Time to time, I write up an explication of characters I’ve played in RPGs or made for my own purpose. This is an exercise in character building and creative writing.
Hey, what’s the weird tradition YOUR family has?
For Mika, his family follow an obscure religion, the Zantedeschian faith. It’s a pretty sweet gig, with lots of flower festivals, feasts, and gift-giving ceremonies, body positivty, and apparently, the goddess has all these cool heroic stories. He even had a position at the family temple, of a Knight – which again, meant things like attending the festivals.
And when Mika was kidnapped by the council to serve as a host for a gestating Nictus, though, the Nictus that tried to consume him found that that faith wasn’t in nothing.
You know what will give your faith strength? When your god’s power flows through you and shreds the soul of the thing that tried to destroy you.
Odds are if you meet Nightsun as a member of the City of Heroes, as a hero or a villain, you’re dealing with a hero, in a mask, that has a certain knightly air to it. There’s a golden frame, a sort of floating halo, and glimmering light. His armour is overlaid, and has glowing, floating panels around it, and a sun motif. He wears a cape. He’s also just not a very large person, by the standards of the City, which means to say: He is average height compared to most of the population.
And then when trouble happens, he suddenly shapeshifts into a ghostly outline of an alien space crab the size of a cement mixer, and starts smashing things with enormous, transluscent fists.
Think like a werewolf but a bit more ‘spooky space witch’ powers. He can do things like fade out of sight, or summon energy ghosts out of unconscious people, and also, an average size human can go places an enormous space monster can’t. Most of the time, he keeps his distance from opponents, flying and even teleporting around to keep them off their guard, as he tries to solve his problems with negotiations and care…
… and then he can’t any more and the Night Sun Rises.
As a hero, Nightsun is helpful, enthusiastic, polite, and thinks that most problems are problems of communication. He doesn’t trust police and he doesn’t think they solve problems in the right way, so he does what he can to make guns irrelevant. He’s extremely tough, and uses his powers creatively, but he’s unfortunately kinda stuck in a binary: When he needs to solve a problem he can get creative or be tough at it.
Nightsun is also very social and cooperative. While he doesn’t position himself as a leader, he is always looking for group situations where he can see people whose skills don’t overlap with his, where he can help people do things they might find otherwise difficult, and in turn help him. A real team player and community-minded, Nightsun aims to be a sort of knightly figure, as befits his position as a knight of the Zantedaschian church.
Zantedaschians are a small community church, with a number of temples around the world, which seem to follow a niche book of religious philosophy handed down at some point in the 1980s. Unlike a lot of these kinds of philosophy books, though, these texts were largely bad at consolidating power and money, but pretty good at guiding people to form mutual aid community groups. Their church is definitely structured around the worship of a goddess, Zantedaschia, but her precepts are things like ‘be nice to one another’ and ‘sharing is good, actually,’ without a host of more elaborate rules about carrying a sword.
The Zants in paragon have a temple – it’s the largest one the faith has – and they mostly spend their time doing community work, feeding poor people, repairing people’s homes after incidents, and ensuring people have access to what they can. The Zants throw festivals throughout the year, often tied to solar events – they’re essentially a sun religion who value being nice and plants. This means they do a lot of communal gardening, growing and sharing food freely, and it’s something of a recurrent joke that Zants will bring bread bowls to anything.
As gluten intolerance has been on the rise, it’s actually way more common for Zants to bring shepherd’s pie, and with the commonality of vegetarianism in the group, bean shepherd’s pie.
As festivals go, two are particularly noteworthy: Around Valentines day, they have a festival known as the Moon’s Kiss, which is about an important celestial event about the moon and sun’s path touching in a particular way. They distribute flower crowns and sing songs, and also give away plants that should grow food if given sunlight. They also celebrate at the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, which is sometimes framed as ‘the sun sleeping in.’ These tend to be three or five day house parties, where people come together and have a sleepover and big meals, to share the heat and push away the dark. Blanket forts are involved.
The Warshade is a problem child in City of Heroes character building. See, where most of the time, the design of this game is one where you have powers you toggle on and they do things for you and you get to choose what does or doesn’t seem best at any given point in time, the Warshade (and its cousin species, the Peacebringer) on instead having toggles that are meant to ‘mode switch.’ The Warshade has two special toggles in it, Dark Nova and Black Dwarf (they’re talking about stars, I’m not being rude).
Dark Nova is a flying, fragile little critter that looks like a squid that has a big boost to its damage output, and can only execute five attacks, which are all ranged. Oh and one of them does knockback. Black Dwarf turns you into an enormous hulking alien extradimensional shadow crab monster, which can also, again, only use about six attacks. It’s basically that your human form has a mix of attacks and utility powers, but if you want to be a proper ranged damage dealer, you go squiddy, and if you want to be a proper melee damage dealer, you turn into a crab. The vision for this, once upon a sunset, was that these characters should be fluidly jumping from form to form, with powers in the human, base form, enhancing powers in the other forms.
That vision has since fallen by the wayside, and it predates the invention system.
Let me answer some questions that I had about Warshade forms when I started working on this build, questions that I couldn’t get clean, consistent answers about on Homecoming.
- You keep the invention set bonuses even if you do not currently have the power ‘available’ to you
- Stamina, health, swift and hurdle all ‘work’ in the forms, so enhancing them or putting procs in them still does stuff
- You can use clicky Incarnate powers in form, like Destiny, Hybrid, Judgment and Lore powers and they work the way you want them to work.
- Alpha and Interface work on the powers you have in shapeshifted form
- Powers activated in one form will ‘play out’ their full duration even if you shapeshift, so you can use this to activate powers like Hasten in a shapeshifted form
- You can’t even now use pool power toggles like Combat Jumping or Weave
- Kheldians on homecoming can also use their t1 ranged attack (Shadow Bolt on Warshades, Gleaming Bolt on Peacebringers)
This is a lot of information that I’ve had to dig up and learn manually, and involves investing a surprising amount of time to check, since you have to get access to all the incarnate pieces to do it. Those are pretty much only available by grinding.
But we’re not done yet, because the Warshade has another famous problem: Mez protection. Only in crab form are Warshades mez-protected, which means that you have to be careful of getting mezzed, which can really interfere with smoothly shifting from form to form.
The Warshade is an archetype then that asks a lot of you in terms of just what you want it to do. You can make it a ranged blaster platform, you can make it a tricky melee control type that scraps it out, you can make it into a big dumb tank, you can make it a build that relies on shifting between different forms, like build a really strong squid and crab and leave the human form to do very little. Lots of choices. What’s rarer, in my experience is for someone to really build to make one form really the focus.
Nightsun is a heavily focused crab build. His default human form is there for travel and for a few recovery powers; he swaps into it to summon pets, to recover when he’s heavily drained, to stealth past things, to escape, to do long-range teleports, and that’s it. There’s one attack he has in human form, summoning a small bolt of nictus energy.
But when he shapeshifts into a crab form, he is suddenly enormous and terrifying. And that form is tough, tough in a way that’s hard for the game to threaten a lot of the time.
The big incentive to do this is a revision right before sunset on Live, to the Warshade power Black Dwarf Mire. This used to just be a self-buff power with a long duration and a recharge twice as long. In an example of a straight-up improvement, Castle made it so that power suddenly had the damage and recharge of brute all-star power Foot Stomp. And it still did +Damage. This was what excited me: In a suitably dense environment, you just had to overlap Mires, and your Warshade was now living at the damage cap.
What I wanted to do then was find a way to make him tough, with the limitations on what powers he could be running. I hate form switching, I hate complex macros, so in this case, I wanted Nightsun to be as simple as possible. The aim behind the build was making it fire-and-forget, even if that involved spending a bunch of money.
He did wind up with a macro like I use on Abra, to let him do combat teleports.
The final build for Nightsun came together and hit these goals:
- I wanted as close to ranged defense soft-cap as possible
- I wanted to be able to fire off Mire while Mire was active, so bringing it down to below 10 second recharge (base of 20)
- I wanted to be able to use all the attacks as a Crab well and have a smooth attack pattern
- I wanted to be able to move at speed in Crab form, since I wouldn’t have Sprint
- I wanted to be able to maintain at least two Dark Extraction pets
- I wanted to be able to do this without form-switching for powers like Hasten
How’d I do at that?
Well, his build has:
- 45% ranged defense with set bonuses only.
- 60+% resist all
- 80%+ resist to Smashing and Lethal
- 42% global damage buff (what the hell)
- 90% global recharge buff (enough for 3 Dark Extraction pets)
- -16 knockback protection in all forms
- +28% run speed
And some miscellaneous other stuff like regen and base endurance recovery.
This build is in my opinion really absurd. What’s more, it has room to improve. My numbers are a little uncertain with the building program I use, but I think with the T4 incarnate Alpha, he might be able to have capped resistances to Smashing and Lethal, which means that there are whole categories of enemies he will be able to ignore.
I am really fond of this build because it’s so experimental. I had to actually build this and tinker with it and then see if I could make what was left with the tinkering work, and there were false starts and note taking. It’s a build where there was a lot of misinformation and a lot of hypothetical. And I did it, and without having to get Winter IOs (one of the most expensive category of equipment).
It might not surprise you to know that I, a raging jerk atheist, do not typically play religious characters. Even in D&D games where ‘being religious’ tends to come with mechanical advantages, I’m usually keeping that element of a character swept away. I like Paladins, I don’t like churches.
I am however, also a big advocate for enabling your friends in RP. If one of your friends’ characters has say, a magic shop where they get people to come in and solve mysteries, make one of your characters someone who goes to that store and maybe knows them as a customer. Treat the things that the other character needs in the world like it’s real.
And one of my friends plays a sun goddess.
She’s not just ‘a sun goddess’ mind you. She’s an alien sun goddess from another world, stuck to a human from our world, and she asks all these complicated questions about what does it mean to lose your identity and are you the sum of your memories and also what can outlast your memory failing and all sorts of other extremely challenging questions which are also filtered through a really sweet, lovable superheroine who is essentially a Heroic Himbo Lady. Her name is Calla or Radiant Sol, and she’s the Zantedaschia in the church’s name.
There was a period in her life when she was basically sitting on a mountain top giving people extremely vague but love-positive advice. When she came down from that mountain and got a handle on things like ‘being alive’ she found to her embarrassment that an entire religion had formed around her teachings, a religion that she now viewed it as her duty to protect…
… But also, because a premise of the faith was to not abuse power over people, to never make a thing that relied on her for power, or that she could direct for the abuse of that power.
Calla drops by the church periodically, pretending to be a normal, ordinary human, she smiles and she waves and she’s just nice and she tries very hard to never be in the room when they depict Their Goddess in art because someone might work it out then.
I find this whole church idea entrancing. I find it lovely. And importantly, I like my friend and I like her ideas and I want to make those ideas more real. So I play a member of a church that she made as a part of her character’s backstory. And I do what I can to flesh it out and I talk to her about it, and the result is Mika, Nightsun, a hero who is empowered by a goddess, and gives me a wholly new, different, interesting way to play the game.
He is a representative of a religious group that are empowered by sincerely loving. They are the things that I am told faiths want to be, and they express it in ways that make sense to me (and my friend, who invented the church). And the result is… well, someone superheroic.
And also someone who makes sure there’s coffee available for the festival.