What is an "Instance" of Damage?

Rules Discussion

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Hi everyone,

Just want to make sure I have this correct. I haven't been able to find a strict definition for "Instance of Damage". Would it be fair and correct to say that each Type of damage applied by an attack is its own instance?

For example, a Red Dragon Instinct Barbarian is raging and strikes an enemy (which has Weakness 5 to fire) with a +1 Flaming Battle Axe. So this does 1d8 Slashing+2 Fire (Rage)+1d6 Fire (Flaming Rune). By my understanding, there are two "instances" of damage here... Instance 1 is 1d8 slashing damage and Instance 2 is 1d6+2 fire damage. The fire damage would be added together into its own instance even though it comes from two different sources. And therefore, the weakness to fire would only be triggered once for +5 damage instead of twice for +10.

Do I have that correct? Thank you all for your help!

Liberty's Edge

An "instance" from what I understand is the singular "event" of recording HP loss after ALL effects have been resolved such as adding together all types of damage, deducting Resistance, Immunity, and any other things that would tweak the number that you write on your character sheet.

In short, no, multiple damage types on the same effect/attack would not create multiple instances, the instance is the final result that is applied.

"Instance" of damage is not a rules thing.

The damage procedure is not defined precisely for multiple damage types. The rules say what to do but not explicitly for the scenario of multiple types. Its a bit vague.

Yes the common sense approach is to add all the damage on the one type from the one attack together. I'm not sure that is in the rules as such. Just the thought that applying weaknesses twice would be a bit harsh.

The two sources of fire damage in your example are different effects.

Sovereign Court

So the word "instance of damage" appears only twice in the CRB in other ways than the stock phrase "for instance".

CRB p. 453 > Weakness wrote:
If you have a weakness to something that doesn't normally deal damage, such as water, you take damage equal to the weakness value when touched or affected by it. If more than one weakness would apply to the same instance of damage, use only the highest applicable weakness value. This usually happens only when a monster is weak to both a type of physical damage and a given material.

It might be significant that they picked special materials as the typical case where this happens; for example a monster that's weak to both slashing and cold iron damage. I think it's clear that if you hit someone with a cold iron sword, that's one instance of damage that happens to be slashing and cold iron, and this rule says you trigger only one of those weaknesses.

CRB p. 453 > Resistance wrote:

If you have more than one type of resistance that would apply to the same instance of damage, use only the highest applicable resistance value.

It’s possible to have resistance to all damage. When an effect deals damage of multiple types and you have resistance to all damage, apply the resistance to each type of damage separately. If an attack would deal 7 slashing damage and 4 fire damage, resistance 5 to all damage would reduce the slashing damage to 2 and negate the fire damage entirely.

This one is interesting. An attack that deals both physical and some elemental damage is not unusual. Is that one instance? It might be, considering that the next paragraph implies that you need resistance to all damage to resist both types at the same time.

It's not really what I would have expected myself. I would have thought that if you hit someone with a cold iron sword with a flaming rune, that the cold iron slashing damage from the sword is one instance, and the flaming rune is a separate instance of damage. But I'm not so sure now.

This does go both ways though; a monster with multiple piecemeal resistances wouldn't get to use all of them against a PC either, only the biggest one.

And how exactly to calculate that? Suppose you have resist fire 10, resist slashing 5, and I deal you 6 slashing and 4 fire damage. How much do you resist? 4? 5? 9?

Well I'm glad your searching found it, mine failed.

The problem with this is: a rune on a sword is an effect, a strike is an effect, a power attack is an effect.

Is additional damage a separate instance of damage or the one instance?

The rules read like Schrodinger's Cat - both the same and different at the same time.

Where do you draw the lines?

Sovereign Court

How it's Played did a segment on this as well. I agree with his analysis, but I find it a bit lacking in that he doesn't really give a basis for how he identifies instances or pools of damage.

So let's see what we can pry out of the text.

- It is possible for an instance of damage to trigger more than one weakness or resistance. The given example is physical damage type (P/B/S) and special material. This is also hinted at as being the most common situation where both properties can hit a weakness. Which is interesting because I don't think something like slashing+cold iron is actually a common combination of weaknesses, certainly not as common as slashing+fire or cold iron+good.

- But it's also implied that not everything is necessarily part of the same instance. Although the resistance to all point makes me wonder about that.

So how would I draw the line? I'd say an instance is a package of damage that can't be reasonably split up. If I hit someone with a cold iron sword, all of that damage is both slashing and cold iron at the same time. So that's one instance. If I hit someone with a flaming sword, some of that damage is slashing, and some of it is fire. So that would be two separate instances, not one instance of fiery slashing damage.

For most types of damage, that's obvious. Only the fire damage from a fire run is fire damage, not all of the damage from the weapon. Only the good damage from a holy rune is good damage, not the rest of the weapon also.

Precision damage would be murky, except that it's explicitly spelled out how to handle it:

CRB p. 452 wrote:

[bb]Precision Damage[/b]

Sometimes you are able to make the most of your attack
through sheer precision. When you hit with an ability that
grants you precision damage, you increase the attack’s listed
damage, using the same damage type, rather than tracking a
separate pool of damage.
For example, a non-magical dagger
Strike that deals 1d6 precision damage from a rogue’s sneak
attack increases the piercing damage by 1d6.

So precision damage is part of the main weapon's damage instance, while also implying this isn't the case for some other types of damage.

Overall the sidebar on page 452 is pretty good at keying in to what might be separate pools/instances of damage; all of those categories, except Precision (which is explicitly not a separate pool) and special materials (which modify, not add).

And yeah it does seem like pool and instance are used interchangeably, they're not fixed keywords.


So what else is there? Power attack? It adds a die of weapon damage, seems clear to me that it's part of the instance of weapon damage, not a separate one.

Ghost Touch? That's interesting. It talks about making the weapon effective. That'll definitely work for the regular weapon damage, but what about the flaming rune? I think that one's a bit less automatically clear. Since the flaming damage is a separate instance of damage, and not actually weapon damage, does the ghost touch still apply? ETV I guess. I'd personally allow it since I think it takes a too sharp reading to deny it. Also, the opportunity cost of a property rune is relatively high, so I would err on the side of letting it have the full effect you were expecting.

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
How it's Played did a segment on this as well. I agree with his analysis, but I find it a bit lacking in that he doesn't really give a basis for how he identifies instances or pools of damage.

Full disclosure, this is Dave from "How It's Played", and that's exactly what I'm trying to clarify in my next video. ("FunkamusPrime" has been my nerdy internet name since long before I made the YouTube Channel, and I don't see a way to change my user name here... and didn't want to risk breaking a rule by making 2 accounts, so I've kept using this one).

Anyway, the way I define it to myself has been that each damage type is its own "Instance" or "Pool" of damage, regardless of what effect generates it. See my example at the top that illustrates why it's important that the damage types be a pool separate from the effects that cause them.

Just wanted to check with the community and make sure I was correct about that before posting my next video.


Sovereign Court

2 people marked this as a favorite.

That's an interesting way to come full circle.

So I generally agree with your exposition of the rules, but indeed, the CRB basis for definitely picking one interpretation over another is a bit shaky. I think the line in the precision damage about it not being a separate pool of damage gives support to the idea that some other kinds of bonus damage can be separate pools of damage.

I'm not sure if you should group damage into pools by type though. You might be getting some extra fire damage from a flaming rune, and from a fire spellheart, and I think those two stack. But I don't know if they'd merge into a single instance of fire damage or whether that would be two instances of fire damage. If confronted with the situation I'd probably merge them, because otherwise resistances and weaknesses to a particular type of damage become a bit too heavy impact. That also fits with a general trends towards merging same-type damage seen in abilities like Double Slice and Flurry of Blows. It prevents Resistance from making you helpless and prevents you from triggering Weakness an excessive number of times.

Community / Forums / Pathfinder / Pathfinder Second Edition / Rules Discussion / What is an "Instance" of Damage? All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.