<a novref=true text=@key href=pattern-damage.html>Damage</a>


Effects from actions or events that can lead to negative consequences.

Damage is an indication that players have failed to avoid the actions of enemies or dangerous objects in the game. The effects of Damage in most games are minor; it is mainly used as an indicator of how many times one may fail in a certain manor before more serious effects occur.

Example: Few first-person shooters make all hits instantaneous kills. Rather they require players to succeed with shots or strikes several times, each one giving Damage, before killing their opponents.

Example: Roleplaying games often have detailed rules for Damage, dividing character's bodies into different hit areas and having different consequences for taking Damage in each area.

Example: In the board game RoboRally the first points of Damage reduced the number of cards received each round. However, more Damage makes some cards be repeated each turn and severely limit the possible actions each turn. Even more Damage destroys the robot.

Using the pattern

Designing a Damage effect consists of determining what type of Damage is caused, how the severity of the Damage is calculated, how much accumulated Damage is needed before additional effects take place, if players can affect the severity of a Damage, and if Damages can be healed or repaired. If the Damage comes as an effect of a Surprise, the severity of the Surprise is increased but players Illusion of Influence may be negatively affected.

The most common type of Damage is simply a reduction of a health, hit points, or armor Resource. Additional effects such as forced Downtime and reduced Skills, or other Ability Losses, can be used to create other types of Damage, but these are often reserved for special hits. Independent of how the Damage was caused its numerical values can either be fixed or be determined by a function. Fixed Damage values give Predictable Consequences while function can be used to create Randomness and increase the potential interest for each time Damage is received.

Damage allows modulation of Eliminate goals so that not one single successful attack eliminates an opponent but rather several successes are required. How much Damage can be received before more severe Penalties are inflicted modulates the Risk/Reward choices player do when determining if the risk of Damage is worth the potential Rewards. Giving different Units different values for this breakpoint can be one dimension in creating Orthogonal Unit Differentiation.

Modulating damage by affecting where it is given can allow players to have an influence of the severity of Damage. An example of this is the possibility to do instantaneous kills with head shots in many first-person shooters. If it is not obvious where to hit to inflict greater damage, this area is an Achilles' Heels and the information is Strategic Knowledge.

Player may also diminish or cancel the amount of Damage they receive by counter or pre-emptive actions. Examples of counter actions include using Privileged Abilities (most common in games with the special effect as Cards) or performing blocking or parrying maneuvers. Examples of pre-emptive actions include gaining invulnerability or armor, both usually received as Privileged Abilities of Power-Ups or Pick-Ups.

The amount of Damage received is usually indicated by a Status Indicator in order for players to perceive the severity of the Damage and gain knowledge about what caused the Damage.

If Damages can be healed or repaired, they can make Resources such as health or armor into Renewable Resources. The actual effect of healing or repairing offers the same design choices as for other Renewable Resources.


The possibility of Damage in games gives Tension. Damage is a form of Penalty and usually has very Predictable Consequences. The cause for receiving Damage is the most often due to failing to Evade the effects of Deadly Traps or Combat. Less common reasons for Damage include not being the King of the Hill or making a Consumer perform actionswhere the resources used are described in terms of Damage.

Like Lives, Damage can be seen as a measure of how many times one may fail avoiding bad effects in a game before a more severe Penalty is imposed. However, Damage works on a smaller scale and may have no effect on player's Freedom of Choice until the accumulated Damage is translated into another form of Penalty, typically loss of Lives or the destruction of a Unit. When Damage gives immediate effects, the most common types of effects are Ability Loss, forced Downtime, or Disruption of Focused Attention.


Instantiates: Predictable Consequences, Randomness, Orthogonal Unit Differentiation, Tension

Modulates: Strategic Knowledge, Lives, Deadly Traps, Combat, Units, Evade, King of the Hill, Consumers, Resources, Risk/Reward, Eliminate, Skills, Surprises, Characters

Instantiated by: Deadly Traps

Modulated by: Penalties, Achilles' Heels, Status Indicators, Ability Losses, Downtime, Renewable Resources

Potentially conflicting with: