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Damage Typing

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Not all injuries are created equal. A bullet hurts you in different ways than banging your shin on a nightstand does, and getting burned is a different type of injury than both. They all heal differently, as well.

In an attempt to work some sort of realism into the bizarre abstract that is Hit Points, many games come up with different categories of damage, which you mark off in different ways as you get hit in various fashions. In general, you have three types:

  • Bruises. This tends to be relatively insignificant damage that heals quickly, like getting punched in the arm by someone with human strength. Taking too much, however, will usually slow you down in some way (or even knock you out).
  • Vital injury. This is the important damage, the stuff that you have to watch for. Getting cut, shot, or hit by something with Super-Strength tends to deal this sort.
  • Supernatural damage. This tends to be even more dangerous than an equivalent or greater amount of vital injury, and can be very hard to heal. The Achilles' Heel of a supernatural race (like sunlight to most vampires) will deal this type.

In general, if there's healing magic or other Healing Factor options, all three types will heal about the same way (though supernatural damage is usually trickier).

Note that this is more involved than merely having different kinds of defenses for different kinds of damage. A lot of games assign damage to one of several elemental types (physical, fire, frost, etc.), and then apply different defenses against each (physical armor, fire resistance, frost resistance, etc.) — but once your defenses are subtracted from the damage, your hit points are reduced in a completely identical manner regardless of "damage type." This trope goes beyond this; to qualify for this trope, the injuries themselves must be qualitatively different.

See also Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors and Non-Health Damage. Not to be confused with anything that impairs your ability to type on a computer.


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    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: In addition to normal damage, there's "subdual" in AD&D, or "non-lethal" from 3rd Edition onward. Taking nonlethal damage greater than your current Hit Points would knock you unconscious. Taking nonlethal damage EQUAL to your hit points leaves you staggered (read: punch-drunk). In older versions, 1/4 of punching damage is normal; later editions simplified this. Many jokes about how you can punch someone all day without killing them have resulted. You can also choose to deal lethal damage with a punch, but unless you're a monk or mystic, it's at a penalty; the penalty is irrelevant to an incapacitated target.
    • Technically, there's no upper limit to how much non-lethal damage someone can take, so if you spend all day punching them, they'll die of thirst before waking.
      • Pathfinder fixes this by ruling that after a character's non-lethal damage equals their maximum hit points, any further damage is automatically lethal damage.
    • In Basic D&D, subdual damage was only allowed to be used on dragons at first. The dragon thus defeated became indebted to the PC, which might result in getting a handy new pet/mount/NPC.
    • Some books in 3.X also made reference to 'Vile' damage, which was explicitly damaging their very soul, and could only be healed in a place under the effect of a hallow spell.
      • Similarly, Frostburn presented 'frostburn' damage, a type of cold damage which can only be healed in areas above freezing temperatures.
    • This is in addition to damage properties that only matter at the moment the damage is dealt, such as whether the damage is physical or energy (and for energy, its element, like fire or acid), magical or nonmagical, the shape (bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing) and material (cold iron, silver, adamantine, or pretty much anything else) for physical damage.
    • d20 Modern modifies the rules for nonlethal damage; essentially, unarmed combatants can duke it out all day without inflicting a single point of damage. It's not until someone brings in a weapon of some sort that damage is actually recorded. The rules justify it as characters that are involved in fighting can continue fighting on heroic willpower and adrenaline as long as you're only talking about fists and feet. It's not until a weapon is used that the intent to seriously injure or kill becomes available. Basically, you have to up the ante from a fistfight to end it.
      • You can be knocked out if you get punched for enough damage, but it's rare to get hit that hard, short of a Knockout Punch (an actual feat chain), and even then the saving throw is easy.
      • Martial artists can dish out lethal damage with unarmed attacks, though it's less damage than regular brawling attacks.
    • 5th Edition D&D gives you the choice of whether to make the final attack which knocks a monster down lethal or nonlethal, resulting in the target either dying or just being knocked out. It only works for melee attacks, however. A ranged or spell attack that knocks a target down to 0 hit points is always lethal.
    • Also in 5th Edition, rather than having Contractual Boss Immunity, boss-appropriate monsters often have Legendary Resistance: The first three failed saving throws, usually Status Effects, are ignored. The fourth, however, takes full effect and is usually debilitating enough to remind you why Contractual Boss Immunity exists. So, effectively, all bosses have 4 Hit Points that can only be removed by one status each.
  • White Wolf games (such as World of Darkness and Scion) have three separate damage types: bashing ("Ow, that bruises!"), lethal ("OK, that's a bit more than a flesh wound"), and aggravated ("MY VERY BEING IS RENDED!"). Bashing heals in fifteen minutes a level, lethal in two days, and aggravated damage heals in terms of weeks. If damage goes off your chart, it goes up a level — your fists deal bashing damage, but if you keep hitting them, you will beat them to death — and once you run out of bashing levels, it takes a lot of effort not to pass out.
  • Played With in The Witcher: Game of Imagination. Damage itself is just damage, regardless what caused it. But during hit rolls, there are two main groups of defences with three subgroups in each: physical (hand-to-hand, weapons and projectiles) and magical (witchers' signs, magic and prayers). Also, healing from Wounded (less than half of total Vitality) takes a few days under medical care. Healing from Dying (less than a quarter) requires quick help and then a few weeks under care to reach Wounded first.
  • Mekton has Hits and Kills — one Kill is 25 Hits (10 hits in the first edition), which has similar effects on unarmored targets, also called the RMIW effect (Red mist in the wind).
  • The Serenity roleplaying game has Stun points and Wound points. Wound points are the dangerous ones.
  • The Hero System has two separate "hit point" stats, Stun and Body. Body damage will kill you, Stun damage will just knock you out. As the system was first developed for superhero gaming, it shouldn't surprise anyone that it's easier to do huge amounts of Stun than huge amounts of Body.
    • Hero also has separate damage types, as well, in Normal and Killing. Normal damage tends to do plenty of Stun but only average Body, and Killing Damage does lots of Body and either very little or quite a bit of Stun — known to many players as the "Stun Lotto". note  Killing damage also bypasses normal defenses, unless those defenses have been made "resistant" to killing damage; this represents the idea that a prizefighter can be tough enough to take many hard punches, but is just as vulnerable as everybody else to a knife or a bullet. However, once the Stun and Body from either of these types of damage are subtracted from the target's Stun pips and Body pips, the resulting injuries are treated identically.
  • GURPS takes this every possible way it could be handled. There's burning, corrosion, crushing, cutting, impaling, small piercing, piercing, large piercing, huge piercing and toxic. All damage types will end up reducing the victim's hit points — you don't have to track damage separately for the different types—but some damage types give a multiplier to the amount of damage that gets through the victim's armor. Further, some kinds of armor give varying amounts of protection depending on what sort of damage they are protecting from. On top of that there are also attacks that damage fatigue points, making characters more exhausted rather than damaged. Then after all of that it also handles radiation damage as a sort of hybrid between the other types of damage. In short it has rules for every possible way one could cause damage, and different ways characters are expected to react to them.
  • Dark Heresy also features an impressive array of damage types - there is Fatigue, enough of which can render a character comatose; there is Energy, Impact, Explosive and Rending damage as the four normal damage types, and if the character is out of Wounds, these also inflict Critical Damage corresponding to their damage type; there is also Tearing, which is basically Rending, but much, much worse; there is poison; and there is insanity, which is damage to the mind, as well as Corruption, which is damage to the soul, not to mention stat damage. And racking up enough Critical Damage, Insanity, Corruption or damage to any one stat, and the character either dies or is rendered unplayable. And this is disregarding the various mental disorders a character can pick up during the course of the campaign.
  • Spycraft uses lethal (normal everyday damage), nonlethal (obvious), and a myriad of others. This includes the Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors, as well as vacuum, laser, explosive, stress (yes, stress; the average person will be stressed if outnumbered 5:1 by people whose weaponry starts in the 'machinegun' category and goes up), and so on.
  • In Psionics: The Next Stage in Human Evolution damage is divided into melee, ranged, heat, lethal, and nonlethal subtypes.
  • The Dresden Files RPG was intended to feature damage tiers with increasingly bad consequences when filled. Certain weapons and attacks start automatically at a higher tier than others. A gun, for example, might start a tier higher than a knife. This was scrapped after early testing revealed some serious flaws in the proposed system. The final product just gives some weapons the ability to add a number to the roll when calculating damage.
  • In Magic: The Gathering, normal damage dealt to creatures disappears at the end of the turn (as long as it's not lethal), wither damage permanently weakens the creature, and deathtouch damage destroys it immediately, no matter how much damage is dealt.
    • Each of the 5 colors can also be seen as having their own damage type, as certain cards will grant your creatures resistance to damage from a particular color.
    • When players take damage, they lose life. Damage to players can be prevented or redirected just like damage to creatures. On the other hand, some effects cause players to lose life directly, bypassing the damage mechanic entirely; these effects aren't subject to damage prevention or redirection. However, prior to a recent rule change, damage to players could be redirected to planeswalkers, while life loss couldn't. Now, some damaging effects can target planeswalkers, while lifeloss can't.
    • Early on in the game's history, there were creatures and effects that gave opponents Poison counters. Get ten Poison counters, and you lose. The mechanic was more or less pointless unless you built your entire deck around shooting for this win condition, and such decks tended to be suboptimal compared to doing damage the old-fashioned way. Poison became much more effective with the introduction of the "infect" ability, which caused creatures to deal wither damage to other creatures and poison damage to players.
  • Eon has damage types that include trauma, which is lethal tissue damage that will kill you, and pain which will knock you out eventually and hamper you if you don't pass out.
  • This is the heart of the combat system in Role Master. Weapons are categorised by what kind of criticals they cause (which are the real victory factors) and may cause multiple types of criticals depending on the weapon and the opponent's armour. For example, a broadsword causes "slash" damage to lightly armoured opponents and more "krush" damage to heavily armoured ones, while a mace would mostly cause "krush" damage against any armour types. After 2nd edition that changed a bit.
  • Mutants & Masterminds, has incorporated difference in types in several ways. Generally the system does not have HP, you roll your Toughness against damage and failing the roll accumulates penalties to further rolls.
    • In first two editions, there were two different charts for Lethal and Nonlethal. 1e had entirely different types of damage decided on when the power was taken, and certain damage was forced to be lethal or not, while in 2e any power could do any damage. But either way, Nonlethal damage could only apply penalty to nonlethal damage saving throws, and could, at worst, knock out the foe, where Lethal damage would deal a penalty to both nonlethal and lethal saving throws, and could put the foe into dying state.
    • 3e dropped the difference, with anybody able to deal lethal or non lethal at will, with no separation of penalties. Default setting tone presumes that all damage is nonlethal.
  • New Horizon has two wound level charts: Stun and Injury. It's pretty self explanatory.
  • 7th Sea: All damage initially starts as inconsequential Flesh Wounds which do not hamper a character directly and heal automatically at the end of the scene. However, whenever Flesh Wounds are gained, the character has to roll Brawn against the total number of Flesh Wounds he has. Success means he simply keeps the Flesh Wounds he has, but failure causes him to lose all Flesh Wounds and gain a number of Dramatic Wounds. This usually works 1 Dramatic at a time, but failing by a certain amount causes additional Dramatics, and that's when the damage type is relevant (though only the most recent source of wounds). For example, a character gains an extra Dramatic Wound for every 20 he came up short from being punched or stabbed, but will gain 1 extra Dramatic for every 10 he was short for being shot, and for every 5 from being caught in an explosion.
  • The Smallville RPG has five different damage types of equal weight called stress. Since it's based on the Teen Drama Smallville, most of those damage tracks relate to the kind of petty backbiting that might happen in high school (Angry, Afraid, Insecure), with only two addressing physical damage (Injured, Exhausted).
  • Played with in Toon: The Cartoon Role-Playing Game. While all damage is the same (and results in a non-lethal "Falling Down"), Gamemasters are encouraged to call out attacks with highly specific names, such as "slapped silly by an improbable martial arts weapon on live television damage" or "kicked in the rear by an enraged buffalo while falling down a flight of stairs holding a Ming Vase damage".
  • Eclipse Phase has physical health and mental health. The former is only depleted by actually taking damage from some source (e.g. being punched), whilst the latter can be depleted simply by seeing things that would upset the mind (and/or stomach) of regular people. Wander into a crime scene where the victim was carved into chunks and their blood was used to repaint the room? You might be today's Vomiting Cop. Take too much physical or mental damage at once (exceeding a Wound/Trauma Threshold) and you can even develop temporary or permanent Wounds and Traumas; that regular punch might give you a black eye, but if you get really badly wounded by a berzerk robot with a chainsaw you could lose An Arm and a Leg. Worse yet these threshold-breaking incidents can also knock you unconscious outright or put you into a catatonic state, leaving you incredibly vulnerable or otherwise removing you from the active scene for some time. Characters that suffer too much physical damage will outright die (though generally Death Is a Slap on the Wrist in-setting, unless you're too poor to afford a new body), whilst those that experience too much mental damage will need to be sent away for expensive and time-consuming therapy.
  • The games using the Megaversal system from Palladium Books (including Rifts, Heroes Unlimited, After the Bomb, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and others) have separate scores for H.P. (Hit Points) and S.D.C., Structural Damage Capacity. Loss of S.D.C. represents superficial injuries, such as bruising, muscle strain, and being bashed around, while loss of H.P. is seriously life-threatening. Some games also include Mega-Damage Capacity, each point of which is equal to a hundred points of S.D.C.; this accurately represents the effects weapons intended to take down mechs would have on human-sized targets.
  • Sentinels of the Multiverse applies damage types to all damage dealt, whether as mundane as projectile and melee damage or as exotic as radiant and infernal. In approximately 75% of cases, the outcome of combat is the same regardless of damage type, but some cards can increase, decrease, or completely prevent certain types of damage. For instance, Legacy can use the power printed on Next Evolution to briefly become immune to one damage type of the player's choice, while The Wraith's Targeting Computer increases the Projectile damage she deals, but not her melee damage.
  • Mice and Mystics: Most damage is dealt in wounds, but a few enemies inflict poison wounds that can only be removed by effects that specifically target poison.
  • Dead of Winter has regular Wounds, Frostbite Wounds that cause Damage Over Time, and Despair that advances the character towards death just like physical harm. Most healing and preventative effects only work on specific kinds of damage; in particular, Despair can't be removed by ordinary healing.

    Video Games 
  • Starting in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty all the games in the series have separate stamina (or "psyche") and health bars. Either one being emptied will lead to a game over, but you can usually get a bonus of some sort by knocking bosses out rather than killing them (plus knocked out guards won't lead to an alert being started if their bodies are found, though they will elevate their alert level).
  • City of Heroes is very similar to GURPS with the damage types: Smashing, Lethal, Fire, Cold, Energy, Negative Energy, Toxic, and Psionic. Different powers provide varying amounts of resistance (damage absorption) or defense (dodging and deflection) to these types. Then there is the Hamidon, whose attacks deal untyped damage which bypasses all of this.
  • Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth. There are minor wounds, major wounds and breaking your limbs (and poisoning, but that's very rare). All of these require different medication to heal (though major wounds turn into minor ones after a while.) Your health is not a fixed amount, but basically is slowly drained by any wounds you have on yourself, and slowly climbs back to normal when all of them are healed. (Also, breaking your leg will slow you down, and produce a Squicky sound of rattling bones when walking.)
  • Age of Wonders II has a set of flags for an attack which could inflict Status Effects: Fire (Burning), Cold (Frozen), Lightning (Stunned), Magic, Poison (Poisoned), Death (Cursed), Holy (Vertigo), Physical, Wall-crushing (2x for machines and gates, affects walls and other map objects).
  • Star Trek Online uses this. There are 6 different types of damage that can be dealt by Energy weapons: Phasers, Disruptors, Plasma, Tetryon, Polaron, Anti-Proton, or Proton. Certain enemies use certain types (Federation uses Phasers, Klingons use Disruptors, etc.) but players can use any of these. Certain types of shields or modules for your ship can increase resistance (or effectiveness) to a specific type of damage, which can be very helpful in the face of an enemy with that preference. There's also Cold damage (frequently used by the Breen), Fire damage (environmental), Toxic damage (Gorn's poison bite), Electrical, Kinetic damage (Torpedoes and Grenades), Psionic (Reman Psychic attacks) and Physical damage (Punches, melee weapons.) These latter ones, with the exception of Kinetic, are only possible in ground combat.
  • In Namco × Capcom, each attack has a damage type (a few have multiple damage types), and characters may be weak or resistant to certain types, resulting in increased or decreased damage. There are seven types: physical, fire, ice, electric, spirit, magic, and energy.
  • Used in different ways throughout the Persona series. Persona 3 has seven elements (fire, ice, electricity, wind, light, darkness, and almighty and three different types of physical attacks: slashing, piercing, and striking. Persona 4 retains the elements from 3, but foregoes categorizing non-magic attacks and rolls them into one type: physical. Persona 5 adds two new elements (psychic and nuclear) while dividing physical attacks into two types: melee and shooting.
  • In Gen 3 and later Pokémon games, in addition to the Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors, attacks also have a property called "contact". Attacks that make contact entail a Pokémon making direct physical contact with their opponent, while attacks that do not make contact entail a Pokémon attacking from range without physically touching them. As a rule of thumb, physical moves usually make contact, while special ones rarely do. Some moves and abilities are dependent on a Pokémon making contact: Spiky Shield inflicts damage on an opposing Pokémon if their attack makes contact, for instance, while Poison Touch has a chance of inflicting poison if the Pokémon with this ability lands an attack that makes contact.
  • Space Empires IV and V have a wide variety of damage types; in V you can even create your own in a mod! Some of the more unusual ones include Only Weapons (damages only the target's weapons, not the engines or life support or whatever), Random Target Movement (teleports the target to a random position), Crew Conversion (makes the target fight for your side temporarily), and Shield Implosion (saps all shields belonging to the target, and applies a fraction of the shield strength as damage to the target's armor/hull).
  • Dark Souls has Physical (which is divided into slashing, striking and such), Magic for spells and enchanted swords, Fire and Lightning. Also, there's Holy and Dark weapon effects, that (probably) function as a special type of magic damage, poison/toxic to deal damage over time, and Blood Loss, which directly removes 30 or 50% of your health after a certain number of successful hits.
  • The classic Fallout games use several damage types: Normal, Laser, Fire, Plasma, Electrical, Explosive, and EMP. Every armour has separate Damage Reduction stats for each type, though Electrical and EMP aren't displayed. Fallout 3 does away with all this and just uses a single "damage" stat. In Fallout 4, damage is once again separated- into Physical, Energy, Poison and Radiation, with separate Damage Reduction stats, but Radiation damage works differently from the other three- it causes Maximum HP Reduction.
  • Dwarf Fortress has a distinction between blunt damage and edged damage, each having different effects on a target. Edged attacks are further divided by how deeply they can pierce versus how large an area that attack is focused on, giving a particular weapon a tendency towards either piercing injuries or slashing ones.
  • GTA Chinatown Wars and GTA IV feature two health bars, one for health and one for armor. Bullets damage both health and armor, but melee weapons bypass armor.
  • InfernoMOO: All damage is typed into several different damage types, and you can suffer broken limbs as a result. Explosive damage is its own subset.
  • Guild of Dungeoneering has physical, magical, self-inflicted, and untyped damage. "Frail" enemies take extra physical injury, and "Mundane"enemies take extra magic damage. Untyped damage is very rare, and nothing is vulnerable to it, but it always hits. Self-Inflicted is likewise without vulnerable enemies and always hits; it is the Necessary Drawback for the powerful physical attacks of the "Irritable" family.
  • Warframe has three physical types (Impact, Puncture and Slash) with four elemental types (Heat, Toxin, Cold and Electric). By combining two element types, you can create secondary elements. At the same time, each enemy faction has varying resistances and weaknesses to these damage types, and thus modifying your loadout accordingly to face each faction will go a long way.
  • StarCraft has damage types linked to unit size. Normal damage is only reduced by armor values. Explosive deals full damage to Large units and half to small, and Concussive deals full damage to Small units and half to large. Medium units take 75% from both types. The sequel has a Keyword system that causes Light, Armored, Biological, Mechanical, Psionic, or Massive units to take more damage from certain attacks/abilities (or to No-Sell certain Status Effects, in the case of Massive).
  • The Outer Worlds has Physical, Plasma (extra damage to all biological enemies except Mantisaurs), Shock (extra damage to all robotic enemies), Corrosive (Damage Over Time to all enemies), and N-ray (armor-ignoring Damage-over-Time to biologicals in a certain radius; usually about half of what you'd do if you were using a Physical weapon of the same type and quality).