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Injured Vulnerability

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In Video Games, sometimes being at near-death or inflicted with a Status Effect will make a character more vulnerable to certain effects or abilities than normal. It's not just that being injured makes a character weaker, being in a critical condition makes it easier for other actions to affect them.

More commonly this applies to the enemies you fight, such as Heavily Armored Mook or Kung Fu-Proof Mook, rather than player characters. Often you have to weaken an enemy before a certain skill will affect it. Either that or the chance for the effect to succeed is tied to how many Hit Points the target has left. Also sometimes one will take more damage if they're injured in some way (but contrast this with Situational Damage Attack). Usually, this is to balance out how useful the effect is, or to make it harder to gain something from using it. You're often only able to use a powerful Finishing Move against weakened opponents, and some Sidequests involve mechanics like this, so that you have to put more thought and strategy into gaining the rewards for them.

This can lead to a Do Well, But Not Perfect situation, as you'll sometimes need to balance the damage you deal out so that the opponent is weakened, but avoid killing it outright, since you won't be able to affect a dead enemy (even if that would make more sense.) It's at times like those when Enemy Scan abilities and HP to 1 attacks are much appreciated.

Compare and contrast Critical Status Buff and Desperation Attack, where being injured adds benefits instead. Also compare to Breakable Power-Up, where being injured makes you lose an ability. May go hand-in-hand with a Break Meter. See also Subsystem Damage, Untouchable Until Tagged, Attack the Injury, and overlaps with Status Effect-Powered Ability when the status effect required is a negative one.


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    Action Adventure 
  • In Devil May Cry 4 and Devil May Cry 5, bosses are staggered after receiving a certain amount of damage. In this brief state, they can't fight back and are left defenseless from Nero's Buster.
  • In Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, using blade mode (and Jack the Ripper mode if you've unlocked "him") allows one hit kills, but only against enemies without any armour. You have to attack armoured enemies a bit to break up their armour and make them vulnerable (or hit them with a Back Stab).
  • Many enemies in God of War can't be grabbed until they have been weakened.
  • If you're trying to capture a monster in Monster Hunter, you have to deal as much damage as you can without killing it, until it starts to limp or displays some other way it Shows Damage signalling it's weak enough to trap and hit with tranquilizer. The "Capture Guru" skill causes the monster's icon to glow brightly if it's susceptible to capture.
  • Dragalia Lost has the various Punisher abilities and Wyrmprints used to deal more damage against enemies when they're affected by certain statuses and Debuffs. Such as Poison punisher to deal more damage against poisoned enemies, Burn for burned enemies, Reduced Defense Punisher against enemies with lowered defense, etc. The abilities are usually on those who can inflict the affliction in question, but keep in mind what skills your character has available before equipping a Punisher Wyrmprint.

    Fighting Game 
  • Super Smash Bros.
  • In BlazBlue, Astral Heats can only be used when the opponent has low HP (among other conditions).
  • Killer Instinct featured the Ultra Combo, a flashy battle-ending combo that could only be done when the opponent was close to death. The sequel introduced the No Mercy, a Finishing Move that could only be done in-match when the opponent was near death, and the Ultimate Combo, a more fatal Ultra Combo.

    First-Person Shooter 
  • Certain Team Fortress 2 weapons do more damage if the player they hit has been "prepared". For example, against burning enemies the Flare Gun will score a guaranteed Critical Hit, while the Axtinguisher will apply pending Damage Over Time instantly while doing a mini-crit. Certain Soldier weapons do more damage when in-flight or attacking flying players.
  • Zer0's "Killing Bl0w" ability in Borderlands 2 increases melee damage on enemies below 30% health; just one point doubles it, maxing it out with skill points multiplies it by six, and class upgrades can further increase this to a dozen times as much damage as normal. This can save a good amount of time on bosses, minibosses, and Elite Mooks (especially in New Game Plus, where the latter are all over) but isn't much good elsewhere. Even against them, more than a few skill points may be a waste.

  • In World of Warcraft, the Execute skill only works against targets with less than 20% health left.
    • Since vanilla, many more classes have gained abilities that only work on low health enemies, to the point that the 20%-0% part of a boss fight is now referred to as the Execute Phase.
    • Several raid bosses have abilities which cause their target to either take additional damage from subsequent applications of the attack, or take increasingly severe damage over time. These are known as Tank Swap mechanics and are designed to force the players to switch off one tank for another, so that the afflicted player has time to heal and recover from their vulnerabilities.
  • Final Fantasy XIV has several job abilities like this, all with names implying either murder or putting the target out of their misery, like Assassinate, or Mercy Stroke.
    • There is also a boss in the hard version of the Wanderer's Palace that has a sort of inversion of this with the long franchise standby, Death Sentence. In this case, it is a timed instant death move that can only be cured if you heal the afflicted player to full HP before the timer runds out.
  • In Star Wars: The Old Republic, there are several missions where an NPC wants you to use some kind of drug on an enemy for various purposes. In many cases the target has to be weakened first before it can be used. Similarly, during the Bounty Hunter event, capturing a target alive requires first weakening it and then using a carbonite grenade. In some cases, this might require setting your companion to passive mode so they don't accidentally kill whatever you're trying to catch.

  • In Dota 2, Bloodseeker's ability, Thirst, grants him a movement speed buff while an enemy hero is missing health, increasing as their health gets lower. At sufficiently low levels, him and his team gains sight of the hero, even ignoring invisibility, making running away from Bloodseeker much harder. This ability also gives him uncapped movement speed, and with multiple enemies at low health, Bloodseeker can zip through the entire map at comically ridiculous speeds.

  • Gorgons in Desktop Dungeons instantly kill you if you have less than 50% health. The Gorgon boss insta-kills you if you have less than 100% health.
  • Most injuries in Dwarf Fortress can turn the fight against an adventurer or fortress civilian quickly. Most notably, getting knocked out (usually due to pain) or caught in webs renders the victim completely helpless to any attacks, and the AI will usually take advantage of that by staving their head in (even if this backfires via wearing a helm tough enough to weather the blows).
  • Shotgun King: The Final Checkmate:
    • The Caltrops card makes any enemy that is not at full health lose 2 speed, making them take 2 more turns before they can move.
    • The Bushido card allows the Black King to execute an enemy as a free action once per turn, as long as that enemy has less or equal health to your Blade damage stat.

    Role Playing Game 
  • Pokémon are much easier to catch when they're weakened. Lowering their health and inflicting them with status effects make the chances of successfully capturing them much higher.
    • When it comes to attacks, there's the move Brine which deals extra damage when the opponent has less than half their HP left. The Poison-type move Venoshock does double damage if the target is currently poisoned, while the Ghost-type move Hex does double damage if the target has any status ailment.
    • Fighting type move Wake-Up-Slap does double damage if the opponent is asleep, and Normal type move Smellingsalt does double damage if the opponent is paralyzed. However, both of these moves also cure that Pokemon with it when used.
  • Many examples in the Final Fantasy series:
    • Final Fantasy V has the Catch ability, which is used by Beastmasters to capture monsters. The monsters need to be at very low health for it to work, but an equippable item will allow you to capture at half health instead.
    • In Final Fantasy VIII you can turn weakened enemies into Cards instead of killing them. There's also the Devour ability, which also only works on enemies that are low on health, but can grant you various bonuses if you use it successfully, including permanent stat increases.
    • Quina in Final Fantasy IX needs to eat enemies in order to learn that enemy's skills. The enemy must be under 12.5% of its maximum HP in order for it to work, but if Quina is in Trance mode the target only needs to be below 25% instead.
    • You can gain rare items by using the Poach skill against weakened enemies in Final Fantasy XII
    • In Final Fantasy XIII, Lightning's Eidolon Odin has a Limit Break called Zantetsuken. It instantly kills any enemies with HP below a certain threshold. Nothing is immune to it. Not even the Final Boss or enemies with Instant death immunitynote .
    • Final Fantasy Tactics Advance allows you to capture monsters, and works much like in Final Fantasy V.
    • In all of the Final Fantasy Tactics games, attacks against sleeping, time frozen, or petrified opponents are guaranteed to hit. This is very useful if you want to steal from them or inflict a more MP-intensive status effect, like instant death.
    • Final Fantasy Tactics A2 The Trickster job revolves around inflicting status ailments on foes. Fittingly, they also have a special skill called "Traumatize" whose damage increases the more ailments the target is suffering.
  • The Massacre upgrade of the Warrior-Vanguard skill tree in Dragon Age II lets the character kill any normal enemy whose health is below 20% (and Elite Mooks with health under 10%) in a single blow.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 1 has a chain of these. Several attacks inflict Break on its target, which does nothing except opening them for a Topple attack, which causes its target to become defenseless and open to attack for a while. In turn, Daze can be inflicted on a toppled enemy, further weakening them. Finally, Sharla's Headshot art has a small chance of One Hit Killing a dazed target (which increases to 100% if triggered during a chain attack).
  • Shin Megami Tensei:
    • Series-wide, there is several skills that are designed to instantly kill enemies, afflicted with specific status effects. For example, many games has a skill called "Eternal Rest" that instantly kills all asleep enemies (and in some games allies). Pale Rider's "Pestilence" does the same to poisoned enemies.
    • Also series-wide, there is the "Freeze" Status Effect that lowers target's agility to 0, thus leaving them unable to dodge. In some games attacking frozen enemy guarantees a critical hit.
    • In Digital Devil Saga attacking enemy's weakness may leave them in "Frightened" state. Frightened enemies take triple damage from damaging Hunt skills, and instant kill Hunt skills are guaranteed to work on them.
    • In Persona 5 there is "Technical" system, which allows the player to deal additional damage to enemies afflicted with some status effects. For example, Wind attacks will deal more damage to burning enemies. There is also Frei and Psi lines of spells, both of which are specifically designed to deal more damage to enemies with, respectively, physical and mental status effects.
    • Shin Megami Tensei V reworked some old skills so that they now deal bonus damage to enemies inflicted with ailments like Hysterical Slap (charmed targets), Dream Fist (sleeping targets) and Purple Smoke (confused targets). It also introduced a new skill called Venom Chaser that does the same to poisoned targets.
  • When an enemy is below 25% health in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, there's a chance you'll perform a flashy cutscene finisher on it, which will kill it even it your attack normally would not have. But beware, some of the stronger enemies, including dragons can do this to you as well.
  • Mass Effect
    • Beginning in the second game, enemy shields, armor and barriers are able to block most biotic abilities, requiring you to remove them appropriately before they can be properly affected.
    • In the third game, power combos. Enemies can be "primed" for a combo with one attack; another, different attack used on the primed enemy will cause an explosion, causing heavy damage to the primed enemy and anyone around them.
  • In Bravely Default, this is the Arcanist's bread and butter. Exterminate does heavy damage to all combatants, allies or enemies, that are poisoned, Twilight instantly kills any non-boss enemy that is sleeping, and Annihilation does scaled damage against enemies with negative BP, where the less they have the more damage they take.
  • In South Park: The Fractured but Whole, the DLC class Final Girl's limit break allows them to execute any enemy at a certain health threshold, which includes bosses provided that they're of regular size.

    Strategy Game 
  • Command & Conquer: Severely injured units move much slower, though they till deal the same amount of damage.
  • Dawn of War: Soulstorm: Farseer Caerys can get a pistol that may automatically kill units whose health is below a certain percentage.
    • The text for the Mad Dok's fighting juice ability implies this was the case in earlier versions, reading that using it on a friendly squad makes it invulnerable to death (they still take damage but don't die), but once it ends orks whose health is too low die.
  • Dawn of War II gives out several buffs (as well as certain weapons like Castor's DLC rifle) that are only able to instantly kill an enemy with less than 20% of their health.
  • League of Legends: Warwick's "Blood Scent" grants him extra movement speed whenever he's within a certain distance of an opponent with under 50% life left. All the better to chase you with, my dear!
    • Warwick was inspired by Strygwyr the Bloodseeker from Defense of the Ancients, who has the exact same ability, and probably more broken: Bloodseeker gains utterly ridiculous speed based on the wounded to the point he can break speed limit with specific items (making him take speed of a racing car), and his smell range is global, so basically he enables a satellite view if there's a hero wounded below the threshold... and yes, the hero can reach their fountain... Bloodseeker can still smell their injury and run like a racing car.
  • In Disgaea 3 and Disgaea 4, the female Samurai has an Evility called Euthanasia, which allows her to instantly kill enemies below 25% Max HP with normal attacks. However, since so many attacks are one-hit KOs, it's a Useless Useful Spell.
  • In many games such as Agarest Senki only allow you to capture monsters if they are at low HP.
  • Dune II. If you damage an enemy building enough so that its damage indicator turns red, you can capture it by sending one of your infantry units into it.

    Third Person Shooter 
  • Similar to Smash Bros., Kid Icarus: Uprising has an equippable ability called "Idol Transformation" that will turn an enemy that's near death into a trophy.
  • Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine has Executions, where you kill an enemy in the bloodiest way possible to regain health. The catch is that the enemy must be stunned, and stunning is a slower, no damage move, and tougher enemies require a combo chain ending in a stun. Fortunately averted with gretchin and rebel militia, which you basically Offhand Backhand to death.

    Turned Based Tactics 
  • In XCOM: Enemy Unknown, injured soldiers suffer from the "Battle Fatigue" debuff, reducing their Will stat. If using the Second Wave option "Red Fog", the "Battle Fatigue" debuff also carries move and aim penalties. Also, enemies low on health are more vulnerable to the "Arc Thrower".
  • Kaiju Wars: The kaiju get slower as the player depletes their Multiple Life Bars. In Pterus Ignis's case, reducing it to its last health bar takes away its ability to fly, leaving it vulnerable to units which can only attack (or which do more damage to) ground-based kaiju.

    Non-Video Game Examples 
Tabletop Games
  • Dungeons & Dragons spells
    • The Forgotten Realms spell Beltyn's Burning Blood. If an opponent had open bleeding wounds, this spell caused their blood to become corrosive and cause damage to their body.
    • The various Power Word spells could only affect targets with less than a specific number of Hit Points. The only way to affect creatures with more Hit Points was to damage them first and reduce their Hit Points below the spell's maximum.
    • The 'bloodied' condition (having lost half or more of one's hit points) in 4th edition in general. Sometimes it enables special attacks or abilities, but on the other hand it may also result in abilities that the character or creature previously had switching off...and there are also quite a few attacks that hit bloodied targets harder than others by default.
    • 5th edition’s toll the dead cantrip normally inflicts a d8’s worth of necrotic damage to its target, but the damage die increases to a d12 if you cast it on an enemy that is not at full health.
  • In BattleTech mechs have a large array of subsystems to damage with multiple ways they can be made vulnerable.
    • Vehicles have two layers of health; Internal Structure, and Armor. Strip off a section's armor, and every successive shot in that location can score a Critical Hit and disable components there, such as weapons. Certain components are highly volatile, such as ammo, and can destroy the entire mech if damaged without damage mitigation components.
    • Damaging a mech's joint actuators or gyroscope makes it more difficult for the pilot to perform dicey actions such as a sprinting turn on a paved road without tripping and slamming into the ground. It also makes them more vulnerable to being knocked on their ass from high-powered weapons or melee attacks.
    • Causing an enemy mech to overheat will force an automatic fusion reactor shutdown, leaving the mech totally helpless for at least one turn. Your own forces can then call out directed shots against components (i.e. the head), rather than the typical totally random crapshoot against a mobile target.