From gdp3
Jump to: navigation, search

Weaknesses that can be exploited by others.

In games where one can suffer damage or other adverse effects, entities may be more vulnerable to some attacks than others may be. Having such Vulnerabilities mean that player have to adjust their gameplay to minimize the likelihood of these being exploited, but when others have them it can instead provide opportunities. If enemies are suspected of having Vulnerabilities this can lead to gameplay aimed at confirming the presence or absence of these.


In the fourth edition of Dungeons & Dragons, monsters that are vulnerable to a specific form of attack simply take a predetermined extra amount of damage each time such an attack hits them. GURPS has the disadvantage Vulnerability that multiplies damages from certain types of attack depending on how vulnerable one is.

The design of weapons and monsters in Quake have been described as having chains of vulnerabilities where one monster is vulnerable to one type of weapon, but that weapon makes the player vulnerable to another type of monster[1].

The vampires in the Elder Scrolls series take damages if they are outdoors when the sun is up. The werewolves found in the Bloodmoon expansion of Morrowind take double damage from silver weapons.

Using the pattern

The design of a Vulnerability consists of deciding which have it, what causes it, and what the effect is.

Vulnerabilities can be applied equally well to Avatars, Characters, and Units and this may be those under players' control or their Enemies (including Boss Monsters). While this modulates how these entities work in games, Ammunition, Powers and Weapons can also be modulated by Vulnerabilities through being able to activate the Vulnerabilities (e.g. the possibility of having silver bullets to fight werewolves or vampires). Destructible Objects can be seen as "ordinary" game objects that have Vulnerabilities that let them be destroyed.

Probably the most commonly used cause for Vulnerabilities is different types of Damage (e.g. fire, electricity, etc.). Vulnerabilities can be used to create Environmental Effects that only affect a small group of Characters - for example making vampires take damage when exposed to the sun does help define a gameplay difference between outdoor and indoor areas. Vulnerabilities can of course also be used to increase the Damage of already dangerous Environmental Effects.

Effects of Vulnerabilities often affect Damage, or give Decreased Abilities or Ability Losses. For both Damage and Decreased Abilities, the options of using Arithmetic, Discontinuous, or Geometric Progression exits; Dungeons & Dragons uses Discontinuous Progression while GURPS uses Arithmetic Progression. Decreased Abilities or Ability Losses caused by Vulnerabilities are most often Ephemeral Events but all effects from Vulnerabilities may be ongoing if they are linked to Environmental Effects.

Deterioration can be seen as a Vulnerability to the wear-and-tear of ordinary use.

Although Vulnerabilities is incompatible with complete Invulnerabilities, the patterns can be used together when applied to different types of attacks or effects. An exception where complete Invulnerabilities work with Vulnerabilities is when a single Vulnerability provides an Achilles' Heel to an otherwise invulnerable entity.


Introducing Vulnerabilities in games modulate Damage (and through it Health), typically affecting gameplay related to Combat; Movement can also be affect when Vulnerabilities is used in relation to Environmental Effects. Since the effect of this is that players may have to switch between different Weapons or Powers depending on who they encounter, this provides Varied Gameplay. When players' own Avatars, Characters, or Units have Vulnerabilities this can likewise produce Varied Gameplay since both Conceal and Evade goals emerge from trying to deny others the information of the Vulnerabilities or the possibility of exploiting them.

Knowing what Vulnerabilities exist in games is Strategic Knowledge, and lead to Strategic and Tactical Planning when these depend on which Powers or Weapons are used. When the existence of Vulnerabilities is known but it is not known exactly which entities have which Vulnerabilities, this leads to Gain Information goals as well as Experimenting with Enemies to see what affects them more or less than other Enemies. Conflict when one side can repetitively exploit the Vulnerabilities of the other side without any matching weaknesses or other Balancing Effects easily leads to Repeated Domination.

Making closed chains of entities that are vulnerable to one another but not reciprocally so creates Rock-Paper-Scissors structures.


Can Instantiate

Ability Losses, Decreased Abilities, Destructible Objects, Environmental Effects, Ephemeral Events, Gain Information, Repeated Domination, Rock-Paper-Scissors, Strategic Knowledge, Varied Gameplay

with Avatars, Characters, or Units

Conceal, Evade

with Enemies


with Invulnerabilities

Achilles' Heels

with Powers or Weapons

Strategic Planning, Tactical Planning

Can Modulate

Ammunition, Avatars, Boss Monsters, Characters, Combat, Damage, Health, Enemies, Movement, Powers, Weapons, Units

Can Be Instantiated By


Can Be Modulated By

Arithmetic Progression, Discontinuous Progression, Geometric Progression

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With



New pattern created in this wiki.


  1. Rollings, A & Morris, D. Game Architecture and Design. (The Coriolis Group, 2000.) ISBN 1-57610-425-7