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Exalted – The System

May 18, 2010

This’ll be a relatively short post, as most of you are familiar with the system, either specifically through playing Exalted or because you’ve ever played a White Wolf game in the past. In short, characters have a number of Attributes and Abilities, each rated one to five. Players roll Attribute + Ability +/- modifiers (10-sided dice, of course), with 7s, 8s, and 9s counting as one success and 10s counting as two.

The two main differences between Exalted and, say, Vampire, are Charms and stunts. Charms are the relevant magical abilities, and they vary from Exalt type to Exalt type. Their main difference from Disciplines is that, rather than being rated from one to five, Charms exist in “trees,” where you buy prerequisite Charms to build more and more powerful ability sets. Most, if not all, the “trees” have well more than five Charms, and they have varying “branches,” so you are not required to proceed in a pre-approved, linear path.

Stunts, however, are the most important part of the Exalted system. Whenever a character performs an action, the player can describe that action cinematically to receive “stunt dice,” a bonus to perform the action. If the action so enhanced succeeds, the character is rewarded, usually with motes of Essence, the power that fuels Charms. Stunts range from one to three dice, with the GM being the final arbiter of what each stunt is worth. Only important characters are allowed to stunt (so minions and mooks won’t be able to, but villains CAN).

Stunt criteria are as follows: a one-die stunt is awarded if the player makes a good faith effort to describe an action. “I stab him” doesn’t get you anything, but “I swing my sword at him in a glittering arc” would get you a die.

A two-die stunt is awarded if the character utilizes the environment to assist her action. Swinging from chandeliers, cutting ropes to make hanging tapestries fall, leaping over tables, and bounding off walls all get the character two dice.

Finally, a three-die stunt should leave everyone at the table gawping, laughing, crying… whatever. Three-die stunts are legendary, will be the fodder for stories around the gaming table for years to come. I have only given out one or two three-die stunts in my tenure as GM.

The importance of the stunt rules is that they give even more control to the player. If the GM hasn’t described the full surroundings, the players have some control over their environment. They let the players involve themselves with the narrative, and it stresses that the characters are badasses. It makes the normal rolling of dice come alive.

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