Fix The Defaults: Eric   7 comments

Welcome back to Gratuitous JRPG, and the start of the “Fix The Defaults” event.  Each week, I will take one of the RMVXA sample characters, take them apart mechanically, and then rebuild them to be better, faster, stronger, more fit for an actual game.  This time, we’ll be starting on the “face” of the RMVXA defaults, the unofficial main and first-slot character for VX Ace, Eric. Given that the “Mains” in RPG Maker sample sets are often more remembered than the rest of the cast, it’s little surprise that Eric is a special case insofar that we have more fresh comparisons to the older “mains” than the rest.  By comparison, Eric resembles Alex and Aluxes more than Ralph–the lattermost is a fighter/mage hybrid with both healing and offensive magic.  Like Aluxes, Eric has his share of physical techs, but interestingly enough he more resembles Alex in practice.  Why? Despite his handful of techniques, he is still ultimately reliant on his basic physical.  Why is this?  Due to how TP works in VXA’s default system, he starts a random fight with up to 30 TP, and then can only gain 5 per basic physical.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  For an overview of him, check out the images below.

Eric01Eric02Eric03

Consider this to be the ‘before’ image.  We’ve got some work to do.

To start, Eric, while being described as a “berserker” in his bio (and having it implied by his weapon choice, axes), has a statline more in line with an average fighter, with above-average HP, high ATK, and above-average DEF, but low marks on magic stats and speed.  His ability to use heavy armor and heavy shields further reinforces this point.  His abilities are fairly one-dimensional as well, revolving around the ability to deal damage and helping to deal more damage, as follows:

  • Strong Attack (10 TP): Hits an enemy for 25% more base power than a basic physical.  Ignores defense mods, counter rate, and evasion.  This skill is placed pretty well for what it is, truth be told.
  • Cleave (10 TP): Hits all enemies at half base power of a basic physical.  In practice, enemies will take roughly a third of the damage, making it useless.
  • Berserker’s Roar (25 TP): Boosts the party’s ATK by 25% for 5 turns.  This one is also decently placed, given how ATK buffs are comparably effective in default VX Ace.
  • Berserker’s Dance (50 TP): Hits three random enemies at 25% higher base power than a basic physical.  This can hit the same enemy multiple times.  This ends up being Eric’s primary boss-slayer ability.
  • Giant’s Rampage (100 TP): Hits all enemies for three times the damage of a basic physical.  In practice, it’s only more efficient than two Berserker’s Dances against three or more enemies.

So for the most part, Eric’s moveset can be described as largely one-dimensional.  With the exception of Berserker’s Roar, he has nothing but direct damage of increasing degrees.  Here, with this skillset, however, is where the problems begin. To start, Eric doesn’t gain any skills until Level 5–and this is a mortal sin of JRPG design.  It is always desirable to have a character start with some form of ability outside of a basic attack.  In a setup where projected endgame is between levels 30 and 35, he has an extremely large number of dead levels (Dead levels being “levels where you gain no skills”).  While dead levels are an unfortunate necessity in any setup where characters gain abilities through levels, the truth is that Eric’s effective skillset is too small, and can be expanded upon with little issue–and while fixing the general statistical tendencies, basic equation forms, and equipment would all be good ideas (and especially in case of things like heavy shields–9 more defense is never worth -20% Crit Evade when light shields not only lack the critical evade debuff, but give an evade boost in its place), this is focusing entirely on fixing the character.

As such, I feel that Eric’s skillset and identity issues can be solved simply through the refinement and expansion of his skillset–giving him more options available at any one time as well as giving him a use for his MP score, because I feel that he needs skill options that don’t consume TP.  As such, we’ll start with the most egregious problem: Cleave.  Cleave has zero function at all.  Even though it can hit multiple targets, it’s next to useless because Eric gets three times greater effect just from a basic physical at no cost.  To balance it out and make it more effective, if seemingly unreliable, let’s raise the power to base attack, and instead cut the accuracy to 55%.  Lastly, let’s cut the TP cost and add a MP cost–say, 15, and give it a TP gain of 2 to keep it from being too profitable on TP gains.

Next skill to fix here would be Strong Attack.  This isn’t nearly as bad, but one is paying more for the ITE than the bonus damage, which really does not justify the use when that TP could be saved up for better things.  To compensate, let’s up the cost to 15 and boost the power bonus from 1.25x to 1.5x, making it a more attractive option for both shorter fights and “I need this extra damage now” situations.  The last of the old skills to fix here is Giant’s Rampage: a simpler fix of making it 4x damage should improve it compared to Berserker’s Dance against all but the most solitary and non-evasive targets, and set it to 85 TP.

This does unfortunately leave the matter of skillset depth open. Filling this in gives us an opportunity to define Eric better both flavorwise and mechanically.  And as such, let’s start him off with a pair of skills: Strong Attack, and a new one.  Let’s name this one Wild Swing, and make it a single-target physical attack with 60% accuracy but 1.5x power, and give it a MP cost of 8 and TP gain of 6.  This gives two options early for him  to use that are not basic physicals.  Now, onto other abilities.

  • Tremor Swing: ATK-based ability, 1.25x power, single-target, Earth-elemental.  This inclusion of elements should help to cut down on “Checklist Syndrome,” where PCs aren’t allowed to overlap in elements ever in ability sets.  I intend to go more in-depth on this in future entries.  Gives 5 TP.
  • Follow-Through: ATK-based ability, 1x power attacks two random enemies.  Gives 3 TP per hit.
  • Berserk: Self-affecting buff.  Boosts ATK to 1.5x, seals all non-damaging abilities and locks the user on AI control.  All of this lasts 5 turns or until dispelled.
  • Seismic Slam: Two-stage ability.  Single-target 1x damage physical attack followed by a 0.75x damage multi-target Earth-element physical attack.  First strike gives 5 TP, second gives 1.
  • Rampage: Attacks four random targets at 0.65x damage.  70 base accuracy, high MP cost, 1 TP per hit.
  • Deathless: User cannot be killed, put to sleep, stunned, or paralyzed.  Costs 100 TP, lasts 3 turns.  Userr loses 20% HP and MP per turn.

This feels like a decent selection of abilities for Eric, with what feels like a capstone ability, but a few issues remain.  The first matter is simply that I don’t like single weapon class characters, but without altering the stats of the weapons there isn’t much of an option there.  Same goes for armor; nobody wants light armor, for example.  But one problem that can be fixed is the skill learning pattern.  At default, Eric’s learning pattern is this:

  • Strong Attack: Level 5
  • Cleave: Level 10
  • Berserker’s Roar: Level 15
  • Berserker’s Dance: Level 20
  • Giant’s Rampage: Level 25

Now what is wrong with this?  Not only does Eric have a poor learning rate, but he also starts with nothing.  A character with no skills is not fun, as anyone who has played Dragon Quest can attest.  Revising the skillset and learning pattern, this is a more effective set:

  • Wild Swing: Level 1
  • Strong Attack: Level 1
  • Follow-Through: Level 3
  • Tremor Swing: Level 5
  • Cleave: Level 8
  • Berserker’s Dance: Level 10
  • Berserk: Level 12
  • Berserker’s Roar: Level 15
  • Rampage: Level 19
  • Giant’s Rampage: Level 23
  • Seismic Slam: Level 26
  • Deathless: Level 30

And like that, Eric has lost more of  his dead levels and gained a skillset.  Is it the best?  I’ll say no.  Is it a lot more serviceable?  Yes.  And with a skill change, he’s gotten more of an identity, having little precision or finesse as he gives every enemy an axe to the face.  There is a lot more I could do,but this is the end of what I will be doing for Eric.  Next week, I’ll be covering the second of the defaults, Natalie.  Until then, this is Epic Alphonse, signing off.

Defaults01

You’re next, Punchy.  I’ve already  got ideas for what to do with your skillset.

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Posted January 4, 2014 by EpicAlphonse in Uncategorized

7 responses to “Fix The Defaults: Eric

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  1. I note you mention his stats being misleading for a berserker type as well as the skillset being bad. Are you going to suggest stat fixes for chars in future installments as well, or just focus on the skillsets?

    • When I pick this back up, I’m likely going to redo Eric’s a bit (I was a bit hasty with his retooling) and if the statistics are problematic, refocus them. The skillsets are likely to remain the primary focus, however.

  2. I liked a lot what you did there. Will you share with us the RMVXA project file with the characters “fixed” after you’re done with it?

  3. This was all a very interesting and pretty fascinating breakdown to read and your design decisions were really quite intriguing. I was bummed to see that you had left off early 2014 though–any plans to revisit and continue this in the future?

    • I’ve been considering reviving Gratuitous JRPG for the past few months. The main reason I stopped then was manyfold–a lot of personal problems among other things, but a dwindling number of subjects I could post on as well. I intend to revisit this in the future, but I’m busy working on a side project at the time being, so I can’t write up posts at the time being.

      I will consider this at some point in this year, moreso if I can get my personal life sorted out more.

  4. I really do hope you get back to this sometime, I’d love to hear your reasonings, I was actually inspired to see if I could get the other characters to work using similar means. Would be an excellent exercise in mastering the basic abilities of skill making.

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