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Generally seen in RPGs. When one compares the player's characters to the monsters (and bosses), they are essentially Glass Cannons to Stone Walls. Player characters tend to be able to deal out huge amounts of damage, usually well above their own HP's worth in a single hit. Monsters deal very low damage relative to their own HP. If the game allows for Player Versus Player combat, expect the damage to be scaled down immensely to prevent all duels from being one-hit kills. If the game has a Damage or HP cap, expect most late-game monsters to have HP above the player's damage cap, and well above the player's own HP cap.

There can be several reasons for this design:

  1. Healing: In most RPGs, the player has ways to quickly heal himself (potions or cure spells) while monsters don't. This means monsters naturally need to have more starting HP to even things out.
  2. Difficulty: Difficulty can come from monsters being hard to kill or dealing lots of damage. Player death is generally more complicated than healing a wounded character, so to avoid making the game unnecessarily frustrating, developers choose to increase the enemies' HP more than their damage.
  3. Player Rewards: One of the most rewarding things a player can get is a stronger weapon or a more powerful attack. This makes it much easier to kill all the enemies you've previously faced, but to avoid making things too easy as the game progresses, the monsters in later areas need to have their HP ramped up quickly, so that the new weapon becomes par for the course, and the player has to seek a newer, better weapon.

In FPSes, scaling up both damage and HP is a legitimate way of increasing difficulty, since speed, reflexes and stealth are often a part of gameplay. They avert this trope more easily. Shoot'Em Up games play it straight, especially with boss fights (see also Damage Sponge Boss).

Beware the Standard Status Effect known as Confusion, which can quickly kill a player character due to the damage a confused PC can inflict.

This is also the root cause of Redemption Demotion, especially when considering how much the HP changes.

Examples of Health Damage Asymmetry include:

First-Person Shooter

  • Classic example: the original Doom had demons with many hundreds or even thousands of HP (the player's maximum, ever, is 400), yet with the exception of the Cyber Demon, none of them had attacks that come even close to the player arsenal's destructive power. As a result, the single player campaign tends to be reasonably mildly paced, while in multiplayer most fights are over in a matter of seconds. (and, with the introduction of the double barrelled shotgun in Doom 2, sometimes a fraction of a second)
  • Halo Combat Evolved. Hearsay has it that the pistol wasn't supposed to be the death machine we met it as, but that someone accidentally changed its damage value right before shipping. Especially on Legendary, it makes the MC the glass-cannon version of this asymmetry.
    • Anyone armed with a Plasma Pistol is the glass cannon version.
    • Grunts with FRGs, spec-ops Elites with energy swords and Hunters are really easy to kill, but can dish out hideous amounts of damage, sometimes as much as simply gibbing the player on higher difficulties.
    • In Halo Reach, if you destroy tank guns, the tanks can be the ... well... tank variant of this.
      • Warthogs (especially Gauss and Rocket) are this to tanks in general. Sure, the tank has good offense and defense, and sure, the warthogs are fragile, but the warthogs can pack pretty big guns, often dangerously-overkill in other circumstances.
    • Lower-rank Brutes are actually the tank-who-can't-dish-it-out version of this. Until you enrage them. Higher rank ones carry all sorts of destructive goodies, though.

Hack and Slash

  • Diablo II: There is no damage or HP cap, but players can easily deal over 10,000 damage while their own HP is below 1,000. Even with damage cut to one-sixth in PvP, many duels end in a single hit.
    • This trope is the reason that the Necromancer's Iron Maiden curse, which reflects monsters melee attacks back at them, doesn't work in the long term. The further into the game you go, the less damage monsters do proportional to their health. It's better to go with the more basic Amplify Damage instead. Likewise, the Paladin's Thorns aura doesn't work as well as his Might.


  • MMORPGs tend to play this one straight, with players being able to deal more damage in one hit than their max HP can take and bosses having as much HP as a significant portion of the server's population combined.
  • World of Warcraft plays this straight with bosses, particularly raid bosses, which under most circumstances deal only a tiny fraction of their health as damage. However, since they're supposed to be fought by groups of 10, 25, or in the past 40 players to one, this tiny fraction is still enough to One-Hit Kill anyone not built to take it, and even they can expect take many, many times their total health in damage over the course of a fight. From the player perspective a respectable end-game damage output would enable many damage-focused players to kill themselves, on average, in about 5 seconds. Indeed, some of the most consistently dangerous abilities in the game are variations on the theme of reflecting players' attacks back at themselves or their allies.
    • This was a huge problem in PvP until the introduction of the resilience stat, whose sole purpose is to decrease the damage taken by other players. This comes almost purely from specialized gear, so a player without such equipment can still die very quickly.
  • In Billy vs. SNAKEMAN Phase Battles, Phases have 5000 to 21000 HP and have a small chance of dealing one damage (two if it's the final boss) on any given turn. You have 1 to 6 HP and deal hundreds of damage a turn.

Role Playing Game

  • Nearly every single JRPG ever. This can be taken to extremes with optional bosses.
    • In Chrono Trigger, Magus as a villain has 6666 HP[1], but doesn't have more than 999 under player control.
      • Of course, continuing to play the trope straight, he seldom does over 200 damage as an enemy, but routinely does thousands as a party member. This is also one of the few games in which Confused allies do pathetic damage to each other-- seldom more than 20 or so, even at high levels and with the best weapons.
  • The flash game Monsters' Den: Book of Dread plays this straight, but one might not notice it until the "end" boss(after that boss is endless play) summons copies of you to his side. You can take them out in 1 or 2 swings if you've been playing right, but they're exact copies. So can they.

Fighting Games

  • Non-RPG example in Punch Out. Little Mac, the player character, is usually chipping away at foes' energy bars with dozens of punches, while dodging blows that will level him in just a few hits. Justified in that, as his name suggests, for a pro boxer he's really small, and even the shorter enemies tower over him.

Tabletop Games

  • Fourth Edition Dungeons and Dragons: Player characters have healing surges which let them recover damage for a while as long as they use their skills well. Enemies generally don't have healing surges. The result is that enemies have many more hit points than player characters in order to keep balance.
    • Enemies do in fact have healing surges (1 for Heroic tier, 2 for Paragon, 3 for Epic), but there are very few official monsters that have abilities which allow them to be used so the point usually still stands. Usually.
    • Subverted in that enemies generally deal about the same amount of damage as party members.

Examples of Aversions

First-Person Shooter

  • FPSes generally scale the enemy's damage and HP with difficulty level, and are often equal to the player on the hardest difficulties.
    • For example in Deus Ex, where the player can take a few hits on early difficulties but can be instant killed by a head shot on the harder 'realistic' difficulty where damage is equal.
    • This also applies in FPS games when you have difficulty mixed with friendly fire. For example, in Left 4 Dead, you won't do too much friendly fire damage to your teammates on Normal while Advanced ups the damage a little bit. On Expert, friendly fire damage is 100%, which means you can cause the same amount of damage to a survivor as you would to a zombie. This can cause an instant knock down if you're not careful since most guns can do more than 100 points of damage and survivors will never have more than 100 health.


  • World of Warcraft averts this with normal enemies, they have about the same hit points and damage as a player of the same level. (Somewhat lower on both to allow players to kill stuff of equal level.)
    • However, player characters are allowed to deal a lot of damage compared to their health. This had led to issues in PvP until they introduced a defensive stat called resilence, which reduces damage taken from other players significantly. Woe to those who step into a battleground without wearing resilience equipment.
    • Blizzard has had to address this issue a few times in general. In the first expansion, stamina was put on nearly every item in bigger chunks than the other stats, and for Cataclysm, health pools are planned to grow a lot again to combat this creeping up in nearly every gameplay aspect.
  • Adventure Quest Worlds has recently done a move away from this trope in regards to boss fights. While player characters go over the 1,000 mark in terms of hit points and can do triple-digit damage to their enemies, the bosses do nasty damage in the triple digits (Wolfwing was doing about 300 damage with every hit), and will kill you quickly if you do not have a healer, a suitable plan or both.
  • The original Ever Quest completely inverted it. Monster health and damage both scaled much faster than those of players. This was intentionally to force people to group constantly after the first few levels. It also caused the difficulty to scale into the stratosphere at the end game.
  • Atlantica Online generally keeps everything on the same level, though monster health and damage depends on where they are. Only bosses are significantly stronger and thougher, to the point where most of the fight will be the players entire party against the boss alone. Even areas designed for groups of players house mobs about on par with the player's mercenaries, but you'll almost always face three parties of monsters at once.
  • Final Fantasy XI has monsters that have the HP as an equal level character (and sometimes significantly more). The game is a careful balancing act for the players in terms of maintaining attack and defense; if either is too low, you won't do enough damage and you'll take significantly more. Melee classes in particular, lacking any kind of special abilities on the same scale as magic-users, have to be especially mindful to be using appropriate equipment, so as to win the resulting war of attrition.
  • City of Heroes mostly averts this: the class most popular for solo play, scrappers, have about 1800 hitpoints at the level cap and strong attacks hit for about 400 HP. Bosses, the strongest rank of generic enemy, have about 2500 hitpoints and strong attacks hit for about 600 HP. Hitpoints, attacks, and, most importantly, in-combat HP regeneration scale with rank, so a minion (the weakest rank) does only minor damage to a scrapper and goes down in about three blows, while a giant monster (the strongest rank, comparable to a raid boss in other MMOs) can one-shot an unsupported scrapper and regenerate its massive HP reserve faster than a scrapper can damage it.

Role Playing Game

  • Tactical RPGs tend to avoid this, as most fights are often made up of the same types of characters and monsters that you can recruit for your own team. However, for non-recruitable bosses, they often raise the HP much more than they raise the damage output...
    • Final Fantasy Tactics series
    • Disgaea probably deserves special mention, as damage can rise to ridiculous levels (millions of damage per hit), but HP can as well. The damage output inevitably ends up overtaking the HP gain to the point where almost everything is a One-Hit Kill, though.
    • However, many Tactical RPGs (definitely Fire Emblem anyway) have this in a different form. Generally, the enemies will be much greater in number, but will be slightly weaker (except for the boss) or have poor strategy to compensate.
      • The Final Bosses of Fire Emblem games often still qualify, especially Ashera from Radiant Dawn.
  • Mon games in general tend to avert this for the same reason tactical RPGs do.
    • The Monster Rancher series averts this trope even with the rare non-recruitable bosses. They have the same stat cap as any monsters you can raise.
  • Most RPGs based on existing role-playing systems, like Baldur's Gate, Fallout and Planescape: Torment. Enemies tend to be made up of the same races and classes as you (ok, in Torment, not so much) and follow the same HP, attack and damage rules. While bosses may have higher HP, that is because they are higher level -- on a New Game+ you may have characters with equal levels to them who can match them blow for blow in HP and damage.
  • Shin Megami Tensei largely averts this by having the enemy and your HP be on the same page. The randomly generated enemies will all have the same HP as you, and in many games, even the rare marks will never break the HP caps that your character normally has. This is only challenged when you come across enemies that are labelled as "bosses" but that generally is still limited to HP. The damage that is done is still the same for both sides because of the shared statistics. However, this does serve to throw a lot more problems at you in terms of boss fights. Since they damage that you deal is generally the same, boss attacks will hurt a lot MORE for you than for them. Even if your hits exceed 1000 damage, they not only can do the same to you, but for them it is a strong poke. For you it is a deathblow.
  • The Valkyrie Profile series averts this, occasionally inverting it, with some enemies doing just as much, if not more, damage per round to you, while some bosses will hit you for several times your maximum HP per round while you have to whittle away at them.
  • By comparison to other games, Earthbound averts this, with most bosses being on the same level as you and your party. However, you still have the advantage, since your party has a rolling HP system; even if you take mortal damage, you still have a chance to fight and heal yourself before you fall.
  • In Dark Souls both you and the standard enemies go down fast.
  • The online game Ginormo Sword usually plays the trope straight but at one point throws out a duplicate of the player with identical stats. If the player isn't careful both sides will end up with a screen-filling sword that can kill the opponent with one hit, and Computers Are Fast...


  1. Even after Lavos sucks away most of his powers
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