Boss Battles – The Elemental Shifter

A great resource for those interested in old-school RPG Maker design is a blog called “Final Boss Blues.” Whenever I think about that name, I immediately start thinking about, well, bosses. Endemic to RPG Maker VX Ace are a host of terrible boss fights. Boss fights typically just become longer versions of the random encounter variety, with different music and more powerful enemy attacks. But what makes a good boss fight isn’t more of the same – it’s really a test of skill. Oftentimes, that skill is one that the player can ignore in random encounters, but now becomes essential.

Today I want to talk about one particular fun boss mechanic – an element shifting boss. They’ve been around since elements were in RPGs, and they’re quite easy to do in RPG Maker! Let’s get to it – I’m going to make a boss that flits back and forth between a “fire” aspect and a “thunder” aspect. You can adopt this to as many elements as you want.

A Tale of Two States

A element shifting boss is governed by states, just like Poison or Ice Force. These states allow us to control a lot about the boss. I’ve created two states, “Aspect of Fire” and “Aspect of Lightning.” For each, I’ve given it a little text (so the player knows what element the boss is in when it changes), and I’ve used the Features box to reduce the damage done by that element to 0%, and increase the damage done by the opposing element.

You can guess that the other one just changes the text and elements involved. The notes are just that, notes - they don't do anything.

You can guess that the other one just changes the text and elements involved. The notes are just that, notes – they don’t do anything.

Now, we need to give our boss the ability to self-apply these states. Create two skills, each one adding a state and removing the other, like so.

Make sure your skills are certain hits. It would be extremely embarrassing for a lightning god to fumble on applying his elemental state.

Make sure your skills are certain hits. It would be extremely embarrassing for a lightning god to fumble on applying his elemental state.

You can also create any other skills you want your boss to have the ability to use, assuming the defaults don’t fit your boss.

Setting Us Up The Boss

When establishing what skills an enemy can use, you’ve probably twiddled with the “Rating” a lot. It’s what determines how often the enemy uses the attack, so that it’s not casting Ultima every single turn. But there are also a lot of conditions you can set, including…state! State asks whether the attacking enemy has a particular state. This means that we can say “boss can cast Thunder, but only if it has Aspect of Lightning applied.” So let’s do that.

Fill in as many as you want; variety is the spice of life.

Fill in as many as you want; variety is the spice of life.

We need to add two more skills – the ones we created before which allow us to flip. Remember to set the condition so that the skill which applies fire state requires thunder state; and vice-versa.

Start Him Off

Finally, if the boss were run like this, we’d end up with a boss that just keeps attacking and does nothing else. Why? Because all of his attacks are state dependent, and he doesn’t have a state. So at the start of battle, pick a state and add it.

When you set the Span to "Battle" it means this is just going to happen once this battle. Which is exactly what we want.

When you set the Span to “Battle” it means this is just going to happen once this battle. Which is exactly what we want.

And there you have it! Our elemental boss will shift between Fire and Lightning with ease, and do appropriate attacks.

Improving the Boss

If we allow ourselves to use a tiny bit of script, we can really improve this boss in the following ways:

  • Change his graphic so that the player knows which element he’s in just by looking at him
  • Have him absorb elemental damage rather than negate it

We’ll explore that and some other options next week!

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