Exactly What It Says on the Tin
Put simply, Damage Reduction (often abbreviated "DR") is an indication of how much physical damage a character sucks up before it actually starts to subtract from their Hit Points
Though used primarily in Role-Playing Games
, DR can be found across many different media. In games, DR typically is the very first thing calculated, right after base damage is assigned, and before any multiplicative or additional damages are added into the equation.
In most Tabletop RPGs
, this usually tops out at numbers less than 10, since even 30 damage in pen-and-paper games is enough to kill most low-to-mid-level, non-fighter characters. Electronic and MMORPGs
on the other hand, can easily have DR hitting double or even triple digits.
One very important to note is that, 99% of the time, DR reduces only physical
damage — that means that, typically, there are one or more ways to get around a DR-based Damage Sponge
: Elemental Powers
almost always bypass DR, and if Magic Damage is different than Physical Damage, suddenly spamming the hell outta Magic Missile
seems like a really, really good idea.
The Trope Maker
here is a little hard to place, as many/most Tabletop Games
miniatures games use some sort of Armor Rating to reduce damage, but the Trope Codifier
is without a doubt Dungeons & Dragons
, which uses it to a large extent, and is responsible for the tradition of "magic fire beats DR."
- In GURPS, the primary benefit of wearing/installing armor is reducing damage received. DR is also an advantage that can be purchased by characters, races, etc. One to three points of damage reduction seems to be the "realistic" limit for natural DR, possessed by real animals with thick hides/scales or purchasable by players without needing specific GM approval. Previous versions featured the Toughness advantage, a more expensive DR with a two point Cap specifically for human use, with the base advantage restricted to supers or races.
- Armor piercing attacks generally take the form of a divisor, reducing DR by half or more.
- The Damage Resistance advantage also has a host of options to modify it's function, in particular conjunction with Damage Typing. The advantage could be used to simulate anything from thick skin to magical resistance against a given element to an ablative force field that needs recharging.
- Dungeons & Dragons makes extensive use of this trope. Damage reduction is generally not provided by wearing armor, even magical, and is usually an ability granted to monsters. Said monsters oftentimes have a weakness that bypasses their DR, usually written as "DR Value / Weakness"* , such as the Superman image above. Some materials or enchantments do provide DR on equipment and some class features also grant it.
- Hardness is a variant used only by inanimate objects, for when players decide to smash down doors, sunder enemy gear, or otherwise wreck their environment. Most objects have little to no armor class and surprisingly little HP compared to a player character. Hardness makes them difficult to actually damage. In theory, this should prevent anyone from just carving a new door through a wall, because standard attacks won't overcome hardness and will never cause hit point damage; in practice, most characters can easily overcome the hardness of stone and players agree to not abuse those rules most of the time.
- Early versions of D&D averted the trope. A creature hit by an attack would most often take either full damage normally or else be flat-out immune no matter how hard it would have otherwise been hit (the latter in particular with regard to insufficiently magical weapon attacks); some cases of half damage would pop up as well, but generally no fixed resistance values whatsoever. It took until the third edition for D&D to employ DR as seen today, long after other games had already used the mechanic for years.
- "Damage reduction" applies to weapon attacks only; energy attacks (acid, cold, electric, fire, and sonic) ignore it. To reduce damage from fireballs and lightning bolts, you need "energy resistance", often provided by spells or as a special quality of creatures. Speaking of which, natural resistance to sonic damage is quite rare.
- Arkham Horror features a few options for DR. The mobster investigator has it as his special ability. A few items and spells allow for it, including a variation of Hyperactive Metabolism were food provides DR rather then healing.
- New Horizon has armor... and specific attacks penetrate the armor, as well as attacks that go overboard.
- Dark Heresy, Rogue Trader, and Deathwatch all have this in the form of both Armor and Toughness. Very few attacks ignore this, though many weapons have Armor Penetration, which ignores a certain amount of Armor. Their parent game, Warhammer40,000, uses a combination of Toughness Values and Armor Saves, though it's a certain chance to ignore damage, rather than reducing it.
- Any game with damage soak rolls, such as Shadowrun, either version of The World of Darkness, and West End Games' D6 system such as the Star Wars RPG. After establishing the damage of the attack, the thing being attacked rolls to reduce the amount of damage actually taken, in terms of their own innate difficulty to damage. Armour may either provide extra dice or reduce the target number of the roll to reduce the damage, depending on system.
- Exalted also has a "hardness" trait for armour, meaning that if the raw (pre-soak) damage doesn't reach the threshold designated by the hardness of the armour, no damage at all is rolled. This, however, is a fairly low number, and if the raw damage reaches or surpasses this threshold it isn't taken into account at all, instead you have to soak for any damage reduction.
- The Hero System's version of defenses functions a touch differently. A character can have both Defenses and straight Damage Reduction; Defenses outright subtract damage from the roll and can reduce it to zero, while Damage Reduction applies after Defenses and cuts the damage received by a straight percentage. Damage Reduction is one of the "warning sign" powers in the book; characters are expected to have fairly limited Damage Reduction, such as having it only apply to certain types of damage, and across-the-board Damage Reduction is mostly the domain of supervillains expected to take on entire teams of heroes singlehandedly or Nigh Invulnerable extreme-power characters like Superman.
- In Magic: The Gathering there is the Absorb mechanic, which allows you to just prevent a certain amount of damage dealt to a creature that has the ability.
- In Spycraft, damage reduction is the armor mechanic, with "armor" and "armor penetration" forming a parallel defensive system to the usual d20 armor class stuff.
- In Numenera, all armor works this way.
- In Ponies and Parasprites damage is reduced in two ways. The first is via use of "Buffer Exhaustion", which allows a character to absorb a certain amount of damage before they are effected by it. The second (such as the Earth Pony's Tough as Nails ability and Celestia's Inescapable Corona of Justice) simply reduces the amount of incoming damage. These two abilities explicitly stack with one another.
- Kingdom of Loathing has three forms of this. The first, actually called Damage Reduction, subtracts damage taken by a set amount, and the second is Damage Resistance, which reduces damage taken by a percentage at certain levels. Notably, they reduce all types of damage, regardless of element or type. The third, Elemental Resistance, reduces damage of a specific element by a percentage at certain levels.
- Armour in Fallout titles typically have two stats for each type of damage: Damage Threshold and Damage Resistance. Damage Threshold reduces all damage received by a certain amount, while Damage Resistance reduces what's left by a percentage. Fallout 3 only used Damage Resistance, but New Vegas brought back Damage Threshold with one quirk. It reversed the calculation order, so that DR reduces incoming damage before DT. Appropriately, DR is a lot harder to come by, banished to the realms of Med-X and select NPCs. Another change is that the minimum amount of damage you can take is 20%, rather than the 15% of Fallout 3. Of course you could always mod it...
- Mechs in Super Robot Wars titles can have physical shields or Deflector Shields that reduce damage by a percentage or a set amount. Larger units also take less damage from smaller ones, and certain pilot skills also reduce damage (usually one named "Guard", and some character-specific things).