Hit Points

    Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.



    Karashi: Had enough?

    Khrima: You know very well that by the definition of hit points that I haven't yet had enough.

    One of the most common tropes in the world of video games is the use of Hit Points.

    Rather than using actual wounds and damage, players have a number attributed to their health that clearly indicates how close to death they are. It's like a time-irrelevant take on Exact Time to Failure in that only losing the last one causes any real harm. It should be noted, however, that HP in many games (especially Tabletop RPGs) is supposedly a statistically concealed conceit of both Plot Armor and actual health. As your HP drops, it's ostensibly your talent/luck at dodging, deflecting and absorbing blows dropping as you get more tired and desperate until you actually get hurt (This explanation raises problems of its own all too often.)

    This trope can be directly traced from the original Dungeons & Dragons, right down to the name. Since then, it's been used in genres as diverse as First-Person Shooter, Role-Playing Game, and Real Time Strategy, and is nigh-universal for each, due to its usefulness for programmers (the alternative is the One-Hit-Point Wonder). On some occasions, the number itself is hidden and only a Life Meter is shown to represent damage. Survival Horror games favor foregoing even that, and simply displaying one of three to four colors in the status screen to indicate well-being.

    In First Person Shooters, this number is often exactly 100, and is taken to be a percentage of the player's normal uninjured health, with "mega health"-type items that cause your health to go above 100 often resulting in your health slowly ticking back down to 100. Ever since GoldenEye, players and enemies often take multiples of damage based on where they are hit, but in the end, a bullet in the head is exactly the same as twelve in the foot, or what have you. It's a good thing there are so many water fountains and Healing Potions spread about.

    In Role-Playing Games with levels, you usually get a higher maximum number of Hit Points with each Character Level.

    They're not always called "Hit Points," but if they have an on-screen abbreviation, it's almost always HP. If individual body parts have hitpoints, that's Subsystem Damage. Sometimes entities have Multiple Life Bars, layered in combinations like Regenerating Shield Static Health or for different types of attacks.

    They're often displayed in a Life Meter. Try not to let them decrease too much or pretty soon, your eyes and/or ears will become graced by the presence of Critical Annoyance.

    Occasionally you'll see something similar in non-game media, like when the Cool Ship in the Space Opera measures its integrity as a single number which represents shields or something.


    Action Game

    • In the Video Game adaptation of Superman Returns, the titular hero doesn't have hit points ... rather, the city does.
      • In the unreleased game Star Fox 2, the entire planet of Corneria has a percent-based hit point count.

    Fighting Game

    • In normal gameplay of the Super Smash Bros. series, each fighter's damage is tracked in percentages rather than Hit Points, ranging from any decimal number between 0% to 999% (the display only shows damage as integers). Reaching 100% damage is somewhat arbitrary, as players with damage above that number can still survive and continue fighting. However, the various Bosses (Master Hand, Crazy Hand, and the Subspace Emissary bosses) utilize Hit Points, and the fighters themselves also utilize Hit Points in Stamina Mode/Special Brawl "Stamina" from Melee onward. In Classic Mode, the Hit Points of Master (and Crazy) Hand are visible in numerical values. However, the Hit Points' numerical values of Brawl's Subspace Emissary (Adventure) and Boss Battles modes are hidden from the player's view, instead being displayed by a red numberless Life Meter.
      • Additionally, it's thought that the "Hit Points" of the games are actually measured as negative percentage damage.
    • The Bushido Blade fighting series used aversion of this trope as a selling point. Unlike most fighting games that use HP bars, Bushido Blade lets you fight just until you receive a lethal injury. A solid hit to the head or body ends the match right there. Hitting an arm or leg would disable that limb—if both your legs are crippled, you can't even stand up.

    First-Person Shooter

    • Pretty much any First-Person Shooter released before 2001's Halo: Combat Evolved will use traditional Hit Points. Most, but not all, released afterward will use Regenerating Health. A few, like the aforementioned Halo will use both, typically represented with a second Life Meter, usually called something like "Stamina" or "Shields." For the most part, healing items will only improve the non-regenerating side.
    • Left 4 Dead has the survivors with the standard 100 hit points. However, once they hit 40 hit points and below, they start to show the signs of their injuries, moving slower and slower, until they hobble along painfully at 1 hit point.
      • Pain pills will give survivors a temporary health boost and it wears down over time. When someone is down, their health for being down starts at 300 points and drains by 3 points per second and more if attacked. Survivors die if the incap health reaches zero.
      • Special infected have their own amounts of health as well but they can only be actually seen when playing as them in VS mode.
    • Killing Floor does much the same, though instead of an "incapacitated" status, players instantly drop dead when their health reaches zero. It should also be noted that attempting to heal causes HP to roll upwards, while Specimen attacks will instantly deduct HP and can interrupt healing attempts.


    • In Mabinogi there were wounds represented by un-recoverable health, when wounded. Players could only recover health up to where a faded red bar is (either by using healing spells, health potions, or gradually recovering it). First aid can be performed by many classes. But only heals wounds, not health. And only if the player is carrying bandages with them.

    Platform Game

    • Sonic the Hedgehog is something that manages to fall into the gap between the two health systems: a One-Hit-Point Wonder without rings, invulnerable to most things with them. Rings are usually plentiful, and you even get a chance to grab some back if you get hit.
      • In Shadow the Hedgehog, the ring counter functions more like a typical life bar: You lose 10 rings instead of all of them when struck.
      • In Sonic Generations, if Sonic has more than a certain number of rings in his possession, he will lose a considerable percentage of them. Less than that, and he will lose all of them.

    Real Time Strategy

    • In the UFO: After Blank series, the soldiers in your squad have hit point bars, but the mechanism behind getting shot/stabbed/exploded is more complex than just a substraction. Soldiers start with a completely green health bar. If they take damage, part of this damage is temporary damage, indicated by making part of the green bar red. This damage can be healed (red part of the bar turned to green) during the mission. But part of the damage is semi-permanent and can only be healed outside of the mission, indicated by a shortening of the health bar. When the complete bar is red, the character is knocked out.


    • The ludicrously detailed (and getting more so every day) Roguelike Dwarf Fortress instead has individual hit-point counts for each and every one of every single characters' limbs and organs, even down to little things like fingers and toes. And separate tracks for 'blood loss', 'pain', and 'exhaustion'. The newest version can track each layer of tissue. ASCII graphics gives you a lot of extra space to play with.

    Role-Playing Game

    • Several of Koei's Romance of the Three Kingdoms games give you "hit points" in the form of units: The modifier equals thousands of able-bodied soldiers fighting for your general.
    • Desire Dungeon is unusual in that its MP meter doubles as a second HP meter. Physical and magical attacks deplete normal HP, while erotic attacks deplete MP (which represents willpower).

    Survival Horror

    • In Resident Evil 2 the player character moves more slowly and clumsily as he/she gets more and more injured, until they're barely hobbling along even while ostensibly "running." It really puts the horror in Survival Horror when the player character can barely stay ahead of the slow, shambling zombies.

    Tabletop Games

    • Fudge, a tabletop game/ game toolkit has a default mechanic called a wound track, which keeps track of individual wounds, albeit with a roll-over for wounds to go up a level in severity. The non-linear wounding system, presented in the 10th anniversary edition also keeps track of individual wounds, where there is no rollover, and is intended for grittier games. The only time hit points are even mentioned is when dealing with vehicles.
    • Instead of HP, the True20 roleplaying system makes you roll a saving throw any time you are injured to determine what happens to you. Multiple injuries make the difficulty rating higher, but there's always a chance of surviving any injury.
    • The BattleTech board game and most of the Mechwarrior computer games based on it, use section-specific hit points (split between armor and structure points) to track damage to individual hit locations of both BattleMechs and combat vehicles in addition to allowing for damage to specific internal components once an attack reaches the internal structure proper or a lucky hit manages to slip past still-extant armor protection. There are also fairly specific rules for each particular case of component damage; for example, lost leg actuators reduce speed and make it more difficult to keep one's footing, gyro damage makes keeping the 'Mech's balance much harder or even impossible, limbs can be blown off entirely by a bad enough hit even if there is still internal structure left, and a hit to anything suitably explosive (like most but not all ammunition and some weapons) will obviously cause it to blow up, potentially taking the 'Mech with it.
    • Games using White Wolf's Storyteller or Storytelling systems (and variants thereof), such as the Old and New World of Darkness games and Exalted, differentiate between normal damage, lethal damage, and "aggravated" damage (usually supernatural); while they do have hitpoints ("Health Levels"), unconsciousness and even permanent injuries occur well before you are down to your final hitpoint. They also have wound penalties and different healing times for different levels of damage.
    • In games using the D6 system, such as Star Wars, you typically have one health level. Damage that exceeds your damage resistance roll either makes you stunned (at penalties for one round), wounded (at penalties for a long time), incapacitated (staying down), mortally wounded (down for 12 rounds if you're lucky, then dead) or dead. Some add "wounded twice" wherein you have massive penalties and fall over.
    • In the short-lived TSR RPG Alternity, players kept track of four separate degrees of HP - fatigue, stun, wound and mortal. Stun represented bruises and pulled muscles, wound broken bones and deep cuts, and mortal grievous bodily harm. Fatigue was a measure of exactly what it says on the tin. Losing half of your stun or wound caused the player to take a penalty on all actions, and any point of mortal or fatigue loss gave the player a penalty. All these penalties stacked, meaning that characters could get to the point where, having taken enough damage and fought for a long enough time, they wouldn't even be able to stand.
    • Mutants and Masterminds throws out Hit Points and replaces them with a Toughness save. Success means the character shrugged off the attack/rolled with the punch/whatever fits the situation, while failure could result in anything from a bruise to a one-hit KO, depending on the margin.
    • Melee combat simulation RPG The Riddle Of Steel has "bleeding", which depletes hit points over time, is caused by minor injury and can cause eventual loss of consciousness (and rapidly thereafter, life), but a solid hit from a weapon will more than likely end the fight in one fell blow. The resulting combat system is extremely high fidelity in terms of simulating melee fights, but a little clunky and slow once more than two people are duking it out.
    • Hero System has a variation—there is "body" and "stun"; stun recovers fast and body recovers slowly and represents real damage. Body points also don't scale to ridiculous values as your character "gains levels"; they're supposed to represent actual physical toughness, period, not the abstract "magical protections and evasive skill that slowly get eroded away" that D&D hit points represent. A more powerful version of Spider-Man, for example, wouldn't have more Body points, he'd instead be better at avoiding damage in the first place. Similarly, a more powerful version of The Hulk might only have a couple more Body points than a weak version of the Hulk, the difference instead being how high his Physical Defense and Energy Defense were (a character's defenses are subtracted from all incoming Stun and Body damage before it has a chance to affect them).
    • Shadowrun, likewise, has two separate meters for keeping track of damage. The physical damage track keeps track of actual damage from swords, guns, etc. while the stun track keeps track of mental fatigue from spellcasting, being punched in the face, and tranquilizers (among other things). If you take enough stun damage, then you fall unconscious, and excess stun damage carries over into and is cumulative with physical damage. This does mean that a powerful Sleep spell that should theoretically just knock someone unconscious, when used on someone who has missed a few nights of sleep and was suffering a minor wound, could kill the person outright.
    • Palladium, including Rifts and PFRPG, also keep separate track of lethal and non-lethal wounds. Hit Points represent actual injury, while S.D.C. (Structural Damage Capacity) represents the wind that can be knocked out of a football player without causing permanent damage. Most attacks go through your S.D.C. and only get to your Hit Points once those are depleted, and armor adds another layer on top of that. To make things even more confusing, very tough creatures and objects (especially in Rifts) have M.D.C. (Mega Damage Capacity); despite the name, this represents the same physical integrity as Hit Points (not S.D.C.), but orders of magnitude higher.
    • PDQ games have your skills and abilities as your hit points. Your abilities (called Qualities or Fortes, depending on the game) are ranked, and points of damage translate into penalties on those ranks - one point of damage means decreasing one Quality by one rank. It's up to the player which Qualities get penalized at the time, so in a fight you can decide your combat Qualities are the last to go - or the first, if you really want to throw the fight. Later games in the system added Story Hooks - whichever Quality took the first point of damage in a fight is also used to suggest plot elements of the next adventure (and allows players to vote for the kinds of adventures they want to see). This has lead to at least one description of Truth & Justice (the superhero PDQ game) as "a game where you can punch Spider-Man in the Girlfriend" and that's why Mary Jane is always in trouble.