[RPG] “Force” Damage

combatdamage-typesdnd-5e

From what I can find in answers like this and this, force damage is a nebulous concept of "pure magical energy", which isn't very helpful in answering the question of "what effect does this attack have on the creatures I hit with it?"

Even different spells with the same damage type of "force" have different effects. For example, I usually describe magic missile as the enemy being hit with three (or more) bludgeoning attacks. Disintegrate, on the other hand, still deals force damage but explicitly says that if it reduces them to 0 hit points, they are completely disintegrated.

This problem is in effect at least a small amount with Radiant as well, but Acid, Cold, Fire, Lightning, Thunder, Necrotic, Poison, and any others I forgot are relatively easy to imagine with their effects on living beings.

So.. what is Force damage?

Best Answer

I think you're looking for additional detail where none exists. Damage Types says...

Damage types have no rules of their own, but other rules, such as damage resistance, rely on the types.

More specifically, Force damage is described as...

Force is pure magical energy focused into a damaging form. Most effects that deal force damage are spells, including magic missile and spiritual weapon.

Until a source of damage interacts with something with resistance, immunity, vulnerability, or some other ability that cites an interaction with a type of damage, the damage type is functionally meaningless.

As strange as it may sound, fire damage doesn't burn things, cold damage doesn't freeze things, force damage doesn't have anything to do with mass or acceleration, etc. A specific spell or effect may say it sets things on fire, or freezes things solid, but that has no mechanical relation to the type of damage it may also deal: a spell could deal fire damage but freeze water, if that's what the spell says it does.

How you describe the results of a damage effect is purely a roleplaying or storytelling choice. Some spells and abilities provide guidance and descriptions, others do not.