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Armored But Frail

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A character or enemy in a video game who has a high defensive stat or ability would be expected to have at least a decently sized pool of HP to go with it, but this isn't always the case. Some characters instead have a dangerously low pool of health and use their high defense to balance it out, much like how a Fragile Speedster would use their superior evasive skills for the same effect. Common tactics against such an opponent include wearing them down with lots of quick-but-weak attacks since they'll often do the same amount of Scratch Damage as a single hard-hitting attack, utilizing some kind of Anti-Armor technique or Armor-Piercing Attack, or a Fixed Damage Attack which disregards the defenses.

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When taken to the logical extreme they're a One-Hit-Point Wonder underneath their armor. When their defensive ability is granting them more HP, it's Body Armor as Hit Points. In certain genres, this frequently comes from a Single-Use Shield.

A popular case is a Squishy Wizard which can cast powerful defensive spells. In this case, common tactics involve magical items or other spells capable of piercing the defenses, either by dissolving them to expose the target to more conventional attacks, or by ignoring them and hitting directly the wizard.

Compare with Metal Slime, which may too be low in raw health, but very well armored to impair easy kills for their significant reward. A boss that has a Broken Armor Boss Battle may fall under this as well.


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Examples:

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    Tabletop Games 
  • Champions:
    • A Player Character or Non-Player Character can be created with very high defenses against certain attacks such as PD (Physical Defense), ED (Energy Defense) and Damage Reduction, but with very low Body (the Champions version of Hit Points). It takes a tremendously powerful attack to get through their defense, but when it does, the target will go down quickly.
    • An object can be created of very strong materials which gives it a high Defense but also have a low Body. Any attack against it must overcome its Defense, but any damage that gets through reduces the Body. Thus, such an object is immune to low damage attacks but vulnerable to high damage attacks.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • When she first appeared in 1st Edition Advanced D&D products, the drow deity Lolth had an Armor Class of -10 (which is incredibly hard to hit even for a deity), but only 66 Hit Points, which is very low for a deity. Almost all deities of that period had at least 100 Hit Points, and some had up to 400.
    • In 5th edition, AC combines dodging and blocking hits as per the GM's description and does nothing to reduce damage, so it's entirely possible for the party tank to die to some high-damage attacks that got past his AC and the Squishy Wizard to survive being attacked by a giant monster because of a low roll. The Random Number God is a cruel one.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Space Marine Dreadnoughts are huge armored sarcophagi on legs outfitted with heavy weaponry, each containing a Space Marine too critically wounded to survive outside of a Healing Vat. If anything manages to get past the armor, the Marine inside can't do anything to defend himself (sometimes they're missing entire limbs), and so in the fluff they're considered just short of Too Awesome to Use, instead sleeping for centuries between battles so their experience can benefit the Chapter.
    • Any non-Space Marine in Powered Armor (such as certain Inquisitors and the Sisters of Battle); while they keep the armor's protection against all but the heaviest firepower, their average strength and toughness of 3 compared to the Marines' toughness of 4 makes them less effective in close combat and even more vulnerable to mid-strength weapons like Assault Cannons or Autocannons and Heavy Bolters.

    Video Games 
  • Armory & Machine: All the common enemies in the Laboratory have insanely high shielding but an extremely low 500 health — less than the enemies in the second area. The Hunter skills which deal shield-bypassing penetrating damage thus makes short work of them, especially Ballista which will One-Hit Kill them.
  • Baldur's Gate: any mage can be this, by casting defensive spells like stoneskin, mirror images, deflect spells, fireshield, globe of invulnerability, invulnerability to X-type weapons, resistance to Y-type damage etc. even if (s)he has awful constitution and health points comparable to a kitten. In the sequel this goes to such an extent that it is the main cause of why characters end up in a Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards situation (if it were just by simple damage output, warriors would still prevail). Many hard opponents are in-fact wizards that can in all comfort destroy you in a thousand different ways just because you can't damage them... unless you bring your spell-piercing abilities. What makes the trope become blatant is the cheap Game-Breaker tactic of leaving the wizard if possible (e.g. by going to another room) and simply wait for the defensive spells to expire, since all magic is time-limited.
    • Druids and clerics in Baldur's Gate II definitely become this when they level up enough to unlock powerful spells like ironskin (the former) or globe of blades (the latter, which however can also wear normal armor).
    • Any character could potentially become this if he or she can wear armor while having low constitution. Armor and other defensive gear/items decrease the armor class, which in turn makes enemy attacks less likely to score a hit. You want to have the lowest armor class possible, which initially is the best attribute for tanks against conventional enemies rather than the simple amount of hit points (magic ignores armor class). However, by the end of Throne of Bhaal, you will either face Elite Mooks that are not a problem or bosses that can hit you anyway even with ridiculously low armor class, thus damage resistance (elemental or even physical) and hit points are much more important for your tanks.
  • In Battle for Wesnoth, Ghost and its advancements have great resistance against every damage type except for arcane and fire and have good evasion everywhere, but they have relatively low HP compared to units at the same level. This makes them particularly vulnurable to wizard units like Mage and Dark Adept who have fire and arcane attacks whose chance-to-hit don't depend on enemy's evasion.
  • The Binding of Isaac
    • Soul, Black and Bone Hearts act as temporary HP, and there are various items and characters that revolve around a playstyle of shielding your low or even outright non-existent pool of normal health with a plethora of Soul Hearts.
    • The Lost is a character that has absolutely no health and dies in one hit. Donating enough money to the Greed machine in Greed mode gives him the Holy Mantle, a divine shield that blocks all damage of one single hit, at the start of every run.
  • Borderlands: Eridian Guardians have very powerful shields that can take almost every attack like a champ... unless you're using a Shock-elemented weapon/attack to quickly wear down their shields and expose their laughably low hit points. After that, a few hits will kill them, even if your attacks don't land a Critical Hit on their small heads. In fact, there are ways to bypass the shields, such as Mordecai's Trespasser skill. They still have this weakness in The Pre-Sequel and 3, and it's even worse in the latter, as the Guardians gain a new weakness: radiation. While it's not to the degree of damage of shock, it's still enough to wreak havoc on shields.
  • The Iron Golem from Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow has a mere 50 HP, but its defense is so absurdly high that any and all attacks against it deal a whopping 1 point of Scratch Damage, making lots of rapid-fire attacks the optimal strategy against it.
  • The Sea Maggot from Darkest Dungeon has enough Protection to cause attacks against to be reduced to a fourth of their damage but even the toughest variant just barely scrapes double digits in hit points.
  • Maxwell from Don't Starve has only 75 hit points, but starts out with the best armor in the game.
  • Anti-Mage from Dota 2 boasts a high Agility growth, giving him lots of armor in the late game, and a passive ability that heavily increases his magic resistance, letting him shrug off both physical and magical damage easily. However, his actual health pool is fairly poor, making him vulnerable to Pure damage which isn't affected by either armor or magic resistance.
  • Metal Slimes from the Dragon Quest series, on top of being absurdly fast and running almost instantly, are only capable of taking 1 point of damage from attacks, but their HP is always somewhere in the single digits. The advanced forms downplay it, but still have incredibly low HP compared to other monsters you'd find them with (though it's still high enough you'll probably need a critical hit to defeat them before they flee).
  • Halo Infinite: Elite bosses have very powerful shields but are relatively squishy once those shields are down (though they do have somewhat more health than regular enemies). Brute bosses, in contrast, have average shielding but can survive multiple rocket launcher shots even with their shields down. Elite bosses typically are faster and utilize cloaking devices to compensate.
  • Heroes of the Storm:
    • Fenix has the lowest maximum health of all Ranged Assassins in the game. However, his trait grants him a permanent shield that takes damage before his health and rapidly regenerates while out of combat. Combined, he actually has the highest total health for a Ranged Assassin, but a large chunk of it can't be recovered in the middle of a fight.
    • Garrosh's trait grants him armor based on his missing health, reducing incoming damage by a percentage. This makes him resilient to poke damage and quite hard to finish when he's nearly dead, but makes him totally defenseless if he takes a large hit early on. He also has the lowest health of all main tanks.
    • A number of other main tanks — E.T.C., Mal'Ganis, Anub'Arak — pack powerful Crowd Control stuns, sleeps, roots, silences and such... but, in compensation, have comparatively few Hit Points. Their "armor" in this case is all their abilities, which render them essentially invulnerable... but which wear out after a second or two, at which point all the tank has left are their limited Meat Shields.
  • According to the lore of Hollow Knight, the Kingsmould enemies' pearly white outer armor hides their frail Living Shadow bodies, owing to their nature as golems made out Void. Upon defeat, their armor is destroyed and their bodies fall to the ground, which straight-up melts into nothing shortly after.
  • Several The Legend of Zelda enemies have some kind of (often completely invincible) armor that can be removed with the right item (usually the Hookshot/Grappling Hook/Clawshot or its analogue), exposing or stunning them so they can be taken out with a single sword slash.
  • Legends of Kingdom Rush has the Dark Knight Companion (as well as their enemy variants in a special encounter). For a tank unit, they have a huge amount of Body Armor as Hit Points which makes melee attacks much less effective on them, but only have 4 starting HP which means that magical or true damage (both of which bypass armor) will make very short work of them. Their description even mentions that they resort to wearing heavy armor to compensate for their poor constitution.
  • In Mass Effect, Tali has low health and limited armor options due to being a quarian, but she compensates for this by having good shield strength that only gets stronger as she levels up her Electronics skill, to the point where she can survive most of the game wearing the same suit she started with. However, anything that can pierce shields, like rockets or acid attacks, will drop her very quickly.
  • Metools from the Mega Man series have Nigh-Invulnerable helmets that they hide under to block attacks. When they expose themselves to attack, they usually fall in a few basic buster shots.
  • Patrol Robots from the Metal Slug series. They're immune to damage from the back thanks to their heavily armored shell, but their front-mounted laser projectors are a very flimsy weakspot and a few basic pistol shots there will destroy them.
  • Paper Mario:
  • In Persona 4, the Steel Machine has only 65 HP, which is rather low for this point in the game, but resists all elements and only takes Scratch Damage from most attacks. The best way to kill it is to use an item like a Firecracker that inflicts elemental damage, and does 50 HP of damage due to being a Fixed Damage Attack. After that, the enemy should go down in a few attacks.
  • In Plants vs. Zombies, several zombie variants use armors and shields to tank damage, but are only as tough as a basic zombie without them. The Magnet-Shroom is useful because it can take away the armors, making the zombies much weaker. Fume-Shroom's fumes and the Pult plants can also bypass shields wielded by the Screendoor Zombie or the Ladder Zombie, so they can kill them without needing to destroy the shields.
  • Pokémon:
    • Shuckle is an extreme example, with the highest Defense and Special Defense of any usable Pokemon (230 for both) protecting a mere 20 base HP, one of the worst in the gamenote . In fact, the phenomenon of high defenses and low HP is common enough (as seen below) that it's sometimes referred to as "Shuckle syndrome."
    • Shedinja is a (literal) One-Hit-Point Wonder, whose Wonder Guard ability prevents any damage from an attack type that it isn't weak to. However, Wonder Guard also does not protect it from Damage Over Time like poison and burns, from damage inflicted by weather or entry hazards, or from Pokémon with abilities like Mold Breaker (which makes the user's attacks bypass other abilities).
    • Onix (HP 30, Def 160, Sp. Def 45) is maybe the earliest example in the series, which is significantly downplayed but still somewhat intact with its later-introduced evolution Steelix (HP 75, Def 200, Sp. Def 65) and its Mega Evolution (HP 75, Def 230, Sp. Def 95) simply due to their otherwise average HP paling in comparison to their massive Defense.
    • Stakataka has a very high base defense of 211, the fourth highest in the game in fact, and not counting Megas, it's only behind Shuckle. Its Special Defense is quite good too at 101. However, its base HP is a mediocre 61.
    • In fact, this is what most Stone Walls and many Mighty Glaciers tend to be:
    • Then there's Eviolite, a held item for not-fully evolved Pokémon (most of which have relatively low HP) which causes them to take 33% less damage from attacks. Or the Fur Coat Ability possessed by Furfrou and Alolan Persian, which halves damage from physical attacks.
  • In Shining Force II, you can recruit a character named Kiwi. Kiwi has by far the worst HP growth in the game, but his defense is so high that very few enemies will ever do more than a single point of damage to him. However, he has no defense against magic or Fixed Damage Attacks, meaning his usefulness decreases by the end game, when these types of attacks are very common.
  • In Shin Megami Tensei IV, the Mitamas in the Item Farming DLC Challenge Quests take very little damage from most attacks, and outright No-Sell Almighty attacks. However, they only have about 30-40 HP, so a few strong hits are usually enough to defeat them before they run away.
  • Slay the Spire has an event that takes away a large percentage of Max HP and adds Apparition cards to the player's deck. These cards reduce all damage to Scratch Damage, while they last.
  • Sonic in most Sonic the Hedgehog games is a One-Hit-Point Wonder who uses rings and occasionally shields as a damage buffer. If he's caught without rings, he's a dead hedgehog, but as long as he can catch at least one of the rings that fly out of him upon damage, he's effectively invincible.
  • Soul Hackers has the Frost Five. They reflect every element except Almighty, but have only 55 HP, meaning that any Almighty attack will probably take them out in one hit.
  • In Soul Knight, the Paladin starts off with exactly 1 HP (which can be boosted to 2 as he levels up). This is mitigated by his extremely high armor of 8 and his Energy Shield.
  • The titular Spyro the Dragon is a One-Hit-Point Wonder, but his partner Sparx will take the hit for him if he's damaged. Sparx can take 3 hits before disappearing, leaving Spyro alone unless he can find butterflies for Sparx to eat.
  • StarCraft:
    • Zerg Larva have the highest armor value of all units in the game outside of custom maps (along with their sibling, the egg) but have a mere 25 Hit Points. Also, this armor provides relatively less protection from attacks that emphasize quality over quantity. Notably, Siege Tanks and Reavers can kill them in one hit and can even make short work of eggs (200 HP).
    • Zig-zagged with Archons. They are Protoss heavy-assault Energy Beings with a tremendously powerful Deflector Shield (more than twice as strong as a human Siege Tank) and an absolute pittance in Hit Points (one quarter those of a puny zergling). This lets them recover easily between fights, but makes them tremendously vulnerable to EMPs, which strip the shields in an instant. In StarCraft I, their shields made them take full damage from all damage types, which meant Terran vehicles could quickly and cost efficiently melt through their shields, however in StarCraft II, Protoss shields were changed to be affected by unit attributes which (due to their unusual attributes) ended up making them weak to no damage type instead of every single one, but they remained vulnerable to EMP (it now only removes 100 shield points per shot instead of all).
    • Protoss Immortals in StarCraft II were the first game's Dragoons, retrofitted with special plasma shields that reduce all damage to 10 or less as long as they have shields. While this lets them counter hard-hitting units like siege tanks (and weak to Zerg Rush, which relies on lots of weak attacks) and they aren't nearly as vulnerable as Archons without shields, their actual hull isn't well armored against scratch damage. Immortals invert this trope completely in Legacy of the Void where they lose the hardened shields in exchange for a 3-second barrier that simply absorbs 100 damage and has no armor bonuses at all.
    • The Terran Thor and Protoss Colossus are an inversion: They're well protected with hit points, and have powerful weaponry, but have only one native armor point. This means that even hits from Scratch Damage will be absorbed with almost full effect, making them vulnerable to swarming unless supported. The Colossus is even more vulnerable thanks to being tall enough for anti-air weapons to makes huge dents in their hit points. They have less emphasis on sheer survival and more on damage throughput and decent mobility at the expense of high resource costs.
  • In Super Smash Bros. 64, Metal Mario is so heavy that he often can't be knocked off the stage until he's taken well over 200% damage. However, he is almost completely unable to recover once he does get to that point because his weight also makes him the fastest-falling character in the entire series. If he's off once, he's finished. His home stagenote  has disproportionately huge K.O. boundaries compared to the tiny stage size because otherwise he'd be out too fast to even attempt to come back.
  • Warframe:
    • Corpus units tend to heavily rely on their Deflector Shields to survive punishment. It's fairly easy to mod for gas damage to bypass it completely and quickly mow down their meager health. This is particularly noticeable in sortie missions where their shield capacity is greatly increased: they won't take that much longer to kill because they'll choke on poison gas regardless.
    • In a similar vein, Hildryn is a Warframe that relies on her shields for protection and to power her abilities. As a result, her shield pool is enormous compared to other Warframes, but her health is pitifully low by comparison. This forces her to micromanage her shields and constantly replenish them by stealing it from her opponents.

    Non-Game Examples 
  • The heroine of BOFURI: I Don't Want to Get Hurt, so I'll Max Out My Defense was a novice to VRMMORPGs, so when creating her character, she... Well, you read the title, right? But since she was more concerned about the physical pain of getting hurt, she only maxed out her Defense, but not her Hit Points. Fortunately for her, she also quickly gained an immunity to the usual video game weakness to such a build: poison.
  • A Certain Magical Index: Accelerator is the world's strongest esper, with his control over direction allowing him to wrap himself in an automatic reflection field that renders him immune to conventional attack. However, due to growing up protected even from things like muscle tearing and ultraviolet light, his body is scrawny and underdeveloped - if anyone finds a way around his defences (such as Touma's Anti-Magic right fist) he goes down like a chump.
  • Mad Pierrot from Cowboy Bebop is a highly powerful assassin equipped with a personal force field that deflects bullets and other high-speed projectiles, rendering him invincible for most of his fight against Spike. He's also a Psychopathic Manchild with no pain tolerance, so a single throwing knife (moving slow enough to not be stopped by the shield — it only stops things moving above a certain speed) to the leg is enough to cause a complete mental breakdown and take him out of the fight.
  • In Stephen King's The Dark Tower, Roland tells a story of a heavily armored giant named Lord Perth who wants to conquer the world. Just as his journey starts a boy strikes him in the knee with a rock, knocking him over and killing him. Roland's friends compare it to David and Goliath.
  • Valeria Trifa, one of the earlier antagonists from Dies Irae is in possession of the Divine Vessel, a relic that is the Big Bad's physical body. This gives him defenses to the point of absurdity making him able to No-Sell pretty much anything. However should someone find a way to pierce it or take advantage of the fact that he has to open a metaphorical hole in it to use his most powerful move, then he tends to go down fairly easily. Unfortunately, the aforementioned Big Bad whom the body belongs to is nowhere near as frail should his defenses be pierced.
  • The titular Radd from Kid Radd, being a platform game character who's mechanics followed him out into the comic's setting, has a measly 4 points of health. However, anything, from a light poke from a character with Collision Damage to a nuclear bomb, only does a single point of damage, and his Mercy Invincibility prevents enemies from chaining together attacks against him.
  • Shelled molluscs like clams and snails have a hard outer shell but very soft, fleshy, and vulnerable insides. Any predator capable of bypassing their defences will often make short work of them.
  • Tanks are known for being hardy vehicles with strong armor, but anything that manages to get past that armor is liable to destroy vital components and shut the vehicles down due to how compact they are. Worse, Russian tanks traditionally feature a "carousel" auto-loader that is essentially just a giant wheel of ammunition directly under the crew. This are infamous for exploding once the armor is defeated and vaporizing the crew.
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Alternative Title(s): Armoured But Frail

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