Thursday, November 6, 2008

RDK: Bridgette, the Hidden Amazon (Zealot #2)

: Sister Bridgette
Title: The Shield Maiden
Set: RDK
Group: Zealots
Role: Close-only Scrapper
Health: 75
Resistance: 3/3/1
Innate: When she attacks Bridgette has a 50% chance to lose one debuff.
Bar (v15):
  1. Spear Thrust. 20en, 8spd, 24dmg, Phys. 90Hit. A quick thrust of your spear. Close.
  2. Ferocious Strike. 40en, 4spd, 42dmg, Dark. 90Hit, 75Proc. If this attack hits, you have a chance to enter a berserker's rage, gaining Pious Fervor for the next 4 turns (Pious Fervor: When you attack you deal an additional 12 light damage. If you are struck before you attack, however, you have an extra 75% chance to miss.). Close.
  3. Aegis Stance. 55en, 5spd, Light. 100Hit, 100Proc. For the next 2 turns, you have a 40% chance to reflect your foe's attacks. Cannot be recast while Aegis Stance is in effect. Both.
  4. Wispered Prayer. 0en, 3spd, Light. 100Hit, 100Proc. If you have remained on the field after the next 2 turns your faith is rewarded as you gain 25 health and 30 energy. Far.
Summary: Faith and fervor are what fuels Bridgette. A battle-nun in an Order full of warrior-priests, her reckless fury might be her undoing. When the dark rage is upon her, she attacks more powerfully but uncautiously, leaving herself open for counter-blows.
  • Physical Attacks
  • Debuffs
  • Close Range
  • Far Range
  • Dark Magic
  • Low Accuracy
Backstory: They found her as a child. A small, raven haired girl with gray eyes and pale skin, found by an expedition from the Order returning from an unsuccessful trek through the jungle in search of a rumored tribe of witches and mischief makers. She watched them from the trees, barely young enough to stand, but unafraid of the holy warriors bristling with weapons. When they came near, she stabbed one with a primitive spear and tried to run. When they caught her, the feral girl kicked and screamed and tried to bite them through their sanctified armor. Puzzled by their find, the holy men did the only thing they think of: they took her with them as they returned home. Taken to the Order's mountaintop monastery, the priests named her Bridgette for her power and strength. The Order took in many orphans so Bridgette was not alone even though the Order preferred to gather males for the fighters they could become. She grew up among the young men and boys training to become the next members of the Order's fighting forces. She trained alongside them, in secret when the priests wouldn't allow and alongside them when the priests finally relented. She learned to hold her own against the men who would give her no quarter. She learned to tame the dark rage that burned inside of her and channel it into becoming a warrior in her own rite. When she was grown, she was inducted into the Order's ranks of battle nuns. Hardened sisters and surrogate mothers to the Order's cadre, they were expected to tend to and nurture them even as they fought alongside them. Bridgette was never a warm woman or especially kind, so she struggled with her prayers and the womanly arts of bandaging and knitting. But when she was on the battlefield she was a ferocious fighter with boundless courage, whose swift spear and quick shield saved many of the Order's soldiers as she stood over them and protected them and gave them enough time to recover. Because it was in battle where she was truly at peace with herself. When the young girl known as Elia was found on the Order's doorsteps, Father Alcinder entrusted her safety to Bridgette. Charging her with guarding the young prophet and keeping her safe from all harms. Bridgette was reluctant, wanting to stay with the Order's army as they prepared to fight. But she came to see in Elia the innocent child that she had never allowed herself to be. The two formed a fast bound as Bridgette's heart began to thaw. When her young charge left the monestary and headed off to confront the undead hordes by herself, Bridgette had no choice but to follow. She'd sworn to defend the girl, after all, and she would even if that meant clearing the evil out of her way.
Appearance: Bridgette is a tall, commanding woman. A warrior, an equal of any other Zealot knight. She looks something like Helene's long-lost, evil sister. Her hair is long but a dark, raven black instead of a sunny blonde. Helene is crouching forward, about to strike, but Bridgette is rearing backwards as if shrugging off a blow from her opponent. Where Helene is screaming, there's a look of grim determination on Bridgette's face, like she's a professional about to go about doing her job. She's clad in armor but it's heavy, form concealing (Although, you know, not too much since this is Kongai, after all) plate mail that covers her from shoulder to toe. Wrapped around her shoulders is a blue cape, which swirls around her, flowing with her hair. In one hand she holds a large shield, perhaps a buckler with the Zealot's icon (a pointed cross) on it. In the other, she has a large spear with a heavy, pointed tip. She balances one end along the ground, bracing it as she lowers it towards her opponent.
  1. Spear Thrust. A straight-line thrust.
  2. Ferocious Strike. A dark colored slash arc.
  3. Aegis Stance. A transparent shield appears over Bridgette, flashes, and then fades away.
  4. Whispered Prayer. Bridgette glows with holy light.
Suggested Item: Crusader's Shield

Brigette has always been a troubled character. More than any other card in this set, she's gone through multiple drastic revisions and sweeping changes. She's just never worked. I'm not really sure why, though, since I think she's got a solid concept. She's a close-range scrapper with a way of getting around range difficulties. Throw in some defense and I think it's fairly well thought out. And I think the skills supporting that concept, the mechanics that she carries with her, are pretty solid, too. But, somehow, although all the elements are there she's just never come together. I blame the fourth skill problem.

Sometimes, when designing these cards, I get three great skills or an excellent pair with one that's just okay. But, then, I just stare and stare, metaphorically, at the blank slot that's left because I just can't figure out what should go there. I can't count the number of times that I've come up with something awful just to take up space and had to churn through a half dozen ideas before I found something that stuck. Or tally the amount of work I've made for myself by trying to turn the subpar skill on that fourth line into something that actually shines. The 4th skill, then, is often the hardest to come up with and the one that results in the most frustration by far. The reason, I think, is one of averages. It's hard to come up with four skills that are completely equal, even when they're useful at different ranges and in different ways. If you undershoot that mark then you've got a poor skill that's weak. But if you overshoot that mark you wind up with a skill that's better than average. And that powerful skill drags the level of the bar up and sets a new benchmark for the other skills, tending to pull them upwards. And there's always one skill that can't or won't come along and, therefore, winds up feeling vestigial.

The fourth skill here is actually the third one, Aegis Stance. The latest version is a recent change and I'm not sure if I like it or not. The idea is that Bridgette is the Shield Maiden so she should have some kind of defensive abilities. Skill #3 is her big way, then, of avoiding damage. It gives her a significant chance to avoid a hit, preserving her health, but it also plays into her offensive nature by harming her opponent at the same time. It's potentially very useful since it lasts a few turns and gives her a good chance to bounce back at least one attack. That might also influence Bridgette's foes, causing them to be more or less likely to risk their big attacks depending on how much they like to go for broke. But because I don't want to give her an insta-reflect (Which she had once but, then, I figured it was just too powerful) it might also be completely random. I figure there's roughly a two-thirds chance that something gets sent back at its attacker over those two turns which shouldn't be too bad. But if it's not something that Bridgette can rely on then it's just an expensive paperweight sitting on her bar.

That skill slot, I feel, holds this character back. I'm also not sure about her inate which plays into the Zealot idea of debuff hate but does so in a way that might be leagues ahead of Juju's similar debuff removing innate. But that's an automatic process while Bridgette has to attack. And because she's a single-ranged character that might not be as easy as it sounds. Still, you'd have to rate her 50% chance to remove a troublesome debuff as somewhat better than the 30% that Juju gets. I can live with that though since, one, Juju is not a particularly good card so I wouldn't hold him up as a role-model for aspiring characters, and, second, that Zealot theme of debuff removal is a strong one and it influences the design here.

Beyond that, though, Bridgette is a great card. If you could somehow mask out Aegis Stance and her innate then what she does is awe inspiring. That's because the dirty little secret about Bridgette is that she's not really a Zealot card but, instead, an Amazon (With, perhaps, some Zealot trappings), something I not-so-slyly alude to in her background tale. The Amazons, though, those green bordered cards are characters with powerful, straight-forward attacks and clear-cut effects that tend towards one range or the other. And with Bridgette, I was trying for a card that could easily stand alongside such representatives as Ashi and Helene. Sort of a lost Amazon, the 6th card from their group.

It starts with a simplified attack routine. Bridgette has it boiled down to the absolute essentials. She's got one attack that's slow and powerful, her nuke. And, then, she's got another that's cheap and quick, her staple. That's, really, all that a character needs to be a credible attacker. As long as they can alternate between chipping and blasting away, they should be able to finish anyone off.

The staple attack here is Skill #1, Spear Thrust. There's absolutely nothing to this attack other than it being fast. It's vanilla, no special flavorings added but still real tasty. Spear Thrust isn't just fast, it's cheap, too. A 20 energy skill that Bridgette can almost always use. And one that does a decent amount of damage so she can use it to pound away at a stubborns foe.

The speed of Spear Thrust is a nice quality to have, though, thanks to the buff procced by Skill #2, Ferocious Strike. Bridgette's nuke, it delivers a massive blast of 40-odd damage with a reasonable price tag and a nice proc. It will almost always give a player the buff Pious Fervor which lets Bridgette increase her damage by 12. This is typed damage, light, and rather than being added on to her attack it strikes in addition to her attack, so there's a double hit of resistance. But since there are few characters with multiple high resistance, it's nearly certain to add some extra pain. Because that's a pretty good jump, there's also a drawback to this buff – it makes Bridgette incredibly likely to miss if she's attacked first. She loses 75% off her chance to hit if her opponent can smack her first, giving her a base of 15%. Her attacks might connect but isn't going to most of the time. But that's alright because while the 4 speed Ferocious Strike might become too easily interrupted that's exactly what I want. And Bridgette won't even notice since she has the 8 speed Spear Thrust, which gets even more of a percentile boost to its damage and that only the quickest of attacks will be able to knock off stride.

The idea is that the increased damage from the Fervor buff adds enough damage to Spear Thrust to turn it from a three-turn finisher to a two-hit kill. The combination would deal 78 raw damage, which is deadly to the average character (More than enough, really, to get a kill but, keep in mind, you get tagged by resistance thrice during those two hits so the extra damage helps the attack to absorb those blows while still remainig lethal.). Even two hits from Spear Thrust alone, checking in a 36 a piece, are enough to be lethal alone and with a 4 turn duration, there's enough time to get those hits even if an opponent switches out. At the same time, the idea is that I don't want Bridgette chaining too many Ferocious Strikes together in a row. It's borderline fair, especially for a single-ranged character, but it's still very aggressively priced, so to speak. But with the buff up then Spear Thrust starts to look amazingly good while Ferocious Strike becomes a pretty bad risk. The Pious Fervor buff not only gives an incentive to use the weaker Spear Thrust but it also penalizes the continued use of Ferocious Strike.

Furthermore, the idea is that Ferocious Strike is a big, scary skill. An attack that opponents take one look at and then decide to get the heck out of that range. I want, in so many words, for opponents to push Bridgette back because that's when Skill #4, Whispered Prayer becomes relevant. And I really like Whispered Prayer. It's one of my early attempts at coming up with a way of defeating the range changing game that didn't involve simply piling on with skills that automatically changed range.

Giving a single-ranged character something to do while at their off-range is a tested idea. But it's one that, often, doesn't work. Helene, for example, has her Enchant Blades which she can use on the turn she's out of range to buff up for when she gets in reach. Its extra damage theoretically offsets the turn spent not attacking. But the problem is that, in practice, it doesn't really help since the range game is played between yellow bars. Getting in range is about getting to attack but getting there is about having energy. And even 0 energy skills can keep a character from having enough energy with which to attack. Enchant costs Helene nothing to cast but, because it counts as using a skill, it costs her 20 energy since she can't rest. If she's in the middle of a lengthy push-pull cycle that +20 energy is the difference between getting close enough for a blast or remaining stuck with nothing to do. An off-range skill that costs 0 energy should be a trade-off between doing something now and doing nothing in the hopes of doing something in the future, but too often is a choice between doing nothing in order to do nothing down the line again. Even if those low energy skills were powerful enough to be worthwhile, they wouldn't be worth the effort since they cost more in terms of being able to attack than they add in terms of impact when you do – the 0 and 10 energy skills don't tend to be all that strong, after all.

With Whispered Prayer, though, Bridgette sacrifices the energy she'd gain by resting to, instead, kick it down the line. It's, effectively, a delayed rest. Bridgette will eventually gain that energy she would have gotten by resting, it will just take her a few turns. And when it arrives, it'll come with a return on that investment in the form of even more energy and some healing on the side. With some luck and planning you can time it so that the energy arrives just as you're getting into range or when you've run out of energy to press your attack.

The result should be that Bridgette is a hard character to range against. You can try and step away and you can try to play keep away but she's going to come out ahead on energy before long. And the healing she'll gain means you have to do an awful lot of damage to her in order to offset the damage. Bridgette then, thanks to Skill #2, becomes a characer you want to push away but, because of Skill #4, becomes a character than you don't dare to shove back.

I'm not quite sure where the point at which Whispered Prayer is fair, though. How many turns it should last. How much healing it should provide. I think the energy amount on display here is about right – that 30 energy is enough with the rest from the end of the turn to give her 50 and that's enough to press the range issue. It might be enough, it might not be enough, but it's hard to say without seeing how it actually plays. I have worked to cut out some potential abuses, though, which is why the effect ends if Bridgette is switched away. That means she has to remain on the field to get the bonus energy and health. And that clever players can push her Far when she gets hurt, spend a turn buffing up, and then whisk her away so that her timer ticks off and she heals for a massive amount while she's safely in the hand. She has to stay in the fight, she has to continue to play tug of war with the range, if she wants to benefit from Whispered Prayer.

But Bridgette is, I think, a character well suited to stay in and even win the fight. I have my questions about how the ideas have been implemented and if the skills here would actually work but I know the concept is right. Because the concept is that Bridgette is a card who makes it hard to get away from what she does best – and what she does best is smack her opponents until they stop moving. I'm troubled not because she's a bad card but because I don't think I've done my best to make her live up to the amazing promise that she holds yet.

1 comment:

x1372 said...

Interesting ideas. I actually think that 20 health and 30 energy would be a good balance for the delayed thing.

Also, you do realize that the way things currently are, Juju is considered one of the absolute top characters in Kongai right now? Juju + elusive feather has good defense against every type of attack (high dark and light, innate to reduce DoTs, feather to dodge physical). Combine that with healing and an unresistable attack (Curse of Juju) and the guy's just scary. One of the main reasons he's not used much is because people fear getting stuck in a juju vs juju mirror match which can take 100+ turns and has very little skill or guessing games involved.