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Death of a Thousand Cuts

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It's not the single bee that kills, it's the swarm.

"The Legionnaire that scoffs at a lasgun has not charged across an open field against a hundred of them."
Maor the Scarred, Siege-Champion of the Scargivers, Warhammer 40,000: Black Crusade

If you can hit something with your weapon, you can damage it, however slightly. And if you can damage it, you can defeat it just by hitting it enough times. The exact nature of the attack and how well-armored the target happens to be might affect this, but the fact remains that in many works, huge imposing enemies can be brought down by way of multiple attacks that, taken on their own, barely qualify as pinpricks.

Often used by the Fragile Speedster or the Stone Wall. The former attacks quickly enough to deal an impressive amount of damage even if each individual attack is minor (sometimes enough to qualify as a Glass Cannon as well) and can use evasion to keep from being slaughtered, and the latter is durable enough to withstand the enemy's attacks while chipping away with its own meager offense.


There are three ways to defend against such a tactic. Healing faster than the opponent can damage and reducing each hit to zero obviate the attacks altogether. As for the third, the best defense is a good offense. If the would-be victim is effective enough at fighting back, and their attacker is too poor at defending, the former will probably live to tell the tale.

Do note that the Trope Namer, lingchi, is not actually an example of this trope. It was a form of Cold-Blooded Torture/Public Execution, now outlawed, in which various parts of the condemned's body were methodically sliced off over a long period of time.

Compare The Last Straw. See also Zerg Rush and Cherry Tapping. Can be delivered quickly through a Spam Attack or by the members of a Zerg Rush. Expect this to be part of any Weak, but Skilled arsenal. Depending on how heavily protected the target is, More Dakka may be involved. If it succeeds, the victim may suffer a Rasputinian Death. A subtrope of Quantity vs. Quality.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • In issue 9 of Black Cat, Nizer fights a werewolf with fast-acting regenerative powers. To kill it and keep it dead, he resorted to hitting it so many times it was torn to bits.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi references this trope when Negi's inferiority complex causes him to imagine various gaps between himself and, in this case, a small cat. Because a single cat has a mere 0.5 in power to his 500, he reasons that at least 1001 cats working together would easily overpower him.
  • Bleach:
    • Byakuya Kuchiki's attacks use this quite literally. So does Rangiku Matsumoto, whose sword can turn into a cloud of razor-sharp ash, though it's not very effective.
    • This is what Hollowfied Kaname Tosen planned on using on Captain Komamura, until he decided, "Screw that," and revealed that he had a stronger form.
  • Naruto's Rasenshuriken attack does this also quite literally, cutting and killing Kakuzu with so many cuts that Kakashi's Sharingan couldn't count them all (it counts really fast). If Kakuzu wasn't highly durable, nothing would have been left of him (like it's later shown with another foe). You could define Rasenshuriken as "death of a thousand cuts all at once".
  • Pretty much the only way to kill a homunculus in Fullmetal Alchemist. Because they have an exceptionally powerful healing factor, the only way to actually kill them is to keep hurting them until they use up all their energy healing themselves. This can take a long time.
  • This is how the Abyss Feeders operate in the post-timeskip Claymore manga. They attack as a group and retreat once enough have been slain, returning once their numbers have replenished. With each iteration, they adapt to their target's combat style and become increasingly difficult to defeat, until the target no longer has enough time to recover between fights and is overwhelmed. As demonstrated by Isley, who gets an Alas, Poor Villain moment as they eat him alive.
  • Gundam X gives us the Correl, a Monster of the Week mobile suit that was made ludicrously fast by stripping it of all non-essential parts (including most of its armor). Its only weapon is a beam knife, which means this trope is its preferred method of attack (in fact, the pilot uses that very phrase to describe it). However, its complete lack of armor meant that Garrod Ran was able to destroy it using the Gundam's vulcan cannons, generally the weakest of a Gundam's armaments.
  • In [1], this is part of the reason Zeon wasn't able to fully conquer Earth even before the Gundam was completed. While the Earth Federation's Saberfish fighters, Fly Mantha fighter-bombers and Type-61 tanks were hopelessly obsolete against Zeon's Mobile Suits, the Federals used their superior numbers to target Zeon supply lines. A Zaku without ammunition and fuel is basically a gigantic statue, after all.
  • In one early volume of Ranma ½, Ryōga trains a technique with the side effect of making him almost invulnerable to normal attacks, something Ranma wasn't expecting and thus only trained his speed. Ranma's tactic? He hits Ryōga a hundred times in the same spot so fast it looks like just one punch, getting past the augmented endurance by essentially tenderizing him.
  • Attack on Titan: This tactic becomes necessary when fighting Human Titans, which have intelligence and additional weak-spot protection to help them out. The tactic Squad Levi uses on the Female Titan is gouge out its eyes and force it to remain defensive. They then try to hack off its arms then neck in a series of successive strikes.
  • Magi: Labyrinth of Magic: In his colosseum debut, Alibaba faces Garda, an enormous monster-ape whose muscles prove too thick for him to inflict anything beyond Scratch Damage. He manages to win by angering Garda to the point that his attacks become predictable and easy to dodge, then inflicting multiple shallow wounds until the accumulated damage becomes too much for the ape to handle.
  • Sgt. Frog: Tamama's "Deathblow 9000".
  • Slayers: This is Xellos' favorite combat tactic. Dodge his enemy's big attacks with his inherent agility and Teleport Spam while delivering a withering barrage of tiny spikes, over and over and over.
    "If you can't hit me with big attacks, there's no point in fighting. However, small attacks can hurt when they're repeated several times!"

    Card Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • The "Tim" deck is an old standby, dating back to the very earliest days of the game. A blue player stocks up on Prodigal Sorcerers (and similar cards such as the Zuran Spellcaster to get around the 4-card maximum in tournament play), which all deal one damage when tapped (the name is a reference to Tim the Enchanter from Monty Python and the Holy Grail). The resulting "wall of pokes" can be devastating to the opposing player.
    • And let's not forget the actual card Death of A Thousand Stings, which drains away just the tiniest bit of life but can potentially be reused infinitely.
    • Death of a Thousand Cuts is one way to get past the Circle of Protection cards. There are others, but that one's the most obvious.
    • Some aggro decks, especially "Zerg Rush" decks, rely on this strategy to win. One 1/1 Faerie with Flying isn't that scary when you have 20 life. Seventeen, however, are terrifying.
    • The Zendikar Rising block has added a green card called Scute Swarm, which is a 1/1 creature (unremarkable damage, easy to kill). But whenever you play a land, it will spawn a 1/1 insect. If you have 6 or more lands in play when you play a land, it will instead spawn a 1/1 Scute Swarm, which can then itself spawn more Scute Swarms. Unchecked, the exponential growth will overwhelm any opponent in as few as four turnsnote . Considering that you only need to pay the cost of the inital Scute Swarm before it can start multiplying, and that you can have up to 4 Scute Swarms in your deck, decks without permanent removal or board wipes will very quickly learn to fear the appearance of a small little 1/1 creature.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • There is a card called "Solar Flare Dragon" that inflicts 500 damage to your opponent every turn. With even 1 out, you can often, if protected, chip away at their Life Points. Plus, if there are two, they protect each other. And the damage stacks. Unless your opponent pulls some Monster Removal within eight turns, they lose.
      • There are other cards works similarly, for example, the normal Spell card "Magical Blast". It inflicts 200 damage to your opponent for each face-up Spellcaster-Type monster you control, and the scary part is, unlike most normal Spell cards, it is reusable - it can add itself back to your hand each turn. There's also the continuous Trap card "Skull Invitation" - each time one or more card(s) is sent to the Graveyard, the owner of those card(s) takes 300 damage. The real issue here is that the damage is inflicted for each card sent. In a deck focusing on milling opponent's deck away, it is easy to make this into a serious thing.
    • The Yata-Lock works like this. Your opponent has no cards in his hand or on the field, attack with Yata-Garasu, deal 200 damage and your opponent can't draw, meaning they can't do anything, repeat. This continues for about 10 turns or until your opponent surrenders. It's very effective, to the point that the card was banned solely for this.
      • Similar to this is the soon-to-be-banned card "Phoenixian Cluster Amaryllis". On its own, it wasn't so bad (just 800 damage when it is destroyed, then revives itself by banishing another Plant-Type monster in the Graveyard), but once you have a ton of Plants in your Graveyard, and when combined with "Topologic Bomber Dragon", whose mandatory effect destroys everything its Link Marker points to, a loop is created where "Amaryllis" would keep reviving and destroying itself (and thus keeps inflicting 800 damage), turning it into a One-Turn Kill or even a FIRST-Turn Kill machine, depending on your deck and cards in your hand.
    • The "Trickstar" archetype basically runs on this. Most of their members inflict mere 200 damage to opponent, but this damage happens when a certain act made by the opponent occurs and said act is usually an important one, for example, drawing a card or activating an effect, meaning if you face against this deck, no matter what you do, you're still taking damage. The worse part is, the archetype also have cards that forces you to do the act, and the Field Spell inflicts 200 more damage each time you receive damage.
    • The spell card "Thousand Knives" has this in-universe flavour. Under the right conditions, you can target one monster your opponent controls and destroy it.

    Comic Books 
  • In Strangers in Paradise, the mob boss Veronica captures a journalist investigating the links between her organization, government and big business, ties him up, and kills him by cutting off "one finger at a time, one limb at a time", then leaving him to bleed. For this atrocity (and for trying to kill her sister Katchoo), Tambi pays Veronica back in kind.
  • Spider-Man often uses these tactics when up against stronger, slower opponents. His first fight against the Rhino back in the '60s was probably the earliest example.
  • In a Spirou and Fantasio story, the Marsupilami gets a grudge against a 10-meters high dinosaur and smacks it on the head with a big stick, to absolutely no effect. The Marsupilami then proceeds to repeatedly hit the dinosaur's head for two days, after which the giant is finally KO'ed.
  • Über: Due to being Nigh-Invulnerable, Battleship-class Ubers have to take an insane amount of damage to even get a scratch.
    • Siegmund lost his arm early in the series after fighting nearly one hundred Tank-class Soviet Ubers, even though he killed the vast majority of them before retreating.
    • Leah Cohen, a Mighty Glacier, took several halo blasts before getting effectively kneecapped.
    • This is how Siegfried died, being slashed to death by several Zephyr-class Ubers and blood loss doing him in rather than half his head being blown up.
  • Baker Street: At the end of the "Honour Among Punks" arc, Davenport and Boxe fall into the ratting pits at the Baskervilles, and bitten hundreds of times by rabid rats.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Tamers Forever Series Patamon manages to destroy a wild Clyclonemon by using a barrage of hundreds and hundreds of Wing Slaps
  • In the BattleTech fic Fragmentation, this was a doctrine Executive Outcomes was pushing for Periphery states. One 'Mech can be expensive. One Pike battletank, carrying three long ranged but very weak autocannons is cheap. A 'Mech's price worth of Pikes, on the other hand, could very quickly devour you at ranges your expensive 'Mech couldn't retaliate at. A half company of Pikes for every 'Mech you bring on the field...
  • Used by Cornelia's men in Code Geass: Cornelia of the Defection against Britannian Knightmares. A single soldier with an RPG is slightly more threatening to a Knightmare than one with a knife. A couple of hundred soldiers firing a rain of them from the surrounding buildings will wipe out a squad in seconds.
  • In Destiny is a Hazy Thing a large group of Konoha shinobi were in the process of wearing down Itachi and Kisame using hit and run tactics when Sasuke comes charging in to attack Itachi head-on. Several shinobi die covering him and Sasuke gets a reputation as mentally unstable and insubordinate.
  • In Wish Carefully, Harry's defeat of the Death Eaters plays out like this on a long-term and society-wide scale. The Death Eaters and Voldemort wanted to rule Wizarding England without having to deal with any muggles, squibs, muggleborns or blood traitors ever again, so Harry and his allies surrender control of the country to them while the Light Supporters create their own seperate society. The Death Eaters then realize over time that getting exactly what they wanted has utterly screwed them over. First off, their economy is completely ruined because most of the middle and working classes (aka, the people who ran businesses, produced complex goods, and provided skilled services that kept society's wheels running smoothly) were primarily made up of muggleborns and Light Supporters who left in the Light's exile. Trying to bring muggle money into Wizarding England won't work either, as the contract Harry and his allies created has a stipulation that forbids any contact between the Death Eaters and the muggles and the punishment for breaking the rule is the witch or wizard losing their magic. Meanwhile, years of pureblood inbreeding has caused future generations to become magically and intellectually weaker and the population is slowly dying off, and no one wants to immigrate to England (even mail order brides won't be given to them), further exacerbating these aforementioned problems. Not to mention they are trapped under Voldemort's rule, who himself has only become even more unhinged and crueler, with no way to leave. Lucius Malfoy even calls Harry's plan "Slytherin-like" and believes Dumbledore would've been horrified by this.
  • In Fractured Fates, this is what Azami Kurobe's execution amounts to. She is strapped to a chair in an empty auditorium and, after some Bait-and-Switch, is ultimately shot at by hundreds upon hundreds of shards of broken glass fired from a woodchipper until she bleeds out.
  • Zero Context: Taking Out the Trash: Callista's Quantum Cutters takes this to its logical extreme, systematically slicing through each individual atom of a target in less time than it takes to blink, which is noted to be a blatant violation of the laws of time and space. Callista's status as a Fragile Speedster and Glass Cannon makes attaining the state of mind needed to use this technique iffy, however.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring — That's what it takes from the Fellowship to kill the Cave Troll. Though, in the film, the arrow through the roof of the mouth and directly into the brain was probably the more likely cause of death.
  • In Them!, the giant mutant ants can shrug off individual gunshots, but finally succumb when the characters turn Thompson submachine guns on them.
  • The Chinese "Slow slicing" method as listed in the Real life folder below, is depicted in the end of the wuxia film Portrait In Crystal, with Shui-jing, the Damsel in Distress, being subjected to being stripped naked and having a net made of wire mesh coating her entire body, which gets progressively tightened by her tormentors. Accordingly, the mesh can slice her into 480 cubes while alive.
  • In The Sand Pebbles, Po-han was about to suffer the literal version of this trope at the hands of the Kuomintang when Holman mercifully put an end to it.
  • In Tremors, the Graboids appear to be bulletproof, until one of them break into the Gummers' rec room. Two solid minutes of continuous gunfire later with several different types of guns each, they prove that very few things are bulletproof, given enough bullets.
  • Both Janet and Wilbur are mauled to death by house cats in The Uncanny.
  • In Fled, a Torture Technician gets very literal with the trope by using a scalpel to make small incisions on his victims while referencing the trope by name. Taken to the next level by Magic Box
  • The first Kaiju in Pacific Rim were killed using massive amounts of conventional weapons , taking several days each to die. Nuclear weapons were faster, but more dangerous, and ultimately the desire to avert this trope and kill the Kaiju quickly and efficiently was what led to the Jaeger program.
  • In the climactic duel of Rob Roy, the villainous Archibald is both more skilled and much faster than Rob, but also considerably smaller and weaker. As such, his strategy during their Sword Fight is to keep his distance and repeatedly inflict light wounds on Rob, until the combination of all those wounds and blood loss weaken Rob enough that Archie can safely finish him off. It almost works perfectly, as numerous shallow cuts on his arms and torso, an injury suffered earlier in the film, and his own exertions all work together to gradually exhaust Rob, leaving him wounded, on his knees, and gasping for air. Archie makes a grave mistake at the end however, as he delays the Coup de Grâce a few seconds too long due to Evil Gloating and checking for approval from the antagonistic Marquess. In that time Rob grabs ahold of Archie's blade, immobilizing both the sword and Archie just long enough to score a single, massive, and very fatal blow on Archie.


  • Since Judge Dee takes place in Imperial China and the protagonist is a magistrate lingchi appears from time to time. In the original book he sentenced a woman who murdered her husband and drugged her daughter to keep her telling anyone.
  • In Joe Abercrombie's Before They Are Hanged, Logen, while explaining what he's done in the past as the feared Bloody-Nine, says he once tried to tear down a wall during a siege with his bare hands. It didn't work, but he didn't stop until one of the defenders dropped a rock on him.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Harry Dresden used this technique on the Ax-Crazy Summer Lady Aurora in Summer Knight, by unleashing Toot-Toot and a swarm of his fellow fairies armed with box knives.
    • Threatened by Toot-Toot towards Sanya in Changes...
      Toot-Toot: Go ahead, draw your sword! We will see who dies from a thousand tiny cuts!
    • In Cold Days Harry's enemies nick his tactics and send a horde of fairies to attack him with nails. They nearly succeed, too.
  • In Lucky Wander Boy this is the signature attack of the protagonist's favorite character in the Eviscerator game in his company's breakroom (there because they're making a second sequel to the film of the game). It also figures in the film and short story he is obsessing a bit too much about.
  • In Dale Brown's books, while Tin Men usually cannot be damaged directly by anything smaller than anti-tank weapons, they can be drained of power, after which they become vulnerable to small arms. This has to do with the unique material they're made of that hardens when something hits it, or something.
  • The Vorkosigan Saga had a literal example take place in the execution of Mad Emperor Yuri. Aral Vorkosign got to take the first cut.
  • Used realistically in The Sword of Truth to fight the Empire in that the large force they were going up against was a seemingly endless army. Kahlan leads an army of 1000 against this force using guerrilla warfare and citing this trope. This is really more of a Million Mook March and 300, though. Otherwise, every army vs. lesser army would qualify for this trope.
  • In Lee Lightner's Space Wolf novel Wolf's Honour, Ragnar thought he had won a practice bout until his opponent walked him through the blows — he would have bled to death from half a dozen wounds not fatal individually.
  • Crysis: Legion: I can’t outrun the monster but I can outmaneuver it, dip and weave and jump from ground to rooftop and back again. It would have slaughtered me a dozen times if I hadn’t gotten out of the way a split second before it let loose. And all the time I’m bobbing and dodging and running between its legs, I’m scratching the paint on the hood ornament. After a while, the hood ornament falls off. I start scratching other parts.
  • Snow Crash: Uncle Enzo combines this with Combat Pragmatist when fighting Raven, after getting hamstrung by the enemy, who uses glass knives. Enzo sets off a sonic pulse, which fragments all of his opponent's knives, which he has secreted on his person.
  • The Treecats of Sphinx use this tactic to handle much larger predators like hexapumas in the Stephanie Harrington series.
  • In the Honor Harrington universe, Superdreadnoughts are the biggest existing Ship Type (only non-Hyper capable and very slow moving mobile Fortresses are bigger) and are designed to exchange direct energy fire with other Superdreadnoughts. This means they are incredibly tough though armored, and unless you get really lucky and hit a reactor it takes a lot of hits to kill them... like those provided by the heavy missile salvos that characterize most engagements between the Manticore Alliance and the (People's) Republic of Haven during the series.
  • In Michael Moorcock's The Elric Saga, the hero is confronted with an unkillable Big Bad. The sentient dark sword Stormbringer recognises his need and summons the help of a million multiversal manifestations of itself. All the alternate selves of Stormbringer lay into the Big Bad and subject it to this death.
    • Elsewhere, Elric finally catches up with his nemesis Yyrkoon, who grovels and begs for a quick clean death. Elric grins and then lets Stormbringer take his soul - over a protracted period, a tiny little bit at a time...
  • The reason for Zip's strike in The Poster Children. She had attacked her sister's boyfriend for hitting her.
    The ER nurse said it was somewhere between two and three hundred times.
  • In Sergey Lukyanenko's Line of Delirium, Kay muses that, while pretending to be a civilian, he is forbidden from purchasing "red level" weapons, limited only to the less-than-lethal "yellow level", which he claims are, at most, capable of stopping some hoodlums on the street. He ends up getting a Convoy laser pistol, which is only supposed to deliver painful nonlethal burns to scare away an attacker. However, being a professional bodyguard, he knows that the pistol has a full-auto mode and a fairly decent charge in a single power pack, which means that, by holding down the trigger, he could easily cut through a human body in about 2 seconds.
  • In Hurricane Gold, Strabo gets eaten alive by army ants.
  • In The Last American Vampire, Henry Sturges explains that vampires actually CAN be killed by normal bullets, it just takes a whole lot of them and quickly enough to overcome their Healing Factor. During the centuries when firearms were limited to single-shot, this wasn't a concern to vampires. Then not too long ago, the machine gun was invented...
  • Journey to Chaos: When Gruffle attracts the ire of dozens of protestors at the Mana Mutation Summit he knows they can't defeat him; his power as a necromancer is too great. But there are dozens and dozens of them and all of them are firing mana bolts. "Behold the power of the people!"
  • The X-Files novel Whirlwind features a small tornado summoned with Native American magic, that strips its victims from their skin due to the pieces of small debris within it.
  • As pointed out further down in the videogame examples, the Star Wars universe makes a big deal of the danger posed to larger capital ships by missile warheads, usually mounted on much lighter fighter craft. Nowhere is this clearer than in one of the X Wing novels, where a fearsome Super Star Destroyer threatens a planetary colony - and unexpectedly finds itself targeted by several hundred fixed torpedo placements, with the unimpressed enemy commander nonchalantly reversing the threat. The Destroyer's captain realises that for all of the mighty ship's shielding it can't hope to survive several hundred torpedo hits, and promptly craps her pants. The enemy turns out to be bluffing - they don't actually have the torpedoes to carry through with the threat nor the emplacements themselves, just lots of targeting sensors - but the Captain doesn't know that, and it ends up costing her a smaller Star Destroyer right then and the SSD itself later on.
  • An In-Universe example in The Traitor's Hand, when an Imperial captain out-thinks the commander of a Chaos warship. He lures the Chaos ship into chasing his vessel into the middle of a fleet of civilian ships, then blows away the Chaos ship's primary weapons. The Chaos captain then discovers 1) he's got too much momentum built up to change course easily, 2) all of those civilian ships are armed, and 3) there's a thousand of them. The historian Vail is quoting compares the result to a grox being stung to death by firewasps.
  • The Stormlight Archive: Used once by the Master Swordsman Adolin Kholin to show off in a formal duel, which, in Alethi noble culture, is done with BFSes and Powered Armor and generally lasts until the armor is damaged to a specific extent. Rather than focus on any one armor segment, Adolin harries his opponent with light blows until the entire suit runs out of juice and freezes him in place.
  • While King Osbert's army in Grent's Fall has higher quality troops and better leadership, no victory is without casualties.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5:
    • In the episode "The Long Dark," the crew is trying to shoot down a wraithlike vampiric creature, with little success:
    Garibaldi: These PPG's don't do much more than sting it. Prowls around hurt for a while and comes back stronger.
    Sheridan: Well, one bee sting may be an annoyance, but a hundred of them can kill you.
    • In another instance, Londo tells G'Kar that he will be tortured for as long as possible before he is executed.
    • In the episode Interludes and Examinations, a Vorlon fleet pounces on a Shadow force that was tearing up a fleet of Brakiri ships. In addition to various big-ship-on-big-ship engagements, we see a swarm of Vorlon fighters making a coordinated attack on a Shadow Battlecrab, stinging it from every direction until it withers and dies.
  • Daredevil (2015): Both times that Wilson Fisk gets brought down, it's because of this
    • In season 1, it's actions that happen early in the season that do in Fisk. Fisk ends up killing his Russian partners because Anatoly interrupted his date with Vanessa. In the midst of eliminating the Russians, Fisk also orders the shooting of Detective Christian Blake for leaking information to Matt, and when the hit fails to kill him, sends Blake's partner Hoffman to poison him in the hospital. Hoffman is subsequently scooped up and given protection by Fisk's money man Leland Owlsley, who himself is skimming from Fisk and aided Madame Gao in poisoning Vanessa. Upon finding out the truth, Fisk kills Owlsley...which leads to Hoffman being delivered straight to the FBI, repped by Nelson & Murdock. While Fisk attempts a jailbreak with the help of a tipoff from SAC Tammy Hattley, Matt foils his escape, and Brett Mahoney takes Fisk back into custody. Now while all that is going on, Fisk's Yakuza partners repped by Nobu (actually the Hand) go, after Fisk manipulates Nobu and Matt into fighting one another because Nobu is getting too demanding for him. Lastly, the Chinese gang of Madame Gao (also the Hand) leave town after poisoning Vanessa. Closer to home, Fisk's right hand James Wesley is shot and killed by Karen Page when he tries to shake her down. All of this chips away at Fisk's empire. But the final cut is actually a pair of cuts.
    • In season 3, Fisk's attempts to rebuild his empire begin crumbling when he hires Dex to attack the Bulletin in a fake Daredevil costume to discredit Matt and get rid of Jasper Evans. The incident prompts Karen to visit him and provoke him into calling a hit on her by revealing that she killed Wesley. This leads to Dex trying to kill Karen at Matt's church, succeeding only in killing Father Lantom, an event which leads to Ray Nadeem (the FBI Agent who Fisk manipulated into letting him out of prison, and who has been blackmailed into working with Dex) growing a spine and deciding to testify before a grand jury. Fisk thwarts Nadeem's effort by intimidating the grand jury, while Vanessa decides to call a hit on Nadeem (carried out by Dex). This proves to be Fisk's undoing: before his death, Nadeem records a confession of all the crimes he's seen Fisk commit which ends up being admissible through a legal loophole, which Karen puts on the web with a favor from Ellison. Meanwhile, Matt goes after Fisk's fixer Felix Manning and not only learns Vanessa ordered Nadeem's death, but also that Fisk had a woman close to Dex killed. Matt subsequently uses this information to prompt Dex to turn on Fisk and try to kill him and Vanessa while dressed in his Daredevil costume. When the fight is over, Matt's alter ego is exonerated thanks to the NYPD now catching Dex in the Daredevil suit, while Matt uses his knowledge about Vanessa's crime to blackmail Fisk into leaving Foggy and Karen alone.
  • Doctor Who: In "Heaven Sent", the Doctor ends up trapped in something like a time loop in which the only escape is through a 20-foot wall made of a substance stronger than diamonds. The Doctor eventually manages to destroy the wall by punching it with his bare hand, a few times each cycle, for 4.5 billion years.
  • The Expanse: When Alex manages to sneak up on a stealth ship, whose firepower is mostly concetrated in its enormous rail gun that can destroy most ships in a single shot, he uses the Rocinante's multiple auto-canon turrets to literally shred it to pieces with thousands of anti-missile rounds from ultra short range.
  • Game of Thrones: Drogon is shown as vulnerable to this when the Sons of the Harpy chuck spears at him. He's still more than capable of flying and taking on dozens of them, but he's clearly hurt and would not be able to do it forever. Of course, that was at the end of Season 5, he's since grown bigger and his hide is much tougher.
  • Claire attempts to do this to Peter in an alternate timeline episode of Heroes. She only gets up to two before she is stopped.
  • In Jessica Jones (2015), Kilgrave uses his Compelling Voice to order Wendy to kill Jeri with a literal Death of a Thousand Cuts. She only makes it to 28 cuts before her head is bashed in.
  • Kamen Rider Double: Kamen Rider Accel's Trial form. Its power of Super Speed comes at the cost of some strength, so Terui gets in dozens of rapid-fire hits before the enemy can react.
  • MacGyver (1985): In "Trumbo's World", two characters are eaten to death by ants.
  • This is kind of what happened to Laura Palmer in Twin Peaks. The autopsy stated that she died from blood loss after multiple cuts, none deep enough to kill her.

  • In Die Ärzte "Die Hard", the subject is killed by repeatedly be thrown at with cotton-wool balls.
  • In Taylor Swift "Death By a Thousand Cuts", Taylor likens all the little parts of a break-up to a slow "death by a thousand cuts", and later specifically describes getting paper cuts metaphorically from "paper-thin plans".

  • In Destroy the Godmodder, this is the main way the players confront the Godmodder in all games. Since attacks against him deal little damage, many small ones are required to defeat him.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Druids have a high-level spell called Creeping Doom, which allows the caster to summon one thousand tiny insects that each deal a single point of damage before dying. Unfortunately, by the time you are able to cast it, most monsters you'd want to actually use it on have damage reduction, rendering it a Useless Useful Spell. The spell was reworked in the 3.5 edition to simply summon a large number of insect swarms (which, due to their pathetic damage, didn't improve matters). However, it is helpful that swarms are totally immune to most conventional attacks, and are extremely distracting to anyone inside them. The original version of the spell lives on as the epic spell "Crown of Vermin", which ignores EPIC damage reduction — though it does not bypass damage reduction based on weapon material or alignment.

      The effect of "creeping doom" was a plot point in The Intercontinental Union of Disgusting Characters: it's used to take down the villain Peter Perfect, but when Dirk the Destructive tells Peter's corpse that the spell shouldn't have affected him (He's not "...subject to normal attacks..." which also applies to nearly every character in the story), his skeletal remains jump up and his body reforms, ready to free his comrades and menace the heroes again.
    • When you hit with an attack, you always deal at least one point of damage barring damage reduction, so an epic-level fighter could theoretically be killed by a sufficient amount of pebbles or even a house cat. Made even worse when you consider that, due to the dexterity bonuses house cats receive, they are an extremely dangerous opponent to Commoners and even first-level characters, killing them at least 50% of the time in a theoretical battle. However, only a very bad (or very humorous) DM wouldn't compensate for this. It gets worse when you factor in a cat's bonus to Hide and Move Silently checks. The cat will almost always get a surprise round, and that makes the cat vs commoner matchup come out clearly in the cat's favor. The Cat Versus Commoner meme gets referenced in this Order of the Stick strip. However, instead of a Death of a Thousand Cuts, the cat scores a One-Hit Kill. Do not mess with Mr. Scruffy. Although to be fair, as a Ranger's Animal Companion Mr. Scruffy is probably far more dangerous than a house cat, and could single-handedly slay several guards.
    • The book Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition for Dummies uses this trope by name while describing a fighter power that can still deal a little damage on a miss ("If you're fighting an enemy that you just can't seem to hit, you may have to settle for the Death of a Thousand Cuts.")
    • In Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 Edition, there is actually a class that has this ability. It's called Dervish, and the ability is even called "A Thousand Cuts". It doubles the number of attacks a person gets for one round. And when combined with the Warblade maneuver "Time Stand Still", which makes it so you get two rounds worth of attacks in one...well... Though this doesn't work until well into epic levels.
  • More generally, static modifiers add up with each separate application.
  • Warhammer 40,000: This is the standard tactic of the Imperial Guard to bring down something big when tanks aren't around: point many, many lasguns at the target, and it will eventually go down. Largely due to the fact that 1/6 of 120 still means roughly 20 hits, whereas usually you only need one to kill.
    • "That's a whole lotta diddly."
    • Tyranid players often employ this trope by the use of Gaunts with the special rule 'Without Number', though in this case, the cuts are quite often actual cuts.
      • This will only work with monsters with a certain Toughness rating, however. Due to the rules, any monster with a toughness higher than 7 (which thankfully is rare) is utterly invincible to Guard fire. Anything with a toughness of 8 is immune to Tyranid fire (and most other weapons for that matter).
      • Vehicles are totally immune to lasguns; the lowest armor rating possible for a vehicle is 10, and that's just enough to be invulnerable to lasgun fire (or a Guard's close combat weapon). That's why you buy the krak grenade upgrade for your Guard squads. Guardies with kraks can usually do something against most vehicles in close combat.
    • Similar to the Guard, you have Ork Shootas, Big Shootas and especially Flash Gitz. Pitiful armor penetration, mediocre strength, but even the Imperial Guard have a hard time throwing out as many attack dice in a single round, especially if the weapons are twin-linked. There's a reason that the Orks are the Trope Namer for More Dakka.
      • The Orks also possess a cannon fodder unit, the Gretchin (also called a "Grot"). The weakest unit in the entire game by far, they die extremely quickly and deal very little damage. However, they're also the cheapest unit in the game, and despite their overwhelming inferiority, they can often be used as efficient meatshields, or even in huge numbers to overwhelm infantry.
    • The Eldar standard infantry carry the weakest firearms in the game, especially the Guardians, but not even the Orks can match their rate of fire. Their anti-infantry weapons fire molecule-thin shuriken discs at an extremely high velocity and rate of fire, and it often takes many, many, many dice rolls to complete their ranged attack. As you'd expect, they kill (or overkill) things very thoroughly.
    • If your army lacks spammable AP 2 weaponry, this is the only way to kill anything with a 2+ armor save; they will make that save 5/6 times but usually all it requires is 1 failure to kill the mode (or three if it's a character). So simply drown them in wounds from massed, cheap anti-infantry weapons.
    • When discussing the rules of Warhammer - any version - it's a good idea to mention the edition because much of the above is wrong as of Warhammer 40,000 Eighth Edition. Now, no matter what, a shot has a tiny chance of damaging anything on the table. Anything can suffer death by a thousand cuts. Additionally, piercing armor is no longer a binary yes-no, but now a matter of degree; mid-tier weapons might penalize armor saves even if they can't ignore armor completely. Thus, if a Land Raider is shot at by a typical guardsman 1,152 times, it should blow up. note 
  • In The Witcher: Game of Imagination, when enemy or monster is heavily armoured, there are two outcomes of attacks - either the armour is too strong to even scratch it, or some minor bruise was caused. Even if it's technically possible to cause enough such bruises to eventually kill or at least seriously weaken the opponent, it's much wiser to to just back up than try to power through.
  • In New World of Darkness, all objects have a durability rating. Only damage in excess of that rating will count against the object. For example, if six damage is done to an object with durability five, only one damage is done to the structure. But damage rolls are open-ended, and so even the weeniest attack has a nonzero chance of beating any given durability. If you keep hacking at a brick wall with spoons you'll eventually grind it to dust. Eventually.
  • GURPS: Powers introduces Damage Reduction which divides damage a few fold but can't drop it below one. As a result, a mob of totally normal people can beat a superhero to death. Players rectified this by also giving such characters a couple of points of Damage Resistance which allows a character to ignore a specific amount of damage.
    • The game also uses this to reduce the utility of cover. A person with a lot of ammunition can shoot their way through a stone wall.
    • GURPS 4th edition has rules for building custom abilities with Point Build System and then apply enhancements/limitations to it which adjust the point costs by positive/negative percentages. This could lead to some ridiculous combinations if a very cheap ability was married to a large stack of enhancements or an expensive ability to a stack of limitations. One possible combo is to take an Innate attack ability, reduce its base damage from d6 to 1(0,25x base cost), then enhance it with Rapid Fire(300 shots per round) +300% and Cosmic(irresistable attack & always hits[from Powers book]) +600%. The result is basically a BB Machine gun from Hell which causes 300 automatic hits for 1 damage each which always penetrate armor while costing only a handful of points, available even to a starting character. For comparison an unenhanced innate attack made with same amount of points would only cause 2d6+2 damage(9 average) and still requires a to hit roll to boot.
  • Embodied in BattleTech by such things as short-range missiles, LB-X autocannons firing cluster shot, or most infantry attacks, all of which randomly scatter small damage packets across the target's hit location chart. Even if this doesn't hit a preexisting gap in the target's armor or score a lucky critical hit straight through it, said armor is almost universally ablative and will eventually be worn down, exposing the vulnerable internal structure and components underneath. And regardless of how heavy a 'mech is or how beefy its armor is, every mech (outside of non-Tourney-grade rule sets) can only take a light amount of damage to the head, and each successful plink attack has a 1 in 36 chance of hitting the head. Even if head armor is not pierced, the scant armor is still reduced, and the pilot themselves is injured and can only take 5 such "injuries", each making it harder to resist or come out of a blackout, before being completely incapacitated by the sixth. At the opposite end of the hit location roll table is the "thru-armor crit", which has the potential to inflict internal damage even if armor isn't completely ablated, and also has a 1-in-36 chance for every scratch damage hit. If it's the conventional "always center torso" rule, the engine and gyro can become damaged. If using the elective "floating crit" rule that means "reroll the hit location and now also do a crit chance roll", then it can potentially hit an ammo bin.
    • One mech that's built entirely like this is the Pirhana, a 20 ton Fragile Speedster that's armed with a pair of medium lasers and a staggering 12 machine guns. A single machine gun hit only deals 2 points of damage to an enemy battlemech, but it can run around behind a larger, slower target and open up on them with enough hits to have a good chance of chewing through their thinner rear armor.
  • Exalted has a feature called hardness, where if something does not defeat hardness it doesn't affect the character (hardness is normally abysmally low, but it prevents things like rocks). On the other hand, if an attack overcomes hardness, it does at least your Essence rating in damage, even if the enemy's soak would otherwise negate it.
    • Nerfed in the 2.5 errata down to just one die of ping damage, two or three if wielding an Overwhelming weapon, as part of the lethality revision. Given how quickly wound penalties set in and start causing a downward spiral, nibbling foes to death one to three damage dice at a time is still fairly viable post-2.5th edition errata. It's not much fond of regeneration and martial artists caring deeply about their enemiesHuh? , though.
  • In Cyberpunk 2020, if your character takes physical damage they will take at least one point of damage after subtracting damage reduction. So, you can be in (serious) trouble after receiving one point of damage after another point of damage and so.
  • In Psionics: The Next Stage in Human Evolution a successful attack always deals at least one damage, so heavily armored opponents can suffer this.

    Video Games 
Generally speaking, any game with a straightforward HP system allows for this, unless the enemy is simply too effective at fighting back to pull off the technique with your own HP intact.
  • Star Ruler: With enough guns and ships, you can take out planets and stars. Yes, swarms of very small ships with railguns can blow up a star. It will take a long time, but it's possible.
  • Battle for Wesnoth suffers from this at times to time. For example the Undead faction has a unit called Walking corpse, which the main purpose is this trope.
    • Plus, even though your unit can have a 100% resistance against a particular type of attack, the attack will always deal 1 damage. So you can nibble that target to death with 1 dmg, assume that there's no way for that target to heal and the attacker don't die first.
    • The experience mechanic on the other hand serves to partially counter this. Trying to nickel and dime a tough enemy unit to death can backfire because the target gets a small amount of experience for each attacker engaging it, potentially resulting in a Level-Up Fill-Up undoing all the previous effort.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Nearly every installment from Final Fantasy VI onward features a monster called the Cactuar. It uses a Fixed Damage Attack called "One Thousand Needles" that deals exactly 1,000 HP damage to your character in really fast 1 HP increments. In some games, there also exists a Jumbo Cactuar, which uses a "Ten Thousand Needles" attack that kills a character outright (since the HP cap in most FF games usually tops out at 9,999, and you take one needle too many).
      • In Final Fantasy VI, Final Fantasy IX, and Final Fantasy XII, you can add "One Thousand Needles" to your arsenal of skills. As Fixed Damage Attacks ignore defense by their very nature, this skill is most helpful against enemies with high defense or defense-enhancing abilities.
      • In Final Fantasy VIII, you can contract the Jumbo Cactuar as a Summon Mon, and its attack (1,000 Needles) deals 1,000 HP damage PER 10 OF HIS LEVELS. So by the end of the game, once you've finished leveling your Cactuar Summon to level 100, it can break the damage cap by dealing exactly 10,000 damage. Essential to killing some of the strongest bosses out there, including the Red Giant in the final boss castle. Plus, since this attack deals a completely fixed (and guaranteed!) amount of damage, getting Cactuar to level 100 is usually a VERY good idea.
      • In Final Fantasy X, a difficult-to-earn ability in the late game raises the HP cap of your characters from 9,999 to 99,999. Alas, one Optional Boss, the Cactuar King, can nullify this advantage with its signature move: 99,999 Needles.
      • In Final Fantasy VII Remake, Cactaur appears as a DLC Summon with '1,000 Needles!' as its only summon ability and '10,000 Needles?' as its ultimate attack.
    • Final Fantasy VIII: Zell has a Limit Break that involves inputting different commands to use a combo and then a finisher, which ends the Limit Break. However, if you want to deal the maximum amount of damage possible, just keep inputting the same two starting combo commands over and over — the attacks are the weakest out of all of his moves, but they can be implemented incredibly quickly and keep the combo going as long as possible, ultimately dealing far more damage total than the actual combo finishers. The Fan Nickname for this move is "Armageddon Fist", and with good reason: under favourable conditions, Zell can hit an enemy over 60 times and continually reach the damage cap, potentially dealing over 500,000 points of damage this way.
      • Similarly, Irvine's "machine gun ammo" limit break can do a lot of damage this way. The machine gun ammo is the weakest per shot, but it's cheap and easy to obtain and you can pump out a lot of shots per attack, ultimately doing more damage than you do with his more expensive and more powerful, but slower, types of ammo.
    • Final Fantasy Tactics: Dancers have an ability that does piddling damage (even in jobs that grant better attack stats than Dancer), but since it is activated based on its own speed and not player speed, this damage adds up over time, especially in battles where it takes a couple of turns for the enemy to reach the player.
  • In Borderlands you can knife any of the vehicles until it explodes. Hell, Brick can PUNCH a car to make it explode.
    • In addition, a major part of boss fights is making sure you have enough ammo to kill them.
    • On Mayhem 4 for Borderlands 3, any boss you could marginally take in a satisfactory time period gets 800% HP and 1000% Armor and Shields, so... you're gonna be shooting for a while. Those big numbers might as well lose a whole digit off the end for all that matters on 4.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga: near the end of the game you fight Jojora (some kind of ice fairy) and her friend. You have to defeat the friend (a giant snow-doll creature), but it's not necessary to beat Jojora. Many players believe it is actually impossible to kill her; she has the highest defense in the game and every attack only does 1 damage (plus, if you knock her wand out, she leaves the fight for a couple of turns). However, the designers actually intended vigilant players to be able to beat her - she only has 50 HP. A multi-hitting attack will wear her HP down in no time, and she drops a rare item and gives decent experience for your trouble.
    • Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time has the Gold Koopeleons, which also have the highest defense in the game. They only have 10 HP, and every attack, again, only does 1 damage, with the exception of counters and First Strikes, which can do considerably more, for some reason (even killing them instantly at high enough levels). These enemies have a high speed rating, so they usually move first at normal levels when you first reach them, and they have a high chance of running from battle. However, they drop the most coins of any enemy in the game (80 in most versions and 100 in the American version), which can be doubled, or even TRIPLED with a certain badge. They usually appear in groups of two or three, and if only two appear it is possible to run from the battle and re-engage them, and three might be present! A multi-hitting Bros. Item such as a Red Shell can defeat all three of them in one turn (in the hands of a skilled player); hence it is highly recommended to come back and defeat these creatures once the player's speed rating is high enough to always move first — the rewards are very worthwhile. Using the aforementioned coin-tripling badge, this is easily the fastest way of earning money in the game.
    • Paper Mario 64: Goombario's Multibonk attack only deals one damage per hit. However, it keeps hitting until the player misses an action command or the targeted enemy dies, and with good reflexes and a good bit of patience it can stack up enough damage to bring down even a powerful foe.
    • Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door averts this, as damage is small enough that the calculation by subtracting defense from attack (used in some other RPGs such as Dragon Quest) is a big deal, and thus attacks that do many weak hits (like Yoshi's stampede) do no damage to enemies with any defense unless their base attack value is boosted. Still, each multi-hit does less damage than the previous, but as long as the first one does damage, the rest will also do at least 1 HP worth of damage.
    • Super Paper Mario: There is one room near the end of each Pit of 100 Trials that is filled with Goombas. This appears to be a breather, except that these are Headbonk Goombas, meaning that they'll jump and headbutt Mario as soon as they spot him. The Goombas are very weak, but their endless attack can KO Mario in seconds. In the Flipside Pit, they can be picked out by their irregular color, but in the Flopside Pit, they look the same as any other Goomba.
    • Paper Mario: Color Splash:
      • The game makes use of this in the Sacred Forest — the enemies have been shrunk, but blocking attacks in this game will still do at least 1 HP. Swarms of tiny Goombas will do a LOT more damage than you might expect.
      • If you're not prepared in Toad Trainworks, the group of passengers who take out their frustrations on Mario can also be this. Yikes!
  • In Dark Souls, every single enemy in game (with the small exception of A certain scaleless dragon the first time you meet him) can be killed even with the weakest of weapons, yes including your bare fists, meaning that if you have the skill and patience for it, literally every enemy, including other players can be eventually killed by a Death of a Thousand Cuts.
    • One of the final bosses, Manus the father of the abyss was once a normal human being who was unlucky enough to be caught in an endless cycle of being agonisingly tortured to death and being revived and healed to perfect health so he can never have the mercy of death. Manus uses this to his advantage by desperately punching a foot thick solid brick wall with his bare hand until his arm was broken; being healed to perfect health every day and the faintest most desperate promise of escape meant that all it took was for him to keep doing it for years and years on end. Eventually the wall broke and Manus was free, with nothing but an endless pit of hatred for humanity.
  • The Dual Vipers in Ratchet: Deadlocked are this. They start with 200 ammo and 10 damage; compare to the Magma Cannon, the other starting weapon, which begins with 20 ammo and 60 damage. It's telling that while other weapons get at minimum a 20 damage increase when they level up (the Magma Cannon uses this number until the 8-9 transition; leveling to 9 and 10 give 50 damage each), the damage increases for the Vipers rarely leave the single digits (leveling to level 8 is a 12 damage increase and the level 10 upgrade also increases the damage by 10). In the end, the V99 Vulcan Cannon, the Magma Cannon at the highest level, has a damage stat of 567. The maxed Dual Raptors? 168.
    • This is in general the case with the pistol weapons in the entire series, with the possible exception of the Blaster, due to how damage system worked in that game. They all have ammo capacity in hundreds of shots, but single shot rarely kills anything than the weakest anklebiters (if even that). This rarely changes even when Mega-upgrades become available.
    • This trope applies to other weapons as well, usually to sentry guns/bots before they upgrade. For example Miniturret Glove/Launcher places a turret that shoots at enemies, and which single shot does pitiful damage, but continuous spraying from one or more of them is capable of wiping out a small group of monsters. Not so much after it upgrades, when it starts shooting rockets or lasers, depending on the game.
  • Blue Eco weapons in Jak and Daxter series. They have lower damage than Yellow Eco weapons per shot but their rate of fire allows them to defeat enemies quickly. This is especially true for Needle Laser in Jak 3: Wastelander, where one tiny laser doesn't do much, but an entire barrage of them is another matter. Too bad it eats ammo like there's no tomorrow.
  • This is one of Aht's two main methods of attack (the other being a Trap Master) in Radiant Historia. Her physical attack is puny, but most of her physical skills involve throwing multiple daggers at an opponent. Unlike most examples, though, this isn't intended to kill an enemy by attacking it multiple times, but rather to set up Combos with other members of your party, since the more hits an enemy takes in a combo, the more damage they take from later hits in the combo (meaning Aht can hammer an enemy with multiple weak attacks to rack up the combo, then another character can use one massive attack to finish them off).
  • Command & Conquer is the classic "Riflemen killing a tank" example, offset by the fact that a tank can usually save itself by running the infantry over. A particularly bad example is found in Red Alert 2: Yuri's Revenge, where the Hero Unit Boris is capable, when powered up, of killing heavy tanks in two or three bursts of his AK-47. Same for deployed GI troops who can in groups of 5 or more decimate pretty much anything non-air.
    • One of the add-on packs for Red Alert featured a mission with a Soviet Super Soldier who was ridiculously tough and did twice as much damage to anything he fought as they did to him. This reached an absurd height when you had him take on a battleship and win easily.
  • The Toxin General of Generals - Zero Hour. Massing chemical troopers could wear down anything on the ground, especially with the Anthrax Gamma upgrade. Yes you read that right - it was possible to destroy steel-and-cement structures by shooting poison at them.
  • Implied in Deadly Rooms of Death in which the Stalwart Captain nearly sentences Beethro to "die the death of a thousand stabs." This is superfluous of course, since almost everything in the game is a One-Hit Point Wonder.
    Beethro: Wouldn't one stab be enough?
  • Starcraft: This trope is the whole point of Zerglings. One Zergling? Not a threat to anything, really. One hundred Zerglings? A significant threat to ground troops even very late in the game. There's a good reason that there's a tactic named after them.
    • For the Co-Op mode of Starcraft 2, most Co-op commanders like Alarak, Zeratul, Kerrigan, or Nova have decent attack values in the 50s to 100s that can sometimes be further augmented, which makes Tychus and his piddly 18 seem very weak... until you realize his fire rate is 0.3, meaning he deals 18 damage every one/third of a second, which can be further dropped to 0.18 if you spec him correctly. This means within a single second, with no attack upgrades and just fire-rate upgrades, Tychus can deal 100 damage a second in comparison to most commanders who will deal that much with an attack cooldown of sometimes 1.5 to 2 seconds.
  • In the original Civilization, one lucky roll could allow a warrior with a spear to beat an armored vehicle. Later games in the series expand the rules to make this far more unlikely, but it's still possible.
  • In Total Annihilation, a fun but useless attack is to build hundreds of "Fleas" and sic them on the enemy. A more useful attack is the "Peewee rush" in which dozens of Peewees can obliterate a base in mere moments.
    • Some players eschew building heavy bomber aircraft altogether and just build swarms of fighters. Their missiles do piddling damage to ground units, but enough of them *will* eventually destroy anything and they're so fast most defences will have a hard time targeting them. Indeed, if the battle conditions are set so that the death of the enemy Commander wins you the game, one of the most effective strategies is to just build as many fighters as you can - a couple hundred, preferably - and a bunch of scout planes. Send the scouts on suicide exploration runs and as soon as the Commander is spotted mass-select all your fighters and attack the Commander. Game over.
    • Also, a couple of dozen Construction Aircraft given orders to recycle can quickly erase enemy structures and units from the map. About the only thing they can't wipe out is the enemy commander, and that's only because he can blow them all up with one shot from his Disintegration Gun.
  • This is evident even in fighting games such as Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes, where certain characters can spam multiple-hitting special attacks repeatedly. Even if the attacks are blocked, they still inflict minor damage. After enough attacks, you may find yourself in a position to be cherry tapped. Most likely you will lose from cheese (death from block damage in Street Fighter is evidenced by a cheese-wedge icon), as your opponent revs up a Super Combo, because There Is No Kill Like Overkill.
  • In Disgaea, certain characters (the Prinnies come to mind) perform multiple weak attacks instead of one regular-powered attack. But when linked into a combo, the attack value of each hit goes up. Put a Prinny at the end of a multi-character combo and watch every hit (and they land about ten) deal a squidload of damage...
    • Same for the Ninja-class units, that see their evasion rate go nigh 100% against any attack from any enemy that isn't more than double their level. A level 1000+ Ninja can easily clear a whole Item World on his own without getting hit once.
  • Etrian Odyssey III's popular Ikkitousen / Warrior's Might skill allows for a great number of hits, and can be used to kill even bosses in one turn with the right setup.
  • An odd version was present in War Craft II, where gold mines could be destroyed, though their HP was as high as the game's engine would allow for a unit or structure. This led to interesting sights, such as a group of footmen hacking away at a mine... until it collapsed.
  • Advance Wars has this. In fact, "infantry spam" is a slow-but-effective strategy for succeeding in any ground war.
    • The other advantage of an infantry swarm is that, at most, a unit can destroy one other unit per turn (there are ways to attack multiple units, but none of these in any game can actually destroy that unit). Only the most powerful units can one-hit an infantry unit from full health, so it can be quite tricky to fight back the wall. The only problem to using only infantry, as opposed to infantry meat shielding artillery and rockets, is that it takes just as much time and structures to build an infantry as a MegaTank (just much more cash). A Mechanized Infantry rush (Mechs can do considerable damage to any land unit if they strike first) is generally more effective (especially against very large units, where the mech can move up, do a small but notable amount of damage, and get gunned down to make way for more mechs).
  • Fire Emblem: Fighting a dragon by slashing it over and over for 1 damage each.
    • This is a good tactic for any weak unit going through the arena with a sleep sword. Anything that falls asleep stays asleep for a set number of turns — but turns don't pass while in the arena. The only thing preventing this from becoming a downright game breaker is the fact that you can only do the arena so many times.
  • In the original Wing Commander, it was possible for even the weakest fighter to destroy any capital ship if you could shoot it enough times. Later games alternated between large capital ships being invulnerable or vulnerable to everything except special "torpedo" missiles.
  • Similarly, Descent: Freespace allowed a player's guns to do damage to capital ships — very slowly. Freespace 2 didn't: fighter guns could only do a certain amount of damage to capital ships, which had to be killed by either torpedoes or other capital ships.
  • The early PlayStation game Lone Soldier has the eponymous beefslab soldier being able to destroy tanks, walls, armoured bunkers and the like with the default infinite ammo-laden Uzi. By spending several minutes firing at anything destructible in the game (and making it flash to make the player aware of it's status of being hurt) a torrent of 9mm bullets could make buildings not only be destroyed, but destroyed in a giant plume of flame.
  • In the Grand Theft Auto series, punching (with bare hands, no less), kicking and stomping on a car enough times will result in denting, windows breaking, doors and body panels falling off, and eventually, the car exploding. In that order. Never mind that the characters should have bruised, cut and fractured hands doing so — they're perfectly healthy even after punching three trucks to explosion.
  • In the X-Wing series, a fighter can kill any capital ship with just its laser blasters, though avoiding the capital ship's own turbolaser turrets is a problem. A fighter's ion guns can disable even a Star Destroyer in a few shots, if the shields are down. TIE Fighter and later installments even allow you to destroy subsystems on capital ships, so once you clear away enough guns and disable the engines you can literally park your fighter beside the ship, put a rubber band around the trigger, and go get coffee while the Star Destroyer or Mon Calamari Cruiser slowly dies.
    • In the Star Wars universe, fighters are considered a major threat to capital ships if they use mass-fire tactics with missile weapons. In fairness to the trope, their lasers are usually depicted as too weak to deal any major damage to a capital ship, but the point stands that Rebel fighters were such a threat to Imperial capital ships that a special ship design composed mostly of a hull and a metric buttload of laser cannons, the Lancer-class frigate, was made just to kill fighters.
      • Which proved too slow, costly, and manpower-intensive for wide deployment, and was helpless against other capital ships. Most admirals eschewed it in favor of expendable TIE screens.
      • Having a TIE screen around was pretty much vital for most Imperial ships. Without their fighter screens, they were vulnerable to Trench Run Disease—the types of tactics that eventually destroyed the first Death Star. Granted, most Star Destroyers didn't have an exhaust port that led straight to the reactor core, but they did have exposed shield generators and the same type of turbolaser batteries. The tactics that win in the video game above? While not as effective in the EU, given enough time and the right conditions, they would eventually kill a Star Destroyer.
  • In MadWorld, bosses that seem to not sustain much damage from regular attacks (including being sliced with a goddamn chainsaw) can eventually be worn down if you just keep on punching them, although for most there's quicktime sequences you can initiate to damage them much more efficiently.
  • In EVE Online, a large enough swarm of completely expendable small ships can destroy a flagship costing millions and billions of ISK.
    • This is generally considered good strategy in the game: frigates (the smallest ships in the game) are also generally the fastest. Cruisers and larger ships have guns that are designed to track and shoot cruisers and larger ships...which move much more slowly than a Frigate. A properly piloted group of frigates can pummel a cruiser all day and not get hit. You need a lot of them in order to inflict enough damage, but...
  • In Homeworld 2, several ships are built especially to inflict death of a thousand cuts, particularly the bombers and the Vaygr Laser Corvettes. Actually, most small ships can overrun the big guns when given time.
    • The first game's expansion, Homeworld Cataclysm, has the drone frigates - ships that have no weapons themselves, but have onboard factories that quickly generate large numbers of drones. Each drone is armed but with one small gun and is practically insignificant by itself, but deadly in large numbers.
  • In Half-Life, you can shoot down helicopters using machine guns. In the PlayStation 2-only Expansion Pack Half-Life: Decay, you have to. Half-Life 2 was much more sensible about this, with vehicular enemies only vulnerable to explosives.
    • You can shoot down a helicopter with a machine gun, but only if you're extremely lucky. Such incidents did happen for example in The Vietnam War.
  • Prior to getting the Mega Buster chargeable Arm Cannon, several Mega Man (Classic) games had a weapon that was no more effective in damage than the normal gun, but had such a fast rate of fire that players would use them exclusively unless they were out of power or not effective against a given enemy. Examples include the "Metal Blade" (Mega Man 2, aimable) and "Needle Cannon" (Mega Man 3, full-auto in three round bursts).
    • Similarly, one of the Beast Out powerup forms gave you a rapid-firing buster, at the cost of not being able to charge your shots. While normal charged shots can deal around 10 damage at the beginning, Beast Out lets you fire more than 10 bullets in the same time it took to charge, resulting in a flurry of bullets raining down on your opponent (in some cases can even make certain battlechips obsolete).
    • Model HX in ZX turned out to be a Game-Breaker because of this. One of its moves is to create a tornado that sits in one place and attacks 16 times. The final boss was (of course) a One-Winged Angel, and its stationary damage point was just asking to be tornado'd to death.
    • Similar to Model H is the very first of Mega Man X's Power Copying attacks, Storm Tornado, considered a Game-Breaker due to the fact that one use can score multiple hits on multiple enemies.
      • A literal example can be performed with Zero in the fourth, fifth, and sixth games in the series. The first hit of his basic Z-Saber combo, while weak, doesn't cause Mercy Invincibility against most of the bosses and can be canceled with a dash then immediately performed again. The amount of hits you can land in the span of a second is practically limited only by how quickly you can alternate the attack and dash buttons (A fact that predictably gets abused to a hilarious degree in tool-assisted Speedruns).
    • Mega Man Zero 3 has the 1000 Slash learned from Deathtanz Mantisk, which sees Zero performing countless stabs with the Recoil Rod so long as the button the Rod's equipped in is pressed several times (it has the drawback of Zero remaining immobile). In Zero 4, the Ice Javelin can also score several hits due to the nature of the projectile.
  • Wanna know what's the best short-range weapon in most if not all MechWarrior games? The machine gun. You're supposed to mount one or two to fight infantry, because they do piddling damage individually, but stats-wise (that is, considering ammo load, heat generation and damage) they're the most efficient weapon in the game. Take a large ballistic-weapon-based Mech and load as many machine guns as it can take, and you make it into the ultimate close-range brawler. If more range is needed, small autocannons like the AC2 work well.
    • Ironically, the heavy weapons are more effective on light mechs, as the things are often too agile to keep a bead on, but it's usually fairly easy to get them in your sights for the split-second necessary to hit them with a PPC or similar weapon.
    • It usually doesn't pay to choose superheavy mechs (such as the Atlas) in the new MechWarrior: Online game, unless you're a pro who actually knows how to use them. They're powerful and heavily armored, but very slow both to move and turn, which means all that armor simply delays your death when, inevitably, a bunch of light scout Mechs start walking around you and peppering you with light lasers until they erode it all away.
      • On the other hand, said heavy mech's best weapon against light mechs is the same thousand cuts, by spewing out a constant stream of laser, or light autocannon fire, to simply make it so that at all times there's something firing, and to then wave the cursor in large sweeps, dealing minimal damage each time, but to a Light Mech they're still notable, and can't be dodged.
  • In Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War, the armour types system means that most basic infantry are not supposed to scratch the toughest armour types. In practice, however, Scratch Damage still occurs. Nevertheless, fans have made mods that indeed make buildings impervious to small arms.
    • In a later Relic game, Company of Heroes, rifles may indeed do light damage to armored cars or scout vehicles, they will do NOTHING to a tank, even attacking their weaker rear armor. Strangely, this doesn't carry entirely over to the critical hit table: infantry dealing enough dakka to the back of armored vehicles may eventually deal engine damage, even if the vehicle's HP is full.
    • This trend was continued with the sequel to Dawn of War, with the notable exception that some common weapons really are powerful enough to do light damage to tanks — the Space Marine bolter fires high explosive rockets, and Ork weapons aren't too much weaker than that, especially since they bring More Dakka.
    • In Warhammer 40000 Spacemarine, the most dangerous opponent in the game is the humble Chaos infantryman. Their lasguns don't do a lot of damage, but their numbers and rate of fire mean they can swiftly whittle your health down to nothing if you don't get rid of them quickly before you have to focus on the more individually threatening Chaos Marines and Daemons.
  • Halo:
    • In Halo: Combat Evolved, it is possible to bring down most Covenant vehicles simply by shooting them enough with small arms and grenades.
    • You can also, at least in theory, do this to any vehicle in subsequent games, though getting enough ammunition to pull this off takes some time, and vehicles are much better at killing infantry than vice-versa. Of course, your own vehicles are vulnerable to this too.
    • Ghosts are your friend. It's possible to take out EVERYTHING DESTROYABLE in that game with these nimble machines. Problem is, they're not too durable themselves... but you can take on a Phantom and disable ALL of its guns without dying.
    • Halo Wars:
      • You can do this with the Elephant Tank. This tank can train its own infantry, allowing you to set up small bases of power independent of your main base. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your mood), most players just park a handful of Elephant Tanks near the enemy and use their production capabilities to feed cannon-fodder into the nearest battle, conveyor belt style.
      • Alternatively, it is possible to upgrade the standard marine squads into ODST squads at which point you can rain them from the sky onto any location not covered by fog of war.
  • In Freelancer, it's not rare to find yourself taking out entire fleets by yourself with just your guns, enough repair supplies, and the will of the Holy Spirit, and this is thanks to each shot dealing at least a little bit of damage. In fact, a popular Self-Imposed Challenge in one of the late missions involves destroying 3 battleships, 5 cruisers and 6 gunships.
  • In Age of Empires and 2, a large enough number of guys with swords can storm a castle. Age of Empires III has all characters who can damage a building use a separate siege attack — an inexhaustible supply of torches.
    • Doesn't even need to be a large number - if the building can't shoot arrows at you (or sometimes even that, as towers need technology to shoot at their feet) one swordsman is enough!
      • There's even legends being passed around about an archer who was the only survivor of an invading army headed for the enemy's town. He was forgotten about and later discovered by the second wave of attackers, who have found that he shot arrows at the town's stone walls, dealing 1 damage per arrow. The wall had already started crumbling before him.
    • Spearmen and Pikemen are more effective against War Elephants than Swordsmen; they get a bonus against cavalry, and the fact that in this case the "cavalry" are pachyderms isn't factored in. One will hurt an elephant pretty badly before he dies, and three or four will kill one.
  • Ginormo Sword. While the object (sorta) of the game is to boost your weapon of choice to levels at which it covers the entire screen, the strongest monsters can still take hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of hits to suffer any sort of dent in their HP — even when your strength stat is in the thousands.
  • Ragnarok Online's battle system takes into account how many enemies are attacking you at a given time. If the number of enemies you are fighting goes above a certain threshold, your DEF and FLEE get reduced by a certain amount per enemy. Therefore, it is possible to have a sufficient number of Porings handily trounce a level 99 knight.
  • In Fallout 1, 2 and Tactics, final attack damage is calculated first by subtracting any Damage Threshold offered by a character's armor from the attacker's rolled damage, then subtracting from any leftover damage the character's Damage Resistance, a percentile: for example, Powered Armor in the first game had 12/40 protection against normal damage, making the sniper rifle the only weapon guaranteed to cause damage outside of critical hits. Bethesda's Fallout 3 eliminates DT and only uses DR for armor, meaning that even the toughest hombre wearing heavy-duty powered armor can still be stabbed to death with a kitchen knife.
    • Though DT was reintroduced in Fallout: New Vegas, all attacks now have a minimum percentage of damage that 'leaks' through armor, no matter the Damage Treshold. Thus one can still kill a Tougher-than-tough Alpha Male Deathclaw or a Brotherhood of Steel Paladin in shiny near impregnable armor, with a straight razor...
      • Speaking of which, the Gun Runners Arsenal DLC adds an optional challenge that can be done for an XP reward. It involves killing five Deathclaws using Silenced .22 Pistols, Boxing Tape, Recharger Rifles, Switchblades, or Dynamite. All of these are the weakest weapons of their respective categories, so a Death of a Thousand Cuts is inevitable unless you have some kind of ridiculous sneak attack bonus and/or take enough drugs to OD the entire population of the Mojave. Even then, these weapons are so weak that this would probably only lower it to Death of 750 Cuts at best.
    • Given rather odd forms sometimes with the ability to target specific areas on your enemies. The Deathclaw's weakness (in the first game) are its eyes, but it's a tough enemy to beat even if you know that... so you'll end up shooting and hitting it in the eyes and severely damaging them again and again for several minutes before it actually has any effect (and the creature dies).
  • The JoJo's Bizarre Adventure game averts this trope. If you continuously block hits while not having a Stand out, you will suffer Scratch Damage until your health reaches zero, at which point you will stop taking Scratch Damage. This prevents you from dying by this method, although it's relatively easy to get past one's guard in this game, so turtling is still not an option.
    • Both of the Touhou Project fighters do this as well. Making this even more annoying in the first fighter is the fact that certain moves explicitly cannot kill a blocking opponent even if that block is incorrect and the blocker is guard crushed.
  • In Deus Ex, the toughest single standard enemy is likely the military bot. These are like fifteen feet tall, and have chainguns and rocket launchers. Destroying them usually requires multiple hits from a rocket launcher. But one thing: they can only shoot forward, and they turn slowly. So it's not only possible, but easy to destroy one with a combat knife, as long as no other enemies are around: stand behind it and attack continuously for a few minutes, walking in circles to stay behind as it turns to face you. Eventually it will blow up. If you're not careful you'll lose a limb, admittedly, but at least you won't have wasted any ammo.
  • In Battlefield 2142, heavily-armored battlewalkers have a Weak Spot that can be attacked with everything but your combat knife. Unless it's an actual anti-vehicle weapon, each hit will do Scratch Damage. Fortunately for the walker pilot, no applicable firearm can wear down the walker in one salvo: all non-machine guns have limited rounds per magazine, and all machine guns suffer from overheating.
    • A better example would be the Titan battleships. Once its shields have come down, its vital components can be attacked with, again, everything but knives. Granted, it takes more bullets than any one player carries at one time to wear down everything, but it's entirely possible to take down a Titan by shooting enough lead at its tender spots.
  • The Monster Hunter series has the Dual Blades, Dual Wielding daggers; each individual hit might not do a lot of damage, but they're the fastest-hitting weapons in the franchise (especially when you're in Demon Mode), which has lead to players nicknaming them "Murder Blenders". Sword and Shield is this to a lesser extent, being the second fastest weapon type.
  • Age of Mythology: The Titans makes this necessary, as nothing in the game can kill a Titan in one shot. Not even the instant-kill god power Bolt, which only takes out 1300 of the Titan's 8,000 HP. Typical human units do about 10 points of damage to the Titan and try to wear it down, heroes being better at damaging them.
    • Even more so, fighting the enemy's army with your Titan will generally lead to your large titan being wasted. Target their buildings, or expect to lose your Titan to Scratch Damage. It bears reminding that, while very powerful and resistant, the Titans can not be healed.
      • Especially so if your opponent is Egyptian, remember that heroes deal extra damage to mythical units, Titans ARE Mythical Units and that Egyptian priests are considered heroes... Add that to the fact that Mythological Age Priests have a very good range for attacks and a decent attack rating, as well as being decently cheap... Well, let's just say that an army of old dudes could very easily kill Cerberus.
  • In Star Wars: Empire at War you can take down AT-ATsnote  with squads of blaster-pistol-wielding infantry.
  • Turn-based strategy games in general tend to have this as a strategy: Go up to a unit. Attack it. You do some damage, it kills you. Pick your next guy. Go up to a unit... In Battle for Wesnoth it's actually such a prevalent strategy for the Undead that many fans of the game use the term "Walker-corpsing" to refer to this strategy in other games.
  • In Castlevania, the Iron Golem enemies have maximum defense and will only take one damage from any attack. At this point, strong techniques and spells are nearly useless because the enemies have such thick skin. Weaker moves that hit quicker, however, suddenly become much more useful.
  • Jurassic Park: Chaos Island includes many playable characters from the movies, and also assistants you can recruit for menial tasks. If you face a T-Rex, you can send in your stronger characters, and risk getting them killed- or send an army of assistants, who all have weak attacks. If you do this, the T-rex will be confused and spin around without actually attacking anyone. It takes a while, but eventually the weak assistants will be able to kill it.
  • The modus operandi of Meta Knight in Super Smash Bros.. However, some of his moves have a lot of knockback, particularly his Final Smash.
  • In Heroes Of Annihilated Empires, this is a pretty good way of taking out hero units, since although they can have defenses of over a hundred, all attacks cause at least one point of damage (and you typically attack with several hundred at a time).
  • Most high level raid bosses in World of Warcraft die this way, especially those from before the expansions.
    • Archimonde at the climax of Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos. He's killed by thousands of wisps, nature spirits and the Night Elves' basic worker unit, with an ability called Detonate, which sends them suicide bombing on summoned units. Guess how Archimonde got into Azeroth?
    • Back in the classic version of the game, Shaman had windfury weapon, a self-enchantment that had a chance to proc an extra hit instantly, though this has since been changed, it had no internal cooldown, thus with a stroke of luck, it was possible for winfury to proc off of windfury which procs off another windfury which keeps proccing, if the stars aligned, a raid boss could be taken out in one hit by a storm of lucky windfury procs.
    • Also from classic the Paladin talent reckoning can lead to this: each time you gain a critical hit, your next hit gains an extra attack. Now what happens if you don't fight back? The buff of reckoning just counted upwards. So a crafty player got a rogue friend to attack him with daggers for hours to receive as much critical hits as possible, that alone may count, but then he runs up to Kazzak back in the days one of the hardest bosses around and Unleashed the Reckoning Bomb in one Attack, also each Paladin attack procs another attack from his seal, doubling the attacks again: so he killed one of the hardest bosses in the game with 3600 hits within a few seconds. For reference see here. Also note this talent was hotfixed in the next day after this video to only stay for 8 seconds and can't build up for hours.
    • This can also be invoked by players. One version happens when a high level player goes AFK with their PVP flag on. As long as the lower level player can do more DPS than the other's natural HP regen, it's only a matter of time before the higher level player dies. Another method is to send a swarm of noobs at the higher level player, in the form of a noob raid.
    • Official in the Multistrike stat, which gives all abilities a chances to hit for a second time. This includes healing abilities.
    • The concept of kiting strong enemies relies on this, particularly for hunters, frost mages (which slow enemies), and fire mages (which have the best mobility of all casters). Simply hit the enemy and keep running in a circle until they eventually die.
  • One of the more resilient examples occurs in the Battle of Skyhook in the Shadows of the Empire game. At one point in the battle, a Star Destroyer shows up and starts unleashing TIE fighters. It is possible to damage the Destroyer with your single ship's lasers and unlimited missiles, but the damage is hardly noticeable. It takes pounding on it for hours before the damage registers from 100% to 99%. Compare that to how quickly they go down in the movies. Likewise, trying to take down an AT-AT in the first level with your Snowspeeder's lasers alone can be done, but it'll take a long time (especially on higher difficulty levels) and you'll have no choice but to do so if you happen to run out of harpoon cables.
  • Sarevok, the Big Bad from Baldur's Gate, naturally takes quite a few hits to take down in the game. Well, in the cinematics at the beginning of the sequel, he's shown in a flashback as having died with about fifteen arrows and four larger implements still sticking out of his chest. These aren't small injuries, mind; presumably he was just that tough. Poison weapons, which do repeated single points of damage, are also a good strategy for taking on spellcasters, whose spells are interrupted every time they take damage.
    • General rule is that, in the same timeframe, having more attacks is always better than one devastating attack, both for pure damage dealing and to compensate missed rolls (unless we are comparing non magical clubs to an Infinity +1 Sword). This is particularly true from mid-Shadows of Amn onwards, when major enemies start to bypass anyway your armor class, shields become almost useless and pure damage dealing grows in importance. Besides class and weapon proficiency, there are three common ways of achieving high attacks per round (APR): 1) invest points in dual wielding weapons; 2) use spells like haste, potions like oil of speed or high level abilities like whirlwind; 3) wield weapons that grant one additional attack per round, mostly enchanted small swords. Now combine all these factors into one single character who dual wields in the off hand a weapon that increases attacks per round (the effect is applied to the main hand too which is big) like Kundane or Belm, then cast improved haste. Enjoy the sheer amount of damage you cause to your opponents in a room of seconds. While all the various instances and weapons in game are usually viable even with suboptimal battle setups, high level characters and their innate powers can be micromanaged to broken results, ending spectacularly into this trope when abusing of the greater whirlwind ability.
    • It works also for missiles. The Tuigan Shortbow and the Light Crossbow of Speed are the ingame equivalent to machine guns and are regarded among the best ranged weapons in game - until very late game when you need at least +3 weapons to hit bosses.
  • One strategy for beating some Gym Leaders in the Pokémon games, especially with underleveled Pokémon, is to spam moves like Growl or Sand Attack with one's lead Pokémon, or Defense Curl, etc. with the strongest (though still underleveled) Mon on the team, or perhaps X Attack or X Defend. After that, it's usually a matter of slooooooowly taking down the leader's first Pokémon, and repeating Attack-stat debuffs when the next one comes out. This is notably used on the first Gym Leaders who use Rock-types: Brock, Roxanne, and Roark.
    • Shedinja can safely use this as a valid tactic at times, due to its Wonder Guard ability making it immune to attacks that don't hit it for super effective damage, thus allowing it to potentially chip away at the health of a much higher leveled Pokemon that lacks a means of harming it. After gaining the ability to use Will-O-Wisp in later generations, it's not quite as tedious of a process due to the percent based damage the burn caused by said move inflicts.
    • This joke page detailing Kakuna's uses in the Metagame plays this trope for laughs.
    "With Bug Bite, Kakuna is not walled by the likes of Steelix and Steel-type Arceus. As a matter of fact, Bug Bite's addition lowers max HP / max Def Steelix from a 94-hit-KO to a 36HKO. Max HP Steel-type Arceus is now a 25 HKO, while min HP/Def Psychic Arceus is a 22HKO."
    • The video game adaptation of the Trading Card Game ran into a problem of this nature. Because the coin flips in the game have predetermined outcomes, nothing is actually random, and so chains of heads or tails come up far more times than chance allows. Thus, if a Pokémon has a paralysis-inducing attack, there is a much greater chance that the player can paralyze the opponent every turn until the Defending Pokémon is knocked out — even if the attack is very weak and the defense has a lot of HP.
    • In a more traditional sense, there are moves like Fury Swipes, Icicle Spear, and Rock Blast that hit for small amounts of damage multiple times per turn. In most cases, these attacks are unreliable because they hit a random amount of times, between 2 and 5, per turn. Generation V introduced an Ability called Skill Link, however, that guarantees these attacks will always hit the maximum 5 times, making them useful when used by Pokémon with Skill Link.
  • Human military soldiers have to do this in [PROTOTYPE], because they simply can't do that much damage. It's a different story if they have grenade or missile launchers, but generally the rifle-carrying soldiers will just pour bullets into you until you stop moving.
  • In Ready 2 Rumble Boxing, it's possible to use any punch an unlimited number of times if you have enough stamina. If it's fast enough that the opponent can't block the second after the first connects, you can get a knockdown using only that one basic low-damage punch. This not only is the most effective strategy in the game, it's pretty much the only way to get knockouts in Gold class, as your opponents will simply block all your high-damage shots. The most blatant example is Damien Black, a huge demon with a pulverizing 5-hit combo and a simple right to the body that takes off a massive chunk of life. And a boring little jab. Guess what he's going to be doing all the time once everything else stops connecting. Ready 2 Rumble Round 2 subverts this somewhat, as it's no longer possible to do unlimited fast punches and Rumble Flurries are more effective, but you'll still get far more mileage out of simple jabs and straights than any of the specialties (many of which now do barely more damage than the basic punches anyway).
  • With its pitiful damage output and painfully slow attack speed, the Combat Knife of Resident Evil fame is typically regarded as a Joke Weapon and tossed in an item box at the first available opportunity. The exception to this rule occurs in Code: Veronica, in which, for some reason, the knife registers multiple hits per swing. All those minor-damage hits stacking up over a short amount of time results in the knife becoming one of the most surprisingly effective weapons in the game.
  • "One Thousand Cuts" is actually the name of the final power of the Dual Blades powerset in City of Heroes. Though the animation seems to indicate it is only a couple dozen slashes at most, and the power only deals twelve separate ticks of damage, those ticks of damage are individually lower than most other slashes in the powerset yet add up to become the strongest power in the set.
  • In the X-Universe series, the Kha'ak Destroyer is one of the most fearsome ships you can face, having a whole lot of shields and hull points, and a full loadout of nigh-hitscan beam weapons. However, there's a small spot behind the engine where its turrets can't reach. You can't kill it with a light fighter, because the shields recharge faster than light weapons can bring them down, but a suitably armed heavy fighter can park itself behind the behemoth and pour laser - or better yet, bring a load of Mass Drivers and their ammo - fire in it until it dies. Assuming, of course, other enemy ships have been dealt with beforehand.
    • The player risks being on the receiving end in Kha'ak and Xenon sectors. Such sectors will spawn enemies without end, which will eventually wear you down.
    • Drone spam. Stuff a freighter or frigate with fighter drones (you can fit thousands in a small freighter, and tens of thousands in a large), then eject them all at once. There is no way for the computer to respond to that.
  • Normally, you can't do this in Desktop Dungeons. If you injure an enemy, then retreat to heal up, the enemy will also heal. However, Poison in this game cancels regeneration. So a very viable strategy is to attack an enemy until the next hit would kill you, cast APHEELSIK (the Poison spell), then retreat until you're at full health and resume. This is how the Assassin (the class that unlocks APHEELSIK) works.
  • Dwarf Fortress gives us the nightmarish player character, MEATGOD. Meatgod was a player who wore adamant armor, and carried a little bronze hammer. Because Meatgod liked to get to know his enemies as he slowly beat his enemies to death with a dinky little hammer, he became legendary for his horrible actions (there's a MEATGOD achievement on the forums, for killing a megabeast with a no quality weapon). He once took on seven giants over a period of several days. The first couple of days, the giants would go at him, and he'd pound them until they collapsed from exhaustion. Then he'd leave and come back the next day. After a couple of days, they started running away at the sight of him. A couple days after that, they couldn't run anymore, due to having broken legs. On the last day, they didn't even try to struggle anymore, either due to exhaustion, blood loss, and painful injuries, or perhaps just that after several days of slow and torturous beatings, they welcomed death with open arms.
  • Metal Slug: Sure, there are weapons like the Rawket Launcha and the Heavy Machine Gun, but it's definitely possible to take down any boss (be it tank, alien, robot, or even a battleship on treads) with enough shots from a regular pistol.
    • Not just possible - often required. Being rather Nintendo Hard for most players, it happens more often than not that a boss will kill at least one of your lives. When that happens, a replacement weapon for your new life is not at all guaranteed, often leaving you stuck with the pistol.
  • This is almost always the fate of the player in Crush, Crumble, and Chomp!; no matter how good you play, eventually the human forces will overwhelm you with attacks faster than your ability to heal/recover.
  • It is theoretically possible to destroy a tank with small-arms fire in Jagged Alliance 2 v1.13 thanks to some armor-piercing rounds (like heavy sniper calibers) having the "Damage Tanks" flag. Fortunately, it is extremely unlikely to survive the tank's retaliation if it manages to interrupt any of your attacks.
  • This can end up being a default strategy for Disco Bandits and Accordion Thieves in Kingdom of Loathing. Since these two classes focus on Moxie (the stat by which your chance-to-dodge is calculated), it's entirely possible to be so smooth as to be completely untouchable, but your own damage-dealing capabilities are somewhat under par, so it's just a question of whether or not you have the kind of time it takes to beat the bugger.
    • DBs do have Moxious Maneuver to resort to, though.
  • This is one of the core mechanics of Mass Effect. Shields, which many, if not most enemies have at least a bit of, reduces each pellet of damage by a set procentage. This makes weapons like Sniper Rifles and Heavy Pistol less efficient against Shields, but fast-shooting weapons generally just ignore this percentage through volume of fire.
    • In Mass Effect 2 on Haestrom, Kal'Reegar mentions that standard procedure for fighting a geth colossus is to "kill it with bug bites".
  • Time consuming as it may be, it is possible to kill a Cyberdemon in Doom with nothing but your bare fists (and without resorting to the Berserker pack). Very difficult due to the Cyberdemon's persistence combined with its HP. Doom II on the Xbox 360 recognizes this feat and will actually award the player an Achievement for doing sonote .
  • This is the Necessary Drawback of the Onion Knight and Zidane in Dissidia Final Fantasy. Both of them are extremely fast and agile, but the majority of their Brave combos (unless they grossly outmatch, in levels, equipment, or both, the opponent) will deal single-digit damage per hit. However, their combos have a lot of hits, and they move really quickly, meaning that this isn't necessarily as nonviable as it may sound at first. Interestingly, despite both relying on the thousand cuts strategy, according to the people who make tier sheets one is very high-tier while the other is extremely low-tier.
  • Black & White 2 went out of its way to avert this by basing its combat on its physics engine, its developers specifically citing the "thousands of spears bringing down a brick wall" scenario as what they were trying to avoid.
  • Robot Alchemic Drive forces you to do this in one mission, where your giant robot is locked into its transformed mode and can't effectively attack. Thus, you're forced to chuck grenades at the enemy giant robot's ankles for 10 minutes before it goes down.
  • In theory destroyers from Sword of the Stars can take out dreadnoughts. In practice, it's not a good idea because you will lose many destroyers to the dread-user unless the other guy was Too Dumb to Live by either equipping his dreads with only anti-capital weapons or rushed them out without getting better weapons. Furthermore, the dread is likely to just lumber through the defensive fire to start glassing the colony behind.
  • Tales of the Abyss: If you dare to fight the Unicerous on Unknown Mode, your party will have this effect, even the ones who can use the kind of magic that the Unicerous is weak to (Dark). Jade is unquestionably the worst, doing one damage since most of his special attacks are wind-based and the Unicerous is immune to Wind and Light. It's not impossible, and it IS possible to do more damage, provided you're at a much, much higher level.
    • This applies to most bosses on Unknown Mode. Arietta, Dist all three times, Abaddon, and many more can only have their tens of thousands of health slowly whittled down, one hit point at a time, even if you use 10x experience on New Game+ to be at a much higher level than normal.
  • In Tales of Graces, Cheria's level 3 blast caliber is this with knives.
  • The Minimum Damage skill in Tales of Vesperia forces this by reducing the damage of every hit to one. Equipping this skill to certain characters (Such as Yuri or Rita) along with other skills allows for infinite combo-chains with each hit only doing a single point of damage. Combos are a MAJOR factor in determining how much grade you get at the end of a battle. Equip these skills, go to an area with low level enemies, and gradually pummel the poor bastards into oblivion. In less than an hour you'll have more grade than you'll ever need.
  • In Gratuitous Space Battles, this is how fighters not armed with torpedoes kill cruisers, by swarming over them firing lasers and rockets at point-blank into their hulls. Heavily-armored cruisers can be nearly immune to this abuse, as their plating will be so thick that enemy shots will just deflect off, but every shot has a chance to inflict a "lucky shot" that does some damage to the enemy ship's armor. Once the armor is stripped away by enough lucky hits (or heavy weapons like torpedoes or cruiser beam weapons) the cruiser will be vulnerable to fighter weapons. At that point, watching the ensuing assault by fighters is akin to watching piranhas tearing a body to bits.
  • Impa in Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity absolutely fills this role. It's one thing that she's the game's kunoichi with lightning-fast combos and ninja signs, because then you'd expect her to be fast and impressive; but once you fill all three symbols to generate ''eight'' clones of herself, she can wipe out entire battlefields just spamming the standard attack combo. You don't even need to focus on breaking the weakness-gauge, enemies just melt when she's on the field.
  • In Jade Empire, the Player Character can learn a style called "Thousand Cuts," which unsurprisingly emphasizes speed and many fast, light hits.
  • In MOBA games, there are some characters who specialize by Cherry Tapping people a bunch of times. Especially if they are dependent on Attack-speed or spamming their abilities really fast.
    • Ezrael in League of Legends basically does this with his abilities. He is capable of bursting, but oftentimes he does just this.
    • Juggernaut and Fiora have Omnislash as their ults in DotA and League of Legends, respectively. When there are groups, they jump from enemy to enemy rapidly striking them. When they are alone with their target, however, they stick to them like glue and grind them down with a rain of blows.
  • In Minecraft, it's completely possible to take down the Ender Dragon (200 HP) with snowballs (1 damage each).
  • This is the basis of "A Thousand Deaths", a 50-hit Branch Combo belonging to one of the most powerful combo trees in Cross Edge.
  • Vega Strike has Subsystem Damage probability per hull hit, so once armor is broken, shield-piercing weapons become very efficient, even if weak on raw damage (and most are).
    • Mini Drivers has good effective range and mediocre rate of fire, but lower damage per second than for any other Medium or even Light weapon, except Micro-driver (it's at least faster and thus useful against missiles). So low that the weakest Deflector Shields stop 2 hits at once and the shield-bypassing part needs 100 hits to breach the weakest armor — then it's more likely to break shield generator than kill the hull outright. Even shuttles not armed with anything better got much stronger shields, while balls aren't very fast and miss anything maneuverable as often as not. The main weapon of "Redeemer" are two mini-drivers, the purpose of which seems to be inciting the hatred of Luddites: an encounter almost always ends only in paying for armor repair. Yet the communicator logs show kill messages by Redeemers, sometimes against fairly good ships.
    • In a less emphasized fashion, lasers: they are weak, but got long range and shield-piercing, so a ship opens fire earlier and kills gradually by strafes rather than going in for an overwhelming barrage.
  • Kirby has this in all the games with blocking. You can block attacks, but many enemies (and all bosses) will do a tiny bit of damage through the guard, unless you have certain abilities. Depending on the duration of an attack, guarding can sometimes cause Kirby to take more total damage due to the lack of Mercy Invincibility.
  • A sidequest in Assassin's Creed III involves Connor being sent to find an Über-bear that has been terrorizing the locals. A normal bear takes three strikes from the hidden blade to bring down. This one takes six. Of course, combat with dangerous animals boils down to Press X to Not Die.
  • In Little Busters!, a number of the weapons count (though the 20-turn limit prevents extreme cases), but the best example is Rin's cats. Although they won't hit for very much each, as the game goes on and she trains with them more and more, she can be hitting over 10 times every turn. It's precisely because of this that Rin becomes very hard to beat by the end of the battle segments.
  • Speedsters in Fighting Games with particularly open-ended combo systems can invoke this. Once they get their Combo going, damage scaling will mean that even heavy attacks will deal almost no damage, with the character's damage output being determined more by how long the combo lasts rather than how hard they actually hit. The best example of such a character in recent memory is probably Dante in Marvel vs. Capcom 3, as seen here.
  • Pikmin: It doesn't matter how much HP that gargantuan monstrosity has, there's no foe that can't be vanquished by throwing more Pikmin at it and letting 20+ pairs of tiny fists do the work for you. Alternatively, you can attack enemies directly if your captain doesn't have any Pikmin available for tossing by punching them, which does only marginally more damage then a hit from the weakest of Pikmin. Regardless, it's actually a viable tactic against some foes (As long as you have time to spare), as a number of them are completely incapable of harming you, but can do a number on your Pikmin. Pikmin 2 even offers an upgrade to your captains' punching power.
  • This is effective in Stars! , a 16-bit 4X space empire game, due to limitations in the variable handling. An attack always causes at least 1/512th damage to a stack of ships, which means a full stack of huge battlecruisers can be destroyed by a large number of scouts with a single torpedo each. Invoking this intentionally is often considered cheating, but there's a fine line between abuse and effective use of small ship tactics. It's not terribly hard to defend against, however.
  • In Xenonauts, this trope is the default tactic used against stronger Sebillians, especially before advanced weaponry is researched.
  • In Clonk, thrown objects such as rocks deal Scratch Damage. Throwing dozens at a monster from somewhere it can't reach you is a viable tactic.
  • This is how blasters and blaster rifles end up working in Might and Magic VI and VII. Their base damage isn't that impressive for the latter part of the game (when you get them — they're Lost Technology), especially since it can't be improved (the associated skill only increases the bonus to hit things with them, and unlike other weapons they can't be enchanted). Their rate of fire, on the other hand, is very high, and so is their ability to actually hit things (outside the blast being blocked by walls). Combine with a unique damage type that no monster is resistant or immune to, and bombarding enemies with dozens of blaster shots becomes a valid (even necessary, in one case) end-game tactic.
  • In Nexus Clash, attacks always do at least one point of damage, unless you're immune to the damage type. This makes mundane forms of damage something of a Lethal Joke Item - it's easy to reduce damage from mundane weapons with armor, but impossible to become immune to them, so even the mightiest of characters can be pinged to death with a pipe wrench. It's especially dangerous when combined with Summon Magic, since summoners can throw so many damage-dealing pets into a fight.
  • Every character in Third Strike has a Practical Taunt, but only a portion can connect as weak attacks. While such taunts can be used as a finishing move, they can also wear opponents down with enough hits. For example, Necro's tongue.
  • In Spiral Knights, there are several weapons lines that do this. One is the Autogun line, which shoots 6 weak bullets at a time. The fully upgraded Blitz Needle is considered one of the most powerful weapons in the game.
    • Another is the Striker line, which consists of very fast hitting jagged blades with weak attack power.
  • In Dragon Age: Inquisition, the Rogue class specialization Tempest has an ability literally called Thousand Cuts. It involves the rogue zipping around between all enemies in range, attacking them a number of times that depends on how high the Focus meter currently is. While not actually a thousand attacks are made, at tier 3 Focus, it's 38 attacks at 300% weapon damage which adds up to the equivalent of 124 regular attacks done in 2 seconds, enough to take about 1/3 off a High Dragon's health bar. Bonus points for the ability expending no Focus resource at all when combined with Flask of Fire, meaning it can be used about once every 30 seconds which makes it a complete Game-Breaker.
  • This is a staple of the entire Tower Defense Genre, which has increasingly strong monsters walk past your towers, which continuously attack them, towards your base. Towards the end of the game, it is typical for a tower to deal 200 damage against monsters with 6 or 7 digit HP.
  • In Undertale, the hardest boss of the game has attacks that technically do only 1 damage. The trick is that the attacks completely ignore Mercy Invincibility, meaning that they do 1 damage PER FRAME. And it's a Bullet Hell. And every hit applies a Damage Over Time effect. And he can attack you in the combat menu during your own turns. Have fun!
  • In Left 4 Dead, your weakest attack is a shove and is meant to be used as an emergency maneuver if you get swarmed by zombies (only the Tank and Witch can't be shoved). Each shove does a little bit of damage and you can eventually kill zombies this way with the exception of the Tank and Witch since they're immune to melee damage. The sequel added a shoving fatigue mechanic to discourage players from shoving everything to death.
  • Overwatch:
    • D.Va uses a Mini-Mecha with a weapon that does, at best, 5 damage per pellet, and that's at point blank range... Good thing that those weapons are twin fully-automatic Gatling shotguns with infinite ammo.
    • D.Va and Mercy's backup pistol looks meager and weak, but they have no damage fall-off and are 100% accurate, so even dedicated damage dealers can die from not taking them seriously.
    • Winston is the epitome of this concept. His Tesla Cannon does meager damage out the bat, but it's constant over a wide area and has a large magazine, so if you manage to stay around for long enough, most smaller heroes will break down under the cuts.
    • The most damage Genji can do with a single hit outside of his ultimate is 50, but his strength lies in his ability to rapidly stack numerous hits on top of each other while his mobility and small frame make him an insufferably hard target to pin down.
  • Planet Forte from Meteos was Nerfed heavily for Meteos Wars, turning its competitive approach from Lightning Bruiser into a combination of Stone Wall and this. Meteos is a Falling Blocks Puzzle Game where blocks removed from your side manifest as garbage blocks on the opponent's side, but Forte has by far the lowest garbage block output of any planet in proportion to the number of blocks cleared, meaning it can only send tiny amounts of garbage blocks at a time. However, Forte is also one of the fastest planets in which you can clear the screen, meaning in the hands of a skilled player, those tiny amounts will invade the opponent's side at a rapid rate. At the same time, the fact that Forte can clear the screen practically at will means it can shrug off opponents' garbage block attacks, making its strategy a slow but gradual death of the opponent.
  • In Destiny, this is usually how most bosses are brought down, with constant gunfire from your primary weapons, supplemented by secondary and heavy weapons. It usually takes at least a few hundred and upwards of thousands of bullets to down most strike bosses, at least once whatever defenses they have active are removed. Raid bosses often require more complex techniques to expose them before they can be taken down... but they still in general require lots of concentrated gunfire to bring down.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • In series' lore, the province of Morrowind did not historically have the presence of dragons prior to their "extinction". Why? They were driven away by Cliff Racers... Yes, those weak but hideously annoying creatures that are the bane of players everywhere were able to drive out powerful Aedric (quasi-angelic) beings who could command elements into existence with a few words simply through sheer numbers and persistence. Come the 4th Era, after Cliff Racers had been driven away and after Red Mountain's eruption, a surviving dragon finally came to lair in the smoking ruins of Vvardenfell.
    • On a larger scale, this would be the downfall of Uriel Septim V's attempted invasion of Akavir. Due to space restrictions on his fleet, his forces were underspecialized except for the Battlemages. In nearly every direct confrontation with the Tsaesci forces, Uriel's legions routed them easily. However, he could not replace his losses and his army tended to suffer the heaviest losses to Tsaesci mounted raiders while they traveled or made camp due to his own lack of cavalry. Eventually forced to withdraw, Uriel would perform a Heroic Sacrifice to cover the retreat of his legions.
  • In Fairune this seems to be what the protagonist, Hope Girl, does to (most of) her enemies.
  • Nero's gun in Devil May Cry 4 allows you to do this against most bosses. Yes it will take bloody forever and no you won't get any stylish points, but constantly spamming bosses with your infinite ammunition handgun will eventually take them down. Notably, this is a valid option against Credo who is very difficult to land hits on with anything else (and counterattacks) but is completely indifferent to the damage taken from gunfire. Of course, trying this against Dante will have him shoot your bullets out of the air with his.
  • Enter the Gungeon has a weapon called the Origuni whose description is literally "Thousand Cuts" — a reference to the related expression "death of a thousand paper cuts". Because that's what it does: hurl paper planes at enemies. It's only slightly more powerful than your starting pistol, so attempts to take out bosses with it are going to invoke this trope. And it has enough ammo to get the job done against nearly all bosses, provided you never miss. More generally, any low-damage weapon can do chip damage to any enemy, and it's at least theoretically possible to complete a run with just the starting pistol.
  • Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King: Nothing in this game does more than a half-heart’s worth of Scratch Damage, but it is possible to get hit a lot in a very short period of time if you aren’t careful.

  • In DM of the Rings Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas kill the Oliphaunt by repeatedly stabbing him. In the toe.
  • Schrodinger the Cat in Captain SNES: The Game Masta is taking out Kain's 9999 hit points one by one.
  • In Oglaf a swordmaster instructs his apprentice on how to defeat a larger, stronger opponent by seeking victory over one limb at a time.
  • In Kid Radd, The Seer, having fused several video game characters together and possessed the fusion, has 9999 HP, but only takes one point of damage at a time.
  • Wapsi Square: Suzie inflicts a literal, very explicit one on a child rapist. (No link, as it's possibly the single most NSFW image ever seen in this comic.)

    Web Original 
  • "The Ballad of the Noob"
  • The Horribly Slow Murderer with the Extremely Inefficient Weapon has the Extremely Inefficient Weapon be... a spoon. Which Jack is beaten with. For years.
  • In the Leetworld, one character mentions having a dream where someone murders him with "An eggbeater and some perseverance".
  • In Marvel Rising Ultimate Comics, Squirrel Girl takes down Ulth-Lah-Throth with a squirrel army attack, likening it to a distributed denial-of-service attack.
    Squirrel Girl: The average server can handle a few attackers, but when there are thousands attacking all at once, they go down!
  • In Epithet Erased, Sylvie has an attack called Counting Sheep, which summons many sheep, each doing 1-2 damage. One alone isn't deadly, but the massive herd that he summons in episode 2 is very dangerous.
  • Referenced in the Dragonball Z Abridged parody of the Lord Slug movie. When Gohan attempts to attack Slug's army of mooks, one of Slug's mooks warns Gohan that they'll shoot him with their blasters. Gohan confidently declares "One of those does nothing!", prompting the mook to retort "How about a hundred?" followed by a whole mess of mooks doing a Dramatic Gun Cock. Gohan suddenly seems much more worried. He's right to be, as the mooks blast Gohan out of the sky seconds later.

    Western Animation 
  • In The Itchy & Scratchy Show, Scratchy lifts weights to toughen up his body against Itchy's assaults. Itchy, seeing his massive chest, pokes it with a pin, to no effect. He then zips around at super speed, poking Scratchy countless times all over his chest, causing Scratchy to bleed profusely and allowing Itchy to commit further mayhem on the weakened cat.

    Real Life 
  • Water behaves like this. A few droplets won't kill anything but ants. Stack the droplets into a storm and it can kill thousands as a flood or, as a precious tool, kill anyone by the rain droplets outright with enough force.
  • Attrition Warfare. Any conflict which is not decided by the outcome of a single Operation or Campaign is, by definition, a 'War of Attrition' of 'Attritional War'. Any conflict which is decided by a single Operation of Campaign is a 'War of Annihilation'. The most famous Wars of Attrition were, of course, the First and Second World Wars. The greatest theorist of attrition was Alexander Svechin, who in the 1920s asserted that any Total War would be of such a great scale and length that Operational victories would pale into insignificance, and tactical victories would be almost meaningless. note  The turning point of such a war would not come about as the result of a single operation’s capture of territory or prisoners, he asserted, but by the point after which one side could no longer keep replacing its losses:
    • "In a war of annihilation, both the offensive culmination point and the ultimate defensive line are determined mainly by a spatial line [...] In a war of attrition, this line often shifts into a temporal category."
    • Strategic Attrition can be efficiently prosecuted through numerous Operational and Tactical methods. The most famous Operational-level method is encirclement or envelopment such as those used in the World War II (albeit chiefly in Ukraine), and the most famous tactical method is probably Hit-and-Run Tactics such as those used by the Communist guerillas of the Vietnam War.
      • The Fabian Strategy, named after Roman dictator Fabius, was the Ur-Example of this trope. As Hannibal Barca's forces were too mighty to face in open warfare, Fabius opted for hit-and-run tactics where Roman forces were never exposed for reprisal while whittling away at Hannibal's forces and, more importantly, his supply lines.
      • The German Army lost the bulk of its experienced Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) in the titanic Verdun campaign of February-December 1916 (French) and Somme campaign of July-November 1916 (French, British, British Commonwealth) and made a serious dent in its Category-A, B, and C manpower. The Passchendaele campaign of July-November 1917, the greatest campaign in British military history, finished off the last experienced NCOs and further at into Categories A-C. The Germans' own Spring Offensive Operation of March-June 1918 destroyed much of their stock of experienced officers (who had to put themselves at risk to compensate for the loss of the experienced NCOs) and expended their entire remaining stock of Category-A manpower. Finally, the British Commonwealth-Franco-American Hundred Days Offensive of July-November 1918 ate through Germany's experienced officers and Category-B manpower, leaving them with a poorly-led and badly demoralised force composed of Category-C and D manpower. Upon the armistice, the German Army teetered on the verge of total defeat.
      • The Austro-Hungarian Army was also defeated through attrition. The battles fought in the defense of Galicia-Podolia through 1914 and the winter of 1914-15, the offensives into Russian Poland and Serbia in May-October 1915, and the Russian Brusilov Offensive of June-September 1916 ate through the Austro-Hungarian Army's stock of Austrian and Hungarian officers (who bore the burden of leadership roles, as even their pre-war NCOs had been of mediocre quality) and soldiers. After that point, they were increasingly reliant upon sub-par and ethnic minority (not the same thing) officers and soldiers. The Austro-Hungarian Piave Offensive of the 15th-23rd June 1918 exhausted the last of its reliable officers and manpower, and in the 24th October to 3rd November Vittorian Veneto offensive the Royal Italian Army destroyed the Austro-Hungarian Army. Not an Austro-Hungarian Army: the Austro-Hungarian Army. Alexander Svechin himself argued that, whatever the state of the German Army, the capitulation of Austria-Hungary was what truly sealed the fate of Imperial Germany.
      • World War Two. The war was so vast that its 'turning points' were measured in months - and hundreds of thousands of military, and millions of civilian, lives. For instance, Germany is generally accepted as having been unable to win the war on its own terms after the failure of its October-November 1941 Operation Typhoon offensive to capture Moscow, unable to win the war after the failure of its June-November 1942 Case Blue offensive to capture Caucasia and Stalingrad, unable to prolong the war past 1947 after its defeats in the November 1942-October 1943 Ukrainian offensives (including the failure of the Germans' July 1943 Zitadelle offensive at Kursk), and unable to prolong the war past 1945 after the myriad defeats it suffered between February and October 1944 (including the loss of Romania and France).
  • A common hacker attack involves sending thousands of small data packets hoping to invoke this trope. In general, this is how DDOS attacks work, overwhelming whatever it is they want to take down through millions and millions of requests and data packets in a short time. These attacks often need multiple computers to garner the necessary amount of requests per second.
  • The Grand Canyon, or any other land mass sculpted by water or wind.
  • The name "Death of/by a Thousand Cuts" originally referred to a Chinese method of execution better translated as "slow slicing" for the most treasonous of traitors to the state, eg. the leaders of rebellions against the Emperor. The condemned man was tied up and had strips of flesh slowly removed before being decapitated. The longest execution of this kind took 3 days and 3,357 cuts.
  • During the Battle of Guandu between warlords Yuan Shao and Cao Cao, the latter dispatched some of his best generals to launch multiple hit-and-run raids against Yuan's forces, specifically targeting their supply depots and convoys. These raids were so successful Yuan was forced to bring up more supplies and gather them at a central location at a place called Wuchao for distribution. After Cao personally led a raid on Wuchao that destroyed it, Yuan's forces imploded.
  • The Persians were generally a merciful lot as imperial powers go, usually letting you run things the way you always had so long as you didn't rebel and paid your taxes on time. Even if you did rebel, only a select few leaders would be executed, usually by beheading, and they would generally give you something you wanted. However, they could be nasty when they had to be, and they had their own form of death by a thousand cuts: Scaphism. Replacing the knives with bees and bacteria, Scaphism (or "the boats") was reserved for the most grievous traitors—not mere rebels, but those who had personally betrayed the Shah for venal motives.
  • A (supposedly) favored execution method of the original Caligula, accompanied by words to the effect of 'Let him feel that he is dying.'
  • Battle of Mišar of Serbian Revolution proved that if you have a good defense against your opponent and shoot at him constant line fire, you can defeat an army four times stronger than yours.
  • In early World War I, Zeppelin airships were an absolute bitch to take out, contrary to the common misconception. Zeppelins could withstand thousands of bulletsnote , and barely noticed heavy artillery and autocannon fire. This is because it has immense volume and size, but is under no pressure. A single bullet hole in one of the thirty gas cells is like a single straw sucking a swimming pool- one that's two football fields long and seven stories deep. However, if enough dakka was directed at it at, it could sink. This Rasputinian Death is how several Army Zeppelins met their fate- one was shot down by a pair of battleships and a submarine, another was ambushed by two separate fullisades of anti-aircraft guns in Ukraine, got its forward gondola blown up, and still made it all the way back to Germany, but imploded like a beached whale when the hydrogen leaked so much it could no longer support its weight on the ground.
  • This can apply to finances as well. While the traditional saying is "penny wise pound foolish", it is possible for one to be cautious with large amounts but fritter away small amounts many times, such that at the end of the month you're wondering where your money went. Specific examples include:
    • Video games. People are cautious about spending $60 on a new game, but every time Steam has one of their redonkulous sales (weekends, summer, holidays, and sometimes just because) where AAA titles that aren't even a half-year-old go for up to 80% off, and you buy them by the truckload thinking "Oh, it's only $10/$5".
    • Smartphone apps. People often have a threshold where they start to become concerned with finances, most apps and other digital downloads (such as songs on iTunes) are often priced under it, making it much more likely to impulse buy them. If you're not careful, it can be easy to bleed your bank account 99 cents at a time.
  • This is a known principle in government, business, and management; the best way to kill off an unwanted program is by denying it funding on an incremental basis, or what Ronald Reagan's followers referred to as "starving the beast".
  • This has been invoked by news analysts to describe Al-Qaeda's strategy against countries like the United States who increase their airport security to extreme measures (such as the giant full-body scanners and thorough pat-downs of every passenger), these measures essentially bleeding away at American wallets and patience.
  • Happened to the World War II Japanese Kongo-class battleship Hiei, which has the dubious honor of being perhaps the only battleship ever to be lost to cruiser fire. The First Naval Battle of Guadalcanal was a night fight at close range, with the towering Hiei being the focus of American destroyers and cruisers, one of which — San Francisco — landed an 8-inch shell in the steering compartment, in addition to wrecking the superstructure. In fairness, the Kongo-class were built to emphasize speed and maneuverability at the expense of armor.
  • Edwardian-era naval doctrine emphasized this, using large numbers of quick-firing guns with high-explosive ammunition to overwhelm enemy ships, even battleships, with a "hail of fire", before utilizing torpedoes and heavy guns to finish off the crippled ship. Naval battles of the era, particularly Yalu River and Tsushima, verified the idea, only for developments in heavy guns and fire control to create the Dreadnought concept and push out ranges beyond what the light quick-firers were effective at.
  • For quite a while, the idea of using attack planes or boats against large targets (such as battleships or major bases) took on this form. A single plane was unlikely to lay in a single hit without getting knocked out of the air, nor could it carry enough firepower to do any lasting damage to most major targets. But dozens of attackers working in coordination could overwhelm the defenders, and cause cumulative damage through repeated hits. Punch enough smaller holes in a big ship, and it will begin to take on water faster than the crew can pump it out. Hit an important subsystem, and a ship might lose fire coordination, or power to its gun turrets, or the ability to steer itself, or even cause it to leave a tell-tale trail of oil making escape impossible, leaving it far more vulnerable to repeated attacks.
    • Somewhat more succinctly summed up as: "In the war between weapons and armor, weapons eventually win."
  • In 2008, emerging superstar boxer Manny Pacquiao faced fading but seemingly still serviceable legend Oscar De La Hoya in a David Versus Goliath match. Being as De La Hoya was twice Pacquiao's size and possessed a formidable jab and left hook, it was nearly unanimous among boxing fans and observers that De La Hoya would use the jab to control the bout and probably KO Pacquiao with his killer hook. Unfortunately for Oscar, a combination of age, wear, and dropping to a lower weight class for the bout all combined to work against him. Instead of the expected outcome, where Oscar's jab would effectively control the distance and keep Pacquiao frustrated at long range, (and thus unable to land) Pacquiao endlessly zipped up close, landed a punch (or two or three) at a time and then moved away and out of De La Hoya's range before De La Hoya could respond. De La Hoya proved utterly unable to deal with Pacquiao's speed, and after the first couple of rounds, De La Hoya's drained body completely ran out of stamina. This made him a sitting duck with no hope of responding effectively while the beating from Pacquiao only grew more consistent and sustained as the rounds passed and Pacquiao realized he could pile on more and more punishment without having to worry about a counterattack. Even in that state, due to the size difference between the two men and De La Hoya's iron jaw, Pacquaio couldn't knock out De La Hoya, and even the hardest individual punches from Pacquiao could only sting the larger man. Those stinging punches, when thrown in combinations of six or more, however, left De La Hoya visibly cringing before the onslaught, and allowed Pacquiao to rearrange Oscar's face until the fight was (finally) stopped after the end of the eighth round. During the fight, commentator Larry Merchant explicitly referenced this trope, saying that De La Hoya was suffering "Death by a thousand left hands".
  • Army ants embody this trope. Each column comprises well over a million ants. Whenever they run across anything living, the entire column will crawl all over it and bite it until it dies, then rip it to pieces to feed their larvae. There are reports of animals the size of horses being shredded by a single column.
  • When you hear someone say "If it bleeds, we can kill it!", that person is likely referring to this trope.
  • This can be seen in a less lethal light in Professional Wrestling — many wrestlers have had their careers ended by the accumulated effects of multiple relatively minor injuries rather than one major injury.
    • American football is the same way, with knees and shoulders among the first to go. Recent research has shown that the constant blows to the helmeted head very often leads to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which has led to a number of mental breakdowns in both football and wrestling.
  • This is a striking style in martial arts and striking sports. In boxing, this is called a swarmer. Generally swarmers don't punch especially hard with a single punch, but when they completely disregard defense to come at you with all-out offense, throwing a constant flow of punches, (sometimes over one hundred punches per three minute round) it results in a lot of opponents getting overwhelmed and gradually worn down. Examples include:
    • Manny Pacquaio was this in his youth, fearlessly attacking opponents while drowning them in punches. As time went by and he began both facing a higher quality of opponent and moving up in weight, so he was fighting men naturally bigger than him, he adjusted his style and became a much more well-rounded boxer. He still benefitted from being unorthodox, and able to surprise people by throwing many punches from unexpected angles.
    • A rare brawler example is Rocky Marciano, however, Marciano could legitimately punch hard, so it was less death by constant Cherry Tapping and more Macross Missile Massacre.
    • In the early to mid-2000s a number of swarmers came to prominence in boxing, with the most notable probably being Paul Williams and Antonio Margarito. Both fit the profiles very well of overwhelming opponents with activity, (both were the type to throw 100 or more punches in a round, pretty impressive when you consider a round has only 180 seconds in it) and both eschewed defense and relied instead on the volume of their offense causing opponents to become too defensive to stop them.
    • In Mixed Martial Arts, the Diaz brothers have both developed a striking style of constant jabbing, with stronger punches mixed in.
  • Wing Chun is known for its fast jabs, which are intended to substitutes for blocks. The idea is that your opponent can't hit you if you're hitting him.
  • Many predators will tear off the flesh of their prey (while the prey is still alive) and follow the prey around until it dies of blood loss. Of course, this is isn't "death by tiny cuts" but more of "death by torn off chunks of flesh."
  • Execution by stoning can invoke this.
  • Radiation poisoning is the ultimate example of this. A few particles are harmless, but a few trillion can kill anything.
  • Barring an allergic reaction, a single sting from an Africanized honey bee probably won't kill you. However, once the swarm comes out of their hive to attack you, you will quickly realize why they are more commonly known as "killer bees".
  • Airsoft machine gun chewing a hole through a metal can, both sides[2].
  • This is the principle behind the strategy used by both sides during the Second Punic War:
    • Thanks to their allies and subjects, the Roman Army had an immense pool of manpower, greatly surpassing that of Carthage. Knowing this, Hannibal resorted to wipe out a Roman army at a time and attack Rome's allies and subjects to try and destroy said reserves by either destroying the allies or getting them to switch sides. It had some success, but in the end it failed, as Rome's key allies (the Latins, the Aequi, the Marsians, the Hernicans, the Auruncians, the Umbri, the Volsci, and the Etruscans, constituting most of Rome's manpower and economic reserves, and living around Rome itself) stayed loyal;
    • In the meantime, Rome attacked Hannibal's small but undefeatable army with a large number of small raids, whittling away his veterans (the key of his success) a soldier or two per weeks and trapping him in a valley. When he escaped that, the Romans copied his strategy and took down the rebels who had switched sides and his Gaulish allies one at a time, destroying any chance he had to replace his losses.
  • Swarming insects and animals as a whole revel in this trope. One bee is a nuisance, while a swarm of bees can be painful and fatal. One blackbird will get slaughtered messily by an eagle, but when the other 300 blackbirds swarm it that eagle better fly and fast or it will be pecked to death.
  • This is the main reason why shopkeepers, both chains and independent, prosecute all shoplifters to the full extent of the law no matter how little is taken. Skeptics or even the perpetrators themselves will argue shoplifting just one item will have no bad effects. While one item may not necessarily do so, several people taking just one item over time will add up and lead to losses for the shop.
  • Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is caused by many small emotional traumas to a person such as bullying, rejection, and nitpicking, especially since childhood. These actions might not affect a person if standalone, but when they have to be dealt with on a daily basis, they can cause extremely negative mental effects on that person.
  • Similarly, some people who are Driven to Suicide are suffering from this - it's not a singular large event that pushes them to the brink, but the accumulation of smaller ones that they can't cope with, to the point that it feels as though there's no hope whatsoever. On the flipside, as this Cracked article points out, this also means that all it takes to start demolishing that wall is a small act of kindness.
    The point is that a person is driven to suicide by a whole bunch of different things, which build a wall around them, piece by piece, until the last piece falls into place and the wall is sealed so that there's no way out. Sometimes we look at all the problems that build up someone's wall of hopelessness and think there's no way any of the insignificant things we could do would be able to take it all down. But to break the illusion of there being no way out, you don't need to take down the whole wall, you just need to make one crack in it. One puppy lick, one phone call from Laila Ali, one corny song, one Internet stranger, one old Australian guy asking if you want to come in for a cup of tea. Just one ray of light. And one crack in that wall might be all it takes to turn things around and begin the long, tough job of tearing the whole thing down.
  • This was one of the things that did in the original Telltale Games. While the games they created were popular, they were made at a loss, effectively making them Acclaimed Flops. The effect was accelerated by the success of The Walking Dead: Season One and Minecraft: Story Mode as the company attempted to tried to recapture their two real money makers, causing them to stagnate and burn money faster.
  • Snails don't have jaws, but they do have a tongue-like structure (radula) covered by thousands of tiny "teeth". Predatory snails that consume mussels or other bivalves do so by rasping a hole in their shells, lick by lick by lick, then lapping up the flesh within, one tooth-scraping's worth at a time.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Death By A Thousand Cuts


Wendy coin attack

Wendy drops a ton of coins on Mario that each deal 1 damage, but kill him anyway.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / DeathOfAThousandCuts

Media sources:

Main / DeathOfAThousandCuts