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  • Martial Arts Merit Cost

    My new group just houserules that the Merit cost for MA makes no sense and that you can take it as an ability right out the gate. They want me to run a game for them and I'm hesitant as I'm new to the system to allow this. It seems that the cost of 4 (which is on par with Artifact 4 or Resources 4) is high enough to significantly affect the balance of the game if we were just to throw it away.

    Is there a good reason the MA merit is so expensive?

  • #2
    Originally posted by Tyzerg View Post
    It seems that the cost of 4 (which is on par with Artifact 4 or Resources 4) is high enough to significantly affect the balance of the game if we were just to throw it away.

    Is there a good reason the MA merit is so expensive?
    You've hit the nail on the head with the comparison to Artifact 4, I think. If you bought a 4-dot artifact, you could expect to buy evocations for it (up to 15 of them, by the rules in Arms of the Chosen), which significantly improve your character's performance, but are vulnerable to being removed if someone manages to steal the artifact. With Martial Artist, you can buy hypothetically unlimited number of martial arts charms, each style requires you to spend some XP on the Ability for the style, but the charms can be potentially comboed together, and nobody can really take away your ability to be a martial artist. Personally, I think they're reasonably balanced.

    I wasn't part of the playtest for Ex3, but I'm told that what happened, when there wasn't a Martial Artist merit, everybody basically bought martial arts styles. It's basically combat charms that you can spend Solar XP on, which makes it extremely competitive, if not purely better, than the native Solar combat Abilities, if there's no extra buy-in via the merit.

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    • #3
      While I'm not a particular fan of how all this is implemented RAW:

      Consider the comparison to a 4 dot Daiklave. The value of the Artifact isn't in immediate benefits (you don't get better weapon stat blocks), but a stronger/larger Evocation tree for your weapon. The MA Merit is, effectively the same investment: a bunch of Charms you can buy because of the Merit. While it's difficult to do a direct comparison on a few factors, if you consider MA an Artifact with dozens of Evocations trees instead of one... that's not such a loss.

      Here's a potential compromise (or two) you can pitch if you're worried:

      1) Instead of having to buy Martial Arts ratings in each style, you buy it once and styles are acquired like Specialties (so closer to Linguistics and Lore). This is, frankly, a much greater XP savings in the long run, but means rushing to master a style at creation is still a significant investment that's harder to combine with Artifact weapon/armor for your style and so on.

      2) Make the cost of MA variable. Such as at 1 dot you can buy the mundane dots in a MA, but not Charms, at 3 dots you can start buying Charms but you are treated as a Terrestrial for the Terrestrial and Mastery Keywords, and a 4 dots you treat the Keywords as usual. This gives mortal and Dragon-blooded non-Immaculate Monk characters a bit of a break, and allows "dabbling" in MA to be less costly.

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      • #4
        From what I understand it's an attempt to balance groups with one martial artist and other players. If you play a solo game, or every player wants martial arts, it makes sense to waive the cost. However, some ST's might think it's stupid and waive the cost anyways.

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        • #5
          My solution to this was that if a character only was buying Charms from a single Martial Art, they didn't need the Merit. As soon as they wanted to buy Charms from more than a single Martial Arts style, then the Merit was required.

          It allows a character that just wants to use a single Martial Art as their combat style flavor of choice the ability to jump right in alongside Melee, Archery, etc. At the same time, it does not let Martial Arts combinations get out of hand without the "system tax" implemented by the designers to curb the run-away martial arts style problem.

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          • #6
            I can't really speak to anyone else's experience with the system, but I've run a couple of Solars games waiving the MA merit entirely and haven't noticed any particular imbalance between the players. Maybe, in part, it's that I've never had more than one character particularly interested in being a martial artist in the first place. The core Brawl and Melee charmsets are plenty good on their own. Having to buy up the abilities over and over seems like a significant enough price for some charm access without piling on a 4 point merit. At least the way I run it a good amount of the cost is just finding a teacher and getting them to be willing to teach you, which is usually a bigger hassle than spending 12xp would be.

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            • #7
              I don't think doing away with it entirely is the way to go (or people will start 'dabbling' in martial arts which to me doesn't feel right), but it certainly could stand to be 2 dots rather than 4. Yes compared to an artifact it gives you access to a lot more charms you can buy with solar xp but unlike evocations you can't combine them with native solar combat charms (which are generally the best combat charms) and you don't get artifact stats or attunement bonuses. Also there*s only so much solar XP you get over a game, so theoretically being able to buy all those charms is cool and all but few games last long enough that you're sitting around with a bunch of solar xp and nothing to spend it on..

              Given that the 10 merit dots you start with also tend to go to background traits and artifacts that help define your character, having to sink 4 to be a martial artist also feels kinda bad.
              Last edited by limaxophobiac; 08-31-2020, 08:47 PM.

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              • #8
                If you consider the merit cost is necessary to justify access to a handful of powers, you can still drop it to 3, and maybe allow condensing the ability purchases to just one track of dots.
                Martial Arts have a very similar role as artifact 3 weapons, and they have to buy each power anyway, so in that sense the expenditure is identical.


                Check my Exalted homebrew!

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                • #9
                  The other way you can do it is to remember that Martial Arts technically requires a teacher of some kind.

                  You can say that the four merit dots represents them.

                  So essentially swap out "martial arts" for a 4 dot mentor.

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                  • #10
                    Martial Arts are kinda unique in that (form most styles) They give a grab bag of effects all in one tree. For example Snake style has good damage adders, good soak boosters, good utility gambits, and some movement shenanigans, that is at least 3 abilities worth of stuff that you can grab from only one ability. This is pretty powerful. This is ESPECIALLY powerful when you remember that martial arts can be bought with solar XP instead of regular XP like most charms. If you are going to remove the merit cost I would highly recommend that you not allow purchases with solar XP. If your players want the easy access of all other charms they should have the same restrictions.

                    On the other hand I suppose it is more of a relative difference between MA and say melee than a huge power-up in absolute terms, so if all of your players are ok with it then it doesn't really matter that any of them who chose MA will have an advantage over those that don't.

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                    • #11
                      I think its handled very poorly and the Merit Tax is an answer to a hypothetical problem not a real one.

                      There's basically 2 types of MA: I am a primary fighter and I want a unique splash on a noncom. SP and WR a good examples of Primaries. SVN and DPC are the latter.

                      Single Point, widely regarded as the most powerful, Surpasses then Ties them Loses to Melee in order of investment. It has arguably the most bang for your buck on a charm-to-power scale but a Dawn SPer is gonna get wrecked by a Melee Dawn. Im too sick to link the Exalted Arena page, but you can find it.

                      So SP, the most powerful, is on par with Melee, which doesnt cost anything. You can combo MA charms (I had a great Ebon Shadow Tiger Stylist), but so what? You can already use Thuderbolt Attack Prana without a merit cost and there's no greater combo i can think of in terms of Balance off the top of my head. Just think about Thrown Stealth and Brawl Athletics or Melee Resistance.

                      The hammerpoint in this thread so far has been "Solar XP". So to counter that, do you either A) not let solar xp be spent on MA charms, or B)put a 4 dot merit tax in character creation?

                      I don't want to drag EX3 through the mud, but lets not pretend this is a carefully manicured environment. You can get a T-Rex for less than MA. Its One Charm to get a size whatever battlegroup of bloodapes. And its not like Occult is a skill tax since people regularly go for ISoB. Stormcaller is better than most MAs and it cost 5 dots, which is literally cheaper than MAMerit and MASkill 3. Flying Wings/The Nimbus Cloud and a Bow make you literally unkillable for 99% of starting PCs.

                      For my own experience, Ebon Shadow + Tiger was a major investment that needed Stealth and the Belt of Shadow Walking to really wow, and honestly Stealth+BoSW+Whatever is probably gonna have the same results for cheaper.


                      Please be warned: this is not champagne, this is most likely a duck.
                      -Chausse

                      Message me for Japanese translations.

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                      • #12
                        I think that the Martial Artist Merit is overpriced, but I've found that houseruling that the merit lets you pick out 1 martial arts charm for free brings it right back up to the power of a 4-dot Artifact. After all, tons of 4-dots give you an Evocation for free.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Elfive View Post
                          The other way you can do it is to remember that Martial Arts technically requires a teacher of some kind.

                          You can say that the four merit dots represents them.

                          So essentially swap out "martial arts" for a 4 dot mentor.
                          I’m all for the MA merit also representing one story merit say, Mentor 3, or Ally 3 (basically a story merit one dot lower) for immersion purposes.

                          (Mentor 3 can be the all knowing Sensei, Ally 3 could be the Shonen anime protag who teaches you their finishing move because they are such a bro, leading to you inevitably exceeding them in skill and ability).
                          Last edited by prototype00; 09-01-2020, 06:07 AM.

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                          • #14
                            On my end we ditched it almost completely. You can buy the abilities directly (and the relevant techniques through them) or buy the merit and use brawl for everything.
                            Nothing breaks.


                            Check my Exalted homebrew!

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by KymmetheSeventh View Post
                              I think that the Martial Artist Merit is overpriced, but I've found that houseruling that the merit lets you pick out 1 martial arts charm for free brings it right back up to the power of a 4-dot Artifact. After all, tons of 4-dots give you an Evocation for free.
                              This I like. See also: Divine Heritage coming with your first such Eclipse Charm.

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