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From Zero to Hero

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From Zero to Hero

Post by Celestria on Fri Jul 02, 2010 6:11 pm

Note: This was originally posted, by me, on another Final Fantasy Role Playing Site. Some aspects may apply only to that site, but the document as a whole can aid those who play here.

From Zero to Hero
A Guide to Making Characters Stronger


For a long time there has been a great deal of confusion on Site about what "strength" truly is and how a character gains it. There are those who say that the only thing that matters is how much MP a character is throwing into a given spell, which pretty well ignores the fact that it is possible to play some of the games without using any of the spells. Ever.

Granted there are physically resistant monsters that require a use or two of a spell, but those are few and far between, especially in the first game. (Oozes require magic and a field full of Undead needs your White Mage to cast Dia. Other than that, I meleed even with the Fail-ful Black Mage.)

Some claim that character strength is determined by the strength of their Enchantments or what kind of toys they have to play with. Some say that there is a fundamental strength of numerical statistics that are increased through Armor or Weaponry or whatever.

Some say that there is no gaining in strength, that all characters are equally powerful from beginning to end. That a new character can meet an experienced one weapon to weapon and both will stand even on that field of battle. That the ultimate decider is the strength of the given player's ability to describe the battle and overwhelm their opponent through sheer verbiage.

With all due respect, none of them know what they're talking about because none of them understand the basic stature of the newly-created character.

The beginning character on FFWorldzCom is a rather pitiful thing. To quote the Bard, "a mewling, puking infant" of a character. The beginning character has 20 MP, two or three spell/skill slots that they really don't have to fill right away, a single weapon with only two abilities and maybe a suit of armor with only two abilities. And none of those abilities are able to be very powerful at all. He can only cast spells of Tier 1 damage. He is incredibly weak.

But just what is Tier 1 damage? Is it the same at 50 posts as it is at 500? And just how does a character stop being such a pitiful weakling?

The answer to it all is through Post Count. Post Count equals Experience Points. Experience Points equals Levels. Levels equals Strength, both of Arms and of Spells. It is a very direct relationship.

The Tiers of damage are descriptors used in relation to magical damage, though they are relative to each other. A Tier 2 is roughly twice as strong as a Tier 1. A Tier 3 is roughly twice as strong as a Tier 2. So just how strong *is* a Tier 1 spell? And how does that relate to the damage capabilities of a Melee strike?

To answer these questions, since we have neither a true Level System nor a true Combat System, I turned instead to the only game that could POSSIBLY mimic the Site for progression.

Final Fantasy X.

There are no true levels in FFX. There are Sphere Levels, but there's no gauge of how many a given character has accumulated over the course of development. There's a rough idea of how much of the Sphere Grid is filled in for that character, but it's fairly rough all told.

That and I just love Spira.

So I spun up the game at an early point in the story and started writing down what the characters were actually doing in terms of damage outlay at their level.

Tidus had a 16 Strength stat and recorded 168 points of damage against a Dingo but only 57 points of damage against a Water Flan. Water Flans are resistant to physical damage (Defense score of 120). He *could* have been stubborn and continued to hammer at the thing with his sword until it melted, but Wakka called for Lulu to show him the most efficient way to handle things.

Lulu had a Magic stat of 20. That's actually higher than Tidus' Strength score. She used a single Thunder spell against the Water Flan (they're only vulnerable to the opposite element, other Elements do half damage to them and they absorb their own) and did 327 points of damage.

All things being even, her Magic pwns his Strength, but she has to use MP to cause damage because her Strength is so Fail that it hurts. But she'll run out of MP before he runs out of fighting strength because it doesn't drain anything to swing a weapon.

So that's what a Tier 1 can do, at least against Monsters. Against Players the spells don't do nearly that same damage because of another stat called Magic Defense. The Water Flan had a Magic Defense of 1. Tidus had a Magic Defense of 5. That same spell wouldn't have done nearly the damage against him had Lulu cast it on him, though it would have hurt. A lot.

However, fast forward about a hundred hours of gameplay (and I'm not exaggerating on that) and the story is VERY different. If the previous exchange was indicative of a Newbie character on Site, this would be a character with about 2000 posts give or take 500 or so. You really don't want to know how much of the Sphere Grid I'd filled in by this point.

Tidus is no longer that 16 Strength weakling. His Strength score is now a whopping 147. Against that same Dingo from earlier in the game his recorded damage is not a measly 168 points. His actual damage is impossible to record because it hits the damage cap at 9999 points. (I have NEVER managed to unlock Caladbolg so he could break the damage cap.)

For reference, though, and as a point of comparison, Yuna has a Strength score of 106, which is sadly pitiful compared to Tidus, but her Nirvana staff is fully unlocked and she can break that cap.

She ran up and hit that Dingo upside the head with her staff and did just short of 40,000 points of damage.

PWN!!

With that kind of Strength, not even the Water Flan's unreasonable Defense score of 120 can possibly prevent even the Magic dominant characters from completely pwning them without using any Magic whatsoever.

On a related note, and to get closer to what Tidus would be doing if the damage cap were unlocked, Wakka's Strength is 133. In two melee attacks he recorded damages of 76,164 and 71,825.

So Physical Strength is unreasonably strong, in a way that almost makes a person giddy to contemplate. (Yes, in the final boss fights Yuna was HITTING Braska's Final Aeon with her staff for over the limit damage. As I said, you really don't want to know exactly how many Sphere levels I had burned through to get to that point. Counting them up would be too much of a headache and with the backtracking cost . . . best guesstimate is I had a good half to three quarters of the Grid unlocked.)

And what about that Tier 1 magical damage? How has that changed in a hundred hours of work? Lulu's Magic is now 113, no longer the 20 she started with. That same Thunder spell against the same Water Flan now does just short of the damage cap recording 8,695 damage and 8,965 damage in two uses.

And that's still only using the 4 MP that she spent at the beginning of the game for that spell. Just think of what she'd be doing if she were actually using Thundara or Thundaga on that pitiful Water Flan.

The Stats in Final Fantasy X are fairly straightforward. Strength is countered by Defense. Magic is countered by Magic Defense. Agility is how fast the character is and relates to how often their turn comes up to attack. Accuracy is countered by Evasion. Luck is an oddball stat that pretty well relates to the random aspect of a computer game.

It only affects things because this *is* a computer game and the computer can run all the calculations for you. We aren't playing a numbers game so we generally have to eyeball things, which is where most of the issues have come in of late.

So how does this affect us on FFWorldzcom? Well, let's say that someone playing Tidus decided to create an Enchantment that boosted his Strength by 20%, the maximum he can do without having to pay MP. As a low Post Count character that would be 20% of his current Strength, that measly 16. With rounding that's 3 points of bonus taking his Strength to 19.

Now, that same Enchantment when he's got 1500 posts or so (this is where it gets twitchy) is modifying not a 16 strength, but a 147 Strength. With rounding that's about 30 points of bonus, not 3 points, so now he's looking at 177 Strength. That's a much bigger difference.

A note on Summoning.

The same concept affects Summoning. For the SAME MP COST a Summon called by a 1000 post character is going to be MUCH stronger than they were when they were Summoned at 500 posts or even 100 posts. This is because the Summon gains Strength based on the Magic (not MP) of the Summoner.

At the beginning of the game Yuna has a Magic score of like 15 or 16, something in that area. It would have been less than Lulu's 20 but not by much. Wakka even had a 10 Magic (those Status Attacks he has). I'll admit, I forgot to look and Wiki didn't have it.

So if her Magic was 15 and Valefor is equivalent to a 50 MP summon capable of casting the basic four Elemental Attacks along with his Sonic Wings and his Overdrive . . . Let's see what kind of damage he was putting out.

Against a Garuda (Def 1, MDef 1) Valefor recorded 190 damage for a basic physical attack, 99-106 for Sonic Wings, and 239 for Fire (Tier 1 damage).

That's a 50 MP Summon in Early Game, when the Summoner is a weakling who can barely defend herself. That's Cuddles, as Summoned by Mairi-chan when she was newly adopted by Tira (and technically she was stronger than that at the time).

That same 50 MP Summon would be exponentially more powerful later in the game. Even if that Summon were still only using Tier 1 Magical attacks valued at 10 MP each.

How much more terrifying does that make Peroth when Shade's 1250 posts are taken into account?

Basically, don't go picking fights outside your weight class unless your opponent is pulling their punches (if they're bigger than you) or you are (if they're smaller). And remember, just because you're spending more MP for a spell or a Summon or whatever it doesn't mean that you're going to get a stronger blast radius than someone bigger and more experienced than you are.

So the secret to being big and bad? Powerful and heroic? Posting. Post Count makes EVERYTHING stronger. But just because you've got a huge number of Posts, going up against someone at or above your Post Count means that you're on even footing, or even less strong. No one is so awesome that their equals cannot take them down a peg or three.

Two equally experienced Players going head to head would be more like they were back as younglings, when their stats were so low, because that's how they look to each other. Sure, they're awesome and terrifying to a just-starting character but to each other they're equals, neither more than the other.

So keep in mind that everything is relative.

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