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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Let's Change Status Effects

As I said the other day, I like status effects well enough, but I hate that name "status effect", with the same unmitigated hate I have for other gamer jargon. My feeling is: the names for things should be the names of things in the world you're talking about. A few highly-abstract concepts that don't exist directly in the game world, but which are necessary for sorting out what happens, can have jargony names like "hit points" or "saves"; but since I also feel there should be as few of these as possible, that means I expect most of a game book, module, resource, or list of house rules should deal with in-world responses to in-world actions. So: "The shadowy creature reaches out and you feel yourself getting weaker" (followed by writing down somewhere that the character is now weak) versus "The shadowy creature hits and adds a 'weak' status effect".

So what could we call "status effects"? I referred to them as "tags" or "labels" in the past, but that's only because it helps to explain them in terms of GM-side rules. But even that seems jargony. Should we just call them "changes"?


  1. How about "state"? As in "the character is now in a weakened state".

  2. I never called them anything. A character who is weakened is weakened. That has nothing to do with being petrified, or asleep, or under the effects of a haste spell or whatever.

  3. Yeah DMW has it. The game rules describe them as status effects because you need to formalize things. For example, instead of describing the effects of Fire Resistance in six magic items, six spells, and twelve monsters, you can just describe it once and thereafter say "This thing has/gives Fire Resistance". It's used in computer programming too because it's just a good, solid idea.

    When you describe it to the player, you say "when you wear the ring of fire resistance you can't be hurt by normal fires, and magical or exceptionally hot fires have half effect on you." The player asks if a bonfire counts as extremely hot, and the DM says well, are you gonna try it? But he's thinking nah, it means like lava or a raging forest fire.

    Plus, generally, status effects are pretty dumb. For example, do you really need to spell out that you can't move or act if you're unconscious? But being Stunned could have various legitimate effects.

  4. I never called them anything special, either, but I've noticed some people insist on formal names for everything. And once they have a formal name and description for some group of mechanics, they start cranking out the equivalents for other niches, and we wind up with crap dissociative mechanics. I'm just wondering if there's a way to slow these guys down.