Terraria character playthroughs: The framework
This page should give you all the info you need to fully understand a character spec and complete a playthrough as that character, as well as covering edge cases. However, never forget the most important thing: you're doing this for fun! Character specs and indeed this whole system are supposed to act as merely a guideline; feel free to change things up however you wish if you think it will add to your enjoyment of the game.
So what is a character playthrough, exactly?
Playthroughs of a game with specific restrictions are nothing new. Indeed, challenge playthroughs of a game are a common way to maintain interest once playing the game the normal way has become too familiar. Speedruns, no-hit runs, no-weapon runs, even 100% playthroughs could arguably be considered a kind of challenge run. Many of these can be attempted in Terraria too, but the type that caught my eye were specifically the class challenges. In these, the player is limited to a certain type of weapon: melee for the warrior class, magic for the sorcerer class, etc. This encourages the player to engage with playstyles and weapons that they may have previously overlooked.
A character playthrough is essentially a specialized version of this. Rather than being limited to weapons of a certain type, the player is limited to items in keeping with a specific character (Mario would be allowed to use the Flower of Fire, for instance). It's a little broader than that, though; in addition to limtations, character playthroughs may grant certain weapons, items, or abilities to the player for free at various points during the playthrough; as preserving the character's identity requires a much heavier narrowing of scope, it would be pretty annoying to have to track down exactly the things you're required to use. Ultimately, the goal is to both produce a unique play experience and one that aligns with the character you're playing as.
How does this shake out in practice?
At the most basic level, each character receives weapons and other items at the start of the game and upon reaching certain milestones, mostly specific boss kills. In exchange for these free items, the character is not permitted to make use of any other weapons, or certain other sources of damage (see the advanced rules for more details, but in general if you just try to avoid gaming the system you should be fine). In essence, the player is required to make use of the items and abilities that the character receives or is permitted to use in their spec in order to complete the playthrough. This does require that the player have access to the items prior to beginning the playthrough in order to give them to the character in question; generally speaking you just stuff a chest somewhere with the gear you haven't earned yet, and take it out once you hit the milestone that awards it.
To make this easier and to enable a greater variety of character-specific abilities, character playthroughs take place in Journey Mode; I have tried to write specs such that acquiring a single Journey Mode character well stocked with researched items is the only requirement for any playthrough. Once you have that, you just duplicate the items your character needs with the research function and you're good to go. This is also why every character has a "basic" spec that assumes vanilla Terraria: I would like these challenges to be accessible to anyone with just the base game on as many platforms as possible, although optional extra content from mods may be addressed as well.
Journey Mode? Doesn't that just mean I can turn on Godmode and destroy everything?
Well, you could just use weapons you're not supposed to as well, if you wanted. It's not like I can reach through your monitor and smack you if you do that. However, it would be against the rules.
There are rules now?
Yes! One of them is the restriction on using weapons other than the ones listed for the character. Another one is the "don't use god mode" thing I mentioned above. As I also mentioned above, we need those rules in order for there to be any point to the exercise.
Well, what are they then?
Well for starters, there's the "golden rule": Character specifications are allowed to break rules. If the character's spec lists them as being able to use god mode, then go nuts. That said, here we go:
- No Journey Mode perks. Chuck out your staff/wings/shortsword/mirror, turn off increased block placement distance, set the difficulty to 2x, and don't touch that power menu unless something tells you to. Keep the tools, though.
- Character specs are balanced around Expert Mode (2x) unless otherwise specified. Normal mode might make things a little trivial for some characters and experienced players, while Master Mode is a hellscape that may make some characters entirely impossible.
- No use of damage sources other than the ones your character is specifically allowed to use. Really, this is the most important part of the restrictions and what makes each playthrough distinct.
- This is a lot more extensive than just weapons. You shouldn't be using traps, accessories, potions, set bonuses, or anything else that inflicts appreciable amounts of damage unless specifically permitted, either.
- This would make hardmode progression very difficult without some allowances for worlds with Orichalcum and Titanium. As such, you have the option of just giving yourself Mythril/Adamantite in exchange for an equal amount of mined Orichalcum/Titanium
- There's no good answer for Chlorophyte, sadly. You'll just have to stick with Hallowed until you can get one of the upgrades. Turtle armor is permitted to avoid the huge hole in progression that would otherwise occur; just try not to abuse it too badly.
- Damage over Time (DoT) effects are alright as incidental side effects, but you shouldn't go out of your way to use them. So, for example, wearing Frost Armor is okay, as is using the Fire Gauntlet, but using flasks to apply a DoT or wearing a Magma Stone or using flaming/frostburn/cursed arrows instead of an alternative should be avoided. This one's a bit nebulous, but the idea is to only use these damage sources if they're inseparably stapled to something which offers much greater benefits as well.
- No use of mounts other than the ones your character is specifically allowed to use. I went back and forth on this, but ultimately for a lot of characters a mount item represents a unique feature of the character. Besides, everyone still gets wings and movement accessories.
- If you're given an Old One's Army damage source (i.e. one of the sentry weapons), you don't need to actually beat the Old One's Army to use it. You can just visit a world where it's been defeated at least once to "unlock" use of the sentry summons if you need to; probably the same world your Journey Mode dupe character is on.
- These are guidelines, not hard and fast rules! If you want the "standard" experience, follow everything to the letter. It's been optimized for a compromise between interesting gameplay and good character matching. If you feel like you'd have more fun using frostburn arrows, chlorophyte armor, or mounts, or you feel like some of the character spec doesn't match how you see the character and you want to tweak it, then go right ahead. The whole reason to do one of these playthroughs is for fun, after all. And if it's not fun, then why bother?
You keep talking about character specifications (or specs). What are those?
Character specs are the meat of the whole character playthrough..."system", I guess you'd call it. They're basically the rules for playing through the game as that specific character. There's a number of parts to a character spec. Note that all except the short-form spec are optional; that alone is enough to let you play through the game as the specified character.
- A short-form spec that just lists what's permitted. This gives you all the information you need to play through Terraria as the listed character, along with some minor flavor.
- An abridged difficulty breakdown for the character. This will be addressed somewhat in the long-form spec, but when present it's a quick reference for how hard things are going to be.
- A long-form spec that contains ability names and commentary on why various things were selected/specified, some ideas on how to use each advantage your character gets, as well as information on the character themselves. You might find interesting trivia in here, too. Give it a read if you want a more in-depth idea of the character and their spec.
- A cosmetic loadout for the character. This is an attempt to match Terraria cosmetic options to the character's appearance as best I can.
- [UPCOMING] I'd like to have full endgame loadouts for each character that are PVP-balanced and come with a point score, such that opposing teams with equal total point scores will produce a good matchup. This will be a significant endeavour, however, and for now nobody has this.
Okay, that sounds pretty complicated. Can we go over each of those individually?
Sure thing. We'll start with the short-form spec; don't forget to check items on the Terraria wiki. Here's the short-form spec for Reimu Hakurei, the "main character" of the Touhou Project series:
- Hakurei Yin-Yang Orb: Start the game with a Dao of Pow.
- Genjii: Start the game with a a Tortoise Saddle.
- Amulet "Youkai Repelling Charm": May research and duplicate banners.
- Youkai Buster: Get a Tome of Infinite Wisdom upon defeating Skeletron, but may not use right-click attack.
- Spirit Sign "Fantasy Seal": Get a Rainbow Rod upon defeating the Wall of Flesh.
- Get Nightglow upon defeating all the mechanical bosses.
- "Persuasion Needle": Get your choice of: Stake Launcher, Stynger, or Nail Gun upon defeating Plantera. Allowed to use either of the two non-selected options if found.
- Divine Arts "Omnidirectional Dragon-Slaying Circle": May enable God Mode while Betsy is spawned.
- Mikuji "Rule Violation Barrier": May use all items without restriction after defeating the Moon Lord.
- "Fantasy Nature": May enable God Mode without restriction after defeating the Moon Lord.
Simple enough, right? You should get all the items and leave them in a chest until you unlock them to keep things running smoothly, but otherwise it's fairly self-explanatory. You get items when it says you do (so you beat up Skeletron and then grab your Tome of Infinite Wisdom), and if you're allowed to use something then you can use it if you come across it but don't receive it automatically. You might even want to carry certain items (in Reimu's case the Rainbow Rod) prior to being allowed to use them, so you can whip them out as soon as the boss fight is done. Additionally, I've tried to list stuff in the order it's obtained for the most part, so it should be a good quick reference to see where your next unlock is. Some other characters might have more complicated abilities. Fret not; the long-form spec should clear up any confusion, if you can put up with my rambling for that long.
Sounds like we're transitioning to the long-form spec.
Correct! I won't be hitting you with a full one of those, because they are, as the name suggests, long. However, I can give you a basic idea as to the contents:
Each of the items up there in the short-form spec is explicitly justified as part of the character's kit, with a little blurb of info about where it fits in (both in terms of the character and in terms of the playthrough) with them attached. In the case of all these Touhou characters, almost everything is attached to a spell card or in-game ability, because I'm a huge nerd; really though, the justification can be anything. It will also tend to offer a little insight into what the item or ability can be used for...if there is any use for it at all! Some of them are just there for flavor, to tell you the truth. You'll get a better idea of what's in there when you read one, but the mission statement is to answer any questions the short-form spec might leave you with and provide some background and advice for your playthrough.
Alright. And the cosmetics?
The recommended cosmetics are pretty simple: Just a list of vanity items that I've found to be the closest match I could get for the character in question. A lot of the characters with summoning weapons will want to use Critter Shampoo to color their summons, though, so keep an eye out for that.
What about mods?
The basic spec is designed to be used with the base game so that everyone can make use of it, even if they can't or don't want to install mods. Plus, working on base game first establishes a good baseline. That said, I'm not going to be ignoring mods entirely: Once a base profile is done, I'll look into options for extending it accounting for the use of specific mods. Of course, with all the Touhou characters we're starting out with, the first one of those will probably be Gensokyo mod, but I've got my eye on at least Calamity mod as well.
In addition, some common sense stuff might be mentioned in the long-form spec. Omnidirectional Dragon-Slaying Circle should really work on dragon bosses that have been modded into the game, after all.
What about multiplayer?
Go nuts! Just play each character as outlined in their spec and things should be fine. Some of the long-form specs even have some special stuff for multiplayer, so keep an eye out for that.
Is there anything else I should know?
There are a few little tidbits that I don't think will be covered anywhere else, so I'll list those here:
- Some characters have "linked" playthroughs, where you can switch between them at will in the same playthrough. It's pretty self-explanatory, but if you defeat a boss in the playthrough it's defeated for all characters. Additionally, you can of course leave items in the world for the new character to grab; this doesn't let them use anything they couldn't have otherwise, though.
- In a lesser version of the above, some characters may have another character show up and perform an action for them (usually defeating a boss). In these cases, the new character shows up with gear appropriate to the bosses defeated etc. of the playthrough so far, unless otherwise specified, and the boss counts as defeated when the swap-in character does so.
- For both of the above points, doing a multiplayer playthrough with the character in question present disables the ability; the new character can't substutite in if they're already there! I still encourage multiplayer playthroughs to make use of characters linked in these ways, though. It makes for better theming, right?
- Some abilities refer to a weapon "naturally" inflicting a debuff. This means that a character with no other equipment using the weapon with the most basic ammo (wooden arrows, musket balls, gel, etc.) will inflict the debuff. Example: If a charcter can use any damage source that naturally inflicts "On Fire!", then they can use the Inferno Fork but not, like, literally any bow with flaming arrows.
- Some weapons will specify left-click or right-click. In this case, you can only use the specified mode of the weapon. So in the Reimu example above, she can't use the tornado attack on the Tome of Infinite Wisdom (it's meant to represent ofuda talismans. Sanae's the windy one)
- You can't use the set ability on Forbidden Armor unless your character spec permits it. The armor itself is fine, just don't activate the extra damage source.
- If you're allowed to duplicate an item, you're allowed to use it, too. It'd be kind of sad, otherwise. On that note, receiving "duplication of X" means you immediately unlock the ability to duplicate X. This means you get enough copies of item X to research it, and may do so. If you're allowed to research and duplicate something, on the other hand, you have to find enough copies of it to research first.
- The "world evil boss" refers to either the Eater of Worlds of the Brain of Cthulhu.
- Sometimes things might still be a little unclear, or have edge cases. In such cases, resolve it the way that seems best to you.
- Some of the restrictions are a bit...wibbly-wobbly. Things like "always full-charge the Charged Blaster Cannon", or "turn on God Mode for 60 seconds". In these cases, do your best and try not to abuse corner cases and you should do fine. No-one's going to kill you for going a couple seconds over or releasing the blaster cannon a little early, or even accidentally right clicking when you're not supposed to.
- Most importantly, have fun!