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Ok, so one of the characters in our game is getting DR and is arguing that any damage caused by any spell bypasses the DR.

A creature with this special quality ignores damage from most weapons and natural attacks. Wounds heal immediately, or the weapon bounces off harmlessly (in either case, the opponent knows the attack was ineffective). The creature takes normal damage from energy attacks (even nonmagical ones), spells, spell-like abilities, and supernatural abilities.

The rest of the group is in agreement though that if a spell causes physical damage as opposed to energy or straight magic (like magic missile), then DR should apply. He gave the example of bombardment, saying that because the rocks are created by magic that it counts as a magical damage. The spell doesn't specifically say a damage type, but obviously the damage is caused by the rocks falling, and not any sort of magic (since it references a non-magical avalanche in the spell). But if you conjure a non-magical animal, that animal's attacks don't automatically become magical because it was summoned magically. So, should DR reduce the physical types of damage from spells, or would throwing a rock with a spell count as magic damage as well? *note, the DM already ruled in favor of DR reducing bludgeoning, slashing, etc from spells, so it doesn't actually effect the rest of us and if he gets his own character killed then so be it. I would actually just like clarification on it because I can't find anything about it.

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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 Jun 24 '20 at 22:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ You may be interested in this answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 25 '20 at 0:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ Re/ the edit to add the system back into the title: system tags in the title are usually redundant and this is one of those cases. I won't edit it back out myself in order to avoid an edit war but, no, the initial edit to remove that system tag from the title was not pointless. \$\endgroup\$ – Purple Monkey Jun 25 '20 at 1:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ Indeed. The post title as displayed in the tab/page title in one's browser and as it appears in search results is currently: "dnd-3.5e - Is DR/magic weak to all spells, or does it resist spells that cause physical damage in 3.5?" There's no real benefit to the edition number being listed twice (especially for a question about "DR", which doesn't exist under that name in any other edition). \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jun 25 '20 at 3:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've rolled back that edit. It shouldn't affect which answers you get anyway. Experienced site users know (or at least should) to check the tag, and if you do get answers for the wrong system/edition please flag it as "not an answer" (a comment might also be very useful). You're going to get notified of comments on your posts (fact of site), but that should be fairly easy to get used to. \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Jun 25 '20 at 8:20
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Damage reduction reduces damage dealt by natural weapons, manufactured weapons, and unarmed strikes; everything else typically bypasses it

The Rules Compendium on Damage Reduction says, "A creature that has damage reduction (DR) ignores some of the hit point damage from weapons, natural weapons, and unarmed attacks that don’t meet certain criteria" (41). Also, to be clear, later in the same section on Magic says, "When magic can overcome a creature’s damage reduction, a weapon that has a +1 or higher magical enhancement bonus is required" (ibid.).

Damage dealt by spells is typically unaffected by DR, therefore the player advocating for this position is largely correct.

DR can apply to the attacks of a summoned creature if the summoned creature attacks with weapons, natural weapons, or unarmed attacks because those attacks are what to what DR applies. But even the 8th-level Drd spell bombardment [conj] (Spell Compendium 37) deals damage due to falling rubble, and, as that's not damage from weapons, natural weapons, or unarmed attacks, the damage dealt by the bombardment spell—like most spells—is unaffected by DR.

Damage reduction in 3.5 is an Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Second Edition and earlier legacy-like rules element that's supposed to mirror the ability of creatures from those earlier editions to shrug off PCs' weapon attacks (see here). DR isn't supposed to protect against everything or be generalized; it's a defense against weapons (and unarmed attacks and natural weapons) and—contrary to the name—not damage broadly.

However, 3.5's offspring Pathfinder changes DR somewhat with regard to spells—see here—, and everybody but that one player may find that game's rules for DR more attractive.


Complete Psionic and metacreativity powers

Complete Psionic in a sidebar entitled Metacreativity Powers and Damage Reduction, in part, says, "Any damage-dealing metacreativity power that specifies piercing, slashing, or bludgeoning damage does not automatically overcome a creature’s damage reduction" (79). This is followed by examples of such powers from both it and the Expanded Psionics Handbook. Complete Psionic doesn't offer any justification for this change, and some fans consider the changes Complete Psionic attempts to make invalid. Readers should be aware of this unusual printed exception to how DR normally functions but should also be aware of the controversies surrounding Complete Psionic that are better addressed by, for example, this answer.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ OTOH, the CPsi rule does make common sense. (Although contrast this to the Bombardment spell mentioned in the question, which does not explicitly mention any of the physical damage types.) \$\endgroup\$ – martixy Jul 11 '20 at 20:14
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Some spells explicitly mention damage reduction

For instance the spell Splinterbolt (Spell Compendium, p. 203)

A creature's damage reduction, if any, applies to the damage from this spell. The damage from splinterbolt is treated as magic and piercing for the purpose of overcoming damage reduction.

or Sudden Stalagmite (Spell Compendium, p. 213)

A creature's damage reduction, if any, applies to the damage from this spell. The damage from sudden stalagmite is treated as piercing for the purpose of overcoming damage reduction.

Since DR normally only applies to HP damage from weapons, natural weapons, and unarmed attacks, you could argue that damage dealing spells are generally not subject to DR — unless it is statet in the spell description.

On the other hand, it's not really understandable why some spells explicitly mention damage reduction, while others do not, although they apparently work very similar. For example: why should DR apply to a spell like Splinterbolt which deals piercing damage on a successful attack with a splinter, whereas it should not apply to a spell like Giant's Wrath (Spell Compendium, p. 105) which deals bludgeoning damage on a successful hit with a boulder?

Or why should DR apply to the spell Sudden Stalagmite which deals piercing damage on a failed reflex save (with no attack roll required), while it should not apply to a spell like e. g. Wrack Earth (Player's Handbook II) where earth and stone deal bludgeoning damage?

For the sake of consistency, to me it would seem to be a good idea to adopt the rule from Pathfinder (Hey I Can Chan already referred to in his answer) which reads (in part):

if a magical attack specifically mentions that it deals bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing damage, DR affects that damage normally, as if it were from a physical weapon.

Unfortunately, all his is still not an answer to your actual question concerning DR/magic. My main point was to indicate that we have some spells that make a statement about DR.

Note that Splinterbold does overcome DR/magic while Sudden Stalagmite does not. Probably the idea behind this is that Splinterbolt is treated as an attack with a magic weapon (bolt) similar to other spells that conjure weapons – like for instance Cloud of Knives (Player's Handbook II) which also explicitly does overcome DR/magic.

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