Came across a scenario that’s a little odd:

A creature hits a character with an attack.

The character has an ability that deals damage when he is hit. Based on other rulings the damage from the character to the creature happens before the creature rolls damage on the player.

Now what happens if the creature takes enough damage to be killed? I see two options:

  1. The creature is dead and no longer gets a damage roll.
  2. The damage already "happened" before he died and a roll is still made.

I'm asking about any time a reaction or triggered effect causes a creature to die between its attack and damage roll and not this spell in particular but as an example a warlock casting armor of agathys with a 5th level slot, being hit by a low level creature like a 7 hp goblin.

Does the goblin hit and takes 25 damage and is dead, therefore no damage roll? Or does the goblin hit, deal ~5 damage and takes 25 damage and is dead?

It generally only matters when trivial creatures (less than CR 1) are attacking higher level characters (greater than lvl 5), situations I wouldn't bother actually playing through, but how I run it at a table could have implications on other abilities.

No "makes sense in real world" answers as I'm talking about magic and it has no real world logic. I can use story and fluff text to explain either version.

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ sorry been frustrated by a long string of 'what makes sense' and 'common sense' and 'real world' answers which are all part of an infinite set of possible answers cause... magic, none of those answers can eliminate an alternative explanation. when it comes to magic, Its a test that always fails cause magic only exists from a standpoint of game design. I needed an answer that eliminates other possible interpretations of how a magic bubble might work. its approaching the problem from a direction that cannot produce an answer. but how most people try to answer it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zephirum
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 15:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ it's often overused, but you may be looking for a "rules-as-written (RAW)" answer: What RPG concepts does "rules as written" encompass? \$\endgroup\$
    – fectin
    Commented Oct 28, 2017 at 16:55

4 Answers 4


The damage roll is not disassociated from the successful attack

The basic rule of combat is that if a creature successfully hits, it does damage. That's the whole point of rolling the dice. (p. 194 PHB1).

Nothing in the armor of agathys spell acts like the Shield spell does in preventing damage by preventing a successful attack. Any spell or effect that supplies temporary hit points will absorb some of the damage before the Warlocks's normal HP are reduced, but such spells don't stop damage from being taken.

Other effects that preempt a successful attack include divination magic that allow the spell caster to replace a successful attack roll with an unsuccessful attack roll.

If the attack was successful, damage is done.

The order is this:

  1. The Goblins hits the Warlock with a successful attack
  2. The Warlock takes damage from the successful hit and the Goblin takes 10 cold damage-these are both a direct result of the successful hit on the Warlock.
  3. The Goblin becomes incapacitated / dies as determined by the DM.

1 From the "Making an Attack" in Chapter 9.

3. Resolve the attack. You make the attack roll. On a hit, you roll damage, unless the particular attack has rules that specify otherwise. Some attacks cause special effects in addition to or instead of damage. (p. 194 PHB){italics mine}

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    \$\begingroup\$ presumably this applies to any other change in status for a creature as a result of a triggered effect from a hit, unless specifically halted the attack still resolves its damage roll. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zephirum
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 13:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ So it is possible that both the Warlock and the Goblin die at the same time? \$\endgroup\$
    – Fabic
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 15:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ Fabic presumably, the goblin takes damage from the effect before the damage roll but the attack roll still resolves so if sufficient damage was done to each they would both reach 0 hp as a result of the same attack action/sequence. if for some reason the order of death mattered the damage from this particular spell goes off before it takes damage but both damage sets happen. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zephirum
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 15:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Fabric this is the magical equivalent of Arthur and Mordred killing each other in their final encounter, so it shouldn't cause narrative issues or break suspension of disbelief if handled with a bit of flair \$\endgroup\$
    – Morgen
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 22:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Morgen In Japanese, this is called 'aiuchi' (mutual strike) and there are many stories of duelists who have died this way. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Commented Mar 21, 2022 at 5:53

The rules don't really spell it out explicitly.

Generally speaking though, conditions apply immediately when you get them. That's the reason why an effect like "when you are hit by an attack, gain Resistance to [x]" can work.

So that would imply that if you gain the condition "Incapacitated" (from falling to 0 HP. "Dead" isn't actually a condition.) you apply it immediately, before rolling damage.

However, nothing about being incapacitated prevents you from dealing damage. It just prevents you from taking actions, but you're not taking an action right now, just concluding one that you've already started. And conditions/effects don't apply retroactively unless they say so (which is why Shield has that line about "Including against this attack").

If I go by my strict reading of the rules, this is what would happen:

  • The Goblins hits the Warlock
  • The Goblin takes 10 cold damage
  • The Goblin becomes Incapacitated (and probably dies because it is just a mook)
  • The (incapacitated) Goblin deals damage to the Warlock

Fictionally, that probably means that the Goblin's spear doesn't instantly stop moving just because the force driving it is dead.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 14:30

This is a case of spells do what they say they do. And Armor of Agathys doesn't say it can prevent damage from attacks. Something like Shield can prevent attacks and spells that out. The monk's deflect missiles ability can prevent damage but doesn't say it negates a hit, so other effects on a hit would happen such as causing fear or another sort of ability. But nowhere does Armor of Agathys state that it prevents the damage.

So while the goblin may get a strike in they also get hit in return, killing the goblin in this case, the damage is already dealt by the goblin's spear. It pierced your armor, you just happen to prevent follow up attacks in later turns from the same source.

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    \$\begingroup\$ thats the problem per the rules algorithm established elsewhere the damage hasn't been dealt already, the question isn't about how armor of agathys works its about a creature dying between its attack and damage rolls for any reason. which have already been established as not being simultaneous for the sake of numerous effects. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zephirum
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 13:01
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ You got stabbed by a spear. It is gonna hurt. Like I said in my answer, the spell doesn't prevent any damage, you've been cut, it just happens that the creature who just stabbed you also died. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 13:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ how the spell works doesn't matter to the question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zephirum
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 15:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Zephirum I'd say the damage has been dealt; it's just that the dice haven't been rolled to see how much was dealt. \$\endgroup\$
    – TripeHound
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 19:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TripeHound -indeed; it makes no sense to think of hitting and causing damage as separable actions. They are two consequences of the same action; one cannot happen without the other. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jules
    Commented Oct 28, 2017 at 11:23

I think that the question you linked to is a bit ill-advised as reference because it is altogether somewhat confused. The assumption seems to be that somehow if a creature does 11 points of damage, the attacker might not take damage as per the spell's description because 11>10.
However, the spell description very clearly and unambiguously states that the attacker does take damage because "hits you with a melee attack while you have these hit points" is without any doubt exactly what's happening.

That being said, the purpose of a hit roll is not to determine whether you have hit someone in the mundane meaning of the word. During a fight, you most definitively hit the opponent dozens of times, but you do not cause a significant wound every time. Most of the time, the blow glances off armour, or something similar. In game terms, these are misses, not hits.

Using the word hit in game terms means not just "hit, somehow", but it means you hit the opponent thoroughly enough or hard enough to actually deal damage. That is, damage from which you could in principle die, not a harmless scratch. Which means you lose hit points.

This means, of course, that if the goblin scores a hit and then whatever-may-be happens (including the creature dying, this is entirely irrelevant), you still get damage because you were hit.

The AoA spell could explicitly state that in case the creature dies from the spell's effect, it somehow absorbs the damage. But alas, it does not say that. So, that's not what happens.


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