When does a creature deal damage? A number of powers mention "deals damage" and a number mention "takes damage" and a comprehensive understanding when, exactly, "dealing damage" happens would be useful.

For example, the level 9 Paladin Daily Power Shackles of Justiceddi specifies:

effect: Whenever the target deals damage, it takes 2d6 radiant damage (save ends).

I think it's fairly obvious that when the target attacks and deals damage, it takes 2d6 radiant damage from this effect. But what other things count as dealing damage?

  1. If the target uses a burst or blast power and hits multiple creatures and deals damage to each, does it take 2d6 once for the power or for each creature it hits?

  2. If the target has an aura, such as "any creature that starts its turn or enters the aura takes 10 damage" does the target take the 2d6?

  3. If the target creates a wall or zone that deals damage every time someone enters or leaves it, does it take the 2d6 for each square entered?

  4. If the target had applied ongoing damage before receiving the effect of Shackles of Justice, does it take the 2d6 when that ongoing damage is applied?

  5. This one's actually quite a big deal, as Tacroy points out: what happens if two paladins use Shackles of Justice (or two creatures use similar powers) on each other; does this lead to an infinite cascade of damage?

  6. Jon B. adds: when a creature summons another creature and the summoned creature attacks, who "deals" damage, the summoner or the summon? If the summoner has the Shackles effect, does she take damage when her summoned creature deals damage?

  7. dpatchery adds: What about powers that force-move a target and the target takes damage as a result of that forced movement, such as pushing a creature off a cliff, teleporting a creature into the air, or sliding a creature into hazardous terrain? Do these count as "dealing damage" if the target takes damage as a result of the forced movement?

Please provide a broad definition of when and who deals damage in addition to addressing these special cases.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure about the takes/deals thing. Wizards seems to use the two terms reflexively: attackers "deal" (or "damage dealt by you...") outgoing damage whereas targets "take" (or "damage taken by you...") incoming damage. If you deal damage to a target, the target takes damage from you; when you cause a target to take damage, you deal that damage. \$\endgroup\$
    – Soulrift
    Commented Feb 6, 2013 at 3:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm unconvinced as well and am researching a counterpoint answer as I type. \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Commented Feb 6, 2013 at 13:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ I wonder if this also applies to resistances. If a creature hits you for 10 fire damage and you resist 10 fire, does he deal 0 damage to you and trigger Shackles? Or when you deal zero points are you no longer "dealing damage"? \$\endgroup\$
    – Soulrift
    Commented Feb 6, 2013 at 15:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Soulrift when you deal 0 points of damage you aren't dealing damage. \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Commented Feb 6, 2013 at 19:53

3 Answers 3


I take a different tack on this than the other answers.

Any time an effect instituted by a creature damages another creature, they are dealing damage.

That means that in all 5 of your cases the monster takes the damage from the save ends effect. And yes, unless there is intervention, the two paladins will kill each other.

I'm going to take my argument from the text of weakened and make a small leap. The exceptions to weakened reads "Two kinds of damage that it deals are not affected, however: ongoing damage and damage that isn't generated by an attack roll" (RC 235).

I would argue that this suggests that ongoing damage is dealt by a a creature. The text of Ongoing Damage seems to support this as well "Some powers deal damage on consecutive turns" (RC 234). I'd also argue (with less textual support) that the text of these two items combine to suggest that damage from effects that the creature creates (spell zones, auras etc) through it's powers are also subject to the reprisal.

A creature is responsible for the effects of it's powers, this makes the text of the power quite active rather than passive (the power is dealing the damage). So to go point by point

  1. Damage is dealt once, the creature takes the damage one time. This is correct.

  2. The creature is absolutely inflicting the damage he deals from his aura. It's not passive, his aura being active is an act of aggression and deals damage. He takes the damage.

  3. Again, the creature is responsible for the magical affects of his powers and is still controlling them. He takes the damage.

  4. In the case of ongoing damage applied before the shackles were applied, I'm less sure, but would still argue that ultimately the creature is still "dealing damage" and in the spirit of the wording of Shackles he takes the damage.

  5. I believe the result here is that the first creature to run out of hit points is killed. The way this functions is as a free action reaction to the damage, if two creatures both had the effect then they would be subject to the damage on a looping basis and one would die.

  6. Addressing the question of a summoned monster, yes, the summoner would take the damage as he is linked with his summon.

  7. As far as the question of whether driving someone into an environmental factor that causes them damage would apply, I'd argue that the creator of the effect that deal the damage (not the one who does the pushing) would be the at fault person here. Thus if you push someone into an aura it's the creature with the aura's fault. If you make someone fall or push them into fire, take that up with the gods.

  • \$\begingroup\$ What about falling or other environmental damage? Does a monster take the damage when he pushes you off a cliff/teleports you 10 squares straight up/slides you into a forest fire? \$\endgroup\$
    – dpatchery
    Commented Feb 6, 2013 at 18:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ I would argue against the summon one, because a summon is a creature that is responsible for it's own attacks and can be affected directly with Shackles. Note especially druid summons with instinctive attacks, which work even if the summoner is incapable of dealing damage, and a weakened summoner doesn't weaken a summon. \$\endgroup\$
    – Soulrift
    Commented Feb 6, 2013 at 19:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ For environment, what happens if you push someone into an aura? If we assume the creature with the aura deals the aura damage, that conflicts with the assumption that the pusher deals the damage resulting from a push. I would say forced movement, including falls, doesn't "deal" damage, because you're dealing forced movement: nothing in the power you're using suggests damage. \$\endgroup\$
    – Soulrift
    Commented Feb 6, 2013 at 19:28
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I'm curious where you draw the line. Are there any damage-dealing actions that wouldn't trigger the Shackle damage? What if you push a button, triggering a trap that damages somebody? What if you cut a rope someone is hanging from, causing them to take falling damage? Neither involve using "powers". What if you remove someone's resistance to the damage from a separate aura they are already standing in? Technically its your action that caused them to take the damage, but I don't think anyone would say that you dealt it. :) \$\endgroup\$
    – dpatchery
    Commented Feb 6, 2013 at 20:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ Changed my mind about my previous comment and decided to only disagree with point 7 - the ground is the source of damage, not the pusher. Also, while I agree that 5 is correct RAW, it's one situation where as a DM I'd deviate from RAW and stop the chain after both Shackles have responded to each other. \$\endgroup\$
    – Trey Kirk
    Commented Feb 6, 2013 at 23:59

Point 1

Area Attacks have one damage roll. This indicates that you are only dealing the damage once, as otherwise you would have to roll the damage multiple times. Therefore, 1 should be once per area power.

Point 2

Auras dealing damage aren't clear. The rules themselves don't say, but some creatures auras say, for example:

Any enemy that ends its turn in the aura takes 4 damage, and the swarm can slide it 1 square as a free action.

I am inclined to say the "takes 4 damage" is different then "dealing damage", but this is not defined behaivor.

Point 3

Most walls / areas have wording similiar to Storm Pillar:

Each enemy that moves into a square adjacent to the pillar on its turn takes 1d6 + your Intelligence modifier lightning damage.

This is the same wording as auras, so the same ruling should apply. Note however that

Point 4

Players Handbook page 276 states:

When you hit with an attack, you normally deal damage to your target, reducing the target's hit points.

Ongoing damage on page 278 states:

Some powers deal extra damage on consecutive turns after the initial attack.

Notice the difference in wording: Damage is dealt by the creature, Ongoing damage is dealt by the power. Therefore, 4 does not count, as the creature does not deal ongoing damage.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Regarding point 4, if this interpretation is true, then a creature NEVER deals damage, because damage is always dealt by an attack and not a creature (Rules Compendium p.222). I think the presupposition is that, when a creature uses a power, it is responsible for the power. Otherwise you get into the "I didn't shoot him officer, the gun did!" argument :P \$\endgroup\$
    – Soulrift
    Commented Feb 6, 2013 at 3:43
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ All damage in 4e is dealt by a power, even a melee/ranged basic attack is an attack power. \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Commented Feb 6, 2013 at 14:11
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I'm forced to ask, how would this affect a summoned creature? Would the shackle on the caster still trigger on the summons attacks? \$\endgroup\$
    – user7420
    Commented Feb 6, 2013 at 15:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JonB. My answer below argues that yes it would, the reasoning from the above answer would likely argue that it does not. \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Commented Feb 6, 2013 at 19:01

The phrase "Deals Damage" is active. So, if the target inflicts damage indirectly, then I do not think this qualifies. Inactive damage would apply to your cases 2-4 where by the actions of another entity that entity receives damage from the target.

Case 1 however is interesting because the argument could be made either way. However, I believe that the spirit of the rule is 2d6 damage per action. Since the blast/burst is a single action with multiple targets this would incur the 2d6 damage only once. However, as with all things role-playing, it is up to your DM/GM.

Edit: @wax-eagle makes a convincing argument. However I would argue that the reason that weakened does not apply to ongoing damage and damage applied by an attack roll because these damages come from a different source aka not the target of Shackles of Justice.

When a creature is weakened, it can’t exert force as well as normal. Not only physical attacks are affected; the creature’s magical powers are hampered just as much. The creature’s might is diminished in every way, usually as a result of the life-sapping effects of necrotic damage or other deathly magic.

If "in every way" a creature's ability to apply force—non-magical and magical alike—is halved then the reason that damage originating from a non-attack or ongoing damage remains unaffected suggests to me that the source of the damage is different.

In the ongoing damageddi entry there is an example of ongoing damage paraphrased as follows. I cast a spell that sets you on fire. You now take damage from the fire at the beginning of your turn until the fire is put out. If I have been weakened then the initial damage is halved, but why not the recurring damage? This is because it is not me dealing the damage to you from the fire, the fire is dealing the damage to you. If the fire were magical and subsequently sustained by some force I maintained then the recurring damage would be caused by me, and thus trigger the Shackles of Justice reprisal.

By this logic I maintain that if the target of Shackles of Justice is not directly responsible for the damage dealt then the target does not incur the 2d6 radiant damage penalty. Therefor concerning your Cases: 1, 2 and 5 I agree that these would trigger the effect of Shackles of Justice. Case 3 I maintain that this does not trigger the effect, but I concede that a case could be made for it. Case 4 by the logic of ongoing damage not being affected by weakened I maintain that it does not trigger the effect because ongoing damage does not trigger it[.] not because it was started before Shackles of Justice was cast.


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