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Padded Sumo Gameplay

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Good luck hurting anyone in this Fighting Game. Your main opponent is the controls.

Some games it's nearly impossible to inflict lasting damage, resulting in combat practically just being mutual Cherry Tapping minus the humiliation. Actual skill is most likely still involved, but it will be more about intelligence (Min-Maxing, planning ahead) than agility (Dodging, improvising).

This trope can happen due to various reasons; Higher defensive stats than offensive ones, an abundance of cheap healing supplies, useful healing/protection moves, combos or anything else capable of causing substantial damage being too unsafe to use, et cetera.

This trope doesn't have to be a bad thing. Lengthy battles tend to feel more epic than short ones, and some gamers enjoy calculating the best possible tactics and perfecting them.

Compare Damage-Sponge Boss, usually referred to as "bullet sponges" in shooters. Contrast the inversion, Rocket-Tag Gameplay, which is a case of mutually ineffective defenses instead of mutually ineffective methods of attack as this trope.



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    Fighting Games 
  • In Facebreaker, stamina recovers incredibly fast, to the point where unless one side connects with a Facebreaker, the fight's almost always going to sudden death. A normal KO is next to impossible unless you absolutely walk all over your opponent.
  • Sumotori Dreams, as the page image illustrates. It's impossible to harm the opponent in any other way but pushing him off the platform. Considering the way the game's Ragdoll Physics are rigged, much of the challenge is not falling off yourself while you're trying to do this.
  • The later games in the Super Smash Bros. series can be set up like this in custom fights: High-gravity, metal battles will typically result in everyone involved hitting several hundred damage at least before a KO is remotely feasible.
  • Some stages in Cartoon Network: Punch Time Explosion are set up for very defensive gameplay. Like with Smash Bros., characters can only be knocked out by Ring Out. However, stages like Mung Daal's Kitchen are mostly enclosed, with a few small openings on the sides. Gameplay then becomes finding a way to line up an attack such that opponents are launched through these gaps while avoiding getting lined up by your opponents, with most such attempts failing.

    First-Person Shooter 
  • Halo, by the standards of many FPS games. It takes several hits or prolonged fire from most infantry weapons to kill an opponent. And any opponent who isn't finished off can escape and take cover and their hitpoints will quickly be restored to maximum thanks to regenerating energy shields.
  • Borderlands follow suit, with the game adopting the same Shield and Health gameplay as Halo, and add in RPG Elements.
  • PlanetSide 1 had enormously long time-to-kills on almost all its weapons; bar a point blank Jackhammer triple-blast, no infantry weapon could reliably kill a player in under a second. When combined with the game's awful netcode (where rapid strafing could cause Teleport Spam and desync), it wasn't uncommon for two soldiers with assault rifles to have to dump the majority of their magazine to kill the other. Vehicles were extremely durable - even the humble ATV could survive quite a lot of fire. The sequel, on the other hand, uses Rocket-Tag Gameplay.

  • Guild Wars was sometimes disparagingly referred to as "Heal Wars," as all classes had ways to heal themselves and PVP was often a matter of trying to out-DPS your opponent's heals. The alternative was "3, 2, 1, SPIKE!", where all the damage-dealers on a team would suddenly switch damage to a new, single target and try to burst them down before the enemy Monk could catch up. If you could actually burst down the Monk this way, usually the entire team would fold like damp cardboard without the heals propping them up.
  • MapleStory can have this, if you're trying to solo bosses at your level. It's usually expected that you would bring a party of about 20-30 levels above the recommended. If not, some bosses take minimal damage, and heal periodically, making battles drag on and on (if they're doable at all).
    • The Boss tends to be the padded sumo wrestler. Player Characters usually require lots and lots of endgame potions and fast reflexes and/or a macro that somehow managed to escape the hack detection.
  • World of Warcraft has this in spades in one-on-one PvP. Every healer class in adequate PvP gear is capable of outhealing any damage dealt by a damage-dealing class in a matter of several seconds while their offensive abilities are rather unimpressive. Tanks have multiple abilities to absorb and negate damage, while damage-dealing classes have higher than average amount of escape abilities. Nearly all tanks and damage-dealers may regenerate their health to some extent, and may often stall matches by being efficient at running away or incapacitating the enemy while their health goes up. While one-on-one duels are not something the game is balanced around, duels occur often between sole survivors at the end of the arena match, making the winner typically the one who made the least mistakes.
    • Since WoW is a continually evolving game how much this applies depends on the current expansions. For instance Wrath of the Lich King was well known for the Rocket Tag gameplay.
    • This type of gameplay is also common in the numerous MMORPGs with combat systems based on WoW.
  • Making this happen was at one point a popular strategy for players of Kingdom Of Loathing; it was called Plinking. Jack up the monster level as high as you can, and also increase your Moxie. You can only get hit with criticals, meanwhile you are slowly whittling down their health turn after turn. In the end, you win, and all of that monster level translates into huge stat boosts for you.

  • This was one of the main reproaches given to Heroes of the Storm in its earliest stages of development, when late-game teamfights would last ridiculously long due to overall poor damage outputs relatively to health pools. It got much better though.
  • Referred to as the "Wet Noodle Fight" by League of Legends casters when two tanks go at it in the mid/lategame. They can spend fully 30 seconds whacking at each other until help shows up or one of them gets bored and leaves.

  • In Oblivion this becomes the norm for combat at the highest levels, as damage caps at a certain point but HP keeps getting higher and higher, which becomes more extreme if the potential 85% damage reduction from armor is brought in. Can be Subverted if you resort to one of a few Game Breakers, though.
  • A good example of this is Baldur's Gate, where (especially early on) it's common for opponents to stand around missing each other for round after round, the victor ultimately defeating their opponent after landing two or three hits.
  • Fallout:
    • In the late game of Fallout and Fallout 2, you will be very heavily armoured, and you will encounter opponents with power armor. Both of you will be almost incapable of doing even a single point of damage except in critical blows, so combat basically boils down to watching “0 Points Of Damage” bullets bounce off each other until “Critical Hit for 999 HP” obliterates somebody. Your only other option is to switch over to single-shot, high-powered energy weapons (and to a lesser degree rocket launchers), which would actually deal real damage through armor. It's likely for this reason that when New Vegas re-introduced damage threshold it also kept armor from reducing more than 4/5 of the damage an attack can do.
    • While it is possible to use stealth or cover in Fallout 3, the game's economy makes stimpak spamming a much easier tactic. In particular, many of the added enemies in the DLC have pointlessly high amounts of HP and qualify as Demonic Spiders for most of the game due to the fact that they get damage bonuses with the weapons they use and being as tough as nails coated with more nails, as part of a failed attempt to balance them towards end-game characters who are putting off replaying the finale to screw around in new locations rather than new characters who are check out the new content as they re-explore the original wasteland. By the time you hit the cap at level 30, they will not individually be threats to you, but they will take forever and a day to kill, even with your Infinity +1 Sword.
  • The Legend of Dragoon has this toward the end. The final boss fight can take HOURS, even if you're well prepared.
  • In Skies of Arcadia, due to the increasing health and and defense of certain types of enemies, it can actually be faster to have your entire party charge up the spirit gauge in order to use the full party's ultimate attack, Prophecy (which drops a freaking moon on their heads) anytime you come across one such foe.
  • Pretty easy to do in Pokémon with two stall-heavy Mons, or if the battle has been going on for a while and Mons only have Struggle as their move left. Generation II competitive was especially bad about this. Reaches ridiculous levels in Wobbuffet vs. Wobbuffet battles, where due to a lack of actual attacks beyond counterattacks means that they can only hit with Struggle, and their high HP (and very, very low attack power) means that winning with that will take a long, long time. And heaven help you if you both have Leftovers attached, which will easily heal more HP than Struggle will hurt you for...
    • The Struggle attack now deals 25% damage to its user (when it does connect). Thus, in a Wobbuffet vs. Wobbuffet battle, the winner is the last one to strike.
      • The same generation also allowed mons with Shadow Tag to switch out against other mons with Shadow Tag, and switching into Wobbuffet is generally safe (Wobbuffet cannot damage you unless you hit it first), so a Wobbuffet vs. Wobbuffet matchup will quickly end with one or both Wobbuffets being withdrawn in favor of mons with much greater offenses.
    • Single battles in Pokémon games by high-level opponents can begin like this relative to the other types (double, triple, and rotation battles), because a lot of turns are spent switching to Pokémon who will resist the opponent's attacks. The opponent, in response, will switch to a Pokémon who will resist your attacks. Throw in moves that heal like Recover, Leech Seed, Drain Punch, and Wish; and moves meant to cause opponents to lose turns like Swagger (confusion), Thunder Wave (paralysis), Air Slash (flinch), and Spore (sleep), and turn after turn can happen with very little happening. It changes once enough Pokémon have been knocked out, however, as the players' options on switching become more limited.
    • High-level play in Pokémon Let's Go, Pikachu! and Let's Go, Eevee! finds itself in this category due to the very large boosts to HP, Defense, and Special Defense via the Candy mechanic. Some Pokémon take so little damage from attacks that they're weakened more by Toxic-based Poison and fixed-HP moves like Seismic Toss than regular attacks.
  • The first of the Four Generals chapters in Sailor Moon: Another Story is a painful example, where you play as a solo Sailor Mercury, a healer with only one incredibly weak attack, and fight a boss as weak as you are with gobs of HP. Unless you've searched the level carefully for some hidden equipment the fight is close to unwinnable, and even if you have it's still interminable.
  • Final Fantasy XIII's Command Synergy Battle system revolves around subverting this trope. At base damage, normal attacks are the equivalent to chucking a grain of sand at a pyramid, even against normal encounter enemies. However, elemental attacks raise the enemy's chain gauge, which is a straight multiplier of how much damage you're dealing that starts at 100%. Raising the gauge high enough on most enemies will inflict Stagger, which gives the gauge an immediate +100% and allows half of your characters to knock them into the air for complete incapacitation. A Staggered enemy's chain gauge slowly decreases, and once it's about to expire a character in the right role can hit them for massive damage.
  • Final Fantasy XIII-2: A skillful player falls into this during Lightning's Story: Requiem of the Goddess at lower levels. The story consists of Lightning fighting against Caius, with a second fight against Chaos Bahamut if the player does well enough. Both of them are using a variation on the Paradigm system. Caius has access to Commando (powerful but telegraphed attacks), Ravager (long strings of weak hits), and Healer (Exactly What It Says on the Tin plus buffing) stances. Lightning starts with access to Paladin (main damage-dealing), Shaman and Mage (chain-building), and Knight (passive damage reduction and an ability with which to No-Sell everything) roles. Thus, winning the battle and therefore maximizing your CP with which to level-up consists of switching to Knight whenever he starts attacking/gets ready to attack, minimizing your HP loss, maintaining/building his chain gauge at every scarce opportunity, and hoping he only switches to Healer infrequently. As you level up, the fight gradually drifts away from this trope, with Lightning acquiring the Conjurer (buffing) and Sorcerer (debuffing) role; Chaos Bahamut, meanwhile, is a straight Damage-Sponge Boss, having much more HP but no healing and the power to nearly one-shot a low-level Lightning in any role but Knight.
  • Epic Battle Fantasy 3 had this problem in the late-game. Your characters had enough defensive and healing abilities that getting wiped out was unlikely. But the bosses had so much HP...
  • The FIRST boss of Bravely Default can be this, especially in Hard Mode. You have only two party members and only the freelancer job, and - unless you ground your levels - probably only have the Freelancer's healing ability on one of them. The boss is a Dual Boss, and one of them is explicitly a healer. The fight can easily go back and forth as you attack and heal, though it does a good job of teaching you the importance of the Brave and Default system: Knowing to lessen the amount of healing you need to do by Defaulting and maximizing damage by Braving. If you try to Shoot the Medic First you need to have perfect timing of when to Brave otherwise it just goes back and forth with healing (The player's healing ability is no cost, and bosses have infinite MP). Trying to kill the muscle first can actually be easier because he has the tendency to blow himself up when his HP is low, but that does absolutely nothing about the healer's ability to heal themselves.
  • Some games in the Tales Series feature an item called the All-Divide, which halves both the damage the player takes and the damage the opponent takes. Since you can carry a massive supply of heal and TP restoring items into battle, it's quite effective for winning by attrition. You get very few All-Divides, and thus it's recommended you save them for certain Bonus Bosses—specifically, the ones that are difficult but not immune to its effect.
  • In Endless Frontier, attacks are Combo-based, being a string of 5 Spam Attacks that can do upwards of 5k damage per character. Each party member carries around very nearly enough dakka, except for Kaguya who uses an improbably large fantasy sword that launches a storm of Fuuma Shuriken on-command. Basic enemies in this game would be Damage Sponge Bosses anywhere else.

  • Various MechWarrior games have had bits of this, but it's particularly noticeable in almost all games with light battlemech combat - while they aren't particularly well armored, they generally lack the firepower to kill each other quickly, leading to the light two mechs spinning around each other at 100+ kph firing their lasers repeatedly. Mechwarrior 4 had this in spades, as most mechs carried copious amounts of armor, so much so that only some of the silly min-maxed custom loadouts could kill another mech (in the same class) in less than 30 seconds.

  • This can occur in Archon when a light-side The Phoenix goes up against a dark-side Shapeshifter. The Phoenix has high HP and a fire attack that makes it invincible when it's in attack mode, so if both Phoenixes attack each other at about the same time, each phoenix will suffer Scratch Damage. A Phoenix/Shapeshifter duel always leads to a war of attrition, where the winner is the one with the most patience and the fastest trigger finger.
  • FTL: Faster Than Light: dump all your money into upgrading your shields, but forget to upgrade weapons? You won't be able to get through an opponents shields and they won't be able to get through yours. Missile weapons help avoid these situations, as they pass right through shields, but you have a finite number, they can occasionally miss, and there are drones that can shoot them down.
  • In Sins of a Solar Empire, by default, most units are capable of absorbing silly amounts of firepower, such as a colony ship brazenly flying through an enemy fleet and surviving. The "Shield Mitigation" mechanic is the main cause of this, and is present on on all ships which possess shield systems, even when the shields are down (it acts as a Reinforce Field on the ship's armor instead). Shield Mitigation causes ships to flat-out ignore 15% of incoming damage when full, and become more effective as damage is taken - going up to 60% damage negation on lowly frigates, and 65-75% on capital ships and titans, depending on their level. Disabling mitigation in the pre-match setup significantly increases the speed of combat.
  • In vanilla XCOM 2, Alpha Strike is the prime strategy, and in the beginning many of your troops can be one-shot by flanking aliens. The "Beta Strike" modifier doubles the health of all units - XCOM and alien - but leaves damage untouched, meaning one must be much more careful about scouting ahead and crowd-control, because situations can rapidly spiral out of control.
  • "AI-versus-AI" matches in Civilization will rarely last less than several hundred turns, due to the combination of Not Playing Fair With Resources on higher difficulties and Artificial Stupidity. Since it takes a lot less strategy to simply mass troops on your border than to organize an attack and both sides have functionally unlimited resources, this results in them endlessly massing armies and mashing them together.

    Tabletop Game 
  • Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition combat was often called "Padded Sumo" by its detractors, as health outstrips damage, many powers focus on moving enemies around, and your more exotic powers are most effective if used at the start of a fight (reducing the rest of the fight to basic attacks). The actual reason for this was fairly simple: characters have an encounter power, two at-will powers, and a daily power to start out with, and by paragon tier have 4 encounter powers, 3 dailies, and at least 3 utility powers, in addition to their two at-will powers. As such, to use every power at least once in a combat, low level combat would need to take at least three rounds, whereas at paragon tier, you needed 6 turns to use all your encounter powers and each at-will power once, and possibly throw in a daily power as well. Having more powers than you could conceivably use in combat was pointless. (Detractors will point out that this means you always use all the same powers in every combat.)
  • One criticism of Spirit of the Century that led to later iterations of the Fate system being toned way down in that regard was that it lends itself easily to this. In conflicts, important characters (player and non-player both) will generally take multiple "stress" hits (strictly temporary damage on a track with 5+ boxes that are only filled in one hit at a time) before the risk of more serious consequences or being actually taken out even comes up. Since it's a pulp game, weapons and such don't actually provide damage bonuses — a fist, a knife, and a gun are all equally effective at taking somebody down. And anyone who sees the conflict turn against them always has the option to just throw in the towel and offer a concession, so unless both sides make a habit out of playing for keeps and refusing those, a character who's been in a serious fight minutes ago can potentially be already no worse off for the wear once he or she has had time to catch his or her breath.
  • In BattleTech, fights between two mechs can take a dozen turns to end, especially when the two mechs are both of the Assault class from the 3025 era. The tiny weapon max range, huge amounts of armor, weak armaments, and relatively slow mechs of that era can make fights very long, though through armor criticals, ammunition explosions, fusion reactor critical hits, and cockpit damage can bring a mech to its knees with one lucky shot. Later eras, like the 3060 Fedcom Civil War, play this trope less straight as most mechs now carry even more firepower, but often at the cost of a more easily damaged fusion reactor.
  • In the first edition of Shadowrun, body armor provided automatic successes to reduce incoming damage. It was fully possible, even common place, for someone to survive a hit from an assault cannon without taking any damage.
  • Exalted, at least in its second edition (pre-errata) suffers from this in spades. It's trivially easy to throw around one-hit kill attacks, sure, resulting in Rocket-Tag Gameplay if nothing is used to stop them... but it's also trivially easy to defend against any attack with a fixed-cost perfect defense. Once everyone is using an impossible-to-bypass suite of perfect defenses, the game changes from Rocket Tag to Padded Sumo Gameplay, with no attack ever doing more than making the opponent pay a tiny amount of essence, the game's equivalent to Magic Points. As a result, your essence pool is your real life meter, and victory is usually about making the enemy spend essence faster than you.
    • However, the latest errata is intent on fixing this problem, reducing the lethality of combat in general and increasing the costs of Perfect Defenses so that the above-mentioned "paranoia combos" weigh on your Magic Points much more heavily.
    • The first edition circumvented much of this padded sumo element with perfect defenses costing willpower, of which a character would normally only have ten at the absolute maximum. The third did the same by doing away with blanket "perfect defenses" entirely.
  • Magic: The Gathering gameplay can devolve into this in several situations, especially in a Mirror Match. Some deck styles (red and black in particular tend to exemplify these styles) are so aggressive that even a Mirror Match doesn't slow down gameplay, but when two players are playing a "White Weenie" deck (the objective of which is typically for the player to defend themselves and build up a large number of small creatures until they have enough creatures to overrun their opponent, or a "buff everything" spell that suddenly turns all those tiny creatures into powerhouses), a normally 20-to-30-minute match can easily stretch into an hour-long or longer Cold War.
    • The the Commander format, you start with double the normal life, and Kill ’Em All effects abound.
  • "Goat Format" in Yu-Gi-Oh!. All the major mass-destruction cards had hit the banlist, the primary cards of the format were Scapegoat (summons four defensive Tokens) and Thousand-Eyes Restrict (blocks everything from attacking except itself), Traps and Flip Effects saw a resurgence, and some of the most popular cards were based on flipping cards facedown. The result was one of the slowest-paced formats in the game's history - which, ironically, has made it one of the most widely-played legacy formats, since it contrasts so heavily with a meta notorious for Power Creep.
  • Similarly to the Magic example, Hearthstone has a meta based partially on this. "Aggro" decks are built around putting out as much damage as possible, and games with them rarely last too long, but "Control" decks are specifically designed around outlasting Aggro decks while building up their hand, minions, or game winning combos. Any two control decks can qualify, but the real winners here are a subset of control decks based around milling the opponents deck until they start taking fatigue damage while somehow returning cards to your own. A normal match is around 15 minutes, putting two control decks against each other might draw it out between 30 and an hour, and two Fatigue Warriors will last until someone concedes.

    Non-Video Game Examples 
  • Death Battle
  • Deadpool (2016) has Colossus versus Angel Dust in the climactic fight. Colossus is unwilling to go all-out on a lady. Angel can hit hard enough to send him flying, but not enough to damage. The result is that the best they can do to one another is incapacitation until Negasonic Teenage Warhead gets in on it.
  • In an early episode of The Simpsons, Dr. Monroe gives our favorite family foam-padded poles to strike each other with as a means of venting. When Homer notices this trope is in effect, Bart responds by taking the padding off.
  • After the Battle of Hampton Roads of The American Civil War, there was for a time serious concern that naval battles would turn into this, with the black-powder cannons that worked well enough on wooden-hulled warships no longer able to inflict serious damage on the up-and-coming "ironclads". Advances in gun technology made these concerns moot soon enough, but there was a brief period during the late 19th century in which the possibility that the only way left to disable an enemy might be to actually ram them was earnestly considered and resulted in some correspondingly specialized ship designs.note 
  • In robot combat, like Robot Wars and BattleBots, matches can become like this if every bot in the match has no weapons (this is not as ineffective as it sounds — because they can allocate everything towards speed, power, and durability, weaponless bots have been considered Game Breakers at times). The match becomes either the bots pushing each other or the operators trying to outmaneuver each other without letting them hit each other until time runs out. Because of the perception that such matches are uninteresting (but the truth is that it depends on the individual viewer), both organizations require every competing bot to have at least one prominent weapon.
  • Starship combat in Star Wars Legends is like this due to the sheer power of deflector shields, with those found on even smaller warships being capable of absorbing thousands of shots. Without shields, most ships won't survive more than a couple of shots from a turbolaser battery, but with them, evenly matched ships can expect to be firing at each other for hours before any progress is made.

Alternative Title(s): Padded Sumo, Stone Wall Gameplay


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