Yokai's guide to TSW talisman mechanics


Your perceived "strength" and combat difficulty in The Secret World is hugely gear dependent. Much more so than in many other games.

If you've looked closely at the three Head, Major, and Minor talisman rows in your Skills page, you've notice that each new Skill rank that you achieve improves three basic stats for you:

Head: improves your base Magic Protection
Major: improves your base HP pool (Health)
Minor: improves your base Physical Protection

So while you do get some basic stats from your SP investments alone in these three talisman rows, these are very small compared to the stats that you get from your 7 equipped talismans themselves.

There are four important aspects of talismans:

The slot type
The role type and role stats
The color
The secondary stats

Talisman slot types

You have 7 talisman slots: 1 head, 3 major, and 3 minor. The stats on all 7 slots combine to 100% as follows:

Head: 25%
Major: 15% each (45% total)
Minor: 10% each (30% total)

What this means is that all other things being equal, if a certain base role stat (more on that concept in the next section below) is 100 when seven talismans of the same color, role type, and QL level are equipped, then your Head talisman is providing 25 of those points, each Major talisman is providing 15 of those points, and each Minor talisman is providing 10 of those points.

Now that I've thrown that 25/15/10 set of numbers at you, I should point out that these are slightly oversimplified to make them easy to remember and apply as a rough estimate. These numbers were quoted by a dev back in closed beta. But in actual practice, the real numbers here in the current live environment are slightly different:

Head: 21.x%
Major: 16.x% each (48.x% total)
Minor: 10.x% each (30.x% total)

So if you want truly accurate stats, use this 21/16/10 set of numbers when figuring out your talisman stat percentages. Harder to remember, but more accurate.

This concept is important to understand because you'll see my guides, developer statements on the forums, and other players talking about their talismans for a given deck (build) as being "40% DPS and 60% Healing" or "Full DPS (100% DPS)" or "50-50 Tanking and DPS". What they are referring to here is the total percentages of each talisman role type (more on that concept in the next sectino below) based on the percentage values of each of these slots.

For example, if you put two tanking talismans in two of your Minor slots, and all your other 5 slots are filled with DPS talismans, then you have an "80% DPS and 20% Tanking" setup. (Which I'll abbreviate in the rest of this guide as an "80/20 DPS/Healing" setup.)

Talisman role types and role stats

All crafted talismans and all non-dungeon-dropped talismans fall cleanly and recognizably into three different role types, with each role type providing essentially one primary role stat:

Tanking talismans focus primarily on +HP (Your player's total health pool)

DPS talismans focus primarily on +Attack Rating (damage scaling for your damage-causing actives and passives)

Healing talismans focus primarily on +Heal Rating (heal scaling for your heal-causing actives and passives)

You can mix and match these three primary role stats in any combination from 100% of only one stat type to 90-10, 85-15, 80-20, 75-25, etc. of any two stat types, or even 10-60-30, etc. of all three stat types. For example, to achieve a 10/60/30 mix of Tanking/DPS/Healing, you'd put a single Tanking talismans in one minor slot, two Healing talismans in two of your major slots, and the remaining slots would be filled with DPS talismans.

The beauty of this system is that you can mix these three role stats (HP, damage output, healing output) exactly as you like to suit the role you want to play or to enhance the strengths or bolster the weaknesses of any given 7/7 ability set.

Once you understand this basic mechanic, you realize that you only need to store 21 total talismans in your inventory to enable yourself to achieve literally ANY mix of base role stats: 7 tanking Talismans, 7 DPS Talismans, and 7 Healing talismans. Don't worry so much about the secondary stats (more on this concept further below) on each set of 7, because you can overwrite the secondary stats on any talisman simply by combining it with a new glyph or sigil at any time. All you need to consider is keeping a set of the 7 best QL tanking talismans that you can wear, the 7 best QL DPS talismans that you can wear, and the 7 best Healing talismans that you can wear. Disassemble, sell, or give away every thing else.

Talisman colors and recognizing the three role types

Blue and Purple talismans each have only one role stat as follows:

  • Tanking = only +Health (+HP)
  • DPS = only +Attack Rating (+AR)
  • Healing = only +Heal Rating (+HR)

Green talismans each have two role stats as follows:

  • Tanking = very high +HP and very low +AR
  • DPS = roughly equal +AR and +HP
  • Healing = roughly equal +HR and +HP

Tip: until you've learned to recognize a talisman's role type from its stats alone, you can place a talisman in the disassembly window and preview which types of components it will break into. Be sure to drag it back into your inventory so you don't accidentally disassemble it!!! Tanking yields Water elements, DPS yields Fire elements, and Healing yeilds Dust element.

Green talismans are set up this way to ensure that all new players who don't yet understand talisman mechanics cannot screw themselves too badly on total Health. If you equip a full set of 100% DPS blues, the only thing actually conferring any HP to you at all is your SP investment in the Major talismans Skill, which is a very very small base amount. So an advanced player can choose to use only blue or purple DPS talismans to make themselve a true "glass cannon", but a newer player might not be able to cope with being so squishy.

So the greens are designed that if you equip a full set of green DPS or a full set of green Healing talismans, your ratio of role stats will be 70/30 +AR/+HP or 70/30 +HR/+HP, respectively. This is because the entire game is balanced around the expectation that players must have at least 30% of their HP coming from their equipped gear.

By contrast, if you equip a full set of green Tanking talismans, your ratio of role stats will be 70/30 +HP/+AR.

If you want to move outside these boundaries of either 70% +HP max or 30% +HP minimum, then you must use blue or purple gear pieces as desired.

One final note about the relative strength between greens, blues, and purples. The biggest performance jump occurs when moving from Greens to Blues, which offer a roughly 90% increase in the primary stat for each talisman type (over the same QL Greens). The performance jump when moving from Blues to Purples is much smaller, offering only a roughly 10% increase over Blues. Here are some concrete examples among talismans of the same QL level.

DPS: +209 Attack Rating/ +354 HP
Tanking: +826 HP / +90 Attack Rating
Healing: +209 Heal Rating / +354 HP

DPS: +397 Attack Rating
Tanking: +1557 HP
Healing: +397 Heal Rating

DPS: +439 Attack Rating
Tanking: +1727 HP
Healing: +439 Heal Rating

It's important to note, however, that this huge apparent bump between Greens and Blues comes at a price, and the overall "bump" is really not 90%. The other big difference between greens and blues is that you lose all the inherent 30% +HP that comes on every green talisman. As a rule of thumb, if you switch to all Blue talismans, for example, you should not equip 7 DPS talismans like you used to do with Greens, because you'll suddenly become very very squishy due to losing literally all of your +HP stats from gear.

Instead, you should equip 2 Blue Tanking talismans in two of your Major slots, and the remaining 5 talismans can all be pure DPS Blues. This ensures that you still have a roughly 30% ratio of +HP in your talisman gearing, which is important because the game is balanced around this expected minimum amount (30%) of +HP from your talismans.

So you can't really go from 7 Green DPS talismans to 7 Blue DPS talismans, or you'll wonder why you suddenly start dying way more often, especially if you're soloing.

Instead, you must go to 5 Blue DPS talismans and 2 Blue Tanking talismans (which must be in specific slots to equal the 30% +HP expected by the game design). If you work out the actual numbers involved, the TRUE "bump" for switching from an all-Green DPS set to an all-Blue DPS set ends up being only a 33% improvement in your total +Attack Rating. Your total +HP in this scenario also gets a roughly 33% improvement.

Talisman secondary stats

Secondary stats comprise values like +Crit Rating, +Crit Power, +Penetration Rating, +Hit Rating, +Evade Rating, +Block Ratiing, etc., which all come from Glyphs, and a different type of bonus that comes from Sigils. (I cannot yet describe what Sigil bonuses look like.)

These secondary stats are all conferred by the Glyphs and Sigils that are combined with each talisman. When you craft a talisman, they have only empty glyph slots (and sigil slots, if any), so a crafted talisman at first has no secondary stats whatsoever.

Talismans that drop from mobs or given to you as mission rewards, by contrast, come pre-loaded with some type of glyph (and possibly also a sigil), so they already have a variety of different secondary stats.

What is super useful to realize is that you can easily overwrite the secondary stats on nearly all normal mob drop or mission reward talisman by simply combining that talisman with a new glyph. It's that easy. There is rarely ever any need to break down or sell off a talisman just because it has "the wrong secondary stats for me". If you're trying to complete a set of QL10 Tanking talismans and the last one you need finally drops for you, KEEP IT even if it has crappy secondary stats that you don't like. You can always craft or buy a glyph with the secondary stats you do want, and combine it with that talisman. Now you have a perfect tanking talismans with the perfect secondary stats you want.

Similarly, lets say you have been using a +Crit build for a while but now you want to try a +Pentration build instead. You have a set of nice talismans already, but they're loaded up with +Crit stats. Do you need to slowly farm or buy or craft a new set of +Pen talismans? No! Just farm or craft or buy a set of +Pen glyphs and then slap those glyphs on your existing talismans. Done! If you don't like your new +Pen build and want to switch back to a +Crit build, do the same thing again but this time slap a bunch of +Crit glyphs back on your talisman set.

Now, I say you can re-glyph nearly any talisman to suit your needs. I say "nearly" because there are in fact some talismans that drop here and there that cannot be re-glyphed. You can easily recognize the talismans that can be re-glyphed because when you examine them, they will have a horizontal line between the base stats (+HP, +Heal Rating, +Attack Rating) and the glyph stats (+Pen, +Crit, +Defense, etc.). And the section containing the glyph stats will clearly name the glyph prefix (Ravaging, Savage, Accurate, etc.) For more information on the various glyph prefixes and their possible values, refer to Sarcan's excellent guide here on Crafting Patterns

Talisman crafting made easy to understand

Use all Water elements to craft a Tanking talisman.

Use all Fire elements to craft a DPS talisman.

Use all Dust elements to craft a Healing talisman.

Depending on the color and QL of your talisman assembly kit, you'll get either a green, blue, or purple talisman with one glyph slot and possibly also one sigil slots.

Now slap some glyphs and sigils on it. Done!

Tip: For the specific talisman crafting patterns, refer to Sarcan's Crafting Patterns guide.

Tips for farming a starting set of blue talismans

Normal missions in the outdoor zones usually reward only green talismans, so to farm up a set of blue (and later purple) talismans, you must farm dungeons. Each boss in a dungeon typically drops blue gear items as a reward (talismans and weapons).

The easiest way to farm up a set of blue talismans is to find a dungeon that drops the QL of talisman that you're looking for, then go in with a group that can quickly beat the first boss in the dungeon. Now exit the dungeon, disband the group, then recreate the group and go back into the dungeon. This act of disbanding and reforming the group outside of the dungeon effectively resets the dungeon, so the first boss is there again waiting to be killed. Now of course, if your group were to simply do the entire dungeon run and clear all bosses, you'll of course get more overall variety of loot, including the usually much better gear drops by the penultimate and final boss in the dungeon. But it can be faster and more blues per minute to farm only the first boss.

You might argue that resetting the first boss to farm it in this manner is an exploit, and in fact my own guild considered it as such at first too. But there are valid arguments for not considering it an exploit:

  • The penultimate and final bosses in each dungeon are often much harder than the first few bosses, and it's clear that Funcom expects groups who are just starting a new level of dungeons (Normal > Elite > Nightmare) to fail to clear the dungeons at first, until they've geared up their overall power by collecting enough blues from the early bosses during their first few attempts. This mechanic is pretty clear if you attempt one of the Normal dungeons with a full group in green gear that is at the QL level of the dungeon itself. For example, if you try doing the Normal Darkness War dungeon in Blue Mountain with a group of 5 people all wearing green QL6 gear, the final boss will be a very tough fight with a high chance of failure, because you probably won't be able to put out enough raw DPS needed to pass the DPS check mechanic in that fight. However, if you can successfully build up that group to wearing a fair amount of QL6 blues collected from the first four bosses during several attempts at clearing the entire dungeon, at some point the group will be able to put out enough DPS to make that final boss fight much easier.
  • Funcom does not put lockout timers on any of the Normal or Elite dungeons, but they do put a 19-hour lockout timer (effectively one full calendar day for most people) on Nightmare dungeons. This clearly indicates that they want to make it easy to repeatedly farm at least the first few bosses that your group can beat to build up a set of blue gear. If they didn't want a group to jump right back into the same Normal or Elite dungeon, they would put lockout timers on the Normal/Elite dungeons too.
  • Soloing in end-game zones is very tough for most builds if you're wearing only green gear. Even after you hit "VMax" (Vertical Max, meaning you are Skill 10 in all three talisman skills, and Skill 10 in your two equipped weapons), it can be very tough for all but the most optimized soloing builds to deal with many typical encounters in City of the Sun God and all three Transylvania Zones. But as soon as you are decked out in mostly blue QL10 gear pieces, it becomes much easier to solo all this content. The conclusion we can draw from this fact is that Funcom clearly balanced this outdoor content around the expectation that most players would be in blue QL10 gear, and therefore they wanted to make it somewhat easy for even casual players who don't enjoy doing full dungeon runs to get their hands on blue gear somewhat easily.

Tips for farming up a set of purple talismans

Unlike for blue talismans, there is no easy way to farm purple talismans. You can't just hop in and out of a Nightmare dungeon to farm the first boss over and over for a starting set of purple gear, because of the 19-hour lockout timer on NM dungeons. Therefore, your gear progression slows down greatly when you've cleared all Elite dungeons, beaten The Gatekeeper, and are now ready to start progressing your purple gear.

So the best approach to building up a set of purple gear as quickly as possible is to form groups for attacking the NM dungeons that have the best chance possible for pushing as deep into a NM dungeon as possible on each attempt. You need to make the most of your once-every-19-hours opportunity to beat as many bosses as possible. So while you can bring along an under-geared person or two on your Elite runs (or early "first boss only" farming), you really can't afford to do this when you start in on your Nightmare dungeon progression.

Instead, try to form up groups of people who are all equipped at least in a full set of QL 10 blues (and ideally also intelligently glyphed for the role they play), and then attack each NM dungeon and push as deep as you're able to. Don't beat yourselves silly retrying the first boss you wipe on too many times. It's usually more efficient to simply move on to the next NM dungeon and push as deep as you can into that one, and then after wiping a few times on some stumbling block in that 2nd NM dungeon, move on to the next NM dungeon, and so on, until you have "farmed" all the available NM dungeons for this 19-hour period. Then next day do it again. This approach will typically yield more purple drops per 19-hour period with the least amount of effort and time.

After some days of this technique, you'll find yourself able to push deeper on each attempt, because you're increasingly wearing more and more purple gear.

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