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A measure of how much damage or other negative consequences avatars, characters, or units can take before they suffer serious penalties.

When damage in games does not directly lead to death or elimination, this still has to have some effect for the damage to have a gameplay purpose. The most common solution to this is most likely having a Health attribute. While each time damage is taken can have individual effects, reducing Health completely or beyond certain levels can have additional effects.

Health has been examined by several other collections of game design elements under the name "Hit Points", e.g. Giant Bomb[1], TVTropes[2], and the RPG Design Patterns collection[3]. For more information, see also the entries for Health on Wikipedia[4] and Giant Bomb[5].


Many Roleplaying Games, e.g. Dungeons & Dragons, GURPS, the Dragon Age series, the Fallout series make use of "hit points" to keep track of players' Health. The Legend of Zelda series and Minecraft instead use hearts to indicate how healthy the players' characters are. Fighting Games such as the Mortal Combat and Tekken series make use of "hit points" in similar style. The Board Games Ghost Stories and Talisman keep track of Health through tokens (although Ghost Stories call them "Qi" tokens).

Being hit or falling in the Counter-Strike series or the Team Fortress series reduces Health which is displayed as a bar in the user interfaces. The Quake series and the Grand Theft Auto series complement Health values with armor values which reduced damage but are themselves reduced when doing so. While these relate to the same type of damage that can happen the games; ones based upon the stories of H.P. Lovecraft, e.g. Arkham Horror, Mansions of Madness, and the Call of Cthulhu often have both physical and mental Health values.

The number of members in squads in Memoir '44 is a form of Health value since individual losses do not reduce the effectiveness of them - first when all members have been eliminated is there any effect and that is the complete removal of the squad.


Hârnmaster, a Tabletop Roleplaying Game, avoids using Health by instead have numerical values of how penalizing each wound is and aggregating these to provide a penalty for character actions. Checks for unconsciousness and deaths are determined when the wound is received.

Using the pattern

Health is basically an Attribute which sometimes can be used as a Resource, so designing games to make use of Health to a large extent consist of considering the design options of these two other patterns. While Characters and Units are natural choices of game elements to have Health attributes, the pattern is also often used with Avatars and sometimes with Destructible Objects as well.

A design decision needed regarding Health is if they are an independent Attribute or based on some other Attribute; GURPS for example bases it on "Strength" but lets it be modified in different ways while Pendragon instead lets it equal a Character's "Constitution" plus "Size". An alternative to using Health as a separate Attribute is to let Damage affect another Attribute instead. Mutant: År Noll does this with all Attributes to indicate Damage cause not only by physical trauma but also stress, confusion, and doubt.

Health is sometimes split into several different Attributes. Quake, for example, has both health and armor Attributes which have very similar properties. Call of Cthulhu and Arkham Horror show that one can make distinction between mental and physical Health.

The Damage and Health patterns often influence each other heavily, but Health modifies Damage since the latter one can exist without the former and used together they create Energy Penalties. While Damage causes reductions in Health, there are many ways of modifying this. Armor can reduce the amount of Damage taken and acquiring them, or choosing which one to use, can become gameplay elements. Invulnerabilities can make some types of attacks ineffective while Vulnerabilities can instead make some types of attacks much more dangerous. Difficulty Levels and Handicap Systems can be applied before or during game instances to shift gameplay between Casual and Challenging and to try to find Player and Team Balance.

While complete reduction of the Health due to Damage typically leads to Game Element Removal and Player Killing or Elimination, the use of Health can add granularity to this by introducing additional levels where other effects take place. One example of this can be found in GURPS: falling below one third of one's Health halves Movement, losing all requires Die rolls every second to stay conscious, and receiving Damage double to one's Health requires rolls to avoid death. These effects are in addition to specific ones caused by the Damage that reduced the Health.

If Health can be healed or repaired, it becomes a Renewable Resource and a Regenerating Resource if this happens automatically. Chargers are Environmental Effects that can provide this effect, and together with healing Pick-Ups show how restoring Health can be linked to moving in Game Worlds. Being able to perform healing actions is a way players to affect Health actively, and can be made possible through Tools or Powers; how well they can do this can be modulated through Skills. Such abilities make candidates for being Privileged Abilities.

Interface Aspects

Given the importance of Health values for overall gameplay development, they are usually displayed as Game State Indicators so they are easily noticeable by players. For their own Avatars or Characters, this may be through HUD Interfaces since these Focus Loci may not be visible themselves to players. Geospatial Game Widgets - for example hovering health bars - are often used for players' own Units, encountered Enemies, or the Avatars and Characters of Team members. The Health of Enemies may also be shown as Geospatial Game Widgets but for added complexity the Health of them may only be shown if players investigate them, e.g. by aiming at them with Crosshairs.


Health is an Attribute which in many cases functions as a (Non-Localized) Resource since it often is depleted during gameplay - if healing abilities exist this is even more likely since it can then be treated as a Renewable Resources. It allows higher granularity in Combat by letting Damage have accumulative effects; by doing this it can also introduce intermittent states between the loss of Lives. The use of Health reductions as Damage can become Critical Hits when combined with additional effects such as Downtime, Disruption of Focused Attention, Skills, Variable Accuracy, Movement Limitations, and Ability Losses.

Given that Health is an abstract Attribute on can arguably claim that adding this through HUD Interface can be enough for an otherwise Avatar-based game to support a weak form of Characters.


Can Instantiate

Attributes, Non-Localized Resources, Resources

with Damage

Energy Penalties

with Damage and Downtime, Disruption of Focused Attention, Skills, Variable Accuracy, Movement Limitations, Ability Losses

Critical Hits

with HUD Interfaces


Can Modulate

Characters, Combat, Crosshairs, Damage, Destructible Objects, Lives, Units

Can Be Instantiated By


Can Be Modulated By

Armor, Chargers, Difficulty Levels, Game State Indicators, Geospatial Game Widgets, Handicap Systems, HUD Interfaces, Invulnerabilities, Pick-Ups, Powers, Privileged Abilities, Regenerating Resources, Renewable Resources, Skills, Tools, Traps, Vulnerabilities

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With



New pattern created in this wiki.


  1. Entry for Hit Points on Giant Bomb.
  2. Entry for Hit Points on TV Tropes.
  3. Entry for Hit Points on the RPG design pattern site.
  4. Entry for "Health" on Wikipedia.
  5. Entry for "Health" on Giant Bomb.