1. A condition other than "Healthy" that an RPG character may be subject to. These conditions somehow affect the gameplay characteristic of that character without necessarily detracting from overall health (but they might). Unlike other game types that could be called "Role Playing", only in true RPGs do Status Ailments persist until cured by their appropriate remedy. Remedies include a potion or item (I), a spell (S), sufficient time elapsing (T) and eventually a visit to a Temple (M) equivalent. Many can be cured by any of these (A).

2. A way to make RPG combat more interesting than simply the act of subtracting/adding hitpoints via physical/magical means.

3. Most commonly obtained by being hit by a specialised enemy with a "status attack"; also can occur when using an unidentified item (potion, ring, piece of armour, etc.)

Let me tentatively define two types of RPG combat to facilitate the following explanations.

  • In-Line Combat - combat takes place just like any other action. No transition is made, no tempo is altered. Examples include NetHack (action continues to move turn by turn, where your turn is not necessarily equivalent to enemy's turn), TSR RPGs such as Baldur's Gate or Icewind Dale(s), action RPGs (Dark Cloud), FPS RPGs (Morrowind) and pen-and-paper RPGs. Most ailments are permanent until cured.
  • Warp Combat - combat becomes a turn-based, uninterruptible *event*, whereas the action of the game is *live*. Examples include most console RPGs aka Final Fantasy, and some multi-party PC RPGs (Wizardry, Might and Magic series) et al. After completion player is returned to the game world and many ailments dissipate.

A list follows. It is meant to be as useful as possible while keeping in mind that different games use different systems of status ailments, and new ones are invented all the time.

These are found in almost all RPGs.

  • Poison: (A) - This is probably the most common ailment, often used by weak enemies to weaken you down and make you waste a turn on curing yourself. You will take random amounts of damage each turn - in some games, this persists after combat (if combat is of Warp type) and in some it wears off when combat ends. There are variations on Poison that include Disease or Weakness (not only decreases your hitpoints but your statistics as well, and requires a Cure Disease spell/potion - almost invariably tougher to find or more expensive to buy/cast). Poison often remains with your character after battle; it is one of the few ailments that does so.
  • Confusion/Drunk/Berserk: (T) - This ailment removes a character from your command either partially or fully. No direct damage is done. The severity of this ranges from character moving and attacking things randomly (including self and friendly characters) a certain percentage of the time but obeying at others, to solely attacking the enemy using physical attacks (berserk), to complete and total loss of control (confused). Most often cured by a strong blow applied to character. Some games do not have items or spells that cure confusion at all.
  • Curse (I/M) - While the name is the same, the effects of this status ailment vary wildly from game to game, but can be summed up as "Decreased ability to do anything". Your combat effectiveness will lessen, and some RPGs may prevent you from casting spells successfully at all while cursed, but all decrease your combat/magic effectiveness in some way. A variation is the cursing of your equipment, drastically decreasing its effectiveness and often preventing the removal of said cursed item.
  • Slow (A) - This makes your character move slower. For Warp Combat this means your turn does not occur as often; for in-line it means all of your physical action take place slower.
  • Stop/Stun/Paralyze/Sleep (I) - Different names for the same thing: your character is unable to perform any actions at all. This is most often cured by getting hit by enemy or ally - clever, rarely seen enemies are those that will NOT attack a stunned person to avoid waking them up. Insidious in that your other characters (obviously in Warp Combat only) have to deal damage to friendly characters. This ailment is particularly deadly to In-Line Combat however.

Party Ailments:
These are more deadly to a single-player character, and thus are seen more often in RPGs that use more than one character in combat (as well as those that use Warp Combat, introducing a break into your pattern of attack/defend). Most of these dissipate after combat, especially in more recent RPGs, the rationale being that you have plenty of time to heal yourself now - no pressure - and it's just making you waste resources (items, mana) to have to do so.

  • Silent/Mute (A) - Your character has been struck mute. As such, all magic use is impossible until character regains speech. Items will solve this, as well as an all-powerful cure spell cast by another character (hence the relative lack of this in single-player RPGs).
  • Stone (S/I/M) - Your character is instantly turned to stone. Health is reduced to zero and no actions can be taken. Unlike being Stopped, a spell or an item has to be used to cure this.
  • Zombie (S/I/M) - Your character can still perform as usual, except that s/he cannot be healed by anything. In addition, healing items often deal damage - this is often a prelude to being hit by a Raise Dead spell, which will kill you (a newly spawned zombie) instantly.

The listing of what I would call "Random Ailments" i.e. those that show up in some (or one) game(s) but not others are beyond the scope of this (or possibly any) writeup. I could go on and mention things like Floating, Target, Frog/Imp or even Invincible, these seem to come and go a lot more often than the above. If you feel you have one that should be on this list, please /msg me to get it added (pending approval). For explanation why, see Everything is not anything and Everything is not everything.

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