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Maximum HP Reduction
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. Hence, such an attack can easily become That One Attack.

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:

    open/close all folders 

    Action RPG 
  • Being cursed in Dark Souls kills you, and when you're revived your max health is cut in half until the curse is removed. It was even worse before a patch came out, as successive deaths from curses stacked up to three times, giving you as little as 1/8 your normal max health. Dark Souls II made every death cut 5% off your max health to as low as 50% (even lower if you build up enough sin), and it can only be restored to the max by restoring your human form by using a human effigy or successfully completing your mission as a summoned shade or phantom. Getting curses also changed from instant death to causing the same max health reduction as dying once does (petrification became a separate status effect that simply kills you).

    First Person Shooter 
  • In Borderlands 2, Pangolin shields offer the highest capacity of any shield in the game, the tradeoff being that they reduce your maximum health as long as they're equipped.

  • In the first Diablo, the Zombie variation Black Death could do this with their punches. They have a very poor hit rate, but each hit they make will permanently reduce maximum HP by one. Amusingly, Sorcerors can use these guys to their advantage due to a Good Bad Bug, since they can avoid stunlock entirely if they have a mana shield on but very little HP.
  • A variation in Onechanbara Z ~Kagura~. While your maximum HP can never really decrease per se, taking damage gradually decreases your maximum recoverable HP using the Blood Recovery mechanic note . On the other hand, using Vamp Skills do not decrease maximum recoverable health.

    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 to their current HP. Unlike most status effects, this is not removed at death/KO nor is it removable with status-restoring magic like Esuna. Only one item in the game (a Remedy) can remove it and only when used by a character that has invested License Points to max out the restorative powers of Remedies in the first place. Needless to say, this status can just ruin your day in the middle of a tough fight.
    • 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. III also has the Mandrake healing item that's cheaper to buy than most other healing items and heals you to full, but likewise causes you to lose some of your max HP. Also, both games contain a move called Disembowel which inflicts HP to One at the cost of reducing the user's maximum HP.
    • There's also the Desert Of Death in Breath of Fire III, where you also lose a percentage of your max HP if you keep walking when you're thirsty: unlike the previous examples which capped the cumulative HP loss to 50% of max or so, your max HP can drop even further this way.
      • All above examples of max HP loss can only be cured by sleeping in an inn, sleeping at the always-available free tent doesn't cure it and neither do any of the items.
  • 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 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 and the Final Boss's last form have one that hits every Djinn on every party member, nearly guaranteeing Total Party Kill.
  • Dying in Battle Hunter will cut your maximum HP in half (stacking geometrically, so dying again will reduce it to 1/4). You can pay credits to restore your maximum HP to that of your maximum HP stat a point at a time. It's not cheap; you're probably better off Save Scumming.
  • The spell Lunatic in Seiken Densetsu 3 reduces the target's maximum HP by 20%. It's very good when used at the beginning of boss fights, where it can knock off upwards of 10,000 HP.
  • In Xenoblade, Mount Tortas have an attack that halves a character's maximum HP.
  • Drakerider features a party of dragon riders whose only dragon is berserk and enslaved by the party against its will. Losing control of said dragon powers it up, but then it also has a fair chance of attacking its rider each turn, thereby decreasing his/her max HP. MaxHP restores sell for a whopping 12,000G at the item shops, so letting the dragon go berserk is a very bad idea.

    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.
  • In World of Warcraft, on the Heroic version of the Spine of Deathwing encounter, every Hideous Amalgamation you defeat (which is necessary to pry open the plates and damage the Burning Tendons, which must be destroyed to win) reduces the maximum health of all raid members by 6 percent.
  • One mission in the Imperial Tatooine bonus series in Star Wars: The Old Republic involves your character voluntarily taking a poison that slowly decreases your maximum HP. You have to fight your way through an area full of Sand People to find the antidote and restore yourself to normal, all to impress a bunch of Mandalorians.
  • This is a major mechanic in Mabinogi, and makes for a good part of the game's initial learning curve. You have in-combat regeneration, no cooldown on potions (and a potentially tremendous stockpile for them), and almost every single pet and fellow player will have at least basic skill in healing magic. On the other hand, hit points here represent luck more than health; injuries reduce your current maximum, which is hard to restore outside of lengthy rest under favorable conditions or actual medical attention. Very few people are armored well enough to be able to ignore anything at all with a weapon, even if they have the HP to take a few hits (that usually not being the case is the other reason for said initial learning curve).

    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.
  • Vampires also do this in The Dungeon Of Doom, but regular healing potions won't fix it. The cure is called a life potion, and its only effect is to reverse Vampiric Draining.
  • Dungeon Crawl:
    • The rotting status will gradually reduce your character's maximum HP while in effect. Like in the above example, you can repair small amounts of rot by using healing potions or wands while at full HP. Ghoul characters can also restore rotted HP by eating meat (preferably rotten), which helps offset the innate decay they suffer from. Then there's the spell called Borgnjor's Revivification, which fully heals you at the cost of permanently reducing your maximum HP.
    • Crawl also has Maximum MP Damage, though only two character races have to worry about it; deep dwarves and mummies both have emergency abilities that require you to sacrifice one point of MP. Deep dwarves can use their ability to recharge magical devices (like a wand of healing), whereas mummies can instantly restore their stats and some rotted HP.
  • In Castle of the Winds, vampires have this ability, and to get it cured you have to pay the Temple of Odin.

    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.
  • In The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, you can create spells that do this, either permanently or temporarily. The temporary variant is particularly effective if you create a spell that drains an extremely large amount of max HP for 1 second, because this can reduce enemy's max HP to zero, causing instant death.

    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 (since there's no such thing as a level zero character).
    • 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.
    • Epic Level Handbook: The Lavawight and Shape of Fire have the blazefire ability which does exactly that.
    • The Book Of Exalted Deeds has the Vassal of Bahamut Prestige Class, which uses bonus dice to deal permanent hit point damage to evil dragons.
  • Aggravated Damage in Vampire: The Masquerade is sustained from fire, sunlight, and holy relics, and cannot be healed or regenerated by most normal means, effectively reducing the amount of "normal" (Bashing and Lethal) damage a vampire can take before Final Death.

    Trading Card Game 
  • Chao Island Tranquil Corrupt Genocide: One effect card can do this for up to five turns.
  • 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 for as long as the creature is in play. Having zero or lower toughness will kill a creature, which gets around indestructible creatures that wouldn't otherwise die from damage.
    • Another example is the card Stigma Lasher, which causes any player dealt damage by it to be unable to gain life for the rest of the game. Interestingly, this card also has wither, making it apply HP Reduction to both creatures and players.
  • In Net Runner, a hacker or "runner" fights a megacorporation in a dystopian cyberpunk setting. The Corp's win conditions are kill the runner or advance their own agendas to completion. Damage results in discarding cards and comes in Meat damage (physically assaulting the runner), Net damage (frying his gear), and Brain damage - which involved usually illegal software burning the Runner's brain and permanently reduces his or her hand size.

    Visual Novel 
  • In Magical Diary, choosing to offer Damien your soul to "save his life" when he's your love interest causes all of your stats, including your Strength stat (which governs how much HP you have), to take a serious hit. The only way to get your HP back up is to retake the class that ups your Strength in the first place — and since you only go up by 1 point per class taken, it'll take a while to get that HP back. Choosing to offer him your soul when you're just friends results in your HP dropping back to what it was when you started the game.

    Wide Open Sandbox 

Level DrainUndead IndexThe Necrocracy
Level DrainTabletop RPGLinear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards
Mana ShieldVideo Game Effects and SpellsMutual Disadvantage
Luck StatVideo Game TropesMini-Game

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