D&D 5E Spirit Guardians - Thematic Question

So in our last session the group faced off against a priest of Tiamat who unleashed a Spirit Guardians upon the party.
I read the spell and there was one line that seemed to stand out to me.
On a failed save, the creature takes 3d8 radiant damage (if you are good or neutral) or 3d8 necrotic damage (if you are evil).

Both the priest and Tiamat are evil, but the spell damage being necrotic just didn't make sense to me.
Now looking at the stats of the Dragon Highlord Verminaard on D&DBeyond we see that a blow from his mace Nightbringer releases radiant damage as does his Malediction power.

I've told my table I'm going to rule thematically on the spell going on into the future.

One of my players said this
"basing it on alignment does not really make sense, i can agree easily..
but basing it on the nature of the creature (ie. negative divine energy (necrotic) vs positive (radiant) still makes sense).
Going by any classic definition of good vs evil, evil gods would channel negative destructive energy, and thus makes sense their followers do similar.
trying to make Tiamat channel positive energy (radiant) feels very new age to me"


What does the Enworld-collective think?
 

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Oofta

Legend
There are only so many energy types in 5E, they have to pick something that works for most situations. But there are exceptions to every rule and if you think it makes sense let your players know. If they question tell them your reasoning.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
Thematically it comes down to the spirits the caster summons to flit around them and defend them, and what their alignment is to determine whether those spirits do radiant or necrotic damage. Evil creatures would in theory summon evil spirits, because no good spirit would defend an evil creature like the spell says they do. So it is unlikely that a spirit guardian for an evil caster would do radiant damage, they would do necrotic.

Now that being said... if you as DM felt like it might make more thematic sense for the priest of Tiamat to summon "elemental" spirits rather than angelic, fey, or fiendish... you could certainly change the damage type of the spell to fire, cold, acid, lightning or poison as the case may be. Or if you really wanted to go all-in on the Tiamat thing, you could have elemental spirits of all 5 types flitting around the priest to represent the 5 heads of Tiamat, and then every time someone took damage from the spell you would roll randomly to see what damage type of the 5 it was. That could make a lot of sense for a Tiamat priest.

I personally feel that you as the DM can change spells and monster abilities all you want to make them make sense in the context of the story and challenges you are presenting to the players.
 

billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
I think it's fair as long as you're up front with the players about it so they don't make assumptions that commit their choices. Looking at the descriptions in the PH for radiant and necrotic damage types, they give a good vs evil impression, but don't explicitly incorporate the terms. Moreover, other spells cast by clerics will do radiant or necrotic damage completely independent of the caster's alignment, examples include flame strike and inflict wounds.
Edit: I do like the idea of clerics of specific elemental cults or even Tiamat doing elemental damage too.
 

Clint_L

Hero
I feel like you are overthinking this to a huge degree (not to mention that player). It doesn't really matter; go with what feels right in the moment. If a player has a problem with it they are being pedantic. It's a fun story, not a legal case. It's much, much better for the game to keep it going and not get bogged down in petty issues; trust your gut.
 

Thematically it comes down to the spirits the caster summons to flit around them and defend them, and what their alignment is to determine whether those spirits do radiant or necrotic damage. Evil creatures would in theory summon evil spirits, because no good spirit would defend an evil creature like the spell says they do. So it is unlikely that a spirit guardian for an evil caster would do radiant damage, they would do necrotic.

Now that being said... if you as DM felt like it might make more thematic sense for the priest of Tiamat to summon "elemental" spirits rather than angelic, fey, or fiendish... you could certainly change the damage type of the spell to fire, cold, acid, lightning or poison as the case may be. Or if you really wanted to go all-in on the Tiamat thing, you could have elemental spirits of all 5 types flitting around the priest to represent the 5 heads of Tiamat, and then every time someone took damage from the spell you would roll randomly to see what damage type of the 5 it was. That could make a lot of sense for a Tiamat priest.

I personally feel that you as the DM can change spells and monster abilities all you want to make them make sense in the context of the story and challenges you are presenting to the players.
Thank you. I like the idea of the spirits being the deciding factor for the damage type.
During play I was thinking along the breath weapons but did not know how to select which damage type, I suppose I could have chosen it based on which dragon type the priest most aligned with but I decided to stick to RAW until I posed the question here. But I do love your random idea far better.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
Describing spell damage in terms of "positive" and "negative" energy is very old-fashioned...it reminds me of the earlier editions of the game (like the Negative Energy Plane of 3rd Edition, or the Spheres of Influence of BECM). And there's nothing wrong with that; I've used the old-school cosmologies and rules for years and years.

But my new campaign uses a different cosmology and doesn't have these places, so I had to get creative.

Nowadays, I describe radiant energy as "radiation" -- the kind of energy you get from ultraviolet light and nuclear blasts. It's hard for me to think of it as "the cleansing power of sunshine and goodness" when I'm using it to mow down a group of lizardfolk during a home invasion. It's just another type of energy--it doesn't really have an alignment. The sorcerer is blasting the area with thermal energy, the fighter and monk are demonstrating the destructive power of kinetic energy, and Tiamat is a bar of plutonium in the room

And I describe necrotic energy as "entropy," the removal of energy. It's not an "evil death sauce" that my cleric pours all over the place, it's more like a grounding rod that pulls energy out of a living creature...body heat, synaptic energy, metabolism processes, all of those biochemical reactions get shorted out or grounded. It's not a type of energy--it's the absence of energy, which doesn't really have an alignment either.

Not sure if that helps, but it's working for me so far.
 

aco175

Legend
Describing spell damage in terms of "positive" and "negative" energy is very old-fashioned...it reminds me of the earlier editions of the game (like the Negative Energy Plane of 3rd Edition, or the Spheres of Influence of BECM). And there's nothing wrong with that; I've used the old-school cosmologies and rules for years and years.

But my new campaign uses a different cosmology and doesn't have these places, so I had to get creative.

Nowadays, I describe radiant energy as "radiation" -- the kind of energy you get from ultraviolet light and nuclear blasts. It's hard for me to think of it as "the cleansing power of sunshine and goodness" when I'm using it to mow down a group of lizardfolk during a home invasion. It's just another type of energy--it doesn't really have an alignment. The sorcerer is blasting the area with thermal energy, the fighter and monk are demonstrating the destructive power of kinetic energy, and Tiamat is a bar of plutonium in the room

And I describe necrotic energy as "entropy," the removal of energy. It's not an "evil death sauce" that my cleric pours all over the place, it's more like a grounding rod that pulls energy out of a living creature...body heat, synaptic energy, metabolism processes, all of those biochemical reactions get shorted out or grounded. It's not a type of energy--it's the absence of energy, which doesn't really have an alignment either.

Not sure if that helps, but it's working for me so far.
This is a good way to think about the types of damage. Thematically fire damage could come from steam and not just fire itself.

Also, casters try to look for different types that get around protections of others. Some take force damage since little resists that type, so taking away one type may nerf the caster some.
 


pukunui

Legend
Nowadays, I describe radiant energy as "radiation" -- the kind of energy you get from ultraviolet light and nuclear blasts. It's hard for me to think of it as "the cleansing power of sunshine and goodness" when I'm using it to mow down a group of lizardfolk during a home invasion. It's just another type of energy--it doesn't really have an alignment. The sorcerer is blasting the area with thermal energy, the fighter and monk are demonstrating the destructive power of kinetic energy, and Tiamat is a bar of plutonium in the room
As I recall, that is the idea behind the sickening radiance spell. It’s radiant damage is magical radiation rather than holy light.
 

FitzTheRuke

Legend
Like Defcon and others, I think Tiamat Priest's guardians should be spectral dragon heads doing 1d6: 1) Acid; 2) Cold; 3) Fire; 4) Lightning; 5) Poison; 6) Reroll (or pick one to save time).
 
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Tales and Chronicles

Jewel of the North, formerly know as vincegetorix
This is a good way to think about the types of damage. Thematically fire damage could come from steam and not just fire itself.
In the system I'm eternally working on based on 5e, I reduced damage types to

Shock: electricity, some psychic
Burn: fire, steam, some acids, light
Decay: covers acid, necrotic, entropy and poison (Poisoned is a condition, not a damage type)
Magic: some psychic, arcane, force damage
Frigid: ice damage, some necrotic

Pierce: spears, daggers, bolts, thorns and stone spikes etc
Bash: thunder, strong water rush and bludgeoning
Slash: swords, axes, flaying winds etc
 

Hriston

Dungeon Master of Middle-earth
I like to lean in to stuff like this, so I'd go with the necrotic damage. Assuming the encounter is taking place on the Prime Material Plane, I'd imagine the fiendish-appearing flitting spirits are being called forth from the Shadowfell which lenses negative energy into the Prime. In my games, evil spirits are "touched" by the Negative Plane by which they have been corrupted in exchange for the power they wield. This would include Tiamat, and her priest, if mortal, would be tapping in to the same negative energy from which she draws her power by casting their cleric spell.
 
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