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Damage Over Time

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"Slowly. Gently. This is how a life is taken."
The Ancestor, Darkest Dungeon

Damage Over Time is a common Video Game mechanic where, instead of sustaining one-time sums of damage from one attack at a time, a unit receives a negative status that inflicts a small amount of damage at regular intervals, independent of any other factors or further attacks against them. The definition of an 'interval' varies by game: In action-based genres these intervals may be measured in real time, while turn-based genres (including non-video games, like a Tabletop RPG) may measure intervals based on "turns" or "rounds".


Depending on how long the effect lasts, the accumulated damage can become significant, especially if combined with an Area of Effect to harm multiple targets simultaneously. On a mechanical level, this is the opposite of Gradual Regeneration (and the "Regenerate" Status Buff), and some varieties may officially neutralize or counteract each other.

Note that characters who prefer defeating opponents via this method are almost always evil due to the connotations of slow, painful deaths (as opposed to the more-heroic quick and clean kills).

Damage over time can manifest from a wide variety of in-game sources:

  • Any number of Standard Status Effects — "Poison" status is the obvious candidate here, but other status labels like "burn" or "bleeding" may cause it as well. If a game has more than one, expect there to be subtle differences to keep them from being redundant, such as being able to put out fire by jumping into water or healing items doubling as antidotes to poison. And if these are both affects the player can inflict, certain enemies may be immune to one but not the other. A character who needs food badly may also lose HP over time from starvation.
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  • A nearby hostile Field Power Effect
  • Falling into any Hazardous Water
  • Falling into Videogame Lava (or in some cases, just being in the same room as it, partially averting Convection Schmonvection)
  • Characters who are Allergic to Evil (or vice versa)


(For sake of expediency, only list examples that are not covered by existing sub-tropes.)

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     Tabletop games  

  • From Dungeons & Dragons
    • Module T1-4 The Temple of Elemental Evil. A PC in one of the four Nodes of Elemental Evil took 1-4 Hit Points of environmental damage per turn.
    • According to the Manual of the Planes (1987), the same thing happened on some of the Inner Planes.
      • Characters in the Elemental Plane of Earth took 1-2 Hit Points of damage per turn (from the pressure of the surrounding rock).
      • PCs on the Paraelemental Plane of Ice took 1-6 Hit Points of cold damage per round.
    • Fourth edition also features "Ongoing Damage", which is calculated at the start of each turn.
  • In Earthdawn, the nethermancer spell "Pain" inflicts minor damage to the target each round it's in effect.
  • The Sixth Edition Hero System has a "Damage Over Time" advantage that can be added to most powers and attacks.
  • Magic: The Gathering has several cards that deal damage during a player's "Upkeep" step, in contrast to most cards which can only deal damage once at a time.

     Video Games  

  • Angband has "poisoned" and "cut" status effects that do this, with heavier wounds doing more damage per turn. Damage over time is also one of the effects of starvation.
  • In Borderlands, many weapons that deal elemental damage have a chance of causing damage over time as an added effect. Incendiary and corrosive DoT is relatively mild but lasts for a long time, while shock DoT wears off more quickly, but is much harsher.
  • In Civilization 2, helicopters received minor damage for every turn they spent in midair — this was intended to simulate their limited fuel reserves without requiring them to return to base every time. Later Civ games removed this.
  • In the first Dark Cloud, if a character's "Thirst" meter runs dry during a crawl, their HP begins to drain. (In the sequel, Thirst was merely a Standard Status Effect that blocked healing.)
  • In EarthBound, whenever a character receives damage or healing, their Life Meter rolls down or up to the new value over time (rather than instantly), the speed of which is governed by the character's individual "Guts" stat. Side effects like Critical Existence Failure do not trigger based on the raw damage a character has received, but the value that's currently shown on their meter instead. If the battle is won or the character is healed before the counter reaches zero, the damage stops. Even if the character's HP hits 0, if the battle is won, their HP will climb back up to 1.
  • Eternal Darkness uses ancient gods' powers to fuel the player characters' spellcasting. Using Mantorok to cast offensive spells will cause an initial burst of damage, followed by remaining enemy health sapping away like a slow poison.
  • In the original Gauntlet, the players' HP decreased at a constant rate throughout the game. The only means to replenish HP? Food items in various levels, or putting more coins in the machine.
  • In I Miss the Sunrise, during certain boss missions, you can place your secondary fleets on certain tiles to gain "fire support" from them, causing a small but reliable amount of damage to the boss per turn.
  • Kingdom of Loathing has various items, pieces of equipment and statuses that inflict "passive damage" over time.
  • Odin Sphere, in addition to its set of Standard Status Effects, has fire and ice levels which sap 1% of your character's HP at regular intervals unless you drink an appropriate curing potion beforehand (or have elemental protection equipped).
  • Being a snake Youkai, all of Kiyo-hime's attacks in Onmyōji deal this as well as lower the opponents' armor.
  • The Pokémon series has many ways to inflict Damage Over Time beyond its standard "Poison" and "Burn" statuses, and many of these can even be combined:
    • If a Ghost-type uses Curse, the opponent receives significant damage (1/4 max HP) per turn, the largest amount of damage in the system.
    • Hazardous weather like Sandstorm or Hail inflicts 1/16th damage on most elemental types.
    • Certain abilities can also cause damage (or, inversely, healing) over time during specific weather conditions: Dry Skin damages during intense sunlight, Rain Dish and Ice Body heal during heavy rain or hailstorms, respectively. Solar Power also causes damage during intense sunlight, but with the tradeoff of boosted attack power.
    • In Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness, Shadow Pokémon who enter Reverse Mode in battle sustain damage per turn, as do non-Shadow Pokémon when subjected to Shadow Sky weather.
    • Sleeping Pokémon receive damage while subjected to Nightmare status, or similarly, the Bad Dreams ability of legendary Pokémon Darkrai.
    • The Grass-type move Leech Seed not only inflicts Damage Over Time on an opponent, it also restores the user's HP by the amount drained.
    • The Sticky Barb item inflicts damage-over-time on whichever Pokémon holds it, but can be passed from user to opponent by moves involving physical contact. Similarly, the Black Sludge item deals damage-over-time to any Pokémon holding it that isn't a Poison-type (those get healed instead).
  • In Prince of Persia: Warrior Within and The Two Thrones, the player slowly loses health while playing as the Sand Wraith or the Dark Prince. The only way to restore health is collecting sand from fallen enemies.
  • The hallmark ability of the Pyro class in Team Fortress 2 is the ability to set opponents on fire with their flamethrower. Some melee weapons can inflict a "bleeding" status that also causes damage over time.
  • World of Warcraft:
    • The Priest's Shadow specialization relies heavily on damage over time spells such as Shadow Word: Pain, Devouring Plague, Vampiric Touch and the channelled Mind Flay, with Shadow Word: Death, Mind Blast and Mind Spike being complementary direct damage spells, however Shadow Word: Pain refreshes (through talents) its cooldown whenever Mind Flay is channelled. Depending on the spell haste of the player's character, additional damage can occur in the same length of time as the original spell, particularly observed while channelling Mind Flay.
    • The "Warlock" class is primarily built around skills that cause damage over time, especially if specialized in Affliction. In Mists Of Pandaria, when a warlock chooses an Affliction specialization, Shadow Bolt, previously their main direct damage spell, transforms into Malefic Grasp, a channeled damage over time spell that causes their other damage over time spells to hit additional times. Affliction Warlocks do still have Haunt for direct damage, but that spell requires a more limited resource and thus can't be used often.
    • Feral Cat Druids deal damage primarily through Rake and Rip, which make the target bleed in a similar way to a Warlock DoT. They're the hardest DPS spec to master, but deal insane damage when done right.
    • Balance Druids have Moonfire and Insect Swarm that use this mechanic to maintain and bolster their DPS. With Mists of Pandaria, Insect Swarm was removed; but Sunfire was changed to a unique spell instead of being the Solar aspect of Moonfire automatically during the respective Eclipse shift.
    • Starting in Cataclysm, Fire Mages rely much more on damage over time, utilizing Living Bomb, Pyroblast, Ignite, Combustion (which grows more powerful the more damage is about to be done by the previous three), a talent which allows Fire Blast to spread the previously mentioned effects to any other opponents in range, and Flamestrike.
    • While not relying entirely on damage over time effects, a good chunk of damage done by Assassination Rogues is dealt via Deadly Poison and Venomous Wounds, which has a chance to hit when the bleed Rupture deals damage to a poisoned target.
  • Dungeons Of Dredmor includes a variety of effects that cause damage over time, including but not limited to Slimeburst Traps, Acid Burns, Curse of the Golden Ratio, Recursive Curse, and the special ability of the Golden Crossbow. There's also an even wider variety of Area of Effect spells that persist over several turns and deal constant damage to anything in range—these ones tend to be very effective for dispatching large groups of enemies.
  • In Xenoblade, any arts of the fire, ice, or earth elements will leave behind a burn, chill, or poison debuff on the victim that causes gradual damage. Some physical arts also leave a bleeding effect. In all cases, the gradual damage dealt is based on how much the initial attack hit for, which can result in some crazy numbers once damage multipliers from gems, skills, and chain attacks come into play.
  • The Firebug class in Killing Floor has a variety of fire weapons, all of which deal fire damage over time.
  • Star Trek Online features plasma weapons, which have a chance to set the molecules of a vehicle on fire.
  • SolForge has a poison status effect that does this, somewhat unusually given its genre.
  • The S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series has radiation (which comes from radioactive artifacts or trekking through irradiated zones), hemorrhage (bleeding, caused by pretty much any injury) and hunger (self-explanatory). Pick your poison, and don't forget your bandages, rad purge drugs and bread on the way out to the Zone.
  • In Undertale, this is part of what makes the battle with the Genocide Run final boss, Sans the Skeleton, so grueling. His attacks deal only 1 damage in theory, but they don't trigger Mercy Invincibility and thus hit for 1 damage every frame you are in contact with them... and on top of that, even when you're no longer in contact with them, they leave a slow damage over time effect (which turns part of your life bar purple, so you can see exactly how much health you will lose). The more you get hit, the longer the damage over time effect lasts, too. That's the feeling of your sins crawling on your back.
  • In Grim Dawn, almost all form of attacks have a damage over time variant: physical (internal trauma), fire (burn), cold (frostburn), lightning (electrocute), acid (poison), vitality (vitality decay) and bleeding.
  • Darkest Dungeon features Bleed and Blight. Mechanics-wise, they're the same thing - a certain amount of damage grouped in stacks that tic down over 3 turns (5 if it lands during a crit attack); stacks overlap but tic down individually, and both types can be stacked together) -, the difference being who or what is resistant or weak to either. Resistance to both can be buffed or debuffed.
    Ancestor: Monstrous size has no intrinsic merit, unless inordinate exsanguination be considered a virtue.
  • The Defiler demon in Nexus Clash wields a powerful poison that deals more lingering damage the more powerful the target is and persists forever until it is directly healed, even if the target dies and respawns. There's also a less powerful and less persistent version that literally anyone with the right magic item can use.
  • In Path of Exile damage over time comes from Standard Status Effects like poison, bleed, and burning, as well as virulent magic and swirling vortices of ice. Because damage over time occurs as continuous HP loss rather than by ticks it is not considered to hit, which has both disadvantages note  and advantages note .
  • In Fallout 4, Bleed, Burn, and Poison are all effects that inflict damage over time. Bleed is especially potent, as it's the one damage type that effects all enemies regardless of type (yes, even robots are vulnerable to it) and there are no resistances or immunities to the damage. A few melee weapons can be modded to inflict Bleed damage while flamethrowers and sometimes lasers can set targets on fire. There are also legendary weapon effects that can cause Bleed, Burn, and Poison damage over time: Poison is almost completely useless because of how many enemies are immune to it, but a Wounding shotgun is a Game-Breaker since each individual pellet that hits a target will cause the Bleeding damage.
  • In World of Tanks, any vehicle that takes damage to its fuel tank or engine has a chance of catching fire. Unless they've got an equipped fire extinguisher, they're likely to take massive damage and have many other components on the tank damaged before the fire goes out.
  • In World of Warships, each ship can have up to 4 fires set on it at a time (on the bow, forward superstructure, aft superstructure and stern zones), each of which will inflict damage at a rate of 0.3% of the ship's maximum HP per second until either the damage control consumable is used or the fire timer runs out (the length of the timer varies based on ship type; battleships and certain large cruisers have a 60 second fire duration while for destroyers and most cruisers it's 30 seconds). A similar mechanic applies if flooding is inflicted by a torpedo hit or by being rammed by an enemy ship, with up to 2 floods being possible at a time (on the forward and aft halves of the ship). Floods inflict 0.5% of a ship's maximum HP in damage per second on battleships and 0.25% to other ships, and last 40 seconds if not repaired with the damage control consumable. There are several upgrades that can be equipped to reduce the likelihood of being set on fire or flooded or reduce the duration of fires and floods, but it's impossible to make any ship immune to these damage over time effects. The fact that both fires and floods hit battleships harder than other ship types is a balancing factor to their superior ability to both inflict and withstand direct damage with from main battery guns. In particular inflicting fire DOTs is often essential to a cruiser having a chance to defeat a battleship, since as a class their only other advantages over battleships (typically higher top speed and better stealth) are more oriented toward escaping the battleship than sinking it.
  • In Mass Effect 3, the Dark Channel power slowly damages enemies over time, with the added effect of spreading to a nearby enemy when the original target dies.
  • In The Legend of Zelda game Hyrule Warriors, "Barrier" keeps will drain your hearts over time unless you have captured the fairy to that keep or defeated the keep boss. Interestingly, instead of dealing a quarter-heart worth of damage every few seconds, the barrier is actually rapidly depleting HP from the hearts, as there is 100 HP for every quarter-heart, which explains why the numbers in the "Damage Taken" ranking can be in the single digits.
  • Enter the Gungeon includes both fire and poison as status effects, both of which affect enemies in the exact same way (and stack), although some enemies are immune to one or the other. Players, meanwhile, have different ways of avoiding both: Fire can be put out by rolling, and poison has a Bloodborne-style meter that gives the player time to step out of the source before it affects them (and will only deal one-time damage).
  • Hades has Dionysus' Poison/Sick/Blight/Hungover effect (it's been renamed multiple times), which deals damage each second for each stack an enemy carries, and slowly decay as they deal damage. Demeter also has the Decay effect, which deals damage to all enemies in a room over time as long as every one of them is currently suffering from her Chill debuff.


Video Example(s):


Glue Gunner

With Corrosive Glue, the shots do damage over time, though not forever.

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