I noticed we have quite a few questions about architecting systems that can add/remove temporary buffs/debuffs/localized exceptions to rules layered on top of the normal behaviour of a game actor.

This includes eg. gaining stat increases or special abilities from equipping an item in an RPG (lost when unequipping), or using a potion/buff spell (lost after a max duration or on a cancellation condition), and also applies to card effects in a trading card game that modify other cards.

Some example questions that fall in this vein:

(While some of these not currently marked as duplicates could probably be folded under "What's a way to implement a flexible buff/debuff system?" I think there are also distinct questions here, including investigations of stacking rules, and narrower questions about a specific implementation or problem)

To me, this topic of modifiers looks like a well-defined subject in which a developer could become an expert, with substantial applicability to different types of games.

Uniting these questions under a common tag could make it easier to browse the topic for insights from previous Q&As, identify duplicates, and help users with experience in these systems spot questions they can help with.

But the fact that we don't already have a user-created tag uniting these questions suggests that a term for these questions might not be immediately obvious/intuitive to our community.

So, I wanted to gather consensus on Meta about how best to approach this:

Is this a well-defined topic that should have a tag?

If so, what should the tag be called?


Yes, this topic should have a dedicated tag, but "Modifier" is too vague a name.

The tag should be called "Effect-Modifier" to emphasize that it refers to changing the gameplay effects of items/entities/rules in the game.

Proposed tag info:

An effect modifier is a modular rule that changes the behaviour of other game content, like a buff/enchantment that makes a character stronger (or debuff/curse that makes them weaker), adds new gameplay abilities & behaviours, or changes how an existing rule works.

To make the tag easier to discover, we should define "Buff" as a synonym, since RPG-related questions frequently use this particular flavour.


Yes, we should add a tag "Modifier"

Proposed tag info:

Modifiers can be applied to game entities during play to (temporarily or conditionally) change their behaviour, including stats ("+1 Strength"), special abilities ("Invisible when Stationary"), or other exceptions to the normal game rules.

To make the tag easier to discover, we should define Buff as a synonym, since RPG-related questions frequently use this particular flavour.

  • \$\begingroup\$ There are tags effect, effects. I think the name would apply to this, but they're used for some other things. Also, I'm not sure how would users know that this tag exists when they search for tags. \$\endgroup\$ – Vaillancourt Sep 16 '18 at 18:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AlexandreVaillancourt I think "effect" has a serious risk of being confused with VFX - most of the questions in that tag seem to refer to visual, shader, and particle effects of various kinds. Maybe we could split the tag into visual-effect and gameplay-effect or something similar? Though even then, I worry gameplay-effect could be taken to mean any outcome of a gameplay rule, not solely rules applied as a layered buff/modification on top of a base. \$\endgroup\$ – DMGregory Sep 16 '18 at 18:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, 'effect' per se is not good and we should rename these tags anyway. Perhaps 'temporary-effect'? I dunno. \$\endgroup\$ – Vaillancourt Sep 16 '18 at 18:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ I noticed one question referred to using a system like this to implement game modes - modifiers you'd set before the start of the match/campaign, which would be permanent for the duration of that game. So even though they're "temporary" in the sense that we could start a new game with different parameters, putting that in the tag might oversell their transience. (That was my thinking when I crammed "(temporarily)" inside parentheses in the proposed definition above - I don't see it as a necessary criterion, just a common one) \$\endgroup\$ – DMGregory Sep 16 '18 at 18:22

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