Empath training suggestions (guide)
Posted by Nilandia 23 June 2012.
There are a lot of varying opinions on how to train an empath, which speaks well to how robust and varied the profession can be. Having brought an empath from level 1 straight up to cap as a spellcaster, perhaps I might offer a couple thoughts to ponder as you decide what you'd like to do.
As mentioned, an empath can easily be a healer without too much specialized training. If you want to improve your healing ability, you'll want to train in transformation lore, empath spell ranks and perhaps blessing lore. However, those will only reduce the time needed to heal yourself after you've taken care of a patient, or the chance of a scar erasing itself when you heal a wound. If you're not too worried about that, you can look to training your character to be a better hunter. This may be more of interest to you, since it will help break the monotony if you find yourself bored after healing for a few hours.
I will highly suggest training in a weapon skill and mowing down critters as fast as you can during your first 30 days. Expect your lower levels as a pure spell caster to be very painful Mana-wise unless you have a supply of Wands at your disposal. I'd even claim that empaths have it more difficult than other pure professions since our 1-mana attack spell is relatively weak and bone shatter is very mana intensive in the lower levels. With a few exceptions, I didn't start reliably frying on my own mana until the early 40's. Once you get to that point, however, life gets easier as you go along. By cap, my character can blast through her hunting areas with ease, and her deaths are extremely rare.
I built my character for flexibility rather than specializing in a single spell. Her skills are intended to augment as many spells as possible, letting her have a tool at her disposal for nearly any creature in the game. At the same time, the spells she does use are still very potent. The bone shatter build already presented is certainly viable, though it wasn't what I was looking for.
The skills to look at, along with the training plan I suggest, are as follows.
- 8 ranks of Armor use. You have no hindrance (spell failure) in double leathers, and 8 ranks will remove all armor penalties associated with them. People who like stronger armor will want to have more ranks to train down hindrance and other penalties as much as possible.
- Physical fitness, either once or twice per level for life. Physical fitness figures into a lot of systems, in ways we do and do not see. I'd singled until cap and switched to doubling once I got the points, and I haven't regretted it for a moment. Singling it for life should be your absolute minimum.
- Arcane symbols and magic item use, once per level for life. You'll make your living on scrolls and wands in your early levels, especially since you can invoke scrolls one-handed with enough training (making it fantastic for attack spells) and you won't suffer any DS loss for holding either a scroll or a wand in your hand. In your later levels, both skills are cheap for boosting the defense your runestaff gives, it makes the spells you cast from scrolls and magic items more useful, and you can use items even while encumbered (your skill roll is penalized the more encumbered you are).
- Spell aiming, twice per level for life. Spell aiming determines your AS for bolt spells, including empathic assault, web bolt and fire spirit. You'll also use spell aiming when using wizard wands, which will be your mainstay for your early levels. Spell aiming must be doubled or not trained at all. It is useless if you only single it.
- Harness power, twice per level for life. Given how expensive our spells are, mana-wise, you'll want as much mana as possible. Doubling harness power will give you 4 mana per level. This can be adjusted for taste and society choice, but doubling is the baseline I suggest.
- Mental mana control, once per level for life. This skill figures into increasing the power of bone shatter. It also increases your mana regeneration by 1 mana per pulse per 10 ranks if it is the mana control you have the most ranks in, or 1 mana per pulse per 20 ranks if it is the second highest. Mana controls also function as inexpensive skills to help boost your runestaff defense and, of course, sharing mana with others. 24 ranks will allow you optimal share with someone who also has at least 24 ranks, but overtraining will help compensate if the other person has less than 24 ranks.
- Spirit mana control, once per level for life. This skill's impact is more subtle on your spells and is most important for runestaff ranks, mana regen and sharing with others.
- Spirit lore, summoning, once per level for life. I'm hopelessly addicted to this skill. It boosts the power of your fire spirit, allows you to unlock and augment your best disabling spell (web bolt), strengthens your spirit servant that auto-keeps you when you die, gives more power to wither, lets you choose which herbs you grow, allows you to locate people in distant realms, and a lot of other helpful abilities. I'd recommend reading up on the skill to see what all if effects, because it's a lot!
- Mental lore, telepathy, once per level starting at level 0 until 20 ranks. This skill affects a few of our spells, but the big reason for this is to boost empathic assault. Empathic assault is unique in that it has an initial bolt attack using spell aiming for the AS, and then it follows with CS attacks for additional pure HP loss. The baseline spell only gives one CS attack after the initial bolt. Training in telepathy lore will give you more CS attacks, with one additional each at 5 and 20 ranks. I'm very much a fan of empathic assault, and I'll outline some tactics for its use later on.
- Mental Lore, TransformationMental lore, transformation]], once per level after reaching 20 ranks of telepathy lore until all healing RT is removed. I'll admit I like to be able to heal people, so I started training in transformation to help reduce healing RT. At the same time, the lore helps with troll's blood and regeneration. You'll get an additional use of regeneration per day with 50 ranks of transformation, which can be very helpful if you're in trouble. Finally, transformation will boost the strength of the bolt portion of empathic assault.
- Climbing and swimming, once every other level to 15 ranks each, then add more to 30 climbing and 50 swimming at later levels. These are mostly to help with accessing hunting areas, but you won't need more than 15 ranks until at least your 60's. You'll want to reach 30 ranks of climbing to hunt the Rift, minotaurs and so on (starting around mid 60's), while 50 ranks of swimming will be needed for Nelemar (starting in your 90's).
- First aid, twice per level for life. This skill adds directly into being able to skin, which will prove useful for bounties and CoL skinning tasks, and lowering RT for eating herbs or tending wounds. It's a cheap skill and very useful.
- Perception, 30 ranks when you can manage. I haven't seen reason to get more, but other people may wish to correct me.
- Spells, at least twice per level. Use one rank per level in either of your spirit circles, and put the rest in your empath spells. Training in empath ranks will boost your CS to make your bone shatter, empathy, sympathy and wither casts more effective. Cap your empath spell ranks at level+21, however, as your gains won't be worth the points spent until well past cap. As far as spirit spells are concerned, it really depends on what you feel you need. I advocate going to 103 in minor spirit, then up to 202 in minor spirit for defense. After that, I suggest going up to 111 for fire spirit, running up to 215 for your AS boosters, then to 120 to finish your physical DS boosts and finishing to 220. Beyond that, train to taste. You may want to reach for 225 and 130 to run rescues, head to 140 for some emergency DS, or 240 to put your killing strength into overdrive for a short period of time. However, spell training is very dependent on personal taste. You may want to train more often in spirit spells or ignore my training outline entirely.
You may notice that I haven't included manipulation lore. Training in manipulation lore will give you a chance to instantly kill something with bone shatter by completely imploding a creature's skeletal structure, or with wither by the nebulous haze. However, a GM had posted that the percent chance of someone insta-killing a target with a good number of ranks in manipulation lore was in the single digits. I had trained in manipulation lore at the time, and I noticed that I was killing creatures by snapping necks or other severe criticals far more often than I was insta-killing them. To me, manipulation lore simply wasn't worth the investment for the return. I switched the points over to transformation lore to boost my healing ability, and I was much happier with the result.
I also haven't included blessings lore. The major benefits an empath receives from blessings lore include being able to cast certain spells on others for a minute or two, a chance for healing a wound to heal a scar at the same time, and to restore stamina when using adrenal surge. While my character uses stamina a lot since she joined Sunfist, training in blessings lore would have forced me to give up my summoning lore, and I couldn't give that up. I am, however, tempted to take up blessings lore post-cap. In a general sense, blessings lore seems geared more towards the character intended to help other people, while summoning lore seems more for the hunters.
Attack Spell Tactics
A few words regarding attack spell tactics. With bone shatter being so powerful, there are many empaths who make it their only attack spell. That is certainly a valid way to go, but it often leads to some unfamiliarity with the other spells at our disposal. These are some observations I've made from playing with the spells over the levels, but I highly encourage any empath to play with things to find their comfort zone.
- 1101: Our first attack spell, 1101, is weak as befits a first level spell. It's mainly useful for very low levels and finishing off creatures near death with as little mana use as possible. Since 1101 does pure HP damage, it's excellent when needing to gather skins, since damaging the body part from which the skin is taken can lower the value and quality of the skin. Grabbing a wizard for a little rapid fire and 1101 makes for a great way to gather unblemished skins and an entertaining hunt!
- 1106: Bone shatter is the big gun in our arsenal, and even with my tactics, it's often the first spell I'll pull out when meeting an unfamiliar critter. Bone shatter's damage is boosted if you channel it, if you're in a more offensive stance, and if you have one or both hands open. As I gained levels, however, I found that the damage from the spell tends to be rather front-loaded, meaning that you'll max out the damage on each round pretty quickly and the boosts you get for channeling, stance and open hands tend to be unnecessary if you're using all three. Play around with the spell as you gain levels to check out the difference each makes and see if you think it's worth it. Once I hit my 50's, I channeled with one open hand (runestaff in the other) from guarded stance and never felt like I was missing anything.
- 1110: Empathic assault is often overlooked, but I use it a lot depending on the creature. I often used it on living creatures with a lot of HP, that I can't crit kill, that might wander off, that is in the middle of a swarm, that can't muster the AS to worry me while I'm in guarded, that I want to skin, that has been webbed, or any combination of the above. If the initial bolt hits, the target's defense against the CS attacks will decrease during those attacks. If you land another bolt on the same target while the CS attacks are in progress, you'll refresh the CS attacks and their defense will continue to decrease. In addition, the CS attacks continue even if the creature is in another room, though it is a bit more difficult to continue from a distance. It'll even work on a roa'ter after it's burrowed. Another favorite tactic is if a critter is in a swarm. I'll dart in, hit it with an empathic assault, and run out. The CS attacks will continue to damage it while I stay safely out of the way. Lastly, since webs drastically reduce a critter's DS against bolts, but fire spirit burns the webbing away, I like to pair web bolt with empathic assault to chip away at particularly tough critters while they're helplessly webbed to the ground. Keep in mind that the CS attacks don't work on undead, but the bolt still hits just as hard.
- 1115: Wither is expensive at 15 mana per cast, but it packs a punch few spells can match. Unlike most spells, wither likes to keep hitting the same body location in the same cast until it's obliterated, where other spells randomly pick their locations for each round of damage. If it destroys that location in the middle of the damage rounds, it will move on to another and continue to happily harass the poor sap that got in my way. For this reason, I like to use wither on critters that can be crit killed but aren't easily incapacitated through stuns, or for whatever reason just need to be killed immediately. Bone shatter is fantastic for inducing stuns, but not every critter stuns easily and those stuns are often what keeps you alive. If wither hits a vulnerable spot, it can easily kill a critter in one shot, for 3 seconds of RT, where it may take three casts of bone shatter, 9 seconds of RT and 3 more mana.
- 1120: Sympathy is useful if you should get overwhelmed by swarms or if you just need a few seconds to breathe. Just remember that it will not affect undead unless you have appropriate telepathy lore training, and critters under its effects will still attack other characters not in your group. Sympathy is not very long in duration, so I only use it for emergencies, invasions, or for some RP instances. (Side note: Sympathy cast by critters can be devastating, so be careful!)
- 110: Unbalance is a CS attack spell. Since you're focusing on empath spells in your training, your CS won't be as high for this spell. If you can hit, however, it will knock a target prone as well as induce RT, disabling them for a time. I find web bolt to be much more effective as a disabler for the most part.
- 111: Fire spirit is another of our great attack spells. It's what's known as a ball spell, in that once the initial spell AS attack hits, it explodes outward to deal additional damage to the target as well as other creatures nearby. It does fire damage, which is fantastic against trolls, and with appropriate training, the splashes can be devastating. The number of creatures the splash will hit will vary. The base maximum is 8, but the upper limit can be increased with training in summoning lore. The minimum number of targets the splash will hit increases by 1 with every rank of multi-opponent combat. However, I never felt it was necessary to train in that skill until after I capped. Given fire spirit's versatility, it is my go-to for bolt spells to test the strengths and weaknesses of a new target, or in swarms or other emergencies. I did not use fire spirit at all while hunting the bowels of Thanatoph, since the caves are filled with explosive gases. Empathic assault, however, worked just fine.
- 118: Web is a delicious, delicious spell. Since I've trained in summoning lore, I use web bolt all the time. It's just 9 mana to use the bolt, and it has a great chance of webbing the target as well as doing unbalance damage, which also has a chance of knocking the target to the ground. Web bolt is my main disabling spell, and the more summoning ranks I have, the more likely it is to web something in place. You'll often find me webbing five things in place and then casually smashing faces in while all they can do is blink. It works great against flying creatures as well, and it has saved my life in swarms more times than I can count.
- 119: Spirit dispel is fantastic in certain circumstances, but it can be expensive mana-wise. I typically use it when a critter has prepared a spell that I don't want it to cast. This is dependent upon which critter I'm up against, however. A vaespilon often casts implosion, so I'm likely going to dispel one if I see it preparing a spell. On the other hand, if a critter's spell arsenal pretty much has no chance of hitting me, I'm just going to ignore that and continue beating the snot out of it. If a target has a single spell up that I want to remove, and no others, I can also use spirit dispel to remove that spell. If it has more than one spell, even if there's only one I want to remove, I tend to skip to spiritual abolition. Spirit dispel is a great tactic when going up against cast-happy invasion critters, particularly if you have another character nearby to cast elemental dispel at the same time. If the two dispels are cast on the same target, the influences of competing spheres can collide for some spectacular damage, depending on the level difference between caster and target.
- 125: I've never cast call lightning aside from blasting open boxes or blasting random stuff for fun. Just be careful that lightning can have some unpleasant effects in areas deemed to be under water, such as the beached hulk near Solhaven or Nelemar on Teras.
- 135: I sometimes forget that I have searing light, since it's another CS attack spell in the minor sphere. I mostly use it during invasions when I want to smack a bunch of little critters at once.
- 201: Calm is great as a disabler for the lower levels until your web bolt is strong enough to rely upon or until you decide you like to bind stuff. Since it's a major spirit CS spell and I have other tools at my disposal, I don't use it too often.
- 230: Spiritual abolition will not strip prepared spells, but only worn spells. I use it if the target is wearing multiple spells, regardless of how many I want to remove. I typically use spiritual abolition when a critter has turtled up and I want to bring them back down to size so I can get back to business sending it to Lorminstra.
I don't really use the other major spirit circle attack spells. If anyone has any tactics for their use, I hope they can add their thoughts.
Now a bit of mention of stats, since you were concerned about that. A lot of the information can be found on the official website, but I'll go over some points to bear in mind. I should note that there's a lot about the stats that we don't know, so most of what I outline here will leave out a lot of what a stat is used for. In addition, recommendations for where to place your stats depend quite a bit on your choice of race.
There are three categories of statistics: physical, mental and hybrid. Physical stats - strength, constitution, dexterity and agility - directly affect a character's physical abilities and factor into the amount of physical training points they have to spend. Mental stats - logic, intuition, wisdom and influence - tend to factor more into magic and mental processes, and determine how many mental training points a character has. Hybrid stats - aura and discipline - affect both physical and mental training point pools and abilities. Since you're looking to play a caster, you'll be training primarily in skills that use a lot of mental points, so putting points in stats that give you mental points would be a good idea.
- Strength does figure into physical weapon attack strength, but it also figures into a lot of other calculations. Encumbrance is a big one, helping to determine how much you can carry before you start suffering penalties. It also affects stamina, which you'll want to look at if you intend to have your character join Sunfist as a society, since its abilities often use stamina for its power. Strength affects a character's defense derived from parrying an attack, even if they're using a runestaff. This stat grows very slowly for an empath, so I tend to recommend placing it no less than 90 to begin with. As a sylvan, I placed this at 96 to start, and it's maxed out at 100 at cap.
- Constitution affects a character's maximum health points, maximum stamina, encumbrance, reacting to some maneuvers, resistance to crits and resistance to disease. I wouldn't be surprised if it affected other things, but those are what I can identify now. Since an empath is a healer dealing in health points, the tendency is to place this high, but I actually placed this quite low. We have a spell to restore our HP and we spend most of our time trying to avoid being hit in the first place, so I didn't find it as necessary to place the stat high. If you're playing an elven race, you won't need to worry about disease either. We have a +100 in our favor on the roll to resist diseases, and we have spells to nullify them even if we do fail the resistance. I doubt many people did the same, but I placed my con quite low, at 21. It's 71 at cap, and I didn't have too much trouble, but I'd suggest caution before doing the same.
- Dexterity plays into your spell bolt AS the same way strength plays into your melee weapon AS. It also helps with skinning critters. Obviously, if you're going to use bolt spells, you'll want a decent dexterity. This stat tends to grow moderately well for empaths, so you won't need to place it extremely high. As a sylvan, I put it at a 78 and noticed no real ill effects. It's now 100 at cap.
- Agility adds into your defense by measuring how well you can dodge attacks. This is another one I placed very low, starting at 23 and ending at 75 at cap. Placing it that low did affect my DS, but I managed to do fine. This is another case where I'd suggest caution before you try similar.
- Discipline affects a whole slew of systems, more than I could name, but is notable for helping to determine how much experience a character can store in their mind before they fry and need to return to rest. It also is assumed to be the stat that will determine a character's resistance to mental magic, though it has never been confirmed. I suggest placing the stat somewhat high, particularly if you're playing one of the elven races, since we take a significant hit to the stat bonus because of our race. I placed this one at 67 as a sylvan and it capped out at 96.
- Aura is a hybrid stat, like discipline, and it's a measure of a character's tie to magic. It's much more significant to elemental magic than ours, however, but it's worth bearing in mind that the aura stat is what determines a character's spirit points, at aura/10, rounded up. If you intend to join CoL, which uses spirit to power its abilities, you'll want to keep aura high enough to give you some spirit to work with. The stat does grow modestly, so you don't need to place it right at the top. I put this one at 56 to start, and it's now at 94 at cap. I should probably get a +1 aura enhancive just to get that last spirit point, dernit.
- Logic has a couple main functions. Like discipline, it functions into how much you can hold in your head before you fry. It is the only stat to affect how quickly you absorb that experience. Logic also is used when activating magic items and scrolls. The stat grows nicely for empaths, so if you're planning for the future, you don't need to place it extremely high. I had it at a 68 when I originally rolled up, and it's now 100 at cap.
- Intuition is a lot like agility in that it factors into being able to gain defense for dodging attacks. Since this was a mental stat and I was using a lot of mental training points, I was happy to put points in this stat. It started as a 79 and is now capped at 100.
- Wisdom is one of our big stats. It's considered a prime stat, meaning that it grows faster than normally and counts double in terms of how many training points we derive from that stat. In addition, it's one of our mana stats, meaning that it helps determine how much mana we start out with. It also figures into our casting strength and defense against spirit spells. This one I placed high for training points, at 80 when I rolled up. It's now 100 at cap.
- Influence is typically the "tank stat" for most professions, in that they tend to place this one low because there aren't too many systems interacting with it that are important to those professions. Not so for us. Influence is our second prime stat and mana stat, so it's important to keep this one high. This one grows a bit slower than wisdom, so you'll likely want to put influence higher than wisdom. My character started life with a 92 in influence, and it's now 100.
With that in mind, I should comment that I initially placed these stats for more training points and with an eye for growth. There are various perspectives for placing stats. Some place theirs to have as many 100's in stats at cap. Others place important stats high from the get-go so their characters will be more powerful at an earlier level. Now that I've reached cap, I do intend on investing in a fixstat once I've gained enough training points to keep my training as it is but getting as many stats at 100 as possible. That said, I never really had any problems with the stat set that I've noticed.
My apologies for writing so much, but since you've mentioned that you're newly returned, I wanted to make sure that I was as clear as possible in my explanations. If you have any questions about what I wrote or anything else on the empath profession, feel free to drop me a line. You can IM me at Lady Nilandia, or e-mail me at my play.net (add my account name in front of @play.net for the address).
Welcome back, and good luck!