Vocations & Skill points

Applies to: Nintendo DS

Confused by skills, skill points, abilities and vocations? Read on, the help you've been praying for is right here...

Vocation? What does this mean?

In very basic terms a vocation is a job that a character does: it won't be important in the earliest stages of the game when you're wandering around on your ownsome killing enemies, but very quickly you'll find strength in numbers to be a boon. The Quester's Rest Inn at Stornway (where new party members can be created from scratch or recruited) will be your first run-in with the vocation system which includes the categories Minstrel, Mage, Priest, Warrior, Martial Artist and Thief to start off - yet more vocations will become available in the course of your awesome adventures.

Vocation can make all the difference to a character: it determines the spells, abilities and traits they can learn and the armour, weapons or kit they can equip. Warriors can't equip wands like Priests and Mages do, whereas Minstrels and Martial Artists are vocations that allow you to use fans in battle. Martial Artists or Thieves wouldn't go near a shield with a barge pole and there's no way you'll find a Mage sporting heavy armour or a gigantic sword. It's easy to see what vocation can equip what type of kit from the icons in the menu, so shop according to your crew.

So vocations come with attributes… What do these tell me?

A character's vocation also decides the starting levels of some statistics that govern how good they are at things and what areas they receive bonuses in when they level up. Take a glance at the 'Attributes' screen found in the menu and you'll see numbers next to labels like Strength, Agility, Max. HP, etc – the higher the number the better your character is at that thing, or the more points they have before they run out. For example, Warriors start with high Strength and Resilience, whereas Mages have comparatively lower numbers in these areas from the offing, but of course there's a trade off: Warriors don't get the gigantic Magical Might or Max. MP that Mages get. When characters get stronger, they receive bonuses in the Attributes most relevant to their vocation.

Your character starts as a Minstrel, a balanced character type that can do a bit of everything but isn't superb at anything. That will soon change...

I levelled up and need to "Allocate Skill Points". What should I do?

As your character levels up you'll be awarded skill points that you can allocate to different areas - and each vocation has its own specialised skill set that can be improved. When you earn skill points a list will be displayed showing the areas you can allocate points to within your current vocation, but you can also access this list from 'Allocate Skill Points' in the Misc. part of the menu whenever you like.

Most skills are to do with weapons (sword, shield, fan, etc) but the bottom one is always a vocation-specific skill, such as Faith for a Priest or Spellcraft for a Mage. Assigning skill points into the different areas allows you to learn new Abilities or give bonuses to your character's Attributes, which are called Traits.

When allocating skill points, there are a few things to bear in mind so you can squeeze the most from your characters:

  • The temptation is to put a little here and a little there, but your best bet is to concentrate on one thing that you want your character to be good at - there will be plenty of time (and points) later to put into other abilities. Don't spread the points too thinly - the more you put in, the more you get out.
  • Any Abilities or Traits you gain by allocating points to a weapon skill will only take effect when you're using that weapon, and you may not always be able to use it unless you assign 100 skill points to reach the level of 'Omnivocational' use.
  • Traits (like Natural Max MP+20, Natural Strength+20) that you earn by allocating skill points to a vocation-specific skill will be a permanent attribute bonus of your character from that point on, improving any vocation's basic attributes. So for example, if you put 18 skill points into your Mage's vocation-specific Spellcraft ability, he will gain the trait Natural Max MP+20. Now say you were to switch your Mage to a Priest, then he would still keep this trait and thus the additional 20 MP bonus!
  • Abilities learned via skill point allocation are permanently unlocked and can be used regardless of  vocation, providing they're not tied to a specific weapon.
  • While each vocation has its own skill set, there is a lot of crossover between vocations for weapon skills. So if you put a number of skill points into your sword skills for example, these will still be useful if you switch to a different vocation that also allows you to use a sword.
  • Don't forget that you don't have to allocate your skill points all at once! Especially later on in the game, it may make sense to save up your points for a while. Simply press the B Button in the "Allocate Skill Points" menu to cancel skill point allocation. Your points will stay ready to be allocated whenever you want, even if you change vocation.

Allocating skill points wisely is an absolute goldmine for improving your characters when you combine it with changing your vocation.

When do I get to change vocation then?

Soon enough you'll reach a place called Alltrades Abbey, and once you've sorted out the fruity events there the Abbot will return, allowing you and your party members to freely change vocation at any time.

Switching vocation can seem disempowering if you go about it the wrong way, but it's the bees knees if you have an idea of what you're doing...

Why is it good to change  vocations?

First off, a vocation change puts you back down to level 1 in the new vocation and you will temporarily 'forget' any Spells you learnt in previous vocations. But there's no need for gloom - this is where the clever bit happens! You won't permanently lose the levels you've built up in other vocations, they remain there for you to come back to later; likewise with any Spells you might have learned. However, your current skill point balance, all Attribute bonuses and any Abilities you've earned by spending skill points carry over into your new vocation. (Again, providing they aren't tied to a weapon that you cannot use in your new vocation.)

Perhaps most importantly though, returning to level 1 allows you lots of space to level up all over again, earning tons more valuable skill points as you go and (thanks to the bonuses you'll have from skills) it will be easier this time since you're a lot tougher. Simply change vocation, head back to an area of the world where the monsters weren't quite so challenging and presto, you'll be raking in the points in no time.

And how do I discover new vocations?

At the beginning you'll only be able to choose from six vocations: Minstrel, Mage, Priest, Warrior, Martial Artist and Thief. You can unlock additional vocations by completing side quests which are dotted all over the world. Make sure you talk to everyone you can, especially the people at Alltrades Abbey. But trust us when we say you can come across new vocations in the unlikeliest of places...

Still confused? How about a few examples of quick fixes:

How do I carry on improving a certain weapon skill across vocations?

At Alltrades Abbey, take a look at the descriptions for each vocation and see which ones can use the weapon you like; swap between these, level up a bit and you can allocate skill points to that weapon while you use it. Alternatively, there's nothing to stop you switching to any other vocation, earning a great wodge of skill points, than swapping back to the job with the skill you've chosen and ploughing all your power into it!

My weakest character dies all the time, what can I do?

If they can't already, switch them to a vocation that can use a shield (e.g. Warrior, Minstrel, Priest) and put 100 skill points in the Shield skill so they become an "Omnivocational Shieldmaster". That way they will be better at defending / blocking and have a higher defense when you swap back to their original career - not to mention that they will be able to use a Shield in any vocation! Alternatively, switch to a vocation that gains bonuses in Max. HP (like Martial Artist, Warrior or Thief) and allocate points so they can take more damage before they drop.

Aargh, I changed vocations and my party is rubbish now: how can I get them up to speed asap?

One, metal slimes are slippery steely suckers, but give tons of experience. Hunt 'em down in places like the Quarantomb. Two, enemies that call for backup can be farmed for bounteous XP, head for Leafy Larrikins and the like...

Finally, don't get stuck on just one vocation forever, you'll be stronger and more versatile if you take the time to try a bit (or a lot) of everything that the game has to offer. Be directed in the early stages, then branch out when you have skill points to spare and the bad guys will be falling at your feet. Good luck!