I have created a fighter, who is using heavy armor and has the Heavy Armor Master feat.

The Heavy Armor Master feat (PHB, p. 167) states that:

While you are wearing heavy armor, bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage that you take from nonmagical weapons is reduced by 3.

This character was shot and hit, by a longbow loaded with a poison arrow. The attack did 2 piercing and 5 poison damage. Because of the HAM feat, the piercing was reduced to 0.

Because the arrow did not pierce (presumably because the armor absorbed the hit), would the character still be affected by the poison damage?

The shooter was a yuan-ti pureblood; presumably neither the longbow, arrow, or poison was "magical".


3 Answers 3


You take the poison damage regardless

The Yuan-ti Pureblood's shortbow attack states:

Hit: 4 (1d6 + 1) piercing damage plus 7 (2d6) poison damage.

Which means that you take the poison damage on a hit, regardless of whether you take piercing damage.

Crawford answered a similar question on Twitter:

Q: If the Battlemaster maneuver parry, reduce the weapon Drow damage to zero, the poison damage still work?

A: Drow poison in the DMG is delivered by piercing/slashing damage (0 dmg = 0 poison). Poison in the MM's drow is delivered by hitting.

Many drow have an attack with the exact same wording as the Yuan-ti Pureblood's shortbow attack, for example the Drow Elite Warrior's shortsword attack:

Hit: 7 (1d6 + 4) piercing damage plus 10 (3d6) poison damage.

Injury poison does nothing if the piercing damage is 0

There are poisons that behave the way you expected. These are injury poisons and are explained on page 257 of the Dungeon Master's Guide:

Injury poison can be applied to weapons, ammunition, trap components, and other objects that deal piercing or slashing damage and remains potent until delivered through a wound or washed off. A creature that takes piercing or slashing damage from an object coated with the poison is exposed to its effects.

However, these rules are meant for players and don't seem to apply to monsters. For example, the "drow poison in the DMG" which Crawford mentioned is an injury poison, which means piercing or slashing damage must occur for the poison to take effect, yet many drow have a hand crossbow attack that delivers an effect identical to the drow poison on a hit, regardless of the piercing damage.

  • \$\begingroup\$ In this case, OP has stated this was the attack of a Yuan-ti Pureblood which has a specific damage effect. Can you address that in your answer? \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Apr 9, 2019 at 17:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch I edited the last paragraph, but I don't have anything say that is specific to Yuan-ti Purebloods. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ruse
    Apr 9, 2019 at 17:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ Would you treat this damage differently if it wasn't poison, but fire? It's just two different damage types on one attack, no? \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Apr 9, 2019 at 17:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch "Damage types have no rules of their own, but other rules, such as damage resistance, rely on the types." To be more accurate I am treating the piercing/slashing damage differently. I am applying the injury poison rules to the piercing/slashing damage. I understand now why you pointed me to the Yuan-ti pureblood, it is not clear that the Yuan-ti are using an injury (or contact) poison with an effect that is just the poison damage. I need to improve my answer to justify that leap. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ruse
    Apr 9, 2019 at 18:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sounds good! I'm very interested to see if you can apply the poison damage as a result of the piercing damage and the differences between a successful hit and 0 damage. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Apr 9, 2019 at 18:31


Well, technically you don't get poisoned (which is a condition), but you take poison damage. You could argue that it doesn't make sense because the armor "absorbed the hit", but that is not what Heavy Armor Master implies.

Not getting hit is already determined by your armor class, the fact that the attack hit but the damage was then lowered a bit means the poison arrow did, in fact, get past your character's armor, your character is just tough enough to shrug off a bit of the piercing damage. The same can not be said for the poison damage.

  • 11
    \$\begingroup\$ If it helps, the OP can think of it as reducing the hit from the arrow sinking into the flesh to just scratching the skin. Just enough for the poison to get in. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Apr 9, 2019 at 9:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ Follow up question, does the poison damage get reduced by 1, since there was only 2 piercing damage? \$\endgroup\$
    – Vaelus
    Apr 9, 2019 at 14:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ May also be helpful to note that AC is not necessarily mean that the hit didn't get past armor - it' s just that it didn't do enough to actually hurt you. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Apr 9, 2019 at 17:11
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Vaelus The feat only affects bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage, so poison damage would not be reduced. \$\endgroup\$
    – Wazoople
    Apr 9, 2019 at 19:56

Yes, Damage is damage - but you aren't poisoned.

The Yuan-Ti Pureblood can use a shortbow to attack. The stat block defines that attack as:

Shortbow. Ranged Weapon Attack: +3 to hit, range 80/320 ft., one target. Hit: 4 (1d6 + 1) piercing damage plus 7 (2d6) poison damage.

What you have is a successful hit causing both piercing damage and poison damage. The feat will reduce the piercing damage by 3HP, but it has no effect on the poison damage and that delivers as normal as the hit was still successful.

The Heavy Armor feat reduces nonmagical piercing damage and no more. It doesn't negate the hit.

The damage is just delivered on a successful hit via two different damage types and your feat helps reduce one of those types - it doesn't stop the hit so any remaining damage is still delivered.

See this related on question Does a zero damage attack still count as a hit?

Even if you wanted to tie the damage to a specific poison type and delivery mechanism, the fact that it did no damage to you from piercing doesn't mean that it didn't break skin. I don't think I'd say a small cut would be an equivalent to 1hp of damage, but I'm still cut and the poison could still be delivered.

You have gotten poison damage, but you aren't poisoned

I just want to clarify that getting poison damage isn't the same as being under the poisoned condition. That is a separate mechanic and is only active if something says it does that. Poison damage doesn't automatically impart the condition, it's just a damage type.


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