Thursday, 27 April 2023

Negative status effects and alternative resolution to such.

Once upon a time playing a high-level fighter class in Pathfinder 1st edition, my character got paralysed for about 12 rounds. The party had two other damage dealers (a paladin and a rogue) so they handled the situation rather well but it meant that the cleric was busy enough not to have a round to spare to cast "Remove Paralysis" and I was stuck in that state until the end of the fight. In Pathfinder 1st Edition combat rounds were resolved not too quickly by default, and in case of high-level party against multiple opponents each round took even longer; thus this fight went for a lot of rounds and IIRC, for about three real-time hours of the game I didn't have anything to do at the table but listen to music. I found such situation frustrating, even if it didn't happen often.

Usually the solution to such is to hoist a secondary character (a summon, a underlying, even a minor enemy) onto a player so they had something to do, but it is sometimes not possible.

I wish to broadly divide all source of negative statuses into following six categories; each of them isn't supposed to represent a particular mechanical implementation (Bleed in "Elden Ring" is more like nihil and Slumber is more like vulnerability, while in DnD 3rd edition first is more like drain, and second more like cancel respectively). Borders of definitions are somewhat soft too: is sleep a cancel or loss of control? Blindness could be viewed as vulnerability, or distortion, or both.

Cancel: such statuses as paralysis, stasis, stop, sleep, petrification, amber, banishment. Partial status could be forced etherealness (if pure mental actions allowed), memory loss preventing actions as the expertise is forgotten, silence or impediments, such as entangle or prison.
Cessation of action, falling out of time, removal.

Decay: poison, scarlet rot, level and ability drain, bleed but also persistent hunting or haunting making one to continuously resist/hide and be worn down by that.
Gradual loss of that is important until nothing left.

Loss of control: charm, traitor, berserk, ardent, fear, possession, puppet.
Subversion of one's own active volition. 

Vulnerability: all the wide range of elementary debuffs, frostbite, blindness, vulnerability to criticals; also here are malevolent transformations such as Pig, Mini, Toad, Morph Ovum from 'Heretic' and such.
Made lesser. 

Distortions: illusions, confusion, sensory overload, possibly few kinds of geas.
False inputs, inability to assess truthful information to make right decision.
(while it is probably a smallest category, I want to distinguish it from loss of control, because one's will is not subverted here, but remains active, but the decisions it can make can be meaningless.)

Nihil: doom, deathblight, suicide, titular nihil of one's named Mohg, bomb, classical geas ("don't refuse hospitality, don't eat dog's meat"). Any status which quickly ticks or is switch on toward death but otherwise doesn't impede too much.
Annihilation/self-annihilation. It is usually given some kind of clock or condition because this is usually the status with the most rapid and severe consequences. 

I was thinking that alternative way to resolve one type of negative status in case of failed saving throw would be to voluntarily incur a slightly lesser negative status of another group. In case of the system that doesn't involve saving throws at all and where statuses always land until prevented it can be alternative to a failure to cast a specific protective magic.

For example, one can stop or break petrification if they surrender most of their important memories (or contacts/bonds in the systems where such things are part of mechanics); one can break out of charm if they cause self-harm down to 10% of their HP (classically dramatic 'I'd rather hurt myself than my friends'), one can break out of distortions by losing control to go berserk ('If you are in mirror maze – break through mirrors'). For example, one can get out of Fever state by burning down something of personal importance, basically trading off Fever (decay) for pyromania (loss of control) for some time.

In Elden Ring "Flame, Cleanse me" spell cures scarlet rot
and poison but deals fire damage to user

Obviously such thing should be appropriately costly/risky tradeoffs so they won't become get-out-of-failed-saving-throw card to make statuses toothless, and be more like a tempting alternative when stakes are just that high – it will mean little if PC gets out of every charmed state by trying to down an enemy, or trying to subvert nihil effect through self-damage if they have rapid regeneration. If I was building a system from the scratch I would include alternative resolution into each status / spell description, to both diminish the time of on-table negotiation and make alternative resolution clear from the start for it to become a temptation in desperate enough situations.

Maybe it will make sitting out combat for three real hours less boring next time.

No comments:

Post a Comment