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Inspired by this Q&A: How to handle falling down stairs?

Feather fall says:

Choose up to five falling creatures within range. A falling creature's rate of descent slows to 60 feet per round until the spell ends. If the creature lands before the spell ends, it takes no falling damage and can land on its feet, and the spell ends for that creature.

It has a casting time of 1 Reaction:

which you take when you or a creature within 60 feet of you falls.

In my answer to the above Q&A, I document three (stair) cases where the characters can fall down stairs and take damage.

From Tales from the Yawning Portal:

The eastern stairs are shrouded in dim light, which can’t be made brighter by any means. Any character who mounts the stairs falls down and rolls back onto the floor, taking 3 (1d6) bludgeoning damage.

From Rime of the Frostmaiden:

The stairs, which descend 90 feet to area G10, are slippery. The slippery ice is difficult terrain. When a creature moves on these stairs for the first time on a turn, it must succeed on a DC 10 Dexterity (Acrobatics) check or fall prone. If the check fails by 5 or more, the creature also tumbles 10 feet down the stairs and takes 3 (1d6) bludgeoning damage.

From Rise of Tiamat:

Steps are cut into the wall of the chute, creating steep, icy stairs that drop down 100 feet in a tight spiral. Because this entrance is seldom used, the steps become increasingly obscured by frost as the characters descend. At the 40-foot mark, a character must attempt a DC 12 Dexterity (Acrobatics) check to maintain a grip on the dangerously uneven footholds. Failure means the character loses his or her footing, sliding and tumbling 60 feet to the bottom and taking 21 (6d6) bludgeoning damage.

In the example from Yawning Portal the word "falls" is used to describe our descent of the stairs. In the latter two examples, the word "tumbles" and the phrase "sliding and tumbling" are used instead. As noted in my answer to the linked question, the module guidance for falling down stairs is very similar to the usual rules for falling.

Does feather fall work to prevent falling-down-stairs damage?

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Yes, based on the general English definition of the words "falling" and "landing".

Since falling hasn't been given a special definition in 5e (we have rules for what happens when you fall, but not rules defining what falling specifically is), we fall back to the standard English definition:

Fall

fôl

moving from a higher to a lower level, typically rapidly and without control.

Descending a flight of stairs, rapidly and without control (eg "tumbling" or "sliding"), then, fits within the definition of "falling". There's a reason we say "falling down the stairs" rather than some other word or phrase. The tricky part, then, is "landing". Since "landing" has also not been given any special definition by the 5e rules, we must go with the standard English definition:

Landing

land

  • come down through the air and alight on the ground.
  • reach the ground after falling or jumping.
  • come to rest after falling or being thrown.

So we can see that "landing", in terms of "falling" generally means when one stops "falling".

Thus, Feather Fall still applies to a creature falling down a flight of stairs.


As an amusing tangential note, a flat space between two sets of stairs is also know as a "landing", so you're covered either way :p

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I would say "yes".

Falling down stairs is a lot of little falls, with damage accumulated as you go, instead of one big fall and one big whack, but it's still falling. The energy is provided by gravity and the damage by the impacts. Feather Fall lasts for 1 minute. So I would rule that Feather Fall slows the falling down the stairs, and the subject can thus manage the tumbling to avoid damage. And if he slips and falls on the stairs again within that minute, he is still similarly protected.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you support this? As it stands, it feels more like opinion than a supported answer. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jan 19 at 19:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's one of the many things the rules don't cover in detail, so the DM gets to make a ruling based on his opinion. So of course it's an opinion. That's how I would rule it. \$\endgroup\$ – PhilB Jan 19 at 19:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ Feather fall ends when the player 'lands' and avoids the fall damage so, technically RAW, they wouldn't be protected if they fell a second time within the minute. \$\endgroup\$ – Steve Jan 19 at 19:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ Okay, but it also says they "land on their feet", and then the spell ends, so in a stair situation, if you go by that, they wouldn't even fall down the 10' of stairs; they'd fall down one stair, then end up standing on the next stair, undamaged. The point is that Feather Fall helps on stairs. \$\endgroup\$ – PhilB Jan 19 at 21:40

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