Greatest RPG Buffs and Debuffs -- and Their Real World Counterparts

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Status effects are a standard in RPGS and have been for some time. They can make or break a boss battle, grouping effort, or new dungeon attempt.

Pulling from each category, here's a list of buffs and debuffs that really stand out in their respective games and some speculation on where the ideas for them came from.

World of Warcraft - Polymorph

The most iconic of all the debuffs, the CC to rule them all and sometimes the funniest thing to happen all battleground is a mage's polymorph spell, or "sheeping."

History is riddled with tales of humans being turned into animals for the caster's convenience. The most famous of them all is a Brother's Grimm tale: "The Frog Prince." There are several replications of the tale, but the general idea remains the same. You never know if that's just another sheep, or a prince inconveniently polymorphed into one.

A more literal interpretation of real life polymorphing and other video game shifting could be extracted from our views on evolution. Nothing quite this time efficient happens visibly, but on the nano level it's easy to see rapid morphing and mutating.

Viruses are constantly evolving to survive, and the majority of changes occur to their appearance. The more a virus differs visually from it's predecessors the more likely it is to go unnoticed by pathogens and thus rapid evolution, or morphing.

Dragon Age: Inquisition - War Cry

There's nothing better than letting out a battle cry before charging into your enemies in an RPG. Dragon Age: Inquisition's War Cry affords your warrior some more health to work with in the upcoming battle.

A particularly well known battle cry came from the Ancient Grecian Phalanx. Directly before charging into battle, the Greek warriors would bang their shields and yell, “Alala!” or “Eleleu!” With thousands of hoplites crying out, the sound resembled a flock of birds. This served a dual purpose of sounding pretty terrifying and also invoking Apollo, to lay some sweet buffs on them right before battle.

More likely, they were affecting their own adrenaline and pain tolerance. War cries have been proven to have uncanny effects in both of these areas, but without years of psychological case studies, a hoplite would likely think they were being blessed by Apollo.

Skyrim - Ataxia

Comic by: Halorith

Diseases in RPGs are often based on real life ailments. Why create something brand new when we have such a long list of ailments to choose from? It would be difficult to imagine anything worse than what humans already suffer with.

For instance, Ataxia is actually a neurological symptom characterized by loss of control over voluntary movements. Those suffering from Ataxia may have trouble buttoning their shirts, using eating utensils or using a keyboard. This is closely aligned with Skyrim's Ataxia debuff, which lowers the player's pick pocketing and lock picking abilities.

Real life Ataxia is caused by severe head trauma, often from car accidents, so it's easy to see how the Dragonborn might end up with the debuff.

Dark Souls 3 - Toxic

Troll Video by: Fighter .PL

Toxic and poison were nerfed in our newest installment of the Dark Souls franchise, but it is still the RPG to check out if you take DoT effects seriously. While poison is serious, Toxic can be devastating. The effect causes damage every second for 300 seconds.

Poison and Toxic in Dark Souls can be caused by a variety of items, and poison in real life is no different.

The history books are full of people poisoning entire armies with different plants and, more recently, chemical concoctions. This may be the one thing video games have to re-create more modestly, or a poison build would be the only way to go. 

Three women serial killers of Ancient Rome, Locusta, Canidia and Martina, are rumored to have taken out several nobles and even emperors. They preferred nightshade, but were skilled with several types.

Final Fantasy X - Focus

While not the most glamorous choice from Lulu's moves list, stacking focus five times powered up her magic and made her quite a bit more durable. Opposite of a war cry or cheer, Lulu's buff was about looking in for power.

Meditation is no joke. A recent shake down of old meditation studies (to verify that they were conducted true to the scientific method) still left several incredible findings unscathed.

In some instances it can be as effective as medication in treating depression and anxiety. Closer to Lulu's uses, meditation has been proven over and over to positively affect concentration.

A recent case study, specific to concentration, showed participants sent to a meditation retreat performed significantly (eventually 10x) better on performance tests than the control group.

Buffs and debuffs are an integral part to pacing and difficulty of RPGs. Try to think back to your favorite playthroughs and what a difference these modifiers can make in the experience.

What are your favorite status modifiers? Do you have any that made a game? Broke it? Let us know in the comment section below.

Published Jan. 13th 2017

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I am a professional freelance writer, bartender and JTP Mentor based in Atlanta, GA. I spend my days creating copy for hardwood floor companies or writing SEO driven blogs for call centers. I spend my nights trying to hear drunk orders over loud music. I spend my time in between writing for...more »

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