There are three primary damage types: Cut, Impact, and Bullet. Cut weapons slice and pierce, and the damage is caused by a thin, sharp blade. Impact weapons strike and pummel, and the damage is caused by a blunt surface. Bullet weapons consist of small projectiles, better suited for piercing than cutting and designed to be used at range. Most weapons deal one of these three primary damages; Lances and Gunlances each deal two.
Many, but not all, weapons deal a secondary type of damage. This can be elemental (Fire, Water, Thunder, Ice) or status (Poison, Paralysis, Exhaustion, Sleep, Slime). There is another damage type that specifically hurts dragons. Though it is its own entity, it is commonly referred to as the Dragon element and is included with the elementals.
A weapon’s damage is expressed as [physical damage]+[secondary damage, if any]. For example, a Cut weapon with 4 raw damage and 3 fire damage would be expressed as 4C+3f. A Bow with 6 raw damage and no special effects would simply be expressed as 6B.
Weapon training only increases physical damage. For example, if a hunter had a Longsword with 3C+3t and a Longswords skill of 2, the damage would instead be 5C+3t.
1 “D” for dual.
2 “x” because slime buildup will explode.
Monsters have different weak points. Some respond better to slicing, some shatter when impacted, and others fail readily to a swarm of bullets. Generally speaking, any weapon can damage a weak point, but some, such as a Barroth’s sturdy ridge, only truly break with the proper damage (in this case, Impact).
Breaking weak points can have different effects. For example, breaking a Barroth’s plated knees makes it easier to injure them, which can affect its ability to attack or run away. Damaging a Rathalos’s wings can ground it, leaving it vulnerable to melee. Severing a tail (only with a Cut weapon) can disrupt a monster’s balance and neutralize any tail-based attacks. Observation and experimentation will reveal what works best for each monster, increasing the efficiency of the hunt and reducing the risk to the party.