by Mike Shea on 19 July 2010
There's been a lot of talk about status effects. If you've played a game above level five or so, you've seen the grind that can come from a deluge of status effects. Being stunned or dazed (save ends) doesn't just reduce the effectiveness of your player's character, it can take away the enjoyment of the player when overused. Dazes and stuns can also dramatically increase the time a battle requires to play out.
Below you will find three new status effects designed to keep the threat on players high without reducing player actions in a round and without slowing the game down. These effects are designed to be sprinkled into your game, replacing slows, immobilizes, dazes, and stuns as you see fit in an encounter or for a custom monster of your choice. They are not designed as wholesale replacements to existing status effects.
Distracted: Grants Combat Advantage
This is a lightweight status effect that might work as an alternative to attack modifier limiters, slows, or maybe immobilizes. Granting combat advantage doesn't just reduce someone's defenses by two (opening up a 10% greater chance to getting hit) but also gives bonuses to creatures who have powers triggering off of CA. If you want your game to go a little faster and be a bit more dangerous as well as applying a status effect that doesn't limit a player's actions, this is a nice lightweight effect. Ensure you have monsters in your encounter able to capitalize off of this.
Staggered: Grants Combat Advantage, Vulnerable 5
This is a more severe version of Distracted. This time, the character's guard is dropped. It is the equivalent of dazed without reducing the character's turn. Instead, their defenses are opened up and they are more susceptible to damage. A player running a character inflicted by this status effect must consider the dangers of wading into battle.
Sundered: Grants CA, -2 to Defenses, Vulnerable 5 per tier
This final effect is the equivalent of a Stun. When sundered, most defenses are completely dropped. There is a 20% greater chance they will get hit and they will take a good bit of extra damage. Again, there is no limiter placed on the character. He or she can still take a full round of actions. Instead, he or she must seriously consider what damage might befall them should they stay in the thick of combat.
Another way to modify existing, limiting, status effects is to give players a choice to remove it but accept some other infliction. For example, a dracolich's stun breath might be shaken off if the character inflicted instead takes ongoing 15 damage. A character immobilized in a web might be able to break free as a free action by taking 10 damage per tier as they rip themselves out.
Giving players choices like this adds an element of strategy beyond just taking whatever status effect they might have. It also gives the DM a tool to increase threat against the PCs without slowing battles down.
None of these effects are designed to completely replace the existing status effects. These are meant to season your own game or your own custom monsters with some new effects that don't slow the game down and don't remove options from your players. Give them a shot and see what you think.
Need more game design tips? Check out Sly Flourish's Dungeon Master Tips.