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Alternative Progressions – Martial Arts

June 22, 2010

Each splat has its own Charms, and they allow them to break the natural rules of physics and logic by being more awesome: running over water, leaping mountains, hurling elephants, etc.  However, each splat also has access to one or more alternative progressions: Sorcery, Necromancy, and Martial Arts.  Since Exalted is, at its heart, a wuxia/anime game, I’m going to start by looking at Martial Arts.

Martial Arts sounds like it should be limited to punching and kicking, but this is not the case.  Martial Arts are as much spiritual as they are physical, meant to open one’s Essence pathways to allow for feats of mystical derring-do.  They often enhance combat, but they just as often enhance other aspects of the Martial Artist’s capabilities, from strengthening the mind and soul to enhancing running or jumping.  Martial Arts Styles are each complete trees of Charms which cannot be expanded upon: each is a fully-encapsulated, completed thematic style.  Custom Martial Arts Charms cannot be made, with some few exceptions.

There are three tiers of Martial Arts power: Terrestrial, Celestial, and Sidereal.  Terrestrial Martial Arts are the weakest, but still provide amazing avenues of esoteric advancement not necessarily available to their practitioners otherwise.  The most common practitioners of Terrestrial Martial Arts are, as the name suggests, the Terrestrial Exalted or Dragon-Blooded, but enlightened mortals, Dragon Kings, Fair Folk, and gods often take this alternative path to expand their capabilities.

Celestial Martial Arts are the next tier, and they expand on the relatively rooted concepts of the Terrestrial Martial Arts.  Dragon-Blooded can practice Celestial Martial Arts, but only with rigorous personal training and never with the same ease as the Celestial Exalted.  Solars, Lunars, Sidereals, Abyssals, and Infernals find Celestial Martial Arts to be their “native” tier, though it should be stressed that even they have to practice extensively and learn from a skilled sifu.

Finally, Sidereal Martial Arts are the most esoteric and the most powerful, each embodying a conceptual or theoretical ideal and pushing the practitioner to emulate that concept.  Some examples are Martial Arts Styles based around thoughts, the Essence of Creation, dreams, contagion, or reflection.  Sidereals are the most common users, of course, though Solars and Abyssals can, potentially, learn these Martial Arts as well.  Lunars may or may not be able to, and the other splats never can. 

There are some exceptions to the need to have a sifu.  Every splat save Alchemicals has what is known as a Hero Style.  While these Styles can be taught as any other Martial Art, the Exalted type to which they are attuned can learn them as though they were native Charms.  They can also expand their native styles with custom Charms, as they are considered native to those Exalt types.  Solar Hero Style, for example, is considered a tree of native Solar Charms, and can be learned by Solars without a tutor, as well as allowing Solars to create custom Charms for that tree.

In general, Martial Arts are an esoteric but efficient method of expanding an individual’s power, granting new and often unusual Charms to enhance a martial artist’s capabilities.  They are visually and thematically exciting, and they add flavor and style to a world already rich with both.

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