Damage Typing

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

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

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

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

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

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

Examples of Damage Typing include:
  • Dungeons & Dragons: In addition to normal damage there's "subdual" in AD&D, or "non-lethal" from 3rd Edition. Taking nonlethal damage equal to your current Hit Points would knock you unconscious. In older version 1/4 of punching damage is normal, later one simplified this. Many jokes about how you can punch someone all day without killing them have resulted. (You can also choose to deal lethal damage with a punch, but unless you're a monk or mystic, it's at a penalty; said penalty is irrelevant to an incapacitated target.)
    • In Basic D&D, subdual damage was only allowed to be used on dragons at first. The dragon thus defeated became indebted to the PC, which might result in getting a handy new pet/mount/NPC.
    • Some books in 3.X also made reference to 'Vile' damage, which was explicitly damaging their very soul, and could only be healed in a place under the effect of a hallow spell.
      • Similarly, Frostburn presented 'frostburn' damage, a type of cold damage which can only be healed in areas above freezing temperatures.
    • This is in addition to damage properties that only matter at the moment the damage is dealt, such as whether the damage is physical or energy (and for energy, its element, like fire or acid), magical or nonmagical, the shape (bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing) and material (cold iron, silver, adamantine, or pretty much anything else) for physical damage.
    • Technically, there's no upper limit to how much non-lethal damage someone can take, so if you spend all day punching them, they'll die of thirst before waking.
    • D20 Modern modifies the rules for nonlethal damage; essentially, unarmed combatants can duke it out all day without inflicting a single point of damage. It's not until someone brings in a weapon of some sort that damage is actually recorded. The rules justify it as characters that are involved in fighting can continue fighting on heroic willpower and adrenaline as long as you're only talking about fists and feet. It's not until a weapon is used that the intent to seriously injure or kill becomes available. Basically, you have to up the ante from a fistfight to end it.
  • Alternity has Low Impact (bludgeon), High Impact (bullet) and Energy (fire/lasers/etc).
  • White Wolf games (such as World of Darkness and Scion) have three separate damage types: bashing ("Ow, that bruises!"), lethal ("OK, that's a bit more than a flesh wound"), and aggravated ("MY VERY BEING IS RENDED!"). Bashing heals in fifteen minutes a level, lethal in two days, and aggravated damage heals in terms of weeks. If damage goes off your chart, it goes up a level - your fists deal bashing damage, but if you keep hitting them you will beat them to death - and once you run out of bashing levels, it takes a lot of effort not to pass out.
  • Palladium games (such as Rifts) have Structural Damage Capacity and Mega-Damage Capacity. One hundred points of SDC is one point of Mega-Damage. Getting hit outside of armor by an MD weapon usually invokes the Chunky Salsa Rule.
    • Similarly, the game Mekton has Hits and Kills - one Kill is 25 Hits (10 hits in the first edition), which has similar effects on unarmored targets, also called the RMIW effect (Red mist in the wind).
  • The Serenity roleplaying game has Stun points and Wound points. Wound points are the dangerous ones.
  • Video Game example: Starting in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty all the games in the series have separate stamina (or "psyche") and health bars. Either one being emptied will lead to a game over, but you can usually get a bonus of some sort by knocking bosses out rather than killing them (plus knocked out guards won't lead to an alert being started if their bodies are found, though they will elevate their alert level).
  • The Hero System has two separate "hit point" stats, Stun and Body. Body damage will kill you, Stun damage will just knock you out. As the system was first developed for superhero gaming, it shouldn't surprise anyone that it's easier to do huge amounts of Stun than huge amounts of Body.
    • Hero also has separate damage types, as well, in Normal and Killing. Normal damage tends to do plenty of Stun but only average Body, and Killing Damage does lots of Body and either very little or quite a bit of Stun.
  • GURPS takes this every possible way it could be handled. There's burning, corrosion, crushing, cutting, impaling, small piercing, piercing, large piercing, huge piercing and toxic. All damage types will end up reducing the victim's hit points—you don't have to track damage separately for the different types—but some damage types give a multiplier to the amount of damage that gets through the victim's armor. Further, some kinds of armor give varying amounts of protection depending on what sort of damage they are protecting from. On top of that there are also attacks that damage fatigue points, making characters more exhausted rather than damaged. Then after all of that it also handles radiation damage as a sort of hybrid between the other types of damage. In short it has rules for every possible way one could cause damage, and different ways characters are expected to react to them.
    • City of Heroes is very similar to this with the damage types: Smashing, Lethal, Fire, Cold, Energy, Negative Energy, Toxic, and Psionic. Different powers provide varying amounts of resistance (damage absorption) or defense (dodging and deflection) to these types. Then there is the Hamidon, whose attacks deal untyped damage which bypasses all of this.
  • Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay series also feature a set of damage types. There are Energy, Impact, Explosive and Rending damage as the four normal damage types; is and if the character is out of Wounds, these also inflict Critical Damage corresponding to their damage type. Toxic as generic poison. Aside of wound track, there are Fatigue, enough of which can render a character comatose, Insanity, which is damage to the mind, as well as Corruption, which is damage to the soul, and also stat damage in special cases. Rack up enough Critical Damage, Insanity, Corruption or damage to any one stat, and the character either dies or is rendered unplayable. And this is disregarding the various mental disorders a character can pick up during the course of the campaign.
  • Spycraft currently uses lethal (normal everyday damage), nonlethal (obvious), and a myriad of others. This includes the Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors, as well as vacuum, laser, explosive, stress (yes, stress; the average person will be stressed if outnumbered 5:1 by people whose weaponry starts in the 'machinegun' category and goes up), and so on.
  • Apparently the upcoming The Dresden Files RPG will feature damage tiers that will have increasingly bad consequences when filled. Certain weapons and attacks start automatically at a higher tier than others. A gun, for example, might start a tier higher than a knife.
    • This was scrapped after early testing revealed some serious flaws in the proposed system. The final product just gives some weapons the ability to add a number to the roll when calculating damage.
  • In Magic the Gathering, normal damage dealt to creatures disappears at the end of the turn (as long as it's not lethal), wither damage permanently weakens the creature, and deathtouch damage destroys it immediately, no matter how much damage is dealt.
    • Each of the 5 colors can also be seen as having their own damage type, as certain cards will grant your creatures resistance to damage from a particular color.
    • When players take damage, they lose life. Damage to players can be prevented or redirected just like damage to creatures. On the other hand, some effects cause players to lose life directly, bypassing the damage mechanic entirely; these effects aren't subject to damage prevention or redirection.
  • In the Swedish tabletop RPG Eon, damage types include trauma, which is lethal tissue damage that will kill you, and pain which will knock you out eventually and hamper you if you don't pass out.
  • The video game Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth. There are minor wounds, major wounds and breaking your limbs (and poisoning, but that's very rare). All of these require different medication to heal (though major wounds turn into minor ones after a while.) Your health is not a fixed amount, but basically is slowly drained by any wounds you have on yourself, and slowly climbs back to normal when all of them are healed. (Also, breaking your leg will slow you down, and produce a Squicky sound of rattling bones when walking.)
  • This is the heart of the combat system in Role Master. Weapons are categorised by what kind of criticals they cause (which are the real victory factors) and may cause multiple types of criticals depending on the weapon and the opponent's armour. For example, a broadsword causes "slash" damage to lightly armoured opponents and more "krush" damage to heavily armoured ones, while a mace would mostly cause "krush" damage against any armour types. After 2nd edition that changed a bit.
  • In Mutants and Masterminds (1e/2e), a system without HP, where damage is dealt by rolling to have their natural toughness, or armor or forcefeild of some sort save them from damage, there were two different charts for damage Lethal and Nonlethal, giving a penalty to the roll for each failed throw, untill they fail by enough, where more serious penalties are inflicted. Depending on the edition, 1e had entirely different types of damage decided on when the power was taken, and certain damage was forced to be lethal or not. in 2e any power could do any damage (Though a smart DM would question the Player on how they intend to merely incapacitate the foe with a 1000 degree Nova Blast), but either way, Nonlethal damage could only apply penalty to nonlethal damage saving throws, and could, at max, knock out the foe, where Lethal damage would deal a penalty to both nonlethal and lethal saving throws, and could make the foe dying.
    • 3e dropped this, so getting shot through the chest is the same as being punched by Batman. In fact Maxed out power-attacking Batman can hit harder than any weapon, apart from a direct shot from a rocket launcher, and there's no distinction in damage.
  • In addition to its more infamous Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors, Pokémon also has two different classes of damage-dealing attacks, Physical and Special. Physical attacks use the regular Atk. and Def. stats to calculate damage, whereas special attacks use Spec. Atk and Spec. Def. This mechanic has undergone quite a few changes between the various generations in order to balance out the gameplay:
    • In the first three generations, this was intrinsically tied to the Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors system, where the elemental type of move determined whether it dealt physical or special damage.[1] In the fourth gen games, this was split on an individual case-by-case basis so now a move can be either physical or special regardless of typing.
    • In the first iteration of the series, Special attack power and defensive ability both were determined by one "Special" stat, so pokemon with a very high number in that area were game-breaking powerhouses since they could soak up and dish out Spec. damage equally well. This is one of the main reasons why Psychic pokemon (specifically, Mewtwo and Glass Cannon Alakazam) were so ridiculously overpowered in RBY, and the split into two separate stats helped to even the playing field quite a bit.
  • Age of Wonders II has a set of flags for an attack which could inflict Standard Status Effects: default Physical, Fire (Burning), Cold (Frozen), Lightning (Stunned), Magic, Poison (Poisoned), Death (Cursed), Holy (Vertigo), Wall-crushing (2x for machines and gates, affects walls and other map objects).
  • Star Trek Onlineuses this. There are 6 different types of damage that can be dealt by Energy weapons: Phasers, Disruptors, Plasma, Tetryon, Polaron, Anti-Proton, or Proton. Certain enemies use certain types (Federation uses Phasers, Klingons use Disruptors, etc.) but players can use any of these. Certain types of shields or modules for your ship can increase resistance (or effectiveness) to a specific type of damage, which can be very helpful in the face of an enemy with that preference. There's also Cold damage (frequently used by the Breen), Fire damage (environmental), Toxic damage (Gorn's poison bite), Electrical, Kinetic damage (Torpedoes and Grenades), Psionic (Reman Psychic attacks) and Physical damage (Punches, melee weapons.) These latter ones, with the exception of Kinetic, are only possible in ground combat.
  • New Horizon has two wound level charts: Stun and Injury. It's pretty self explanatory.
  • 7th Sea is a partial subversion in that all damage initially starts as inconsequential Flesh Wounds which do not hamper a character directly and heal automatically at the end of the scene. However, whenever Flesh Wounds are gained, the character has to roll Brawn against the total number of Flesh Wounds he has. Success means he simply keeps the Flesh Wounds he has, but failure causes him to lose all Flesh Wounds and gain a number of Dramatic Wounds. This usually works 1 Dramatic at a time, but failing by a certain amount causes additional Dramatics, and that's when the damage type is relevant (though only the most recent source of wounds). For example, a character gains an extra Dramatic Wound for every 20 he came up short from being punched or stabbed, but will gain 1 extra Dramatic for every 10 he was short for being shot, and for every 5 from being caught in an explosion.
  • The Smallville RPG, has five different damage types of equal weight called stress. Since it's based on the Teen Drama Smallville, most of those damage tracks relate to the kind of petty backbiting that might happen in high school (Angry, Afraid, Insecure), with only two addressing physical damage (Injured, Exhausted).
  • In Namco X Capcom, each attack has a damage type (a few have multiple damage types), and characters may be weak or resistant to certain types, resulting in increased or decreased damage. There are seven types: physical, fire, ice, electric, spirit, magic, and energy.
  • Space Empires IV and V have a wide variety of damage types; in V you can even create your own in a mod! Some of the more unusual ones include Only Weapons (damages only the target's weapons, not the engines or life support or whatever), Random Target Movement (teleports the target to a random position), Crew Conversion (makes the target fight for your side temporarily), and Shield Implosion (saps all shields belonging to the target, and applies a fraction of the shield strength as damage to the target's armor/hull).
  • Dark Souls has Physical (which is divided into slashing, striking and such), Magic for spells and enchanted swords, Fire and Lightning. Also, there's Holy and Dark weapon effects, that (probably) function as a special type of magic damage, poison/toxic to deal damage over time, and Blood Loss, which directly removes 30 or 50% of your health after a certain number of successful hits.
  1. For example, Water-typed attacks were always Special, Fighting-typed attacks were always physical, etc.