Part 74: Route A Final Status + All Unshown PromotionsFinal Update: Route A Misfit Run Party Status + All Unshown Promotions
This map's a bit more squished than Serdic's, since Altrius spends a lot more time circling the same space.
Accessories: +72 Defense
Holy Blade (Arch Paladin): +55 Attack, +50 Accuracy, 5% Critical Chance, Ignores Darkness-based Protections, increases experience gain by 50%
Invoke Might 3: Adds Attack equal to 15% of base Attack
Stand Fast 3: Adds Defense equal to 18% of base Defense
Retaliation 3: Adds +?% Counter Rate
Lion Strike 3: Increases OB gain rate by 30%
Null ZOC 5: Ignores all ZOC level 5 and below
Frontal Blow 3: Does 118% damage when attacking from a target's front
Arrow Guard 2: -8% damage from enemy archers
Vital Power 5: Regenerates 20% of max HP at start of turn
Duelist 5:: Does 150% damage when attacking a single target
Judgement: OB. Deals (3.5*Attack-Defense)*1/1.5/2, depending on OB level. 5x5 Box centered on user, does not harm allies.
This time around, Altrius went into his promotion lower-leveled, so he's gotten a little more out of his growths than Serdic. As you can see, Altrius gets tanky. Really tanky. His problems are two-fold. One, he doesn't have the attack skills to be really impressive against anything that isn't a single target. Frontal Blow is nice to have, but for most of the game, it's less a "benefit" and more a penalty reduction. Two, magic is the game's real threat, and he doesn't learn Invoke Life or Magic Guard. This is particularly problematic when his final boss's big thing is "absurdly powerful magic."
Also, unfortunately, that +50% experience is a lot less impressive than it looks. You stop gaining experience when attacking at seven levels above an enemy (the cap goes up a level or two if you attack enough targets) and stop gaining experience when killing at ten levels above. Altrius will be ramming the level cap created by enemy level ranges for most of the time after he gets that skill, but "ramming the level cap" just puts him on par with most Mages.
Even so, he's very solid. He's not exceptional, but he never really holds the team back either.
Accessories: +12 Magic (2 Lazuli Rings), +10% max MP (Aster Ring), -25 Attack +30 Defense (North Medal)
Energeia: Cannot attack
Stand Fast 1: Adds defense equal to 6% of base defense
Invoke Mind 4: Adds magic equal to 16% of base magic and multiplies spell power by 116% (not factored in below)
Invoke Life 1: Adds max HP equal to 8% of base HP
Wisdom Lock 4: Adds magic equal to 20% of base magic and multiplies spell power by 120% (not factored in below)
Torus Spell 4: Regenerates 16% of base MP at start of turn
Ice Shard 3: Multiplies all ice-elemental damage by 115%
Arcane Ice 2: -12% Ice-elemental spell MP costs (not factored in below)
Ice Spear 1: 7 MP, 4 range line, affects all in range, 25 spell power. Ice-elemental.
White Dust 4: 32 MP, 7 range, single target, 65 spell power. Ice-elemental.
Sedna Prison 5: 125 MP, 7x7 box centered on target,
Yumil Magna 5: 125 MP, 9 range line, affects all in range, 180 spell power. Ice-elemental.
Storm Rave 1: 15 MP, 4 range radiating from caster, affects all in range, 30 spell power. Thunder-elemental.
Eidos Curse: Multiplies all incoming magic damage by ((1+1/2/3)/5) for one turn, radiates 3 squares out in all directions, affects all (ally and enemy, including caster) in range
Selmer starts out bad. Really bad. While magic does good damage against armored targets, especially early on, Selmer isn't strong enough to kill things on his own. When combined with his awful movement, White Dust's average range, his cast-or-move limitation, and his pitifully low starting MP (and no Invoke Mind), using Selmer mandates either 1) focusing your entire strategy around keeping him current, or 2) using Retry. True, Retry has no penalties, but that doesn't make grinding any less boring. And you have to promote him, too, in a game where Seals and Proofs are restricted and annoying to obtain and promotion takes the character for a map. Sedna Prison gives him a place after promotion, but he's still got one or two shots and he's out.
In return, you get... basically a slightly more durable version of Igraine. He has one less move, about 160% her HP (even before Invoke Life) and twice her base defense, and has fewer starting skills to take up his skill points. He also has Ice Shard, and Eidos Curse is pretty useful too. Other than that? Igraine has Torus Spell, Igraine has essentially the same MP and Magic, Igraine has Yumil Magna and Sedna Prison and Invoke Mind and Wisdom Lock.
If you're on Route A, then Eidos Curse is one of two ways you can survive Mephreyu's Seven Menace. Even on Route A, though? Use Igraine instead.
Accessories: +72 Defense
Mist Edge (3): +36 Attack, +65 Accuracy, 15% Critical Rate
Invoke Might 4: Adds attack equal to 20% of base attack
Sharpshot 2: Adds +?% Accuracy
Foresight 3: Adds +?% Evasion (against non-magic attacks; magic never misses)
Retaliation 2: Adds +?% Counter Rate
Lion Strike 3: Increases OB Gain Rate by 30%
Null ZOC 4: Ignores ZOC up to level 4
Daredevil 2: Adds attack equal to 10% of base attack, subtracts defense equal to 8% of base defense
Lateral Blow 4: Deals 128% damage when attacking from the left or right sides
Arrow Guard 3: -12% damage from enemy archers
Duelist 4: Deals 140% damage when attacking a single target
Tiger Fangs: OB. (3*Attack)*1/2/3, six range, single target. (As the formula indicates, ignores defense.)
Sasha is a pretty good character, and Tiger Fangs is a large part of that. Like Naji and Alberich, Sasha's main purpose is to build OB and then use it to kill the hell out of things. I like to use her as a pseudo-mage, focusing less on big scary targets and more on ones that are a pain to reach. Even outside of Tiger Fangs, she does good damage to single target, has good movement, and despite her low HP, her evasion is surprisingly good by Rondo standards. Between that, amulets, and her high magic, she's roughly as durable as (non-Mage) average.
It's worth noting that, if you ignore Alhambra or Serdic with Vital Strike, Sasha probably has the strongest criticals in the game. With Duelist 5 and Lateral Blow 5, attacking from the side of a single target and getting a critical, a lot of factors multiply so that she does somewhere around 300% defense-ignoring damage. You can add another 60% with the Ice terrain in two of the three last stages, even. 15% isn't amazing, but those odds aren't bad for the return.
Accessories: +72 Defense
Rikka: Cannot attack. Regenerates MP equal to 10% of max MP at start of turn.
Invoke Mind 3: Adds magic equal to 12% of base magic and multiplies spell power by 112% (not factored in below, does not affect Cure Drop)
Invoke Mana 3: Adds MP equal to 45% of base MP
White Light 1: Increases speed of recovery from status ailments
Wisdom Lock 4: Adds magic equal to 20% of base magic and multiplies spell power by 120% (not factored in below, does not affect Cure Drop)
Aggressor 1: Support skill. When an ally passes through, increases attack by 3% of base attack for the duration of attack.
Arcane Light 3: -12% MP cost for Light-elemental spells
Cure Drop 5: 50 MP. 7 range, single target, only affects allies, restores 80% of max HP. Light-elemental.
Holy Favor 4: 100 MP. 8 range, single target, only affects allies, teleports ally to caster (square placement based on ZOC order). Light-elemental.
Oratoriorae 5: 150 MP, 8 range line, affects all in range, 150 spell power. Light-elemental.
Maiden Prayer: OB. Restores 20/50/80% of max HP to all ally units who have not acted yet. (Does not include self.)
Marie starts the early game as your only healer (and therefore amazing) and becomes a near-unlimited MP barrier and Holy Favor spammer in mid-game (also amazing). She falls off a little once your Mages promote and stop having MP issues, but she remains useful. Oratoriorae is a last-minute but very welcome boost and a reward for not over-abusing Holy Favor, giving her surprisingly impressive offense and actually allowing you to use Maiden Prayer at any level above level 1. It's very good! But I'd say that Aegil surpasses Marie the moment she gets Oratoriorae, and Marie doesn't catch up until she promotes. It's a close race, especially with Holy Favor in play, but Aegil's earlier acquisition of Oratoriorae and subsequent leveling speed give her the edge.
It's worth noting that, in light of the "Upholds the world's natural balance" description here and the talk of balance at the end of both Routes, Rikka is probably a relic of both Light and Darkness, serving as a kind of middle point between the Holy Blade and the Anrah Sword. If the two swords work on the same rules, then I'd bet that Rikka is what lets the Holy Blade exist in the world even when the Darkness isn't a problem. Otherwise, it would make the Light too strong and they'd have the Anrah Sword popping in every other week. From this, we can tell Bretwalde is probably the holy nation of rule lawyers.
(It's funny to imagine the Holy Blade just kind of poofing out when Altrius walks too far away from Marie. Um, oops? Gonna have to wait for another Darkness crisis before you get it back now, guys.)
Accessories: +54 Defense (Topaz Amulets), +10 Accuracy (Dragon Medal)
Musou Blade: +47 Attack, +0 Accuracy, 0% Critical Rate
Invoke Might 4: Adds attack equal to 20% of base attack
Invoke Life 4: Adds HP equal to 60% of base HP
Lion Strike 2: Increases OB gain rate by 20%
Frontal Blow 4: Deals 124% damage when attacking from the front
Vital Power 4: Regenerates HP equal to 16% of max HP at start of turn
Fearlessness 5: Deals 150% damage when attacking second or later enemies in an attack sequence
Persistence 3: ?% chance of surviving a fatal attack with 1 HP
Ten'i Slip: 45 MP. 6 range, single target, only affects allies, teleports ally to caster (square placement based on ZOC order). Talisman.
Blade Blast: OB. (6*Attack-Defense)*1/1.5/2, 1 range, single target. For targets other than Matthias, Gauss or the final bosses, functionally equivalent to 100% instant death regardless of level.
Izuna is probably my biggest mea culpa of the LP. I rated her as mediocre, but now that I've used her more recently, I'd probably put her in the top eight or so. She's behind Serdic, Aegil, Alhambra, and Any Endgame Mage (That Isn't Elmer; the other three are interchangeable, even if Selmer is a pain to get there, and Cotton has Faerie Fire), and she's roughly tied with Marie. (Margus's position is very route-dependent. He's a lot better on A before endgame, due to being your only real ZOC user, but falls off in Route B.)
One, she's incredibly sturdy. She comes in just as Topaz Amulets become available, her HP is massive with Invoke Life, and her magic is roughly average. While her defense may be poor, that doesn't matter for very long. She also has a surprisingly good dodge rate. Once she gets Vital Power to a decent level, she's very good at surviving.
Two, she hits very, very hard. Fearlessness is a rare skill, and Izuna and Serdic are roughly peers offensively. She may not have the Holy Blade to pierce Darkness-based defenses, but she's still going to do better than anyone without it. If you can trick someone into ending a turn next to her when she has at least one level of OB, that person is dead 95% of the time, especially once she gets Lion Strike and starts gaining OB two a time.
Three, Ten'i Slip. Endgame Mages in Rondo of Swords are amazingly bullshit, and their only real limitation is move speed and their inability to both move and cast on the same turn. Regular teleportation solves both problems. Aegil can also do this, but Aegil has an orbital laser cannon that enables her to level like mad and can't attack directly. Izuna doesn't and can, and while her MP may be low, the ability to attack even as she's getting into position allows her to effectively multi-task. You may only have three teleports at endgame (without Martyr, Manafont, or MP restoration), but those three teleports can be absolutely devastating.
You should very strongly consider using Izuna, especially on Route B, where you have ZOC on Serdic and Margus isn't as important. She's worth it.
Accessories: +54 Defense (Topaz Amulets), +1 Move (Black Ring)
Shouhaku (2): +42 Attack, +0 Accuracy, 10% Critical Rate
Sharpshot 2: Adds +?% accuracy
Retaliation 2: Adds +?% to counter rate
Lion Strike 3: Increases OB gain rate by 30%
Karma Strike 2: Increases counter attack damage by ?%
Frontal Blow 3: Deals 118% damage when attacking from the front
Lateral Blow 4: Deals 128% damage when attacking from the sides
Melee Guard 4: -16% damage from ground-based melee attacks
Mount Guard 3: -12% damage from mount-based melee attacks
Fearlessness 4: Deals 140% damage when attacking second or later enemies in an attack sequence
Divine Seal 5: Activation ability. Multiplies all incoming magic damage by 50%. Radiates 2 squares out in all directions, lasts 3 turns.
Union Soul: Gives 20%/50%/90% of her OB gauge to an ally, keeps the remainder. (Goes off of entire gauge, not levels, but only seems to switch over to next percentage marker at full levels.) Four range, single target, only affects allies.
I described Alicia as a half-way marker between Altrius and Serdic, but she might better be described as half-way between Margus and Altrius. Like Margus, she's quite durable against melee and mounted units but relatively fragile against magic. Unlike Margus, she can take care of that issue for your entire party. But also unlike all of the three I've compared her to, she's unable to regenerate. That's unfortunate but not crippling, though it means you'll have to pay more attention to her HP than Serdic, Altrius, Margus or Izuna. Also notable is the fact that, for most of the Route, she's going to be your only way to get Marie to the higher levels of Maiden Prayer. Keep that in mind! Short notice full-party healing always has a place.
Only her relatively slow start and high dependence on promotion hold her back. When she promotes, she's a good all-rounder right up until the final stage, where, most of the time, she will save you and make the final stage much, much simpler.
Owl doesn't get a full breakdown, because he didn't get a full team spot. And Owl didn't get a full team spot because his attack is poor and his critical rate is nowhere near good enough. That's it, really. Poor durability, poor attack, no real redeeming features... He's basically unsalvageable, it seems. Unfortunate.
Now, because I'm a crazy person, I decided to heed the thread's request to see all the promotions. Why not? I've done basically everything else (that doesn't require playing through the game again with fewer people).
Thankfully, Misfit Run rules mean that I only had about six people to level up. But I decided that wasn't enough crazy! So I got everyone to level 40, too. I was thinking 45 initially, but...
Remember what I said earlier in Altrius's final status blurb? Seven levels for hitting, ten for killing. I'd have had to do about five more levels before I got
to a point where the enemies were sufficiently leveled, and even I said "no, that's too much crazy" at that point. Growths don't matter too much in Rondo; at most, characters are missing about four points in their primary stats.
(It's notable that this means that only healers can really get past level 52 or so, since they can take an attack and self-heal for experience. If you were really crazy, you could get up to 60 or so against Mephreyu or Gauss, I guess.)
No one here gets a detailed skill breakdown, but I've allocated points and I'll explain the generals of the build I went with. If you're interested, look it up on GameFAQs; there's no spoilers left.
I'm not going to collect all of the different promotions for all the characters used in the main Route A/B runs, at least not yet. This post is really long as it is.
First, the three characters who had to promote twice!
(Notable detail: Kay and Simon don't have their weapons out in the preparations screen, only on the battlefield. This is neat in-game, but it's annoying when you want screenshots.)
For most of the game, Kay coasts on his native stats. He has very high movemment and his other stats are good enough. He makes up for that somewhat in his later promotions, where his growths are very good, but they've got a lot of catching up to do. It's not until level 39 in his third class that he really finds a niche: anti-magic.
Between the massive HP he gains from Invoke Life and Magic Guard, Kay is probably the best at guarding against spells, even with his crappy Magic stat. And with his high Move and Duelist, he's good at hunting them down. His high HP also means that his HP-based OB can actually do a fair amount of damage at late-game, especially against those same low-HP mages. And since he's running out ahead, characters who are catching up can use Will of War to top off their own HP.
Of course, he isn't good enough to survive a Mephreyu Seven Menace, having half of Sasha's Magic. That suggests he'd take about 800 damage from Seven Menace, even with Magic Guard maxed and four Topaz Amulets. Poor Kay.
Rukia's skill set maxes her out for shopping and assumes that you got her the second Card ability, which makes her automatically critical. There's really no point in even trying to use her otherwise, but... Even so, almost all of her combat skills are +critical. There's not much to buy, I'm afraid.
It's notable that ZOC doesn't work if you die, so the "lower defense to activate ZOC" of Desperation doesn't work very well on her. But hey, at least she doesn't have much defense to lose!
HOW CAN SOMEONE THAT IS NOT A MAGE GAIN 6 ATTACK IN 25 LEVELS
Even ignoring his level disadvantage when he joins and the availability problems of his unpromoted state, Elmer has some serious problems.
First off: That 339 MP at level 40? That's with Invoke Mana 4, so that's after a 60% boost. And it's that bad. Sure, he'd have about 100 MP more at an equivalent level, but even with Arcane Storm 4 he's still not even getting four Magna Volts before he's out at level 40. That's bad! And Magna Volt is one of the cheaper ultimates.
Second: That Magic is a serious problem when Elmer is working with the weakest magic type. Magna Volt is tied for longest range of all spells, but it's weaker to compensate, about 80% of Seven Menace and 67% of Yumil Magna. Elmer is the only Warlock who never gets Yumil Magna, too. If anyone should have really high Magic, it's him.
Third: He doesn't get Sedna Prison until his third class, and that Magic score means he's the worst at it. Since he can't get Magna Volt until promotion either, you're either resigned to getting him Meteor Gate to fill the gap (turning him into Bad Arios) or Abyss Gate (Bad Igraine). And he doesn't get those until level 21 or 24 anyway!
Fourth: Because Elmer really needs to make up for that base magic, he really needs high levels of Invoke Mind and Wisdom Lock, and since magic requires the skill be maxed for full effectiveness, a lot of his skill points are spoken for. This means he doesn't have the skill points to really soak into Sprint and Magic Guard. Those are the only things that really set him apart from Selmer, who otherwise has a lot of Elmer's early problems but makes up for it with a workable middle game and a good late game. And without those, there's even less reason to try taking him over Igraine or Arios.
Five: His OB is arguably even worse than Igraine's, and Igraine has an OB that requires her to survive a hit. Boosting Magic damage for one turn isn't very useful when 1) it takes his turn and 2) most teams only run one mage. Selmer's OB is one of his saving graces, and Elmer doesn't even have that.
When Bellmaker said "magic Owl," he wasn't exaggerating. It's an accurate description, and at least Owl has some early game utility before Alhambra eclipses him utterly. Elmer has his superior-in-every-way competition join ten maps before, one map after and promoted, and two maps later and promoted. It's really, really sad.
Next, the one-promoters.
Man. Look at that magic. Remember, he's got about ten levels to go before the level cap is an issue, and mages level up fast. Arios is the only character who's likely to crack 90 Magic naturally. So, naturally, I went with a set that emphasizes his raw power. You wouldn't actually build him like this -- not using Sedna Prison is madness, so he'd probably drop a level in Invoke Mind and Wisdom Lock, and he'd definitely get more than Invoke Mana 2 during the pre-promotion period -- but, seriously, he'd have like 125 magic at level 50. That's beautiful and I want to support that madness.
I still like Igraine better, though. More mobility, and while Arios's higher MP means that he starts off better, Marie's playing MP battery for your Mage at that point anyway. He also starts with Meteor Gate, but Cotton's better at that too during that period, and Torus Spell makes Igraine better late game. Other than that? As I've said, all the non-Cotton non-Elmer Mages are pretty interchangeable once they get going.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Yumiluna is boring. Yes, she has high defenses... But she doesn't have the HP, magic, move or MC to use them. Use literally anyone else; they're better and more interesting too.
Man. Look at those stats. Those are some nice stats. And on someone with that Move, too!
Aside from that, Simon doesn't have many tricks. Melee Guard is nice, Desperation can be good in a pinch, Duelist always has its uses (but has more on someone who doesn't have NINE MOVE)... If nothing else, he's the best fit for the suicide strategy with Adamancy, where you remove all Hurt penalties and use them for anything that can be done in exchange for a character death. He's the only one who can really afford the investment.
I really didn't realize Galahad's MP was so bad. Man. Even with Torus Spell maxed, 40 MP back a turn isn't a lot... But it's enough for a healer, as Marie demonstrates. Just not enough for an attack mage.
In light of that, you're really better off using Galahad as a healer who can sometimes attack when things are looking bad. He's pretty good at that, especially since his five Move is good by healer standards.
Finally, the single character who never promotes and hasn't been shown off at a high level:
There's really two ways to go with Shino. One, try to make her ranged attacks actually good. This is kind of futile. She'll always kill mages in two hits and archers in three, and the best you're going to do is take archers down in two instead of three. She can critical decently well (by Rondo standards), but that probably still isn't going to take her to killing in one hit. On the plus side, this makes her better at maneuvering to use her spells, and you'll probably get Sprint 5 if you go this path.
The second way is to build up her magic. Jinrai Slip is a stronger version of Storm Rave with an absurdly low cost -- 5 MP per level. 25 MP for a spell as strong as Magna Volt is absurd, even if the range is weird. True, it also loses a range at maximum level in exchange, but a six-range x-shape still works out to 12 range -- enough to make her a very good sniper. She's got enough MP and Magic to be fairly good at that, enough to seriously weaken Armors even if she doesn't kill them, and when that isn't enough she can carry another Mage forward for a bigger strike. She's pretty good artillery once she gets going! Just be careful with the x in vertical levels, since it has friendly fire.
I used her for the second purpose while I was clearing levels for promotions (and to get to better grind spots; hence, the higher level), and she was pretty good at it. I'll probably use her in my main team next time I go through the game, whenever that is. (It'll be a while, I imagine. Love the game, but I'm kind of glad there isn't a third route right now...)
I'll post a map of Route A soon. (And update the table of contents; none of the Route A stuff is there. Oops.) In the mean time... Well, I said I'd talk about what I think about Route A's story. (Gameplay-wise, it's not even a contest; Route B is better. If you only play one Route, make it Route B.) Warning: This is pretty long, because I've had literally months to think about this.
A few thoughts on the Routes:
Route A is, on the surface, a different-but-equal alternative. Route B is darker from the get-go, and sometimes you want a lighter story. That's fine! The problem is that the two routes appear to work off of different basic situations, parts of the setting that change without corresponding changes in the protagonist. Serdic makes his choice because he sees no other way to win, and yet Altrius wins without any of Serdic's advantages. Serdic sacrifices, but Altrius never has to. Altrius's victory is, if anything, much too easy... But I think that may be the point. Altrius obtains a perfect victory without sacrifices or victims, and he doesn't earn a single bit of it.
How did he get his power? Margus and Kay had connections that gave him the edge he needed to win an army. He did not make his case to Alicia. (And with the heavy hinting, you really can't argue you weren't intended to recruit her.) How did he win back his allies? No effort of his own; he continued fighting and they decided to follow him. He did not make an effort to persuade them. How did he purify the Holy Blade? Mephreyu broke his own "bet you won't" trap by resurrecting a royal Altrius would be willing to kill. He didn't find some other way himself. How did he defeat Grand Meir? Route A seems to suggest that they were simply a paper tiger... But even at the end, Gauss retreats because of Mephreyu, not Altrius. Altrius is a stronger character in endgame than he was previously, because only he can pierce the enemy damage resistance... A trait of the Holy Blade, not his own skills. Without it, he's still a middling combatant. The Holy Blade is able to seal the Darkness without anyone dying, unlike Route B... because of the change in location. Mephreyu's action, not his. And when Altrius takes action at the end, trying to befriend and redeem Mephreyu, we get no resolution. In context, that suggests failure, not success.
Each of those, individually, can be explained. Together? They form a pattern that's too big and too consistent to be easily dismissed. It's odd, really, because the pattern is so apparent and yet its meaning isn't immediately visible. Why did the writers deliberately write Altrius as never responsible for his own victory? (You can point to gameplay, but I don't think that's a very strong argument here in light of symmetry. Serdic has one more chapter, even.)
I still haven't found an answer that really satisfies me. But I think one possible answer lies in Route B's theme: "I will never say I had no choice." Route B's theme is taking responsibility for your own actions. Everything that happens after the route split happens as a result of Serdic's direct action, good and bad, and he rejects every attempt to absolve him of that responsibility. As I said at the end of Route B, it's significant that the ending split of the route is between "walk away from a war that no longer needs to continue" or "continue seeking futile atonement"... And if you take the latter path, if Serdic is swept along by his own sunk costs, then his greatest failure repeats itself: The Holy Blade kills the only family he has left.
On the flip side, Route A opens with an abdication of responsibility. You enter Route A not by having Altrius persuade Marie, drop the sword, or even by having him leave. You do nothing until Marie initiates a conversation. How do you avoid the Route A bad ending? You take responsibility for Altrius's earlier promise to the Prince and grant him an "honorable death." Failing to do even that results in a much harsher ending than either of Serdic's.
Maybe the writers didn't see the route choice as a matter of "dirty your hands" or "refuse." They instead saw that choice as "take responsibility" or "deny it." And Rondo of Swords, now as always, takes your decisions seriously. If you want a fairy tale without victims or sacrifices, you're given just that... But you call a gift a "gift" because it isn't earned.
That's one take on it, at least, and I admit I'm biased towards Route B. What do you think, dear readers?