Archive for the ‘Exalted for Dummies’ Category

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Artifacts and Evocations

May 20, 2016

As my last post hinted, I’m going to be discussing Evocations today, which are a new system in Exalted 3rd Edition (hereafter simply referred to as Exalted, since it’s the current edition).  They’re pretty rad, and they add a much-needed level of flavor to Artifacts.

The entire Artifact system has changed to a 2-5 dot system, now a Merit rather than a Background.  For those of you familiar with the new World of Darkness systems, like Requiem, this should be fairly familiar.  For others, Merits work similarly to Backgrounds but instead of being wholly on a 1-5 scale, they vary.  I’ll go into more detail on Merits in a future post.

Starting at three dots (which is where most Artifact weapons are, not coincidentally), Artifacts can now produce Evocations, which cost 10xp (or one Charm slot) to unlock.  They function for an attuned user like Charms, but usually specifically involve that Artifact.  A bow might fire arrows of love, for instance, or a sword might grow ever sharper in its wielder’s hands.  Evocations represent a growing, magical bond between attuned user and Artifact, sometimes implying or outright stating minimal to maximal levels of sentience.

The idea is that every Artifact weapon now comes with its own suite (3 or so) of Evocations, which are customized to the Artifact in question.  Armors and miscellaneous Artifacts, such as amulets and bracers, can also have their own Evocation suites, as long as they are at least Artifact 3.  While this does put a little more stress on the ST to come up with appropriate Evocations for every Artifact, it also makes every Artifact unique, like they always should have been.  No longer is your three-dot daiklave the same as Steve’s three-dot daiklave, but you wield Stormbolt while his sword is Karnak the Render.  They have different names, histories, and now, different powers.

In that vein, I present the third of my Artifacts for a game I am soon to run:

Perception of Impulse (Orichalcum-and-Jade Infinite Chakram) Artifact (3)

This infinite chakram is crafted of white jade, shot through with veins and runes of orichalcum inscribing the thirty-three names of Olgur-Zalesh. Crafted by a master smith of the Realm for his Immaculate cousin, it is specifically intended to hunt and kill demons – though it has slain more than one Anathema in its time as well. Marek the Bold was the first to die beneath its razor edge at the hands of Cynis Syazana, but not the last. At least three Lunars were killed by the Wyld Hunt that bore this chakram, and countless spawn of the Yozis have fallen to its strikes. For all that, it still hungers for the blood of demons.

Whenever a Solar or Dragon-Blood who is attuned to this Artifact makes a successful decisive Thrown attack with Perception of Impulse against a demon, he adds that demon’s Circle to his base Initiative upon resetting.

Ricochet
Cost: 5m; Mins: Essence 1
Type: Reflexive
Keywords: Withering-only
Duration: Instant
Prerequisites: None

The least of Perception of Impulse’s powers is a simple ricochet trick, guided by its wielder’s Essence. This Evocation can only be activated when the wielder succeeds at a decisive Thrown attack made with Perception of Impulse. If the attack is successful, immediately after resetting to base Initiative, the wielder can make one reflexive withering Thrown attack with Perception of Impulse at any one character within Close range of the first target. This Evocation’s cost drops to 1m if either target is a demon.

Kiss of Momentum
Cost: 10m ; Mins: Essence 1
Type: Reflexive
Keywords: Decisive-only
Duration: Instant
Prerequisites: Ricochet

Perception of Impulse amplifies its thrown force at its wielder’s command. This Evocation is activated after a successful decisive Thrown attack made with Perception of Impulse. If the damage roll generates at least one success, the target is knocked prone by the force of the blow. The more damaging the blow, the more forcefully her opponent will be knocked away from him:

For at least three successes, the opponent is lifted and bodily hurled into an object or surface within close range, hitting it with an impact equivalent to falling a short distance, destroying any less-obdurate objects she collides with, such as wooden furniture.

At four or more successes, the foe is knocked into an object at close range with tremendous force, or is sent sailing a remarkable distance by the force of the blow. If the former, the opponent hits a surface with force sufficient to leave cracks in a stone wall, impacting with a surface as if he had fallen from a medium distance. If the latter, the force throws him to short range with a short-distance falling impact.

If the target of this attack is a demon, the Evocation’s cost drops to 5m.

Forceful Banishment
Cost: 5m, 1W; Mins: Essence 2
Type: Simple
Keywords: Psyche
Duration: Instant
Prerequisites: Kiss of Momentum

Demons are tricky monsters, able to phase into and out of reality with a thought. Perception of Impulse dislikes this, and forces them back into the material world. This Evocation is a special difficulty 3 gambit made with Perception of Impulse against a dematerialized entity. If the gambit is successful, the wielder may immediately engage in a battle of wits with the spirit. The wielder makes a reflexive (Wits + Occult) roll against the spirit’s Resolve. If successful, the spirit is forced to materialize reflexively and at no mote cost. The spirit cannot dematerialize for one round per point by which the Occult roll beat its Resolve unless it spends two Willpower to overcome this mind-influencing effect.

If this Evocation is successfully used against an unbound demon, instead of forcing the target to materialize, it banishes the demon instantly as if through the appropriate “Demon of the X Circle” spell. It literally hits the demon so hard it ceases to exist in Creation.

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Conversation on the Unconquered Sun

December 7, 2011

This just came to my attention a little earlier, and while it’s not immediately relevant, it is relevant to Exalted, both specifically to the Unconquered Sun and to the themes of Exalted in general.  The link below features a discussion between Michael Goodwin (aka Nephilpal) and John Morke (aka hatewheel), both freelance designers for the Exalted line, and both instrumental to the development of the Unconquered Sun as presented in Glories of the Most High.   I recommend it to those curious about Exalted metaphysics, game design, and how to apply specific mechanics to a broader theme.  Please enjoy!

http://nobilis.me/conversation-on-the-unconquered-sun

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Exalted for Dummies – The Fair Folk

November 5, 2010

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve done one of these posts, so I figured it would be a good time to get back into the original purpose of this website: informing and educating my reader base about various aspects of Exalted.  Today, I’m going to break down the Fair Folk for you, dear reader, because, while their mechanics are a little awkward, the concept of the Fair Folk is one of the neatest things in Exalted.  They manage to draw from a variety of intriguing mythologies while at the same time making the Fae their own, unique creatures.

I’ve already talked about the Wyld, the literal Chaos from whence all things originally sprung (probably).  It rings Creation, and continues to generate all manner of oddities, some of which spill into Creation proper.  Most of those are behemoths and mutants, things easily dealt with by the Lunars who live at Creation’s fringes, but deeper into the Wyld, one can find proper Fair Folk.  These are beings made not merely by the Wyld, but of it, creatures of pure chaos and potential.  Because of their very nature, any sweeping generalizations about them are impossible to make accurately, but I will do what I can to narrow down that field.

All Fair Folk are, at the heart of themselves, nothing more than feeding maws, opened around what they call Graces.  These Graces (corresponding loosely to the four Virtues and Willpower) are the core of a Fair Folk’s being, the source of their power.  The Graces measure and limit the Fair Folk’s power and powers, but within those limitations (and especially within the Wyld), they have a great deal of flexibility.  Perhaps in some future installment I will go into some depth regarding the Graces, but for now, simply remember that they are the measure of a Fair Folk’s ability as well as personality and role, insofar as those things are stable.

Generally speaking, Fair Folk can be broken down into two categories: Shaped and Unshaped.  The Shaped Fair Folk are what most people mean when they refer to Fair Folk: Chaos that has, as their name suggests, taken a form, whether it be transitory or even potentially permanent.  They have shaped Wyldstuff into a rough form and stretched it around their feeding maws, making them more than just a ball of Chaos.  Some take humanoid forms (though rarely truly human shapes), while others prefer to be animals, monsters, or even emotions or landscapes.

The Shaped Fair Folk (or simply Fair Folk) further divide themselves into Noble or Common Fair Folk, depending on their relative powers (and how they came to be, whether their consciousness shaped itself from the Wyld, or whether they were created by another Fair Folk).  These yet again divide themselves into Courts, much like Creation’s elementals, the better to politic and circle one another, to create thrilling dramas in which they can play many parts.  For, you see, the Fair Folk feed on emotion, and while their passion plays and diversions can keep them somewhat sated for a time, the emotions and thoughts of the Creation-born are vibrant delicacies.

The Unshaped, on the other hand, dwell in the deepest reaches of the Wyld, leaving all the things of Creation to the Creation-born or their lesser cousins.  They wander the depths of Pure Chaos, and their motives are as many and varied as they themselves.  However, one thing can be stated with as much certainty as anything among the Fair Folk: the Unshaped hate Creation, and are, indeed, Creatures of Darkness in the eyes of the Unconquered Sun.  They are inimical to Creation, and their very presence can unshape and dissolve vast swaths of Creation itself back into Chaos.

Whether Shaped or Unshaped, Fair Folk can feed on the souls of the Creation-born.  To do this, they drain Virtues or Willpower, regaining Essence from the exchange.  Some Fair Folk survive exclusively on this feeding while in Creation (for Creation’s static nature drains Fair Folk rapidly without some alternate source of energy), while others merely dabble now and then.  This feeding leaves mortals forever changed, drained of their emotional extremes or even of volition itself.  The Guild makes a practice of selling slaves to the Fair Folk, for them to drain into such mindless husks, and then buying those same husks back as cheap, disposable, manual labor.

Shaped or Unshaped, Noble or Commoner, all Fair Folk exist to amuse themselves.  Indeed, stories are their literal reason for existing.  In the Wyld, they can tell fabulous tales of kingdom-toppling love or hatred that can animate the dead, feats of daring both heroic and villainous, or anything in between.  The Wyld is their playground, and they control it utterly.  When they come into Creation, they are no less dangerous, though they may be less powerful, for life and death mean nothing to them, and the people of Creation are little more than strange, new pawns in their never-ending games.  They are a worthy foe for any Exalt, for though they may not be an Exalt’s equal in combat, even the mighty Exalted can be caught up in their stories.

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Overview – Mass Combat

July 21, 2010

One of the system elements of Exalted that I like most (at least in theory) is its Mass Combat system.  Most of the dedicated fantasy enthusiasts out there will, like me, have noticed that in almost every major fantasy story (and in most of the minor ones), there’s a war.  Sometimes it’s one nation fighting another, sometimes it’s racially motivated, and sometimes it’s just plain good vs. evil, but at the end of the story, there’s always a big siege and a fight between two armies.  Most gaming systems reproduce this poorly if at all, normally leaving it to the Storyteller to arrange some dramatic narrative around the normal combat system.

Not so with Exalted.  Exalted has expanded its combat system to allow for a very specific set of rules that deal exclusively with mass combat.  They allow units from one to 10,000 members to engage dynamically on the field, as an expansion and adaptation from the normal combat system.  In essence, the Exalted Mass Combat system can be summed up in a single phrase: you wear your army like pants.

Let me clarify: in Exalted, armies modify the traits of their generals.  Troops provide bonuses to their commander’s Defense Values, attack rolls, damage rolls, and Health Levels, and larger units provide commensurately larger bonuses.  Often, two units of the same size cancel one another out, leaving it essentially a duel between generals… which is fine.  It works more like Dynasty Warriors than anything else. 

There’s a lot of discussion regarding how good the system itself is, as it fails in places to logically extrapolate from normal combat, especially where Charms are concerned, but that’s a minor quibble to me.  I’m thrilled to death that Exalted even offers a Mass Combat system, and it works well enough for my needs… especially when compared to, say, Dungeons and Dragons.

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Alternative Progressions – Necromancy

July 6, 2010

The third and final alternative progression for most characters is Necromancy, the Underworld version of Sorcery.  When the first Primordial was slain, and the Underworld came into being, it, like Creation, had rules.  The now-Neverborn understood those rules, and they functioned in much the same way as Sorcery did in Creation.  After the Primordial War, a group of Celestial Exalted traveled down into the Labyrinth and poked and prodded at the slumbering Neverborn, ripping the secrets of Necromancy from their tomb-bodies.

Necromancy follows most of the same mechanics as Sorcery, in that it takes Willpower to cast and multiple actions to shape the spells.  However, while Sorcery shapes the fundamental rules of Creation, often producing elemental effects, Necromancy shapes the fundamental rules of the Underworld, dealing with ghosts, shadowlands, the walking dead, and the like.  Its effects are much less potent in Creation, but in the Underworld can make a simple necromancer as powerful as any mortal king.

Dragon-Blooded cannot learn necromancy, save for a very few individuals somehow touched by death.  These “Dragons of a Different Color” lose their ability to cast Sorcery, but can instead learn Shadowlands Circle Necromancy, the first circle of the descending trinity.  All Celestial Exalted can learn Shadowlands Circle Necromancy as well, binding ghosts and animating “simple” war machines, though for most, this is as far as their mastery goes.  Infernal Exalted can learn this step, but the initiations are painful and difficult, and only then through the magic of the Ebon Dragon, whose nature it is to overcome boundaries and limitations.

Labyrinth Circle Necromancy is the second level, and of the Exalted, only Solars, Abyssals, and Infernals can learn this tier.  These spells create more potent war machines, ease travel between the land of the living and the land of the dead, and conjure horrific spirits from the Underworld.  Like Celestial Circle Sorcery, Labyrinth Circle Necromancy spells begin to move out of the realm of immediate, practical effects, and into jaw-dropping displays of necromantic might.

Finally, Void Circle Necromancy is only available to Abyssal Exalted and the Deathlords that empowered them.  These spells shape the very fabric of the Underworld, binding the ghosts of Third Circle demons (called hekatonkhire), turning entire nations into shadowlands, or even transmuting Solar Exalted into Abyssals.  While less potent in Creation than Solar Circle Sorcery, in the Underworld, these spells are comparable in scale.

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Alternative Progressions – Sorcery

June 29, 2010

The second alternative venue for characters outside their native Charms is Sorcery.  Originally, when Creation was first made, it was laid over with an operating system, a set of “physics,” for lack of a better term, that guided and oversaw how the world itself functioned.  The Primordials also made sure they could hack that operating system, could bend the rules.  In time, others learned how to access these hacks to a greater or lesser extent, and this came to be called Sorcery.

As with Martial Arts, there are three tiers of Sorcery: Terrestrial, Celestial, and Solar.  Each develops ever-expanding powers, always impressive, but never quick.  Even Terrestrial Circle Sorcery takes time to produce its effects, making it nigh-useless on an individual combat scale, but devastating in war or outside of combat.

Terrestrial Circle Sorcery is the most ubiquitous circle, usable by all types of Exalted (except Alchemicals) and even by enlightened mortals.  Its effects are small (comparatively) but useful, ranging from creating food and water to hurling devastating waves of razor-edged obsidian butterflies, from binding small demons to sending messages infallibly from one end of Creation to the other in an instant.  It is the most practical of all sorcery.

Celestial Circle Sorcery is the next tier, and its effects, while useful, begin to move outside the realm of practicality.  Dragon-Blooded and mortals cannot practice Celestial Circle Sorcery, limiting it to Solars (and their tier), Lunars, and Sidereals.  Effects of Celestial Circle Sorcery can include teleportation, conjuring tentacles of magma from beneath the ground, binding ever more potent demons, or turning oneself into a bladed behemoth made of cold iron.  Its spells can turn the tide of entire wars, or bring nations to power (or ruin).

Finally, Solar Circle Sorcery is only attainable by Solars and Infernals.  Even Abyssals cannot manage this feat.  The spells of the Solar Circle are world-changing, spells that bind the most potent of demons, annihilate entire cities, levy curses of eternal darkness, or bring rains of blood and frogs.  They are events, every one of them, stunning and powerful in their effect.  Solar Circle spells have not been seen in Creation since the Usurpation, for obvious reasons, but with the return of the Solars (and the presence of the Infernals), it’s only a matter of time.

Alchemicals have an entirely different method of hacking Creation, called Protocols.  Passed down by Autochthon himself, these Protocols are much more direct, but much less powerfully broad.  Man-Machine Protocols are roughly on par with Terrestrial Circle spells (and duplicate some of their effects), while God-Machine Protocols are more on par with Celestial Circle spells.  Protocols are not learnable by the Creation-born, and Sorcery is not learnable by the Alchemicals (though Autochthonian mortals could, presumably, learn Terrestrial Circle Sorcery).

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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.