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Behind the Mask: The best kind of loot

Patrick Mackey

Loot feels like a controversial thing in Champions Online. It's an odd feeling to have your character's super strength be powered by Qularr Mutagens or an ARGENT Dimensional Shunt. It's not strange to see a fantasy character loaded down with epic gear, but when a mutant superhero gains a majority of his attributes from magic headbands, tech wristbands, and radiation-emitting devices rather than his own superpowers, it sort of makes him feel a little less super. From my experience with the roleplaying community, most players ignore gear from an IC perspective because it just doesn't make sense.

Personally, I have mixed feelings on gear. I like having things to do in the late game, and while grinding Nemesis merits for top level gear is a chore, at least it gives some sort of incentive to do things in the end game besides roll alts. Without the promise of character advancement of some kind or another, it's hard to convince players to keep playing their favorite characters. On the other hand, gear creates imbalance between players. As a PvP type of player, I like it when everyone has a fair shot.

The one thing that most people can agree on about CO is that the gear system is downright confusing. Most people just pick the items that give them the most points in their superstats and move happily along. Even though I have a fairly in-depth understanding on how the gear system works, distilling it into an easily digestible form is no easy task.

Hit the jump and you'll see what I mean.

The glass ceiling

Although I really don't have the space to explain how every stat in the game works, I can give you some guidelines. The first thing I'd like to bring up is the importance of the "magic stats." These stats are:

  • Endurance (increases maximum energy and indirectly affects the rate of energy gain)
  • Recovery (increases energy equilibrium and the rate of energy gain from many powers including builders)
  • Intelligence (reduces energy cost and improves recharge of all powers)
  • Constitution (increases maximum hit points and the amount of healing from green boosts)
Regardless of what kind of character you play, these stats are important. Increasing your ability to gather and use energy is key to any character. Even if you are a DEX/EGO hero built for critical hits, raising your health and increasing your energy efficiency helps your overall combat effectiveness.

Stat spreading is also important because within the Cryptic spreadsheets there is a magic formula:

20 + (level * 3.022 * (1.01)^level)

This formula determines the peak performance of your superstats when it comes to damage, as well as the performance of most other stats (other than END, CON, and PRE). If putting numbers into that formula fries your brain, don't worry; when Balseraph gave us the magic formula, he also gave us some sweet spots.

  • Level 20: 94
  • Level 25: 117
  • Level 30: 142
  • Level 35: 156
  • Level 40: 200
In general, you don't want to exceed these numbers by too much. Having a little over your sweet spot is fine, but having too much is a waste of points. That means that you should diversify your gear and pump those stats that aren't superstats too. The best stats to get are listed above, but PRE (raises threat for tanks, lowers threat for everyone else, raises the power of most heals) is also a very useful stat -- most characters have self heal powers, and all characters exist on one side of the aggro curve or another in lair runs.

Spreading the love

When you find a new shiny piece of gear, or when you get a quest reward and have to pick from a bunch of different items, it can be a total pain to find out which item is actually the best. Again, most people pick whatever raises superstats the most, but I know you can do better than that.

Each item effect does something different. Most raise stats while others give some cool effect like reducing the cost of your powers or giving you resistance to a particular damage type. These other effects have their uses, especially in PvP, but that's a whole different topic for another time.

Items generally have either one minor effect (for secondary items) or one major effect and one minor effect (for primary items). Both types of effects can raise multiple stats. Generally, if an effect raises multiple stats, it will give them a larger benefit than if it raises one.

For instance, you may find 3 different secondary utility items:
  • EGO +17
  • EGO +10, PRE +10
  • EGO +8, PRE +8, INT +8
Although there are some rounding issues, the second item gives more stat points than the first, and the third gives even more. Not all of these options may be good for all characters, since not everyone will want to raise EGO or PRE. However, using the items that give larger overall stat numbers ensures a greater overall gain for your character -- especially when you consider the 'glass ceiling.'

If you look at talents, you'll find that they are much the same way. Never select a talent that gives a bonus to just one stat. When in doubt, select the ones that give +5/+5 to two stats -- you'll get more bang for your money that way.

One very important thing that you should remember when spreading stat points: Avoid wastage. If your character doesn't have a need for Dexterity, any item that gives DEX has wasted points. Always focus on items that gives you the most points in stats that you want -- specifically, your superstats, energy-affecting stats, and CON/PRE (and PRE only if you have self-healing powers or are a tank).

Making it big

Equipment itself follows a whole list of rules and guidelines. Although there are a few strange exceptions from rare boss drops or quest rewards, the majority of items in CO consist of rules that follow the spreadsheets (and the ones that don't are probably on accident). If you're looking for an item to fill a gap, this little guide will help you find what you're looking for, assuming your head doesn't explode from the numbers.

First, I'd like to point you to information other people have already made. There's a table for each crafting type: Arms, Mysticism, and Science. Each crafting type has a set of attributes they focus on, and that can give some general rules. However, those tables give you very specific rules as well if you know how to read them.

The stats in those tables can be applied in one of five ways:

  • A stat buff for any one of the three listed stats
  • A stat buff for the first two listed stats
  • A stat buff for all three of the listed stats
Let's look at something simple: a Science item in Secondary Offense. If we look up the Science tables on CO-Wiki, it gives us three stats, REC, DEX, and CON.

This means a Science item slotted into secondary offense can raise either REC, DEX, or CON, it can raise both REC and DEX, or it can raise all three of those stats.

It means that if we're looking for REC, DEX, and CON (perhaps a crit build), we want to focus on Science items in the secondary offense slots. If we're avoiding DEX though (most builds), we probably want to avoid Science items in these slots. This doesn't just apply to crafting; Science drops from enemies or quests work the same way.

Now let's look at something trickier: a Mysticism item in Primary Offense. An item slotted into Primary Offense will have both a major and a minor effect. The major stats are REC, DEX, and STR; the minor stats are PRE, REC, and STR.

The major effect can be one of the three REC, DEX, and STR stats, it can be REC and DEX, or it can be all three. The minor effect can be PRE, REC, or STR; it can be PRE and REC, or it can be all three.

In this case, Mysticism primary offense items are some of the best, since you can select one with a REC major effect and a PRE/REC minor effect. This gives you slightly less wastage than other crafting types, unless you're focusing on STR or DEX (or completely avoiding PRE).

Too long; didn't read

I don't blame you if you skipped to here. There's a lot of info to digest above and it takes a lot of time for it to sink in. In summary:
  • Don't just focus on your superstats; spread points to other useful stats whenever possible
  • END, REC, CON, INT are always good; PRE is usually good too
  • Be aware of the glass ceiling
  • Try to find or craft items with minimal stat wastage
If you can master the knowledge in this guide, you'll find that your heroes become more effective, and more often than not, more fun to play.

You may also find that you spend about a lot more time pondering the rewards from quests. I know I do.

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