Lacuna, the Wardancer
Super Short Summary: Lacuna is a high-skill technical melee firepower. She has absolutely no ranged attacks. Accordingly, she is uniquely vulnerable, but has certain unique strengths as well: high damage on short cooldowns, the ability to generate energy quickly, and an ultimate that makes her a powerful killing machine while activated — think Meridian Ult meets Brain Juice. I tried to make her not just do stupid damage to compensate for her melee range and low hit points, and I think I succeeded. I will freely admit that this was by far the hardest concept I’ve ever had to balance, so I hope I got it right. Really curious to hear your thoughts on this one — I think she’s quite unique and special.
Commentary: This concept was brewing for a while. I had this notion of a set-up style move (I termed it “Preparation” in my head as a nod to Rogues in fantasy, though knowing that Kaigin had a mod of the same name) where you simply gain energy, nothing else. The idea was that the character could get an ult quickly and unleash some sort of combo with it. I also had a notion of a power-up style ultimate where it simply makes you stronger while active (a bit like Meridian in how I ended up deciding to implement it, but a very different sort of ability all the same). I didn’t expect to blend them into a singe character, but that’s where I found myself going thematically. I knew I wanted a melee firepower that offered more offense than the current options (even PuP has significant healing and utility) — maybe something closer to Tol-Ren. This character also has some Elle-like aspects and even a few similar mods due to the similarities between Overcharge and Incantation. I built on some of the above and before I knew it I had an interesting kit taking shape. As usual, I tried to make the mods such that you have a few distinctive styles: getting a quick trance (channeling, fast rites), sustaining your trance with energy generation (up tempo, vivacious, battle song, twirl), playing defensively (dragon’s duet, spiritual protection / regenerative salve, safety dance, impervious — which can all accomplish this in different ways!), being mobile (not dizzy, huntress, tarantella, unrelenting), dealing burst damage (forceful spin, dance of death, ritual blades), or making your trance as devastating as possible (unrelenting comes to mind).
I wanted to force her to play up close, but give her pretty good tools for doing so: a real specialist (and yet, as noted above, with quite a few potential playstyles within that). An average primary with whirl deals 40 (28+12) damage (46 if the X hits), and she can even do 49 non-mighted damage with Forceful Spin (of course, this comes at a significant cost in terms of requiring a mod, hitting a precise square, and having increased cooldown on Whirl – and bear in mind she doesn’t have a damage ultimate or any ranged attack!). So…I think it’s reasonable. I actually originally had a mod that increased damage on the X, but Blatm talked me out of it. She doesn’t need it to be cool or scary, and Triple Tiger having a slowing effect seemed cool, if slightly strong. I think it’s OK to give her a slightly higher power level on certain things than your average lancer, given her limitations. But yeah, her balance was definitely a challenge. There are so many interesting levers to tweak.
One particular one was Whirl — is this overpowered? Should the cooldown be 2? I left it at 1. Bold, I know. 12 extra damage as a free action is a lot. I did give it a downside so you’ll think twice about mashing it, although something I think is cool is that if you combine it with Blade Dance (can’t move after dashing anyway) or Unrelenting (unstoppable) then you can somewhat mitigate this downside. And it was very important that she deal good damage — that’s her thing! And you can play around it a bit because Whirl is only available every other turn, whereas something like a PuP primary is a 46 (or 48 with bloodhound, or 52 with rabid) total hit point swing per target every single turn. (Not that PuP is the epitome of fairness, but pretend he didn’t have Walkies or a long-range Dash and you see why I think it’s okay for Lacuna to potentially do this much damage.)
Another minor one was Regenerative Salve. For just one mod point you can heal yourself every turn! Isn’t that OP? Well…that’s ALL you’re doing, besides moving. No damage. No energy gain. It’s like Second Wind but you have to do it 3 turns in a row instead of just the first turn. If you want to spend five turns running away to gain 50 hit points, be my guest. So I don’t think it’s OP. But it’s kind of neat.
Finally, one of the biggest challenges was getting her Trance right. It has to be strong but not overwhelming. I want her to be able to play in Trance for a decent amount of time during a game (it’s arguably more impactful than Meridian’s ult, but her kit is significantly less well-rounded than his). If her Trance is up all the time, she takes half damage and has no cooldown on her abilities. Well, we can’t have that. But it’s also not THAT insane. This is where the balance gets really tricky. Her only abilities with cooldowns are Whirl (which is only a 1-turn cooldown anyway), and Blade Dance (which is a zero-damage, three-square dash that intentionally has very limited energy gain). It certainly does increase her potential damage output and mobility options, but I don’t think it’s too oppressive. You can play against it. And yeah, it makes her tanky but she’s extremely squishy without it.
Anyway, without further ado, here’s the kit.
Lacuna, the Wardancer
Lore: Warrior of the Wastes, armed with swords and songs. Her appearance is a wild woman, with unkempt red hair and maybe an animal pelt or two. She wields dual swords which I have tons of great name ideas for but would totally prefer for Kaivee to come up with something awesome.
Primary — Song of Swords — Blast Phase
Slashes with her swords in an X shape in front of her (~3 length), dealing 28 damage with each. An enemy hit by both slashes (i.e. center of the X) takes 34 damage. Gain 12 energy for the first target hit and 8 energy for each additional target hit.
Individual Attention (2 points) (default) — an enemy hit by only one slash takes an additional 2 damage.
Up Tempo (1 point) — gain an additional 2 energy per enemy hit.
Dragon’s Duet (2 points) — if you hit an enemy with both slashes, gain 10 health.
Triple Tiger (3 points) — slash a third time, down the center (this increases the range of what you can hit slightly). If you hit an enemy with all three (i.e. the center of the asterisk-shape), it is slowed until end of turn.
Hack ‘n’ Track (1 point) — hitting an enemy with both slashes Reveals them until the end of the next decision phase.
2 — Whirl — Blast Phase — Free Action — Cooldown 1
Sweep around in a circle (Asana primary range (2), but a full circle), dealing 12 damage to enemies hit. Gain 6 energy per enemy hit. If you do not hit any targets, you are slowed this turn.
Vivacious (2 points) (default) — gain an additional 3 energy per enemy hit.
Not Dizzy (2 points) — if you do not hit any targets, you are not slowed by this ability.
Low Sweep (3 points) — slow enemies hit.
Forceful Spin (1 point) — deals an additional 3 damage, but increase the cooldown by 1.
3 — Incantation — Prep Phase — No cooldown
Gain 20 energy. Allows full movement.
Huntress (2 points) (default) — gain haste this turn.
Spiritual Protection (2 points) — gain 15 shields this turn.
Channeling (3 points) — if you do not move this turn, gain an additional 20 energy.
Battle Song (3 points) — using Incantation during Battle Trance grants an additional 15 energy.
Regenerative Salve (1 point) — gain 10 health, but do not gain energy.
Blade Dance — Dash Phase — Cooldown 2
Dash up to three squares in any direction and slow adjacent enemies on landing. Gain 6 energy per enemy hit by the slow.
Twirl (2 points) (default) — also gain 6 energy for any enemy you pass through while dashing. (However, you cannot gain more than 6 energy per enemy.)
Dance of Death (3 points) — if you do not hit an enemy with the slow, gain Might next turn.
Safety Dance (3 points) — gain 15 shields until end of next turn.
Tarantella (1 point) — gain Haste next turn.
Battle Trance — Prep Phase — Free Action — Costs 50 energy
Enter a trance state where your blades move faster and you do not feel pain. The Trance costs 20 energy per turn thereafter (increasing by 10 each subsequent turn) and lasts until cancelled or until you run out of energy to maintain it. While in Battle Trance, your abilities have no cooldown. You take 50% of normal damage and the other 50% drains your energy.
Fast Rites (2 points) (default) — entering Battle Trance costs only 40 energy.
Ritual Blades (2 points) — entering the Trance costs 60 energy. Gain Might this turn.
Impervious (3 points) — you instead take no damage during the Trance, and 100% drains your energy.
Unrelenting (3 points) — while in Battle Trance, you are Unstoppable.
Chakra Shield (1 point) — gain 10 shields this turn.
Note: You gain energy during the turn — does this count for reduction that turn? The way I envision this working is the same way gaining and losing health works during the turn. If you are at 20 health, take 30 damage (putting you to -10) and are then healed for 15, you end up at 5 hp. Similarly, if you are at 20 energy and take 60 damage (30 health and 30 energy), you drop to -10 energy. If you then gain 15 energy from your attacks that turn, you end up at 5 energy at the end of your turn. If you have an energy debt (say you gain no energy and finish at -10), any negative energy at the end of your turn is dealt to you as damage (i.e. you aren’t allowed to benefit from the absorb). (Thus, on our example, you’d end up losing 20 energy and taking 40 damage, which makes sense.)
A Few Suggestions for Builds:
Individual Attention — Low Sweep — Huntress — Dance of Death — Nothing. AoE loadout with some CC. You can use Low Sweep to slow so you don’t need to hit the slow on your dash, allowing you to use Dance of Death.
Up-Tempo — Vivacious — Battle Song — Tarantella — Unrelenting/Impervious. Sustained trance with a powerful trance mod. Tarantella is nice for a 1-point to allow better chasing.
Individual Attention — Forceful Spin — Channeling — Twirl — Ritual Blades. Simple concept here: Channel up some energy, then Trance for Might and use Whirl for that juicy burst. (Although, you pretty much get just one attack before you have to recharge a bit. Hope they didn’t get Fate Transferred!)
Dragon’s Duet — Not Dizzy — Spiritual Protection — Safety Dance — Chakra Shield. Very defensive build, designed to sustain you. Good if you’re taking heat or your team lacks a proper frontline (though you’re still a poor substitute). Could consider dropping Chakra Shield for Low Sweep here, although Not Dizzy is nice for survivability to make sure you don’t get slowed.