Defense Against Status Effects

D.L. Yomegami

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While status effects in general tend to come up a lot in discussions around here, the subject of defending against them appears to be less common even though I think it's worthwhile to discuss. Is it possible to make it a bit more interesting than just "Use this 'Cure all status effects' skill or item and eventually get equipment that blocks them entirely?"

It's something I've been thinking about while brainstorming the preliminary design of my own game (which, for the most part, is just a standard turn-based RPG of the sort RPG Maker's built to make). At the moment, the plan is to have a skill on my main character that pulls double duty as both the basic healing skill and the status effect curing skill, with the added bonus that it blocks additional status effects from being added for the remainder of the turn. There's also an item that does the same except for the healing. However, about the only tactical decision that comes to mind from this is 'Do I use the skill/item now or later?' which...doesn't feel terribly interesting.

I've noticed that something like this is generally what's recommended, since it cuts down on skill/item bloat. But I do have to wonder if there's actual merit in splitting curing status effects across multiple skills/items. If the skills/items aren't eventually superseded by a skill/item that cures them all, it at least makes preparation more interesting if they're spread across multiple party members and what the player can defend against depends on who they brought with them/what items they bought.

There's also the matter of pre-empting status effects entirely through equipment, which I also don't think is terribly interesting. Especially not the approach of 'the player eventually gets a piece of equipment that nulls all status effects entirely.' Not only does that make me wonder why status effects are in the game at all if the player can acquire multiple of this equipment, it also feels a little restricting on experimenting with equipment loadouts ("Hmm, this accessory lets the character dual-wield, so maybe if I combined it with this accessory that lets the character use a two-handed weapon in one hand...oh wait, I can't do that because I need to block status effects"). The way I'm thinking of handling this in my own game is that there's individual accessories that each block one status effect, as well as another that provides only a general resistance (with the aforementioned skill/item also providing the ability to block status effects temporarily, the player has the option to use that to pre-empt status effects and thus make these not feel so necessary).

Are there other ways of going about it that aren't so straightforward?
 

Milennin

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I don't have a counter or cure against the ones in my game. You just take it, that's it. If a character is Poisoned, you gotta keep them healed up until it runs out (generally lasting 3 turns), and all status conditions are wiped after battle. For stuns, I make it so that it's never possible for enemies to disable all characters during the same turn, so players don't end up with dead turns.
On the other hand, the same goes for status conditions used on enemies. They're 100% guaranteed to land (unless stated otherwise in Skill description, but those are rare cases), and will always run their full duration, whether they're trash mobs or bosses.
 

TheoAllen

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Here is why defending against the status effect is less popular and why you should cut down the skill or item recovery as much as possible.

First of all, this probably comes from the player who wants something streamlined as they do not want to try and see, maybe learn from their mistake, and having to retry it many times.

Second of all, RPG is a mysterious game. And it's a masochist game where you have to actually fight the enemy before you know what it does.

You arrive at a town with some quantity of gold to spend to buy some supplies. The shopkeeper has several items to cure different status effects. Of course, you don't know which item is more important than others. You have to talk to some NPC hoping to get some clues on the next dungeon. However, you know what, some players might be too lazy to do that or fail to understand the cryptic clues from the NPC dialog to know what you should prepare.

Then you walk into the next dungeon.
You encountered the enemy. Do you know what they do? Ha, of course not!
You attacked, hoping they just die, but no, it breathes poison and you did not have a potion to cure it. Curses!

You go back to the town, healed your party, and prepared to stock some poison cure.
You go back to the dungeon, and RNG rolled you a different set of enemies. Now it paralyzes you. You don't have a potion to cure it. Curses!

Again, this problem is because the RPG battle is a mystery. You don't know what lies ahead. And some players might feel cheated because of lacking information, especially if they've been punished hard. Having a global item to cure all status effects can come in handy and less about speculating which is more important than others at the given moment.

Except, you are making a tactical game or strategy game where you know what lies ahead and you can plan ahead, when a bad decision is made, you know it because you judged it wrong.

Now, let me react to some of your questions.

Is it possible to make it a bit more interesting than just "Use this 'Cure all status effects' skill or item and eventually get equipment that blocks them entirely?"
There is, but that does not mean splitting it into a different skill or item. You can make it a side effect of skill or do entirely something else.

Example1: Transfer some/all debuff to the target opponents.
Effect: Wait for the stronger negative effect to transfer or transfer it now

Example2: Flip negative status effects into positive effects
Effect: Wait for the stronger negative effect to flip (with a risk of dying) or do it now

Example3: Attack the enemy, remove random negative status effect
Effect: You have a reason to use the skill to remove the status effect while being rewarded by damaging the enemy.

Example4: Place a status effect to block the negative status effect as well as a positive one
Effect: It's about a status effect that has pros and cons.

Example5: Consume all negative effects, increase attack based on negative effect consumed.
Effect: High risk, high reward. Wait for more negative effects with a risk of dying early but higher reward.

Example6: Use them as the boss quirk rather than your own

However, about the only tactical decision that comes to mind from this is 'Do I use the skill/item now or later?' which...doesn't feel terribly interesting.
What makes this interesting is not only one factor or another. But many factors.
Such as you have 5 to 10 different options to choose.

Are there other ways of going about it that aren't so straightforward?
The status effect is one small part of the larger scheme, the battle system.
And thus, making the status effect interaction less straightforward or not, does not change the whole course of battle.
 

CraneSoft

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Now, how status effects work or whether if they are interesting is a subjective topic, so take this with a grain of salt:
I've noticed that something like this is generally what's recommended, since it cuts down on skill/item bloat. But I do have to wonder if there's actual merit in splitting curing status effects across multiple skills/items.
I'll use real life poisons as an example here, which most have their own type of cure, there is no universal antidote that can cure every type of poison in the world - which makes poison a deadly deal and a pain to remove without the right treatment, in a video game, we do not need this kind of realism so with a universal cure you can get away with not forcing the player to learn a specific skill or hoarding specific items to cure something that's only relevant for 1 or 2 dungeons. Splitting cures across multiple skills/items can work if a game only have a very small amount of easily identifiable status effects (eg. Pokemon) as it makes it easy for the player to identify what type of cure they want to bring to that volcano/ice cave/poison swarm, otherwise a universal cure that can be used for to cure at least 3-4 types of status effects are preferred for convenience.
If the skills/items aren't eventually superseded by a skill/item that cures them all, it at least makes preparation more interesting if they're spread across multiple party members and what the player can defend against depends on who they brought with them/what items they bought.
You can't possibly prepare for something if you don't know what's ahead and trial-and-error doesn't make preparation more interesting either. "Bring everything I can possibly bring" is the same as having a cure all/block all, and I'm not a fan of asking the players to "pick their poison" either. Status effects are only one aspect of a battle system and should not be the determining factor on who you decide to bring to a fight, as there are much more going on in a battle than both sides throwing status effects at each other.
There's also the matter of pre-empting status effects entirely through equipment, which I also don't think is terribly interesting. Especially not the approach of 'the player eventually gets a piece of equipment that nulls all status effects entirely.' Not only does that make me wonder why status effects are in the game at all if the player can acquire multiple of this equipment, it also feels a little restricting on experimenting with equipment loadouts ("Hmm, this accessory lets the character dual-wield, so maybe if I combined it with this accessory that lets the character use a two-handed weapon in one hand...oh wait, I can't do that because I need to block status effects").
Something that can null all status effect is on the level of "bragging rights reward from strongest superboss" that shouldn't even be allowed from a balancing standpoint if you want status effects to matter in your battle system, let alone allow them to be obtained in quantities. You can, however - have equipment that protects against specific status effects, increase their resistance against them, or simply reduce the effects of said status effects. If you are not at least restricting a player's equipment loadouts, then the status effects would become something trivial that might as well not be there.

Are there other ways of going about it that aren't so straightforward?
If your goal is to add tactical decision without too much restrictions, you should allow the players to change their equipment / swapping party members during battle, which would open up alot more options than trying to work around status effects.
 

freakytapir

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While status effects in general tend to come up a lot in discussions around here, the subject of defending against them appears to be less common even though I think it's worthwhile to discuss. Is it possible to make it a bit more interesting than just "Use this 'Cure all status effects' skill or item and eventually get equipment that blocks them entirely?"

It's something I've been thinking about while brainstorming the preliminary design of my own game (which, for the most part, is just a standard turn-based RPG of the sort RPG Maker's built to make). At the moment, the plan is to have a skill on my main character that pulls double duty as both the basic healing skill and the status effect curing skill, with the added bonus that it blocks additional status effects from being added for the remainder of the turn. There's also an item that does the same except for the healing. However, about the only tactical decision that comes to mind from this is 'Do I use the skill/item now or later?' which...doesn't feel terribly interesting.

I've noticed that something like this is generally what's recommended, since it cuts down on skill/item bloat. But I do have to wonder if there's actual merit in splitting curing status effects across multiple skills/items. If the skills/items aren't eventually superseded by a skill/item that cures them all, it at least makes preparation more interesting if they're spread across multiple party members and what the player can defend against depends on who they brought with them/what items they bought.

There's also the matter of pre-empting status effects entirely through equipment, which I also don't think is terribly interesting. Especially not the approach of 'the player eventually gets a piece of equipment that nulls all status effects entirely.' Not only does that make me wonder why status effects are in the game at all if the player can acquire multiple of this equipment, it also feels a little restricting on experimenting with equipment loadouts ("Hmm, this accessory lets the character dual-wield, so maybe if I combined it with this accessory that lets the character use a two-handed weapon in one hand...oh wait, I can't do that because I need to block status effects"). The way I'm thinking of handling this in my own game is that there's individual accessories that each block one status effect, as well as another that provides only a general resistance (with the aforementioned skill/item also providing the ability to block status effects temporarily, the player has the option to use that to pre-empt status effects and thus make these not feel so necessary).

Are there other ways of going about it that aren't so straightforward?
I like some things that I've seen in in both Final Fantasy and Persona.

In FFXII, you can cast Esuna to remove Sap ( a DoT effect) or you can cast regen. The same with Slow and Haste. You're slowed? Haste solves it.

In Persona it works this way with buffs. A defense buff and debuff cancel. Regardless of the remaining duration. (So you're not normal for a couple of turns and then one wears off, they just remove each other)

Now maybe you can do it even a bit more complicated.
Like: Any regen effect removes Poison
Any accuracy boost removes blind


Or separate by origin. Dispel magic works against Magical poison, but not physical poison.

Blinded by an octopus? Better use eye drops. Cursed by a demon? Eye drops ain't going to do ****. You need remove curse.

I do propose to have each item have another use besides being a specific healing item.
Maybe the eye drops item boosts accuracy if you take it when not afflicted, Maybe Antidote works as a weaker potion.

Another idea: Have some status effects be removed when you're healed to full HP.

Or maybe a Pollen/Safeguard like skill that blocks incoming effects?
 

lianderson

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Evening humans! This one incoporates max hp, current hp, current mp, attack, magic, spirit, defense, agility, and luck for affliction and/or prevention for all negative status effects, with some stats being weighed more than others for affliction and/or prevention.

Also, all status effects are removed after battle since this isn't an attrition based game, but if yours is, keep em!

Good day mortals.
 
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A conditional branch on the state giver that checks if a target is wearing some item or whatnot might do the trick for state defense. Unless there's going to be a huge number of things that give immunity against status effects, going from the giver end instead of the taker end should be within sane parameters.
 

LightBorneX

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I've seen it done where status effects had levels, so maybe an armor can block a level one stun, but two enemies might hit you with a level one stun and so it stacks and becomes a level two stun. You might have armor protect you from minions, but a boss might lock you in place. You could try this with items as well- protection from so much for so many turns.

There is also stats. You could have a stat reduce turn duration or chance of getting hit depending on how high it is.

You could have moves that give a chance of healing from status effects every turn, but it's not full-proof.

You could have some status effects, like petrify, that give a boost to defense or some other area in exchange for the character not being able to act. This makes it less detrimental to have the status effect on you, but still changes how the battle is going. Mixes things up.
 

bgillisp

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One approach I did in my last game was you could learn a skill that blocked all status ailments on turn 1. That allowed you to go into a random battle, see what they did, and you'd be immune in turn 1. But better take them out fast as once turn 2 hits you are no longer immune.

I had you learn that skill near the same time as the cure any status ailment skill for one party member, which was about the 50% point of my game. If you wanted to remove them from everyone at once though you could cast dispel which removed everything, even positive buffs, from everyone. In other words, it was a trade-off, cure all status ailments but lose all buffs too.
 

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Are there other ways of going about it that aren't so straightforward?
Yes, there definitely are!!

To be honest, when I design status effects in games, I usually design in the mindset of "how can players play through/around/against this status effect", rather than "how will players negate or cure it". I try to design my status effects so that they can be applied with 100% success and still don't break the balance of combat. For example:
  • A state that reduces damage a battler deals by 50% for 3 turns (play around this by moving that character into a more defensive flow and letting the other characters focus more on offense, or play against it by using buffs that, for example, deal flat damage on-hit)
  • A state that deals damage to a battler every time they use a skill (play through this by healing the character as they use skills, or play around it by using a combination of mostly basic attacks along with infrequent usage of your biggest skills)
  • A Blind state that, instead of having an RNG chance to miss entirely, instead randomizes the target of the battler's action to a random battler on the appropriate team (play through this by seeing who you hit and then having the rest of your team target that weakened enemy, play against it by using skills that hit all enemies or all allies, or play around it by having other party members focus on eliminating enemies who would be poor targets for the Blinded character's skills)
Once you design using this kind of approach, you can make status-curing items and spells rare and expensive. After all, when it's possible (and doesn't feel horribly frustrating) to play through, around, or against the status effects, rather than being an easy decision of "oh, RNG enemy move applied a bad status effect, now obviously I should use a cure item/spell", a lot more variation opens up in combat. The way you handle a situation becomes flavored by what negative (and positive!) effects that each battler has on them, and combat feels a lot less "samey" each turn.

Of course, there may be times you will want to design in something like a Stun, a wide Disable, a Doom (delayed Death) effect, or some kind of other status effect that would break the game's balance wide open if they could be reliably applied. For states like these, you have a few different options for how to balance or gate it:
  • My favorite is "Utility Scaling", where a State's power, duration, or both actually scale with one (or more) of the user's or target's stats. This is really good for making state-inflicting skills feel relevant throughout the game and in all battles, but it's also complicated from both a design and a technical perspective. For the really gamebreaking skills like Stuns/Disables, you can scale the duration inversely with the target's HP (higher HP = shorter effect), so that bosses (who usually have enormous amounts of HP) will only be disabled for a turn or less.
  • You can be very careful about who gets the skill. For example, maybe skills that inflict Stun (which would be OP against bosses if reliably applied, and OP against the player if used by large troops) will only be available to enemies, and only to enemies who never appear in large groups. Meanwhile, maybe Poison is something you only want to give to Player skills.
  • You can design skills that either can only be used a limited number of times per battle (like once per battle "trump cards"), or that have very very high MP costs (essentially limiting their use per your max MP stat), to be the only skills which inflict these otherwise-gamebreaking statuses.
 

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