Saturday, February 1, 2014

Chrono Trigger Tech Point Grinding Notes

In the early game, when you go to the Millenial Fair with Crono and bump into Marle, your only option to get their first two skills is Guardia Forest in 1000 AD, which gives 15 Tech Points per run.  The run is pretty simple, all the enemies are visible, and all the battles are avoidable in case you're running low on HP.  There honestly isn't much else to say about it, since the early game has simple, easy to defeat enemies for a pretty good reason.  When you need to recover HP/MP, you can go sleep at Crono's house for free.

Guardia Forest in 600 AD is useful for getting Lucca her first two skills.  I can never remember the tech point yield per run here.  It's more than in 1000 AD, as there's one extra battle and some give more tech points.  Also, some enemies are hiding and waiting to ambush you, but again, all battles are avoidable.  When you need to recover HP/MP, you have options within Guardia Castle that are free: sleep, or eat.  Guardia Forest in 600 AD ceases to be useful for Tech Point grinding at a certain point, though.  It loses all but two encounters, giving a paltry eight Tech Points.

The meat of this post will be discussing the Forest Maze in 65,000,000 BC, which is where I do the vast majority of my tech point grinding.  When I refer to a "run" here, I'm actually making two passes through the Forest Maze.  The first is entering from the Ioka Village side, and the second is entering from the Reptite Lair side.  HP/MP can be replenished for free in the closest Ioka hut, the one with the sweet water.

It's kind of interesting that colored enemies in Chrono Trigger fall into one of two conflicting groups: some will be vulnerable to the magic that the color suggests moreso than anything else, and the others will be resistant or immune to that magic and vulnerable to its opposite.

Enemies you will encounter:
  • Gold Eaglet: 400 HP, divebomb attack, no resistances or weaknesses.  After being hit twice, regardless of how much damage the hits dealt, it turns into a Red Eaglet.  It's possible to kill it before it turns into a Red Eaglet.
  • Red Eaglet: Carries over whatever HP the Gold Eaglet has after it takes the second hit.  Still has the divebomb attack, but now counterattacks whoever hit it with a fire attack if it's dealt non-fatal damage.  Also gains resistance to physical.  May have an elemental weakness, I personally haven't tested it.
  • Kilwala: 160 HP, runs up and hits you, no resistances or weaknesses.
  • Winged Ape: 450 HP, throws a party member either at another party member or the ground, resistant to magic.  These guys seem to have a long time between their attacks, so they'll likely only ever hit you once.
  • Runner: 196 HP, runs up and hits you, resistant to physical.  Nothing really special even with their physical resistance.
All of the enemies encountered give 2 Tech Points each.

Specific encounters, in order, from Ioka Village entrance:
  • 2x Gold Eaglet
  • 3x Kilwala
  • 1x Winged Ape
  • 1x Winged Ape, 2x Kilwala
  • 2x Runner
  • 3x Gold Eaglet
  • 2x Runner
  • 1x Winged Ape, 1x Kilwala
Total: 18 enemies, 36 Tech Points.

Specific encounters, in order, from Reptite Lair entrance:
  • 1x Winged Ape, 1x Kilwala
  • 2x Runner
  • 3x Gold Eaglet
  • 2x Runner
  • 1x Winged Ape, 2x Kilwala
  • 1x Winged Ape
  • 2x Kilwala
  • 2x Gold Eaglet
Total: 17 enemies, 34 Tech Points.

The optimum time to do this run is as soon as the story takes you to 65,000,000 BC for the first time, to get the Dreamstone.  The Forest Maze can't even be traversed until the Gate Key gets stolen.  This is a prime time because Ayla is temporarily in the party, and will leave once you get the Gate Key back.  Make sure to get her all of her techs before she leaves!

I also prefer to hold off on getting Robo's Tech Points until I get here.  It's a bit of a stretch, yes, but the only other easily grindable area is Guardia Forest in 1000 AD, and getting a few thousand Tech Points there takes forever.

Basically, once I arrive here, I don't leave the time period until I have everyone's techs, except for Frog since he doesn't join permanently until after you take the Dreamstone to Melchior and reforge the Masamune.  There's nothing too painful about this tech point grinding run, other than the beginning when you're low-ish on HP and have to heal slightly mid-run (use MP for it, save your items!).  Once you get to the point where everyone has 400-500 HP, death is less of an issue.  As long as you don't put both Marle and Lucca in the party at the same time after Ayla leaves, you'll always have good sources of damage.

Some of the battles can be encountered in a different order than I listed above, but that's my preferred order because it flows well.  Also, just like with Guardia Forest, all battles here are avoidable.  Unlike Guardia Forest, though, every single battle is an ambush.  I prefer to use regular attacks rather than magic, but magic can bring a swift end to some of the battles, so go that route if you like.  I will use Crono's Spincut from time to time, since it's essentially spending MP to guarantee a critical hit.

Without Lucca and the SightScope, you can count enemy HP to be reasonably sure when things only need one more hit.  This is useful for avoiding the fire counterattack from the Red Eaglets.  This is all optional anyway, because once you reach a certain point you can trigger a battle and mash A until victory.  Also, here's a tip I haven't seen anywhere: The X button acts as a shortcut for the regular attack, regardless of what's selected in the menu.  You can use the X button as well as the A button for faster button mashing, if you're going the "regular attacks only" route like me.

Now, Marle and Lucca have crap damage on their regular attacks, because their regular attacks use their Hit stat and everyone else's regular attack uses Power.  Power can be increased much higher than Hit can.  However, they are capable of dealing almost respectable damage via a critical hit.  How is this useful?  Well, I'll tell you.  The game doesn't decide when you land critical hits as you might think.  It actually generates a sequence of critical hits that you can learn and exploit.

I haven't gone very in-depth with experimenting with this, in terms of how it reacts with using techs, but I do know that the counterattack accessories (the Fury Band and the Rage Band) use a hit in the sequence.  Furthermore, anything that affects a character's critical hit rate will of course affect the sequence.  Forest Maze, on this doubled up run, seems to have just the right number of enemies to expose this sequence in the right conditions, so you may not even have to try.  If you notice that you always get a critical hit in the same place on each run, congratulations, you've noticed part of the sequence.  It's tough to notice it that way, because you have to take enemies down in the same number of hits every time, and damage has an inherent randomness to it.

Finally, because grinding is something that nobody really enjoys (and if they say they do, they're lying), it's important to be able to break this large task of getting a few thousand Tech Points per character down into reasonable chunks.  First, since the party size is three, you can get three people's Tech Points simultaneously, at least up until Crono learns Luminaire.  Next, there's a small bit of math you can do to figure out how many times you'll have to do this run to get the next techs for everyone, and even find out in advance which battle they'll learn the tech on.  It's pretty simple.

Because I am who I am, I usually have a PowerShell window open.  PowerShell is handy for this because you can type in a mathematical expression on the command line and it'll evaluate it for you.  And because PowerShell comes standard with any recent Windows OS, if you have Windows, you have PowerShell.  There are solutions for other OSes too.  I would personally just install Python, run it from the Terminal in either Mac OS or Linux, and be done with it.

To calculate how many runs it will take, look at the Techs page of the menu, and select one of the characters.  Divide the number of Tech Points the character has left for their next tech by 70.  You'll likely get a floating point value, but more importantly, you now know how many times you'll have to do this run through Forest Maze to get them their next tech.  Do this for all three characters you have in the party, recalculate every once in a while during your session (always at the end of a run!), and then again at the end of the session so you know where you stand for your next session.

To find out which battle they'll learn the tech on, you need the modulus operation ('mod' for short, in speech), which in both PowerShell and Python, is %.  The remaining Tech Points mod 70 will give you the remainder after division, and then you can look through your sequence and the number of Tech Points you gain in each battle to tell precisely where they'll learn the tech.

For example, let's say that at the beginning of a run, Lucca has 126 Tech Points left until she learns Mega Bomb.  Dividing this value by 70 gives us 1.8, indicating that she's got basically two runs left to get Mega Bomb.  Now mod the remaining Tech Points by 70, and you'll get 56.  Assuming you're using my battle sequence, she'll learn Mega Bomb on the Winged Ape and two Kilwalas as you work your way back through from the Reptite Lair entrance.

None of the math really matters in the long run, because you'll learn everything when you learn everything even if you don't calculate how long it'll take or where it'll happen, but this is to sate your mind's desire for accomplishment.  The big goal is getting everyone's techs, but that's a long way away.  Giving yourself smaller goals in the meantime, and breaking the large task down into several smaller tasks that are more manageable, will keep you sane and continuing to play the game.

Keeping yourself sane is why I also recommend muting the TV and listening to music from your playlist instead of listening to the game audio while grinding Tech Points.  Don't get me wrong, Chrono Trigger's soundtrack is amazing, but having it going constantly while grinding keeps you realizing where you are and what you have left to do.  You can make the whole thing a blur by listening to your own music instead.

Anyway, this post is long enough.  There's a smaller bit left still, which is getting Magus his Tech Points, but at that point, you have a lot of options available.

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