I've always been bothered by the way resistances to non-damaging 'bad effects' are designed in RPGs, and I'd like to know if there are better ways to design it (before actually trying to do anything of my own). I'm talking about such effects as (usually non-damaging) temporary stunning, paralysing, blinding, charm, itching, loss of attributes or the like, primarily meant to be used in a conflict (most commonly a physical one).
I'm aware of two main approaches to designing them: save-or-succumb (which isn't the subject of this question, as I find it too easily subject to 'rocket tag' effects) and deplete-a-resource-to-resist (such as use of Willpower to resist being persuaded in Exalted 2e, or the way Control Points work in GURPS Technical Grappling and derivative mechanical frameworks).
The second design approach seems to solve at least part of the 'rocket tag' issue of save-or-succumb, but at least in the more simple implementations, has a bunch of common issues of its own:
- If the resource doesn't regenerate meaningfully in a timeframe of a conflict, then full depletion of the resource can be pretty much equivalent to fully running out of HP - i.e. a complete loss in the conflict. At a minimum, this seems likely to lead to a full 'stunlock' of some sort.
- It seems to be very easy to create a perverse incentive when multiple afflictions coexist in the same conflict, no matter which approach to balancing them amongst each other is chosen:
- If all afflictions deplete the same amount of resistance resources, then this encourages having a cheap affliction whose sole purpose of depleting the resource (and not actually afflicting some negative effect of its own).
- If afflictions cost the same but the one with a milder effect depletes more resources, it is incentivised to serve in the same role.
- If afflictions with different degrees of effect nastiness cost the same and deplete the same, the 'weaker' one becomes pointless much of the time.
- Note: for the purposes of this discussion, 'cost' may mean either literal cost in character creation points, or the cost in mana to cast, or even the more abstract 'cost' of being accessible on different levels in a levelled framework. It's not relevant which for the purposes of the analysis.
- Conditional recovery of the depleted resistance resource pool (such as found in some non-tabletop RPGs) seems like it can easily lead to designing an overengineered system that's not very playable.
Are there system design patterns, principles or approaches that solve those common issues?
The way I see it, it should produce conflict cycles which look something like this (in simplified terms):
A and B, along with some other non-enumerated actors, are opposing Z.
- A does some affliction, putting Z closer to being crowd controlled using A's methods.
- B does some affliction, putting Z closer to being crowd controlled using B's methods.
- Z does whatever attacks, afflictions etc.
- A does some affliction, putting Z closer to being crowd controlled. Because of the effects of previous afflictive actions of both A and B, instead of merely becoming closer to crowd controlled, Z is actually crowd controlled this turn.
- B does a normal attack.
- Z either skips a turn or acts at a penalty, whichever is appropriate due to the crowd control, then recovers from the affliction. Recovery also means that Z regains most or all of the ablative resistance that was lost on the path to becoming crowd controlled by A.
- A does an affliction again, bringing Z closer to crowd control, but most likely not achieving it for a second time yet.
- B does an affliction, bringing Z closer to being controlled. Thanks to prior progress towards CC, this now does in fact lead to successfully crowd controlling Z.
If it's possible to achieve without making the pattern unwieldy and overengineered, it would be nice for there to be some synergy from the fact that both A and B are trying to crowd control the same target in close temporal proximity.
Directions that I think are more likely to help with the question:
- A design pattern that would solve the listed issues / produce results similar to the described desired ones.
- A set of principles from which such a pattern can be derived.
- A worked example from any existing system that can be used to figure out the traits such a pattern should possess (and doesn't reintroduce the 'rocket tag' issue of save-or-succumb).
- Possible frame challenge: a radically different approach / framework of resistance, which is neither save-or-succumb nor resistance-as-ablative-resource, and solves the issues of the latter without reintroducing the issues of the former.