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Maximum HP Reduction
Attacks that reduce the maximum number of Hit Points, not just their current amount.
Tropeworthy?

(permanent link) added: 2012-11-11 08:23:54 sponsor: Koveras (last reply: 2012-12-16 23:25:07)

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Characters in Video Games and Tabletop Games suffer ridiculous amounts of bodily harm, but unless their Hit Points reach zero, they usually remain fully functional and can be restored back to perfect health within seconds by consuming a Healing Potion or using some healing magic.

This trope is about games that additionally feature enemies whose attacks can deal permanent damage, reducing the target's maximum number of HP, so that even if they can heal, it's in their best interests to avoid getting hit and end the fights quickly. Often, such "permanent" damage can be healed later but in a much more costly/time consuming way.

In any system where you have Body Armor as Hit Points, a move that steals or destroys the armor in question will invariably reduce the target's maximum HP. In some game systems, a Level Drain has this effect due to maximum HP being derived from experience level.

Compare Healing Magic Is the Hardest, where even magical healing is scarcely available. Wound That Will Not Heal is a more general narrative trope.

Video game examples:

Hack-and-Slash
  • In the first Diablo, the Zombie variation Black Death could do this with their punches.

Real-Time Strategy
  • Dawn of War: From Dark Crusade onwards, Necron Pariahs reduce maximum HP with every melee attack until they or the target are dead.
  • Dark Glass Corruption from Rise of Legends.

RPG -- Eastern
  • Ships in Uncharted Waters: New Horizons can be repaired after sustaining damage in battle, but constant damage wears down their maximum durability. Notably, there is no way to restore this permanent damage, except selling the used ship and buying a new one.
  • The Final Fantasy series:
    • In Final Fantasy XII, a status ailment called "Disease" prevents healing, by reducing the victim's maximum HP any time they take damage.
    • Final Fantasy XIII-2 adds the Wounding mechanic, wherein certain attacks and monsters reduce the target's maximum HP to force the player to avoid long battles. Although such wounds are thankfully covered by After Combat Recovery, no magic and only two specific potions (one of which is Elixir) can heal them in combat.
  • In both Breath of Fire III and Breath of Fire IV, if someone was downed in battle and still down at the end, they would be brought back with 1 hp and have their max health reduced. Also, both games contain a move called Disembowel which inflicts HP to One at the cost of reducing the user's maximum HP until the next time they rest at an inn.
  • A slightly weird version occurs with the Dark Chips in the fourth and fifth Mega Man Battle Network games. They deplete the user's maximum HP by one point.
  • Tactics Ogre: The pretty much the almost never used (a mercy by the programmers and the AI) skill called Oracle reduces the max HP of the target. The only one who actually uses it Lans Tartare, the leader of the Templar Knights in the game.
  • A variation in Golden Sun: Stats and classes are mostly determined by what Djinn are on a character, and using them in battle cancels the stat boosts (including HP) until summoned or reset. Some bosses have abilities that "drains" the Djinni, causing loss of all stats until they recover. The Bonus Boss has one that hits every Djinn on every party member, nearly guaranteeing Total Party Kill.

RPG -- MMO
  • In RuneScape, some creatures could transmit "disease", which randomly decreases stats including constitution, which affects maximum life points. Barrelchest Mk II, a pirate zombie robot (It Makes Sense in Context) directly drains constitution as part of its special attack. Instead of eating various food, this kind of damage could only be restored quickly with much more expensive super restore potions.
  • In City of Heroes, Incarnate abilities from the Degenerative Interface line give all of your and your pets' attack powers a chance of applying this effect and/or Toxic damage over time.

RPG -- Roguelike
  • In Rogue, vampires' attacks do this. The loss can be recovered by drinking healing potions while already at maximum hit points, but at greatly reduced efficiency: 1 hit point per potion of healing or 2 hit points per potion of extra healing.

RPG -- Western
  • In the Dragon Age series, traps and Non Lethal KOs inflict injuries on the characters. In the first game, these included both permanent health damage and other stat penalties, but only the former was present in the sequel. Injuries can generally only be removed by returning to the Player Headquarters or consuming a specific item. In DAO, only Spirit Healers could remove injuries magically (but not from themselves); in DA2, Spirit Healers can instead protect the entire party from injuries for with a high-level perk.

Wide Open Sandbox


Non-video game examples:

Literature
  • In Fate/Zero, Lancer's Gae Bulg has wields a curse on whoever it attacks, making a Wound That Will Not Heal. When asked to define this in gaming terms, Word of God said that its effect would be basically this trope. Also, Emiya Kitsurugi was cursed by the contents of the Holly Grail, which was the ultimate cause of his demise, as it drained it's life force slow but steadily.

Tabletop Games
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Some attacks deal "ability damage" that reduces the target's stats but heals when the character rests and "ability drain" which can only be healed magically. Constitution drain is essentially this trope, because a character's maximum hitpoints are calculated from it. A dead first level character who's resurrected (most resurrections cost the resurrected character at least one Character Level to avert Death Is a Slap on the Wrist) also permanently loses a point of constitution.
    • The Vargouille monster could do this. If the victim of its attack failed a saving throw vs. poison, the Hit Points of damage inflicted were lost permanently and could only be recovered by using a Wish spell. No form of healing magic would bring them back.
  • Aggravated Damage in Vampire: The Masquerade is sustained from fire, sunlight, and holy relics, and cannot be healed or regenerated by most normal means.
  • In Magic: The Gathering, creatures with the Wither or Infect abilities deal damage to other creatures in the from of -1/-1 counters. Unlike regular damage, which creatures heal from at the end of each turn, -1/-1 counters represent a permanent reduction in both power and toughness (having toughness reduced to 0 will kill a creature) for as long as the creature is in play.

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