The Great Divide
Snackycakes’ Guide to Splitting Power-Levels
In Alt, there are few things more challenging than building a character who utilizes two or three types of power to be effective in play. With the way the system is designed, focusing on one aspect of a character’s abilities is the quickest way to create something competitive and effective. A well-rounded character with a variety of merely ‘good’ skills is all but guaranteed to be destroyed by a min-maxed character with a single trick up his sleeve which has been upgraded to all holy hell and back. This is simply the nature of the beast, and the reason that characters with split power-levels are very challenging to manage.
However, simply because splitting power-levels is difficult does not mean that it is without its advantages. Though there are currently only two high-level characters with split power-levels playing in the room, there is no reason that with patience and hard work split PLs can’t reach the ranks of the elites. The greatest challenges are outlined below in this guide, as well as a compilation of tips, tricks, and advice for how to make a workable concept for a character with more than one PL type.
Power Type Analysis
We’ll begin by outlining each of the major power-types alongside their respective strengths and weaknesses, as well as how those strengths and weaknesses apply when building a character that uses more than one power-type.
Magic is considered, by many, to be the most advantageous power-type at the moment. Its strengths include the highest natural charge, alongside a charge rate that is tied only by psions. Though they are dependent on techniques, they barrel through tech day costs with a combination of a typically good bias (races that make poor mages generally aren’t played as mages) and doubled learning, a perk that allows them to significantly reduce the number of tech days that must be invested into a technique before it is learned. Mages can gain the most durability at the quickest rate, as well.
Weaknesses include the very same dependence on techniques that earn them their significant tech day bonuses; a mage with only magic as a power-type must have spells in place to fight, which takes time. By default, mages utilize energy-based defenses, which are susceptible to nullifier. Stamina drain on their techniques, which make use of their naturally higher charge, can also be problematic without a bit of forethought.
When combining another power-level with magic, magic is more suited to play a supplemental role than to be the focused power-type. Though this arguably does not matter when you play your power-levels to be equal, when one is higher than the other, magic should be the weaker power-level. For argument’s sake, consider a person using a mix of magic and ki; a magic power level half that of a ki power-level has the same basic charge, and a durability spell enhanced to grant its maximum durability will have the same total durability as a ki power-level with all four iterations of the enhanced durability Common Technique. When used as a secondary power-type, magic is useful for bolstering the speed, strength, and other attributes of the dominant PL type. When used as the primary, the benefits granted by magic overshadow the meager benefits granted by a secondary PL that hasn’t the same punch as magic does.
Whichever you decide is suited to be the primary PL type, one thing to consider is that whenever a technique is written that combines magic and another energy-type into one effect, that spell qualifies for a toned-down version of mage doubling. This in and of itself is a good reason to mix magic with other PL types, as the disadvantage of the cost of techniques that utilize more than one power-type (they are generally more expensive) is somewhat offset by the fact that the tech day cost can be reduced.
All in all, magic is well-suited to supplement any power-type. It is flexible enough to make a both a ki-wielder and a psion more effective in their own ways, and can easily conform to almost any character theme imaginable.
If you are using ki in a split power-level build, I find that it is generally best suited as the primary power-type, if power-levels are not meant to be equal. Ki has the least amount of ‘start-up’ time of each of the power-levels, and when dedicated the primary power-type makes leading into the fray while activating techniques from a supplemental power-level a snap. Remember that though only one technique may be used per post without upgrades such as the Extra Actions Common Tech, split power-levels allow for the possessing character to take an action with each PL. A ki-wielder may execute simple non-technique combat maneuvers such as melee fighting while activating spells or tech-level psionic abilities with his other, supplemental PL.
Ki’s strengths, where splitting power-levels is concerned, lies in the fact that a mage or a psion with a ki power-level is not nearly as vulnerable as one without it, in many ways. Mages rely on energy-based defenses, but a mage with bodily durability can weather nullifying type attacks using that instead, negating a hefty damage bonus. This is even easier with psions, who may simply choose not to use their passive defense and allow nullifier-enhanced techniques to lose much of their effectiveness against their physical body. Another advantage particular to mages is the fact that skin-tight barriers, which are a gamble oftentimes because a mage that cannot move his hands or speak is a mage that cannot cast spells, become less risky when ki provides the strength (and an emergency panic button in the form of the aura explosion) to gain some distance and get back to casting spells.
Just as ki on its own is a balanced power-type with a lack of game-breaking strengths or weaknesses, it is also a well-rounded power-type when applied to a mixed PL build. It works quite well when balancing the weaknesses of mages and psions, and is easy to enhance using magic and psionics.
Utilizing psioncs in a split PL build can be difficult, whether or not it is the primary power-level. Its advantages are more specific than ki and magic, but arguably a bit more effective than either where split PLs are concerned.
When splitting psi and something else, I generally recommend that psi be the non-dominant PL, if the PLs are not divided 50/50. The reason I recommend this, especially in the instance of ki or ki-based physical PLs, is because the slot system allows for significant enhancement of the primary PL type’s abilities without the use of techniques. A psion with three slots can enhance the damage of a ki-wielders melee attacks three times a post by their natural charge, or their charge cap if prior preparation has been made. Better yet, those slots also add the psion’s base speed to the enhanced physical attacks as well; two bonuses for one slot. This is the greatest and most distinct advantage a psionic PL can offer to ki and physical PLs, though there are others.
A psion’s sphere of influence, especially if it has been expanded, makes catching the character off-guard much more difficult. As well, sensory perception within the sphere of influence is very refined; even if a ki-wielder is blinded completely by a status-reducing effect, psionic senses can easily pull the weight of the incapacitated senses until they are restored.
Combining psionics with magic is a trickier beast, as no matter which PL is dominant, neither is well-suited to the other. Adding a psions charge and speed to a melee attack is a basic, non-technique ability that is completely free. Enhancing spells with psionic natural charge is not, and blending energies on that level can become very expensive if the techniques are not worded carefully. Mages can benefit from the additional speed a psion can offer, however, but just with the psi PL itself, slots may not stack for greater movement. Souring the deal further is the fact that mages and psions both have energy-based defenses, so nullifier becomes a double-threat as, by default, a mage/psion will have no other options to thwart nullifier without resorting to technique-level effects.
As with my technique guide, I cannot give power-type specific advice for the physical PL, because it varies greatly. Physical PL can be used to emulate any of the other PL types, even magic, so the only advice I can grant here is to apply the tips and tricks from whichever section your PL emulates.
Now that we’ve discusses each PL type individually, I’m going to list a few more common, viable combinations as well as their strengths, weaknesses, and a few suggested technique builds.
Ki + Magic
Ki is the recommended primary PL type with this split. If you have two thirds ki and one third magic, both PLs will have the same natural charge, and the same maximum durability. Levitation and equivalent spells can stack with bodily movement, and with a typical bias a 25% Mag PL speed boost is 11 days cheaper than a 10% KiPL speed boost. Building speed up is easy, and enhancing bodily strength with spells will make a fiercer fighter of your ki-wielder. Access to barrier-type spells works wonders for adding additional durability, and skin-tight barriers are less dangerous when you have the strength to resist other characters’ interfering with your spell-casting.
Technique builds should generally focus either on spells only, or on mixed PL techniques that receive a slight bonus to decrease their learning time. When creating techniques that combine ki and magic, the general effect should be based off of the character’s total PL, not his or her ki or magic PL only. This allows for the user of the technique to contend with characters who only have a single PL that is equal to or a bit higher than the sum of their PL.
The possibilities here are hardly limited, so use your imagination.
Ki + Psi
Again, the recommended primary PL type with this split is Ki, primarily because psionics are all but meant to supplement this PL type when used as part of a mix. Each slot dedicated to assisting the speed and strength of a physical maneuver grants it both strength and speed, making a psychic martial artist a very viable concept for this mixture. As well, even an unexpanded sphere of influence grants unprecedented reflex and detection within it, and as most ki-wielers are up close and personal fighters, this advantage is even more pronounced.
Another important advantage is that a ki + Psi mix will have decent defenses, but a selective invulnerability to attacks that are equipped with nullifier; by not activating slots for psionic passive defense, nullifier-equipped techs can be allowed to bypass the defenses they are meant to rapidly erode and instead strike bodily durability.
Common Techniques, while not generally flashy, are good for supplementing this build. Enhancing the pool of psionic PD increases the amount of damage per slot that can be soaked, and is preferable to multitask because of its favorable price. If you do opt for multitasking, one iteration is all that I can suggest; characters with split PLs usually have a pretty rough time starting up, and saving PL wherever possible is important.
Magic + Psi
This is an unwieldy build that I have personally not experimented in, and haven’t seen succeed. I can only think of one character that utilized this mixture, and while the techniques may have been effective down the road, the character in question had such an abysmal starting PL that it was hardly worth the trouble to develop her and, indeed, she did vanish from the room after a few roleplays.
When combining these PL types, the important focus is generally ranged attacks. Mages use spells, psions use puffs of kinetic energy, so the logical meeting point would be either psionic projectile attacks enhanced by magical natural charge, or vice versa. Energy-based defenses will be plentiful, but prime targets for nullifier-equipped attacks, so plan accordingly.
Whichever PL type is the primary, this is not a very mobile combination; without a levitation spell with greater than 50% Mag PL in speed, a 50/50 mix of these two PLs won’t even achieve 50% total PL in movement. Teleport spells or psi techs are a good option for when an attack absolutely must be avoided at all costs, but in this instance that cost is hefty amounts of stamina, which the Mag PL will already be draining rapidly.
Techniques should definitely make use of the total power-level considering that magic will help ease the cost of such techs, and focus on offense and defense with mobility being sacrificed. Mages and psions can make the most use of damage-reduction type techniques with their respective ability to mass huge charges in a short time, and something to stymie nullifier attacks will be a must. On the offensive side of things, respectable pure damage is achievable through combining magic and psionic charges, just don’t expect such abilities to be cheap, especially if they are passive.
When I first learned that PL types could be combined, I was quite interested to try something new, but as I was still a noobling back in those days, many of my efforts were met with frustration and puzzlement. Combining PLs to one effective whole is not easy, but the challenge can be fun and rewarding if you aren’t opposed to the disadvantages and extra work involved. That the 2007 Budokai saw a character with split PLs take a place in the heavyweight bracket is proof enough that these builds can be effective and powerful. All it takes is a little elbow grease and perhaps a bit of luck as well.