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This is mostly an RPG trope, but can be applied to any game with combat elements and some type of Life Meter.

This trope is about Video Games where it's easy to inflict ridiculous amounts of damage, resulting in combat practically just being about attacking first. Actual skill is most likely still involved, but it will be more about agility (Dodging, improvising) than intelligence (Min-Maxing, planning ahead). This trope can happen due to various reasons; Higher offensive stats than defensive ones, an abundance of One-Hit Kill moves, et cetera. Please note that this has to apply to both Player Characters and enemies, or it's just a case of Glass Cannon.

This trope doesn't have to be a bad thing. Fast-paced battles tend to be more exciting than longer and tedious ones, and they may require less Level Grinding.

Compare Glass Cannon, One-Hit Kill, One-Hit-Point Wonder and type 2 Mutual Disadvantage. Contrast the inversion, Padded Sumo Gameplay

Examples of Rocket Tag Gameplay include:


Tabletop Games

  • In Magic: The Gathering, the Vintage and Legacy formats are notorious for this, but the worst offender was Standard play just after the release of Urza's Saga. During the Urza's Saga block, it was a common joke that "early game" meant the coin flip to decide who went first, "midgame" was the decision to mulligan, and "endgame" was the first turn.

Tabletop RPG

  • Dungeons and Dragons. In 1st Edition Advanced D&D, there was no limit on the damage that could be done by spells, so (for example) a Fireball cast by a 20th level magic-user did 20d6 (20-120) Hit Points of damage. This meant that at higher levels of play, whichever side gained initiative would probably win the fight. The designers of 2nd Edition decided to put level caps on most of the damaging spells to prevent one-round wipeouts. This also happened between two editions of Basic D&D.
    • Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 edition is often accused of Rocket Tag gameplay. Not only because damage outstrips hit points (and Hood is merely one example), but because of an excess of spells which instantly kill or cripple their targets. In fact, it was possible for every one of a caster's spells of 4th level or higher to be very direct "instant win" spells. For example, solid fog (a 20' radius) meant standard movement was limited to 5', or 20' if the target ran as fast as he could in a straight line and remembered he could do that. Evard's black tentacles tried grappling all creatures in the area (in a 30' radius, natch) and usually succeeded. Add stinking cloud (another 20' radius) to taste, which prevents those who fail their Fortitude save from acting and you have yourself a killer combo. At level 7. In core. (In general, spells of level 3 and below can't plain win fights like this, but a failed save against a grease or color spray or glitterdust or web means you're pretty much screwed while the caster's friends & minions quickly beat you to death.)
    • And if you're a Shadowcraft Mage, then with the right build, you can use a level 0 spell (silent image with the Gnome Illusionist substitution level) and Heighten it to make it do what was just described. Or cast miracles.
    • At mid and high levels, defenses tend to be binary. If you aren't flat-out immune (or they got unlucky and missed), you're going splat! in one round or even one hit. Pretty much no exceptions.
    • If you plan to play a mid level or high level caster/manifester against a non-caster/manifester, expect to win because you have options. Even if the game is stacked against you, then you are about as smart in real life as your character is, right?
    • Watch a 3.0 / 3.5 (or Pathfinder) fight between two Rogues. If one of them gets the initiative and pulls a Sneak Attack or two, the fight is already over.
  • The Dresden Files, using the FATE system, lends itself to this, as it doesn't take much to inflict wounds or death on an opponent (barring Toughness abilities). One or two solid shots is usually enough to end a fight, and many battles boil down mostly to defending and maneuvering in order to set up those one or two solid shots.
  • Exalted seesaws between this and Padded Sumo Gameplay due to its lethality issues. It's trivially easy to throw an attack at someone that is absolutely certain to kill them instantly, resulting in whoever attacks first winning easily... unless the enemy uses one of the game's perfect defenses. 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 the game's equivilant to Magic Points.

Video Games

  • Most First-Person Shooter games with a "sniper" class will often revolve around being able to spot and pick off enemy snipers before being spotted and shot oneself. Many also have "InstaGib" or "One Shot One Kill" mode where all players are given an overkilling weapon, making everyone effectively One-Hit-Point Wonder.
  • High-level gameplay in the Disgaea series and other Nippon Ichi strategy RPGs. Due to the way attack vs. defence is calculated damage increases exponentially as levels rise, so more or less any battle over level 500 or so means you either kill your opponent in one shot or die in their response attack.
    • Note: Mostly true in Disgaea 3 Absence of Justice and even more so in Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten. Disgaea 2 Cursed Memories is actually much better balanced regarding offense and defense, with tanks actually being viable.
    • Phantom Brave, which allots turns based on units' Speed stat instead of alternating between teams, goes one step further: in addition to being a game of one-hit kills, a sufficiently fast team can annihilate the enemy before they're able to make a single move.
  • SWAT mode in Halo is highly tactical twitch-combat, because one well-aimed shot kills, but ill-aimed shots are almost worthless.
    • There's also a multiplayer mode literally called "Rockets" where players are all equipped with, you guessed it, rocket launchers. Explosions and quick deaths for all.
  • The Unreal games have the InstaGib modifier, where every player was equipped only with insta-gibbing weapons and effectively unlimited ammo.
  • A party in World of Warcraft consisting solely of DPS (especially an all-rogue party), with no healers and no tanks. Impossible to do in Dungeon Finder to prevent griefing, still can be done outside of Dungeon Finder... though the advisability of such is very, very questionable.
    • One of the WoW expantions, "Wrath of the Lich King", did this by accident. Due to a few miscalculations gear scaled up so fast that the healers had effectively limitless magic for healing. Thus damage capabilities were increased to the point where any character could be killed in seconds, so that the healers had to be healing quickly and proactively to keep anyone alive. As a side effect PvP combat became a game of rocket tag where any class could die kill another in seconds with a lucky crit.
  • Enchanted Arms. You could generally wipe out Random Encounters in two, maybe three, rounds if you weren't ambushed. If you were, you were likely to have half your party dead by the time you regained control. As an amusing consequence of this, bosses actually did less damage than the Mooks you'd been killing to get to them.
  • Super Smash Bros has this as an optional feature. If the damage ratio is set higher than the default, characters will be sent flying even with a low damage percentage. Heavy characters like Bowser can also be sent flying easily with this set up, making power hitting attacks like smash attacks or throws become the major appeal to the fights instead of juggling.
    • Super Sudden Death sets character damage to 300% and starts dropping random bob-ombs in the area. The first person hit will almost certainly lose.
  • Pokémon, especially in earlier generations, has a metagame role called the "Sweeper." The purpose of this monster is to one-shot the entire opposing team due to a high speed stat, insane damage, and good coverage on the Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors table. The best counter for a Sweeper? A faster sweeper that can one-shot it.
    • Generation V in particular seems to encourage this, as nearly any pokemon in OU play that isn't a Stone Wall is more than likely going to get taken out by one super-effective attack. Ditto's Took a Level In Badass shines in this sort of gameplay, as his new ability to transform as he enters the battlefield instead of spending a move combined with a choice scarf means that it doesn't matter what the Sweeper is or how powerful and fast it's gotten, at the very best it has a 50% chance of going first.
  • In high-level Final Fantasy Tactics Advance play, especially in multiplayer, there is really only one stat: speed. Thanks to a series of balance-annihilating skills, first strike generally wins. The amount of damage a character can take or deal is irrelevant with Viera Assassins covering half the battlefield in a single turn and instantly killing their target 85% of the time or more, or Moogle Gunners blasting insanely powerful Ultima Shots at ludicrous ranges.
    • Likewise, the original Final Fantasy Tactics lends itself to this sort of thing. By the end of chapter 3 it's a common strategy to stack damage-boosting equipment in every slot, and it's very difficult to build a character that can survive more than a round or two against a high-level Ninja or Summoner. And that's before you start dual-wielding Knightswords, driving your Brave stat as high as it can go and making your attacks ignore evasion.
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