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I'm unsure whether getting hit and taking damage happen at the same or different times.

The armor of Agathys spell is an example of when this doesn't matter as it states:

If a creature hits you with a melee attack while you have these hit points, the creature takes 5 cold damage.

This effect does not require any sort of reaction, it simply happens simultaneously with the hit, no matter what.

However there are features where the answer does matter such as the Sun Soul Monk's Sun Shield which states:

If a creature hits you with a melee attack while this light shines, you can use your reaction to deal radiant damage to the creature.

This requires your reaction, and we know that reactions (typically) happen after their triggers as supported by this Q/A ("Do reactions interrupt their triggers or not?") so the Sun Shield effect definitely happens after you are hit (making it a distinct scenario from armor of Agathys).

But are getting hit and taking damage simultaneous events?
If yes, then the reaction would occur after the hit and thus after the damage.
If no, then the reaction would occur after the hit but before the damage.

When the reaction can occur is important.
Let the Monk have only 1 HP left and be hit by an attack from a creature.
If they are hit and take damage simultaneously, then they would fall unconscious and be unable to take the reaction.
If the hit happened before the damage they could take their reaction, dealing damage to the attacking creature, and then take the damage, falling unconscious as a result.


Below is a collection of what I could find that potentially helps to answer this question:

I have found this Q/A ("Does damage from Armor of Agathys take place before or after a character takes damage from an attack that hits?") where an answer states:

Since the determination of a hit is before the damage is dealt, the attacker would take the damage from Armor of Agathys before the damage of the attack is resolved.

And also this Q/A ("What happens if a creature is killed between its attack and damage rolls") where one answer states:

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.

And another answer states this:

If I go by a 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

The Monster Manual when describing the notation "hit:" states the following:

Hit. Any damage dealt or other effects that occur as a result of an attack hitting a target are described after the "Hit" notation.

there is a section in the DMG on "Rolling Attacks and Damage" which states:

Players are accustomed to rolling an attack roll first and then a damage roll. If players make attack rolls and damage rolls at the same time, the action moves a little faster around the table...

And then there is also a section of the rules on "Making an Attack" which states:

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.

I'm unsure whether these point towards damage and hits being simultaneous events or not.

Finally, the lead rules designer, Jeremy Crawford, has made a couple unofficial rulings (tweets) regarding attacks hitting and damage, in particular this one and this one

Q. Solar HITS w/ Slaying LB on a 101~HP target, Death con saving throw req. start with the HIT or after damage reduction?
A. Slaying Longbow sequence:
1. Hit
2. Deal damage (apply any resistance)
3. Make saving throw if the target has hit points ≤ 100

Q. Just for clarification, this means you can declare a divine smite/sneak attack after an attack roll, but before a dmg roll?
A. (1) You make an attack roll.
(2) You hit or miss.
(3) You roll damage if you hit. "When you hit" happens at number 2.

Yet again, I'm unsure whether these Rules As Intended ideas show that the hit occurs mechanically before damage or if that's just how it goes in the real world.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Is there any reason to believe that hitting and dealing damage are simultaneous? \$\endgroup\$ – Joakim M. H. Sep 26 at 13:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @joakimM.H. the answers here both say so \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Sep 26 at 14:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ @joakimM.H. if you feel they happen at different times that would make for a good answer \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Sep 26 at 16:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes, the answers here say so, but without any reasoning. One answer even says They seem to happen at the same time, but there are windows for things to happen in between. If anyhting can happen between, then it's not at the same time. I thought about writing up an answer, but for me it's so blatantly obvious that they are separate events that I'm having a hard time formulating a proper answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Joakim M. H. Sep 27 at 9:54
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Yes

Being hit and taking damage are part of the single “event” Resolve the Attack which says:

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.

Getting hit and taking damage are different triggers that reactions or other game effects can be hung off because it’s possible to be hit and not take damage e.g. if you are immune to the damage type or the attack has a non damaging effect. Similarly it’s possible to take damage without being hit e.g. by an effect that isn’t an attack.

If the being hit allows a reaction, it can be taken after you take damage - provided you are still capable of taking actions (reactions are actions). If the attack incapacitates you, you cannot take the reaction.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Keep in mind that some reactions can retroactively cancel the hit, such as the Shield spell, which increases your AC after a hit, and that new AC can prevent you from having been hit in the first place. \$\endgroup\$ – PotatoEngineer Aug 16 at 16:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree with this answer for interpreting RAW, but I am having trouble resolving it with the shield spell. \$\endgroup\$ – Blits Aug 16 at 16:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Blits The Shield spell is an odd one and involves a time paradox. It works because magic. \$\endgroup\$ – Dale M Aug 16 at 20:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Blits I so wish reactions which reduce damage after you've taken damage and reactions which can prevent hits after you've been hit had a more explicit explanation on when they are happening. There are non-magic features that can turn hits into misses such as the Cavalier Fighter's Warding Meneuver. And non-magic features that reduce damage you take after you've taken it such as the Horizon Walker's Ranger's Spectral Defense feature or the Ancestral Guardian Barbarian's Spirit Shield \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Aug 17 at 13:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ The text also includes the actual rolling. If it is all one event then I don't see how all the effects to do X after rolling but before determining success (bardic inspiration, etc) function. If this presumed pause between the elements of this "Resolve the Attack" exists then why can't the hit and damage be separate successive elements? \$\endgroup\$ – Benjamin Olson Sep 30 at 20:03
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They seem to happen at the same time, but there are windows for things to happen in between.

Both getting hit and taking damage are separate from each other as they can happen separately as well, not only as a combined event. You can get hit without taking damage and you can take damage without getting hit.

Getting hit and taking damage can be used for different triggers on spells.

For example, the spell Absorb Elements (EEPC, p. 15; XGtE, p. 150) states that the reaction can be made:

when you take acid, cold, fire, lightning, or thunder damage

While the Way of the Sun Soul monk's Sun Shield feature (SCAG, p. 131; XGtE, p. 35) states the following:

You shed bright light in a 30-foot radius and dim light for an additional 30 feet. [...] If a creature hits you with a melee attack while this light shines, you can use your reaction to deal radiant damage to the creature.

This means that you can use Absorb Elements when you are standing in an fire (not geting hit but are taking damage), and use the monk's Sun Shield when getting hit with a non-proficient unarmed strike by someone with a -1 strength modifier (getting hit but no damage).

In 5e something does only what it says it does, and the Sun Shield ability says it activates after getting hit, not after taking damage.

Thus, the order for an attack would go as follows:

  1. Getting hit
  2. Chance to use Sun Shield
  3. Taking damage
  4. Chance to cast Absorb Elements

Bringing this back to the example of the monk, let’s say the monk is at 1 hp and the enemy is as well. The interaction would go as follows:

  1. The enemy attacks the monk
  2. The monk is hit
  3. Change to use Sun Shield
  4. The monk takes damage

Now, whether damages stops if the creature dies from this would be a whole other question.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 i updated my answer, i hope its a bit more clear now \$\endgroup\$ – darnok Sep 26 at 15:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ That makes sense now, thank you \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Sep 26 at 16:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ @darnok You wrote 2. Change to use Sun Shield. Is that supposed to be Chance? \$\endgroup\$ – Willem Renzema Sep 27 at 21:27
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The sentence structure for Armor of Agathys uses 'hits', present tense, indicating that the two actions (you taking damage and the opponent taking damage) happen simultaneously. A reaction, according to the PHB:

A reaction is an instant response to a trigger

Except Xanathar's has this to say, which is:

If you’re unsure when a reaction occurs in relation to its trigger, here’s the rule: the reaction happens after its trigger completes, unless the description of the reaction explicitly says otherwise.

Let's say, for instance, a kobold (5 hit points) decided to wail on your Armor of Agathys using wizard. The kobold hits, rolls low, and deals three damage. The Armor of Agathys activates and kills the kobold. Even if that happened before you rolled damage, that happened after you got hit, and the general rule is that whenever you get hit, you take damage. There's no specific rule for when you can kill someone who hits you with a weapon attack that it negates the damage dealt by the attack.

Now let's take a look at the Monk case you presented. According to the two reactions rules, the reaction takes place as soon as the trigger finishes, however that's when the reaction occurs. You can take the reaction once the trigger occurs. Since the trigger is 'getting hit with an attack', and 'getting hit' is part of the overall 'attack' action, the damage occurs simultaneous to the trigger, whereas your reaction occurs after that. However, since the reaction is stated to be 'an instant response' to the trigger, the reaction can be taken, but it happens after the trigger, as the language is 'reaction happens' in Xanathar's. Note that it says 'happens', not 'take the reaction action', which means that the reaction action is triggered simultaneous to the trigger, but it only occurs after the trigger. A bit nonsensical, yes, but I don't write the rules, I just read as written.

So, to summarize, you can trigger the reaction, however, it only activates after damage, at which point you are at 0 hit points, go unconscious, but there's no rule against your unconscious body dealing damage when you already took an action while conscious. It's really no different than jumping off a building, taking damage, and then having your unconscious body fall on an enemy, from a mechanics standpoint, at least.

Final conclusion? Your unconscious Monk body deals damage thanks to a choice you made while you were still conscious.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I explained my logic a bit more. You aren't taking the reaction while unconscious, the reaction is occurring while you're unconscious. 'Damage occurs simultaneous to the trigger' means that getting hit and taking damage are simultaneous events, as they're both part the 'Attack' action. \$\endgroup\$ – Halfthawed Aug 15 at 22:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ Neither answer given is inconsistent with my answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Halfthawed Aug 15 at 23:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ One says there is a time between the hit and the damage and the other says: "lastly, damage is rolled and then applied." \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Aug 15 at 23:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree with the conclusion of the first answer, and the second answer is only saying that in relative terms to when you roll damage, not when the game determines you roll. In either event, I have no problem arguing with them, as neither quotes a definitive source and just reads the rulebook. \$\endgroup\$ – Halfthawed Aug 15 at 23:18
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I would determine this based of the need to use a Reaction to cause the return damage. Despite the Monk in question being now unconscious from the attack made by the Goblin, the "hit", the effect of the Sun Shield still functions one last time as a reaction to the monk being struck. It's a simple cause and effect. and both causes produce effects that don't disrupt anything other than the lives of the characters involved.

The idea that damage is inflicted with any particular delay after the hit is mind boggling to me. If you kick a wall, your foot takes damage the instant you strike. there's no delay for you to consider options or decide anything. Similarly, when the goblin's blade strikes, it wounds. That's inherent to 'sharp blade forcibly touching soft flesh'. Equally inherent is the reaction, however. Blade struck shielded monk, ergo goblin gets face-full of ki powered fire.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. Can you support your answer by citing evidence or experience? \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Oct 1 at 6:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, I can support my answer with experience. I have kicked walls in the past and have empirical evidence as a result. Not every question requires a page number for the answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Joe L Oct 1 at 12:48

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