The mighty hero is equipped with a spellbane shield and a wearing a brooch of shielding when he is hit by a magic missile spell for 25 damage.

How do I calculate the magic missile's damage?

  1. Do I first take into account the spellbane shield, thus first absorbing 10 damage out of 25, and the 15 left will be absorbed by brooch of shielding?

  2. Or, does the brooch of shielding first absorb all 25 damage, so the spellbane shield's protective effect is not calculated at all?

  3. What (and where) are the rules concerning how to handle cumulative effects from magic items, spells, abilities, etc. like these?


2 Answers 2


There's no specific rule that says that they apply in either order, but from experience, the usual DM interpretation is that damage reduction/resistance only applies when something hits you. Since the Brooch of Shielding is worded as "...it can absorb magic missiles...", it's clear that you don't take the damage; the Brooch of Shielding actually sucks the missiles in to it before you get a chance to resist. So, if you expect to need to resist some low level missiles, leave your Brooch of Shielding at home. This is a similar behavior to how it works in Dungeons & Dragons v3.5. Something has to break through all other defenses you may have before you can resist damage.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Thanks for the edit. I did mean to say 3.5, which I'm most familiar with. \$\endgroup\$
    – phyrfox
    Sep 12, 2016 at 5:03

Unfortunately, to my knowledge there is no such rule about which effects happen first. It's possible that the authors didn't foresee any situation where such a rule would be needed and they just explicitly tell how to solve some specific cases instead (the interaction between some energy protection spells in 3.5e comes to mind).

This means we need to look at how the effects have been described, i.e. we need to parse English.

This specific case is unfortunate: as written (or at least, as written in the SRD), the utility of the brooch is not clear at all. It absorbs magic missiles, but how? When? What's the in-game effect? It is not written. All we know is that a previous game (upon which PF is based) had the same item absorb magic missiles aimed at you.

I say this case in unfortunate because a better text could have given us some hints: does it absorb dame you took, damage you would have taken or missiles coming your way?

The shield, however, only reduces damage taken by you. If the brooch is absorbing the missiles before you take the damage (which is uncertain, but the most we can say by parsing the word "absorbs"), the shield property never activates as long as the brooch is working.

  • \$\begingroup\$ "It doesn't take it instead of you?" Does not understand. If I have the brooch equipped, I dont take damage from magic missiles, it absorbs the damage \$\endgroup\$ Sep 11, 2016 at 15:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ So, the spellbane shield will activate only when the damage will overlap the maximum the brooch can absorb? \$\endgroup\$ Sep 11, 2016 at 15:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @CarlosSatyros the brooch can absorb damage, but it is never specified from who. Of course it is from the wearer, but I was just having you notice that relying just on what is written and how it is written might not be the best idea (despite reading what is written being my solution to the rest of your problem). As the item is written (or at least, how it is written in the SRD) it does nothing. Maybe it absorbs the damage magic missile would deal to the brooch itself (and then the brooch starts taking magic missile damage), or maybe it abstorbs magic missiles you cast? It's not written. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zachiel
    Sep 11, 2016 at 17:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ There were rules in 3.5 that designated the order by which magical effects targeted magic items, the shield was on the top of the list, but I don't remember exactly where that table was / have had issues finding it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Sandwich
    Sep 11, 2016 at 18:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ This reminds me of Protection from enegy (absorbs a set amount of damage until depleted) and Resist energy (energy damage reduction) : d20pfsrd.com/magic/all-spells/p/protection-from-energy the rules mention that if both spells are used on the same target, Protection from energy overlaps Resist energy and takes all the damage. If the rules of magic are consistent, this sould be how these magic items work too. \$\endgroup\$
    – user26561
    Sep 11, 2016 at 19:25

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