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I'm a first time player of DnD and I'm using the starter set (Lost Mine of Phandelver) and I think me and my party are calculating some things wrong.

We were confused on the damage points so we just went to hit points (we are all new so we have no real guidance). Then later on we searched up how to use damage points but couldn't find any real answers.

The only thing I saw was an example but no formula.

When we were first starting the game, we calculated the attack roll by 1d20+weapon stats+ability (but we changed it to 1d20+ability); for example, for how we are doing it currently, if I used a shortsword and roll a 10 then 10-1=9. We used that to see if our attack hits or not.

At the start we used weapon stats (5+1d6+3+proficiency bonus+-1+little number (under the modifier) for damage. We didn't know what to do w/ damage so we went straight to hit points (goblin ~7 HP but rolled a total of 10 and considered them dead.)

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure what you're describing. Can you give us an example of how you calculated things, so that we can tell whether or not you're doing it right? \$\endgroup\$ – Oblivious Sage Oct 7 at 0:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ What do you mean by "weapon stats"? \$\endgroup\$ – mattdm Oct 7 at 4:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @InSomniaOT7 The basic rules in the starter set lay out how attacks work. The description you give bears very little resemblance to how it's actually meant to work. If you don't have the start booklet ready, you can also double check the rules online here: 5e.d20srd.org/srd/combat/MakinganAttack.htm \$\endgroup\$ – Cubic Oct 7 at 9:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Izzy: I've abused my mod powers to edit the link you're talking about into your comment ;) \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Oct 8 at 7:15
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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. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Oct 8 at 7:17
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Lets break this down even more just to be clear. Here is an example:

Goblin has 7 Hit Points, 15 AC. Character swings a short sword which they are proficient with. Short sword has the finesse property, so the character can choose between Strength or Dexterity. Let's say they choose strength and a +1 STR MOD.

  1. Character rolls for attack -- rolls D20 to hit against the Goblin's Armor Class and succeeds with a roll of 14 + 1 STR MOD + 2 PROFICIENCY BONUS = 17 to hit (which is >= 15).

  2. Character rolls damage for short sword rolls a D6 and gets 3 + 1 STR MOD = 4 damage. Damage doesn't include proficiency. The modifier is the smaller derived from the larger ability score.

  3. Goblin calculates remaining HP. 7 - 4 = 3 HP left for the Goblin.

The goblin flees. Finds a place to take a short rest of 1 hour (or more) and chooses to roll its hit dice to heal some of that damage...

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  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 but I think also needs a link to the distinction between ability score and modifier \$\endgroup\$ – mattdm Oct 7 at 11:01
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Let me see what I can contribute. Quoting from your question,

When we were first starting the game, we calculated the attack roll by 1d20+weapon stats+ability (but we changed it to 1d20+ability); for example, for how we are doing it currently, if I used a shortsword and roll a 10 then 10-1=9. We used that to see if our attack hits or not.

This is almost correct. While I'm not sure what you mean by "weapon stats" (but see footnote), you are correct in surmising that you calculate attack roll (which determines whether you hit your target or not) with a roll of 1d20 + modifiers.

The modifiers which are relevant here are proficiency and ability. With any weapon with which your character is proficient, you can add your proficiency bonus (+2 for a first level character, rising as you gain experience) to your attack roll. Your ability bonus is typically strength for melee attacks, or dexterity for ranged attacks (with exceptions). In this case it is the modifier, which on a character sheet is represented by the little number under the ability score. (I.e., if you have 12 strength, your strength modifier is +1)

At the start we used weapon stats (5+1d6+3+proficiency bonus+-1+little number (under the modifier) for damage. We didn't know what to do w/ damage so we went straight to hit points (goblin ~7 HP but rolled a total of 10 and considered them dead.)

This is where I'm a little confused by your description. Assuming you hit with your attack roll, you roll damage; this will be some funny-sized die which depends on your weapon, plus modifiers. In the short-sword example, the damage die is 1d6. To this you add modifiers, which is typically just your ability modifier as described above. Other modifiers include bonuses from using a magic weapon (ranging, typically, from +1 to +3), some class features, and a variety of other sources. You do not, and I cannot stress this enough, add your proficiency to damage. So, a typical first-level character with 14 strength smacks a goblin with her short sword. After rolling to hit (and assuming a good hit), the attack will deal damage equal to 1d6 (short sword damage die) +2 (strength modifier).

Footnote: Sometimes, the text will shorthand everything for you. Be careful with this. The DM often has stat blocks for their NPCs, with everything pre-calculated; so for example it may list somewhere that the goblin's spear does 1d8+1 damage. This stat block should already account for everything described above. Computer-generated character sheets often do the same. Keep an eye out for this and make sure you don't double-dip! If unsure, do the math yourself. Add up your own attack bonus and see if it agrees with the stat block; start with the basic damage die and add modifiers, and again, see if it agrees with the stat block.

Happy gaming!

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    \$\begingroup\$ Formally, in 5e, bonuses from using a magic weapon range from +1 to +3 only, as a rescaling of the maths which were in effect since at least BECMI and 1st Edition AD&D. \$\endgroup\$ – Wtrmute Oct 7 at 18:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the correction. I am less familiar with 5e than I am with 3.5 (and derivatives). I'll edit my answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Izzy Oct 7 at 18:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's worth mentioning in your description of the damage die that the appropriate damage dice will almost always be noted by the entry for that weapon in the Weapons table - if it's a magic item, any modifications to the damage dice or any other special effects will be noted in the item's description. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Oct 8 at 7:19
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It sounds like you're doing it right. The 20-sided die (d20) is used (with modifiers) and compared against the target's Armor Class. If it equals or exceeds the AC number, the attack hits!

Then, each type of weapon or attack has a particular damage range. For example, as you said above, a short sword uses 1d6, plus whatever modifiers (usually the strength modifier for melee weapons, sometimes magical bonuses, etc.) That's the amount of damage the attack does. That damage is subtracted from the creature's Hit Points.

When they attack the PC, the same thing happens. Repeat until someone dies!

(Note: Death as only outcome is grossly simplified for illustration purposes.)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Or, like, until someone surrenders or runs away. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Oct 7 at 3:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ So just to clarify, you do: HP-DP= New HP? So, if a goblin HP is 7 and I get a 5 for damage, would it be 7-5=2. Then from the new HP(2), would I subract the HP role from the 2? Or is the HP role only for healing? For example a PC has a 1d8 hit dice role to only heal or also deliver an HP reduction on the oppenent? \$\endgroup\$ – InSomniaOT7 Oct 7 at 3:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes, Hit Dice come into play to determine healing, not normally a factor in combat. \$\endgroup\$ – energythief Oct 7 at 3:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ I can see the confusion — it seems like something called "hit dice" might be involved when you hit something. But that's not the case. They're called that because they relate to "hit points", which are entirely about how much damage a player or creature can take before they're dropped. Note that, while it rarely comes up in practice, monsters can use their hit dice to recover hit points just like player characters do. \$\endgroup\$ – mattdm Oct 7 at 4:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure that they're actually doing it right — it seems like there is some confusion over ability score vs. modifier, as well as when do use the proficiency bonus. \$\endgroup\$ – mattdm Oct 7 at 4:51

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