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This trope is for any of those attacks that appear to do a ridiculous amount of damage, but on closer inspection actually have the rather strange effect of reducing one (or more) party members down to their very last Hit Point instead of inflicting normal (possibly lethal) damage. Lesser versions may not leave the target with strictly 1 HP, but relative to the scale of damage typically dealt in these battles, the end result is the same — regardless of your character's HP beforehand, you are now on the threshold of Critical Existence Failure.

So what happens if you already have only one Hit Point when struck by this attack? In most cases, that amazing psychedelic rainbow shockwave (or whatever) attack will have no effect whatsoever, or may be labelled an automatic "Miss". However, sometimes even this attack is obligated to inflict a minimum of Scratch Damage and will actually kill the character unless they Heal Thyself (even slightly) in the meantime.

Should you fall victim to these kinds of attacks, your safest action is simply to Heal Thyself the first chance you get ... or you can also use this chance to unleash a Desperation Attack of maximum power. But be very wary: Even Scratch Damage leads directly to a Critical Existence Failure.

Related to Slap-On-The-Wrist Nuke. Poison status effects often have this limitation.

In multiplayer games, suffering this can leave you open to Cherry Tapping.

See Last Chance Hit Point for more general cases where a character can survive an otherwise lethal attack with just 1 HP.

Examples of HP to One include:

  • Final Fantasy loves this trope.
    • Beatrix has this as her finishing move in Final Fantasy IX. When she executes it, the battle is over; from a story standpoint, the party is defeated as if it's a KO.
      • She considers this her ultimate move and taunts/threatens the party with death after she uses it, which is very strange considering you can regen out of the critical status while the game fades to black, reducing the "impact" of the scene.
      • The final boss, Necron, boasts his "Blue Shockwave" attack, which cuts the victim down to 1 HP.
      • The Blue magic Death Claw allows Blue Mages to reduce monsters (and a few midbosses!) to single-digit hp with a successful casting. It stuns them too, leaving them unable to heal in preparation for the follow up.
    • Final Fantasy IV's "Tornado" spell (and its upgraded counterpart, "Maelstrom", usable only by certain enemies) reduces its target(s)' HP to single digits, providing a much the same effect.
      • Final Fantasy IV: The After Years loves to do this during boss fights. Adamantoise in Yang's Story is one. It also happens at the end of The Lunarian's Story too, after the fight between Golbez/Fusoya and Zeromus's Malice.
    • Final Fantasy VI: The spell "Fallen One" ("Heartless Angel" in the GBA translation) makes all of your warriors' HP fall to 1. When you meet Kefka at the very end of the game, this is his opening move. Other enemies besides Kefka can use it, but it usually involves using Relm's "Sketch"/"Control" command or one of Gau's rages.
      • Holy Dragon 2 can randomly COUNTER damage with Heartless Angel, so if your timing is off, he could counter with it and immediately follow up with his normal turn consisting of a spell that hits the entire field.
    • Final Fantasy VII: Sephiroth can use "Heartless Angel" in his One-Winged Angel form at the end of the game. He even kept it for his Bonus Boss fights in Kingdom Hearts (in which it also reduced your MP to 0, meaning you had to recover from it with items) and his playable appearance in Dissidia Final Fantasy (which mercifully only takes your Brave Points down to 1), so in a way, it's almost become his trademark attack.
      • Also used by him in Crisis Core during the Nibelheim event.
    • Ultimecia's penultimate "Hell's Judgement" attack in Final Fantasy VIII (pictured at the top) causes the entire party's health to drop to one.
      • During the second Laguna dream sequence, the last Esthar Soldier (Terminator) has a final attack called "Soul Crush" that will put Kiros and Ward down to 1 HP. Kiros and Ward are severely wounded in the following cutscene after the battle
    • Final Fantasy X-2 has Yojimbo and the Magus Sisters, the former being much more annoying as it also knocks the party's MP to one; you're pretty much screwed without an Alchemist
    • Final Fantasy XI has special event enemies that can bring down the players' HP to 1. It's not as horrible as you'd think, considering everyone gets capped to level one for the event.
      • Tonberries have an attack called "Throat Stab" that brings you down to 5% HP. Luckily, it has a very short range, so you can avoid it by walking away when he tries to use it. And if you do get hit with it, it resets your accumulated enmity, so unless you're alone the tonberry will attack someone else (most likely the mages healing you to full).
      • Certain Diremites also have Tarsal Slam, which is HP to 1, but like Throat Stab also comes with a hate reset.
    • Final Fantasy XIII has Orphan who uses an attack called Merciless Judgement to bring your party's HP to 100 (relatively speaking, a critical amount). Easily fixed by using a paradigm with healers, but an instant kill if anyone is poisoned when he uses it.
    • Several Final Fantasy games had Cactaurs with two attacks. One would do 1 HP of damage, the other would do <Player's current HP - 1> damage.
  • In Dissidia Final Fantasy, hitting an enemy against the wall does bonus damage, but if the damage from the 'bonus' attack would KO the opponent (e.g., opponent has 1236 HP, damage dealt is 930 (actual attack) + 421 (wall impact damage) it brings them down to 1 instead.
  • Queen Zeal's Life Shaver and Hallation attacks in Chrono Trigger.
    • Great time for Dino Tail and Frog Squash!
    • Which can also be used by various mooks, such as Gargoyles on the Mountain of Woe.
    • The Nus in Enhasa either do nothing, reduce you to 1, or reduce you by 1. They are nice enough to attack in turn, hitting (at worst) all three characters to reduce them to one, giving you time to heal, and then hitting you with the 1 HP damage.
    • Krawlie, a boss that appears in the Abandoned Sewers in 2300 AD, may reduce a single character's HP to 1 with his Mash attack.
  • Mother: PK Freeze alpha and beta do increasing quantities of damage, but Freeze gamma is apparently so strong that it always drops the enemy's HP to a "critical status". If the beast isn't immune to that spell.
  • Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga does this with the Final Boss. Both characters are reduced to 1 HP in an unavoidable(?) attack, just in time for the boss to attack about four times (with new attacks you haven't seen before unless you've already died here) before you even get a chance to heal. You can survive, however, by correctly timing Action Commands to dodge the attacks.
    • Unless you are in level 60 by then. Or you have abused the speed-boosting drinks. The final boss is pretty fast but you can eventually get the first move. And yes, it is unavoidable.
  • The final boss of Metroid Fusion does this the first time she hits you.
    • The titular Metroid in Super Metroid reduces Samus' energy to exactly 1 point, regardless of any health tanks she has. This is more of a plot point than any serious danger.
  • In the Half-Life series, Poison Headcrabs can never kill the player, but only reduce their HP to 1 (which slowly regenerates to the initial value). Because they tend to be located in chaotic scenes with lots of enemies that can kill the player, people would drop everything else and unload entire clips of ammo just to kill the tiny, scuttling, black thing somewhere in the room. Even the sound effect by itself, outside of the game setting, can make most former players jump a mile.
  • Cutscene attacks in Super Robot Wars do either 150%, 110%, 95%, 90%, 50% or (in one event in Alpha 3) 500% of the target's maximum HP. When it's the second or third on an enemy, it generally means that the boss is either going to make a dying speech or Motive Rant before blowing up anyway, or it's going to regenerate all its health so you can fight it for real. That one time where it was 500%? It involved a Goldion Crusher on Palparepa.
    • And then there's the "Mercy" spirit command, which, if it works, makes any attack deal just enough damage to reduce the target's HP to 10 without killing them. It's useful for keeping high-level enemies alive so weaker characters can kill them for experience. It's also used as a minor plot point in Super Robot Wars Z, where Kira Yamato in his Thou Shalt Not Kill phase always has the Mercy effect.
      • In the Endless Frontier spinoff, Mercy is instead turned into a negative status effect that can only be gotten via one of the two Spirit commands that cast a random SC on either themselves or a random party member: the reason it's a negative status effect despite doing the exact same thing is because the whole point of the game is overkilling every enemy in overly elaborate ways and the only HP you ever need to worry about hitting 0 is your own.
      • Similarily, Heero Yuy's "I'll Kill You" command in the SD G Generation games for the Nintendo DS increases his attack power at the cost of, ironically, not being able to kill.
  • In Mega Man Battle Network 3, when you first fight Bass, his aura is impenetrable, and his attacks are impossible to avoid fully. He 'deletes' you, but you go back the out-of-battle screen unconscious and with 1 HP.
  • Banjo-Tooie has the Stomponadon and the crushers in Grunty Industries; being crushed twice in a row results in death. Banjo's Snooze Pack move allows him to recover health in between repeatedly getting flattened to one honeycomb.
    • One of Weldar's attacks, the ground pound, has the same effect as well.
  • In Secret of Mana in the Mana Fortress, some chests would contain a thing called the Death Trap. If you had full health, it would reduce your HP to one. If you didn't, instant death. You very quickly learned to heal up before opening chests.
  • Mabadi, a level 6 Priest Spell in Wizardry: Proving Grounds of The Mad Overlord. The spell was very nice in helping kill those Murphy's Ghosts.
  • World of Warcraft: Raid Boss Prince Malchezaar has Enfeeble that works this way, but it's only temporary damage. The trick is to avoid any further damage until the effect wears off. Of course, he casts an area-effect spell soon after, so the targets need to run away from him (and avoid the Infernals area damage). The effect also prevents any form of healing, so there is no easy way out.
    • Mercifully, he won't use it on whoever is on top of his threat list. This would keep it from being a completely Luck-Based Mission, but the above-mentioned infernals do a fine job of making it one on their own.
    • Baron Ashbury in the revamped Shadowfang Keep has an ability called Asphyxiate, which stuns all players and reduces their HP to 1. Immediately after casting Asphyxiate he will cast Stay of Execution, an interruptable ability that heals both the players and himself for 10% of their maximum life every time second it ticks. Defeating him without letting him heal at all awards the Pardon Denied achievement.
    • Chimaeron in Blackwing Descent has an interesting take on this. There's a friendly NPC that prevents any hit from killing anyone if their health is above 10,000, instead causing them to live with 1 health. This means that healers just have to keep everyone above 10,000 health for most of the fight, but this effect gets disabled periodically, and so massive healing is required to keep everyone alive through his caustic slimes.
  • The Disembowel skill from Breath of Fire 3 and 4. The enemies that use it tend to follow up with Target, an attack skill that never misses. Naturally, it's a Useless Useful Spell once you acquire it yourself (doubly so when you notice it's also Cast From Hit Points and reduces your max HP temporarily when used).
  • Fox Face from Shadow Hearts has his "!!!" attack. He's got another one that reduces you to one Sanity point.
  • The Eclipse spell from the sixth Fire Emblem game reduces the target's HP to one. In the seventh game it cuts the target's HP in half (unless it crits.) However, its base accuracy was so terribly low that it barely hit unless you were extremely unlucky.
    • In the tenth game, Whispers gain the mastery skill Bane, which instantly reduces enemy HP to one. Of course, considering that the chances of you getting any Whispers other than Sothe, combined with the chances of Sothe turning out to be any good, this is rather worthless.
      • Also your other characters will often have a mastery skill that is basically "ton of damage. If he manages to survive somehow, halve his speed for 5 turns." Who needs Bane when you can One-Hit Kill everything?
        • This is the case with most mastery skills. Most of these added effects tend to be completely irrelevant since most of the skills are overpowered and will seldom not kill everything. Of course, no generic enemies nor non-plot relevant bosses will ever have these skills (or any non-mastery skills, unless they're bosses) because they never make it to the third tier, for obvious reasons.
      • Bane is essentially just Lethality and Mercy in one skill. The former (only belonging to Volke) kills things instantly (unless they're counted as a boss character) and the latter (belonging to Elincia) makes it so that it's impossible to kill anyone since your character will stop doing damage after an enemy's hit one HP. Mercy has its uses, but the game puts it on Elincia after a certain point in the game, but doesn't tell you, which can cause players to accidentally head out into battle with her being unable to kill things.
  • Because Mercenaries 2 is ridiculously easy, all exploding vehicles, airstrikes and other 'deadly' things will always jam your HP at 3, and give you about ten seconds of invulnerability. Sometimes the game totally jams at that point, meaning your Magic Regenerative Health doesn't take it back up, and gunshots can't take it back down. Useful, if you don't mind the screen being completely red.
  • Maple Story has Zakum, the original Big Bad of the game (who devolved into the-boss-everyone-wants-to-fight-because-of-the-Infinity-Plus-One-Hat-you-get-from-him thanks to further additions adding even bigger bads, the most notable and recent example being Pink Bean/Pink Been/Pink Being in Time Temple) — who, in his final form (he looks more battle-damaged with each form, the last one being terribly close to rubble) regularly ABUSES an attack that drops both HP and SP to 1.
  • The final boss of Tales of Vesperia, Duke, has a Mystic Arte called Big Bang that deals an absurd amount of damage to your entire party but can never reduce your HP below 1. It's not technically a HP to One effect but at higher difficulty levels (and especially against his True Final Boss form) it might as well be. (Unless, you happen to be playing the PlayStation 3 Updated Rerelease on Hard or Unknown mode, in which case the "Last Chance Hit Point" condition is thrown out of the window and you can really start worrying).
  • In Gothic, NPCs who are not inherently hostile but whom you've managed to annoy will generally knock you out instead of killing you. This reduces you to one hit point.
  • In My World My Way, the "Weaken" spell does this, though you can't use the spell against bosses.
  • A variation is used in Advance Wars: CO Powers and missiles reduce units by a set amount, but won't inflict the killing blow.
  • Anime example with Wiraqocha Rasca in Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's.
  • The Greater Demon's Death Wish attack in Valkyrie Profile.
  • Some monsters (and bosses) have this as an attack in Golden Sun. Notably, all of the Golem-type enemies have a chance of this effect occurring from "Truncheon Fist". It's still pretty nasty otherwise.
  • Epsilon in Mega Man X Command Mission gains the ability to knock one of your characters down to one hit point after he powers up mid-fight. He also uses this ability to open the fight.
  • Discworld MUD: Happens to any PC who decides to try stealing without a license in Ankh-Morpork, regardless whether or not the offender actually is a thief.
  • Dragon Quest Monsters had the spell Kamikaze, which cut the user's and target's H Ps to 1 if successful.
  • A Sequential Boss from Digimon World 3 goes into his second form just to use an attack like this, then immediately turns into his third form.
  • While the Pokémon series has no actual HP to One attacks, the move "False Swipe" is an ordinary attack (similar to "Scratch"), but features the added effect that it will never reduce the opponent to zero HP. It is useful primarily for weakening wild Pokémon so they can be more easily caught.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh 5 Ds, this is literally the effect of Earthbound God Wiraqocha Rasca; by skipping the battle phase, your opponent's Life Points become 1. This effect was removed from the real card, because an effect like that would be ridiculously broken in real life.
  • Neverwinter Nights used the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons version of Harm. As a cleric spell it wasn't resisted by the high spell resistance that most powerful enemies had, making it one of the most useful spells in the game.
  • Lampshaded (like everything else) in Adventurers as one of Boss Khrima's attacks.
  • Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne has a version of this fitting with the spirit of the game: Aciel will do this to your entire party, then immediately follow it up with a regular attack before you get a turn. Hope he doesn't target the main character.
  • Last Scenario has several bosses who can do this: Thanatos, who does this to the entire party unless you have damage-reducing Status Buffs active, Durile, who targets a single character, and the Black King, whose attack hits the entire party, too.
  • Kingdom Hearts has a few.
    • In the first game, Bonus Boss Sephiroth had a special move called "Descend, Heartless Angel" that drops Sora right down to 0 HP regardless of his defense - unless you had the Second Chance ability equipped. Bonus points for the attack itself being impossible to actually dodge; the only way to avoid it is to interrupt Sephiroth's casting animation. A difficult feat in any respect, especially because he has a tendency to teleport to the farthest corner of the arena before using it, but necessary if you want to avoid using those precious Elixirs to heal 10+ times in a single fight. Extra bonus points for reducing your MP to zero, meaning the only way to heal was using limited quantities of items or to avoid being hit long enough to fight and regain the MP.
    • He returns in Kingdom Hearts II, with the same attack.
    • Birth By Sleep Final Mix has Bonus Boss No Heart, who has an attack that is basically DHA turned Up to Eleven. It doesn't just drain your HP to one, it completely drains your focus gauge and even your command board. Thankfully, he doesn't use it often, and the attack itself is much easier to dodge than Sephiroth's.
  • In Mabinogi Fantasy Life, the Poison and Mirage Missile effects reduce HP to one, then do only enough damage to counteract Healing Factors. Mirage Missile is very useful if you can follow up with an Area of Effect attack, since with its infectious nature it can turn a whole roomful of monsters into One Hitpoint Wonders.
  • In Team Fortress 2, the Croc-O-Style Item Set's bonus is listed in-game as "The user cannot be killed by headshots". What it doesn't tell you is that it only prevents enough damage to stop you from dying, thus dropping your HP to One (at which point another headshot CAN kill you). Players have found it's still more efficient to kill users with headshots rather than with Charged Attacks.
  • In Rock Man 4 Minus Infinity Mega Man can get a Shock Guard upgrade which turns the series' trademark Spikes of Doom into these if he has more than 1 HP.
  • In RuneScape, Nomad from the quest Nomad's Requiem gets a unique version of this attack. The attack always hits your maximum Life Points minus 10. In a subversion, however, the attack hits this amount regardless of your current HP - so unless your health is at (or above, through the use of potions) max, it will kill you. Some shields and armor can reduce the damage of the attack, but at the time of release this equipment was prohibitively expensive.
  • In The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess, both the Nasty Soup and the Purple Chu have random properties, ranging from this trope to an unexpected full health recovery. Very risky indeed.
  • In Starcraft, the Devourer's Plague attack is an example of this: it is a powerful area attack but will never kill an enemy, only reduce their hit points to a minimum of 1. Subverted if you use it on Terran buildings, however, as if these are damaged into the red they automatically continue to deteriorate and eventually explode even if no further attack is made on them.
  • In City of Heroes, falling cannot kill you. No matter from what height you fall, you will always have at least one hit point left. That said: you will survive the impact itself, but depending on your hit points left whatever is around you can and will off you pretty quick.
  • Of all games, Tekken has this move for Tekken Tag Tournament 2. Unknown has this move where she casts a vortex, and if you're caught in that vortex, a large hand rises up and slams you into the vortex, leaving you with 1 HP [1] and automatically tagging in your partner. If you're really unlucky to be caught in this attack and your partner has low health, good luck trying to survive.

Card Games

  • Magic: The Gathering gives us Ali from Cairo, which turns an otherwise-fatal attack into this. And Worship, which (while it fits with the right color) grants every creature this ability. More recently, Near-Death Experience has meant that if you go down to one life during your upkeep, you win!
  • Star Munchkin gives us the Plot Device card. It sets the effective level of the munchkin currently in combat exactly 1 above or below that of the monster (depending on who uses it).

Tabletop RPG

  • Dungeons and Dragons.
    • Older editions of (Advanced) Dungeons and Dragons had the Harm spell (reverse of Heal), which would strip the victim of all but 1d4 or so hit points, no save. It did the same thing in 3rd edition where, due to the revised casting, melee attack and HP system between 2nd and 3rd edition, it turned into a massive Game Breaker. The version in 3.5 inflicts damage based on caster level, but it still cannot reduce the victim's hp below 1.
    • An article in Dragon magazine #36 gave AD&D stats for Conan. He could not be killed by poison: instead, he would be reduced to one Hit Point and fall unconscious.
    • In 3.5 edition drowning set your health to zero (not "down to" zero; if your health was below zero at the time, it would actually go up to zero). This was the basis for one of the most broken characters of all time which used this, an infinite damage loop, a spell that prevented death (at least from hit point damage) for a specific period of time, combined with a whole host of spells that added benefits per x amount of damage you took. It was named the Omniscificer. What this ignored was that by the same technicality, getting out of the water doesn't stop you from drowning.

Web Comics

  • The Eater of Dreams in Captain SNES has the Living Nightmare attack, which reduces everyone's HP to one and heals himself for the damage dealt. He cruelly uses it to foist a no-win situation on Lucca.
  1. (Actually, it makes all your health red, which means it's recoverable upon tag out.)