In RPGs, when one character attacks another, the amount of damage dealt is represented by a number. In the long and storied history of the genre this has meant everything from carefully-calculated two-digit hits to streams of nines flying by faster than the human eye can keep up.
What I want to know is this: should we consider “damage” to be standard across the table? As an example, Ryu from the original Breath of Fire has a cap of 999 damage even with his strongest attack. Is he really ten times weaker than Cecil, who can hit for a theoretical max of 9999? And is Cecil in turn fifteen times weaker than Squall, who can hit his cap that many times with his limit break? And of course that pales in comparison to what Wakka can do with a five-digit cap and a rubber game ball…
But what if the damage scales aren’t equal? What if, say, one point of damage from Breath of Fire is worth more than a point of damage from Final Fantasy 4? It’s entirely possible that Ryu’s single attack is as strong or stronger than Cecil’s despite Cecil having access to a greater amount of nines.
And of course there is the question of just what heroes are capable of doing if their limits were revoked. Characters in FF10 rub up against a limit of 9999 until they attach Break Damage Limit to their weapons, whereupon they will magically begin doing 12000 or so. It’s probably fair to say they were dealing 12000 all along, and the stupid game was just not reflecting that with its bouncing numbers. Maybe Ryu’s dragon forms could connect for tens of thousands of damage if not for that pesky line of code that reads “if dmg>999 then dmg=999”.
The question inevitably comes back around to multi-hit attacks. Why can’t Cecil hit more than once per round? For that matter, why can’t his friend Edge, who is carrying a sword in each hand? Do each of Edge’s weapons labor under a damage cap of 4500? Are we to believe each of his arms are half as strong as Cecil’s?
This is the kind of stuff that keeps me up nights. Like… tonight, for example.