The Battle System
When two characters, or two groups of characters (or one character and one group... or whatever),
decide to resolve their conflicts with combat, battle mode begins. The combatants will
trade attacks in attempt to reduce the HP (Vim Points) of the other team to
0; a character whose HP reaches 0 is rendered
unconscious and can no longer take any actions in battle,
but some items and abilities can revive these "dead" characters before the
battle ends. Therefore, the battle does not end until all the members of one team are
reduced to 0 HP, at which point it is impossible for any of them to revive each other
because none of them can take any action, and they receive a Game Over, leaving the
opposing team victorious. The opposing team will be awarded with a number of experience
points (or XP) determined by the difficulty of the battle (though team members
who are "dead" when the battle ends will not receive XP), and will also have the opportunity to
loot the unconscious bodies of their foes in order to steal any items
that they were carrying.
The battle is divided into turns, during which each character may normally take one action. Each turn is divided into four phases, which occur in the following order: Player Phase, Partner Phase, Enemy Phase, and Other Phase. During the Player Phase, each of the Player Characters may take one action, but they may act in any order; the same goes for each of the other three phases, but for the appropriate groups of characters. Partner Characters are non-player characters who are assisting the player characters; Enemies are the opponents of the players and partners; and Other Characters are not assigned to either team and may attack any of the other characters (even other Other characters), but are generally people who the players and partners are trying to protect, in which case they may typically do nothing or heal the players with items. The end of the Other Phase is also when certain extra effects occur, such as those tied to Weather Conditions or things like Bobbery's time bombs. Often, there are no Partners or Other Characters, so their Phases will be skipped over. In some boss battles, the first turn skips the Player and Partner Phases and begins with the Enemy Phase.
Although Partner characters are helping out the player characters, they are not targeted by multitarget actions directed toward the player team—so for example, if a player character used an attack that granted a Stat Increase to his or her entire team, this would only apply to all of the players, not the Partners; and if an enemy used a multitarget attack on the players, the Partners would not be hit. The Partner Team may be targeted by multitarget actions, in which case all of the Partners will be affected, but none of the players will. The Other Team is similarly separate from the other three teams, but this is more obvious since they may not be directly helping the players.
During their Phase of each turn, any character has the following five options, of which they must choose one. Prior to this, a character may change their equipped weapon, or simply unequip the currently equipped one, for defensive purposes against the Weapon Triangle, but using a weapon to attack will equip that weapon (and using an unarmed attack will unequip any weapons), which will then remain (un)equipped until the character's next turn. The five turn options are:
- --› Basic Attack
- -----› Basic Attack (unarmed)
- -----› Basic Attack (armed)
- --------› Basic Attack w/ Melee Weapon
- --------› Basic Attack w/ Projectile Weapon
- --------› Basic Attack w/ Magic Weapon
- --› Special Attack
- -----› Special Attack (unarmed)
- -----› Special Attack (armed)
- --------› Special Attack w/ Melee Weapon
- --------› Special Attack w/ Projectile Weapon
- --› Psychic Attack
- -----› Psychic Attack (unarmed)
- -----› Psychic Attack (armed) [rare but possible]
- --------› Psychic Attack w/ Melee Weapon
- --------› Psychic Attack w/ Projectile Weapon
- --› Magic Spell (requires any Magic Weapon)
An "attack" may be anything from actually attacking the target to healing them, providing Status Benefits, inflicting Status Problems, having other effects entirely, or all of the above. (Or none of the above if it's something like Splash.) A character may use any kind of attack on any other character, but the general idea is to do bad things to enemies and good things to teammates (exceptions would be things like using a weak attack on a teammate in an attempt to wake them up from Sleep). For an unnecessarily larger amount of discussion on this topic, see here.
Named after the command from Paper Mario 2, it also draws from the series' mechanic of pressing A to guard against an enemy's attack. When this command is selected, the user will Defend until a full turn passes (the character can keep a weapon equipped while Defending, in which case Weapon Triangle effects still apply to attacks Defended against). A Defending character will take 1 less damage than usual from all attacks, whether physical, magical, or psychic, and even from [/] and [X] attacks, which bypass other forms of defense. Damage from Weather Conditions and from existing Status Problems is unaffected, but the chances of the Defender receiving any new Status Problems are reduced by half (so flip an extra coin). Other effects, such as stealing items or removal of Status Benefits, are also reduced to half accuracy. If the character is already Burned, Defending will activate Burn damage for that turn just like attacking would. The Defend command can also be modified by Shield-type weapons, generally making it reduce damage even more.
- --› Use Item on Self
- --› Use Item on Teammate
- --› Give Item to Teammate
- --› Discard Item
- --› Grab Discarded Item
- --› Load/Unload/Reload Projectile Weapon
- --› Put On/Take Off Armor
- --› Enter/Exit Vehicle
- --› Rearrange Equipped Badges
One item may be used per turn; again, technically, healing items may be used on enemies and attacking items on your own team, but generally you don't want to do that. In addition to using an item on another character, a character may give an item to another character, but if the intention is for that character to use the item, it is easier for the character holding the item to simply use it on the other character, otherwise the receiver will then have to use up their turn in order to actually get the item's effect. Giving is more useful in the case of held items that are not "used" in the same way as other items, or for trading weapons or armor. Items may be discarded in mid-battle, but they remain sitting there on the battlefield, so another character can grab the item, including an opponent of the discarder; either discarding an item or grabbing a discarded item uses up that person's turn. Loading an ammo pack into or out of a projectile weapon will use up a character's turn, but for convenience, if the character wants to switch out to a different type of ammo, the pack currently in the weapon may be taken out and a new one put in all in the same turn. The same applies to changing equipped armor in mid-battle (an extra suit held in the inventory being swapped for the one currently worn), or climbing out of one vehicle to get into another. All that being said, if the character only wants to unload a weapon without reloading it, take off armor without putting more on, or get out of a vehicle without getting into another one, these will still use up the character's full turn. If a character is Burned, they can perform any of these "use item" actions without being hurt by the Burn, and a turn will still be removed from the Burn count.
Attempting to flee from the battle works differently for players than for any other kinds of characters: firstly, Running Away only and always has a 50% success rate for players, and a failed attempt uses up that character's action for that turn. Success means that the entire player party exits the battle and is given the opportunity to flee from the enemy party in the field. If the players linger, the battle may be re-initiated, but they can attempt to run again. Since running may fail, more than one player character may attempt it in the same turn. However, some battles will be inescapable, generally due to the surrounding geography (including something simple like a door locking itself behind them after they enter a boss chamber), or the effect of an attack. For any non-player characters including enemies, Running Away has a 100% success rate, but only removes that one character from the battle, not their entire team, and non-players can be blocked from fleeing just like players can. For anyone, a failed attempt at Running Away will activate Burn damage. But also for anyone, if all members of the opposing team agree to let a character flee without pursuit, then that character can always Run Away with 100% success. Similarly, a player refusing to flee along with their party can allow that player to continue the battle while the others run, in which case the others won't be pursued by the enemies since they're still occupied.
Do absolutely nothing during your Phase of the current turn. While normally not very helpful, complicated circumstances may render it a better option than any other. Doing Nothing won't activate Burn damage, so it does have that going for it. Some badges may modify the Do Nothing command to have additional effects; in this case, such effects will not activate if the character is unable to do anything due to a paralyzing Status Problem or the like: they only occur if the actual Do Nothing command is selected. Besides this, Do Nothing may be used by Other characters who are present on the battlefield but are only observing, or are waiting for provocation before they decide to attack, etc.
Turn/Phase Effects on Status Conditions
Status Problems and Status Benefits are typically measured in turns; the number of turns that an effect lasts (which varies depending on the inflicting item or ability) is reduced by 1 every time a complete turn passes, which means that the Phase returns to whatever Phase it was when the effect was initiated. So:
- Player Phase
- ---› Player uses a Boo's Sheet; this turns the player Invisible for 3 turns
- ---› Invisibility count is 3
- Enemy Phase
- ---› Enemy attacks player; the attack misses due to Invisibility
- Player Phase
- ---› Invisibility count is 2
In the above scenario, the count is changing on the Player Phase. But:
- Player Phase
- ---› Player attacks Enemy
- Enemy Phase
- ---› Enemy Paralyzes Player for 3 turns
- Player Phase
- ---› Player is Paralyzed; they can't move
- Enemy Phase
- ---› Paralysis count is 2
- ---› Enemy attacks Player
In this case, the count is changing on the Enemy Phase, even though it still applies to the player character. If the count still changed on the Player Phase, then, if the enemy Paralyzed the player for 1 turn, the count would fall from 1 to 0 on the next Player Phase, meaning the player was never Paralyzed during the time they could actually act, and the Paralysis did the enemy no good whatsoever. So while this all may sound confusing at first, it's used to make sure that the turn count applied will actually be relevant for that many turns, e.g., if a character is Poisoned for 3 turns, you can expect them to be hurt by the Poisoning 3 times, whether they're a player character, an enemy, or whoever. (Paper Mario and Bug Fables both had issues with this, where a listed number of turns meant something different when applied to a player character than an enemy.) On the other hand,
- Player Phase
- ---› Player uses a Metal Cap; this turns the player Invincible for 1 turn
- ---› Invincibility count is 1
- Enemy Phase
- ---› Enemy attacks player; the attack does 0 damage due to Invincibility
- Player Phase
- ---› Invincibility count is 0; Player is no longer Invincible
The player prevented the enemy from doing any damage by using the Metal Cap—but Invincibility also raises a character's attack by 10, yet the player did not get to utilize this before the effect wore off. How could we solve this one? It's actually quite simple: have one player use the Metal Cap on a different player, before that other player executes their attack. In this case, what appears to be a kink in the system is actually an intended piece of strategy. The same could probably be said for how the turn counts rolled over in PM and BF, but whatever—this is how I'm doing it.
Arpeggio removes most of Paper Mario's positioning-based strategy due to being designed for use in
a non-visual medium, where positioning is not as obvious to the players as it is on a video
screen. However, apart from the normal character position of just kind of standing around
somewhere, there are two possible alternate positions: characters who are flying (this
is much like Paper Mario) and characters who are currently burrowing underground (this
one is taken from Bug Fables). Along with some characters being able to achieve these
(de)elevated positions naturally, they can be temporarily granted to anyone in the form of
When a non-flying character targets a flying character, the attacker can use projectile attacks to reach the airborne target, but if melee attacks are attempted, these will always miss if the attacker's Platform field stat is lower than the target's, the idea being that the attacker needs to be able to jump up to reach the target. This check actually applies even if one flying character attacks another, with a lower Platform stat indicating a poorer flying ability and therefore an inability to catch up to the target. Additionally, attacks of any sort that are inherently low to the ground, such as earthquakes, will always miss any flying target regardless of Platform stats. That being said, attacks that can reach underground, like those same earthquakes, are the only things that can hit an underground target, no matter who has what stats of any kind. The bottom line, then, is that while earthquakes won't work on flying foes, you'll want to keep them handy in case of burrowing ones, as they're even harder to get at. Then again, one underground character can hit another with most any attack, so if you can dig yourself, you don't have to worry much about that.
In Paper Mario, instead of the underground thing, the third possible position was clinging to the ceiling, and such characters were, again, even harder to reach than flying characters, with Mario's jump not even working. This is not considered a standard mechanic in Arpeggio due to the possibility of battling in a location that doesn't have a ceiling, but it can technically be recreated without much effort: the basic idea is for the Maestro to determine the height of the ceiling as measured by the Platform stat, and only characters with enough Platform can reach ceiling-hangers with melee attacks, much as with flying targets. The main difference, carried over from Paper Mario, is that earthquake-like attacks will hit characters on the ceiling, since that gets shaken as well. Damage may dislodge characters from the ceiling and cause them to fall down to either a flying or grounded position, but in Arpeggio this would be determined by the specific enemy, so you'll have to check their sheets (particularly the "Notes" section at the end). Tangential to this conversation is that if the ceiling has a height of less than 9, then flying characters can't fly higher than that and other characters will be able to reach them so long as their Platform stats can at least match the height of the ceiling.
Under more unusual circumstances caused by field obstacles, character positioning may have additional effects on battle, mainly, again, limiting which characters can attack whom. As an example, say the players are in the middle of solving a field puzzle involving a cliff that two of them have high enough Platform stats to scale, but that the third does not. If enemies attack the upper players, then the third, lower player will only be able to reach the enemies with projectile attacks (or for that matter, will only be able to aid their companions with projectile healing/buffing abilities); their melee attacks will be useless in this battle, since they cannot scale the cliff to execute them on the appropriate target(s). On the other hand, any enemy that uses a melee attack on the lower character will, obviously, need to jump down to do so, and if the enemy does not have enough Platform to climb back up, then they will be stuck down there too. Flying characters (be they players or enemies), obviously, can go wherever they please, and burrowing characters might be able to go through the cliff to reach the top; this would depend on whether the Maestro would require a digging-based Unique field ability in order to accomplish this, and possibly other factors such as material within the cliff that is too strong to dig through.
If the lower player is attacked instead of the upper players, then the upper players could choose to remain in their elevated position to avoid enemy melee attacks; since they have high enough Platform stats to get back up, they can use melee attacks on enemies and then return to the cliff afterward. This can all be done in a single turn, but if the cliff is particularly high then Long Fall damage may become involved as it would in the field.
In a callback to Fire Emblem 9, a character at a lower elevation who attacks a target at a higher elevation using a Bow will deal bonus damage, being the same +2 for normal bows or +5 for crossbows that would be dealt to flying characters (this is not doubled when attacking an actual flying character, though), but because characters at a higher elevation are still standing on the ground, they will be affected by earthquakes and other such attacks. An exception can be made if the elevated characters are standing on a free-floating platform, in which case an earthquake would not logically affect them (and this would also apply to characters who are clinging to a ceiling that is not attached to the ground).
Variations on these scenarios can be achieved using other field stats besides Platform—you could even create a psychic barrier that only allows through characters with certain Knowledge, Clever, or Charisma stats. Despite involving psychic powers and people who can leap tall buildings in single bounds, it's all supposed to reflect what would logically happen if the battle actually took place under the field conditions in which the characters find themselves, so do whatever makes sense to you based on your setting. But, unless you intend all of your battles to simultaneously serve as field puzzles, this kind of thing is probably best done sparingly.
As in Paper Mario, a character in Arpeggio may initiate a battle with a first strike.
This means that the battle will begin with the character performing the selected attack on the
chosen target, following which turns will progress normally—the first strike does not use
up the character's turn. Unlike Paper Mario, however, VP or MP costs still apply to
first strike attacks.
Fieldwide multitarget attacks will always work if used as first strikes, as will psychic attacks—the former are too difficult to dodge and the latter too difficult to anticipate. However, any other kind of attack will, if attempted as a first strike, miss if the target is not sufficiently surprised in the field. Thus, enemies will often dodge such first strikes if they are executed by a player out of annoyance at the enemy, since the enemy would probably be expecting this; and on the other end, enemy first strikes should be ambushes that are truly unexpected by the players, otherwise the players will be able to choose to dodge.
Bosses do not usually make first strikes since most of them get to go first on the first turn anyway.
Important to note is that first strikes hit before support bonuses are activated. This means that they can bypass enemy defensive bonuses, but will not gain user offensive bonuses.
Player vs. Player Combat
When two teams of player characters battle against each other, then which team's
Phase occurs first can be determined in one of several ways. For a friendly
competitive battle, the teams can decide civilly between each other. For a less
friendly scenario, the team that initiates the battle will get the upper
hand—this could mean a first strike, and even a first strike that fails to hit
will allow that team's Phase to occur first, but even if no first strike is made, one team will
probably be seen as initiating the battle. If all else fails, the Maestro can flip a
In a several-players-versus-one-player scenario, the single player can be seen as a boss who is controlled by a player instead of the Maestro. This means that any of the various rules that apply to bosses (always rewarding 19 XP, being immune to Instant Death, and/or any of the complications mentioned on the "Optional Add-Ons" page below) can be temporarily applied to that player character, but this is not required.
Obviously, instead of "Player Phase" and "Enemy Phase," it will be more like "Team 1 Phase" and "Team 2 Phase," but other than the names and the order, everything is pretty much the same as in any other battle. If any of the player teams have Partner teams, then these Partner teams' Phases will occur after the Phases of the player team to which they are partnered, and if any actual Enemy characters or Other characters exist, then their Phases will occur after both of the Player and Partner sets of Phases.
In a somewhat similar fashion to two opposing player teams, the enemy characters may be divided into more than one faction in the event that all of them are hostile enough that counting any as Other characters wouldn't make sense but that they have enough beef with each other that they might attack each other instead of the players. The reason that this is usually not done is to allow the players to hit all enemies with multitarget attacks; having multiple enemy teams means that only one team will be hit by a given multitarget action. Theoretically, even the Partner and Other teams could be subdivided as well, although the only time this would be particularly necessary would be if some of the Other characters are being hostile toward the players but other Others are vital for the players to protect. Aside from situations like this, or something like the three-team brawl on Yoshi's Island in Super Mario Bros. Z, for simplicity's sake it's best to stick to the established four-character-type system.