In most RPGs, ailment & other forms of non-direct attack abilities are awful. They tend to have a low chance of success that drops even further (or is outright resisted against) when you’re fighting bosses – aka the enemies where ailments would be the most useful. Occasionally, you’ll see a game where these kinds of abilities can be more useful – for example, in some of the Shin Megami Tensei and related games, you can find out which enemies are weak to various ailment elements & then only use those abilities on vulnerable enemies – but in most case it feels like these abilities are a wasted opportunity and everyone just ends up using direct damage & healing spells exclusively (with maybe a buff here and there).
One option is to just make these abilities have 100% success rate (like the Insanity effect in Cthulhu Saves the World) or make their success dependent on some other factor (like the Interrupt abilities in Precipice of Darkness 3 & 4 needing to hit right before an enemy’s turn for maximum effect). Still, this is not a perfect solution and we’ve been searching for something better for the past few years.
Here’s an idea that we’re toying around with for Cosmic Star Heroine – making these kinds of abilities have a 100% success rate but a variable MP cost. So for example, using a Poison ability on an enemy weak to it might cost 10MP but against a resistant enemy might cost 30MP. The cost might go up for repeated uses on the same target for certain abilities like Stun (to prevent permanent stun-locking) and the player could lower their general ailment MP costs by increasing a certain stat (like Speed or Cunning) or through various passives & equipment.
This system would allow us to include a wide range of ailments, debilitating effects, and other non-direct attack abilities while still keeping them balanced. It would give the player some fun decisions to make – is it worth using this ability on this enemy even though they’re resistant? – and allow them to create characters that specialize in these kinds of abilities by developing the right stats & passives. Ailments would become a valid & reliable element of combat strategy instead of a roll of the dice. To make this system would require extensive playtesting and the proper UI (need to make it quick & easy for the player to see how much these abilities cost on each enemy) but hey, we were already planning on making big improvements to our UI in this game anyway. 🙂