Part 3: Pumping Iron With Birds and Hobos
Okay, so here we are outside of Remele, in the glorious wasteland that is the world of 7th Saga. Our crystal ball/minimap is in the top part of the screen. The little white dots are enemies, and the empty circle just above us is the town.
Now, the interesting thing about 7th Saga is there's no such thing as catching a break. You might think that we can just stand in one place like any other console RPG with random encounters and nothing will happen until we move. Well fuck that nonsense, this is 7th Saga and if you don't go looking for random encounters they will hunt you down themselves. So we can just stand a tile outside a town and wait, and some jackass will be along to kill us in short order. We don't want to move too far south anyway or we might find a bird that will annihilate us.
The first nerd we encounter is a Hermit, a badass evil crab guy with a spear who looks fairly intimidating but is, in fact, weaker than a bird. He's the biggest pussy in this game, even moreso than us at lv1, which is the only reason we'll actually be able to win this.
Anyway, when a battle starts on the world map it Mode 7's on down and the parties appear. That's Wilme in all his naked glory at the bottom and the Hermit up top. All we need to do is kill this guy in less than 10 turns, so the first action we take is to Defend.
"If time is of the essence, why did we fucking do NOTHING this turn?" you ask. Well, it turns out 7th Saga gives you incentive to defend by adding a passive boost to your attack the turn after defending. In fact, it basically doubles your damage. If you're any good at math you would realize that this means our average damage per turn is the same but we take 25% less damage over the course of a fight by rotating Defend and Attack. This is basically the trick to staying alive for fights that take more than one round, which is most of them.
NOW we can attack. Wilme attacks by lighting his own fucking arm on fire and punching. He sometimes hits twice with a right hook or a kick or something, doubling his damage. I'm not sure if this is a "critical hit" animation or if Wilme makes up for his lack of weapons with an occasional double attack.
Either way, the result is the same. 26 EXP isn't too bad (we need to kill about 6 Hermits for lv2) but you will notice that gold is not terribly forthcoming in this game. This is why I cannot die too much. Wilme won't need gear, but anyone I party with will, and you can easily spend all your money buying B Powers and B Defenses, to say nothing of restoratives.
Eventually, Wilme levels up.
Grinding out Hermits (and the occasional bird, which I learn is called a Wyvern when I actually manage to kill one) gets me to lv5. As you'll notice from the level screens, 7th Saga is a moderately generous game. Unlike say Fire Emblem, you never get 0 in a stat; every character gets something every level, and it's a fairly small range.
What happens is that each character has a set average stat gain per level. Each time they gain a level, there is a 50% chance they'll get that value, a 25% chance it will be one higher, and a 25% chance it will be one lower. Wilme's averages are 8 HP, 2 MP, 4 Power, 5 Guard, 2 Magic, and 4 Speed per level; in general, I don't want to accept any level that doesn't at LEAST give me average gains in every stat, but I'll make exceptions for levels where I gain above-average Power, Guard, and Speed because those are by far Wilme's best stats. Since he gains the most HP of any character even a -1 level isn't a big deal, and the difference in 2 HP and 2 Speed isn't even comparable.
A further note is that Magic and Speed have an inherent cap for some reason at 255, while the other stats apparently don't. Wilme is probably not going to hit that cap for Magic by the level I beat the game at, to say nothing of lv80, but he'll probably cap Speed. The sooner he does that, the better. Being fast and hitting hard are good for grinding and dungeons, since the basic way to avoid horrible death in dungeons is to outlevel them a little and hope you can crush the enemies in a single attack or single Defend/Attack round where you get hit once (or grind in the dungeon until you can). Of course we also want high Power and Guard, as Wilme doesn't have equipment to speak of.
At level 5, Wilme also learns a spell: Fire 1.
Blowing up a death bird is great. It's also nice that it didn't miss, which spells can and will do if you are underleveled. The upside to this is that magic is incredibly powerful; even with Wilme's shitty Magic level, Fire 1 does about two to three times as much damage per round as hitting things does. Physical attacks tend to work better on bosses (and you want to Defend every other round anyway), so our bases are covered.
So here we are, ready to face the world at level 5. Wilme's stats are considerably higher than the ones he started with, yet the effect seems to have been fairly small at best. Now, on to Rabelsk!
Haha, fuck that. We'll get eaten alive at level 5. The first boss would wad Wilme up like toilet paper. I'm gonna keep grinding.