When it comes to learning the rules, there is arguably no version of Dungeons and Dragons (sometimes abbreviated to D&D) that is simpler than the fifth edition (also known as D&D 5e by many people).
The entire rule book has been effectively stripped down to its core elements, with plenty of the extra rules, caveats, and elements that bloated or bogged down previous editions (looking at you, fourth edition).
This streamlining of rules is probably what has led to the fifth edition becoming the best-selling and most popular version of the iconic tabletop role-playing game, with thousands of people picking up the hobby, in part to easy-to-learn rules, and a whole range of high-quality-online content from several sources and shows.
However, there will still be times when the excitement and enjoyment of your game collide with the fact that there is a lot of math involved.
Like, a lot of math is involved.
This will particularly tend to rear its head in scenarios that, whilst not unexpected, don’t necessarily come up a lot in-game. Such as, as the title of this article suggests, falling from a great height in-game, both in and out of combat.
In this article, we are going to help you understand exactly how fast you will usually fall, should this unfortunate, if not hilarious, event comes up in your D&D games.
As we will soon see, this is a very specific topic that has a surprising amount of complexity hidden in this often innocuous question.
Rules On Falling
Falling is a mechanic that could be considered a silent killer in many D&D games. Whilst many players are often looking out for terrifying monsters, dangerous opponents, and well-hidden traps, falling is a very mundane threat that you will face whilst playing in the many realms of D&D, especially compared to the examples we mentioned.
And yet, especially for any lower-leveled parties, it is probably one of the easiest ways to kill a player’s character.
How easy, you ask us, through the screen?
Well, the Player’s handbook clearly states on page 183 that a creature, once they have reached the end of their fall, will take 1d6 worth of bludgeoning damage for every 10 feet that they have fallen, maxing out at 20d6.
This, from a 200-foot drop, gives you a potential range of bludgeoning damage from as little as 20, to as high as 120 points of bludgeoning damage.
Yep, that’s right. You can potentially reach triple digits with the amount of damage you can take.
Now, this isn’t to say that you will receive this total amount, as there are plenty of features that player characters can get to combat or reduce this.
- Monks will be able to use the slow fall feature fairly early on, negating some or all the damage is taken.
- Barbarians will be able to cut the total amount by using their rage feature.
- Many casters will gain access to the feather fall spell quite early on.
- And a character with the ability to fly will be able to avoid most cases of fall damage altogether.
However, this does not erase the fact that taking fall damage is a serious risk that most players will have to contend with.
Rulings On Fall Speed?
So, we know that falling is bad.
Shocking news, we know.
However, when it comes to stating how fast a character falls in D&D, the rules provided to us do not help. There is only a short paragraph extract in the Player’s Handbook and nothing in the Dungeon Master’s guide.
So, where does that leave us?
Well, it leaves us turning to a calculator, the rules of kinematics, and 5e’s rules on movement and falling
Movement In D&D 5e
Movement in D&D varies depending on if you are in or out of initiative order.
Generally speaking, out of the initiative, how much and far you move will fall to the Game Master (GM)’s discretion.
However, once you enter initiative in 5e, you will have a set amount of movement that you can accomplish in a round of combat/initiative, which will vary depending on several features, from your class to your lineage, to any equipment you are carrying that lets you move further.
Length Of A Round In D&D 5e
So, this then leaves the question of how long exactly does a round of initiative last in 5e.
Well, we, fortunately, do have a clear answer to this question!
A round of combat or initiative in 5e will last around 6 seconds.
That doesn’t sound like a lot, but as we’ll discover in the next section, 6 seconds is plenty of time to rack up some insane speed.
Speed Of Falling
For our final answer, we should first consider that the average human terminal velocity (or a medium creature in D&D terms) is around 180 feet per second.
Assuming that acceleration in most settings is the same (not counting places where the laws of gravity are altered), your acceleration will be around 32 ft/s².
Given that a round of D&D combat lasts for six seconds, the following is the most likely speed you’ll be falling at:
- In the 1st second of falling, you will have moved 16 feet, whilst moving at 32 ft per second.
- In the 2nd second, you will travel around 64 feet at 64 feet per second.
- By second 3, you will move 144 feet and go at 96 feet per second.
- After 4 seconds, you will have moved 256 feet and going at 128 feet per second
- 5 seconds in, you will have traveled 400 feet and now moving at 160 feet per second.
- By the final second of the round, you have moved 576 feet and will be going at 192 feet per second.
Any round spent falling after this, and you will fall at 1152 feet per round.
As you might suspect, this is an answer for your speed for a player character, and not anything larger or smaller.
Still, we hope you have found this answer helpful.