Level Up (A5E) Black powder dealing force damage; bug or design decision?

In O5e force damage never represents merely kinetic damage. While one can debate the extent to which it may or may not overlap with kinetic damage, it is always used only for magical damage. Clearly kinetic damage is represented in O5e as bludgeoning damage (even when part of a spell or other supernatural effect).

But the black powder in A5e does a combination of fire and force damage. Unless the intent is to say that black powder is magical, it seems that the force damage is being used to represent kinetic damage, which is a departure from the O5e standard.

So the question is, is this an intentional design decision or an oversight?

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They already patched up the books and provided v2 for download on DriveThruRPG, and that's the copy going to the printers, so I can only assume that black powder deals nonmagical force damage and that's intentional.

To me, this thing makes sense. Force damage is basically just a wave of raw energy slamming into you—normally magical because of convention, but conventions can be changed. Bludgeoning damage is comparable, but bludgeoning damage normally involves something big and blunt—something physical—slamming into you, like a hammer, fist, boulder, or falling building (it also may involve you getting slammed into something physical, like the ground after falling a good distance). Since an explosion involves energy slamming into and injuring you, not a physical thing, force damage makes just as mush sense as bludgeoning.

But I also don't think it'll matter much in the vast majority of circumstances.


A quick text search in the v2 AG for "force damage" yields 36 results (though there may be others that are not returned due to line breaks), of which 35 are decidedly magically flavored, with the 36th being in the description of black powder itself.

The majority of instances of the term are either in spells, or in class abilities or feats that are distinctly magical in nature.

Additionally, on AG 447, in the Damage Types section, Force is explicitly called out as being "pure magical energy" and is further described as being "supernatural, dealt mostly by spells" (emphasis mine).

There were a few other instances in the quick glance I gave to the other sources of force damage I found in which Force damage was somehow augmenting an attack that was primarily described in kinetic terms (that is, an attack in which in the absence of the rules saying so and on the basis of the generally-understood-to-apply-based-on-nonmagical-weapon-damage-effects purely mundane, physical interaction indicated by the attack would suggest to a reasonable observer than any resulting damage was the result of the transfer of kinetic energy from the attacker to the target). In each of these instances, though, (vine whip, pg. 179; wilderness guardian template, pg. 231) the presentation of the effect is in a context where some kind of non-mundane influence or power is explicitly at work (the vine is a spiritual vine, the wilderness guardian template is applied to a creature drawn to a 20th level Ranger who uses Elemental Mastery).

The one other instance I found in the AG where force damage was listed as the result of a non-spell, non-class-ability, non-feat, non-black-powder effect was in the text description of a vial of Unstable Arcanum, which is described as "unstable magical waste".

Based on my findings, particularly the description of the Unstable Arcanum, I'm inclined to think that this was an intentional design decision, and not an oversight, but I'm basically just guessing.

To me, this thing makes sense.
And that’s where the “debatable” part of it comes in. ;)

I‘m personally going to house rule anything kinetic back to bludgeoning because I like the way O5e did it (dynamite does bludgeoning in the DMG if there is any doubt as to the O5e design intent), but if I know they are intentionally going a different way with it, that means I know to keep my eyes open and scrutinize any instance of force damage in a LU book for possible change.


Switching black powder to force damage provides a significant improvement nobody has mentioned yet. d&d type settings are not ones where shadowrun style hypermaterials capable of withstanding explosives are used regularly & players wind up with mountains of gold for various good reasons. Combine those two & bludgeoning damage explosives tend to wind up being just as stable (if not more so) as the advanced demolition/antipersonnel charges & such in shadowrun.

Changing black powder explosives to force damage shifts them back to fitting the setting. A player can't apply their personal knowledge to how force damage should harm stone wood & so on. Taken further a GM can apply the shadowrun style hypermaterial excuses by simply shrugging off nonspecific runes/glyphs/etc or low level enchantments woven into the materials in the structure when they declare a one pound charge does not tear down the wall or whatever


I've always personally thought that explosives & firearms should deal at least partial force damage. Largely because IRL, it usually isn't the explosion or the bullet that kills you, it's the pressure wave that shreds your soft internal organs.

Just make sure to convert any O5e content you bring in, because that‘s not how it does it. That‘s the issue here—it‘s doing something different without being clear about it.


The major "impact" (hehe) of this change is it helps to take down force barriers (forcecage, wall of force, etc). Aka you now have a nonmagical way to deal with these magical barriers.
Also it will get past the damage resistance of creatures that have resistance to nonmagical bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing. You can blow up a werewolf, if you want.


The way I'd handle it would depend on the setting.

The sense I have is that the presentation of both the A5E Black Powder and the Unstable Arcanum are likely correlated, in that it's likely that the Black Powder is created using Unstable Arcanum in some fashion. This makes sense for settings where that's a thing, to be sure, but there are some settings, like Dragonlance, where gunpowder is already canon as a purely non-magical, 100% kinetic proposition.

That's not to say that Unstable Arcanum and/or A5E's Black Powder are inappropriate for such settings, just that I personally would rule that the majority of devices in such settings making use of a powdered, explosive substance would run off of the non-force-damage conceptualization from O5E whereas a very small minority of devices would use Black Powder from A5E.

In Zeitgeist, though, I'd be inclined to run it as presented with no modifications.


I always thought black powder was magical, unlike gunpowder which isn’t.
It's the same stuff. Except that modern firearms don't use black powder anymore and have something with more power and less smoke instead. It could still be called gun powder, which is why black power is used as a term to be specific. Black powder is still used as the main component for fireworks.
Charcoal as a fuel source, saltpeter as an oxygen source, and sulfur to accelerate the speed of the combustion.

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