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If something proves effective in Real Life combat, it would be wise to do it again as quickly as possible.

Most game characters don't have that option, however, and will be forced to wait for a fixed period of time or a certain number of turns before they can use that room-clearing move again. While it could be argued that said move was exhausting and that the character needed to recover before acting again, why is he or she able to use a different and more powerful move immediately? More importantly, why does that move have its own fixed recovery time, completely independent of the other one? Why does the majority of the character's repertoire have such recovery times?

The use of Magic A Is Magic A can Hand Wave this requirement but credibility is stretched for purely physical fighters. It's believable that a warrior would need to rest for five seconds after slashing six times in a row with a BFS, but it's less believable that the move's five or seven-hit cousins can be used immediately during those five seconds. The result is that moves become like on-board weapons with differing reload or recharge intervals.

The gameplay reason is to prevent players from repeating a super move over and over again until they run out of Mana, while still allowing them to defend themselves with other moves. If nothing else, it forces gameplay to become somewhat more 'varied' in that players can at best repeat a sequence of moves instead of using a single move ad nauseum.

This frequently overlaps with Regenerating Mana.

The upside to this mechanic is that it adds a layer of complexity to the overall Metagame as players have to deal with timing as well as damage numbers and Status Effects. Changing a skill's recovery time has a disproportionately large effect on its usefulness compared to its other statistics as one second less can make it a Gamebreaker while one second more can make it entirely useless. As a result, the recovery time of an ability is almost always balanced against that of others as opposed to approximating reality or following flavor. Sometimes, cooldowns can be manipulated in certain ways, to add more to the complexity.

Certain games also have a global cooldown, which triggers after any sequence of moves depletes a character's 'stamina' or 'energy' and disables all moves while it recharges, possibly closer to how this mechanic would work in Real Life—see Combatant Cooldown System for that. There are also games with a combination of both, such as having common cooldowns for different sets of moves rather than all moves or having some moves with individual cooldowns and others shared.

Compare The Law of Power Proportionate to Effort. Not to be confused with Overheating, which is about firearms limitations that prevent them from firing non-stop.


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    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The Fourth Edition provides a tabletop RPG example with its split of at-will, encounter (basically "usable once per fight") and daily powers for virtually all classes. At-will attack powers in particular were sharply limited in number — most characters would start with two, perhaps three different class-specific at-will moves at their disposal right at level 1 and then never get any more or improve them much, forcing them to increasingly rely on their daily and encounter powers as those became available.
    • The Tome of Battle supplement for edition 3.5 has a variant — each of a character's martial maneuvers can be used once per combat, but they can pause to "refresh" them so that they can be used again. The swordsage, who relies on rote memorization, knows a large number of maneuvers but must spend his entire turn to refresh even one. The warblade, who relies on improvisation and practical experience, knows a moderate number of maneuvers but can refresh all of them at once by making a basic (non-maneuver) attack. The crusader, who relies on instinct and tenacity over skill, knows a small number of maneuvers and the selection he can use at any one time is randomized, but they refresh automatically (i.e. he never runs out).
    • Many magic items have this limitation in the Fifth Edition - some can only be used once per day, while others have a number of charges that, once they're expended, the item can't be used again until the next dawn.
      • In addition, some class-specific abilities have a cooldown time. For instance, a barbarian can only enter a rage (which lets them do more and take less damage) so many times per day, and if a cleric successfully uses divine intervention (where they call upon their deity for direct action), they can't use it again for seven days.
  • In Hc Svnt Dracones a character that is Masterful in a proficiency can automatically put one success on a roll of that skill per day, at Preeminent they can auto-pass a check regardless of how many successes it required, daily. While many Focus abilities are "once per session".

    Video Games 
  • The Communitree: Healing Candy and Spell Bonanza have a 60-second cooldown between uses. Time Reversal has a 90-second one.
  • Diablo II had a combination. Any skill that casts a lingering effect on the field would have a cooldown until it dissipated while everything else could be continuously cast. Unlike most games, if any cooldown spell was used, it would prevent all other cooldown skills from being used for the period, not just itself. Many skill setups in the game involved combining a cooldown skill with a fast casting skill.
  • All special abilities and magical spells in Dragon Age: Origins have cooldown periods in addition to consuming stamina and mana, respectively. Even more credibility-stretching, healing potions and hand grenades also have cooldowns.
  • City of Heroes has a recharge time for all powers.
  • RTS games use this mechanic for superweapons and CO powers. In games where individual units or heroes have special powers, those tend to have cooldowns as well.
  • The World Ends with You. All abilities can be used instantly a certain number of times before entering a cooldown period.
  • All special abilities in Alpha Protocol have a cooldown time, which can be reduced by certain perks or armour upgrades. The ability Brilliance (which, itself, has a base cooldown time of 300 or 45 seconds) resets the timer for every other ability. Brayko becomes much less of a threat when you can use Master Chain Shot on him twice on a row.
  • Bloodline Champions uses cooldowns to limit abilities, as well as having them all activate global cooldowns. Certain abilities can be used to refresh these cooldowns or cause the enemy to suddenly have their abilities to suddenly be on a temporary cooldown, and a few may be activated that ignores the global cooldown.
  • Team Fortress 2 - The Scout's Bonk! Atomic Punch, Crit-a-Cola, and Mad Milk, the Demoman's Chargin' Targe and Splendid Screen charges, the Sniper's Jarate, and the Heavy's Sandvich and Buffalo Steak Sandvich are all subject to cooldown, though they can be recharged instantly by visiting the respawn lockers, the Sandvich can also be recharged by picking up a health pack when you already have full health and the Sandman's ball can be recharged by picking up the ball again if it missed the target.
  • In Day of Defeat Axis machinegun is MG42, which quickly heats up when fired, so the player has a choice between shooting very sparingly and having a period of vulnerability later when the barrel finally overheats.
  • StarCraft II is moving a bit in this direction, where some Mana-based abilities are being replaced with cooldowns.
  • All Multiplayer Online Battle Arena have a cooldown mech. Some abilities are intended to be spammed and have, say, 5i-ish second cooldown, some may be used once in a fight and have a cooldown of 10-15 seconds, and ultimates are saved for big teamfights and thus have up to 2 minutes cooldown.
  • World of Warcraft uses cooldown management extensively for class balance. All classes have some form of resource management, whether it be mana, runic power, energy, rage, etc.; but also mix this up with cooldowns for individual abilities and occasionally shared families of abilities. To this, add a global cooldown, plus certain abilities that aren't on the global cooldown but also have their own shared cooldowns. The Metagame of managing one's cooldowns can therefore become as much if not more a part of the game mechanics as the abilities themselves. In some cases, the "rotation" that one goes through with their character can affect Damage Per Second or Threat per second by several THOUSAND points, but are typically obscure and can only be found out by people using add-ons, trial and error, or just being told what to do.
  • League of Legends has a hero type whose resource management is replaced by cooldown management. To clarify: all characters in the game have cooldown on all of their abilities. Most champions also have a resource bar, meaning they can't spam abilities for two reasons (cooldown and mana cost, essentially). However, some champions, such as Garen and Katarina, don't have a resource bar, and instead can spam their abilities as long as they arent on cooldown.
  • In a similar vein to the MOBA examples above, Dirty Bomb restricts the Mercs' Abilities with cooldowns. No other restriction on any Ability exists, meaning Proxy has infinite landmines or Skyhammer can resupply everyone ad nauseam. Some Abilities, however, can have uses "stacked": a maximum number of the Ability is stored and can be used at will, but waiting for the cooldown only restores one use.
  • The Mass Effect series has both versions with various tradeoffs.
    • In Mass Effect, each power has its own cooldown, which is abominably long or somewhat fast, depending on what passive abilities you have equipped.
    • In Mass Effect 2, however, using one power put all the other powers on a cooldown after using only one power. In exchange, though, the cooldowns are greatly reduced to a few seconds for almost every ability; powers with cooldowns longer than ten seconds are almost non-existent. Unless the squad members use their powers, since the squad members have much longer cooldown times than Shepard.
    • Mass Effect 3 removes cooldowns from ammo powers and introduces powers that run on a limited stock of grenades rather than cooldowns (or in the case of Nova and Phase Disruptor, the user's barrier). Armor powers no longer trigger cooldowns on activation, but do trigger a cooldown when "detonated" and impose a cooldown penalty when active.
    • In the case of biotic powers, this is somewhat explained away in the Expanded Universe. Biotic powers are difficult, and heavy use of them will very quickly wear out a biotic, meaning they can actually only use them sparingly. This means the game's portrayal is a bit of an inversion, as in-game biotics cool down a whole lot faster than "real" biotics would!
  • Hyperdimension Neptunia suffers from this when you're not in battle. In the dungeons, it is possible to execute one of three actions; swing a hammer overhead to clear away a breakable wall in front of you (as Neptune), ring a bell to trigger battles (as Compa) and show the location of the dungeon's hidden treasure chest (as IF). Problem is, the cooldown times for these abilities are atrociously long. It takes around half a minute for Neptune to swing the hammer again, which is kind of fair enough when you consider it's very heavy, but Compa has to wait about fifteen seconds to ring the bell once more.
  • EVE Online has the global session change timer, which starts when you do an action on a rather small list and forces you to wait 30 seconds before doing another (these include actions like dock at a station, change the ship you're in, join/leave a fleet, use a stargate, log on to the game; you know, that sort of thing). Most active modules have individual cooldown as well; active, repeating modules call it cycle time, while non-repeating modules call it a reactivation delay.
  • Solatorobo has cooldown present only in the fishing minigame; any weapons can be fired until they run out of ammo.
  • In Alien Hallway, the cooldown time is represented by a shaded-out area over the icon, which gradually drains away. When a unit is available again, its icon lights up green.
  • Most active abilities in XCOM: Enemy Unknown have cooldown timers. Standard is two turns, while the most powerful abilities can take up to five.
  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Shouts have a global cooldown period related to how powerful they are and what level is used (One, two or three words).
  • Certain moves in Pokémon force the user to recharge for a turn after use due to the amount of energy they expend, including Hyper Beam, Roar of Time, and the special starter-only attacks.
  • Many Gifts in Ironclaw and Myriad Song, particularly spells and Xenharmonic powers respectively, recharge after spending a battle action or following a "respite", some of the more powerful ones are only once a game-chapter or have special conditions.
  • In Radia Senki Reimeihen, party members have a Power meter that has to refill before they can use another Tech. The Power meter is inversely proportional to the character's HP meter, meaning characters with higher HP have shorter cooldowns.
  • Special moves in Rising Thunder are activated by single buttons instead of more complicated inputs, but all have cooldown timers to limit their use. Some things override the timer to end cooldown immediately, including Chel's Night Sun hitting or being blocked.
  • Ingress lets you hack a Portal once every five minutes, with the explanation of "Portal running too hot!" if you try to hack it again too early. There's also Portal burnout, which kicks in after you've hacked a Portal four times and requires you to wait four hours to hack it again. Installing a Heat Sink mod on a Portal cuts down the cooldown period between hacks, while installing a Multi-Hack mod increases the number of times you can hack a Portal before it burns out.
  • Monster Hunter:
    • The Gunlance's Wyvern Fire, various maps' Dragonators, the Restraints and Demolisher in the Battlequarters, various ships' Ballista Binders and Hunting Gongs, the Frenzy-suppressing Wystones, among many, many other things have cooldown periods on the order of minutes. Using one of these ineffectively can be very costly in a quest.
    • In Monster Hunter: Rise, using the Wirebugs — either to zip through the air or as part of Silkbind Attacks — places them on cooldown, preventing them from being used again until their meter refills.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles X expands on this mechanic with "secondary cooldowns" — if you choose not to use an Art as soon as it's available and have the corresponding weapon drawn, a second gauge fills up, which depending on the Art will power it up or allow it to be used again immediately. Entering Overdrive massively shortens the wait times and also enables tertiary cooldowns.
  • In Nocturne (RPG Maker), all physical skills and stronger spells require a certain amount of turns to cool down. Physical skills have a longer cooldown time, but usually cost little to no MP to compensate. However, the Accelerate passive gives a chance of instantly refreshing a non-ultimate skill.
  • In Miitopia, the Ancient Robots and their boss equivalents are forced into this state for a few turns after firing their powerful Frickin' Laser Beams. During cooldown, they can only perform ramming attacks, but they gain an Extra Turn.
  • FTL: Faster Than Light
    • The ship's FTL engine takes time to charge up and requires someone in the cockpit to do so. Putting more power into the engines decreases the delay. The engine will instantly charge if not in combat or in hazardous conditions.
    • All weapons come with a delay from few to 20 or so seconds before they can fire. This delay can be shortened by posting someone to a weapons system, with augmentations, or with "chain" features that shorten weapon delay on consecutive shots.
    • Teleporters, cloaking, mind control, hacking and back-up battery all become ionized once their effect wears off (or in case of teleporters, the moment someone gets teleported), rendering them unusable for some time and locking the amount of reactor power in them.
    • The extremely rare Crystal race comes with an ability to lock whatever room they are in for some time, but it can be used only sparingly due to a cooldown period.
    • The Rebel Flagship has periodic "power surges" that can either spawn a wave of attack drones or fire a burst of seven simultaneous laser shots.
  • The GFRIEND Tree: You have to wait 15 seconds before you can reset for fans again. Upgrades eventually lower the time to half a second.
  • In Plants vs. Zombies, all plants have a recovery time after they have been planted which varies from plant to plants, with powerful plants and instant-kills generally having the longest cooldowns. Some plants, such as Coconut Cannon and Banana Launcher, also have a cooldown after firing. In the second game, giving Plant Food to a seed packet resets the recovery time, and giving it to a plant will ignore its cooldown.
  • Frequently abused by various Allegedly Free Games, especially of the mobile variety. The common implementation is to either have every individual action run on a cooldown timer, or to have every action expend Energy, which recharges after a certain amount of real-life time, both cooldown times taking long enough to completely kill the flow of the game. Of course, the cooldown timer can always be reset with certain items that can only be procured with real money.
  • Sacred Earth Series: Most EP Arts and Focus have cooldown times, though EX Recover will reduce cooldowns by a certain amount. This is to balance how support EP Arts don't eat up a character's turn.
  • Eternal Twilight: Most skills (especially buffs) have a cooldown time, though this can be reduced with the Need-for-speed accessory.
  • Completing The Second Dream quest in Warframe grants you a powerful ability that is restricted by a timer rather than your Mana Meter. Completing The War Within replaces that with an even wider assortment of abilities drawing power from a pool of Regenerating Mana.
    • The frame "Lavos" has his abilities run off a cooldown timer, with one ability being able to reduce the timer for his other abilities. Thusly, he's based around carefully balancing their use.
  • All abilities in Tales of Maj'Eyal, with the exception of basic attacks, have cooldowns. This includes inscriptions (the game's version of scrolls and potions). Combat therefore revolves around making sure you're using the right ability at the right time, and an important consideration in character development is making sure you have enough defensive abilities so that even if one is on cooldown you have more. Enemies are also subject to cooldowns, so if they use their strongest skills and you're still standing you have a window when you can attack without worrying too much about retaliation.
  • Crying Suns: Battleship weapons have cooldown timers which range from 10 seconds to two minutes, depending on the weapon in question. Some officers have a passive skill which will reduce these cooldowns by a fixed percentage.
  • The Eternal Senia series: For attacks / skills in each game:
  • The Borderlands series, Borderlands, Borderlands 2, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!, and Borderlands 3: All the Vault Hunters' Action Skills have a cooldown before they can be used again, but the cooldown time is different for each skill.
  • Even For Eternia: Some skills, like Rubellum's Assassinate, has a cooldown of a certain amount of turns. This also applies to some enemy skills, like Wraith Nihilo's Girane Andhera. Almost all of Amalia's skills have cooldown because of how powerful they are as party-wide buffs.
  • Epic Battle Fantasy 5 uses a cooldown system in lieu of a traditional Mana system. Certain skills will be put on a cooldown upon use, usually ranging from 1 to 5 turns, with a select fewnote  having a ten-turn cooldown instead.
  • The Tree of Life: After using the Bulk ability in the Humans layer (bulk buys all buyables and grants fifty seconds of Thought production), you have to wait a minute before it can be triggered again.
  • Item Fabricators in The Persistence can be used once and then take a couple of minutes before they can be used again. This prevents you from making a full arsenal in a room full of enemies alerted to your presence with no consequences.
  • Played straight AND averted in Path of Exile. Some skills like war cries each have their own independent cooldown rates. OTOH, most movement skills share a singular cooldown rate, so you can't frost blink and phase run at the same time.