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A spellcaster with 6 temporary hit points is hit for 3 damage. Do they have to make a concentration check?

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3 Answers 3

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Yes (Likely).

According to 5e designer and official rules expert Jeremy Crawford, "When temporary hit points absorb damage for you, you're still taking damage, just not to your real hit points."

On 25 August 2014, Crawford was asked about a similar situation over twitter by @Mathew_Reuther:

@JeremyECrawford If my Temporary Hit Points are 10 and I take 30 damage from an attack, what is the DC of my Concentration Check?

Crawford answered:

@Mathew_Reuther The DC is 15. When temporary hit points absorb damage for you, you're still taking damage, just not to your real hit points.

For a Concentration check, "DC equals 10 or half the damage you take, whichever number is higher," so in the above twitter example, DC 15 is based on 30 damage. (PBR, p. 80; PHB, p. 203) While this situation is not exactly on point since the character took real damage on top of the temporary HP, Crawford's statement seems pretty clear that "you're still taking damage, just not to your real hit points."

However, if the actual damage was reduced altogether (not absorbed), then there would be no Concentration check. See, e.g., Deflect Missiles monk feature, Parry combat maneuver, and Heavy Armor Master feat. (PHB, pp. 74, 78 & 167)

Also, the abjurer's Arcane Ward feature has its own hit points1 and "[w]henever you take damage, the ward takes the damage instead." (PHB, p. 115) So, an attack that is wholly absorbed by the ward is not damage taken by the character and no Concentration check is needed. (Courtesy of @Dungarth)


  1. As opposed to giving a character temporary hit points like certain spells and magic items.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ I prefer Colin D's answer as I find the twitter comments contradictory - both rules are written the same, it seems like they made the comments offhand without the rules for both in front of them. Arcane Ward: Whenever you take damage, the ward takes the damage instead. Temp HP: .. they are a buffer against damage .. When you have temporary hit points and take damage, the temporary hit points are lost first. Both say if you would take damage, then instead deduct the damage elsewhere first. I would expect an errata if they really meant otherwise for one of them. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tim
    Commented Nov 8, 2019 at 6:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ That Tweet made it into the Sage Advice Compendium as well, so you might reference that. Here \$\endgroup\$
    – Slagmoth
    Commented Sep 3, 2021 at 1:08
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Yes, the concentration check is required even if you have temporary hit points.

A concentration check is required in any case the caster takes damage:

The following factors can break concentration:

[...]

Taking damage. Whenever you take damage while you are concentrating on a spell, you must make a Constitution saving throw to maintain your concentration.

There is no distinction about temporary HPs or normal HPs: the check is triggered by the damage.

This is confirmed by the Sage Advice Compendium:

If I have 10 temporary hit points and I take 30 damage from an attack while concentrating on a spell, what is the DC of the Constitution save to maintain my concentration?

The DC is 15 in that case. When temporary hit points absorb damage for you, you’re still taking damage, just not to your real hit points.

There is another entry in the SAC that indirectly confirms that even if you have temporary HPs you are still receiving damage (emphases mine):

How does Arcane Ward interact with temporary hit points and damage resistance that an abjurer might have? [...]

The ward takes damage first. Any leftover damage is taken by the wizard and goes through the following game elements in order: (1) any relevant damage immunity, (2) any relevant damage resistance, (3) any temporary hit points, and (4) real hit points.

Indeed, the wording above says that any leftover damage is taken by the wizard on the temporary HPs, if any, after having applied eventual immunities and/or resistances: the caster is hence receiving damage.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Let us continue this discussion in chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    Commented Sep 15, 2023 at 20:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ Reminder to everyone that when someone invites you to continue the discussion in chat, chat is the correct place for continuing the discussion, not comments. \$\endgroup\$
    – Oblivious Sage
    Commented Sep 22, 2023 at 12:51
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There is a answer provided by sadaqah based on rules intent. My answer is instead focused on the rules as written.

No, concentration checks trigger on taking damage, but temporary hit points are a buffer against damage.

Page 198 of the PHB says about temporary hit points:

Temporary hit points aren't actual hit points; they are a buffer against damage, a pool of hit points that protect you from injury.

Losing temporary hit points does not mean you take damage.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I suppose then that any effect that takes damage in place of your hit points means you do not lose concentration, like the abjurer's shield. \$\endgroup\$
    – Javelin
    Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 20:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ While THPs might not protect you from losing concentration (see @sadaqah's answer), the abjurer's ward potentially could. Indeed, the ward is not described as you getting THPs, but rather as it having its own HP pool. The ward absorbing damage does not necessarily equate to you taking damage, unlike developer's word on THPs. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dungarth
    Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 21:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ Only the reference by sadaqah is from a reply that involved the PC being affected by the hit. So it seems to me that the magic protects you and no damage happens to yourselves and thus no concentration problems either. It makes more sense that way to me. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 20, 2015 at 3:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ Sage Advice Compendium p15 When it asks about "If I have 10 temp hp and take 30 damage what is my concentration DC"... @Haravikk \$\endgroup\$
    – Slagmoth
    Commented Sep 3, 2021 at 1:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ Your reading of it takes temporary hit points out of context to get what you want. If you look further into temporary hit points it still says "when you take damage". Errgo your taking damage. Your resulting hp doesn't matter where damage is concerned. \$\endgroup\$
    – Spoo
    Commented Oct 4, 2022 at 14:47

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