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D&D 5E o/~ We dislike the spells, the spells that go boom. o/~ (Thunder Damage)

jgsugden

Legend
How loud is thunder damage in your game? How far away can it be heard?

In the real world - in typical outdoor conditions: Artillery and volcanoes have been heard from nearly 200 miles away. Thunder can be heard up to 10 miles from the lightning strike. A typical person's voice can be intelligibly heard nearly 600 feet away, and heard unintelligbly miles away (and over calm water in still air there are reports of screaming behind heard as far as 10 miles away).

With that in mind: Do you read the last part of the Thunderwave description ("...and the spell emits a thunderous boom audible out to 300 feet") as the thunder being magically limited to 300 feet because, you know, a thunderous boom can usually be heard much further away ... or do you treat it as the boom can be heard further than you might expect - as far as 300 feet away? And how do other sounds impact this distance - is it the same if you're in Limbo's howling winds or a silent dungeon?

Similarly, Thuderclap can be heard 100 feet away. With all due respect to the spell, give me a soda and I'll generate a sound that can be heard more than 100 feet away.

Many spells that deal thunder damage do not give a distance at which they can be heard. Booming Blade, Destructive Wave, Shatter,

The PHB describes thunder damage as a concussive burst of sound. Is it mostly concussive, or mostly sound for you?

There is not a lot of guidance in the official rules. The DMG notes that the ringing in the ears caused by a Thunderwave spell might be enough to give a PC disadvantage on a perception check performed after the spell has been cast - so clearly it makes a lot of noise, right?

Why is a creature in a silence spell immune to thunder damage if it is concussive damage? And why do you get blasted back by a Thunderwave spell cast into silence even if you take no damage if the silence were to negate the concussive force?

And what about the attacks of monsters that deal thunder damage - most of them do not specify a range at which they can be heard.

No right answers are possible, obviously, as any answer contradicts something - so which wrong answers do you apply?
 

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Galandris

Foggy Bottom Campaign Setting Fan
How loud is thunder damage in your game? How far away can it be heard?

In the rules, the spells only do what they say they do. So, thunder damage is silent unless specified otherwise. There are a few choice spells with audible cues (Thunderwave comes to mind, but some spells like Booming blade or, despite its description, Toll the dead (necrotic) do not).


In the real world - in typical outdoor conditions: Artillery and volcanoes have been heard from nearly 200 miles away. Thunder can be heard up to 10 miles from the lightning strike. A typical person's voice can be intelligibly heard nearly 600 feet away, and heard unintelligbly miles away (and over calm water in still air there are reports of screaming behind heard as far as 10 miles away).

In the real world, light can be seen from far away, yet it is absorbed quickly in 5e.

I choose to follow verisimilitude in this case. A fireball can be seen kilometers away in the night when cast on a mountaintop, despite, err, providing no light by RAW. Same with sound-emitting spells. If a bell tolls, it is going to be heard. I know it's neither the wording nor the intent of the rules.
 

J.Quondam

CR 1/8
The DMG notes "The groaning creak of an opening door can echo down hundreds of feet of passageway" (p.105).
If that's the case, then pretty much any sound travels anywhere in a dungeon.

So much for stealthy murderhobos! 🤷‍♂️
 


Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
It is heard out to the distance of plot. ;) That, and what I think makes sense. So in other words I think of how far something could be clearly heard out to 300 feet for thunderwave and use that as a guideline. In some cases it might be heard further, but I'm assuming it's not echoing from on high, and real thunder is really, really loud. So something that could be heard 300 feet away so depending on where you live, about a block away. A loud car backfire? A gun being fired? Thunderclap? More like pounding a hammer.

As far as light ... I don't know what to say. If you cast a fireball on a clear dark night on a mountaintop and someone happens to be looking they might see the flash from several miles away. I don't care what the rules do or do not say.

I know how sound (and light) works in the real world, so I base it off of that. Sometimes it will carry further, sometimes less. The value given in the book is an average.
 


Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
How loud is thunder damage in your game? How far away can it be heard?

In the real world - in typical outdoor conditions: Artillery and volcanoes have been heard from nearly 200 miles away. Thunder can be heard up to 10 miles from the lightning strike. A typical person's voice can be intelligibly heard nearly 600 feet away, and heard unintelligbly miles away (and over calm water in still air there are reports of screaming behind heard as far as 10 miles away).

With that in mind: Do you read the last part of the Thunderwave description ("...and the spell emits a thunderous boom audible out to 300 feet") as the thunder being magically limited to 300 feet because, you know, a thunderous boom can usually be heard much further away ... or do you treat it as the boom can be heard further than you might expect - as far as 300 feet away? And how do other sounds impact this distance - is it the same if you're in Limbo's howling winds or a silent dungeon?

Similarly, Thuderclap can be heard 100 feet away. With all due respect to the spell, give me a soda and I'll generate a sound that can be heard more than 100 feet away.

Many spells that deal thunder damage do not give a distance at which they can be heard. Booming Blade, Destructive Wave, Shatter,

The PHB describes thunder damage as a concussive burst of sound. Is it mostly concussive, or mostly sound for you?

There is not a lot of guidance in the official rules. The DMG notes that the ringing in the ears caused by a Thunderwave spell might be enough to give a PC disadvantage on a perception check performed after the spell has been cast - so clearly it makes a lot of noise, right?

Why is a creature in a silence spell immune to thunder damage if it is concussive damage? And why do you get blasted back by a Thunderwave spell cast into silence even if you take no damage if the silence were to negate the concussive force?

And what about the attacks of monsters that deal thunder damage - most of them do not specify a range at which they can be heard.

No right answers are possible, obviously, as any answer contradicts something - so which wrong answers do you apply?
+1 for the L’Trimm reference!

Generally, we’ve ignored the flavor/mechanics that don’t make sense- thunderclaps should be THUNDEROUS!
 

IMO thunder damage is a short concussive burst and sonic energy. The sonic component has no effect inside a magical silence, but the concussion might have some other effect (like shoving). The distance heard is not necessarily the limit of the sound, but how far it would be significantly noticed. Combat itself is pretty loud, so it's going to be heard some distance away, but unless you're dealing with a dead quiet location, it will be lost among ambient sounds. It's likely that someone might hear a thunderwave more than 300 ft away, but is likely to be be nothing more than "did you hear something?" The wording of these spell specifically denotes that they will be clearly heard within this range, alerting creatures to the effect (as my group refers to it: "ringing the dinner bell").

And don't forget the knock spell!
For some strange reason.
I was annoyed with this at first, but I figured it was a good way to keep the wizard from stepping on the rogue's toes. Then I noticed it wasn't a ritual... So the spell costs a resource, while the rogue can do it infinitely . The spells alerts everyone to the effect, while the rogue does not. IMO it should either be a ritual or get rid of the sound effect.
 


Dausuul

Legend
In the real world - in typical outdoor conditions...
Ah, but in D&D, conditions are typically not outdoors (traditionally, anyhow). It takes a very loud sound indeed to be audible at 300 feet in a subterranean dungeon, with who knows how many stone walls and heavy closed doors in the way. I'd assume the given ranges are meant for dungeon crawls. Outdoors, they ought to be much longer; if I were inclined to bother making a house rule for it, I might multiply the range by 20 in open air.

For spells like booming blade without a given range, I'd say they make audible sounds, but no louder than the ordinary sounds of combat. Being "sheathed in booming energy" that blasts you if you move is a bizarre effect that makes no kind of sense; saying "People outside the energy only hear a low noise" doesn't make it any more unrealistic than it was before.
 

aco175

Legend
I mostly view it as sonic/vibration damage over sound. Something like a knock spell alerts monsters in the next room, but generally fighting or a fireball does not. Not very realistic, but plotworthy.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Why is a creature in a silence spell immune to thunder damage if it is concussive damage? And why do you get blasted back by a Thunderwave spell cast into silence even if you take no damage if the silence were to negate the concussive force?

Do you want a real science explanation for magic?

We could concoct one, if you like, but it would only be a pleasant story to ease your fevered brow. It would not mean anything, or be true.
 

Horwath

Hero
This is why perception and fixed DCs in 3.5e worked so well in many cases.

sound of battle: DC -10, you get -1 penalty on skill for every 10ft.
in areas that carry sound better you could only have -1 penalty for every 20ft or 30ft.

You could also say that some sonic(thunder) spells have base DC to notice of -20.
So in a dungeon that carry sound well(worked stoned walls) you would have -1 penalty to notice per 30ft, with base DC of -20(for many thunder spells), average person would notice that at 900ft. Nice distance for a decent warning time.

even if we use proficiency(and expertise) math for this kind of penalty, a rogue with expertise and decent wisdom(14) would have +6 bonus, meaning that rogue would hear the noise 180ft farther out. That is 3 rounds of Dashing or 2 rounds of rogue "double" Dashing to clear that difference.
 


In general, I hold that magically-created things die off much faster than physical ones You could view it as being effectively "double-decayed": the magic that permits the phenomenon to happen decays at some rate as you move away from the source, and the effect itself then also decays as you move away from the source. So, where totally mundane light IRL decays with the square of distance, an instantaneous light effect might decay with the fourth power of the radius. Move twice as far away, and you won't see a quarter as much brightness, you'll see a sixteenth of it. If 50 feet away, you wouldn't hear 1% what you would at 5 feet way, you'd hear 0.01%.

This also neatly covers things like why fireballs can set things on fire (magic flame/heat generating natural, and thus naturally-sustained, flame), but aren't useful for burning through things. Their reach simply isn't strong enough. They can hit hard within the narrow space that the spell is actively functioning, but lose steam far too rapidly to be useful for other purposes. It'd also explain why magic isn't thrown around willy-nilly to solve every problem ever. Magic is great, but subject to limitations that "ordinary" phenomena aren't.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
In the rules, the spells only do what they say they do. So, thunder damage is silent unless specified otherwise.

No, because the rules also say: "An effect like crackling lightning is obvious, but a more subtle effect, such as an attempt to read a creature's thoughts, typically goes unnoticed, unless a spell says otherwise." The SAC adds "Most spells are obvious." And when the PH also says, about the damage type "Thunder. A concussive burst of sound", the rules clearly say that spells dealing thunder damage create a concussive burst of sound, and are therefore NOT silent.

I choose to follow verisimilitude in this case. A fireball can be seen kilometers away in the night when cast on a mountaintop, despite, err, providing no light by RAW. Same with sound-emitting spells. If a bell tolls, it is going to be heard. I know it's neither the wording nor the intent of the rules.

I don't think that there is anything in the rules preventing the verisimilitude that you want to put in effect. I agree that the rules do not enforce the other direction either, so it's up to the DM, and I'm with you in this one (and actually, I would be for some sort of verisimilitude even if the rules told me otherwise, which fortunately is not the case as the 5e rules are generally not that prescriptive).

In general, I hold that magically-created things die off much faster than physical ones You could view it as being effectively "double-decayed": the magic that permits the phenomenon to happen decays at some rate as you move away from the source, and the effect itself then also decays as you move away from the source.

It's a good explanation, there is also the explanation that the magic only sustains the effect in the area of its effect, not beyond, so after that it's just leaching out, and being affected very little at the edges. The thunderwave might create a very strong air vibration in the cube, but that vibration is not magically sustained at the edges and there is little "bleed". You could even argue that the natural world reacts poorly to the magic influencing it and therefore nature contains the magic, the magic needs to push against the natural order of the world and that one pushes back at the edge. It all depends on what you want to implement and the level of detail that you want in your descriptions.
 

MarkB

Legend
What bothers me more about these spells is that thunder is almost completely divorced from lightning in the rules. Spells like Lightning Bolt and Call Lightning don't deal thunder damage or even state that they make noise.

I can see the scope for the odd sonic-damage spell, and smaller lightning-only effects like Shocking Grasp, but I'd like to see these damage types combined more often than not.
 

ECMO3

Adventurer
How loud is thunder damage in your game? How far away can it be heard?

In the real world - in typical outdoor conditions: Artillery and volcanoes have been heard from nearly 200 miles away. Thunder can be heard up to 10 miles from the lightning strike. A typical person's voice can be intelligibly heard nearly 600 feet away, and heard unintelligbly miles away (and over calm water in still air there are reports of screaming behind heard as far as 10 miles away).

With that in mind: Do you read the last part of the Thunderwave description ("...and the spell emits a thunderous boom audible out to 300 feet") as the thunder being magically limited to 300 feet because, you know, a thunderous boom can usually be heard much further away ... or do you treat it as the boom can be heard further than you might expect - as far as 300 feet away? And how do other sounds impact this distance - is it the same if you're in Limbo's howling winds or a silent dungeon?

Similarly, Thuderclap can be heard 100 feet away. With all due respect to the spell, give me a soda and I'll generate a sound that can be heard more than 100 feet away.

Many spells that deal thunder damage do not give a distance at which they can be heard. Booming Blade, Destructive Wave, Shatter,

The PHB describes thunder damage as a concussive burst of sound. Is it mostly concussive, or mostly sound for you?

There is not a lot of guidance in the official rules. The DMG notes that the ringing in the ears caused by a Thunderwave spell might be enough to give a PC disadvantage on a perception check performed after the spell has been cast - so clearly it makes a lot of noise, right?

Why is a creature in a silence spell immune to thunder damage if it is concussive damage? And why do you get blasted back by a Thunderwave spell cast into silence even if you take no damage if the silence were to negate the concussive force?

And what about the attacks of monsters that deal thunder damage - most of them do not specify a range at which they can be heard.

No right answers are possible, obviously, as any answer contradicts something - so which wrong answers do you apply?
It is magic.

If you are standing 299 feat away from thunderwave it sounds like lightning sruck at arms length. At 301 feet it is library quiet. The magic that creates the spell also dampens its effect outside its area of effect.

If two npcs are talking to each other with one on either side of the border one is going to say ;"holy moly what was that"? And the other will say; "what was what?"
 

MarkB

Legend
It is magic.

If you are standing 299 feat away from thunderwave it sounds like lightning sruck at arms length. At 301 feet it is library quiet. The magic that creates the spell also dampens its effect outside its area of effect.

If two npcs are talking to each other with one on either side of the border one is going to say ;"holy moly what was that"? And the other will say; "what was what?"
Maybe we need to add rules for more granular representation of sound, the same way we do for light.

I.e. "this spell emits bright sound out to a 300 foot radius, and dim sound out to 600 feet."
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
What bothers me more about these spells is that thunder is almost completely divorced from lightning in the rules. Spells like Lightning Bolt and Call Lightning don't deal thunder damage or even state that they make noise.

Technically, in 5e, Thunder is just a way to say "sonic" in terms of damage, but saying Thunder linked to the description in 5e and what they say about spell noticeability, while leaving exactly how much noise and light the spell make, it is obvious that there at least some light and a "Crack!". 5e does not have a technical jargon, but the common English linked to "lightning bolt" tells you that it is NOT silent.

I can see the scope for the odd sonic-damage spell, and smaller lightning-only effects like Shocking Grasp, but I'd like to see these damage types combined more often than not.

As a DM, it is by default combined because that is what the words Thunder and Lightning mean.
 

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