Considering the merits of the Str/Mag split


This has been a long-running point of discussion with @BwdYeti, whose opposition to the split can be stated thusly: mages have no use for strength, and melee units have minimal use for magic (beyond enchanted weapons, which are highly uncommon). Splitting the stats offers no benefit other than the creation of hybrid classes, in essence (but those would account for maybe 10% of the class selection at best). Here’s a chatlog dump if anyone’s interested, where we considered a gaiden-style MP penalty system to put Mages’ strength stat to use.

The “Tellius solution,” which was once tested years ago in FE4: Advance, made strength the stat buffer for weapon weight. This original str/mag split made luck a static stat to replace constitution, and then revamped the original luck into the new magic stat. However, that makes high strength units even more OP. At base, after making the switch, Noish doubled just as reliably as Alec - which a static constitution stat balanced.

The dream, of course, is to just add the new stat outright, thus preserving constitution. But what use do mages then have for strength? It seems like an interesting design question to tackle, so I’ll pose it to the community.

Yetiman says this problem can’t be solved, but maybe someone here has some insightful commentary?


That’s why I never really thought the split was such a big deal
I guess you could make str count as rescue aid or do what FE5 did and make resistance and magic the same stat and maybe do that for str/def?


Hybrid classes are really the only valid reason for implementing the split (outside of niche stuff like the Imbue skill from FE10).
However, the merits of hybrid classes are questionable. Look at knife wielding sages. Were those any good in the slightest?
Using strength for countering weapon weight puts magic classes at a strict disadvantage compared to physical classes (as you said).
However, the split has the potential for some interesting mechanics, provided someone comes up with some interesting mechanics (I liked Imbue, for example).


The more I think about it, skills are basically the most feasible way of making it work without overcomplicating the fuck out of things. Imbue was a good idea, yeah.

Maybe something like Entropy: Factors speed + (strength/2) into the unit’s avo calculation.


I think the whole point of the split is just to diversify units and give other hackers the opportunity to do so. Hybrid classes are a good enough reason for me to justify its existence along with nicer balancing of magic swords (especially if you plan on increasing the frequency of magic swords like I do).

True enough physical units have more use for magic than magic units do for strength - I suppose you could have Str-as-Con for tomes only, perhaps? I wouldn’t think it entirely unreasonable. --Or you could just fuse magic and resistance, which has already been done by yours truly.–


Hybrid classes are really the only reason, but yes, the ability to hit RES is far more valuable to physical primary units than the ability to hit DEF, and is compounded by the fact that ranged physical damage (1-2 thrown weapons or bows), even against squishies, is likely an inferior option than magic.

Fire Emblem’s base design space isn’t really accommodating of the split, so you have to look at designing around it. A skill system offers one simple (but maybe not 100% effective solution) - Allow hybrid mage/physicals access to a simplified form of Ignis, wherein they can gain a bonus fractional of their MAG stat to their strength. In situations of WTA or targetting a low DEF unit, this may be enough.

Similarly, you could supplement that with a ‘Spellbreaker’ type ability that gives WTA with any physical weapon versus tomes, and you’d make hybrids into caster-killers.

Also as @Agro pointed out, increasing the prevalance of magic swords/lances/axes etc. also herlps.

Of course, in GBAFE, where design space is massively constrained by technical limitations, the waters get muddier.


A few points to add to the discussion

  • One of the most important points, I feel, is that if a split exists, there should be reasons (even if not great reasons) for a unit to do better at the alternate Pow stat instead of their primary one. High Mag and low Str on physical units is more obvious, as they just use MSwords (or whatever their weapon type is) for reasonable damage and flexible usability, at the cost of literal higher costs for their specialty weapons. A high Str low Mag magic user has less obvious use, and I think any potenial split system should provide them some utility.
  • The major downside of the Str-as-Wgt-counterbalance is it further concentrates the usefulness of stats. Str is already one of the best stats, and doesn’t need another use. As well, physical units eventually stop having Wgt issues at all, both unbalancing powerful but heavy weapons and making high Spd units even even more powerful.
  • The FE7x ‘solution’ to the problem, using Res for MWeapons and healing, is designed to cause the opposite of the above issues. Res, one of the least useful stats, now becomes relevant for physical units that want to try getting around high enemy Def, and more important for magical units who have to be good at two stats to both attack and heal well, or can simply specialize in one or the other, creating various units each good at different things instead of interchangeable units that all do everything. Also:

I think we can all agree Bishops and Valkyries should be better healers then Sages and Warlocks, and the opposite for damage output. Using one stat for homogenizes both usage of magic users. As well, it prevents having interesting variant units like magic glass cannons or a ‘reverse pegasus’ with respectable Mag and Def but low Res.


i feel the main point to consider for a magic str split is that it has to be regularly implemented into game play, like if you have it then there should be a point to it in gameplay. like in fe11 and 12 there was little to no point for magic on a physical unit and str on a magic unit (aside for maybe weight reasons), and despite the addition opf magic and physical units in fe13 it still usually went that one type of weapon was prioritized over the other.
therefore for magic and str splits to serve a purpose i think that there needs to be classes who’s magical and physical power is evenly distributed between the two stats allowing said units to take advantage of an opponents physical or magical weakness despite perhaps not being as much of a powerhouse as other units. but for that to work the entire class tree would most likely have to be overhauled but eh, its just a possible solution.


imo the problem with having classes with balanced str and mag stats is that they either get broken very quickly (see: fe4 master knights) or would just be obseleted by more specialized units


well that’s part of the creators fault and or responsibility for setting such a situation up. lets not forget that a tactics game doesn’t need an even playing field across the board in order to make it challenging, it requires difficult strategic situations for the player to overcome in order to make it difficult.


so in what situation would a unit with middling str/mag stats be preferable over units with high str or mag stats?

vs a high defense unit i would far rather use the high mag unit (and vice versa for res)
a situation that requires your units to be spread out (and thus the high single units are unable to participate) would likely have high enemy density, in which enemy phase is extremely important. your mixed class unit is locked to a physical or magical weapon during that turn, in which his dual mastery doesn’t even come into play; in this case i would still prefer another high str/mag unit, as they will nuke one enemy type (leaving me with fewer discrete enemies to deal with on my turn)


in that situation no it would not be appropriate but you’ve identified the problem there in of itself, the prioritization of both keeping your own units alive, and the standard enemy formation of massive amounts of units that must be killed, what should be done is to challenge that mould and work a chapter around say high risk and reward, instead of making sure all your units stay alive it would be interesting to be forced into a situation were the easiest way out is to let one of your units take a plunge were they might get killed. as for the magic str split lets not forget its not limited to the player side, enemy’s would most likely have access as well, in which there advantage and the players advantage would be in damage mediation, perhaps not being able to kill outrageous amounts of units but being able to last longer in the front due to being able to cover more areas (attack res and def). however due to the heavy instance on both magic or physical nuking for player characters, and general shit stats comparably to the player for enemy units these ideas seem undesirable. in my opinion if one makes a magic nuke they should have low durability in all areas not just in def, and vice versa for physical units making them advantageous in taking on powerful enemy’s (striking finishing blows on bosses perhaps) but bad at taking to the front due to there poor performance in survivability. at this stage a more median unit would be desirable because he would be able to cover more enemy variety’s and as such take to the front as the main fighters (not always killing the enemy but at the very least spreading damage amongst the enemy.) of course i think there needs to be more instance on high risk and reward in a game such as fire emblem, sure it would be kinda frustrating but it would also be very fulfilling when those risks paid off, unlike the current approach of simply increasing enemy strength to increase difficulty (which is a part of difficulty but also has other aspects towards it that need to be applied)


it’s been demonstrated that glass cannon units are either largely useless outside of one-time nukes (see: lilina), which again turns back to the situation of the split units being far better, or the other deficits aren’t pronounced enough to make a difference (in which case i’d still rather use a nuke)

in theory it’s a nice idea but in practice it doesn’t make a difference because on enemy phase you’re locked to one anyway (so you’d either use the nuke or the secondary stat is irrelevant depending on stat tuning) and on player phase you would basically always want to use the nuke


Another possible thing to do is to make a unit, like a mage who can promote to mageknight, and give him the same starting STR/MAG base and growths, so he has the potential to do better in one stat or the other, leaving the player to strategize around those stats and whatever they end up as in the mid to lategame.


mah, i suppose so, then again doesn’t hurt to try something like that as a solution at the very least. just thought id throw in my 2 cents.

well yeah that’s always possible, i just feel that by restricting to the traditional ideas of fire emblem level design, people are restricting themselves when they dont need to. i think people should try to make new designs to better utilize ideas like magic and strength split.


I’ve actually come to agree with yeti about STR/MAG. I’d rather see POW/SPI, where POW is the damage you do with weapons and magic, and SPI is a whole new stat involving mana or some vitality system for magic and physical users to perform special moves and skills.

At least this is a new stat that makes SENSE to add.


hmm, would something like this be possible in fexna, cause that sounds like a really interesting idea to play around with actually.


You’re right that the “versatility” argument doesn’t come into play half of the time. So give some hybrid class a skill that reflexively switches the weapon based on whether the enemy’s def or res is higher.

Usefulness depends largely upon class construction. The answer probably just is: skills or bust, at this point. The stats have to be made relevant to split units, which would require a buff to str/mag that isn’t necessary otherwise (and has higher potential for overcomplication), otherwise the burden falls solely on hybrid classes to justify the system. As currently constructed, Fire Emblem can’t really capitalize on a split without a skills system acting as a “bandage” to patch over some of these flaws.

This isn’t really a solution to the one thing str/mag is supposed to enable: hybrid classes. Still can’t have outright Anima/Sword, for exampe. The closest yeti’s healing from res gets is hybrid melee/healing classes, which are cool, but it doesn’t offer the whole range of being able to combine any two weapon types. Basically you’re just adding mana. Which is cool, but just adding a stat isn’t really solving design issues, it’s just creating new layers of complication (if we’re going to be doing that regardless, we might as well come up with something that unlocks the whole range of possibilities).


I don’t see why not. Anima and swords aren’t exactly overpowered, they generally have low damage, and the benefit you get of attacking at full power with both is null compared to the damage an axe or dark magic tome can deal comparatively.


I feel like this could just as easily be solved by taking staves away from the more offense oriented classes.