Game Systems Breakdown

This document consists of my research, personal findings, and hunches regarding the inner workings of Final Fantasy (the Origins Version). For the most part I have assumed that the game works like the NES version, which has been well documented online, with the addition of bug fixes. I have tried to verify my claims where possible, but some are hard to test, or I just don't have the patience. The specifics may not be 100% accurate, but they should be useful regardless.

Note that I have not gone into extreme technical detail in these notes. I could tell you that the base chance to hit is 168, and that the to-hit roll is made by generating a number between 0 and 200, but it seems more immediately useful to simply say that the base chance to hit is approximately 84%, and that each two points of accuracy or evasion will adjust this number by about 1%. If you want specific numbers, feel free to search the internet for the more in-depth FF1 formula breakdowns.

The Data

There is quite a bit of data available in this database. Everything you could possibly want to know (and then some) about monsters, items, spells, and special attacks is included. A pretty thorough breakdown of the character classes and every location in the game are available as well. The crown jewel of the collection, though, is the full, easy-to-read encounter tables. Because everything is cross-referenced to hell and back, it's all very easy to find whatever it is you might be looking for. So, what are you looking for?

How to Use this Guide

If you're trying to figure something specific out, this guide is pretty straightforward. Want to find a monster with high evasion and low defense to test your crazy critical hit theory on? No problem. But chances are you actually just want to play the game. Well, more than "play" since you can do that without a cross-referenced database. (Or so they tell me.) So how can you use this information to enhance your experience?

As I see it, there are two uses for this much raw data. You can either crunch the numbers to come up with optimal strategies, or you can let someone else do that, then use their conclusions. I am that someone else. I have attached "notes" fields to pretty much everything, and my intent is to play through the game (twice, so as to cover every class) and record all my strategic observations. You can then go look up whatever part of the game you're on and get a lot of data, and some condensed conclusions drawn from that data. I'd suggest starting with the Area list. Click on any location, including the World Map, and you'll see a breakdown of encounter tables with notes on every single one of them. And this game is all about combat. If you want more monster-specific information, or advice on item or spell use, that's simple enough to access as well.

In order to make things a little more convenient, I will be adding an abbreviated walkthrough to this document. This will basically be a list of things to do, with appropriate links, in the order the game intends for you to do them in. That's kind of my big thing—figuring out what the intentions of the game are. If you want to glitch or exploit your way through it, this is not the FAQ for you.

Understanding the Statistics

There are a lot of numbers available in this database. Knowing exactly what Attack, Evasion, Defense, and so on all do will help you out quite a bit.

Basic Statistics

Each character has a number of statistics you have virtually no control over. These consist of Hit Points, Strength, Agility, Intelligence, Endurance, Luck, base Accuracy, Magic Defense, and Magic Points (spell slots). You can powergame most of the numerical stats by saving before you level and reloading until you get the upgrades you want, but honestly that's a waste of time. It's best to consider these background statistics and pay attention to their values, not their progression. One major exception to this rule is a statistic you have absolutely no control over: base Accuracy.

As you might expect, your Accuracy affects your ability to hit monsters. Hitting monsters is important, but Accuracy has another purpose that makes it even more vital: it determines how many attacks you can make in a round. Specifically, you get an extra attack for every 32 points of Accuracy you have. Warriors and Monks gain 3 Accuracy each level, so they get another attack just about every 11 levels. White Mages and Black Mages gain only 1 point of Accuracy per level, while Thieves and Red Mages gain 2. However, it is not just your base Accuracy that determines your number of hits: weapon Accuracy factors in as well. So the Masamune and its +50 Accuracy is giving any character at least one extra attack per round, and possibly two. Not only that, but the spell Saber grants +10 Accuracy (and +16 Attack) which can also give you more hits, and it stacks with itself. For the most part, though, you just need to worry about your number of hits. If you have 25 base Accuracy and you have to choose between weapons that grant +5 and +10 Accuracy, the +10 is better (even if it does less damage) simply because it gets you a second hit.

Combat Statistics

Your combat statistics (Attack, Accuracy, Defense, and Evasion) are the main statistics you have control over. Weapons add directly to your base Attack and Accuracy, while armor is your only means of gaining Defense. Armor decreases your Evasion, though, meaning that you will often trade taking less damage for getting hit more often. (This is usually a good trade.) Weapons and Armor have some extra properties that are quite nice as well, but one thing they will not do is affect your Magic Defense. That is one stat that is preset and hidden, and no one is even quite sure how it is determined in the Origins version of the game.

On offense, you're worried about three things: Attack, Accuracy, and Critical Hit Rate. I covered Accuracy before. Each hit you do will deal a random number between one and two times your Attack score in damage, minus the target's Defense, with a minimum of 1. So if you have 30 attack and hit a target with 15 defense, you will do between 15 and 45 damage per hit. Critical hits add your Attack in bonus damage, and the extra damage ignores Defense, so in the aforementioned scenario a Critical Hit would deal between 45 and 75 damage. But even if you were attacking a Dark Flan with 255 Defense, a critical hit would deal 31 damage instead of the usual 1. Critical hits are, thus, an important factor in breaking down high defense. Fortunately due to one of the few major bugs Origins didn't fix, most endgame weapons have a very generous critical hit rate. Instead of being weapon-specific as intended, weapons' critical hit rates increase in the order they appear in the data. Generally this means that the later you find a weapon, the better its critical hit rate, capping with the Masamune's 20+% rate.

Defensively, things are a bit simpler. As I mentioned, Defense simply subtracts damage from attacks. If your Defense is double the monster's Attack, which will happen more often than you'd think, you will take 1 damage from each non-critical hit (and most monsters have an abysmal crit rate). Evasion obviously helps you avoid attacks entirely, to the tune of about 1% avoidance rate per two points of Evasion. A quick look at the monster table shows that, yeah, +1 Defense is usually worth −1 Evasion (and most armor follows this general formula).

The specific attack formula is good to know, but isn't all that important. The base chance to hit is around 84%, adjusted by the attacker's Accuracy and the defender's Evasion. Using a weapon strong against a specific enemy will increase this by about 20%, as will hitting a blinded enemy. Being blinded yourself reduces your hit rate by a like amount. Your chance to crit is based on the same roll as your attack, so if you have a 20% chance to hit and a 20% crit rate, every hit will be a crit.

The other important factor to keep in mind during physical combat is status ailments. A lot of monsters can inflict status ailments on your party (usually Poison) with each hit. The base chance of success is around 50%, adjusted by your Magic Defense. Having armor that resists the attack will drop the chance to zero, and just being high level will drop it nearly as far. No monster is any better than any other at causing status ailments, so while they are a big problem early in the game, your party will be mostly immune to them by the end. Note that several creatures get several hits for 1 damage just to cause status ailments, like my hated foe the Crawler.

Another aspect of combat that is important to keep in mind is how party order affects the fight. Your party leader will have 50% of your enemies' single-target attacks directed at him, while your second character takes 25% and the last two take 1/8 each. For this reason, it is wise to keep a heavily-armored Warrior in the top slot at almost all times.

And that's really all the important information regarding physical combat. It's worth understanding, as you'll do quite a bit of it. But it's not the be-all and end-all of fighting in Final Fantasy.

Magic and Special Attacks

Magic and special attacks work basically the same way, and I will use "magic" to refer to both from now on, to save myself some typing. The strange thing about magic is that the caster's stats are irrelevant when using it. Intelligence was probably supposed to do something, but if it does, the effect is so subtle that no one has ever observed it. Thus, when casting spells you only need to worry about the spell's statistics, and your opponent's Magic Defense and elemental affinities.

Mechanically, magic works a lot like a normal attack. The base chance to hit is a bit lower (74%), but you add a spell's Accuracy and subtract the target's Magic Defense just like you would subtract Evasion from an attack. The interesting thing about magic is that "missing" a damaging spell still results in the target taking damage, but that damage is halved. If you were wondering why Fire1 does 10–40 damage when everything else seems to be in an X–2X format, there's your reason. Fire1 actually deals 20–40 damage on a hit, or 10–20 damage on a miss. I have written the spell summaries to reflect this—just like you don't bother to point out that Sleep1 doesn't put people to sleep if it misses, I'm not going to mention the half damage thing.

The hit formula for magic is simple, but resistances and weaknesses play a big role in spell combat. Your spells are about 20% more likely to hit a target weak to their element, and deal 50% extra damage if they're damaging spells. That upgrades Fire1 to a 30–60 damage spell. Not bad! Resisting an element, however, drops the base hit chance all the way to 0, and the target takes half damage on top of the already likely miss, for an end result of 1/4 damage. Fire1 would do 5–10 damage in this case. Ouch! The moral of the story is, don't waste spells on enemies that resist them.

Magic Defense is something you should also take into account before casting. Just as you wouldn't want to attack a Green Slime with 255 Defense, casting on a Purple Worm with 200 Magic Defense is usually futile. Even if they don't resist the element of the spell you're casting, you're starting off with a hit chance of −26% plus spell Accuracy. Accuracy 64 spells have an abysmal ~6% chance to hit, and even the max-accuracy spells like Flare and Holy only hit about a quarter of the time. When you can't hit the enemy with a spell, remember that buffs never miss. Haste is always a good spell.

While you can't improve your own Magic Defense, a number of armor pieces will grant you resistance to various elements. In the mid-game, these are mostly damage types, but the almighty Ribbon grants you resistance to all eight elements. Yeah, this is no "protection from status ailments" crap (though it does that, too). Ribbons make you virtually immune to every non-damaging spell or ability, and reduce the damaging ones to 1/4 of their usual effect. The only problem is, there are only three Ribbons, so someone needs to go without one. Common wisdom is to leave your Knight Ribbon-free, since he actually suffers a bit from the hit to Defense, but when you're being targeted by half the single-target spells, it can come in handy.

The Monk

The Monk is interesting in FF1, and by "interesting" I mean "game-breaking," because he doesn't play by the same rules. If you remove his weapons, he gets double the number of hits and does a decent amount of damage with them. By level 8 the Monk should always be fighting unarmed. By endgame levels (approaching 30), the Monk is a damage machine. If for some reason you decide to keep leveling beyond that point, they only become more ridiculous. A level 50 Monk is an unstoppable force of nature without any equipment at all.

The Monk's damage and number of hits aren't the only class-specific mechanics, though. A Monk's unarmed critical hit rate is approximately their level as a percentage, which puts them well above the Masamune by the time you get it. And if a Monk goes unarmored, they gain Defense equal to their level. From a practical standpoint, this is not usually worth doing at normal levels, since you can get more defense with armor, not to mention elemental resistances. However, if you want to give your best armor to someone else, having a buck-naked Monk is a viable option.

The Hardcore Commandments

Final Fantasy is a pretty easy game if you know all the tricks. Any boss will fall before the might of a super-buffed Warrior, for instance. But I'm more into making the game interesting than easy. With that in mind, I have developed a number of "commandments" to play the game more like I envision it was meant to be played. It's a bit more challenging, but that much more rewarding as a result.

  1. Thou Shalt Not Buy the Mythril Sword in Elfheim: Yes, you read that right. The Mythril Sword is an interesting weapon. It's available early in the game, though it's fairly expensive, and it's really powerful. More powerful, in fact, than the half-dozen swords you find in chests after you first reach Elfheim. More powerful than any weapon you can buy in Melmond. By the time you get to Crescent Lake, it's still arguably the best weapon for your Warrior and Red Mage. It is, in a word, uninteresting. The later remakes of the game removed it from the shop entirely, and the game is simply more fun without it. Try it. Just ignore the Mythril Sword. You'll be glad you did.
  2. Thou Shalt Not Use Auto-Targeting: Anyone who's played the NES version of FF1 remembers only too well attacking enemies that were no longer there and getting the "Ineffective" message. So why subject yourself to that when you don't have to? Put simply, it will make you a better player. If you can just have everyone fight the first enemy and win a battle, you have no incentive to think—or observe. But when you need to consider who's likely to kill enemies with their attacks, you become much more aware of exactly how good those attacks are. Plus, back in my day we swung at air constantly and we liked it!
  3. Thou Shalt Not Stack Buffs: One of the sillier aspects of FF1 is that every buff, with the exception of Haste, stacks. This wouldn't be as much of a problem if there weren't items that cast every good buff in the game. And stacking buffs is generally very powerful. So don't do it! That means just one casting each of Blink, Invis1 or Invis2, Shld1 or Shld2, Steel, and Saber per character. And just one Focus1 or Focus2 per enemy, while you're at it!
  4. Thou Shalt Observe Equipment Limits: In the NES version of the game, the entire party could only hold 16 weapons and 16 pieces of armor. If you wanted to pick something else up, you had to drop something. Well, that's a bit extreme, but the switch to a party item list fundamentally broke item use in the game. See, a number of items cast spells in battle, for free, and having to actually hold those items was what made this even remotely fair. In Origins, though, everyone in the party can take a turn using the Giant's Gloves (albeit not the same turn). In the NES version you had to be wearing them! (Of course, the Giant's Gloves didn't work in the NES version...) Limiting yourself to 16 weapons and 16 pieces of armor is silly, but deciding which four of each any given character is carrying is not. Weapons are a lot less abusable in this regard, so if you just restrict people to using armor they're wearing for the most part, you'll be OK.
  5. Thou Shalt Not Grind: This is more of a challenge than a commandment. Early in the game you will often be strapped for cash, and later you may wish you had a few more levels. The biggest complaint leveled at console RPG's is the necessity to grind, and Final Fantasy is a poster child for grinding. The thing is, though, it doesn't have to be. Instead of wandering around for the sake of getting into random encounters to gain money and/or experience, just continue the plot at all times. If you're too weak to move on, retreat and regroup, and you will naturally level without spending any time actually "grinding." Come on, all the cool kids are doing it.
  6. Thou Shalt Not Memo Save: Memo save is a great security blanket. Save right in front of a boss, and if you lose, you can try again (or just cut your losses and leave to rest up). Well back in my day we had no such nonsense. If you want to memo save so your timer doesn't run while you're at dinner or something, fine, but don't keep playing or load the game from one save more than once.
  7. Thou Shalt Not Use Battle Support: Honestly this one isn't a biggie. Battle Support, which lets you use Life spells and recover from Stone during combat, probably isn't going to have a big impact on the game one way or another. But if you're trying to "keep it real," as it were, you may as well leave the game as much like the original version as possible.