State of the Game—August 14, 2006
Shine your Armor and Buff your Weapons—A Guide to Guild Wars Damage Calculations
By Christian Brellisford
Special note: Each State of the Game article presents the opinions and insights of one game observer. These observations are personal in nature and do not reflect the opinions of ArenaNet. While ArenaNet does review each State of the Game article to assure that it offers content that is respectful of all players, we intend to allow our reporters the freedom to inject some personal opinion into descriptions of the current atmosphere of competitive play in Guild Wars, and to express views based on their experience and observation.
When you attack a player with a weapon or skill, it means you deal damage. A successful attack displays yellow numbers above your target's head, showing how much Health loss you inflicted. Many variables influence this damage. The game calculates damage type, location on the target's body, armor level (AL), and any other modifiers like Enchantment buffs or Hexes. Once the game has crunched the numbers it determines how much damage you do. By remembering the basic damage types and how to resist them, players can hone their playing ability and select proper targets and skills when entering into a battle.
There are four main categories of damage: elemental, physical, armor-ignoring, and life stealing. The effectiveness of each depends on multiple factors—the target's armor, resistance to the elements, buffs and debuffs on the character, and where on the body the damage hits. A fifth category of damage does exist, although it has little affect on the metagame. Caster weapons (wands and staves) may have other damage types, such as Chaos or Light. These do not ignore armor or do anything special when they hit. The amount of damage that they do is rather low to begin with, but if you have armor that gives you a bonus against physical or elemental damage, you won't get this bonus if a caster hits you with a wand or staff.
To maximize their safety and survivability in the Guild Wars world, players should know the different damage types and what they can do to counter each type.
Elemental damage can be divided by the elemental type. There are four main elements in Guild Wars: fire, water, air, and earth. Offensive Elementalist spells always deliver elemental damage, although the actual element may vary by skill. Other classes can mete out elemental damage, although they have fewer options. To discover what kind of damage a skill outputs, simply read the description. Fireball, for example, deals fire damage while Lightning Orb deals air.
If you'd like to do elemental damage with another class, take a look at your skills. If you are a Necromancer some of your spells, such as Bitter Chill, generate cold damage. Many Ritualist skills in the Channeling Magic line can strike with air damage. Assassins can hurt enemies with earth damage from Dancing Daggers, and Monk smiters often use Zealot's Fire to burn clumps of opponents with fire damage.
Air damage sometimes has armor penetration, according to the skill description. Shock deals twenty-five percent armor penetration, but the Ritualist skill Channeled Strike (which also deals air damage) does not.
Weapons in Guild Wars can also deal elemental damage. You can add elemental damage upgrades to Daggers, Bows, and Warrior weapons. Wands and staves deal their own elemental damage. The description of the weapon tells you what type of damage it does.
Warrior, Ranger, and Assassin weapons primarily deal physical damage, which is further split into subcategories based on the weapon type. Bows and daggers dispense piercing damage, swords and axes deal slashing damage, and hammers do blunt damage. Armor, shields, and items can give the wearer additional bonuses against specific subcategories of physical damage.
To see what type of damage your weapon deals read its description. For example, if you have a typical axe it reads "Slashing Dmg" in its description. When you make a normal attack with this axe, you hit your target with slashing damage. Your enemy's regular armor has an inherent reduction effect on the damage, regardless of type. Additionally, your target may have extra resistance specifically against slashing damage, which triggers when you hit, further reducing the amount of damage you cause. If you were to switch to an axe with a fiery haft upgrade and continue attacking, you may see a damage increase if your target has no additional resistance to fire damage.
Skills that add damage to attacks actually add armor-ignoring damage. This means that if you strike an opponent with an attack skill you do your regular weapon damage (which the target's armor lessens) plus the listed damage bonus.
Warrior - Axe Mastery - Attack
Attack. If this attack hits, you strike for +10..30 damage.
Let's look at the Warrior skill Cleave. This skill says if it hits you strike for X damage. This means that when you hit, the target's armor resists your regular axe damage and Cleave always adds X damage to your attack. All attack skills work this way unless the skill states specific differences.
Armor-ignoring damage behaves just like it sounds—it deals its full amount despite the target's armor. Any skill that does not specifically list its damage type does armor-ignoring damage. The Mesmer spell Energy Burn always deals ten damage per one Energy burnt from your target. Based on your attribute level in Earth Magic, Obsidian Flame does the same amount of damage to any target, regardless of armor. Many Smiting skills are also armor-ignoring, making them valuable choices when trying to take down Warriors.
Players can decrease armor-ignoring damage by using Enchantment buffs like Shielding Hands or Protective Spirit. The Binding Ritual Shelter and Stance Dark Escape also diminish armor-ignoring damage.
The last damage type, life stealing, also ignores armor, but its damage cannot be reduced. Life steals will always steal enemy Health by the described amount, and heal you at the same time. This includes vampiric weapon modifiers.
Attacks and spells can also deal damage to different locations on an opponent's body. The damage locations on the body are the head, arms, upper body, lower body, and feet (this corresponds to each piece of armor). Shields also affect damage dealt head-on and to either flank. Damage tends to fall mostly on the main body, but can randomly hit any area. An opponent may have different modifiers on each piece of armor, so the hit location can alter the final damage output for a single attack or spell. No damage-reducing skills ever have any impact on the amount of Health lost to a life steal.
To resist varied damage, players equip an assortment of armor. You may wear armor and choose to have a different modifier on each piece. Some modifiers resist elemental damage, or the various physical types, some can reduce damage overall or while you are under a Hex, Condition, or Enchantment. These modifiers only trigger when someone strikes you on that specific location. To determine the type of damage that an item resists, read the item's description.
The different Professions have different base armor levels (ALs). Caster characters have the lowest overall AL and Warriors have the highest. Rangers and Elementalists tend to have a lot of armor that resists the elements.
Some items have special modifiers. Shields, for example, can contain a modifier that reduces physical damage by two. This will reduce all physical damage dealt to you by two.
Be sure to note the differences between skills that add armor and ones that reduce damage. A skill like “Watch Yourself!” adds armor to you and your allies; this armor is universal so the location of the damage while under this buff doesn't matter. Enchantment spells such as Life Bond will reduce non-life stealing damage by the listed amount. Players should also know that skills like Healing Hands do not actually reduce inflicted damage; they heal over the top of it. Even with this Enchantment, it is possible to kill a target.
By knowing how Guild Wars works out damage you can become a better player. Dealing the maximum amount of damage in the most efficient way possible and recognizing when targets decrease your damage gives you the chance to become as competitive as the top players!
Christian Brellisford is a college student currently studying video game design in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in hopes of pursuing a career in the field. A gamer since an early age, Christian has been involved with Guild Wars since the E3 for Everyone Event in 2004, and currently leads the Spirits of War guild. You can find him in game under the name Saidin Writer.