I made this thread to gather what the majority of RPG players like in terms of damage variety in a hack-and-slash game. I play quite a bit of ARPG (mostly Diablo 3 and Grim Dawn as of now) and recently have generated some game ideas of my own.

One specific criteria that I am reaching is intuitiveness. The players should be able to easily distinguish between the damage types and choose the correct way to build their character suiting to their flavors.

At the moment, I am stuck with deciding the right number of damage types and what they are. I have a basic list for myself:







Here comes another question: should Magical be there? Is it a redundancy since the 4 elemental Fire,Cold,Lightning and Poison is "magical" already? or Should there be an independent and unique type called Magical? Or, should the Magical damage, if increased, will also modify all those elemental damage? I am looking for a good desgin here.

Next question, I want to implement the mechanics of Bleeding as a Damage Over Time type of damage. Then, what type of damage should Bleeding be? Physical? or Poison? I have a solution, which is: for each damage type, add a "Duration" counterpart which represents the DOT of this damage type, then the list becomes:

(Type,Duration damage of this type)

Physical, Bleeding

Magical, Corruption(just a random word to fill in)

Fire, Burn

Cold, Chill

Lightning, Electrified


Here comes the problem, Poison is already a DOT, introducing another DOT counterpart for Poison would be weird. Another problem with this system is that it is complicated, so many stats. So my question is, how do we efficiently implement the least amount of damage type to produce the most amount of diversity in gamestyles and build types. I really want to promote freedom and creativity, which means that if someone likes playing DOT lightning he could.

Sorry if my questions aren't clear, but I would love if everyone shares their ideas of a Damage type system, how many are there is good, and how does damage over time works.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Hello, and welcome to GDSE! Unfortunately, questions based on opinions such as this one are considered off topic for this site, you can read more about it in the help center. \$\endgroup\$
    – Vaillancourt
    Feb 23, 2017 at 20:07
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I think you are missing the most important question in your game concept: What do different damage types actually mean in your mechanics? \$\endgroup\$
    – Philipp
    Feb 23, 2017 at 20:12

3 Answers 3


I'll get to some specifics about what you're asking, but first I want to offer some friendly advice: if you don't know the answers to simple questions like this then you shouldn't be considering an online-multiplayer RPG as a project. What you're talking about is RPG game systems 101 and it goes all the way from basic pen & paper systems to complex MMORPGs.

Frankly, you're not ready if you don't already know the fundamentals inside and out. I would strongly suggest you spend some time as a GM/DM for a pen & paper group and learn a number of big systems (D&D, 5 Rings, White Wolf, etc) until you understand not only how they are different but why.

To give you some help here are a few thoughts:

1) You're focusing too much on specifics and not enough on the underlying design principles. It doesn't matter if you have a damage type called "Magical" because that's just a descriptive name, what matters is how it's implemented and what differentiates it from other damage types.

For example, what makes Ice different from Lightning? In most systems it's that ice has some form of cold/chill/freeze effect and lightning has some form of shock/stun/chain effect. Those characteristics are then what guide you to design the skills/spells/auras/etc that use those elements. An ice spell could shatter and slow enemies, a lightning spell could shock and interrupt attacks, a poison spell could cause confusion and lead to less accurate attacks, etc. It's whatever YOU decide.

2) Don't confuse damage effects and damage types. The former is how damage is applied (up front, over time, after a delay, etc) and the latter is what kind of damage is applied. When you look at most RPG systems a "Bleed" is typically a damage effect (DoT) and so also needs to be given a damage type (Physical).

Poison is a bit different because some games use it as both, but I would strongly suggest that you refrain from doing that. It's confusing and ultimately doesn't gain you anything, so I would choose one or the other and design around that decision.

3) Having a "base" damage category (Physical, Magic, etc) is fine from a design perspective, but I would advise you to NOT allow attacks/weapons/stats to directly impact or use the base category if you go that route because it will create an absolutely nightmare for damage/mitigation balance.

Let's say you have a "Magic" category containing 4 damage types (Magic, Ice, Fire, Chaos). If you allow a weapon to do "Magic" damage then it will either be garbage or overpowered depending on whether elemental damage and resistances "double-dip" or not. Here are a few potential pitfalls:

  • How is mitigation determined for both elemental and base magic damage?
  • Do you derive magic resistance from base stats, from item stats, or both?
  • Does magic resist also effect elemental resist and if so is it additive, multiplicative or added separately? If separately is it mitigated first and how does that impact the second calculation?
  • How is damage increased and is it handled the same way as resists? (All the same questions apply)

For example, look at Diablo 3's resistance system where you have "all resist" and individual resistances. Ask yourself: what is the purpose of individual resistances in D3 and are they effective? The answer is no, they are completely pointless because they are completely outclassed by all resist in every way.

Why? Here are a few reasons:

  • The resistances aren't even remotely balanced, physical is far better than the elemental resists.
  • You can gem for All Resist but not for individual resists.
  • You can't gain adequate resists across the board with individual resists.
  • The play-style of the game relies on avoiding damage more than mitigating it.

I could continue, but the point is that individual resists don't serve any practical purpose in the game. Just like the other pointless secondary stats like chance to fear on hit, and basically every gem that isn't main-stat or all resist. D3 does a lot right, it's gem and mitigation system are two things that aren't done well at all.

This is getting long so I'll wrap this up by offering a couple suggestions:

1) Design your classes or builds around the type of play-style you want to enable and not the type of damage they do. Once you've figured out those then it's a lot easier to figure out the damage types.

2) When creating your damage types: KEEP IT SIMPLE. You don't need to allow for every single possible combination, frankly games that try to do that inevitably fail... either because the systems don't work, are extremely boring because everything is homogenized, or because they offer the illusion of choice but have no actual substance.

3) Stick to the classics. Having both non-magic and magic damage types are important, but make sure they are relatively even in power when compared with how hard/easy it is to mitigate those damage sources. Also, make sure each damage type has a clearly defined purpose or play-style, don't add things just for the sake of variety. You're better off sticking with fire, ice, lightning and making them unique than adding water, air, earth, dark, light, holy, chaos, poison... and having them all be clones.

Good luck :P

  • \$\begingroup\$ I have no experience in doing this ever before. Just an RPG gamer starting to tinker with some game ideas. Thank you so much for the advice!!! \$\endgroup\$
    – Kidze
    Feb 24, 2017 at 18:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ I understand, and there's no harm in sitting down to think through some ideas. I just wanted to caution you because I see a lot of people with grandiose ideas set out to make RPGs without having any real concept of how difficult just the design portion is without even considering the implementation. Anyway, I'm glad you thought it was helpful :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Aithos
    Feb 24, 2017 at 18:54

I think you're going about this from the wrong end. Damage types are tools in your toolkit to help you achieve a goal, they are not a goal in and of themselves.

If you look at damage types, they have various different aspects:

  • Let a player deal better with groups of enemies, but comparatively weak against a single enemy
  • Do a lot of damage up front, then fall off (good in short battles against weaker enemies)
  • Do little damage that adds up over time (good against strong enemies that you'll spend a while fighting)
  • Bypass armor or shields.
  • Do little damage, but allow delaying or moving enemies (good for clearing enemies away from objectives or keeping that heavy hitter off you while you dispatch of her minions).
  • Combine with other damage types so that if you trigger several at once, you suddenly deal a lot of damage.
  • Remove the effects of all other weapons when triggered.
  • Output no more damage than all other damage types the player has available right now, but by virtue of being a different type, immunities some enemies have against all the other damage types do not apply to them.

Why do we do that?

Well, the game would be very boring if it was just about generating enough damage in a short amount of time to kill the enemy. This is good for early enemies, where the player is still learning the game. Later on, you want to give the player some new mechanics to figure out before they can get bored.

Like giving enemies shields, and a few damage types that can bypass or damage shields. You're basically giving your player a bag full or building blocks and telling them to build a house (i.e. defeat the enemy), and the interesting part about the game becomes figuring out which bricks to assemble in what order to achieve the desired result. Some pieces are very useful but also very rare (i.e. have a long cooldown), so the player has to approximate that one using other pieces when she's already used the one she had.

As an Example

In Star Trek Online torpedoes do not penetrate shields, but do a lot of damage. Phaser beams mostly damage shields, but don't do that much damage to the actual ship even once the shields are down. So while you'd at first go for the damage type that does the most damage, you'll notice that won't damage shielded ships. So you need to figure out to first use your beams to take down the shields, then send a torpedo after it to finish it off before its shields can repair.

Keep the Curve in Mind

So try thinking of damage types as abilities that grow in complexity to match the increasing complexity of enemies. You want a soft curve so your players have a chance to learn the basics at first. That they are magic or lightning or ice is really just set dressing.

You often first come up with a power that needs to fit certain requirements (e.g. allow me to fight the big boss at the end of the level, who is a damage sponge and needs to be stronger than all previous bosses you've already won against, but without giving players a power that is so strong it will make all other enemies no longer challenging), and then try to come up with a name and appearance that fits your world, your story and design aesthetic. Or that makes a certain battle that's pivotal to the story feel more epic than all others before or after, but doesn't break the game by making you too strong.

Coming up with a damage type

Lightning in ArcheAge probably just started as "I need a power that looks cool and deals with several enemies, but is limited in number of enemies so first-level sorcerers don't clear out that level 10 area over there too early".

On the other hand, games like STO that have a TV series to draw from sometimes see an ability on the show and then try to make it fit in the game mechanics. That may happen by massaging a new enemy's abilities to fit the kind of damage you'd expect a certain weapon to dish out, or by picking a damage type from the ones they can use right now that is close enough to how the weapon's in the show looks.


I think that you should have two main types of damage; Physical and Magical. Then split those main categories into subcategories: Physical could have subcategories blunt, puncture, and slash, while Magical could have your elements of choice such as Ice, Fire, or Electricity.

For each damage type, you could have a DoT effect or you can just have generic status effects that can be applied based on what you're using: things like Stun, Root, Concussed, Disarmed, etc could be status effects for physical damage types, and for your magical damage types you could have the typical On Fire, Frozen, Shocked, etc. Some of these could be damaging and some could just be plain crowd control (or both), but the main thing is that each needs to be unique in its effect so that you have meaningful choices when it comes to which effect you want to apply. I think that the presence of meaningful choices, opportunity costs, and trade-offs are what role-playing games are all about.


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