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Inspired by these related questions, as well as my previous question on the matter, I'm curious what the most and least resisted damage types are in DnD 5e? Ideally I am looking for a list similar to the one found in this answer to the first linked question above, but in 5e instead of 3.5.

Which damage types are the most resisted, and which are the least resisted in DnD 5e?

For simplicity's sake, I would limit this to monsters from official WotC sources, and would classify immunity as a form of resistance (though if an answer chooses to distinguish between resistance and immunity that would be fine).

While I initially only had magical damage types in mind (Acid, Fire, Cold, Poison, Necrotic, Radiant, Lightning, Psychic, Thunder and Force), bonus points if an answer also addresses physical damage types (Slashing, Piercing, and Bludgeoning).

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Unsurprisingly Poison and Force, respectively

Here is a nice summary of Monster Manual

I shall transfer the relevant parts of the chart here in case of link rot:

\begin{array} {|r|r|r|r|} \hline &Resistance &Immunity &Vulnerability \\ \hline Acid &18 &15 &0 \\ \hline Cold &46 &20 &4 \\ \hline Fire &37 &40 &9 \\ \hline Force &0 &1 &0 \\ \hline Lightning &35 &10 &0 \\ \hline Necrotic &11 &11 &0 \\ \hline Poison &5 &95 &0 \\ \hline Psychic &1 &10 &1 \\ \hline Radiant &4 &0 &2 \\ \hline Thunder &14 &2 &1 \\ \hline Nonmagical &60 &17 &0 \\ \hline Magic Weapons &1 &0 &0 \\ \hline Bludgeoning &8 &0 &4 \\ \hline Slashing &6 &2 &0 \\ \hline Piercing &10 &0 &0 \\ \hline Spells &1 &0 &0 \\ \hline \end{array}

Technically the most resisted is not Poison, but Cold, however this question is mostly helpful for casters to pick up spells.
So the damage type you should avoid most is Poison.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Do note that the list linked ONLY includes Monster Manual sources. The answer to the question is still the same once you include Volo's and the Published Adventures, but knowing that the chart draws only from a single source is worth mentioning. \$\endgroup\$ – guildsbounty Jul 10 '17 at 14:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @guildsbounty what is the source of that statment regarding supplementary material? \$\endgroup\$ – Akixkisu Jul 1 at 8:19
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The forum post referenced in András's answer gives a quick overview of the the damage types but misses many important details about how those damage types are distributed.

Dragons contribute disproportionately to immunities for acid, cold, fire, lightning. That's because dragons generally come in good/evil pairs, and each dragon has 4 stat blocks (wyrmling, young, adult, ancient). So 8/10 lightning immunities are just different ages of blue and bronze dragons. On top of that metallic dragons are good - and thus unlikely to be fought - so in practice there's only 3 monsters with lightning immunities worth considering.

Among elementals, fire elementals contribute disproportionately to non-poison immunities: there's 9 kinds of fire elementals, and they're all immune to fire damage. Other than those, only Ice Mephits (cold) and Djinni (lightning, thunder) contribute immunities.

Fiends contribute a large amount of resistances and immunities to fire, cold, and to a lesser extent lightning. There's 11 devils, 13 demons and 4 yugoloths in the Monster Manual.

  • 11/11 devils are immune to fire and resistant to cold (presumably so they can survive in the hot and cold layers of the Nine Hells).
  • 12/13 demons are resistant to fire (the last one is immune)
    • 11/13 are resistant to cold (the last two are immune)
    • 13/13 resist lightning
  • 4/4 yugoloths resist cold, fire, and lightning
  • Night hags are resistant to cold and fire
  • Hell hounds and nightmares are immune to fire

There's 6 kinds of Slaadi and they're all resistant to acid, cold, fire, lightning, and thunder. This makes sense, since they come from the chaotic plane of Limbo.

Incorporeal creatures (banshees, ghosts, poltergeists, shadows, shadow demons, specters, will-o'-wisps and wraiths) also resist acid, cold, fire, lightning, and thunder (along with non-magical weapon damage). A few of them are immune to cold rather than resistant. All except the shadow demon (which is still resistant) are immune to necrotic damage, and both shadow monsters are the only ones vulnerable to radiant.

Yogoloths and oozes round out the resistances and immunities to acid.

Undead, fiends, constructs, and true elementals make up the bulk of poison immunities. These are generally non-biological creatures that don't need food, drink, or sleep. By "true elementals" I mean the ones that are made up entirely of their element, as opposed to elementally-infused flesh-and-blood creatures like azers, salamanders, and genies.

Undead make up almost all resistances and immunities to necrotic damage, and many contribute to the cold resistance totals.

Constructs make up 6/10 of those psychic immunities (3 of those are golems). The rest are couatls, sphinxes and demiliches.

In short, resistances and immunities are distributed fairly predictably among large groups of similar monsters. Rather than thinking in terms of number of resistances or immunities, it's more practical to think in terms of monster types. It's also worth noting that cold, fire, and lightning resistances often happen together, but monsters that resist those types rarely resist force, radiant, psychic or - if the target isn't undead - necrotic damage. Acid is also a fairly good fallback, since it works on non-Yugoloth fiends and all undead other than the incorporeal ones.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is an awesome analysis! It also allows for a quick-reference of what resistances / immunities a creature should have. I'm bookmarking this one for creature creation. +1d4 votes. !!!! \$\endgroup\$ – Mindwin Jul 11 '17 at 12:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ So would you agree/disagree with the general finding from the other answer that force and poison are the least resisted (and thus statistically ideal for PCs to use when the enemy is unknown)? \$\endgroup\$ – B. S. Morganstein Jul 11 '17 at 13:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @B.S.Morganstein Force and radiant are definitely the most reliable, followed very closely by psychic and necrotic; poison is definitely the worst. But there's many factors to consider; force, radiant and psychic damage is much harder to come by, and not always as damaging. Draconic Sorcerers can choose one damage type to boost, and those types aren't included. Cantrips like Ray of Frost, Frostbite and Chill Touch have very useful side effects. Necromancy Wizards have strong incentives to kill enemies with necrotic damage. Elemental Adept/Bane can overcome resistances. \$\endgroup\$ – Doval Jul 11 '17 at 14:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @B.S.Morganstein Elemental Evil Player's Companion also has water and earth-based spells like Tidal Wave or Erupting Earth that deal magical bludgeoning damage; resistance to magical bludgeoning is very rare. And the setting/campaign is also important; a campaign focused on dragons is very different from one focused on fiends, elementals, undead, or giants. \$\endgroup\$ – Doval Jul 11 '17 at 14:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Doval Absolutely, campaign setting is always going to affect the distribution of enemy types, and thus effectiveness of damage types. Just wanted to confirm the "general rule" so to speak, since your answer is almost a large set of caveats to the other answer \$\endgroup\$ – B. S. Morganstein Jul 11 '17 at 14:46

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