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Can a Pyromancer Sorcerer deal fire damage to a creature that is under the effect of Invulnerability?

The spell Invulnerability (XGtE) states:

You are immune to all damage until the spell ends.

The class feature Fiery Soul (Plane Shift - Kaladesh) states:

At 18th level, you gain immunity to fire damage. In addition, any spell or effect you create ignores resistance to fire damage and treats immunity to fire damage as resistance to fire damage.

My gut reaction is no, because Invulnerability states you are immune to "all damage", not "fire damage" or "all damage types".

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    \$\begingroup\$ I find it funny that the "Fiery Souled" sorcerer only has resistance to his own effects using the same ability that just gave him immunity to fire. \$\endgroup\$
    – Chemus
    Dec 25 '21 at 18:21
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This requires a DM ruling.

As quoted in the question, the Invulnerability spell grants immunity to all damages, including hence all the types listed here and moreover grants immunity to magical and non magical damage, by a strict reading of the description.

Fire damage can come from both magical effects (e.g., Fireball) and from nonmagical effects (e.g., a Dragon's breath, ). Hence, what happens when a creature under the effects of the invulnerability spell is hit by a spell cast by a Pyromancer Sorcerer that deal fire damage? There are two possibilities:

  • The Fiery Soul ability treats the immunity from fire damage as resistance to fire damage, but the immunity from magical damage still holds, then no damage is dealt.

  • The Fiery Soul ability treats the immunity from fire damage as resistance to fire damage, disregarding the immunity from magical damage.

Here it comes the need of a DM's call: they have to decide which one of the above should be applied. Indeed, one may decide to loosely read the description of the spell, without making the distinction between magical and non magical damage.


As a DM, I would apply the first ruling: all damage includes both magical and non magical sources of damage, a spell dealing fire damage is actually dealing magical fire damage, and Invulnerability grants immunity from this kind of damage.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Wait, so you're saying Invulnerability doesn't give "immune to all damage" as 1 thing, instead it gives every existing immunity: immune to fire, ice, poison, piercing...magic as 20 individual abilities. I think this would be better if you said why -- why doesn't it give 1 thing: "immune to all damage" like it says? \$\endgroup\$ Dec 27 '21 at 19:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @OwenReynolds Sorry, I do not get what you mean with this comment... \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    Dec 28 '21 at 9:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Eddymage This probably warrants its own question, but what Owen is asking is if the phrase "immune to all damage" is one effect, or does that phrase bestow multiple individual effects broken out by all types. In your response, you break out the phrase "Immune to all damage" as being the same as "Immunity from fire, Immunity from Magical Damage..... etc.". The importance is that other mechanics that would interact with Immunity would trigger on "Immune to all damage", even if it only mentioned a specific Immunity. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jmurray92
    Dec 28 '21 at 15:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ To put it a different way, steve's answer assumes the Invulnerability spell creates one new ability "immune to all". That seems fine, right? It's not as if D&D lists the official immunities and resistances. The demilich, for example, creates "Immune to slashing" in it's description. Why do you think "immune to all" can't be in D&D and needs to be created from other abilities? \$\endgroup\$ Dec 28 '21 at 16:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @OwenReynolds Mmm, actually I did not create anything from anything: I just restated the phrase "immune to all damage" into game mechanics that are already present. Indeed, the Lich description (with other monsters' feature) was one of the inspiration for the distinction between magical and non magical damage, since it is immune to slashing, bludgeoning and piercing damage from non magical attacks. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    Dec 28 '21 at 19:05
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Yes, you cause damage

I can see this why this might be contentious but, to me, the Fiery Soul ability trumps Invulnerability.

Immunity to all damage includes being immune to fire damage as a subset and the ability clearly states "treats immunity to fire damage as resistance to fire damage"

Therefore, I have to rule (or, at least, would do so at my table) that the monster protected by the Invulnerability would only have resistance to fire damage.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You might as well cite the specific beats general, you already make a good case for it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Dec 26 '21 at 0:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ This doesn't sound right to me. Suppose you had a character with immunity to damage from spells. Immunity to fire damage isn't a subset of that, so a character with such immunity would still be immune to damage from a Pyromancer's spells, even if that damage was fire damage. Now if you say immunity to all damage includes immunity to fire damage, then by the same argument, it should include immunity to damage from spells, and this immunity is not bypassed by Fiery Soul, so an immune-to-all-damage character should still be immune to fire damage from a Pyromancer's spells. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 26 '21 at 23:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ (A similar argument applies to fire damage from sources other than spells.) \$\endgroup\$ Dec 26 '21 at 23:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @user2357112supportsMonica I think that would make a good answer for this question. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 27 '21 at 6:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ The spell says "all damage", not "all types of damage". Does this make any difference? One can say, technically the spell doesn't grant the fire damage immunity, it just negates all incoming damage. \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Dec 27 '21 at 7:56
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This seems like a rules-as-intended GM call but to cover both bases, here's the RAW case for no:

No, since spells and abilities only do what they say they do

The class feature acts on the specific effect immunity to fire damage. For example, suppose a creature is immune to fire and ice damage. That's clearly not a new effect -- it's fire immunity plus one other effect -- so the ability would work. But suppose a creature was healed by fire damage. That's the same as immunity when they're at full HP, but it's not actually immunity so the ability wouldn't work -- the creature is safe from that mage's fire damage. The class feature could have said something more expansive such as "fire damage may not be reduced, countered, or similarly mitigated", but it didn't. It targets that specific ability.

The Invulnerability spell doesn't give the ability "immune to fire damage". If would if it was written something like "all damage is treated as if the subject had immunity to that damage type". You can imagine that's what they meant, or that it's the obvious way the spell has to be handled, but that's not what it says. As it it now, a fire effect hits the Invulnerable target, it tries to ignore immune to fire damage but the target doesn't have that, then Invulnerability reduces the damage to 0.

Rules as Intended probably says they take no damage

Fire Resistance is easy enough to get, and Fire Immune creatures can be summoned, shutting down fire mages. IMHO, the intent of the ability is to fix that big weakness for name-level fire mages, not to give them an advantage in situations like this.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The rule of 'spells and abilities only do what they say they do' sort of requires a counter example, where a spell or ability does do the thing, to help imply that the absence is deliberate. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 26 '21 at 22:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AncientSwordRage Can you give an example? I've never seen it that way. I've only seen SODWTSTD as "you're imagining it does X, but it only says it does Y", as in "you're thinking it makes it so fire damage can't be stopped, but it only says it ignore fire immunity". \$\endgroup\$ Dec 27 '21 at 0:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ Oh it's not a hard an fast rule. But sometimes things are implied and that is how it is played, and other times it's merely inferred because the counter example exists. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 27 '21 at 1:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ Can vorpal swords cut off the head of an immune target then, since the sword checks if the target is 'immune to slashing damage'? It seems that either pyromancers can deal fire damage, or vorpal swords can chop off their head, neither of which seem right to me. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 27 '21 at 6:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AncientSwordRage Ah...I see your point: look for edge-case where different wording made a difference -- "if they meant X they would have written well-known phrase Y, like they did here". HighDiceRoller tried, and yuck. A possible example would be casting Elemental Bane (removes resist one element) vs. something with Resist Magic (which is also very rare). \$\endgroup\$ Dec 28 '21 at 16:53
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Yes: damage type fundamentally attaches to instances of damage, not anything else

Damage Resistance and Vulnerability (PHB p. 197) says:

Multiple instances of resistance or vulnerability that affect the same damage type count as only one instance.

Taken in isolation, the natural interpretation of this sentence is that the damage type is attached to the resistance, and this sentence prevents "resistance to fire damage" from one source from stacking with "resistance to fire damage" from another source because they both name the same type of damage. On the other hand, "resistance to fire damage" is not the same type as "resistance to nonmagical damage", so this sentence would not apply to that pairing. Likewise, in the present case invulnerability's "immunity to all damage" is not the same type as "immunity to fire damage", so Fiery Soul would not apply.

There's just one problem: this natural interpretation is abrogated by the example that immediately follows in the text.

For example, if a creature has resistance to fire damage as well as resistance to all nonmagical damage, the damage of a nonmagical fire is reduced by half against the creature, not reduced by three-quarters.

In the given example, despite one resistance being to "fire damage" and the other resistance being to "all nonmagical damage"---neither being the same as, or even a subset of, the other---they are considered to be affecting "the same damage type", which is used as justification for the resistances not stacking. The implication is therefore that damage type fundamentally attaches to actual instances of damage. Everything else, such as resistances, is processed through this attachment.

If we apply this to the present case:

invulnerability states you are immune to "all damage", not "fire damage" or "all damage types"

the fact that invulnerability does not literally specify "fire damage" does not matter---since the actual damage dealt by the Pyromancer's spell falls under both invulnerability's "all damage" and Fiery Soul's "fire damage", they are considered to be "the same damage type" in this instance and therefore Fiery Soul applies. An awkward reading, yes---but awkward in the same way that the paragraph from Damage Resistance and Vulnerability is awkward.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This doesn't sound right either. I think the "same damage type" that the two resistances both affect in the example is nonmagical fire damage - the intersection type of the types the original resistances apply to. This doesn't mean the two damage types are the same type. It means the types have an intersection. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 27 '21 at 3:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ If this is your argument, the same applies to the question: the intersection type of "all damage" and "fire damage" is "fire damage". The Pyromancer's spell deals fire damage, ergo it falls within the intersection and both effects must be considered. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 27 '21 at 4:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ It falls in the intersection of "all damage" and "fire damage", but the rest of your argument doesn't logically follow from that. Your argument depends on treating "all damage" and "fire damage" as the same damage type. Damage falling in the intersection of the two types isn't enough for that. Fiery Soul doesn't apply to "immunity that would apply to this damage"; it specifically applies to "immunity to fire damage". \$\endgroup\$ Dec 27 '21 at 5:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ (As a RAI argument, orthogonal to your RAW argument, if the designers wanted Fiery Soul to apply to all immunities that would otherwise apply to that damage, they probably would have used very different wording, instead of saying "immunity to fire damage".) \$\endgroup\$ Dec 27 '21 at 5:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've edited my answer to more clearly show how I believe the example given in the text affects the interpretation. As for RAI, my view is that 5e's "natural language" is a double-edged sword---if the direct natural reading fails, as I argue it does here, "natural language" makes it difficult to determine whether the designers chose a particular wording a) because they had a particular intent in mind, or b) because that wording was simply more expedient. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 27 '21 at 6:49

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