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...or you could, you know, dodge.
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Put simply, Damage Reduction (often abbreviated "DR") is an indication of how much physical damage a character sucks up before it actually starts to subtract from their Hit Points.

Though used primarily in Role-Playing Games, DR can be found across many different media. In games, DR typically is the very first thing calculated, right after base damage is assigned, and before any multiplicative or additional damages are added into the equation.

In most Tabletop RPGs, this usually tops out at numbers less than 10, since even 30 damage in pen-and-paper games is enough to kill most low-to-mid-level, non-fighter characters. Electronic and MMORPGs on the other hand, can easily have DR hitting double or even triple digits.

Most systems with a DR mechanic are also systems without Scratch Damage, which means the target cannot be hurt at all if the attacker can't overcome the DR.

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One very important to note is that, most of the time, DR reduces only physical damage — that means that, typically, there are one or more ways to get around a DR-based Damage Sponge: Elemental Powers almost always bypass DR, and if Magic Damage is different than Physical Damage, suddenly spamming the hell outta Magic Missile seems like a really, really good idea. Even if neither exist in the setting certain weapons or environment hazards can bypass the effect. DR can also manifest in different types, making some enemies very resistant against magic but weak to physical attacks and so on. Attacks that are specifically designed to ignore Damage Reduction tend to be Armor Piercing Attacks.

The Trope Maker here is a little hard to place, as many/most Tabletop Games miniatures games use some sort of Armor Rating to reduce damage, but the Trope Codifier is without a doubt Dungeons & Dragons (third Ed and above), which uses it to a large extent, and is responsible for the tradition of "magic fire beats DR."

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Examples:

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    Tabletop Games 
  • Any game with damage soak rolls, such as Shadowrun, either version of The World of Darkness, and West End Games' D6 system such as the Star Wars d6 RPG. After establishing the damage of the attack, the thing being attacked rolls to reduce the amount of damage actually taken, in terms of their own innate difficulty to damage. Armour may either provide extra dice or reduce the target number of the roll to reduce the damage, depending on system.
    • Exalted also has a "hardness" trait for armour, meaning that if the raw (pre-soak) damage doesn't reach the threshold designated by the hardness of the armour, no damage at all is rolled. This, however, is a fairly low number, and if the raw damage reaches or surpasses this threshold it isn't taken into account at all, instead you have to soak for any damage reduction.
  • The Hero System's version of defenses functions a touch differently. A character can have both Defenses and straight Damage Reduction; Defenses outright subtract damage from the roll and can reduce it to zero, while Damage Reduction applies after Defenses and cuts the damage received by a straight percentage. Damage Reduction is one of the "warning sign" powers in the book; characters are expected to have fairly limited Damage Reduction, such as having it only apply to certain types of damage, and across-the-board Damage Reduction is mostly the domain of supervillains expected to take on entire teams of heroes singlehandedly or Nigh-Invulnerable extreme-power characters like Superman.
  • Arkham Horror features a few options for DR. The mobster investigator has it as his special ability. A few items and spells allow for it, including a variation of Hyperactive Metabolism were food provides DR rather then healing.
  • Dungeons & Dragons makes extensive use of this trope, particularly in Third Edition.
    • Damage Reduction is a quality granted by magical effects, or an innate feature of powerful creatures like dragons or outsiders (fiends, angels, etc.). It reduces damage from attacks by a set amount, potentially negating them entirely, unless those attacks meet the condition to negate the creature's Damage Reduction. So a young adult dragon with DR 5/+1 would subtract 5 points of damage from every attack against it unless those attacks were made with a magic weapon of at least +1 quality, a wyrm with DR 20/+3 is going to take an even stronger magic weapon to hurt, while a werewolf with DR 15/silver can only reliably be injured by silvered weapons. In more complicated cases, a creature's Damage Reduction might only be overcome by "aligned" attacks (the result of specific enchantment magic, or attacks from outsiders that embody an aspect of the alignment spectrum), aligned attacks or magic weapons, or magic weapons made of a specific material. Other creatures take reduced damage from certain weapon types, so a treant takes half damage from piercing weapons like spears or arrows, while skeletal foes take half damage from anything but bludgeoning attacks from warhammers or maces. A rare few enemies also boast a DR of [number]/—, meaning nothing can negate it. It's important to note that Damage Reduction only applies to physical damage, zapping foes with magic completely ignores their DR, but see below.
    • Energy Resistance is essentially Damage Reduction for energy attacks, and reduces incoming fire, cold, acid, electricity or sonic damage by a set amount. Some creatures are outright immune to one or more types of energy damage (so don't waste a fireball on a fire-breathing red dragon), and others, especially outsiders, are highly resistant to a variety of energy types in addition to being immune to others. This makes Non-Elemental "force" attacks like magic missile valuable since they get around Energy Resistance (assuming you also overcome the target's Spell Resistance, if any), but a quirk of 3rd Edition also made sonic damage extremely useful since very few creatures were resistant or immune to it.
    • Hardness is a variant of Damage Resistance possessed by inanimate objects, which typically have a low Armor Class and are easy to hit, and don't have many overall hit points, but have a ton of Hardness to compensate. It's mainly used to work out how many rounds it takes to break down a sturdy oak door, and to discourage Dungeon Bypasses via tunneling through walls. One of the reasons adamantine is valuable is because weapons made from it are very good at ignoring an object's Hardness.
    • Note that a character's armor does not usually reduce the damage of incoming attacks, instead their Armor Class, the combined effects of their worn armor, natural armor, Dexterity, and any magical wards, only determines how likely a physical attack is to hit them. The exception is armor made from adamantine, which offers a small but insurmountable bit of Damage Reduction based on how heavy the armor is.
    • 5th Edition greatly streamlines all this, so creatures with Damage Resistance to something take only half damage from that source, and objects have Damage Thresholds that make them immune to any attack whose damage does not equal or exceed a listed value, but take full damage from anything that meets or exceeds it. The one remaining vestige of 3.5’s damage reduction rules is the Heavy Armor Master feat, which reduces all non-magical bludgeoning, piercing and slashing damage that you take while wearing heavy armor by 3 points.
  • In Eclipse Phase armor reduces damage by a quantity equal to its armor rating, and each type of armor has two ratings, one for kinetic damage and one for energy damage. But, most weapons also have an Armor Piercing rating that subtracts from the armor's effective rating.
  • Games Workshop RPGs:
  • In GURPS, the primary benefit of wearing/installing armor is reducing damage received. DR is also an advantage that can be purchased by characters, races, etc. One to three points of damage reduction seems to be the "realistic" limit for natural DR, possessed by real animals with thick hides/scales or purchasable by players without needing specific GM approval. Previous versions featured the Toughness advantage, a more expensive DR with a two point Cap specifically for human use, with the base advantage restricted to supers or races. DR directly subtracts from damage, so an attack that can't get through causes absolutely nothing normally, but there are also optional rules for blunt force trauma (so a sufficiently strong bullet impact on hard armor can still cause minor injury and a mace can give an armored knight a concussion) and DR doesn't stop you from being physically thrown around by attacks.
    • Armor piercing attacks generally take the form of a divisor, reducing DR by half or more.
    • The Damage Resistance advantage also has a host of options to modify it's function, in particular conjunction with Damage Typing. The advantage could be used to simulate anything from thick skin to magical resistance against a given element to an ablative force field that needs recharging.
  • In Magic: The Gathering there is the Absorb mechanic, which allows you to just prevent a certain amount of damage dealt to a creature that has the ability.
  • New Horizon has armor... and specific attacks penetrate the armor, as well as attacks that go overboard.
  • In Numenera, all armor works this way.
  • Most of the above D&D examples apply in Pathfinder as well, but with an extra wrinkle: some creatures, most often Numerian robots, have hardness that combined DR and energy resistance — excluding specific weaknesses and Armor Piercing Attacks, everything does reduced damage.
  • In Palladium's "Mega-Damage" RPGs like Rifts, Robotech, and Splicers, this is pretty much how Mega-Damage works. Normal attacks, which inflict SDC(Structural Damage Capacity)/HP damage, cannot harm MDC materials unless they can inflict around a hundred points of damage or more in a single hit or burst (effectively DR 100/MD). Mega-Damage, however, also works in reverse: a single point of MD is equal to 100 SDC/Hit Points.
  • The chief purpose of armor in Planet Mercenary is to reduce incoming damage by the listed Damage Reduction value.
  • In Ponies & Parasprites damage is reduced in two ways. The first is via use of "Buffer Exhaustion", which allows a character to absorb a certain amount of damage before they are affected by it. The second (such as the Earth Pony's Tough as Nails ability and Celestia's Inescapable Corona of Justice) simply reduces the amount of incoming damage. These two abilities explicitly stack with one another.
  • Sentinels of the Multiverse has a few ways for both heroes and villains to do this. Most of the heroes' damage reduction, is personal, like armor equipment or a power, though some heroes can give someone else damage reduction. Generally, -1 reduction is equipment or a power that can stay out indefinitely without penalty. -2 reduction either only lasts a turn, only affects the next damage taken, or is only applicable to damage of 5 or more. And they can stack. The villains' DR often applies to their whole deck, or a group within their deck. Grand Warlord Voss takes the cake. For every minion he has out, he reduces all damage to himself by 2, making him effectively invincible if there's more than two or three minions in play.
  • In Spycraft, damage reduction is the armor mechanic, with "armor" and "armor penetration" forming a parallel defensive system to the usual d20 armor class stuff.
  • Tunnels & Trolls (1975) contained the Ur-Example of this trope in tabletop RPGs, replacing D&D's (the only other RPG in existence at the time of its release) armor-as-likelihood-to-miss with armor-as-damage-reduction.
  • In The Witcher: Game of Imagination armour, both natural and crafted, works this way. If the target is hit, the damage is reduced by a certain value, depending on the type and/or layers of armour. Can lead to situations when no damage is dealt at all. Shields are special in this regard, as they both provide armour value and rise defenses, making it in the same time harder to hit their wielders.

    Video Games 

  • Kingdom of Loathing has three forms of this. The first, actually called Damage Reduction, subtracts damage taken by a set amount, and the second is Damage Resistance, which reduces damage taken by a percentage at certain levels. Notably, they reduce all types of damage, regardless of element or type. The third, Elemental Resistance, reduces damage of a specific element by a percentage at certain levels.
  • Fallout:
    • Armour in the isometric Fallout titles typically have two stats for each type of damage: Damage Threshold and Damage Resistance. Damage Threshold reduces damage received by a fixed amount for each attack, while Damage Resistance reduces what's left by a percentage.
    • Fallout 3 only used Damage Resistance, but Fallout: New Vegas brought back Damage Threshold with one quirk: It reversed the calculation order, so that DR reduces incoming damage before DT. Appropriately, DR is a lot harder to come by, banished to the realms of Med-X and select NPCs, but stacking multiple chems while wearing good armor can make you an Implacable Man. Another change is that the minimum amount of damage you can take is 20%, rather than the 15% of Fallout 3Technically .
    • Fallout 4 removes Damage Threshold again and changes Damage Resistance from a fixed percentage reduction per point to a more complicated formula generating a percentage reduction based on the ratio of damage over Damage Resistance. The result is that no finite amount of Damage Resistance will fully negate any attack and adding together many sources of DR suffers from tremendous Diminishing Returns for Balance.
  • Similarly in Front Mission, Wanzers have a built in armor plating that reduces damage from any one of the three attack elements (namely Impact, Pierce and Flame). More generally, Wanzer pilots can equip skills that reduce incoming damage or cut certain amounts of damage altogether. The former is great against single shot, high attack power weapons while the latter is excellent against burst fire weapons.
  • Mechs in Super Robot Wars titles can have physical shields or Deflector Shields that reduce damage by a percentage or a set amount. Larger units also take less damage from smaller ones, and certain pilot skills also reduce damage (usually one named "Guard", and some character-specific things).
  • Defense works this way in Super Mario RPG, the Paper Mario series, and Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga (but not its sequels). Both Super Mario RPG and Paper Mario use a simple attack power - defense formula for damage, though RPG has separate physical and magical stats (magic defense is generally lower), and all attacks will inflict at least one damage. Superstar Saga is a bit more complicated - POW and DEF are multiplied by different values before subtraction occurs. For enemies, it's always 0.4*POW - 0.2*DEF, with POW being different depending on the attack. Mario and Luigi have constant POW, but their multipliers vary a lot depending on which attack is used and how well you do the Action Commands.
  • Defense in Terraria works like this. For every 2 Defence a player or enemy has (or 1.5 in Expert), they take one less damage from attacks. Attacks will still deal at least one point of damage, however.
  • Most forms of defense in XCOM: Enemy Unknown work by either making a unit harder to hit (cover, various abilities) or adding Hit Points (most armor). The exceptions are the Hardened trait (shared by most units on both sides that are incapable of taking cover) and Resilience skill, which grant immunity to Critical Hits, effectively reducing their damage back down to normal levels, and two unique MEC trooper skills which reduce damage by 2 for 2 turns after a successful hit, and reduce any hit that would take off more than a third of their life down to a third.
    • The Long War Game Mod adds a specific damage reduction with its own icon, granted mainly to machine/armored enemies as well as units in cover.
    • XCOM 2 adds an armor mechanic, most often seen on mechanical units or units wearing Power Armor. Each point of armor reduces damage from weapon attacks by one point. Certain attacks can "shred" targets, reducing their armor value for the rest of the mission.
  • Characters in Nexus War have a Soak value for each type of damage, reducing the damage received by a flat amount. For example, a character wearing a chain-mail shirt would suffer reduced slashing damage from a sword strike but take full damage from an acid spell. Resistance is a percentile reduction applied after Soak, only available through certain skills. Scratch Damage applies in that the target will always suffer at least 1 point of damage if not completely immune to the damage type.
  • In Ancient Domains of Mystery, this is how armour works: it mostly grants "Protection Value", and your Protection Value is your amount of damage resistance. (There is also "Defensive Value", which makes you harder to hit.)
  • In Warframe, this is the purpose of armor for players and enemies alike. Unlike most examples, it's a percentage-based modifier, with the fraction of damage received decreasing asymptotically as armor increases. Notably, it only reduces the damage taken to health; shields get no benefit whatsoever. It also alters the effectiveness of different damage types. There are still ways around it: Corrosive procs, Corrosive Projection, and certain Warframe Augments can permanently reduce enemy armor, while Finisher damage ignores it outright.
  • Iji has the "Suppression" trait, unlocked by maxing out the Health stat (to a maximum of 20HP), which reduces any HP damage by one, to a minimum of one. One boss has a 5HP attack that has both a flag for ignoring all defenses (Mercy Invincibility, Suppression, etc.) and a special code for not ignoring Suppression after all.
  • Overwatch:
    • Armor works by subtracting 3 (previously 5) from any instance of incoming damage, or halving it, depending on which would result in damage reduction having the lesser effect.
    • There are also several buffs that reduce a percentage of incoming damage. The most interesting examples are Orisa's Fortify, which halves incoming damage for a few seconds (among other things), and Ana's Nano Boost, which applies a buff to an ally which halves incoming damage for a few seconds (among other things). Consider not only that these stack, but that Orisa has the aforementioned armor, and you can see how a nigh-unkillable Orisa can exist.
  • The Final Fantasy games typically have the Protect and Shell spells, which reduce damage from physical and magical damage respectively.
  • Many bosses in Final Fantasy XII get a "hidden" buff that takes 30% off the top of any incoming damage once their health drops below a certain point. Both the player characters and enemies can also have an augment that gives a Critical Status Buff to physical defense.
  • The Sentinel class from Final Fantasy XIII has abilities that reduce incoming damage with an added effect such as healing or a counter-attack. Combined with Draw Aggro abilities, this lets Sentinels soak up massive numbers of attacks for the rest of the party. One ability, Steelguard, further reduces incoming damage with each successive hit until enemy attacks are completely blocked.
  • Final Fantasy XIV have tanks that have abilities whose purpose is to reduce incoming damage for a few seconds. Since a tank's job is to soak up damage, having damage reducing abilities makes their job easier. Healers have barriers which absorb a certain amount of damage before the barrier breaks.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and Final Fantasy Tactics A2 have buffs that directly increase the defense and resistance stats. The Blue Mage's Mighty Guard spell, learned from dragon-type enemies, bestows both. Their effects also stack with Protect and Shell.
  • In Sins of a Solar Empire, capital ships and bigger things get damage reduction from two sources: armor and shields (while they're up). Between the damage reduction and self-repair, putting down a capital ship and higher is a pretty tough task.
  • Fire Emblem Awakening and Fire Emblem Fates have a couple of skills that work like this. Pavise can potentially halve the damage from an incoming physical attack, while Aegis can halve magical damage.
  • Pokémon has the Barrier, Reflect, and Light Screen moves. The former two reduce physical damage, while the latter reduces special damage.
  • In Crying Suns, the Armoured Hull auxiliary system halves all damage your battleship takes until its first hull bar goes down.
  • In Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, the Defender enemy card grants a single-use buff that reduces incoming physical damage while the Ursula card reduces incoming magic damage. Their effects are even respectively named after the Protect and Shell spells of Final Fantasy fame. They're also Mutually Exclusive Powerups since only one enemy card can be active at a time.
  • Gordon's HEV suit in Half-Life acts like this instead of Body Armor as Hit Points. The suit cannot fully stop incoming damage, but it will take the brunt of it so Gordon's health will take less damage. Once the suit's charge is fully depleted, Gordon will start taking full damage.
  • For the King: A character's Armor stat is subtracted from the Hit Point damage of each incoming physical attack, to a minimum of zero, while their Resistance stat does the same for magic damage. Protective equipment, spells, consumables, and other sources can all raise Armor and Resistance.
  • StarCraft:
    • In both games, a unit's Armor value is a flat negative to damage. This penalizes units with multiple attacks that, on-paper, do a certain ammount. As an example, the Firebat's unit profile says it does 8 damage per attack, but it really does 4 damage twice. So if it's fighting a Zergling who's got Carapace level 1, it's actually doing (4-1+4-1=)6 damage instead of 7.
    • In StarCraft I, a unit's Size value allows it to resist certain damage types. A Small unit only takes half-damage from Explosive weapons, and a Large unit takes half damage from Concussive damage. For example, a Zergling charging a photon cannon only takes 10 damage instead of the 20 damage the photon cannon says it's doing.
  • Warcraft III:
    • Armor increases in slowly decreasing amounts (capping out at around 99% reduction), with various spells and abilities increasing it.
    • Mountain Giants can get the Hardened Skin upgrade, which removes all incoming damage by a fixed amount to a minimum.

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