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If you replace any one damage type with any of the others for the type of damage a monster is able to do, should that have much difference in gameplay, provided the damage stay exactly the same? This idea excludes anything that does stat damage, or is out of left field (psychic damage, for instance isn't typically considered "core")

Some creatures are given a slam attack, which is, in essence is bludgeoning. But if it has a mouth filled with sharp teeth, why not give it a "bite" attack? If it has sharp arms, why not give it a "piercing" attack? If it has blades, why not give it a "slashing" attack?

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    \$\begingroup\$ What change are you talking about? Replacing bludgeoning with piercing, for example, would be much less drastic than replacing fire with psychic. \$\endgroup\$ – Greenstone Walker Jul 4 '16 at 3:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ Maybe I'll edit this to say something along the lines of excluding things that do stat damage. \$\endgroup\$ – Jesse Cohoon Jul 4 '16 at 3:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GreenstoneWalker is correct. Likewise, context would be helpful. Do you want to reskin a fire elemental into a cold elemental by making the fire elemental's attacks deal cold damage, or do you want to change the fire elemental's attacks from dealing fire damage to bludgeoning damage to reskin a fire elemental into a hammer elemental? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jul 4 '16 at 4:49
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If you are talking about balance, the three principal types of physical damage (bludgeoning, slashing and piercing) are equivalent. Some PCs can have bonuses against some of them, but most of the time it won't change anything.

If what you are planning is switching an iron golem's damage from bludgeoning to slashing because it is shaped with blades instead of arms, feel free to do it. The slashing golem would have the same CR as the bludgeoning one, and -if that wasn't obvious enough- the PC that succeed in their Knowledge (engeneering) would notice about the blades and the fact it does slashing damage.

Considering destructive energy damage, fire, frost, electric and acid are considered "equivalent" kinds of energy and a change from one to another should not change the CR. However as there is a bigger chance for the PCs to have specific protections against some of them, the same monster with a different kind of energy can be stronger against a specific PC group. Make sure your monsters stay coherent: it makes little sense to simply change the fire elemental's attacks to do frost damage and keep his fiery appearance without a good reason.

Some special kind of damage, like sonic or force, are considered "stronger". Usually if you want a capacity to switch to force or sonic damage without changing the CR, you have to change the dice category (12D8 becoming 12D6 for example, as for dragon breaths). Some other types of damages (like bleed) are even stronger and need careful nerfs.

They can be considered stronger for different reasons:

  • It is harder to protect from most of them (as from untyped damage).
  • force can affect immaterial targets
  • desiccation causes fatigues ennemies
  • vile damage is difficult to heal
  • bleed causes more damage over a duration
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    \$\begingroup\$ It’s worth noting that some damage types, like desiccation from Sandstorm or vile from Book of Vile Darkness, have special properties that make them better than other types not just for the difficulty protecting against them, but also because they just do more. Desiccation damage automatically fatigues enemies, and vile damage cannot be healed, which are some very serious extra powers. For that matter, force itself has special qualities like hitting incorporeal targets without the 50% miss chance. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jul 4 '16 at 13:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ Suggest you fold in the points that @KRyan made to further improve a good answer. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jul 4 '16 at 13:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't know enough about DD3.5 (my specialty is Pathfinder) and so I don't know much about these damages. Feel free to edit if you don't agree with the way I described them. \$\endgroup\$ – Anne Aunyme Jul 4 '16 at 14:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @A_S00 Can you give an example of bleed damage in D&D 3.5? (Do you mean something like wounding?) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jul 20 '16 at 17:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not actually sure Bleed is a damage type in 3.5. There's a number of things that are fluff-wise extra damage over time via bleeding (e.g., Invisible Blade's Bleeding Wound ability), but I think they mostly do untyped damage. I'm not 100% on this, though; there may be sources I don't know about that have Bleed as an actual damage type. 3.5 has a lot of weird damage types; the Cityscape splatbook has a source of "City damage." \$\endgroup\$ – A_S00 Jul 20 '16 at 18:23
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Melee? Mweh, damage is damage. It could impact a creature's reach though, a tail is longer than a tongue.

Energy-attacks however, are a totally different matter; if you know you're going to fight a black Dragon, you buff all protection vs acid to kingdom come, only to find out that this particular piece of Black Dragon does sonic damage nowadays; you're properly screwed!

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  • \$\begingroup\$ There is a spell to change your breath weapon's damage type (Breath Weapon Substitution, SC 39). I imagine that a smart dragon would expect attackers to anticipate a certain energy type. A particularly smart group of adventurers might even anticipate that the dragon would be prepared. \$\endgroup\$ – Thom Smith Sep 19 '16 at 4:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Thom Smith: Me thinks that a Dragon with such an amazing ability would be known by the general (adventuring) public... A mighty Dragon spellcaster might also be able to cast a Wish, so what's your argument exactly? That a(n obscure) spell is a good reason to mess up game-balance from the ground up? \$\endgroup\$ – agodwithoutananswer Dec 13 '16 at 9:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ Dragons aren't stupid. A mature adult red dragon has Int 18 and centuries of life experience. The fact that red dragons breathe fire is common knowledge to the extent of being a cliche. A dragon that fails to plan for attackers using this knowledge will not likely reach an advanced age category. Likewise, a party planning to take down a red dragon is going to try to account for its known strengths. Three of that dragon's strengths are fire breath, spellcasting, and great intelligence. If the party goes into battle prepared to deal with only one of those strengths, then they may well fail. \$\endgroup\$ – Thom Smith Dec 13 '16 at 21:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Thom Smith: I'm not here for a (non-)discussion about the way a DM/GM could handle dragons, sorry. I'm just saying that changing energy-types of creatures at will is not a good idea, especially for 'random' encounters! Please answer on-topic from now on, I'm not here to flag comments either, you know... \$\endgroup\$ – agodwithoutananswer Dec 14 '16 at 8:53

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