Absorb Elements says:

Absorb Elements
1st-level abjuration
Casting Time: 1 reaction, which you take when you take acid, cold, fire, lightning, or thunder damage
Range: Self
Components: S
Duration: 1 round

The spell captures some of the incoming energy, lessening its effect on you and storing it for your next melee attack. You have resistance to the triggering damage type until the start of your next turn. Also, the fist time you hit with a melee attack on your next turn, the target takes an extra 1d6 damage of the triggering type, and the spell ends.

This seems to imply that the caster avoids some of the incoming damage, but it isn't stated as explicitly as similar abilities of other spells, such as the Shield spell which states (in part):

Until the start of your next turn, you have a +5 bonus to AC, including against the triggering attack

Are others reading the Absorb Elements spell as I am, as similarly granting the resistance beginning with the triggering attack?


That's the interpretation that makes sense, yes.

Since there is no demarcation between fluff and crunch in spells, the whole spell effect is rules. The effect says that it lessens the effect of the triggering damage; when you wonder "how?", the effect supplies the answer: you have resistance.

D&D 5e is somewhat resistant to fine-grained timing analyses, and doesn't appear to try to nail down a precise tick-by-tick ordering to things that could be resolved simply by the DM saying, "Yes, it does what it says on the tin." Since any other interpretation makes the spell not do what its effect says it does, the interpretation that lacks internal contradiction is the correct one.

If it helps, Jeremy Crawford has tweeted about this, once:

Q: Does Absorb Elements give you resistance to damage from the triggering attack?

A: Yes.

And twice:

Q: When someone casts Absorb Elements, does he take full damage from the attack he is reacting to?

A: The absorb elements spell works against the spell that triggers it.

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A reaction interrupts an attack, and therefore precedes it. The resistance applies to the triggering attack and will continue to last, for that damage type only, until the beginning of your next turn (which may be the same round as the attack or the next round, depending on initiative order).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Reactions do not interrupt the triggering action but instead immediately follow it. \$\endgroup\$ – Ceribia Nov 4 '16 at 2:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ that doesnt sound quite right Ceribia since you can do things like protection where you can make an attack not hit. It sounds like a reaction chains to the action and then a resolution occurs as a result \$\endgroup\$ – Skyler Feb 4 '17 at 2:32

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