprehensive Guide to Monster Resistance/Immunity in 5e"
For the past year of playing D&D and enjoying D&D content (blogs, youtube videos, exc.) I’ve heard time and time again a lot of things about different damage types in D&D. The most common two things I hear are ‘poison damage is the worst type’ and ‘force is the best type’. I’ve always been a naturally skeptical person so I was curious to see if these were true in every case, and if so, to what degree. So I decided to actually look through the games stat-blocks and tally up EVERY. SINGLE. MONSTER. And it’s resistances to try to notice common patterns in resistances, immunities, and vulnerabilities.
Before I get started I want to lay down some ground rules and explain the way I’ve prepared my research. For the sake of my own sanity I’ll only be including stat-blocks from official, published WoTC books, Planeshift packages notwithstanding. What I define as a stat-block is one where, with no modifications or changes, you can take it and put it into a campaign and have everything you need in order to use it, hp, ac attacks, all just by looking at its page(es). This comes up more than you think. There are two variant vampires for example, I didn’t include them because you have to derive parts of their stat block from the original vampire stats. The same applies to all the variant half dragons, shadow dragons, and dracoliches.
I’m also placing the bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage types separate from the others, because there are no other damage types with a non magical specification, something with fire resistance always has fire resistance, even if the fire is magical.
I should also note that I’m ignoring specific circumstances to resistances. For example, the Rakshasa has vulnerability to magical piercing damage, but ONLY if that damage is caused by a good aligned creature. I put this down as vulnerability to piercing damage, even though said vulnerability is only triggered under unique circumstances. The inverse applies towards monsters with resistance to non-magic and non silver weapons, it’s just counted as non-magical resistance.
Another case to discuss with these damage types is the Demilich. The demilich has immunity to non magical damage, and resistance to magical damage. I counted this as non-magical immunity, and standard resistance even though the immunity is universal and the resistance is only active under specific circumstances. The one exception to this, is any resistance caused by a spell effect rather than an innate ability.
One Final Disclaimer is that I counted all of this by hand, so it’s very likely the final results are off by +-5 for some of the larger numbers, and especially the number of monsters per book; so take these numbers with a grain of salt, I’m only human.
With that out of the way here’s how I formated all my work.
- NMRes = Non-Magical Resistance
- NMImm = Non-Magical Immunity
- Res = Resistance
- Vun = Vulnerability
- Imm = Immunity
- Bludgeoning: 0 NMRes, 0 NMImm, 0 Res, 0 Vun, 0 Imm
- Piercing: 0 NMRes, 0 NMImm, 0 Res, 0 Vun, 0 Imm
- Slashing: 0 NMRes, 0 NMImm, 0 Res, 0 Vun, 0 Imm
- Acid: 0 Res, 0 Vun, 0 Imm
- Cold: 0 Res, 0 Vun, 0 Imm
- Fire: 0 Res, 0 Vun, 0 Imm
- Force: 0 Res, 0 Vun, 0 Imm
- Lightning: 0 Res, 0 Vun, 0 Imm
- Necrotic: 0 Res, 0 Vun, 0 Imm
- Poison: 0 Res, 0 Vun, 0 Imm
- Psychic: 0 Res, 0 Vun, 0 Imm
- Radiant: 0 Res, 0 Vun, 0 Imm
- Thunder: 0 Res, 0 Vun, 0 Imm
- Vulnerability +4
- Non Magic Resistance -1/2
- Non Magic Immunity -2
- Resistance -2
- Immunity -4
These scores are very arbitrary and just based on my opinion. I’m leaving all the information here if you want to score things based on your own opinion on how much these effects influence the value of an effect.
Books Included in this study:
5e Monster Manual, Volo’s Guide to Monsters, Mordenkainen’s Tomb of Foes, Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica, Ebberon: Rising from the last War, Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount, Tales from the Yawning Portal Inn, Acquisitions Incorporated, Curse of Strahd, Descent into Avernus, Dragon of Icespire Peak, Ghosts of Saltmarsh, Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Hunt for the Thessalhydra, Lost Mine of Phandelver, Out of the Abyss, PRinces of the Apocalypse, Rise of Tiamat, Storm Kings Thunder, Tomb of Annihilation, Waterdeep: Dragon Heist, Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage
Part 1: Big Three
If you’re only interested in information from the main three books (Monster Manual, Volo’s Guide, and Mordenkainen’s), you can stop here, below is the final scoring under my arbitrary point system, the notes I have on the different elements, and the different scores I have for all of them.
- Total Monsters: 443
- Bludgeoning: 132 NMRes, 32 NMImm, 11 Res, 5 Vun, 0 Imm
- Piercing: 132 NM Res, 32 NMImm, 17 Res, 1 Vun, 0 Imm
- Slashing: 132 NM Res, 32 NMImm, 9 Res, 0 Vun, 2 Imm
- Acid: 30 Res, 0 Vun, 25 Imm
- Cold: 110 Res, 3 Vun, 27 Imm
- Fire: 82 Res, 13 Vun, 59 Imm
- Force: 1 Res, 0 Vun, 0 Imm Total: -2
- Lightning: 83 Res, 0 Vun, 18 Imm
- Necrotic: 26 Res, 0 Vun, 22 Imm
- Poison: 11 Res, 0 Vun, 189 Imm
- Psychic: 3 Res, 1 Vun, 18 Imm
- Radiant: 5 Res, 2 Vun, 1 Imm
- Thunder: 23 Res, 3 Vun, 1 Imm
The scores are as follows ranked from highest scored to lowest:
- Force: -2
- Radiant: -10
- Thunder: -38
- Psychic -74
- Bludgeoning: -132
- Necrotic: -140
- Slashing: -156
- Piercing: -160
- Acid: -160
- Lightning -238
- Cold: -316
- Fire -348
- Poison -778
I want to stress now that just because something is highly resisted doesn’t make it inherently bad, I certainly hope no one is going to see this and start making arguments on the internet about how fireball is actually trash because it deals the second lowest damage type.
This does however, put into perspective just how underpowered poison is as an element, according to the (reasonably inaccurate) number of monsters for each book, in total over the three, 43% of all monsters are flat immune to poison damage.
I genuinely didn’t expect Thunder and bludgeoning to perform so well, I had a gut instinct that they would be good but I never would have thought that Thunder outperformed necrotic damage. A similar mindset goes for bludgeoning, I thought that skeletons were the only things that had a unique effect from one of the three and not the others.
For those of you like me who want to know what these statistics are for the settings exclusive monsters like Eberron and Wildemount, the next section is for you.
Part Two: Setting Books
I should note that as of me writing this, I do not have Mythic Odysseys of Theros, and can’t include anything from that book. If someone is willing to provide me with the properly formatted statistics from that book I will add it into this part.
Total Monsters: 138
- Bludgeoning: 27 NMRes, 7 NMImm, 0 Res, 0 Vun, 0 Imm
- Piercing: 27 NMRes, 7 NMImm, 0 Res, 2 Vun, 0 Imm
- Slashing: 27 NMRes, 7 NMImm, 0 Res, 0 Vun, 0 Imm
- Acid: 2 Res, 0 Vun, 0 Imm
- Cold: 14 Res, 1 Vun, 4 Imm
- Fire: 11 Res, 1 Vun, 6 Imm
- Force: 0 Res, 0 Vun, 0 Imm
- Lightning: 10 Res, 0 Vun, 3 Imm
- Necrotic: 21 Res, 0 Vun, 3 Imm
- Poison: 8 Res, 0 Vun, 39 Imm
- Psychic: 17 Res, 0 Vun, 4 Imm
- Radiant: 8 Res, 3 Vun, 1 Imm
- Thunder: 6 Res, 0 Vun, 0 Imm
Part Three: Adventure Modules
For the sake of completion I decided to include the monsters in the assorted adventure books. I will make a disclaimer now, that while I did not count duplicate monster stats for overcoming resistances, I did count them when it comes to tallying the number of monsters in a book. This is pure lazyness on my part. I also want to note that I don’t have a copy of ‘D&D vs Rick and Morty’ so if there are any monsters in that, they weren’t included.
Total Monsters: 465
- Bludgeoning: 25 NMRes, 7 NMImm, 3 Res, 3 Vun, 0 Imm
- Piercing: 24 NMRes, 7 NMImm, 4 Res, 0 Vun, 0 Imm
- Slashing: 24 NMRes, 7 NMImm, 1 Res, 0 Vun, 0 Imm
- Acid: 11 Res, 1 Vun, 2 Imm
- Cold: 18 Res, 1 Vun, 7 Imm
- Fire: 30 Res, 1 Vun, 10 Imm
- Force: 0 Res, 2 Vun, 1 Imm
- Lightning: 16 Res, 0 Vun, 11 Imm
- Necrotic: 8 Res, 0 Vun, 6 Imm
- Poison: 17 Res, 0 Vun, 55 Imm
- Psychic: 1 Res, 0 Vun, 7 Imm
- Radiant: 0 Res, 2 Vun, 0 Imm
- Thunder: 3 Res, 0 Vun, 2 Imm
Part Four: Grand Total/Final Score
- Monster Total (all books): 1046
- Bludgeoning: 184 NMRes, 46 NMImm, 14 Res, 8 Vun, 0 Imm S: -180
- Piercing: 183 NMRes, 46 NMImm, 21 Res, 3 Vun, 0 Imm S: -213.5
- Slashing: 183 NMRes, 46 NMImm, 10 Res, 0 Vun, 2 Imm S: -211.5
- Acid: 43 Res, 1 Vun, 27 Imm S: -190
- Cold: 142 Res, 5 Vun, 38 Imm S: -416
- Fire: 123 Res, 15 Vun, 75 Imm S: -486
- Force: 1 Res, 2 Vun, 1 Imm S: +2
- Lightning: 109 Res, 0 Vun, 32 Imm S: -346
- Necrotic: 55 Res, 0 Vun, 31 Imm S: -234
- Poison: 36 Res, 0 Vun, 283 Imm S: -1204
- Psychic: 21 Res, 1 Vun, 19 Imm S: -114
- Radiant: 13 Res, 7 Vun, 2 Imm S: -6
- Thunder: 32 Res, 3 Vun, 3 Imm S: -64
The new ranking from highest score to lowest is as follows:
- Force: +2
- Radiant -6
- Thunder -64
- Psychic -114
- Bludgeoning -180
- Acid: -190
- Slashing: -211.5
- Piercing: -213.5
- Necrotic: -234
- Lightning: -346
- Cold: -416
- Fire: -486
- Poison: -1204
Compared to the scoring for the main three books, not much has changed, Force damage is the only one to have a net positive, Poison is only resisted by 23% of the catalog instead of 43%, and Bludgeoning is now clearly the superior damage type for martial classes
Coming into this project I was honestly hoping for some sort of big revelation that would change the way I thought about damage in 5E, and honestly I pretty much got the results I was expecting. I thought that bludgeoning would be better but only slightly, I knew force was the best and poison was the worst going in. Still I did really enjoy going through everything here.
For a detailed list about this information per book/adventure module you can look at the google doc here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1_h7qw1pjXuQTBXHMWA_9Hoj4_pMAa4vFoB7GOXv4gxM/edit?usp=sharing
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