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I have an RPG environment and I'm looking for words that sound better than "buff" for positive modifier and "debuff" for negative modifier. I simply don't like the words but I'm having a hard time finding more appropriate words.

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    Which sense of buff are you using? The color, the polish, or the muscles? And RPG is likely to be less informative in a non-RPG environment, so better to spend a few bits on a fuller context. Especially on what you expect the verb 'to buff' to mean. But you gotta be clear if you want clear answers. – John Lawler Dec 24 '11 at 19:32
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    I think buff is sufficiently commonly used in RPGs to be absolutely clear to any (non-naïve) player. – nico Dec 24 '11 at 20:41
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    @JohnLawler he's using the sense in which it's normally used in RPGs. – Karl Knechtel Dec 25 '11 at 6:43
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    As a totally naive non-player, I have no idea how those words are used in RPGs (and the Wikipedia article didn't enlighten me). Anyone able to clarify? – user13141 Dec 25 '11 at 9:30
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    @onomatomaniak: buff is used for instance when some kind of positive spell/action is done on a player. For instance I can "cast a buff on you" (or "buff you) by casting a spell that increases your strenght/intelligence/etc. – nico Dec 25 '11 at 19:18
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Buff/debuff seems like a good pair of words for the enhance/downgrade contrast that the terms stand for in role-playing games, and they probably are well understood in that environment. You might consider unbuff in place of debuff. Some other possible or impossible pairings: tune/detune, amplify/attenuate, raise/lower, boost/unboost, trim/pare, furbish/disfurbish, augment/deduct, add on/strip, upgrade/downgrade, enhance/detract.

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  • Wow thanks for this reply. I really like AMP, and I might use it as another term for the game. I'm already using boost as another term (hopefully boost and buff wont be confusing). Enhance and upgrade are good ones too. Overall this answer was very useful to me, and I think I'm gonna stick with Buff because you're right, they are well known. I'm just picky xD. – Jeremy Dec 25 '11 at 16:49
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I suggest Augment and Debilitate. It's hard to find words that cover all bonuses and penalties, but I think these do so.

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I, myself have tried the same, but the most important part is theme of your status effect. If your buffs/debuffs are all religious, it could be blessing/curse. But if they are all magic, it could be enchant/jinx. For theme-neutral ones, I'd suggest boon/bane or boon/condition (GW2)

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If you are looking to introduce new terms in the sense of improving sth. ('positive modifier') and its converse, in place of buff | debuff, you could consider using the pair:

shine | matte

Shine v. is analogous to buff. Matte conveys the opposite meaning.

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  • Thank you. These are great words IMO but they don't fit the context right. If they did I would surely use them. – Jeremy Dec 25 '11 at 16:45
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Best alternative I've seen is from ArenaNet and their Guild Wars series. "Boons" and "Conditions".

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I saw this post awhile back and wanted to leave my own little something for future readers. In the internal engine that the game Everquest and Everquest 2 uses, the enumerations that signify buffs is labeled as "Beneficial" effects, and Debuffs are internally referred to as "Detrimental" effects. Buff and debuff is just a slang word used by the community of players.

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I'm not an RPG player, but my first instinct is to agree with you that "buff" is a poor choice of word insofar as it doesn't fit in with any of the story genres I see RPGers play in. "Debuff" isn't in my vocabulary.

The most generic, commonly used word I can think of is "enhance", and I suggest you consult a thesaurus for its synonyms.

A suitable opposite might be "degrade" or "diminish", and again, I suggest you consult a thesaurus.

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The game FFXI used the terms Enhancing Magic and Enfeebling Magic, I have always liked them the best.

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