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If anything ever boggled my mind in role playing, then it is the term "soak", as in "soaking damage". Soaking brings pictures of wet clothes to mind, as making stuff wet is what the word is in fact used for. And it just has that annoying itchy sound to it. So, in short, here are my questions:

  • When was the term "Soaking damage" coined?
  • Why was it in fact called "soaking"?

I hope my question makes sense...

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In a sport like soccer or hockey a team may soak up pressure. The analogy from there seems pretty straight forward. – Simon Withers Nov 30 '12 at 13:13
Think of a sponge soaking up liquid, not a watergun soaking a target. – SevenSidedDie Dec 1 '12 at 1:30
Note that hex-based wargaming has been using the term "soak-off" for a long time. – Nate C-K Sep 30 '14 at 11:35
Honestly, it's not just roleplaying this is used it. It's been used in pretty much any circumstance related to gaming I can ever think of. I remember the term widely used in my SC1 and WC3 days. Same with any other RPGs where you get a tank to soak up the damage. – dphil Sep 30 '14 at 14:38
up vote 47 down vote accepted

That's interesting, as being a non-native English speaker I always assumed it was one of the accepted meanings. So as every time I realize one of these things, let's check the wiktionary:


soak (third-person singular simple present soaks, present participle soaking, simple past and past participle soaked) (transitive)

4- To allow (especially a liquid) to be absorbed; to take in, receive. (usually + up) I soaked up all the knowledge I could at university.

So yes, even though it is not the most often used meaning, "to soak" can be used for "to absorb", and not only for liquids. So "soaking damage" for "receiving damage and absorbing it" is not a pure invention, it is accepted - though unusual - English language.

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Also, people use soak to describe learning or information gathering at a constant low level. – Joshua Aslan Smith Nov 29 '12 at 15:02
+1 for this perspective! I'm a native speaker of English, but the use of "soak" in context of "soaking damage" has always made sense (to me). The orthodox meaning cited by the OP of course is most commonly used, but the act of soaking something up (receiving it) just clicked; possibly all those old Bounty Paper Towel commercials with Rosie as a young lad. – javafueled Nov 29 '12 at 16:36
That's interesting, as being a foreigner I always assumed it was one of the accepted meanings. by foreigner do you mean not being South Korean ? – pwned Nov 29 '12 at 17:56
pwned - I think he means "as a person who is not a non-native English speaker," which is quite a bit more verbose to express. – corvec Nov 29 '12 at 18:36
Following @javafueled's logic (which is also the meaning "soaking damage" has had for me), see also the purpose of a kitchen sponge - to "soak up" liquids. A character that soaks up damage could also be referred to as a "damage sponge." – Shauna Nov 29 '12 at 18:48


"Soaking damage" first became common after Vampire: The Masquerade used the terms "soak roll" and "soak dice" in regard to the dice pool used to reduce incoming damage. As an opposed roll, the dice would "soak up" the incoming damage, and the character would take what was left.

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