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Damage Immunity is Not Just a Better Version of Damage Resistance — They Are Completely Different Mechanics

Content of the article: "Damage Immunity is Not Just a Better Version of Damage Resistance — They Are Completely Different Mechanics"

I see a very common mistake in a lot of homebrew material, and that's using or ignoring damage immunity recklessly.

Power Levels

For one thing, resistance and immunity are on complete opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of power levels. Damage resistance is something you can get just for being a fire genasi or a goliath or a dwarf—it comes on very low-level magic items, and is basically a freebie on high-level ones.

Damage immunity, on the other hand, is something you get from legendary magic items and artifacts; supernatural gifts; epic boons.

It's not like resistance comes on uncommon magic items and immunity comes on rare magic items. One is not an immediate upgrade from the other. The only exception is how relatively "easy" it is to get immunity to poison damage specifically, but talking about the balance of Yuan-Ti Purebloods is a whole different post.

Still, giving immunity to players like candy is a tame mistake to make compared to ignoring immunity.

Ignoring Immunity

The most egregious error homebrewers make in this regard is when they create a subclass, feat, or boon, that allows a player to ignore a creature's damage immunity.

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People see features like Elemental Adept, which allows a player to ignore damage resistances, and think that they can make an 'Improved Elemental Adept' which is an upgraded version of the feat that allows a player to ignore damage immunity.

Or a person will create a hyper-specialised subclass like a pyromancer sorcerer, for example, and because the subclass's entire identity revolves around one kind of damage, they'll allow those players to ignore that kind of damage immunity, or treat an immunity as though it's a resistance.

But that's not at all how immunity works.

Rules and Mechanics

First of all, damage resistance and immunity aren't even part of the same rule. The rule that explains resistance and vulnerability can be found in Chapter 9 of the PHB—immunity is nowhere to be found in that chapter. In fact, "immunity" as a game mechanic, is never actually explained in the rules. The only reason we know what "immunity" does in 5e is because of common sense.

Damage resistance and vulnerability are given a rather large section to describe how they impact damage calculations; specifically the order of operations (damage modifiers and then resistances/vulnerabilities).

Damage immunity doesn't need to be explained or detailed in any rules because, as counter-intuitive as it may sound, damage immunity doesn't impact damage calculations at all.

Because creatures that are immune to a certain kind of damage cannot, in any way, ever take any amount of damage of that kind… because they are immune to it.

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Resistances and vulnerabilities can cancel each other out or override each other, in the way that damage is calculated, but immunity trumps everything. In fact, it's less of a game mechanic and more a state of being.

It's not that a fire elemental is hit by a Fireball and has the damage reduced to 0, or takes "0 fire damage"—a fire elemental is completely and utterly unaffected by the fire. No damage calculation ever happens. A fire elemental taking damage from fire defies all logic.


Immunities simply cannot be overcome. You cannot poison an animated sword or psychicly harm a robot with no psyche to speak of. You cannot make a white dragon cold or burn a fire elemental. Only a literal deity or a reality-defying aberration that breaks the laws of nature could do such a thing.

One can safely presume that WotC will never introduce such a feature for player use, so it would probably be an error to allow such a homebrew feature at one's table.

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Source: reddit.com

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