In-Depth Technique Guide
A comprehensive look at how to distinguish your characters with creative, effective techniques.
If you’re reading this guide, then you are likely familiar with the room and its rules. However, for those of you who are just joining Alt, many of the terms and expressions used in this guide may seem foreign, so I suggest thoroughly familiarizing yourself with room terminology before continuing. The Lexicon is a fine resource for this.
Spooled up? Good, let’s get crackin’.
In Alt, a character can generally be considered to have two resources at their command; power-level and techniques. Power-level is, obviously, the raw strength of your character, and techniques are your character’s ability to use that strength in complex, specific ways to achieve a desired effect (usually victory over another character in a confrontation). At first glance, the two may actually seem equally important, but this is not true; power-level is useless without techs, and techs are by and large useless without at least a decent amount of power to back them up, but nine out of ten times effectively-written techniques can turn the tide of battle before simply having a greater amount of PL will. To that end, I, along with many other players who have several months or years of experience, tend to focus on techniques before power-level.
So what makes an effective technique? This is difficult to say. Hopefully by the time you’ve finished reading this guide, you’ll have a clearer understanding of what works for you specifically. What is an effective technique for one power-type might be terribly inefficient for another; what works for one character build may be useless when applied to a separate build. For me, learning to write effective techniques came as a combination of observing other players and taking note of what they did both right and wrong, and from learning from my own mistakes. I also have a tendency to ‘recycle’ techniques, keeping particularly polished gems and giving them to newer characters, and in turn phasing the original character out. By and large, technique writing is trial-and-error.
This guide is organized into several sections for ease of reading and reference; firstly are general technique guidelines, then specific tips that are applicable to the various power-types, and a section explaining a few particularly potent abilities that are often overlooked.
While varying power-types have varying strategies that make the most of their gimmies, a few strategies can apply to all of them.
Specialize; This is, perhaps, one of the most effective way to make a character very competitive. Choosing a technique line-up that focuses on a single ability, an enhanced statistic, or gimmie can greatly enhance its effectiveness. This does come with a cost however; while Alt’s rules will always have loopholes as players evolve new ways to app for techniques and play their characters, the system is fairly balanced. Focusing on offense will leave your defense at base level, perhaps even detract from it. Focusing on speed typically comes at the cost of having weaker attacks. The list goes on, but in general focusing on one attribute leaves the opposite attribute underdeveloped. I will offer an example, using one of my own characters as a case study.
The character in question had an exceptional eyesight rating, which does nothing for a character without exceptional speed to match. To counter this, I wrote a technique which, upon its usage, allowed for a percentage of the character’s eyesight to be added to his speed. In this way, upgrading his eyesight (which is cheaper than upgrading speed) allowed me to enhance two statistics at once. However, the technique in question allowed for speed to be granted in a defensive sense only; while it was almost impossible for a character of equal or slightly greater power-level to get his hands on him, this character of mine had very average attacks otherwise. If your opponent cannot land a blow, then you are winning by attrition, but intelligent foes will often forego fruitless attacks and devise another strategy. In this way, specializing can fall short. As you design techs, be aware of your character’s shortcomings, and cover them. To continue using my character as an example, I eventually apped for (and got approved) a second technique that allowed his enhanced eyesight to benefit the speed of his attacks as well. With those two techniques, the character could enhance his speed for most any action he made simply by enhancing his eyesight.
Synergize; Another very important and often-overlooked strategy is to synergize techniques, or, in other words, allow techniques to interact with and affect one another for a greater effect. This can get pricey if the wording is not handled carefully, but the benefits are distinct and significant. I will use another of my characters, as an example.
A certain ki-wielder of mine who used fire-based attacks had a very direct focus; dealing heavy amounts of damage, and very large amounts of lingering ‘burning’ damage over time, which could quickly cut away at the durability of another character. Two of the techniques he had had a synergy with one another; the first was a persistent aura that, when generated via a tech action and a single post of focusing, created a swath of flames around his body for five posts, which damaged foes upon coming into contact with them. The second was a technique that drained his natural charge (which had also been enhanced) and added it to his speed for a single post.
The synergy I applied for caused the second technique, the one to grant additional speed, to remain in effect for as long as the first technique, the one to deal retributive damage on anything that came into contact with him, did. Consider the logistics; the second technique drained 40% stamina to add 40% KiPL to the user’s speed for one post. To use it for five posts consecutively would cost 200% KiPL in stamina, exactly half of the character’s total. Once the synergy was completed, that same 40% KiPL allowed for five posts of the same effect, saving 160% stamina to be use for other techniques or attacks. As noted before, combining effects can be expensive, but one of the surest ways to get the most bang for your buck is to have techniques that are woven together in a web, and benefit one another as they are upgraded. And, speaking of which…
Upgrade; The importance of this cannot be overstated; upgrading techniques is essential to keeping them current, effective, and versatile. Just like one wouldn’t buy antivirus software and never upgrade it, you should never purchase a technique and leave it just as it is; even if it is very effective, someone will figure out a defense for it (or a way around it, if it is defensive in nature) eventually. To again use one of my characters as an example, I play a succubus (magical power-level) whose calling card is using powerful spells to drain large amounts of stamina from her opponents.
The spell drains stamina by launching a projectile that, upon striking, relieves the user of his or her stamina and transfers a portion of it back to her. It’s upgrades include; drastically increased potency to drain severe amounts of stamina with each successful hit, speed upgrades to ensure the blow lands, drain reductions to lessen the impact that missing will have on her stamina pool, and, lastly and most importantly, the ability to divide one projectile into several.
The last upgrade is particularly important as her spell, like most mage spells, is energy; an attack equipped with nullifier can do considerable amounts of damage to it and counter its effects before it takes hold. Splitting the attack into multiple portions, up to ten in this instance, is preferable to putting ‘all of her eggs in one basket.’ If ten portions are launched and one misses, that is a minor. If one portion is launched and it misses, that is nearly half of her stamina flushed down the drain.
Think Ahead; When I create characters, I usually draft up at least a dozen techniques. While I don’t apply for them all at once, as doing so would result in a character that cannot be played because he starts dead from negative powarz, it pays to plan ahead. In most instances, my characters have whatever techs I plan to give them written out, and I simply apply for them one at a time; when one is finished, I apply for the next one in the queue.
Planning ahead is important because it allows you to maintain a clear focus on what you want to accomplish with your character. One of the worst mistakes I made when I was first learning to play was applying for dozens of techniques, and then letting them sit on my character’s sheets, unable to decide what to spend tech days on. Be clear, concise, and focused, and you will be well on the way to focused, effective character as well.
Now it’s time to focus on tips that apply specifically to different power-types. In this and the following sections, I will show you some of my own techniques, and how to get the most out of what a power-type specializes in.
To begin, I consider ki to be ‘the’ power-type. Canonically, it’s all there was, and in Alt it sets the standard for many varying types of effects that can also be applied to other power-levels. For example, the nullifier add-on, which allows a ki attack to deal doubled damage to any energy form, can be obtained by a mage, and the pricing will be the same for both power-types. However, nullifier is considered to primarily be a ki ability; you won’t find any magic, psionic, or physical common techniques that offer it.
Ki’s greatest advantage is that ki-wielders are the only power-type with ‘automatic defense,’ though a physical PL based on Ki can have the same thing. A mage must cast a spell, a psion must dedicate a slot, but a ki-wielder can be caught completely off-guard and weather an attack without any advance preparation. Because of this, a ki-wielder can usually get the ‘jump’ on other power-types, especially mages. So, how can you make use of these advantages?
Nullifier; It can’t be stressed enough. Especially when you are a ki-wielder, nullifier is your friend. By default, mages and psions have energy-based defenses, so with nullifier active on your technique, you are dealing double, even triple damage with no additional stamina invested. For dealing with mages and psions, who are defensive tanks, nullifier is essential. While not as important where other ki-wielders are concerned, nullifying their energy-based attacks and defenses is also very useful.
Transformations; Opinions on transformations are wide and varied. I personally do not use them often, but a ki character should have at least a simple one; to double one’s power-level for three posts (usable once weekly) costs 90 days base. While not the kind of ability you can rely on without spending large amounts of tech days to increase its duration and frequency of usage, it is a relatively cheap trump card. Instantly becoming twice as powerful as an opponent can quickly turn the tide of battle, especially after your other techniques are set up and in play. It is also very important to note that a transformation does not have to simply grant additional power-level; transformations can increase stats, even grant access to new techs. Remember, however, that they are pricey, and generally speaking, less is more.
Persistent Effects; Many players are under the mistaken impression that only mages may use techniques to gain persistent effects. For example, a mage may increase his speed from mortal levels to 50% of his power-level with a technique. A ki-wielder may increase his speed as well. This nuance is not limited to stat increases however. One of my favorite tactics, and one I highly recommend for almost any power-type, is to use a technique to grant an otherwise impermanent upgrade. For example, it is wholly viable to have a technique that, upon draining the user’s natural charge, applies nullifier to all of his melee attacks for the remainder of the roleplay. The same can be done with polarize, enflame, even weapon-proficiency. One way to make up for the fact that ki-wielders have less in the way of speed and damage output/power than psions and mages is to utilize persistent effects, both offensively and defensively.
While ki may be ‘the’ power type in our canon, magic can be considered ‘the’ power type in our room. Mages have a reputation for being exceptionally powerful, both defensively and offensively, and in many ways it is well-deserved; mages tend to be the most able power-wielders in the setting. They are not, however, without weaknesses.
A mage’s greatest weaknesses are stamina usage and what I call ‘prep time.’ Like other power-types, mages have tools at their disposal to lessen the impact of their weaknesses, or cover them entirely, but you must go out of your way to write techniques that allow for this.
A mage, like every other power type, starts with a base stamina equal to four times their power-level. Unlike other power-types, however, a hefty portion of their stamina must be used simply so they can fight! Without spells, a mage is mortal, and one with excess of a million power-level can be killed by an automobile if he isn’t paying attention while crossing the street. Mages must use spells in order to become combat capable, that’s simply the way it is. Typically they must cast a spell to grant some kind of durability and a spell to grant some kind of movement, which costs 120% of their PL in stamina. Over a quarter of it is dedicated prematurely to ‘booting up.’ Likewise, a mage’s enhanced natural charge is a double-edged sword; while having attacks that are twice as powerful as a ki-wielders and three times as powerful as a psion’s is nice, creating non-damage effects for supplemental and support purposes costs the same 60% MagPL that an attack does. For a ki-wielder to enhance his senses against power-types that are normally not detectable to him would require his natural charge in stamina to be invested, or 30% KiPL for 100% PL in detection (note that these are not fixed figures, simply basic ones that are easily approvable). For a mage to do the same thing requires 60% PL. Be aware that a mage’s higher stamina consumption applies to more than just his attacks.
Prep time is also a problem; if you spend your first post casting a movement spell, you could be killed on the next by an attack you couldn’t react to in time. If you spend it casting a durability spell, you’re likely to be hit before you have a chance to throw an attack back, giving your opponent a head start. The easiest way to both conserve stamina and reduce this ‘start-up’ time is to combine multiple effects into a single spell. Be wary, however, of the fact that mages specifically incur a penalty for doing this, to help maintain balance with the rules. As an example, consider that you wish to have a spell that grants both durability and movement in a single post. It would be priced as follows:
TD cost of the durability effect + TD cost of the speed effect + TD cost of the multifunction penalty = total cost of the spell.
It is important to note, however, that because this is one spell, it drains only 60% stamina, whereas two spells would take twice as long and drain twice as much stamina. In this instance especially, the multifunction penalty is indeed worth paying for the results you get (the penalty is relatively cheap in terms of TDs.)
With a clearer understanding of these two weaknesses and how to write techs that help cover for them, what makes a mage powerful? How should techs be written? To borrow from Hroefn’s guide to building mages…
Use One Attack Spell; Generally, a mage should only have one attack spell. Upgrades like enhanced damage and speed are cheap, and because mages learn things twice as quickly in most cases, it’s better to have one very potent attack spell than several average ones. Recommended upgrades are speed, damage, and drain reduction primarily, though nullifier can turn a spell beastly against other mages as well.
Max Out Your Barrier, And Use More Than One; A mage has access to the most durability of all power-types, and can gain it very quickly. 600% PL is the upward limit, and to gain 50% PL costs a measly 15 tech days, which is 11 with the typical bias and 6 after doubling is figured in. There is no reason to not quickly invest in a sturdier barrier, especially considering that barriers are nullifier-bait where other PL types are concerned. Another less-often used strategy is to have two barriers. Not two of the exact same effect, but two spells that grant durability in some way; in most cases, a spell that grants durability will still be eligible for the same cheap price of upgrades. For example, I play an acolyte with a barrier spell, as well as a spell that grants her bodily durability. If both spells were maxed out, her durability would be 1,200% total. Considering that, without techniques to replenish stamina, the max amount of stamina a character can have is 1,000%, victory by attrition is very likely.
Use An Automatic Attack; Another weakness mages have is that almost everything they do is a technique, which limits their actions to doing one thing in any given post. One way around this is to use a spell that grants an automatic attack; they aren’t much more expensive than a typical spell, and allow you to reduce your boot-up time even further by having a spell that attacks for you while you erect your defenses and mobility. One example is a mage of mine who can summon a sword; once the sword is summoned, attacking with it is a free action. Because it is still a spell, upgrades like enhanced damage and nullifier can be applied to the blade. He can summon the blade on his initial post, then attack freely while casting his movement and durability spells on subsequent posts.
Get Stamina Seriously, you will need it. Be it in the form of a passive upgrade using the CT (I recommend at least two iterations), or a spell that replenishes stamina (this can be done several ways), find a way to replenish or expand upon your stamina. Mages use the most of it, and they need the most of it.
Ki wielders can quickly get a battle underway, and mages generally require a few turns to set themselves up. Logically, the psion is a sort of middle ground between the two; beneath their defenses, they are as fragile as an undefended mage, but they are also maneuverable and able to attack without having to use techniques prior to beginning a battle. In addition, psions are distinguished by their ability to multitask, able to do much more in a post than a mage or ki-wielder, by default. When writing techs for psions, there are many different routes you can take, but my personal favorite focus is the blending of two extremes; psions can be defensive and offensive very effectively, and if you don’t mind them being fairly stationary as they fight, they can do both simultaneously. How?
The slot system.
At base, a psion is granted three ‘slots’, each of which may perform a completely separate action (see my guide to psions for more details on the slot system). Psions have the lowest natural charge of all three primary power types, but with the most actions, they can have a damage output equal to a mage, or even greater with the investment of another slot. Writing techniques that take advantage of the slot system is quite simple, be they offensive or defensive in nature, but there are some weaknesses to consider.
A psion’s two primary weaknesses are their lack of speed (not to be confused with lack of mobility, as teleportation is a psi-specific common technique and fairly cheap at that), and, like mages, they have energy-based defenses. Complicating the weakness of energy-based defenses is the fact that a psion must dedicate slots to their defensive measures; while a ki-wielder or a mage can take damage and perform actions as normal (assuming the attack that struck them does not somehow prevent this), taking damage as a psion actually counts as an action. When you factor in the psion’s base speed (half that of a ki-wielder), it is quite likely that you will be taking attacks. The larger pool of defense does compensate for these weaknesses in part (standard durability for a psion is 300% PL, whereas it’s 200% for mages and ki-wielders), but it does not negate those weaknesses wholly.
So how can you protect yourself from these weaknesses? There are a few ways. The best way to beat the psion’s slow mobility is to focus on a defensive build; as psions are not typically melee fighters (though they can be, with enough customization), they do not need enhanced bodily movement to attack, merely to avoid attacks. The speed of their telekinetic attacks is the standard 50%, and if they choose to actively block an attack, they may do so at 50% base speed as well. Techniques that reduce or mitigate damage entirely can allow for the psion to focus on dealing damage with ranged attacks. It is also possible to use techniques that remove the weakness of having an energy-based defense as well; for example, a psion of mine has the ability to control flies. One of her techniques veils her sphere of influence in insects, which she shares durability with. While any damage she takes is taken in full, there is a physical barrier between her and her attackers, which trumps nullifier-type attacks. Such effects are not prohibitively expensive, and come recommended from me. Below are a few more tips specific to psions.
Get A Fourth Slot; Preferably bundled with your character application. Three slots allow the conservative, cautious player to reserve a single slot for defense and dedicate two to moving, attacking, or utilizing techniques. Four slots allows for three actions and a fourth slot to remain unused, should defense be necessary. When fighting enemies with comparative levels of power, it is not often that you will take damage that exceeds 100% of your PL (the limit that one psi slot can soak per post without being upgraded), so it is safe to leave this ‘extra’ slot free and wreak mental havoc with your other three. In the couple of years I’ve been playing, however, I’ve never built a psion that needed a fifth slot, and because of the cost of multitasking, I would not recommend it. However, this is mostly because of another of my personal rules when it comes to psions, a rule I call…
Three, The Magic Number; When using psionic techniques, the technique may span more than one slot. I’ve learned through the application process that three slots is a comfortable upward limit; while techniques may span more, additional tech days are usually the cost. Three, however, offers you a great deal of PL to work with; three slots bridged into a single effect offer 60% PL, which is on par with a mage. Charging these three slots before hand (psions have the lowest charge cap but the highest charge rate), offers 120% PL for the effect. Be it damage, durability/stamina restoration, or perhaps something to interfere with the target’s ability to combat your character (stun, stat reduction, stamina drain, etcetera), psions can do it, and they can mass the energy to do it more quickly than any other power type. With an extra slot, you still have the option to defend yourself while utilizing your other slots to their maximum potential, which is my personal idea of an ideal set-up.
Brace for Impact; Psions, with their low base speed and relatively low strength, are prone to getting pushed around. Because moving counts as an action for a psion, being thrown about can be troublesome; having to use a slot to steady your character detracts from a slot that could be used for defense, or a technique. To counter this, the vast majority of my psions have a technique that reduces the kinetic energy transferred to them from attacks; while damage is still taken, the ‘pushiness’ of the attack is negated. Using 100% PL for this effect means that your psion will not likely be moved against his will. Aside from the sense of smug satisfaction that comes from seeing your psion take a punch to the face and not even blink, an ability like this is a must for power-wielder competitions, where other characters will be quick to push you out of any designated ring area if they have no way to trump your defenses. As a note, I prefer to make this a passive ability that requires no activation. It is fairly pricey, but the benefits gained from such a technique are well worth the invested TDs.
It Is Better To Give Than To Receive; One effect that is effective for any PL type, but particularly so for psions, is to grant them the ability to deal retributive damage when they are struck. When coupled with a technique that reduces the kinetic shock of an enemy’s attack, your psion becomes a veritable immovable object, and you severely limit your opponent’s ability to combat your character. In fact, there are many characters who specialize with melee so thoroughly that they have no ranged attacks to speak of; forcing them to keep their distance allows you to pick them off easily. As a note, techniques can also be used to reflect projectile-type attacks, but this is not quite as useful; retributive damage never misses. Once they strike you, the return attack is automatic, and at best its damage can simply be reduced by techniques such as Focused Defenses.
This section will be fairly brief, as the physical PL is very difficult to define. While the majority of passive stat upgrades (speed, strength, and so on) are classified as physical, these are hardly the only thing a physical-based character can do. The most lucid advice I can give is to simply say that once your physical PL template is complete, use the section of this guide that offers advice for the PL type it most closely resembles; it is fairly easy to make a physical PL template that mimics psionics, very easy to do so for ki, and (theoretically) possible to do so for magic. If your physical PL is ki-based, refer to the ki section. If it’s psi-based, refer to the psionics section. There is one bit of advice, however, that is specific to this PL.
Use Template Days; Though I am not at liberty to disclose the exact price of gimmies each PL receives, gimmies do indeed have a set value in tech days. A ki-wielder’s flight is worth so many days, and a psion’s immense energy detection is as well. When you generate your own custom power-level, removing gimmies gives you tech days that can be used to further customize the template. Be advised that template days must be used on the template itself; removing a ki-wielders aura explosion will not allow you to dedicate those gained days to techniques, only to customized gimmies. Staffers, when handling physical character apps, use a set of guidelines, and will inform you of how many template days are gained and spent when you sacrifice gimmies and use your own gimmies in lieu of for a more personalized play experience. One example of this is a character of mine who, while physical in PL, functions very similarly to a psion; by removing his ability to detect energy, I was able to give him a physical-based passive defense system rather than an energy-based one, which makes him that much more defensive by completely removing his default weakness to nullifier attacks. Discovering effective physical PL templates is a completely different beast, however, and the details are best left for another guide.
This final section will endeavor to take some of the knowledge I’ve gained and spread it around; while coming up with an idea that no one else has is very gratifying, for me, sharing that knowledge can be equally gratifying. So, what are some effects that are not common, but very potent?
Damage Reduction; One way to quickly frustrate an opponent is damage reduction. While many characters focus on great speed to avoid attacks, reducing damage dealt to your character does away with expensive speed upgrades and speed-granting techniques. This has an added bonus; swift attacks that would otherwise be unavoidable are hardly a concern when they deal no meaningful damage to speak of. I will openly admit that one of my favored characters, while extremely fast, deals low damage with each of her attacks. Were she to face someone with even moderate damage-reducing abilities, her attacks would all be in vain. My preferred way of doing this is to give the damage reducing effect a PL equal to the user’s natural charge, and allow it to persist for three posts base (remember, three is the magic number). Afterwards, I allow both the PL and duration of the effect to be increased with additional charges. These techniques, while fairly pricey, are surprisingly cheap considering how effective they are.
Stun; The ultimate low blow, attacks that stun can lock an enemy into place and prevent them from attacking you. While I do not personally endorse such tactics, they are not against the rules, and their effectiveness cannot be argued against. A basic damage-dealing attack can be upgraded to stun a target that does not exceed your character’s PL, again for a very reasonable price. Multiple posts of stun are also an option, and the threshold can be expanded upon so that your character can even stun characters with a greater PL than their own.
Stamina Drain Damaging an opponent’s stamina directly is arguably more effective than damaging their durability. Take, for example, the event that someone put my above advice to use, and had a technique to reduce the damage your techniques do. An ability to damage their stamina will render them unable to fight you just as effectively as reducing their carefully-protected durability to zero, though it may take slightly longer depending on how aggressively your opponent’s character is fighting and how much stamina they have invested in.
A Helping Hand; Ki and magic have a very easy time bringing summoned allies into the fight. Ki users, being masters of spiritual energy, and create creatures to fight for them out of their own life force, and mages can simply summon other beings. With a significant TD investment, the summoned help can have a power-level equal to or even greater than your own. Not only does this grant a second action, but additional stamina, and if you use the summon as a meat shield, additional durability as well. While I typically recommend summons only for characters that are built strictly to make use of them, they can be useful in a pinch if they are not too much of a deviation from your character’s theme.
And there you have it, my knowledge spilt forth for the masses to make use of. Be mindful of the fact, however, that while Alt is combat-driven, it is not exclusively PvP. In other words, remember that it is possibly to write characters so effectively that they (and you, by proxy) can garner a sort of stigma. This guide essentially teaches players ways to min-max and power game, because min-maxing and power gaming are both accepted as normal, necessary ways to keep your characters competitive in this setting. There is more to our setting, though, than just competitiveness.