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Health/Damage Asymmetry
A fairly balanced fight in the world of RPGs.

Generally seen in Role Playing Games. When one compares the player's characters to the monsters (and bosses), they are essentially Glass Cannons to Stone Walls. Player characters tend to be able to deal out huge amounts of damage, usually well above their own HP's worth in a single hit. Monsters deal very low damage relative to their own HP. If the game allows for Player Versus Player combat, expect the damage to be scaled down immensely to prevent all duels from being one-hit kills. If the game has a Damage or HP cap, expect most late-game monsters to have HP above the player's damage cap, and well above the player's own HP cap.

There can be several reasons for this design:
  1. Healing: In most RPGs, the player has ways to quickly heal himself (potions or cure spells) while monsters don't. This means monsters naturally need to have more starting HP to even things out.
  2. Difficulty: Difficulty can come from monsters being hard to kill or dealing lots of damage. Player death is generally more complicated than healing a wounded character, so to avoid making the game unnecessarily frustrating, developers choose to increase the enemies' HP more than their damage.
  3. Player Rewards: One of the most rewarding things a player can get is a stronger weapon or a more powerful attack. This makes it much easier to kill all the enemies you've previously faced, but to avoid making things too easy as the game progresses, the monsters in later areas need to have their HP ramped up quickly, so that the new weapon becomes par for the course, and the player has to seek a newer, better weapon.

In FPSes, scaling up both damage and HP is a legitimate way of increasing difficulty, since speed, reflexes and stealth are often a part of gameplay. They avert this trope more easily. Shoot 'em Up games play it straight, especially with boss fights (see also Damage-Sponge Boss).

Beware any Standard Status Effects such as Confusion, charm, mind control, etc., which thanks to this trope are much more dangerous when used on the player due to the damage a confused PC can inflict.

This is also the root cause of Redemption Demotion, especially when considering how much the HP changes.

Aversions where both the player and enemies can be destroyed equally as fast become Rocket Tag Gameplay.

Examples:

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     Played Straight 
First-Person Shooter
  • Classic example: the original Doom had demons with many hundreds or even thousands of HP (the player's maximum, ever, is 200note ), yet with the exception of the Cyberdemon, none of them had attacks that come even close to the player arsenal's destructive power. As a result, the single player campaign tends to be reasonably mildly paced, while in multiplayer most fights are over in a matter of seconds—with the introduction of the double barrelled shotgun in Doom 2, sometimes a fraction of a second.
  • Halo Combat Evolved. Hearsay has it that the pistol wasn't supposed to be the death machine we met it as, but that someone accidentally changed its damage value right before shipping. Especially on Legendary, it makes the MC the glass-cannon version of this asymmetry.
    • Anyone armed with a Plasma Pistol is the glass cannon version.
    • Grunts with FRGs, spec-ops Elites with energy swords and Hunters are really easy to kill, but can dish out hideous amounts of damage, sometimes as much as simply gibbing the player on higher difficulties.
    • In Halo Reach, if you destroy tank guns, the tanks can be the ... well... tank variant of this.
      • Warthogs (especially Gauss and Rocket) are this to tanks in general. Sure, the tank has good offense and defense, and sure, the warthogs are fragile, but the warthogs can pack pretty big guns, often dangerously-overkill in other circumstances.
    • Lower-rank Brutes are actually the tank-who-can't-dish-it-out version of this. Until you enrage them. Higher rank ones carry all sorts of destructive goodies, though.
  • Missions in Team Fortress 2's Mann Vs. Machine mode play this straighter the further in the mission you go. At the beginning you fight robot versions of the playable classes who are greater in number than you, but have much more limited sources of healing and fewer weapon choices (often only being able to use their primary or even just their melee weapon). Later waves have giant robots with massively larger amounts of health, medics, and more powerful weapons, but instead of upgrades giving you more health, you instead have ones that reduction certain types of damage.

Hack and Slash
  • Diablo has magic which can do more damage in one hit than players (but not monsters) have health. To counter this, PvP magic damage is cut in half, but magic is still so overpowered that PvP duels are very, VERY short.
  • Diablo II: There is no damage or HP cap, but players can easily deal over 10,000 damage while their own HP is below 1,000. Even with damage cut to one-sixth in PvP, many duels end in a single hit.
    • This trope is the reason that the Necromancer's Iron Maiden curse, which reflects monsters melee attacks back at them, doesn't work in the long term. The further into the game you go, the less damage monsters do proportional to their health. It's better to go with the more basic Amplify Damage instead. Likewise, the Paladin's Thorns aura doesn't work as well as his Might.

MMORPGs
  • MMORPGs tend to play this one straight, with players being able to deal more damage in one hit than their max HP can take and bosses having as much HP as a significant portion of the server's population combined.
  • World of Warcraft plays this straight with bosses, particularly raid bosses, which under most circumstances deal only a tiny fraction of their health as damage. However, since they're supposed to be fought by groups of 10, 25, or in the past 40 players to one, this tiny fraction is still enough to One-Hit Kill anyone not built to take it, and even they can expect take many, many times their total health in damage over the course of a fight. From the player perspective a respectable end-game damage output would enable many damage-focused players to kill themselves, on average, in about 5 seconds. Indeed, some of the most consistently dangerous abilities in the game are variations on the theme of reflecting players' attacks back at themselves or their allies.
    • This was a huge problem in PvP until the introduction of the resilience stat, whose sole purpose is to decrease the damage taken by other players. Prior to Mists of Pandaria, this came almost purely from specialized gear, so a player without such equipment can still die very quickly; Pandaria changed this so that all players get a base PVP resilience of 40% with gear adding more resilience to that.
  • In Billy Vs SNAKEMAN Phase Battles, Phases have 5000 to 21000 HP and have a small chance of dealing one damage (two if it's the final boss) on any given turn. You have 1 to 6 HP and deal hundreds of damage a turn.

Role-Playing Game
  • Nearly every single JRPG ever. This can be taken to extremes with optional bosses.
  • In Chrono Trigger, Magus as a villain has 6666 HP (even after Lavos sucks away most of his powers), but doesn't have more than 999 under player control.
    • Of course, continuing to play the trope straight, he seldom does over 200 damage as an enemy, but routinely does thousands as a party member. This is also one of the few games in which Confused allies do pathetic damage to each other— seldom more than 20 or so, even at high levels and with the best weapons.
  • The flash game Monsters' Den: Book of Dread plays this straight, but one might not notice it until the "end" boss(after that boss is endless play) summons copies of you to his side. You can take them out in 1 or 2 swings if you've been playing right, but they're exact copies. So can they.
  • Dragon Age II has a far stronger case of this than most Western RPGs, with your characters doing thousands in damage late in the game compared to their HP of 100-350 or so - and it has Friendly Fire on Nightmare difficulty level. Position your area of effect spells and warriors (especially those with a BFS) carefully and don't let the AI use AOEs, or watch your party slaughter each other in seconds.
  • Lunar: The Silver Star has bosses whose stats are based on The Hero Alex's level. The Final Boss's HP, for example, is 260 times Alex's level. At level 40, that would put his HP at 10,400. Alex's HP at that level? Somewhere around 250.
  • Despite the main games averting this (see below), in the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games, the bosses have much higher HP when you battle them than when you recruit them.
  • On foot, the HP of the playable characters in Xenogears tops out in the hundreds. Most of the bosses towards the end of the game have HP in the thousands (the human boss with the highest HP, Graf, has 6666 HP), and per this trope, the characters are more than capable of dealing that much damage. This is less noticeable in Gear battles, where both the player gears and the enemies can have 10,000+ HP.
  • Played straight in the Normal Mode of Mario & Luigi: Dream Team. Enemies have a ridiculous amount of health and high defenses but do less damage, whereas the Mario bros are the opposite. However...
  • Played straight in Dragon Quest IX for the most part. There is a skill used by both enemies and PCs that allows you to redirect an attack onto a randomly-chosen target (allied or enemy). This trope becomes horribly, horribly apparent when your Lightning Bruiser / Mighty Glacier lands a massive three-digit-damage blow, only for it to be redirected squarely onto the Squishy Wizard.
  • Epic Battle Fantasy: Boss HP tends to be in the hundreds of thousands, while end-game attacks tend to do one thousand. Player HP is usually several thousand, with monsters dealing damage in the hundreds. Fortunately, single-target attacks combined with the appropriate buffs and debuffs can deal hilariously large amounts of damage (case in point: the Tera Drill skill, which does extra damage if the target has defensive buffs, and can be spammed turn after turn for hundreds of thousands of damage).
  • Brutally Exploited in Bravely Default. See, two of the available classes have skills that deal fixed damage equals to the amount of HP the user is missing. The problem is that Qada and Alternis, the bosses whom you have to defeat to unlock these classes, ALSO have these skills. This eventually results in repeated 9999 damage attacks (which, at the point you fight them for the first time), is almost certainly a One-Hit Kill.

Fighting Games
  • Non-RPG example in Punch-Out!!. Little Mac, the player character, is usually chipping away at foes' energy bars with dozens of punches, while dodging blows that will level him in just a few hits. Justified in that, as his name suggests, for a pro boxer he's really small, and even the shorter enemies tower over him.
  • Highly exaggerated in ''Arcane Weapon. The player character only has a few hundred health points, but can deal out thousands of hit points worth of damage with his most powerful attacks, while the enemy faced in "Survival" has 2,000,000 health points but at most only deals about a hundred points worth of damage with every attack.
Tabletop Games
  • Fourth Edition Dungeons & Dragons: While the amount of damage attacks do on each side is roughly equal, player characters have healing surges which let them recover damage for a while as long as they use their skills well. Enemies have healing surges (1 for Heroic tier, 2 for Paragon, 3 for Epic), but there are very few official monsters that have abilities which allow them to be used. The result is that enemies have many more hit points than player characters in order to keep balance.

Turn-Based Strategy
  • Super Robot Wars. You fight against bosses (and even some mooks) with 5 to 6-digit HP figures; while it isn't very difficult to deal 5-digit damage figures yourself, it may take some time to bring down some bosses. Fortunately, even with majority of your units having 4-digit HP figures, it usually takes more than a hit from enemies to bring down a Real Robot on your team, though one-hit kills do happen.

     Aversions 
First-Person Shooter
  • FPSes generally scale the enemy's damage and HP with difficulty level, and are often equal to the player on the hardest difficulties. For example, in Deus Ex and S.T.A.L.K.E.R, the player can take a few hits on early difficulties but can be instant killed by a head shot on the harder 'realistic' difficulties, where damage is equal between them and the enemies. This also applies in FPS games when you have difficulty mixed with friendly fire. For example, in Left 4 Dead, you won't do too much friendly fire damage to your teammates on Normal while Advanced ups the damage a little bit. On Expert, friendly fire damage is 100%, which means you can cause the same amount of damage to a survivor as you would to a zombie. This can cause an instant incapacitation if you're not careful, since most guns can do more than 100 points of damage and survivors will never have more than 100 health.

MMORPGs
  • World of Warcraft averts this with normal enemies, they have about the same hit points and damage as a player of the same level. (Somewhat lower on both to allow players to kill stuff of equal level.)
    • However, player characters are allowed to deal a lot of damage compared to their health. This had led to issues in PvP until they introduced a defensive stat called resilience, which reduces damage taken from other players significantly. Woe to those who step into a battleground without wearing resilience equipment.
    • Blizzard has had to address this issue a few times in general. In the first expansion, stamina was put on nearly every item in bigger chunks than the other stats, and for Cataclysm, health pools are planned to grow a lot again to combat this creeping up in nearly every gameplay aspect.
  • AdventureQuest Worlds has recently done a move away from this trope in regards to boss fights. While player characters go over the 1,000 mark in terms of hit points and can do triple-digit damage to their enemies, the bosses do nasty damage in the triple digits (Wolfwing was doing about 300 damage with every hit), and will kill you quickly if you do not have a healer, a suitable plan or both.
  • The original Everquest completely inverted it. Monster health and damage both scaled much faster than those of players. This was intentionally to force people to group constantly after the first few levels. It also caused the difficulty to scale into the stratosphere at the end game.
  • Atlantica Online generally keeps everything on the same level, though monster health and damage depends on where they are. Only bosses are significantly stronger and thougher, to the point where most of the fight will be the players entire party against the boss alone. Even areas designed for groups of players house mobs about on par with the player's mercenaries, but you'll almost always face three parties of monsters at once.
  • Final Fantasy XI has monsters that have the HP as an equal level character (and sometimes significantly more). The game is a careful balancing act for the players in terms of maintaining attack and defense; if either is too low, you won't do enough damage and you'll take significantly more. Melee classes in particular, lacking any kind of special abilities on the same scale as magic-users, have to be especially mindful to be using appropriate equipment, so as to win the resulting war of attrition.
  • City of Heroes mostly averts this: the class most popular for solo play, scrappers, have about 1800 hitpoints at the level cap and strong attacks hit for about 400 HP. Bosses, the strongest rank of generic enemy, have about 2500 hitpoints and strong attacks hit for about 600 HP. Hitpoints, attacks, and, most importantly, in-combat HP regeneration scale with rank, so a minion (the weakest rank) does only minor damage to a scrapper and goes down in about three blows, while a giant monster (the strongest rank, comparable to a raid boss in other MMOs) can one-shot an unsupported scrapper and regenerate its massive HP reserve faster than a scrapper can damage it.
    • This disparity was more apparent with Archvillains (and 'Heroes', the villainside equivalent) COH's 'raid boss' equivalent; these could readily be huge sacks of hit points. One extreme example was Reichsman, the Archvillain from the Kahn Task Force, who had more than 250,000 hitpoints — and the process of defeating him involved defeating four other Archvillains that he released, one at a time, to attack your team as you wore him down.
  • Averted mostly in Guild Wars 2. With the Dynamic Level Adjustment system, your level, HP, damage, and attributes are capped to certain values depending on your location, essentially ensuring that both sides of the competition have a chance at victory. You may be decked out in max-level gear, wielding exotic weaponry, and have learned all skills there are to be learned, but with the system in place, any non-boss creature whose name is not colored gray (which indicates harmless ones that are essentially living props) can still take you down. Bosses, specifically Champions and World Bosses, play this straight.
  • RuneScape averts this by giving enemies the same combat levels that players have to show how powerful they are. As combat levels are made out of the six melee stats (two of which the enemy cannot use), the stats are properly distributed to a monster until it reaches the combat level it is given. However, Defence is rarely an invested stat due to being the stat that makes attacks miss (which would make battles frustrating for players if it were invested in enough), leading to HP levels being put through the roof as a result. A slightly different formula is used for magi and rangers, meaning they're subversions instead.

Role-Playing Game
  • Tactical RPGs tend to avoid this, as most fights are often made up of the same types of characters and monsters that you can recruit for your own team. However, for non-recruitable bosses, they often raise the HP much more than they raise the damage output...
    • Final Fantasy Tactics series, with the partial exception of some major bosses...who exceed the normal 999 HP cap, but still to a lesser degree than is normally seen in RPGs.
    • Disgaea probably deserves special mention, as damage can rise to ridiculous levels (millions of damage per hit), but HP can as well. The damage output inevitably ends up overtaking the HP gain to the point where almost everything is a One-Hit Kill, though.
    • However, many Tactical RPGs (definitely Fire Emblem anyway) have this in a different form. Generally, the enemies will be much greater in number, but will be slightly weaker (except for the boss) or have poor strategy to compensate.
      • The Final Bosses of Fire Emblem games often still qualify, especially Ashera from Radiant Dawn.
  • Mon games in general tend to avert this for the same reason tactical RPGs do.
  • Most RPGs based on existing role-playing systems, like Baldur's Gate, Fallout and Planescape: Torment. Enemies tend to be made up of the same races and classes as you (ok, in Torment, not so much) and follow the same HP, attack and damage rules. While bosses may have higher HP, that is because they are higher level — on a New Game+ you may have characters with equal levels to them who can match them blow for blow in HP and damage.
  • Averted in Baten Kaitos Origins. Both you and your enemies can do roughly equal damage to one another, making the game Nintendo Hard.
  • Dark Souls is a somewhat odd example as in the early game, this is inverted: YOU have a lot more hit points than the enemies do, but THEY do massively more damage than you do. Bosses play this trope straight, though, having thousands of hit points but often dealing only as much (and not infrequently less) damage than ordinary enemies do.
  • By comparison to other games, Earthbound partially averts this. The HP and damage numbers still are not equal on both sides, but certain properties of the game attempt to avert this. Your party has a rolling HP system (your HP rolls down at a constant rate on a counter; even if you take mortal damage, you still have a chance to fight and heal yourself before you fall), yet the bosses traditionally have large amounts of HP and also turn instant-KO attacks like PK Flash into death-bringers. The asymmetry is much less than many other RPGs, but it still does exist.
  • Played with in Legend of Legaia: assuming no Level Grinding, regular enemies have slightly less HP than that of the three playable characters and except for their special attacks, deal less damage. Bosses on the other hand have significantly more HP and do significantly more damage.
  • The web game Ginormo Sword usually plays the trope straight but at one point throws out a duplicate of the player with identical stats. If the player isn't careful both sides will end up with a screen-filling sword that can kill the opponent with one hit, and Computers Are Fast...
  • Shin Megami Tensei largely averts this by having the enemy and your HP be on the same page. The randomly generated enemies will all have the same HP as you, and in many games, even the rare marks will never break the HP caps that your character normally has. This is only challenged when you come across enemies that are labelled as "bosses" but that generally is still limited to HP. The damage that is done is still the same for both sides because of the shared statistics. However, this does serve to throw a lot more problems at you in terms of boss fights. Since they damage that you deal is generally the same, boss attacks will hurt a lot MORE for you than for them. Even if your hits exceed 1000 damage, they not only can do the same to you, but for them it is a strong poke. For you it is a deathblow.
  • The Valkyrie Profile series averts this, occasionally inverting it, with some enemies doing just as much, if not more, damage per round to you, while some bosses will hit you for several times your maximum HP per round while you have to whittle away at them.
  • The first two Shining Force games on the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive avert this. Both games have few characters' HP surpass 100, and the characters and enemies's stats and damage dealt are generally comparable. And then there's the final boss with an HP of 500, but he's insanely powerful, anyway.
  • Averted in Hard Mode in Mario & Luigi: Dream Team. Here, not only do the enemies still have high health, high defenses and whatever else, but they also do about ten times more damage than the player (at least at the beginning). Kind of brutal to see the first bosses not only match you in health, but also do enough damage to kill you in two hits. Also averted in the giant battles, where your opponent has about the same amount of health, but takes less damage than you and does more in return.
  • Generally averted in the Dragon Quest series, where an end-game character can expect to do up to 100 damage to an end-game Mook. While the player gains strength, HP and better weapons as the games go on, the scaling is very slow, such that you're not getting new equipment to destroy your enemies, but to keep doing consistent damage to new enemies. There are some high-powered spells and abilities that will do much more damage than a normal attack, but for an equally high cost, making them Awesome, but Impractical. In Dragon Quest 3, for example, the end-game boss has a little more than 1000 HP, but the battle can drag on for quite some time because you're only going to be doing, at most, 75 points of damage a round.
  • The Paper Mario series has lots of enemies with less health than you, and even several bosses have less health points than what you can possibly get by the end of the game. In the original Paper Mario, the first form of the final boss has the whooping amount of 50 HP (less than Mario's total HP cap) and his final form just hits 99. In turn, of course, his attacks are stronger than yours, so you have to balance your attack, defence and healing adequately.

Table Top Role Playing Games
  • Averted in many and RPG where the players and their enemies meet on equal footing. The player characters and enemies often use the same weapons and powers, inflict the same amount of damage, and have similar levels of whatever the game uses for health. Often the players have some other edge, but not always. Games which follow this model (at least much of the time) include: Both Old and New World of Darkness, Shadow Run, Star Wars both under West End Games and D20, Traveller, Stars Without Number, Unknown Armies, Decipher's Lord of the Rings adaptation, Dark Heresy and its spin-offs, Green Ronin's Dragon Age adaptation, Rifts, Dead Lands, and many more.
  • Averted in some games where the players are outright weaker than their enemies.
    • In Call of Cthulhu and Delta Green, the monsters are usually stronger — period. Even human mooks have the advantage of not falling prey to the Sanity Meter because they usually have already dived straight into madness.
    • This can also happen in Hunter The Reckoning from the Old World of Darkness, since the Hunters' powers were not as potent as their prey and hunters have to plan very carefully.
    • Friend Computer from Paranoia assures us that Troubleshooters are always trained to physical and mental peak, given the best equipment ever produced, given leadership rules suited to their talents with ample guidance from above, and provided with reliable, actionable intel. They are easily a match for the poorly trained, poorly led, ignorant, and under-equipped enemies of Alpha Complex. Reports of casualties exceeding fifteen hundred percent of projections are likely due to Mutant Commie propaganda.
    • As soon as you encounter any of the supernatural horrors of the Warhammer 40,000 universe, Dark Heresy moves down here.
  • Zig-zagged in Dungeons & Dragons before 4th edition and Pathfinder. Many monsters of appropriate challenge rating for a party may do much less damage than a decently built damage-dealer PC. Other monsters could do horrific damage at relatively low levels. And the deadliest "monsters" could be other adventurers — as they'd have all the same types of tricks, gear, and powers as the players and play by the same rules.

Healing PotionRole-Playing GameHeroes Prefer Swords
Dungeon TownImageSource/Video GamesLight Is Not Good

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