In games, a status effect is any temporary modification to a character's usual abilities or rules (especially rules of combat). These are virtually omnipresent among RPGs, but also show up in other genres of video gaming (often in direct proportion to other RPG Elements), and can show up in tabletop gaming as well. This provides opportunities for strategy and variety in gameplay by allowing a player to deal with foes (or vice versa) in ways other than simply reducing their Hit Points to zero.
Because this is a very broad concept, status effects cover a wide variety of ground, but they can generally be classified into just two groups:
- Status Ailments are primarily negative, unwanted effects: Damage Over Time, restricting a character's actions, or so on. By far the more commonly encountered class of effects, these usually persist until explicitly cured or removed. At the same time, the player can easily acquire dedicated cures for each ailment at nearby shops.
- Status Buffs are primarily positive effects like boosted attack power, HP regeneration, etc. These are usually temporary effects that typically wear off at the end of a given battle.
Ailments also have a number of practical differences from buffs:
- 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 from 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 (which makes them all the more annoying for it), while status buffs tend to automatically wear off over time (e.g. after battle).
- Status ailments are easier to cure: Because of the above two points, you can find Standard RPG Items dedicated to curing specific ailments in just about every in-game shop you come across. By contrast, there is usually only one way to remove a status buff (even a negative one): the Status-Buff Dispel, which removes all buffs simultaneously and cannot remove individual effects. (Plus, you typically need a mage in the active party to actually cast it.)
- 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. Note that most games with stackable ailments don't adhere to logic (i.e. a game that has both a flaming and a frozen debuff will often make it so the player can be inflicted with both at the same time)
The two categories are not always exclusive — some effects are both positive and negative, which can make them good or bad depending on the context they're applied to. For example, if a system enforces a One Curse Limit on negative status effects, this means a character afflicted with a minor inconvenience may be protected from acquiring a more severe one. Likewise, an effect that increases damage dealt and damage received could work for or against the character who has it. A Status Infliction Attack is how they can be induced on someone, and a Situational Damage Attack can exploit one of these by design.
Typical sources of status effects include:
- spells, powers and items that can directly (or indirectly) cause them
- enchanted equipment that imparts an effect to its wearer
- a nearby Field Power Effect from the environment itself
This page contains a list of common status effects.
- Anti-Debuff: The ability to resist status ailments or remove them after they've been applied.
- Attack Reflector: An effect that causes attacks (commonly, only magic attacks are affected) to bounce off the target and hit the caster or someone else instead. Almost always a positive effect, but some games let you abuse this by casting it on AI-controlled enemies so their healing and buffing spells bounce onto you instead.
- Auto-Revive: A positive effect which lets you get back up automatically after being knocked out or killed.
- Booze-Based Buff: Drinking alcohol gives a character a status buff of some kind, usually an increase to attack power and reduced defense or accuracy.
- Gradual Regeneration: A positive effect that causes one to gradually regain health, mana, or some other stat for its duration.
- Quad Damage: Increases the damage output of a character, usually for a brief amount of time or with a limit to how many attacks it will boost.
- Status Buff: A very broad category for positive effects. Commonly means increased stats.
- Anti-Regeneration: Stops the target from healing. Very useful against enemies who regenerate or have healing abilities. Some games will have a similar debuff that doesn't stop natural regeneration, but prevents the player from using health potions or other healing items.
- Blinded by Rage: In some games, going Berserk is treated as a strictly negative thing, making the afflicted character attack uncontrollably, usually with reduced defense and accuracy.
- Charm Person: Being charmed usually makes a character temporarily join the enemy's side until they snap out of it.
- Many games have a weaker version of charmed, most commonly called Confused. Confused fighters will either fight both friends and foes, or have a chance to fight an ally instead of the enemy.
- Damage-Increasing Debuff: An effect that makes the afflicted character take more damage from each hit.
- Damage Over Time: Probably the most common status effect. The afflicted character takes regular damage.
- Man on Fire: A popular flavor of Damage Over Time is to have the afflicted character be lit on fire, taking constant damage until the flames are extinguished.
- Universal Poison: The most common flavor of Damage Over Time besides bleeding is a generic "poison" that deals constant damage until treated, normally with a Magic Antidote.
- Life Drain: When this move also doubles as a healing move. Their HP is slowly taken away to be used to heal the attacker.
- Some games will employ "electrified" or "shocked" as Damage Over Time instead of as The Paralyzer. Occasionally this will have a spread effect, and adjacent enemies may also get damaged.
- Another popular Damage Over Time status is bleeding. This often comes from when a target takes serious damage and/or the attack leaves a deep enough wound for blood to come out.
- Forced Sleep: Puts a character to sleep, preventing them from acting. Taking damage will sometimes wake up the sleeping character. Some versions of this status ailment have the character slowly heal each turn as long as it lasts.
- Forced Transformation: Many games have abilities that inflict a weird transformation upon a character. Usually results in massively reduced stats, and/or greatly limiting which actions you can take (if not totally disabling the character for its duration).
- Harmless Freezing: Ice-based attacks may leave the target completely encased in ice, stopping them from acting, and sometimes making them vulnerable to Literally Shattered Lives, taking a Critical Hit or even suffering a One-Hit Kill when attacked. However, the actual freezing itself is unlikely to cause damage.
- Interface Screw: An effect with your controls or view of the screen. Much more common in games with real-time combat, and rarely works on AI-controlled enemies.
- Intoxication Mechanic: The player character consuming drugs or alcohol hinders the player's ability to play the game.
- Static Screw: An Interface Screw that fills the screen with static. Very common in games where The Protagonist is some sort of robot.
- Locked Out of the Fight: An effect that ejects a target from the battle, where they may or may not rejoin after some time. Until then, they are usually treated as defeated.
- Maximum HP Reduction: An effect that reduces a character's maximum hit points.
- One-Hit Kill: Makes the target drop dead (or fall unconscious) instantly, regardless of how much health they have. Sadly, this effect often has poor accuracy to make up for how powerful it is.
- The Paralyzer: Causes the afflicted character to be unable to act. Oddly, paralysis is often very brief and easily cured, unlike in Real Life where it's often a long-lasting or permanent disability.
- Power Nullifier: Prevents the target from using special abilities, such as magic. Most commonly called Silence, with the implication being that muteness makes you unable to speak the spells' incantation.
- Revive Kills Zombie: Temporarily gives the character undead traits, causing most healing effects to be ineffective or even harmful.
- Status-Buff Dispel: An ability that weakens an opponent by removing their buffs.
- Taken for Granite: Petrification makes the character unable to act until it is treated. Depending on the game, the statue will either be so hard that the target becomes invulnerable during this time, or so brittle that taking damage will result in Literally Shattered Lives for a Critical Hit or One-Hit Kill.
- Temporary Blindness: In action games, blindness will usually be a type of Interface Screw, while in turn-based ones, it's more likely to massively reduce the character's accuracy.
- Why Am I Ticking?: One of the rarer status effects, but found in a few games. A character has an explosive implanted or attached to them, dealing damage to everyone caught in the blast once it goes off, often resulting in a Time-Delayed Death for the victim as well (though some cases might let you use this on an ally, exploiting the Friendly Fireproof trope).
- Time-Delayed Death: After a short time, the afflicted character drops dead. Sometimes, you may be able to stop this by curing yourself before the timer expires, other times, you have no choice but to try and finish the fight before it happens or have a revival ability ready on another character.
Other Status Effects:
- Cooldown Manipulation: When it's a positive effect, this will let you use your abilities more often. When it's negative, you'll have to wait longer between uses.
- Draw Aggro: Commonly used by Stone Wall characters, this effect makes enemies more likely (or even forced) to target them, taking attention away from squishier party members.
- Extra Turn: An effect that either lets the character act multiple times, or makes their enemy unable to act.
- Incredible Shrinking Man: Turns a character tiny. Often a negative effect that cripples the target's attack and defense, but sometimes comes with positive effects as well, such as increased evasion or the ability to go through secret passages.
- Unstoppable Rage: In some games, going Berserk is treated as a mixed blessing. Sure, the character is forced to only attack and can't do anything else, but they may benefit from increased damage during this time.
Other Status Effect-Related Tropes:
- Contractual Boss Immunity: In a lot of games, bosses are frequently universally immune to most or all status effects.
- Defend Command: In most games, defending is a type of status effect, possibly Blocking Stops All Damage, and might have its own icon.
- Hydro-Electro Combo: Usually a specific type of Status Effect-Powered Ability when there's water or electric-based statuses, they can empower effects of the other type.
- Status Effect-Powered Ability: Abilities that are enhanced/usable when a certain status is on the target/user.
- Useless Useful Spell: Not explicitly about status effects, but by far the most common examples of this trope are abilities that inflict status effects in games where they're not terribly powerful, or where the only worthwhile targets for them are immune to them.