Mercenaries




Updated 03 June 2016






This page has not yet been fully updated to reflect changes in v1.06 in Arulco Vacations


You never know what you will find that has crawled under a rock so Arulco Vacations leaves no stone unturned. The focal point of the Player's game revolves around the Mercenaries for hire. They are your band of brothers and sisters. A more motley assortment of diverse individuals coming together on a common mission is difficult to imagine.


The incredible array of stereotypes is part of the charm of all the Jagged Alliance games and mods. This is not a game for the politically correct, but it is a game for those who acknowledge that everybody is funny in their own way -- and it's OK to laugh at our all-to-often real idiosyncrasies that are portrayed in this game. There are characters you will love, ones you will hate, some that will annoy you to no end, and others you can't imagine being without. It is all very personal to each Player, and because it is that good an aspect of this game it means no two Players will probably ever have the same exact emotions regarding the incredible lineup of Jagged Alliance characters. The character portrayal is so well loved by gamers that v1.13 has brought in characters from the original game, and characters from some of the mods . . . from back when there were people willing to voice-act for the mods . . . and they all feel like they belong.


However, a little tweak to a few of those characters may go a long way to adding some depth. This might sound like blasphemy to some but the fact is the characters have evolved over time through each of the commercial and modded versions of the series. The modders of this game have added much to this game that the commercial series did not have. Not the least of the new stuff are the new Character Traits, Skills and Disabilities. There are options now the original designers did not have, and a slight tweak might serve some of the characters better than what they were given historically.

The original backgrounds and skill sets of the characters are already long gone. Arulco Vacations just updates the disbursement of the new ones a tiny bit. Not much of a tweak is necessary as the character quality is one of the best aspects of this game. However, there has been a tendency to stick with the original outlay of skill types as much as possible -- and that seriously restricts character development. The original design itself made numerous concessions to a limited skill base which we no longer have to do. As well, this here is Arulco Vacations -- we're on a vacation here, and that means it is not business as usual. If you have some ideas on any Merc -- please don't hesitate to leave a comment.

There is one glaring weakness in this otherwise fantastic aspect of this game -- and I call it "The Teacher Syndrome". I'll rant about as you read through, but the gist is that Teaching seems to originally have been a throw-away skill to give to the less adept or the female mercenaries. While the female part of the equation might have been a sarcastic comment on sexism, it actually diminishes the game in my view by preventing these female characters from fully realizing their in-game biographies and potential.

Teaching is actually a very valuable skill as the primary focus for it is militia training, and therefore deserves to be implemented in a more realistic fashion so we can all enjoy the depth this game is capable of producing. 'Nuff said . . . for the moment.

I have enlarged and enhanced every named character's starting gear. It was a much more daunting task than I had imagined. However, in the process I have cleaned up quite a few unconnected tags and little typos that have crept into the MercStartingGear.xml file over the years. That alone should make the game a tiny bit more stable -- which is a Good Thing (tm). All the gear kits of every character have been enlarged, and some have received complete overhauls to bring them in line with their character and the situational environment of the game in which they find themselves. The v1.13 modders have greatly enlarged and enhanced the skill sets and weapon & gear selections available that were only dreamt of in the original game. The original designers of the game would be overwhelmed by the selections we have now -- and there's no good reason for us not to use it all!

One bug fix I incorporated into v1.04 of Arulco Vacations is that some characters could not even initiate certain dialogue options because of certain settings in this file. I have fixed all of them to that everyone is now capable of the full range of dialogue options in the game.



First on the list is the last person you probably would hire . . . and that is the reason for his tweak. Nobody should be without some kind of skill and background, and according to the biography of this character he already has exhibited exemplary examples of his skill and his background. Of course I am writing about Dr. Raffito Leevon, better known as 'Raffi'. He is the only Merc in the game without a skill . . . or is he?


He is known as a doctor, but he has almost no medical ability -- and he is certainly not a doctor. He hires out as a mercenary, but he is not cut out for a rough life dodging or flinging bullets - and is certainly not a mercenary. On top of that he is the lead singer of his own cajun-funk band . . . and judging by his voice he certainly is not a singer either, lead or otherwise.


I think his success in being known as a doctor and a mercenary and a rockstar entitle him to the skill of Covert Ops, and, new in Arulco Vacations v1.03, his very own Background of Pretender (Pretending to be anything and everything he is not, nobody knows who he actually is.). I mean, who better to masquerade as a civilian? Who better to not be recognized as one of the mercenaries terrorizing the countryside? Who better out of all the mercenaries for hire to use make-up? I give you -- Raffi, secret agent man.



Next up is Charlene Higgens, a.k.a. Raven. An extraordinary mercenary quite the opposite of Raffi in most aspects. Raven is eminently qualified to be on anybody's team. Her marksmanship and battle-ready demeanour are certainly an asset in battle, and a morale builder as well . . . as long as her husband, Raider, isn't around to rain on everybody's parade. I'll get to him later.


Hitman certainly enjoys Raven's company! He digresses into a bit of stereotypical sexism with his remarks about her good looks instead of sticking to the important mercenary bits -- which suits the character of Hitman just perfectly, I think.

Raven was a Los Angeles Police Department SWAT sniper before she turned mercenary, and she is good at her new job -- that's for darn sure. "Thank the Lord" (as Rev would say) she is no longer a cop. Her talents are more suited to be a killer for hire than as a peace officer. However, there is a little incongruity in her vanilla v1.13 skill list, which is as follows: marksman, autoweapons, & night ops. Being both a marksman and skilled in autoweapons is not exactly a SWAT sniper's training. It is SWAT training for some members of a 5-person LAPD SWAT squad, with melee or hand-to-hand instead of night ops, but not LAPD SWAT sniper training. Therefore, she's been upgraded in Arulco Vacations to be sniper-trained as her bio states -- that is, having marksman, sniper & stealthy skills. She's also been given a Character Trait which I will describe fully under Raider, as he gets the same for the same reason


As well, her main weapon in all her Gearkits is a bit off also. Yes, the MP5, the M4 Commando & the Colt SMG are common LAPD SWAT weapons, but not for snipers. Her P210 and Glock are not common LAPD SWAT sidearms, however. The P226, P229 and especially the classic Colt M1911 (& clones) are common for the LAPD SWAT teams. A more proper primary weapon for her would be a M14, or a M16A2, or a Remington 700P. LAPD SWAT snipers use those three exclusively, and commonly use the M16A2 -- which does not have full auto capabilities. In-game we only have the A1 and A4 models, but that's OK. In her 5 new Gear Kits I gave her the M14, the M14 EBR, the M21, the M24 (for the Remington 700P) and for the premium Gear Kit she gets the M16A4. As she would say: "A fine weapon!". Go for premium, yo. Raven, SWAT sniper . . . for real.



Third on this list is Florence Gabriel, otherwise known as Flo . . . another Merc like Raffi who really isn't a mercenary at heart, and somebody you wouldn't normally pick for your team.




As well, as some Players have pointed out online, her only skill is Teaching, and it is hard to teach advanced anything if you have no experience in the thing. Now, even though in-game she can't teach what she isn't good at, the Teaching skill gives high bonuses to training militia -- with which she has no expertise at all. Her bio is explicit that she has no prior experience as a mercenary or soldier of any type -- her employment credentials are based on being an accountant for a gun dealer, and her own self-taught education about weapon quality and costs.


While she is a good student (she has very high Wisdom), and while it is true that a good teacher is also a good student, this just isn't a good match of skill and bio. Then again, until recently there was no other skill you could give her and still be within her bio. But now we have Snitch and Radio Operator. Unfortunately we need more voice files for her to be a real in-game Snitch, so she gets Radio Operator. I think that suits her in-game personality and character much more closely than Teacher (or Snitch), and actually gives her a skill that doesn't seem like a gamey exploit when you use her. Flo, she's on Arulcan whoa-Oh radio.




OK, ready for Ron Higgens, who calls himself Raider? He was the commander of a Los Angeles Police Department SWAT team. According to Hitman, Raider is a "pinhead". According to his biography Raider is a natural born leader and communicator. Hmm. Something is amiss there, now isn't there? Originally, in vanilla JA2 v1.12 (and previous), Raider was a Big Shot. That Attitude is not in JA2 v1.13, and was replaced with the Character Trait of Showoff. Seems that maybe Hitman is more correct, eh? We know that merc biographies can be misleading, sometimes outright laughable in their attempt to whitewash a character's weaknesses. I'm going with Hitman on this one.


Yes, Raider's in-game persona is most certainly that of a Big Shot or Showoff, and I tend to want to use more stronger language than "pinhead". From my personal experience as a street medic treating the wounds caused by police brutality, from my study and experience of police tactics, and from my knowledge of the Los Angeles Police Department, a more appropriate Character Trait for Raider is Malicious. I'll let that sink in a minute.

Yes, Malicious penalizes communication -- you can't always believe those biographies, now can you? In-game he doesn't do much talking either, at least in my limited experience with him. Malicious also gives a better chance to inflict Stat Loss. So, Raider is very good at communicating his brutality, but not so good in communicating in a peaceful way -- and ain't that what police brutality is all about, yo? His in-game persona backs this up. Big city police in the U.S.A. are trained to maim. They are trained to to do immediate maximum damage in melee -- aiming to do internal damage to organs. That is the brutality part. The LAPD is notorious for brutality. As commander of a LAPD SWAT Team Raider must have exhibited exceptional prowess in this aspect of police work. Nice guys don't last very long in big city police departments in the U.S.A.. He is a natural born leader (as his bio states) . . . among bullies.


As I mentioned above, Raven also gets this Character Trait of Malicious. After all, they love each other . . . aww . . . must be a reason for that. But aside from that, they both get this Trait because they both are LAPD. Now, before anyone gets on their high horse about police and this stereotypical presentation let me remind you of a couple things without getting too real. The Jagged Alliance series is full of stereotypical representations that are politically incorrect and downright insulting if you take them seriously. I'm Italian-American . . . should I be angry at how Italian-Americans are portrayed in this game? Heaven forbid if I was a redneck . . . they don't get a very nice treatment at all. Secondly, the Character Trait of Malicious is not a Character Disability in this game! It gives higher chance of Stat Loss on each hit, and that is exactly what you want, isn't it? So we're both happy. Raider, Special Weapons and Groin Hits.



Next up is Sheila Stirling, a.k.a. Scope. At first I wondered whether Scope was more of an imposter than a real British S.A.S. veteran because many of these biographies, especially all the M.E.R.C. ones, are designed to sell the mercenary at all costs. Accuracy is not a hallmark of the descriptions. Her bio also mentions that her previous game bio mistakenly referred to the S.A.S. as the non-existent British Secret Service. That is what alerted me to her possibly being a fake.


Part of the fun of the game is the disparity between the bio and the real deal, and usually it is very clearly mockery. But Scope is the real deal according to her attribute stats -- which are extraordinary. Her bio states:
 "Trained in urban warfare, Scope is an expert markswoman and is well-versed in night operations."

Therefore, I was a bit leery of the Teaching skill she was given (not that she couldn't be, but that it wasn't a good enough match). If she was really S.A.S. then Teaching seemed like a sexist cop-out -- oh, she's a woman, give her Teaching 'cause she's not a real mercenary. Also, perhaps she was given Teaching so she could train others in marksmanship -- but that is a very gamey and exploitative reason. While those might not be the reasons she was given Teaching, once I researched S.A.S. training I knew I had to change it because she was not quite up to snuff on that whole S.A.S. score. If she was S.A.S. then she was S.A.S. -- and not a run-of-the-mill military instructor with great marksmanship skill. Marksmanship is not the trademark of S.A.S. -- you can be S.A.S. without having good marksmanship. Their trademark is their speed, stamina and survivability -- in JA2 v1.13 parlance: that equals athleticism. Therefore I have replaced Teaching with Athletics, as it gives her what S.A.S. training seeks to give to its recruits -- the ability to get from one place to another faster than the enemy while still being able to do what needs to be done.


By the way, the guy who came up with the original idea of the S.A.S. in real life was David Sterling . . . game designers frequently (sometimes are forced to, as I have been) change a letter in a character's name so as to not perturb real-life people. Deidranna, is another example, as the real-life spelling is Deidreanna. I just noticed in the latest playtest that Scope has two spellings of her name in-game, Sterling & Stirling. Anyway, is Sheila related to David? Sure, why not? Scope, she who dares, wins.




Not quite the last of them by any stretch, Scope. John Kulba is on deck. There are two John Kulbas in the game, the tourist and the mercenary.  In the vanilla v1.13 mod the mercenary Kulba gets highly inflated stats as compared to his tourist stats. I don't think they match his in-game persona so I changed them in Arulco Vacations v1.03. I toyed with the idea of giving him increased stat scores in a couple of abilities, but in the end I decided against it. He kept his tourist ability scores through v1.04, but in v1.05 I finally decided to round out his character. He is meant to be a comical character, but he also was not given his due. His bio has him as a long time reservist and civilian defense 'commander'. He is a wannabe 'Soldier of Fortune' not a highly-trained veteran or mercenary, but he does have some military training and aptitude. Therefore, I upped his stats a bit to conform with his bio. He still is a comical character, and this is exemplified by his being hired from M.E.R.C. (not A.I.M.) and the method of his arrival as a mercenary (which is beautifully done, yo!) He does not outshine actual military-type mercenaries, but he now is a bit more competent. John Kulba also gets the new Background of Tourist Merc ("Subscribing to Soldier of Fortune magazine is as close to being a mercenary as you ever came . . . until now."). John, mercenary tourist for hire!



Tex is next. Tex R. Colburn is Japanese, and a serious B-Movie cowboy wannabe. He also loves his camo. Now, until a recent release designers and modders have given Tex the Hunter Trait so he could get the bonuses for camo use. As pointed out online, the Hunter Trait is primarily about something else entirely, and the camo bonuses are a minor part of it. A new release has addressed this issue, but here what I've done is remove the Hunter trait and upgraded Tex from Gunslinger to Gunfighter. I know Tex would love that, as that is really his dream! As for the camo part, well, he is a M.E.R.C. hire nowadays, and that indicates he is comically not quite up to what he tries to be. Of course he can still use camo, and his Gear Kit has camo -- but he'll have to use it like everyone else without any gamey exploit. Somehow I think he'd be happy with giving that up to be a full-fledged Gunfighter. Tex, two-pistol Pete!



Rudolf Steiger. What can I say about Rudolf -- without him getting angry at me, that is? And that is the whole point of the little tweak given to him. It is mentioned that he "has the talent to become a trainer". It is also mentioned that "his mode of expression leaves a lot to be desired".


Put those two together and the result is: he is very knowledgeable but doesn't have people skills. Need more evidence? Here's Rudolf in his own words: "You're asking me to join you?  And you've already hired that fuckhead Gasket?  Noooo....my mother always told me that pros and fuckheads don't work together.  Lecken." And on the other side of the equation: "Laura does everything right...What a girl!" So, he's completely intolerant of anyone who doesn't measure up to his standards and can't see their good points, and he plays favourites so much he can't see a person's failings. After all, Gasket is a valuable mechanic, and Dr. Laura is sadly deficient in Medical skill for a doctor.


All of that adds up to -- yeah he could be a trainer, but he ain't and never will be. Therefore I took away his Teacher Trait and replaced it with Deputy. He's much more like an overbearing boss than he is a supportive teacher. As a Deputy his skill and training still rub off on his squad, and his gung ho attitude is good for morale during a firefight, but that's as far as it goes. There is another inconsistency with Rudolf along these same lines. He has been given the Character Trait of Sociable . . . hmm, I can well believe he muscles his way into every conversation but as for him raising morale that way -- no. He's not a friendly guy like everyone else who has that Trait. Therefore I gave him Aggressive -- which still has morale bonuses but more in line with his actual temperament. We have a name for people like him hereabouts: Rudolf -- little Hitler.




I had to wonder a little bit about the next one . . . Carl Goodman, otherwise known as It. He is a professional wrestler by trade, yet his skill set always included Martial Arts. Now, if his Wisdom was a bit higher, say double . . . no, more than that . . . then I would not blink an eye about a professional wrestler getting Martial Arts.


But It really doesn't have much brainpower -- all his power is packed in his muscles. He is also a Bodybuilder, by the way -- and I should mention he's quite a nice guy, really. But being a nice guy with muscles and no brain doesn't quite make a martial arts expert in my book. Knocking off one level of Martial Arts gives us Hand-to-Hand skill, which is certainly appropriate. While being a pro wrestler means learning and executing fighting moves with precision similar to martial artists, the difference is that pro wrestlers are not doing it for real -- no matter what It says. As well, there is an entire philosophical wisdom one must understand to advance in martial arts that is beyond It. Pro wrestling is also more full-contact dancing than it is fighting wisdom. However, there was a time when wrestling was a much more dangerous sport and there were a lot of broken bones and much blood spilled in the ring. That kind of wrestling used hidden razors, knuckle-dusters, blackjacks and the like.

 
So since It thinks wrestling is for real he must be old-school -- because it certainly ain't even close to real nowadays and he must know that. Therefore I gave him Melee to replace his Martial Arts. Melee gives him proficiency with all melee weapons -- knives, knuckledusters, crowbars and the like. That also allows him to use his Gear Kits a lot better. His Gear Kits have historically, and still do in Arulco Vacations, included knuckledusters, knives and crowbars -- exactly what he needs for melee fighting. So he ends up with Melee, Hand-To-Hand and Bodybuilding. Now he's not restricted to bare-hand fighting as his speciality -- after all, he's too big and clumsy (big body type and a low Agility) to go sneaking around like your typical ninja dude. He's more than liable to get shot before ever reaching the enemy. Don't worry, he'll still perform well in Kingpin's ring . . . but now he's not as much of a one-shot wonder and you might consider keeping him around for more than the fight date in San Mona. (NOTE: Somehow this change from Martial Arts to Melee did not make it into v1.03, but it is fixed for v1.04) It, the Masked Mercenary!



Going on down the line to the next character . . .


Calm down, Skitz. You are just fine the way you are (F.I.N.E. = Fucked up, Insecure, Neurotic & Emotional). This isn't about you, but Players who use Skitz will be happy to know that starting in v1.06 they can keep Skitz' morale up by letting him drive the El Dorado. This is about a desk jockey by the nickname of Carp -- Howard Melfield: the organizer for the A.I.M. Christmas Party, and manager of A.I.M.'s Health and Safety, Retirement and Dental plan.


No, but that's exactly my point, Carp. Originally the default skill (it seems) given to characters with no real mercenary skill was Teaching. I've already noted why that is not a good thing (tm) but I'll reiterate -- ya can't teach what ya don't know. If we wanted to know about our dental plan then Carp is the guy to go to. If we wanted to know which doctors (that don't work for us!) we could go to under the company insurance plan then Carp is the guy to go to. If we want to know what special entertainment we will have at the Christmas Party then Carp is the guy to go to. If we want to train a people's rebel militia in a foreign country . . . I don't think Carp is the guy to go to.


Uh, yeah, exactly, whatever that means . . .


Actually, I do remember a teacher like Carp . . . but I digress. Carp has a very valuable, powerful and enhanced Skill -- that of Snitch. His bio says he doesn't excel in anything, but it's wrong because as a snitch he is pretty damn good. Granted, as a mercenary he leaves a lot to be desired.


A snitch does more than rat on his fellows. A snitch spreads propaganda and gathers rumours. Those are two very important managerial traits but they are detrimental to any teacher. So the question remains: if we remove the gamey exploit of the Teaching skill, what do we replace it with? Well, Carp began with the old Attitude of Show-Off, which has been replaced by the new Character Trait of Dauntless. He is also a suit and tie guy . . . so I opted to go with Covert Ops. Imagine Carp as a wannabe James Bond. Being Dauntless in this regard means he's got the cojones to disguise himself and mingle with the enemy in order to get information -- in effect using his snitching skill on the enemy. That he is definitely more of a Maxwell Smart than James Bond is the fun of it. Howard Melfield - The Man Without a Number.




Friendly, Intellectual and Nervous. Paramedic, Teacher & Snitch. Uh-oh, another teacher bites the dust! Of course, I'm talking about the love of Vinnie's life, Mary Beth Wilkins, known simply as "Beth". Again, I feel I must reiterate that this is a mercenary-led, rebel overthrow of a brutal regime. Here's her dossier description:

As a relatively new recruit, Mary Beth Wilkens desperately wants the chance to prove herself. While her stats may appear weak, Wilkens is a quick learner with some medical experience and a gung ho attitude. She also has no qualms about ratting on fellow team members."

Her military stats are weak, and she is a quick learner -- and that's the point: she's a learner and not a teacher.She is especially not the a trainer of peasant workers into the militia rebels that provide the backbone of a mercenary-led regime change against a brutal dictatorship. Militia trainers in Arulco Vacations are people along the spectrum between Col. Leon Roachburn and Rev and Col. Frederick Biggins and Gus Tarballs.


Beth is a great character, but not yet a mercenary when she arrives on the scene. Instead, I think Stealthy best fits her with her overall demeanour of Friendly, Intellectual, Nervous, Paramedic & Snitch. That rounds out her personality quite nicely -- especially considering her Agility of 90! It also increases the assortment of possible stealth squads with some good character interplay and re-playability. Beth, slick, slippery and sly specialist.



Vincenzo Massimo. Yo, that's Vinny to yous. Vinny and Beth have a movie date after this is all over. Vinnie is a smooth talker who can "fix anything (including college basketball games)". Vinny, of course, is modeled after the TV character The Fonz, but unlike Fonzie -- Vinny is with The Mob (yeah, dat one). His A.I.M. Alumni bio says he's done such work as "rigging slot machines, injecting race horses with Demerol and supplying prostitutes to an Olympic water polo team."


That got me looking at the stats for the background of Mobster as opposed to the new Arulco Vacations Background of Con Artist. When I did I noticed that Vinny's Background is a modified Mobster Background from that which we, as Players, see when we create our I.M.P. if we decide to be a mobster. That led me to understand that all the named characters in the game have Backgrounds that have the same name as the I.M.P.  Backgrounds -- but can be, or actually are, quite different. Some have much more creative Backgrounds than the same named Background that I.M.P.s get to choose. Others have the default or minor differences. They all seem to start with the I.M.P.-default modifiers, and then go from there to add more character to the character. Things that make you go hmm -- a whole new tweak opened up! See the Miscellaneous page for more details on the Background tweak!

So, Vinny is obviously a specialized mobster. However, his additional modifiers are all penalties to being in other than urban environments -- and not anything relating to his bio! The penalties actually make him inferior than your average Mobster -- thugs such as Spike & Billy Goonball. That just wasn't right.



So I decided to merge Mobster and Con Artist into his background also. In effect, making him more like his bio in the aspect of fixing things without having to break legs -- but not averse to breaking legs if he has to. I also increased his Reputation Tolerance a wee bit from 74 to 86 - he is, after all, a gangster not unaccustomed to eliminating people from the organization.


 As it happens, Mobster and Con Artist are similar Backgrounds  -- the difference being the Mobster is more physical and the Con Artist is more verbal. Note also that Vinny has the Character Trait of Show-Off, and is very vocal in-game, so the merger is a good fit. He's not quite a smooth-talking con-man but he's better at discussing the advantages of co-operating with him than your average Mob goon. Vinny keeps his penalties in other than urban environments (just like The Fonz), but now his procurement, recruiting and interrogation talents are a better fit to his in-game personality. That makes him a good fit for the new JA2 v1.13 feature of capturing and interrogating the enemy.


Vinny, he's got an offer you can't refuse!



Lt. Bud Heller is next, and this one is quick -- in his profile I changed him from a good guy to not a good guy. Why? He's not in Arulco to free the people, that's for sure, yo. I'll let the game speak for me here:
"A member in good standing, Bud Hellar craves the affection of management and is a bootlicker from way back. If you want to know what your team thinks of you, Bud’s your man. As a loyal defender of the “big guy,” he has spent years fighting for the freedom of corporate logos." - Jagged Alliance, A.I.M. Dossier
. . . and then this from the A.I.M. Alumni Gallery. . .
"Lieutenant Bud Hellar has held a series of jobs since leaving A.I.M., from working as Rush Limbaugh's personal bodyguard to parking cars at the pentagon.  His departure from the organization was amicable, and he shall be remembered for his steadfast dedication and loyalty.  Recent reports have him working as a security consultant for the tobacco lobby.  While entirely within character, this information has not been verified."
Being a 'good guy' means you won't shoot a fellow Merc or a civilian. It also means the civilians won't get mad at you for unintentional collateral damage. Bud does not fit into this category at all -- he'd shoot a fellow Merc or gun down women and children if his boss told him to. Corporate yes-men are not welcomed in the countries they are exploiting, and so Bud would never get a pass from the poor of Arulco. Lt. Bud Hellar, yes-man, brown-noser and corporate goon.



Ok, after that short interlude we are back to eradicating the "Teacher Syndrome" which seems to have infected almost all the Trait assignments to women. This time I'll tackle two at the same time: Fox and Buns. Regardless of their nicknames, two more opposite women cannot be found in the Jagged Alliance universe . . . at least not on the same side.


But aside from that, what they both have in common is being extraordinarily gifted and good at what they do -- but neither of them has a clue about training militia. Their Leadership scores are dismal. They would have no chance of convincing the locals to trust in these crazy mercenaries, and put their lives on the line against a murderous army and a ruthless dictator. Also according to her bio, Buns did not last very long as a kindergarten teacher . . . I rest my case.

Both can indeed teach what they are good at -- but they don't need the Teaching skill to do that. The Teaching skill is mostly about training militia. So the real problem is that the skill has been misnamed, and ever since that misnaming the characters have been assigned the skill based on the name . . . at least, that's my theory and I'm sticking with it. Maybe now we can put the "Teacher Syndrome" to rest in peace.


Fox gets Doctor -- her bio is explicit that she is academically worthy, and her Medical skill surpasses the threshold for that skill. I almost gave her Gunslinger because her Ambidextrous skill makes her quite handy with her usual loadout of two guns, but her Medical skill cannot be denied. Fox, a two-gun doctor.


Buns gets Paramedic -- according to her bio she was once a nurse, and her Medical is just below the threshold for Doctor which puts her at the top of the Paramedic skill. I almost bumped her up from Markswoman to Sniper because of her prior experience as an Olympic sharpshooter and professional soldier, but, like Fox, her Medical skill cannot be denied. In fact, her assigned Character Background is the unique combination Nurse/Shooter/Soldier. Also . . . for v1.06, Buns gets the Deputy Trait -- which coincides with her time as a professional soldier, her better-than-thou demeanour, makes up for the loss of her Teaching Skill while still being in the same realm of influence, and also highlights her tremendous diversity of talent. Buns, sharpshooting paramedic corporal.


Well . . . Buns does need to work on her bedside manner just a little bit . . .but while I have her here I want to say a couple things about her character and the way she has been treated. First, she's always been described as "prim and proper". I never got that from her in-game personality. Her personality is that of an angry dominatrix. Prim is synonymous with demur, and demur she is definitely not by any stretch of the imagination. She's mean, nasty and will fight at the drop of a hat. She is also described as thinking she is better than everyone else -- and yes, that fits her well, and is not a demur characteristic. Her ability scores are top-notch, and she can be anything she wants to be:
Buns explored a number of careers: kindergarten teacher, geriatric nurse, Danish sharpshooter at the Atlanta Olympic games, and professional soldier.
Now, it's those last two bits I really want you to note: Olympic sharpshooter and professional soldier. If she were male with her fantastic ability scores in every category, and that background, she would get a very military Gear Kit (and does in Arulco Vacations). Instead, in the vanilla v1.13 Mod she gets . . . a pistol and a 1st aid kit. Say what?! She's a damn Olympic sharpshooter and professional soldier! Move over Leech Jenkins! If you've ever hired her you know damn well she would never stand for that. Well, in Arulco Vacations she doesn't have to put up with that nonsense anymore. Her Gear Kits reflect the fact she's a professional soldier AND an Olympic sharpshooter AND a nurse.

Even with all that I know she still hates me because I hire Fox.



So the question arises: what about Ice Williams? He has the now infamous Teacher skill and a dismal Leadership score. True.


But also true, as stated in his bio, Ice "prides himself in helping those new to the mercenary game establish themselves". As well, his Background is Paramilitary Instructor. His in-game personna is that of the streetwise, older brother who is looking after his family. He is also not a domineering White European (like Buns) but an oppressed Black American -- which in this Afro-Caribbean, Indigenous and Latino peoples rebellion counts for something, and it is not intangible. Actually, Buns, would be much more comfortable fighting for the Queen, and training their elite instead of training the Arulcan people. Racism is a fact that expresses itself along the entire spectrum of human interaction. Ice will, I imagine, be able to win the hearts and minds of the Arulcan people very easily, and he will take great pride in training them.


If, on the other hand, the setting for this vacation was Eastern Europe, or East Asia . . . well then . . . things would be very different, now wouldn't they? His historical Gear Kits have also been very underwhelming, though not as bad as those for Buns. In v1.03 of Arulco Vacations his Gear Kits will amply reflect the fact that Ice is a Machine-gunner. And in v1.07 his Leadership score has been increased (to the minor detriment of his other ability scores) so that he can take advantage of his Teaching skill to train militia. And in v1.07 because his Leadership score needs training to get to the level of militia trainer, and because he otherwise fully deserves it, Ice gets the skill of Deputy in order for him to fully live up to his potential. Ice, you can't touch this!



Oops! Fox and I were wrong -- we haven't finished with The "Teacher Syndrome" yet. There is the matter of Biff Apscott. What can I say about Biff? Perhaps it's better to let Biff speak for himself:


  • "Oh my God! I think I got brain on me!"
  • "Oh my God! I'm a dead man!"
  • "Oh my God! I'm so scared!"
Why Stogie or Flo like him is beyond me (Flo actually loves him . . .). He is disliked by more Mercs than anyone else in the vanilla game (Reuban & Skitz surpass him in this regard in Arulco Vacations). He is also a prime example of misrepresentation in his (M.E.R.C.) bio:

"We can't even begin to list the number of battles Biff Apscott has witnessed. His experience, dedication and willingness to part with his retirement fund has made this agency what it is today. In a private moment between warriors, Col. Leon Roachburn once said Biff is "a fearless leader of men. A man without equal.""
M.E.R.C. can't begin to list the number of battles because in all probability it begins and ends with 1. As for the Colonel's endorsement . . . don't you believe it. That doesn't sound like Leon Roachburn at all, does it? Be that as it may I will give Biff a proper skill. There is no stretch of the imagination that can consider him to have the Teaching skill -- which is his only listed skill and is an obvious cheat. However, his bio in Deadly Games notes:

"Uncomfortable with death, Biff has just completed an advanced nursing course and is eager to apply his new-found knowledge."

Again, "advanced" and "eager" are both misinformation. However, his Medical score has risen from 0 in the first game of the series to 24 at this point in time. That indicates he probably knows CPR, or at least the theory behind it. He might even know what the letters C, P & R stand for! So without further ado . . . Biff, the pusillanimous paramedic.





Next up is someone who Biff would probably run from as soon as he saw him. I speak of Thornton Jones, also known as Bubba. No, Bubba doesn't have the Teaching skill . . . Bubba don't know much at all except hurting people. Even Speck doesn't say much about Bubba, but he does say this:
"Aside from his sheer size, Thorton is notable for being the first prison guard to ever be dismissed from the Alabama State Correctional Department for brutality towards inmates. The precise details of this chain-gang boss' infractions are unclear as we weren't about to ask."

That says a lot! More than enough to assess that Bubba having the Character Trait of Aggressive just doesn't go far enough. Being Aggressive is not being brutal. Being Malicious is being brutal. This change will also help him in Kingpin's fight club, should you decide to bring Bubba along. I would give him both but the game will not accept both.


Bubba, a savage hack.



Just when I thought it was safe to move on another 'teacher' pops up. The reason I didn't find him earlier is because he was hiding . . . behind Biff. Ok, that's not fair. Biff is a more nefarious coward than Lance Fisher -- but not by much. At least Lance has some military training -- previously being enlisted in the Indiana National Guard and having served a weekend in the U.S.A. invasion of Grenada. He also actually published a book on military tactics: "Beating A Path To Safety Without Screaming". I don't think you want him teaching the militia all he knows about retreating before engaging the enemy, however . . . His JA2 bio also states this depressing bit of information:

"Due to persistent personality clashes with Victoria Waters, Lance was asked to resign from A.I.M. in exchange for a posting at Westpoint Military Academy. He accepted, and is currently an instructor of ethics and tactical withdrawal . . ."

Seems there's nothing I can do about this one and maintain any integrity. Oh, I should mention that Lance is also a Snitch. What a combination -- a cowardly snitch instructor! To top it off he has the Background of Graduate -- which does give him a bonus to his Wisdom score, but also gives him a penalty to battlefield suppression tolerance.



Never fear! (Two words Lance never puts back-to-back) Lance has a Leadership ability score of . . . 1. Yes, that is a 'one'. His Wisdom score is a paltry 56. That makes it nigh improbable that he would ever raise his Leadership score high enough to train militia . . . if it weren't for the bonuses Teaching skill gives, and the bonus for being a Graduate (his Background). So, yes, if you can keep him alive long enough the bonuses might kick in and he would be able to train militia.


Arulco Vacations sets the bar high for training militia -- enough higher than vanilla JA2 v1.13 that it probably isn't worth your time, effort and cold cash to keep Lance around long enough to train him to train militia. His other Ability scores are so low that he can only train the worst Mercs in those areas. So it seems the only thing Lance can teach is how to shout "Run away!" without screaming in terror. You wouldn't want him to teach that anyway -- and why West Point Academy wants him to do that nobody knows -- but it explains a lot about officers . . .


So because of Lance's exceptionally poor Leadership his Teacher skill is basically a waste. That makes it doubly difficult for me to let it stay -- but I will let it stay. Luckily for us all he's a decent Snitch -- and snitches can be very valuable if put to work spreading propaganda and gathering rumours. Lance, the timorous tattle-tale teacher!

Ah . . . just when you thought it was safe . . . another Teacher skill entry . . . but this time of a different flavour.  Peter "Wolf" Sanderson is up now, and he has the Teaching skill along with a bio recommendation of being a paramilitary trainer:
When not on assignment, Sanderson instructs a Wolverine Civil Defense unit during the evenings.
The problem here (and with Ice Williams above) is that Wolf's Leadership score is too low to be a militia trainer. Another problem is that Wolf's other ability scores are so high that simply adding on to his Leadership will make him a super-merc (likewise Ice Williams). I thought of reducing his other scores and adding the points to his Leadership score . . .  but then thought better of it . . . and instead (as with Ice Williams) gave him the skill of Deputy. Peter "Wolf" Sanderson, Leader of the Pack!


Well, the "Teacher Syndrome" has finally been eradicated. (for v1.06 Ira, MD, Vince & Madlab will have this skill replaced with a more appropriate one for them so that the Teacher Skill truly becomes a Militia Trainer skill) I imagine your question is: Who is left that can train militia? Good question. There are still plenty of able-minded, experienced individuals to recruit/hire that are left who have the Teacher skill. Here they are:

 Ernie "Red" Spragg
 Ice Williams
 Frank "Hitman" Hennessy
 Ron "Raider" Higgins
 Corporal Len Anderson
 Stephen Rothman
 Peter "Wolf" Sanderson
 Dr. Michael "MD" Dawson
 Ira Smythe
 Dr. Vincent "Vince" Beaumont
 Lt. Conrad Gillitt
 Dr. Nathaniel "Madlab" Kairns
 Henning von Brannitz
 Lance Fisher
 Colonel Leon Roachburn
 Samuel Garver
 Captain Bob Adams
 Reverend Clyde Potter
 Father John Walker

Of those 19 (14) people we know Lance is a basically wash-out, Kairns and Father John are not normally recruitable (but very well might be in a future version of Arulco Vacations), Lt. Gillitt is not available early nor easily available for your use (but can be recruited), and Dr. Beaumont who is also not available early on (but is easily recruited). That leaves 14 (12) ready and willing at the very beginning of this adventure. Fourteen (Twelve) that will train your Mercs, I.M.P.s and militia to be the best they can be. True, some will need a little training themselves to enable the Teacher skill to be properly useful, but the bonuses you will get from that are more than worth a little extra Leadership training for them to understand the hearts and minds of the Arulcan people. Note that two new Facility Types will help you train Leadership -- the Chitzena Ruins (learning heart and soul of the Arulcan people from Yanni) and the National Museum (learning the Arulcan heritage, traditions and history). I have also added the ability to practice Leadership at the Alma Military Headquarters (promotion time).

This Tweak that abolishes the "Teacher Syndrome" makes the people who have that skill as valuable as they should be. The ability to properly teach is not a throw-away skill.

Note also that there are others who will be fantastic Militia trainers but do not have the Teacher skill. RPCs like Miguel and Manuel who have high Wisdom and Leadership scores, and also get a bonus (like Ira) because they are respected Arulcan rebels. Even those RPCs who are not rebels, but have high Wisdom and Leadership will be good trainers for your militia recruits.

For v1.05 I gave Father John Walker the Teacher Trait (revoked for v1.06), and also lowered his Reputation Tolerance from 101 (doesn't care) to 12 (cares a lot). While this doesn't affect things at the moment (I think . . .) I do have plans for future versions where this will affect events.

Also for v1.05, to further enhance the role-play aspect, Igmus "Iggy" Palkov, Devin Connell, Samuel Garver, and Ricardo "Rat" Grimaldo each get a third Trait. It was a no-brainer to give Rat, the Keeper of the Bugs, the Stealthy Trait, and to give Devin, the purveyor of all things that go boom, the Heavy Weapons Trait, and to give Sam, the owner-operator of an alligator ranch, the Hunter Trait, but I had to think a bit for Iggy. I would have left him at just two Traits but his background as high-paid mercenary to the queen demands more than that. At first I thought of giving him the Teacher or Squadleader Trait, but his Leadership is so poor that neither is not a good fit. After much thought I decided to give Iggy the Technician Trait. His Mechanic Skill is above average, and it is the only Trait that he has a natural fit for. Of course, he is not a great Technician . . . but he knows enough to fix his Rocket Rifle, and would know enough to be included in the select few who have access to them . . . which is how (I imagine) he stole it from the Queen in the first place.

For v1.06 Ira Smythe's Teacher Trait is replaced by the Stealthy Trait (in keeping with her Scouting Trait), Dr. Michael "MD" Dawson loses his Teacher Trait and becomes a full-fledged Doctor,  Dr. Vincent "Vince" Beaumont loses his Teacher Trait and becomes a real Doctor (!), Father John Walker drops the Teacher Trait I erroneously gave him, and gains the Night Ops Trait (all those late nights wandering the streets of Drassen after drinking his fill at the bar finally comes in handy for something), and Dr. Nathaniel "Madlab" Kairns has his Teacher Trait replaced with Ambidextrous (this was a difficult one because there are no civilian traits in the game).

v1.06 saw the overhaul of the Suppression and Shock System in the game, and that had a profound effect on combat. It also highlighted a Trait that was never given its due in-game -- Deputy/Squadleader. Now it is very important to have a Deputy and/or Squadleader on your team to ameliorate the effects of the increased suppression and shock of the v1.06 battlefield. There are already a few Deputies in JA2 to choose from, but Squadleaders are at a premium. The addition of Commander Jane Shepard as a recruitable Merc gives us three choices for Squadleader -- Shepard, Ron "Raider" Higgens, and Colonel Leon Roachburn. There are a few more Deputies available, but all were male until I gave Monica "Buns" Sondergaard that Trait. There is one female Merc who deserves the Trait of Deputy more than most who already have it. I speak of the dauntless Dr. Margaret "Stella" Trammel.


Her bio, her personality, her in-game character, her gravelly grumble, all make her the perfect stereotypical Army sergeant type of person.


Her bio states "she worked her way through med school as a soldier for hire", and "was the first female to join the ranks of A.I.M.", and she displayed exceptional leadership qualities in her "struggle with the A.I.M. Fraternal Benefits Association to gain spousal benefits for same sex partners". Her rough and tumble, no-nonsense battlefield demeanour, the way she "practices mercenary medicine without the prevalent medical attitude", and her apologetic expressions when seriously wounded makes her a perfect Deputy, and she gets that Trait in v1.06 of Arulco Vacations, and a boost to her Leadership stat to bring her statistical description fully into her descriptive character. Stella, the Dauntless Deputy Doctor!



A longstanding omission gets corrected in v1.07 of Arulco Vacations. Victoria "Vicki" Waters has one of the very highest Mechanical ability scores, is noted in her bio and in Glen "Boss" Hatchet's bio to be a vintage car mechanic, and yet did not have the Technician Skill Trait.
"Victoria Waters is without a doubt A.I.M.’s finest female mercenary. Possessing deadly aim, determination and an experience class any mercenary would be proud of, Victoria works best with her hands and is currently restoring her dad’s '’64 Chevy."
"Whether it's repairing a handgun or firing off automatic weapon bursts, the ambidextrous Victoria Waters works best with her hands. Aside from working for A.I.M., Vicki spends her spare time managing Vicki's Vintage Automobiles, her own restoration and antique car dealership."
 I consider this a serious error as there are Mercenaries (all male) who have the Technician Skill Trait but have dismally low Mechanical ability scores. Therefore, how a Mercenary can have a 90+ Mechanical ability score and not be a Technician is beyond me. Vicki, the Marvelous Mechanical Mercenary!


Kyle "Shadow" Simmons is up, and this one will be quick. His bio notes that he is a sniper, but he does not have that skill. Instead, he has been given the Ranger Skill Trait in order to give him the camo bonus -- as his bio also states that he is  an expert with camo. However, getting a camo bonus instead of getting a sniper's bonuses is really short-changing him. So in v1.07 Shadow will get his Sniper Skill Trait in place of his Ranger Trait. He still has his Stealthy Skill Trait -- so he's still a 'shadow'. Shadow, the Stealthy Sniper.



Victor "Monk" Kolesnikov is another one like Tex & Shadow who was given the Ranger Skill Trait simply to get the camo bonus. His bio states "Automatic weapons are his area of skill" -- and so for v1.07 Monk will get two levels of Automatic Weapons Skill Trait and one level of Hunter/Ranger. That reverses his past allotment, giving him expertise in automatic weapons but not eliminating his skill in rifles and shotguns. Monk, Master of the Automatic!



The new recuitable characters will be detailed next . . . ASAP.




11 comments:

  1. Hi, Ed!

    First I have to say that your detailed improvement on map is extraodinary. One of the main reason I come back to Arulco Vacation after trying several other mods.

    As a very very beginner modder I want to request your kind assistance:
    1. How to edit background.xml?
    After editing using Notepad++ it keeps coming back to your original setting. I want to fiddle with it a little (yeah, riiight).
    2. Is it possible to carry over your amazing map to newest unstable build (Unstable Rev 7991, GameDir 2272)?
    Apologize for bringing this question here. Should I address it at Cartography page?

    Thank you, Ed. May your mod be perpetually improved over time.

    Cheers!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you. I am glad you enjoy the mod. Wait 'til you see v1.05 (soon to be out!). To answer your question on Backgrounds.xml -- using Notepad ++ is OK, the problem probably is that you have not started a new game. Changes in that file do not update within the current game. A new game has to be started. As for bringing AV to the newest build -- no. At this time there are incompatibilities between the two -- it would take a cleansing of the maps of all items. This is because the Items.XML I am using and the Items.XML of the newest build are different. After I get v1.xx of AV to where I like it I will start a v2.xx version that uses the latest build -- I'll probably start that work around the first of the new year. Enjoy your vacation in arulco! I'll see you there!

    Let me know what changes you make to Backgrounds.xml -- I am always looking for new ideas and advice on changes.

    ReplyDelete
  3. can´t wait to try it out and cheers from land of ice.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Just discovered this and am looking forward to trying it out. For new NPCs I noticed Jane Shephard. I'm wondering if it's possible to find a different photo for her. Since it's one of the photos available for the IMP merc, and also my favorite, it's a bummer to not be able to use a Merc because of sharing the same portrait. So, not a big deal but would be nice. Anyway, looking forward to checking it out regardless.

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    Replies
    1. It's possible, yes. I'll see what I can do for v1.07 -- which is in beta playtest right now.

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  5. Hi Ed, I really like the changes made, especially the removal of the filler Teacher skill, but a minor criticism from this, firstly there are now no female Militia trainers, not a massive issue, also with a lot less trainers to choose from, Wolf and Ice (two of my preferred early hires) have very low Ldr which prevents them from being able to train militia at all (minimum is 35 I think) so I might suggest increasing their Ldr or switching the trait to maybe deputy for either of them or Technician for wolf (he has a decent mech skill and marksman or athletics for ice.

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    Replies
    1. Very good points there -- I'll think on this one for s bit . . . being a deputy is getting much more important in v1.07 (and there are few Deputies), yet increasing their Leadership seems a fit for their bios. Thank you for the input!

      Delete
  6. Thank you for your interesting and informative blog. I have enjoyed reading it and appreciate the work you have put into it. Here is some relevant information for you to review .
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    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the kudos, I apologize for not keeping the blog up to date -- I have been hard at work on the next release. Once v1.07 is out there I will re-write the entire blog . . . it'll need it!

      Delete
  7. I think that "teaching" and "training militia" skills are mixed up in new skills/traits system, just like grenade throwing and trap disarming for demolitions or camo and shotgun using for hunter.

    ReplyDelete