Created By: Stratadrake on August 16, 2013 Last Edited By: Stratadrake on December 28, 2013

Status Ailment

[TRS] That which negatively impacts a character's fighting ability

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This is a Missing Supertrope / reworking of the page Standard Status Effects which is in TRS for an ongoing identity crisis. No Examples, Please at this time, focus on working out the definition.

In Role-Playing Games, attacks and magic can hinder, weaken, or otherwise negatively affect a character's combat utility in a wide variety of ways beyond simply reducing their Hit Points to zero. These negative secondary effects are commonly known as "status ailments".

Status ailments are a defining element of the RPG genre; try to think of an RPG system that doesn't support some kind of negative Status Effect and ... well, we'll still be here when you get back. They can also show up in in other genres, like Real-Time Strategy (to accentuate the "strategy" part) or Shooters, even puzzle games or platformers — especially if RPG Elements are present in general.

Status ailments can have a variety of mechanical effects on gameplay, including but not limited to:

  • Damage Over Time: Usually sapping a character's Hit Points. Arguably the most common effect, to the point where even if a system only defines one status effect, it will probably be this one.
  • Negatively affects a character's statistical prowess (reduced attack or defense power, accuracy or evasion, Critical Hit rate or Luck Stat, etc.), or negatively affecting or overriding other fixed traits such as a character's elemental classification, class, even species or mineral composition.
  • Overriding or subverting general rules of combat that the player takes for granted (like suddenly taking damage from Heal spells).
  • Restricting/limiting the actions available to a character, typically by disabling access to certain skills (e.g. magic) though the character may still have other actions available to them. Also includes ailments that force the character to use only a specific action or skill (as it denies them access to other actions).
  • The character is completely disabled or incapacitated; i.e. they lose their turn. May be a temporary (paralysis, sleep) or lingering ("knockout") condition; if it's the latter, they may be flagged as 'functionally dead' for purposes of checking for a Game Over. Note that 'functionally dead' is not the same as 'actually dead', depending on the setting's rules for how reversible death is (or isn't).
  • An Interface Screw that interferes with the player's control over their characters (more common in action-oriented systems than turn-based ones).
  • AI control over a character that is normally player-controlled (more common in turn-based systems than action-oriented ones).
  • Allegiance reversal or friendly fire enabled (typically in combination with the above) — nothing is more deadly than watching your own party members be turned against you.
  • A visible timer that triggers something if can't be dispelled/cured/avoided before it hits zero. Since this one's kind enough to warn you in advance, the "something" is usually instant death.
  • Ability to go viralnote , spreading from one party member to another in an infectious manner.

Of course, while status ailments are in some ways the negative counterpart to the Status Buff, not every ailment has a positive counterpart (or vice versa), and some systems classify ailments and buffs as separate mechanics of the system. Ailments and buffs also differ from each other in a number of practical ways:

  • Status ailments are more prevalent: Whereas status buffs tend to be associated with the late game (often being the exclusive province of mages and spellcasting), status ailments are commonly seen in the early game, even at low levels — e.g. a venomous monster that randomly inflicts Poison with its usual attacks.
  • Status ailments are more persistent: They tend to last until explicitly cured or removed, while status buffs tend to automatically wear off over time (e.g. after battle).
  • Status ailments are easier to cure: Going hand in hand with the above two points, items for curing individual ailments are standard fare in just about every in-game shop you'll come across. There is usually only one way to remove a status buff (even a negative one): the Status-Buff Dispel, which removes everything at once and cannot remove individual effects. (And you typically need a mage in the party to actually cast the dispel.)
  • In some systems, status ailments do not stack: They may be subject to a One Curse Limit, so e.g. getting Poisoned may render you immune to Paralysis in the meantime. Most status buffs will combine and stack with each other by default.

Many Stock RPG Spells are capable of inflicting status ailments either directly (assuming they actually hit) or as a side-effect of elemental damage, and status-restoring items are a regular staple of Standard RPG Items.

A favored tactic of the Gradual Grinder.
Community Feedback Replies: 5
  • October 7, 2013
    bumping this. OP, Y U NO LINK in you other YKTTW?
  • October 15, 2013
    Status ailments are an Omnipresent Trope in the RPG genre

    Omnipresent Trope has stricter criteria than that, I think. I'd just say "omnipresent", no pothole.

    Note that some status ailments are not universally negative - sometimes a status ailment has a lesser-known side effect that can be desirable in certain conditions, like a "Berserk" status granting a boost in attack power or a "Zombie" status offering immunity to Death spells.

    I would rather see those examples go in the broader "Status Effect" supertrope.

    Other than those two quibbles, I'm satisfied with the description here.
  • November 21, 2013
    le bump.
  • December 27, 2013
  • December 27, 2013
    Several tabletop RPGs have these as spells.
    • Dungeons And Dragons has practically everything available as a spell, Blindness/Deafness, Sleep, Flesh to Stone, Baleful Polymorph, tons of spells that sap strength, Curses...
    • The basic set of GURPS alone has Body Control spells that cause pain or clumsiness or paralysis. And Flesh to Stone.
    • Call Of Cthulhu has few spells that are useful in combat (mostly ones that summon horrors from beyond the stars) but there are some such as Cause Disease, Curse of [Insert Eldritch Abomination here], Enchant Doll, Wrack, Wither Limb.
    • In Ironclaw the magic attacks for most schools of magic are of this type, such as Green and Purple (Ataxia, Eyebite, Perplexing), Thaumaturgy (Misfortune, Silence), White Magic (Repudiation, Rebuke), and Necromancy (Horror, Illness, Torment). Really the only spells that deal damage are Elemental.