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Is the Aura system easier to use than it looks?

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  • Is the Aura system easier to use than it looks?

    Terrestrials' Elemental Aura system looks like it has a lot of moving parts and involves a lot of bookkeeping, tracking which Charms are and aren't keyworded, and which ones have which Aura. Is it as awkward and time-consuming as it looks? How much of a pain is the question of, "This Charm is clearly advantageous, but using it would knock me out of my current Aura/put me into an Aura I don't want?" I haven't had the opportunity to actually play, and don't expect to get the opportunity at any time in the foreseeable future, so I'm seeking enlightenment from those more fortunate.

  • #2
    It really depends on what you're trying to do with it.
    Normally there's two main aura states to consider - your Aspect's (because you enter it automatically the round when you go totemic) and the one most of your main combat tree is (which might be the same as your Aspect or an element neutral Martial Art) though I should note that both games I'm drawing upon are relatively low xp and haven't had the PCs try to match moves with Celestial Exalts, which I think will be where moving to different auras might be more necessary to keep up.


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    • #3
      We haven't been able to run much more than some quick tests with DBs yet.

      That said, play aids seem to have made a huge difference at the table. Tracking when your Aura state changes wasn't too bad, but trying to remember what it should be was a pain with just the text. Having six solid colored cards or a big die (one neutral, five for each Aura) to say "this is what you're in now," and Charm cards color and symbol coded well so you could hold you Charms like a hand in cards and readily line up which were compatible and which weren't seemed to help significantly.

      We didn't see that much debating over 'stay in Aura or use this other useful Charm' in play, but that's mostly because Charm selection was on the slow side front-loading that. So most character's default combat platter was designed around one or two elements anyway.

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      • #4
        I’ll second play aides. I’m planning on 3-d printing dice where 5 of the sides have the 5 elemental dragon mons engraved into them and splashed with a bit of enamel paint, and the sixth side being blank. That way everyone can keep track of their aura easier.

        I really like the charm card idea, it’s almost like magic the gathering.


        From my meagre experiences the system isn’t as bad as it looks because DBs don’t have a whole lot of stuff that combos, and what does combo does so fairly intuitively. So like the earth aspect brawler with only earth aspect and balanced brawl charms didn’t have to worry about it at all, but I imagine if he’d picked up a purely water charm or a water aura charm he’d be able to manage it pretty well. It might help to start off slow and get a really solid feel for what you have and then add on bits as you get more comfortable.

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        • #5
          The pay aides sound cool, but also kind of damning for the keyword.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by FODOR View Post
            The pay aides sound cool, but also kind of damning for the keyword.
            Yeah possibly, for context though my group also uses a physical number line to track initiative and each of us have either an abacus or bead boxes for mote counting. I’m not sure if it’s super necessary but it’s helpful for sure and kind of fun.

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            • #7
              Sure, context is a hell of a thing, and being a lazy soul I'm used to doing it all in my head with the occasional scribbling numbers down on the back of the character sheet so yet another thing to keep track of puts the willies up me. If you're used to using stuff already then adding one more bit of gubbins probably doesn't feel as extreme.

              Maybe I'll try using some physical props to help bookkeeping.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by FODOR View Post
                Sure, context is a hell of a thing, and being a lazy soul I'm used to doing it all in my head with the occasional scribbling numbers down on the back of the character sheet so yet another thing to keep track of puts the willies up me. If you're used to using stuff already then adding one more bit of gubbins probably doesn't feel as extreme.

                Maybe I'll try using some physical props to help bookkeeping.
                I’d say it’s almost transformative to the game. Like using big complex maps and terrain in DnD. Theatre of the mind is great sometimes bit that really transforms it into a tactics war game. Likewise if you can just trust that your tray of beads is accurate you can focus on the important stuff. Not to mention looking at a big pile of Essence 3 Solar motes in physical form can be a heady feeling.

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                • #9
                  There's two states to it. If you play a character who uses their Aspect's primary combat ability /Air Aspect with Thrown, Fire with Melee, etc) or uses their Aspect's Immaculate MA, then its the easiest thing in the universe.
                  If you choose to play off element, like say a Water Aspect Melee fighter, it's hell.
                  (I did the later because I'm obviously a masochist).

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                  • #10
                    That was my impression. Though even with all your own aura stuff, it's still going to take a turn before it activates.

                    (Though a Water-Aspected fighter is really, really good... when you're in the right mode, which is really difficult.)

                    I have a friend who runs a game of mostly DBs, Essence 3, and he said two players had the hang of it (or... maybe one has the hang of it, and the other just took all the same Aspect so it didn't matter?), and used quite powerful stuff, but everyone else avoided it as they found it intimidating, which meant they weren't using the most powerful effects.
                    He said that a couple of sessions after converting to 3rd ed though, so I don't know if it's changed since then.

                    I asked one of the players, he said "Not great. Not terrible. Not a headache, but something you can forget to keep track of." Fodor plays with those players though, even if he's the only one not playing a DB, so he'd probably have a more accurate view.


                    My characters:
                    Dr Soma Vaidya, viper-totem Lunar and kung-fu doctor
                    Brother Alazar, Zenith occultist and last survivor of the Black Monastery of Leng

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                    • #11
                      I'm a long-time fan of physical play aides, like charm cards and mote beads, for Exalted. Deep in its bones, I contend that Exalted is a card game in the same way that D&D is a war game.

                      TBH I think Exalted could do with embracing those elements even more, in the same vein as D&D brought back miniatures-on-a-map in a big way starting around 3e. There's always been a weird tension in Exalted that I trace back to trying to be a Classic Era White Wolf game focused on story and characters and drama, AND a wonky, rules-heavy combat game at the same time. IMO that's kept many designers from fully embracing the potential of leaning into the physical elements of game design, because it's like admitting it's really a game and not just a narrative engine.

                      Auras are a great example; the mechanics are cool and interesting but fiddly and complex to track; could we get an "at the table" sidebar somewhere explaining how the designer expects it to work in the context of human beings playing the game?
                      Last edited by Blackwell; 03-04-2019, 12:34 PM.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by FODOR View Post
                        The pay aides sound cool, but also kind of damning for the keyword.
                        Why? Adding a widget to the system is never meant to make the system SIMPLER.

                        Among other things, Aura is supposed to be a way to justify giving Dragon-Blooded the ability to punch outside of their weight-class while still keeping them in that lower weight-class.

                        Aura doesn't exist to punish you by forcing you to jump through hoops. Aura exists to reward you for playing to Aspect stereotypes or successfully jumping through hoops.

                        If you're a Fire Aspect who fights with Melee and only picks Balanced or Fire-aspected combat Charms from out-of-Aspect Abilities, Aura is a rare concern because you're almost always in Fire Aura.

                        Especially if you avoid non-Fire Melee Charms like Flowing Graceful Defense, but you'll probably get that one to use in emergencies where losing your Fire Aura is an acceptable price.


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                        • #13
                          I play over Skype, so I have notepad or my character sheet (which is a .doc file) open and just write on there motes, initiative, etc, and then change it as it goes.

                          Charm cards is kind of a good idea....
                          But I have 40 charms. That's a bit much to be sorting through charm cards.
                          I copy-paste the charm text onto my character sheet, edit them a bit for simplicity, write upgrade charms into the main text, change equations ([essence] dice, etc) to the appropriate number, and then organise them by situation (withering attacks, decisive attacks, defence, investigating stuff, social stuff).

                          ... My Night Caste's character sheet was 14 pages long. At font size 8. Fine for a sheet on a computer, probably not for a physical sheet.
                          Admittedly, he did have 400xp. It's probably easier at Essence 1.


                          My characters:
                          Dr Soma Vaidya, viper-totem Lunar and kung-fu doctor
                          Brother Alazar, Zenith occultist and last survivor of the Black Monastery of Leng

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Sunder the Gold View Post
                            Why? Adding a widget to the system is never meant to make the system SIMPLER.

                            Among other things, Aura is supposed to be a way to justify giving Dragon-Blooded the ability to punch outside of their weight-class while still keeping them in that lower weight-class.

                            Aura doesn't exist to punish you by forcing you to jump through hoops. Aura exists to reward you for playing to Aspect stereotypes or successfully jumping through hoops.

                            If you're a Fire Aspect who fights with Melee and only picks Balanced or Fire-aspected combat Charms from out-of-Aspect Abilities, Aura is a rare concern because you're almost always in Fire Aura.

                            Especially if you avoid non-Fire Melee Charms like Flowing Graceful Defense, but you'll probably get that one to use in emergencies where losing your Fire Aura is an acceptable price.
                            I wouldn't expect it to make things simpler, but not every addition is the same as adding extra bookkeeping to a game already awfully heavy on it. Now maybe it's not so bad in actual play, I haven't had the opportunity, which is why I'm quite interested in the responses to this thread. In reading it Aura does feel very mechanistic and hoop-jumpy to me and not something that gives me an organic feeling of raw expressions of elemental power like I'd hope, which is a shame because a lot of the Aura effects are exactly what I'd like to see DB do

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                            • #15
                              I think maybe there's a difference between charms that become more powerful in Aura (like the Immaculate Martial Arts), and charms that actually require Aura to use at all.

                              One you get benefits but you become more powerful in Aura, the other feels more like a hoop.

                              Though the second ones are actually mechanically simpler.

                              All-in-all I think it's a balanced system, it just looks awkward.


                              My characters:
                              Dr Soma Vaidya, viper-totem Lunar and kung-fu doctor
                              Brother Alazar, Zenith occultist and last survivor of the Black Monastery of Leng

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