This guide describes the basics of how action time works and discusses the masteries and mastery sets which can reduce your action time and how best to use them.
Action Time Basics
Action Time is the system that Troubleshooter uses to keep track of whose turn it is and who will go next.
When a character takes a turn their actions will generate action time for that character.
A slow character doing a complicated action will generate a lot of action time. A fast character doing nothing but waiting will generate very little.
When a character finishes their turn time passes, reducing the action time of all characters at the same rate until someone hits 0. That character will then take their turn.
There is no rule that forces each character to take the same number of turns. If a character's turn generates less action time than any other character currently has, then they will take two turns in a row!
Generating small amounts of action time and reducing your action time allows you not only to act before your enemies, but to act more often than them.
Action Time Formula
The amount of action time a character generates in their turn are decided by two factors: Their speed and the actions that they take.
- Action Time = 36 x (0.5 + 100/Speed) + Cast Delay of All Moves
This means that a character with 50 speed who uses two abilities with a cast delay of 25 each would generate an action time of:
- Action Time = 36 x (0.5 + 100/50) + 25 + 25 = 36 x 2.5 + 25 + 25 = 140
While a character with 100 speed who moved and made a basic attack with no cast delay would generate:
- Action Time = 36 x (0.5 + 100/100) = 54
The first character's turn would undoubtedly be more impressive, but the second character can take more than two full turns in the same amount of time!
Speed vs Action Time Reduction
It should be apparent that speed is very important to your action time management. If you browse the forums you will see a host of posts recommending masteries like Extreme Speed to help new players match their enemies in turn count.
But that formula was pretty complicated. What is a speed increase worth in terms of action time?
Let's consider how Extreme Speed (+10 speed) affects three characters with different base stats and equipment:
- 1) A low level character with speed 50
- 2) A mid level character with speed 75
- 3) An end game character with speed 100
The low level character's basic turn time goes from 90 to 78 - They've gained 15% of a turn every turn.
The mid level character goes from 66 to 60 - They've gained 10% of a turn every turn.
The end game character goes from 54 to 51 - They've gained 6% of a turn every turn.
As you can see, the higher your speed is, the less difference additional speed will make. The low level character is getting three times as much out of their speed increase than the end game one is. It's definitely worth increasing your speed if it's very low!
However action time reduction masteries typically reduce your action time by 5-15 every time they trigger. Even our low level character only improved their turns action time by 12 with the speed increase, so as your speed improves using an action time reduction mastery that you can reliably trigger quickly becomes more valuable than further speed increases.
Limitations of Action Time Reduction
Suppose we have a Sion who is not that fast (Speed 50) but has the executioner mastery set to counteract that (-15AT per enemy put out of action).
He throws out a beam of lightning with a cast delay of 15 and kills 6 enemies. How long is it until his next turn?
Unfortunately for Sion he doesn't get to knock his time all the way down to 15 (36 x (0.5 + 100/50) - (15*6) + 15) but instead has to wait for over twice that - 36 time units.
The reason for this is that you cannot reduce your action time below 36 on your turn.
However there is no rule preventing it being reduced below this threshold after your turn is finished.
Let's take another look at Sion. He's waiting patiently and an enemy approaches Albus. He has the cover bond so he's not going to stand for that! He throws out some chain lightning that fries not only that enemy but another 2 who were standing nearby.
This time he gets the full -45AT reduction. It becomes his turn immediately and he can attack again.
New players often experience this from the other side and wonder why the enemy gets to do so much (and whether the AI is cheating). An enemy attacks, ends its turn, but then when the player moves they somehow get a second attack and then is allowed to move and make a third attack - all in a very short space of time. Through the lens of AT management they are taking their turn, getting an interrupt attack, and then using that interrupt attack to reduce their AT enough to take a second full turn.
The goal of action time management is to use AT reducing masteries when their benefits aren't capped to ensure that you enjoy many more turns of attacking than your enemies do.
Effective Timings for AT Reduction
There are a three main ways to get the most out of AT reduction masteries:
- 1) Any mastery that does something "At the end of your turn" will trigger after the cap applies.
This means that masteries like Twilight of Pain (At the end of your turn reduce your AT by 5 for each 20% of your hp you have lost) will always have their full effect right away.
If you can develop a build with enough 'end of turn' AT reduction then you can take very short turns indeed, possibly even taking as many turns as you want if you can get it all of the way to 0.
- 2) The enemy will most often attack you when it is not your turn.
This means that masteries like Ready to Go (If you dodge an attack while in cover reduce your AT by 10) will almost always get their full effect.
If you can develop a build with enough 'on block' 'on dodge' 'on attacked' and 'on damaged' AT reduction then you can get to the point that as soon as a nearby enemy does anything it's your go again - making enemy numbers irrelevant to this character since they get a go any time any one fo them gets a go.
- 3) Reactive attacks exist
Reactive attacks (such as counterattack and forestall) are a mixed blessing. Most will increase your action time by a further 30 units, but they do allow you to attack while it's not your go.
This means that things like the aforementioned Executioner can be triggered off turn where you'll experience the full effect.
If you can develop a build that stacks enough of these you can make reactive attacks that reduce your AT more than they increase it - so that when you get a free attack against an enemy you also get a free turn to kill someone else!
The next few sections introduce AT reduction masteries for different situations.
I've aimed to express the mastery and mastery sets effect on AT reduction in plain English. It seemed unhelpful to keep wording like "On activating MASTERY -10AT" rather than just describing that masteries activation condition so it's clear what will reduce your AT.
In each section I've made some comments on which of these masteries I think are most effective and which seem to be of limited usefulness. These are entirely subjective, if you think something I talk down looks cool try it out, maybe you'll find a way to make it work great!
Reducing AT on Ending a Turn
- Best Condition (Common, Basic2): -10AT if you end your turn on full health
- Gathering (Common, Support2): -10AT ending turn with more allies than enemies in sight
- Twilight of Pain (Common, Support2): -5AT per 20% lost hp at the end of your turn
- The Wanderer of the Battlefield (Common Set): -10AT if you end turn with no enemies in LOS (Also does -5AT if an ally ends a turn adjacent to you)
- The Joy of Burning (Fire, Support2): -15AT per 3 fire fields within 3 spaces on ending turn
- Prosperity (Earth, Support2): -10AT at end of turn if your hp are full
- Reckless Charge (Grenadier, Basic2): -30AT at turn end if you did a dashing/dashing attack 8+ squares and have more enemies than allies in LOS
- Wandering Brawler (Fighter Set): -10AT on ending turn with no allies within 6 spaces
- Magic Accelerating Circuit (Battle Mage Set): At end of turn -1AT per 2 concentrated magic power (CMP). At start of turn -1AT per CMP generated by doubling CMP.
- Joyful Witch (Witch Set): -5AT for each debuff converted by mutant (All debuffs will be at the end of your turn)
- Multi Processing (Hacker Set): -2AT at the end of your turn per remaining protocol, if you used at least 2 protocols this turn.
The stand out option here is "Joy of Burning" which can provide over 100ATs of reduction in a big enough fire. It takes some set up to create enough fire, but Giselle's fire trap can do it in a single action, and then Irene (or your fire beastie or both) can make as many attacks as they like getting 0AT turns back to back.
The 30AT reduction for reckless charge is also pretty big and adding a mastery or two can let Ray consistently have 0AT turns - but she has to spend them dashing around and not making any attacks. Still, it can be used to let her repeatedly wait to skip cooldowns and use her best moves every turn or pull a few other tricks. You could also technically solo a level in 0 in game time with her using Punishment if you are very very patient.
On characters who will reliably heal themselves with life draining attacks or other tricks Best Condition can outperform Extreme Speed on all but the slowest of characters and has the exact same slot and point requirements.
The "sad mastery" prize for being not particularly useful in this category is a competition between Gathering and Multi Processing. You will be outnumbered most times and multi processing will stop working well if you take lots of turns in which you use lots of protoocols - which is what it requires to do its job.
Remember that these masteries can be added to any other approach and will combine easily - even if you plan to manage your AT with responsive attacks reducing your AT by a little at the end of your turn can bring you closer to the response making it your turn immediately when it happens.
Finally "Hide Yourself Well" gets an honourable mention here. It's not on the list because AT reduction on taking cover won't happen at the end of your turn for most characters, but gunmen with base defence can use it for a cheap and reliable -10AT each turn.
Reducing AT when the Enemy Attacks
- Ready to Go (Common, Support1): -10AT if you dodge an attack while in cover.
- Quick Grasp of the Situation (Common, Basic3): -5AT if an enemy ends their turn in your LOS.
- Distorted Heart (Common Set): -10AT if an enemy with a buff you can steal hits you.
- Lunatic Beast (Common Set): -15AT if you take damage from an enemy.
- Please Help Me! (Common Set): -10AT if you dodge an attack while concealed.
- Revolutionist (Common Set): -10AT if you put a higher level enemy OOA, -10AT when damaged by a higher level enemy.
- The Perfect Stakeout (Common Set): -5AT if you dodge an attack while in cover.
- Strength Absorption (Fighter, Defence2): -10AT when adjacent enemy damages you for less than 25% of your hp.
- Quick Reaction (Thrower, Defence2): -15AT on dodging an attack.
- Weapon Blocking (Swordsman, Defence2): -10AT when blocking.
- Sword of Protection (Great Swordsman Set): -20AT when blocking
- Justice Victory Blade (Magic Knight Set): -10AT when taking damage from a target belonging to a criminal organisation
- Gatekeeper (Fighter Set): -10AT on taking damage from an adjacent foe (TRANSLATION ERROR?)
- Master of Weapons (White Knight Set): -10AT when taking a melee hit of damage lower than your attack power
- Opportunist (Grenadier Set): -10AT for dodging an attack
- High Ground Sniping (Sniper Set): -10AT if you are attacked while you have both Elevated Position and Cover.
Look how many times you can stack "On block" on a swordsman and "On dodge" on a shooter!
On block tends to work better since the AI seems to weigh dodge chance heavily in deciding who to attack. It's all well and good having a sniper who responds to being attacked in cover by automatically dodging and getting -30AT but it does little good if the AI keeps shooting your battlemage instead.
I'm not sure exactly how Gatekeeper works here because the mastery set says that it works the same way as Shedding which lists is criteria as "On taking damage" and then says what sort of bonus you get if you dodged. As far as I know it's impossible to dodge and take damage so I think the translation on that mastery is wonky.
This categories sad face award goes to the AT bonus from Revolutionist. Most levels involve dozens and dozens of enemies who are lower level than you and a tiny handful of ones who are higher level. That bonus is so rarely going to trigger it might as well not be there. The set is still worth a look though since it expands the area of the excellent Charisma mastery which is worth considering if you need to boost your basic speed (It's only one more point than extreme speed and the status it permenantly gives boosts speed and a bunch of other stuff for multiple characters!)
Reducing AT when You Reactive Attack
- Undefeated (Common Set): -10AT per enemy put out of action by Forestallment or Counterattack
- I Know It Already (Gunman Set): -30AT for putting a target OOA with responsive fire
- Improvision (Fighter&Dancer Set): -10AT putting enemy OOA with counterattack, -10AT putting enemy OOA with responsive attack
- I Am Legend (Sweeper Set): -20AT on putting a target OOA with close suppression fire
- Nimble Responsive Attack (Engineer Set): -20AT when you or your summoned robots responsive attack
There aren't that many of these, but anything that works with attacks in general will also work with responsive attacks so mix and match with the next section.
I know It Already is the stand out option here, offering a whopping 30AT reduction which negates the cost of the shot, allowing any other AT gains for making the attack to be pure profit. Just look out for it triggering on "Responsive fire" not "Responsive attacks" - your bond attacks don't count even if they're literally you responding to something by firing.
Nimble Responsive Attack is also a delight, not so much because of its own effect, but because Kylie's reaction matrix is one of the few sources of free responsive attacks in the game, so you're already 30AT better off than most things if you're building around it.
The sadface award goes to Undefeated. It offers the smallest reduction (Tied with improvisation, but that can trigger twice on one attack) and doesn't even work for all of the sorts of AT leeching responsive attack you'll have if you include each of its component masteries.
Reducing AT when You Attack
- Blood Thirst (Common, Basic2): -20AT attacking a bleeding target
- Conqueror (Common Set): -10AT if you put a target OOA while there are more allies than enemies in your LOS
- Executioner (Common Set): -15AT per enemy you take out of action
- Positioning (Common Set): -20AT if you hit a target from Still Stance or Elevated Position
- Revolutionist (Common Set): -10AT if you put a higher level enemy OOA, -10AT when damaged by a higher level enemy
- The Golden City (Human Set): -10AT when you gain a rare item
- A Hero Never Gives Up (Irene, Defence2): Gain Hero (3 turns -30AT when putting a target OOA) on reviving
- The Responsibility of a Hero (Irene, Attack2): Gain Hero (3 turns -30AT when putting a target OOA) on ally being OOA or losing 50% hp
- Overflowing Energy (Lightning, Support2): Gaining Lighting SP while overcharged gives -AT equal to the SP gained
- Black Witch (Bianca Set): -10AT when putting an enemy OOA
- Bloodbath (Swordsman Set): -30AT when putting a bleeding target OOA
- Seasoned Warrior (Warrior Set): -10AT when you attack an enemy with lower speed than you
- An Opportunity Not to be Lost (White Knight Set): -30AT when attacking an enemy who has the counterattack mastery (then CA them)
- Bloody Brawl (Barbarian Set): -5AT per enemy when killing 3+ enemies in a single attack
- Solitary Fighter (Fighter Set): -20AT on attacking an enemy with no allies within 6 spaces
- Fist Faster than Light (Fighter Set): -10AT when you attack an enemy and they are stunned afterwards
- Magic Explosion (Battle Mage Set): On attack 4% chance per CMP (concentrated magic power) to trigger, -AT equal to CMP if it does
- Magical Accelerator (Black Mage Set): -10AT when dealing damage to a target while magic accelerator is active
- You're Already Dead (Gunman Set): -20AT for putting a target OOA
- Sniper in Shadow (Sniper Set): -20AT if you fail to put a target OOA with a piercing shooting attack while not detected by any enemy
- Planned Trap (Hunter Set): -10AT per enemy put OOA by trap (Also -10AT on camouflage)
- Thunder Bolt (Lighting Set): -10AT if you damage a target afflicted with a lightning debuff
- Storm Hammer (Wind Set): -10AT on knocking a target back with a wind attack ability (All gain KB as part of set)
- Blood Wind (Wind Set): -30AT on taking a target OOA
Ooh there's some good stuff here. Bloodbath and blood wind are both 30AT reductions which is a big reduction. It's also worth noting the ones that trigger on attack (like seasoned warrior) so you're still getting something even if you get unlucky and your reactive attack misses. Ones that trigger on damage (or storm hammers knockback) are also good for giving their reduction when an enemy impulse fields or otherwise negates your kill.
I included a couple of Irene's masteries that don't strictly count here because they generate hero status, which has the "Taking an enemy out of action generates 30AT" rider and I wanted to draw attention to it. This can serve Irene using her personal mastery to generate it in order for her to manage some extreme reductions on counter. It can also be surprisingly accessible for Alisa who'll generate hero from Lunacy on about 1 in 11 kills (If she has a rage status) which she can rack up fairly quickly if she's set up for it.
There are a lot of competitors for the sadface award here too, some of these are so situational that they'll never trigger on a high enough percentage of turns to be better than another speed boost. The award for worst of the worst is a tie between Alisa for the "An Opportunity Not to be Lost" mastery set which is so situational you'll only see it a few times per level and Alisa for the "Bloody Brawl" mastery set which has a triggering requirement you'll never see off turn and that's likely to fail even if you spend your turn setting it up as an answer to cast delay. She has a lot of dud sets.
Other AT Reduction Masteries
- Comradeship (Common, Support3): -30AT if an ally goes OOA in your LOS, instant turn if this reduces it to 0
- Enough Rest (Common, Defence2): -10AT when you recieve healing (Only -4AT if you were on full health)
- Hide Yourself Well (Common, Support1): -10AT when you become concealed
- Joint Tactics (Common, Support3): -10AT if an ally ends a turn adjacent to you
- Run (Common, Basic1): -10AT for moving 8+ tiles with dashing or dashing attack
- Sacrifice (Common, Defence3): All allies within 6 spaces -40AT when you go OOA
- Practiced Hand (Human, Basic2): -20AT when you use an item
- Air Walk (Common Set): -20AT for dashing to, or making a dashing attack to, a higher elevation
- Altruist (Common Set): -10AT if an ally puts an enemy OOA in your LOS. -10AT if an adjacent ally puts an enemy OOA
- Skilled Military Strategist (Common Set): -10AT for moving 8+ tiles with dashing or dashing attack
- Swift Footwork (Common Set): -20AT for activating lighting reflexes
- Linked Fire Tactics (Common Set): On activating fire tactics -10AT on self and all allies within 4 spaces.
- Linked Lightning Tactics (Common Set): As above but for lightning
- Recoil Control (Sweeper, Support3): -10AT "If you used shooting attack ability prior to turn and use shooting attack ability again"
- Creating Opportunity (Sniper, Support2): Allies gain -20AT if within 3 spaces of an enemy you put OOA
- Shadow Step (Snipper, Basic1): -10AT if you can see an enemy but are not detected by any enemy at the end of your turn
- Healing Wave (Shaman, Attack2): -10AT on healing a target to full using an ESP heal ability
- Cheerful Move (Dancer, Basic1): -10AT on using the move that is at a muliple of 3 in your move list (when divided into 4s)
- Spotlight (Superstar, Support2): -10AT on triggering coolness
- Blade Phantom (Great Swordsman Set): -10AT when you recieve healing (Only -4AT if you were on full health)
- Bloody Memory (Magic Knight Set): -10AT when you recieve healing (Only -4AT if you were on full health)
- Master of Close Combat (White Knight Set): -10AT when enemy attempts melee responsive attack or does melee hit for less than your attack or you attack an enemy with counterattack.
- Show on Tour (Superstar Set): -10AT for generating a performance effect identical to your previous performance effect
- Warmth of Life (Shaman Set): Ally gains -5AT at the start of your turn if within range of Origin of Life (4-6 spaces)
- Careful Healing (Shaman Set): Ally gains -10AT if you heal them to full health with an ESP ability
- Steady Cure (Shaman Set): -10AT If you use a heal ability prior to the turn and use another heal ability
- Saint (White Mage Set): Ally gains -10AT 30% of the time when you target them with a heal or support ability
- Devoting Love (White Mage Set): -10AT if you reactive heal an ally but do not restore them to full health
- Opportunity Creator (Grenadier Set): -10AT for making an attack and having AP left afterwards
- Nimble Grenade Throwing (Grenadier Set): -20AT if you used an item throwing ability prior to the turn and use item throwing again
- I Want More (Sweeper Set): -10AT for using shooting ability prior to the turn and use again
- The Hunter and the Hound (Hunter Set): -10AT when your summoned beast triggers a chain effect
- Monster Hunter (Hunter Set): -5AT if you or your summoned beast are healed by a mastery. Beast gains -20AT if it attacks using pincer attack with beast.
- Monster Trainer (Hunter Set): -10AT for you and beast whenever beast ends its turn within 3 spaces of you.
There are a lot of options here, some of them might be fun to build around. A few that stand out for me:
Some of these will only ever trigger on turn and that's okay. You've got 36AT you must get rid of after your turn is done, but you can decrease your value to that threshold while it's still your go.
There are a few for running around that tend towards being disappointing. The "Dashing or dashing attack" limitation prevents you from triggering them off turn. Even if you find a way to get wildcat Alisa or hit and run Ray to move far enough it doesn't count as a dash. The dashing attack element can work, but your melee accuracy is affected by range so it tends to compare poorly to moving once and then making the attack.
There are a few for healing which can be good. In particular Albus and Irene can find a lot of ways to heal, you can add an extra four (small) action time reductions to Albus' counterattack by using "heal on hit" mastery sets with "enough rest" and its companions.
The ones based on ally moves are interesting but you'd need to build an entire team to use them. I think having 8 characters all using Joint Tactics could have an interesting game, you'd wind up moving around very oddly but you could get 20-30AT out of each characters turn (divided between other characters) and would almost always be able to make it *someone* on your side to take a turn.
Altruist looks fantastic, 10AT whenever anyone on your side makes a kill will add up to the character getting a lot of free turns - how many enemies do you kill in the average level? Unfortunately many of its components are expensive and useless, it's a lot to pay for a mastery no matter how good.
I'm not sure what's going on with nimble grenade throwing and its ilk, the game doesn't really define what it means by "prior". It could mean since last turn, on last turn, previously at any time or a few other things. If you know drop a comment and I'll edit it in here!
In a move that will surprise nobody who has played the spider level the sadface award goes to Sacrifice for being so perfectly useless in the hands of the player while being absolutely infuriating in the hands of the enemy. It's great that it's in the game and makes for a unique challenge, I wouldn't want to see it removed, but it fills me with such rage.
Non Human AT Reduction
This guide does not currently cover AT reduction masteries for pets and robots, but be aware that they exist.
In particular Draki can get a whopping 30AT reduction for meleeing in a smoke cloud so go easy on the grenades in their nest.
Ideally when your AT reduction masteries trigger it will be instantly your turn. In order to make sure that happens you need enough speed for the AT reduction to leave you at 0 AT.
Since they're almost all multiples of five, these are the important thresholds:
- 65AT Speed 76
- 60AT Speed 85
- 55AT Speed 97
- 50AT Speed 113
- 45AT Speed 133
- 40AT Speed 163
- 35AT Not Possible (Minimum is 36AT at speed 200)
Remember to add 30AT if you're planning on triggering using reaction fire.
For example a shooter planning on gaining turns through supporting fire might use "I know it already" "You're already dead" "Positioning" and "Executioner".
If they take a reaction shot from an elevated position and put the target out of action they'll get -85AT, but using supportive fire raises their AT by 30. That gives a total of -55.
If their speed is 97 or higher they can guarantee that if an ally fails to make a kill and they finish the target it'll be immediately their turn.
There are a few ways to make it instantly your turn.
Some of these can be used as an alternative to AT management, you don't have to care how many AT you generate if you'll ignore the number and make it instantly your go!
Reviving via Second Heart (Defence 3 common) or Cheating Death (Defence 2 common) makes it your go. Phoenix (Defence 3 fire) can be made to do the same with two different mastery sets. Remember that the cooldown on these effects is relative to the number of turns you've taken, not the absolute amount of time that has passed. Having some AT management techniques that you can implement in one turn can get you out of danger after your revive.
The Draki's Shining Scale item makes it your go if you get hit for 33% of your health in a single blow. The Impluse Fields (Defence 3 common) mastery prevents you from losing more than 50% of your health in a single blow. If you were supremely confident in a character's ability to passively self heal you could use this to take a lot of turns regardless of AT. Possibly there's an Anne build where she runs off to solo half the map with her reacting to every attack by not dying, reactive healing to full and declaring it her go.
Comradeship (Support 3 common) makes it instantly your go if you had less than 30AT and an ally dies in your LOS. This is strictly better than a 30AT reduction because you can insert your turn into the middle of an enemies turn rather than having to wait for them to finish, but the "Dying and reviving over and over again" build needed to support it would be tricky to use consistently.
Finally, Wait (Support 2 common) makes it instantly your go if you have more than 300AT. The Can't Wait Anymore mastery set reduces that to 200AT. Famously Kylie can take advantage of this and her ability to use a lot of abilities with long cast delay times to wipe most of the top tier maps on her own in no time at all. This is likely to be patched soon, but it was fun while it lasted.
Wrapping It Up
Troubleshooter is a broad game with lots of ways to play.
A build focused on managing your AT to get a lot of turns is just one sort of build.
Plenty of others exist and are plenty successful - it doesn't really matter how many AT you are in the red if you used one shot one kill and catharsis to kill everything that might reasonably have attacked you before your turn came up again. You can also work the problem from the other and use abilities that raise the enemies AT in a "I don't have to be faster than the tiger, I just have to be faster than the other guy" kind of a way.
So don't feel bound to do any of this if it doesn't sound like fun - but if any of it seems helpful or interesting to play with then I hope it works and you have a great time with it :)