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Damage Over Time

Damage Over Time is a common Video Game mechanic where, instead of sustaining one-time sums of damage from one attack at a time, a unit receives a negative status that inflicts a small amount of damage at regular intervals, independent of any other factors or further attacks against them. The definition of an 'interval' varies by game: In action-based genres these intervals may be measured in real time, while turn-based genres (including non-video games, like a Tabletop RPG) may measure intervals based on "turns" or "rounds".

Depending on how long the effect lasts, the accumulated damage can become significant, especially if combined with an Area of Effect to harm multiple targets simultaneously. On a mechanical level, this is the opposite of Gradual Regeneration (and the "Regenerate" Status Buff), and some varieties may officially neutralize or counteract each other.

Note that characters who prefer defeating opponents via this method are almost always evil due to the connotations of slow, painful deaths (as opposed to the more-heroic quick and clean kills).

Damage over time can manifest from a wide variety of in-game sources:

Examples

(For sake of expediency, only list examples that are not covered by existing sub-tropes.)

Tabletop games
  • From Dungeons & Dragons
    • Module T1-4 The Temple of Elemental Evil. A PC in one of the four Nodes of Elemental Evil took 1-4 Hit Points of environmental damage per turn.
    • According to the Manual of the Planes (1987), the same thing happened on some of the Inner Planes.
      • Characters in the Elemental Plane of Earth took 1-2 Hit Points of damage per turn (from the pressure of the surrounding rock).
      • PCs on the Paraelemental Plane of Ice took 1-6 Hit Points of cold damage per round.
    • Fourth edition also features "Ongoing Damage", which is calculated at the start of each turn.
  • In Earthdawn, the nethermancer spell "Pain" inflicts minor damage to the target each round it's in effect.
  • The Sixth Edition Hero System has a "Damage Over Time" advantage that can be added to most powers and attacks.
  • Magic: The Gathering has several cards that deal damage during a player's "Upkeep" step, in contrast to most cards which can only deal damage once at a time.

Video Games
  • Angband has "poisoned" and "cut" status effects that do this, with heavier wounds doing more damage per turn. Damage over time is also one of the effects of starvation.
  • In Borderlands, many weapons that deal elemental damage have a chance of causing damage over time as an added effect. Incendiary and corrosive DoT is relatively mild but lasts for a long time, while shock DoT wears off more quickly, but is much harsher.
  • In Civilization 2, helicopters received minor damage for every turn they spent in midair — this was intended to simulate their limited fuel reserves without requiring them to return to base every time. Later Civ games removed this.
  • In the first Dark Cloud, if a character's "Thirst" meter runs dry during a crawl, their HP begins to drain. (In the sequel, Thirst was merely a Standard Status Effect that blocked healing.)
  • In EarthBound, whenever a character receives damage or healing, their Life Meter rolls down or up to the new value over time (rather than instantly), the speed of which is governed by the character's individual "Guts" stat. Side effects like Critical Existence Failure do not trigger based on the raw damage a character has received, but the value that's currently shown on their meter instead.
  • In the original Gauntlet, the players' HP decreased at a constant rate throughout the game. The only means to replenish HP? Food items in various levels, or putting more coins in the machine.
  • In I Miss the Sunrise, during certain boss missions, you can place your secondary fleets on certain tiles to gain "fire support" from them, causing a small but reliable amount of damage to the boss per turn.
  • Kingdom of Loathing has various items, pieces of equipment and statuses that inflict "passive damage" over time.
  • Odin Sphere, in addition to its set of Standard Status Effects, has fire and ice levels which sap 1% of your character's HP at regular intervals unless you drink an appropriate curing potion beforehand (or have elemental protection equipped).
  • The Pokémon series has many ways to inflict Damage Over Time beyond its standard "Poison" and "Burn" statuses, and many of these can even be combined:
    • If a Ghost-type uses Curse, the opponent receives significant damage (1/4 max HP) per turn, the largest amount of damage in the system.
    • Hazardous weather like Sandstorm or Hail inflicts 1/16th damage on most elemental types.
    • Certain abilities can also cause damage (or, inversely, healing) over time during specific weather conditions: Dry Skin damages during intense sunlight, Rain Dish and Ice Body heal during heavy rain or hailstorms, respectively. Solar Power also causes damage during intense sunlight, but with the tradeoff of boosted attack power.
    • In Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness, Shadow Pokemon who enter Reverse Mode in battle sustain damage per turn, as do non-Shadow Pokemon when subjected to Shadow Sky weather.
    • Sleeping Pokemon receive damage while subjected to Nightmare status, or similarly, the Bad Dreams ability of legendary Pokemon Darkrai.
    • The Grass-type move Leech Seed not only inflicts Damage Over Time on an opponent, it also restores the user's HP by the amount drained.
    • The Sticky Barb item inflicts damage-over-time on whichever Pokemon holds it, but can be passed from user to opponent by moves involving physical contact. Similarly, the Black Sludge item deals damage-over-time to any Pokemon holding it that isn't a Poison-type (those get healed instead).
  • In Prince of Persia: Warrior Within and The Two Thrones, the player slowly loses health while playing as the Sand Wraith or the Dark Prince.
  • The hallmark ability of the Pyro class in Team Fortress 2 is the ability to set opponents on fire with their flamethrower. Some melee weapons can inflict a "bleeding" status that also causes damage over time.
  • World of Warcraft:
    • The "Warlock" class is primarily built around skills that cause damage over time, especially if specialized in Affliction. In Mists Of Pandaria, when a warlock chooses an Affliction specialization, Shadow Bolt, previously their main direct damage spell, transforms into Malefic Grasp, a channeled damage over time spell that causes their other damage over time spells to hit additional times. Affliction Warlocks do still have Haunt for direct damage, but that spell requires a more limited resource and thus can't be used often.
    • Feral Cat Druids deal damage primarily through Rake and Rip, which make the target bleed in a similar way to a Warlock DoT. They're the hardest DPS spec to master, but deal insane damage when done right.
    • Balance Druids have Moonfire and Insect Swarm that use this mechanic to maintain and bolster their DPS. With Mists of Pandaria, Insect Swarm was removed; but Sunfire was changed to a unique spell instead of being the Solar aspect of Moonfire automatically during the respective Eclipse shift.
    • Starting in Cataclysm, Fire Mages rely much more on damage over time, utilizing Living Bomb, Pyroblast, Ignite, Combustion (which grows more powerful the more damage is about to be done by the previous three), a talent which allows Fire Blast to spread the previously mentioned effects to any other opponents in range, and Flamestrike.
    • While not relying entirely on damage over time effects, a good chunk of damage done by Assassination Rogues is dealt via Deadly Poison and Venomous Wounds, which has a chance to hit when the bleed Rupture deals damage to a poisoned target.
  • Dungeons of Dredmor includes a variety of effects that cause damage over time, including but not limited to Slimeburst Traps, Acid Burns, Curse of the Golden Ratio, Recursive Curse, and the special ability of the Golden Crossbow. There's also an even wider variety of Area of Effect spells that persist over several turns and deal constant damage to anything in range—these ones tend to be very effective for dispatching large groups of enemies.
  • In Xenoblade, any arts of the fire, ice, or earth elements will leave behind a burn, chill, or poison debuff on the victim that causes gradual damage. Some physical arts also leave a bleeding effect. In all cases, the gradual damage dealt is based on how much the initial attack hit for, which can result in some crazy numbers once damage multipliers from gems, skills, and chain attacks come into play.
  • Killing Floor does similar to Earthbound above. Health gains roll up over time, but health losses are instantaneous and cancel out health gains.
  • Star Trek Online features plasma weapons, which have a chance to set the molecules of a vehicle on fire.
  • SolForge has a poison status effect that does this, somewhat unusually given its genre.
  • The S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series has radiation (which comes from radioactive artifacts or trekking through irradiated zones), hemorrhage (bleeding, caused by pretty much any injury) and hunger (self-explanatory). Pick your poison, and don't forget your bandages, rad purge drugs and bread on the way out to the Zone.

Damage-Increasing DebuffRole-Playing GameDefend Command
Damage-Increasing DebuffVideo Game Effects and SpellsDash Attack

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