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Let's say a player has to make a saving throw or take 20 cold damage. If they succeed on the save, they take half damage (10).

Resistance also halves damage. What happens if they have cold resistance and succeed on said saving throw? Do they take half damage (10) or quarter damage (5)?

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You take 1/4 the total damage. You are looking at two separate events. The first event is whether or not you are hit with the 'full force' of the attack (your saving throw determines this). You can think of it like diving out of the way of a fireball, or ducking under a column of ice.

If you pass the saving throw, you take half (you successfully avoided some of the damage). If you don't, you take the full amount.

Now, after this, you resolve your resistances. From the Basic Rules, p75:

Damage Resistance and Vulnerability

Some creatures and objects are exceedingly difficult or unusually easy to hurt with certain types of damage. If a creature or an object has resistance to a damage type, damage of that type is halved against it.

(Emphasis mine)

At this point, you've already determined how much damage you were going to take due to your saving throw (either half or full). Now, you take the amount of damage you would have taken, and then take half of that because you have resistance to that damage type.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Am I correct that in some older editions resistance meant you take half on failure and nothing on success? \$\endgroup\$ – Alexis Wilke Sep 10 '15 at 0:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AlexisWilke Yes, but some editions had multiple different abilities named resistance, each with their own rules. 3e and 4e were some of the least inconsistent in this regard. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Sep 10 '15 at 0:34
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Similar to the example from online basic rules, they would take quarter damage.

DAMAGE RESISTANCE AND VULNERABILITY

Some creatures and objects are exceedingly difficult or unusually easy to hurt with certain types of damage.

If a creature or an object has resistance to a damage type, damage of that type is halved against it. If a creature or an object has vulnerability to a damage type, damage of that type is doubled against it.

Resistance and then vulnerability are applied after all other modifiers to damage. For example, a creature has resistance to bludgeoning damage and is hit by an attack that deals 25 bludgeoning damage. The creature is also within a magical aura that reduces all damage by 5. The 25 damage is first reduced by 5 and then halved, so the creature takes 10 damage.

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

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Technically, due to rounding, you half and then half again, always rounding down as per general rules. So 23 damage will be halved to 11, then halved to 5

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  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Hi spinningdice, and welcome to the site. Check out our tour to see how we work here, and when you reach 20 reputation, you'll be able to join us in Role-playing Games Chat. I want to check something with you, were you using this post to clarify a point on someone else's answer, or to directly answer the question? (As a Q&A site we don't operate like a forum with discussion posts, and this seems kinda like it's responding to Percival's post.) \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Feb 14 '17 at 10:26

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