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  • System Analysis: Charms

    If Exalted were a monster, the core mechanics would be its spine, the central pillar of idea to action, and the Charms would be its terrifying skeletal tendrils expanding and grasping at the true reality that it seeks. They are the bite of the system, the thing you get your teeth kicked in, but like a metaphor involving terrifying skeletal tendrils that expand and grasp about, they are a bit hard to comprehend. Add in a penchant to flowery language and a preference for mechanics to be written in a natural, day-to-day language, and you have a tonne of charms written in the way that only exalted provides.

    They are awesome (and inspire awe) and terrific (and cause terror).

    So why am I doing a system analysis?

    Because I'm a know-it-all that finds research fun. Also because someone said they'd like a kind of thing that transfers mechanical ideas into practice. I can't quite do that, but I'll be exploring the charms and seeing what they can make and do.

    Let's start off with

    ARCHERY

    Essence 1 Charms: 7 (0/1/3/3/0)

    Archery is one of the four (or five) attack abilities in Exalted and one of the two dealing with ranged combat. The ability improves your capabilities with bows, crossbows, firewands, and other ranged weapons that propel a projectile as a tool....

    That last line was too abstract in general to be helpful. I'll try not to be that bad.

    Wise Arrow is the very first charm in the book besides the example Excellency. It is a Uniform Supplemental charm that does two things. One is that when it enhances an attack, it reduces the defense bonus for cover by 1. If the target is without cover, it reduces their defense by 1.

    But that's just the first effect, what does the second do? Well if you take an aim action, you can activate Wise Arrow to then ignore Full Cover and only treat it as merely +3 Cover for the next attack you make. Wise Arrow doesn't have the stackable Keyword so you can't stack the two effects by activating it with an Aim and then with the attack, but this is quite a useful effect.

    This first effect is the equivalent of getting a free success without counting it towards your charm cap. Did I forget to mention this costs 1 mote? Yeah, you get a difficulty reducer that's half the cost of an excellency for the equivalent benefit and it doesn't count against the cap. (Also because it's only 1 mote, you can use it to make a nice round 5 mote with 4 dice from an excellency.) The second effectively lets you attack someone you wouldn't normally have been able to. If the person was already outside of your normal range, then you would have need to aim anyway to attack them even without the cover.

    Wise Arrow opens up a lot of possibility and really pushes your capability to hit a target beyond the norm. The only time Wise Arrow isn't useful is when the target is down to Defense 0 from serious Onslaught.

    Next up after Wise Arrow and branching off of it is Sight Without Eyes. This charm removes all sight-based penalties to an Archery attack for 1 Mote. Even if the penalty is only a -1, this is still a useful way to give an effective cap-breaking for extra dice. In addition, it has a duration of 1 Tick, meaning if you have multiple attacks in the same Tick, they all get the penalty removed. Nice.

    Sight Without Eyes has a passive upgrade at Archery 5, Essence 3 that improves the effect. Now the Solar can "see" through cover with targets appearing as a hazy image "the color of anima." What does that mean? Use it with Wise Arrow's second effect to pull off a neat trick.

    Blood Without Balance is the first real teamwork charm in the book (not out of exceptional notice, but instead because Archery is first alphabetically.) This requires you to benefit from a Distract Gambit first. If you would have enough initiative to get a turn now, you can activate the charm to instantly make a decisive attack up to long range and without aiming. If your Init is below 7, you gain extra base damage equal to (essence). Now this does two things effectively, it 1) Lets you attack without aiming up to long range (damn good,) and 2) surprise a target by hitting harder than you should (because you get extra base damage.) It requires some trickery to pull off, but it's one of the earliest ways to attack without aiming. It also encourages you to plan ahead with your Circle to create openings for each other.

    The best use for Blood Without Balance I can think of is in the round after you used a decisive. You have your ally use a Difficulty 3 Distract Gambit to give you 3 Initiative and take you up to 6 (and thus below 7). You'll get the extra damage from the effect and attack again after someone thought you couldn't.

    The strength of Blood Without Balance though is kind of lost without being able to compare it to its Withering Brother, Force Without Fire. Force Without Fire has the same cost as Blood Without Balance and it lets you attack without aiming (except only up to medium range.) This one though has an interesting clause. If you roll damage equal to or more than the targets Stamina, you don't get the initiative he would lose, he is knocked back 1 range band, and any Rush attempt he was making ends.

    This charm may seem really weak because of the fact it might not give you initiative, but it opens up a few tricks. For one, you still get the 1 initiative for hitting. Second, if you Crash the target, you can still get the 5 initiative from crashing them. Third, this can help stop speedy pursuits of crazed melee-types with a cleaver on your poor Twilight circlemate who is crashed, or to end a rush targeting you. (Also sending someone from medium range to long range with a single arrow is really, really cool to see.)

    Next is Trance of Unhesitating Speed, the first multi-attack charm in Archery, and we're still in Essence 1. This also shows the common trend for multi-attack charms in 3e. They're about splitting up your initiative to make extra decisive attacks. Now there are restrictions for the multiple attacks. The first is that you cannot attack more times than your Dexterity or current ammunition (though it's technically the lasted listed.) The second is that each attack must have at least 3 initiative put into them. The final restriction is that you must divide up the initiative as evenly as possible. There is an innate damage boost offered as well. Every 10 on an attack roll adds 1 to the attack's base damage. In addition, you don't need to aim for the attack.

    Now multi-attack charms seem weak at first glance. Splitting up your initiative to multiple attacks, then risking them missing or failing against hardness AND it'll eat up some precious motes and willpower. Now there are a few factors to keep in mind. Each attack will add to the targets onslaught penalty, making the next attack more likely to hit or for allies to get more successes on their attacks, or to simply combo it later with Brawl fun. This isn't even acknowledging the fact that you can spread your init across multiple targets and avoid wasteful overkill or simply make a fight easier by causing wound penalties to multiple targets.

    In addition, multi-attacks charms love company. If you add in damage boosters, you can get far more damage from them to pull off with (if you're willing to pay the cost.) They may not give you extra init on their own, but they are very useful when chained with other charms. So far we haven't seen the charms in Archery that boost decisive damage, but they're there. Oh boy, they're there.

    The best part about Trance of Unhesitating Speed? It has only one prerequisite: Wise Arrow. Not only is it dip friendly for a character, it's also not hard to get those damage boosters that make it really sing.

    Next is the second introductory Charm for Archery: Phantom Arrow Technique. This charm has two primary effects and then an upgrade effect. The first effect lets you fire essence arrows instead instead of ammunition. The second effect allows you, once per scene, to fuel an attack with one of your intimacies. The attack gets bonus non-charm dice equal to its rating. This effect is a 1 mote cap breaker that can add 2, 3, or 4 dice depending on your character. Using this though will numb you to the Intimacy until it can be reaffirmed.

    It's innate upgrade happens at Essence 3. One of the few innate upgrades with a name, the Adamant Arrow Technique is incredibly cruel. It's a third use for the charm that can infuse a physical or phantom arrow with an eternal essence. So long as you live. the arrow cannot be removed from what it hits unless you remove it or someone you've given the right to do so.

    It's a nice flavorful trick, and you don't have to buy it on your own. It's a free upgrade.

    The final Essence 1 Archery Charm is Fiery Arrow Attack. It lights objects on fire. Also it adds an extra success to Decisive damage. If the Decisive attack it improves does 3 or more health levels of Damage, it also sets the target on fire, causing them to take lethal damage dice equal to your Essence for every turn they take.

    Fiery Arrow Attack, is a pretty efficient damage booster, 2m for 1 success may seem fair at first, until you remember that Decisive damage doesn't get the advantage of double 10s normally, meaning instead of the usual math of "2 motes equal 2 dice equal 1 success" it's roughly 2.5 dice for every success. Then you add in the extra (yet small) damage if you do enough damage in the first place and you have a really, really efficient charm. If you're willing to pay for each attack, it's a pretty nice addition to a multi-attack charm.

    It does have one glaring flaw though.

    You shoot flaming arrows. No opportunity to pretend you aren't an exalt. Or you can use it with a Flamepiece.

    Essence 1 Archery in review: Essence 1 Archery has a strong emphasis on always hitting, on amazing decisive attacks, and on making sure you can hit regardless of distance. It lacks good withering support, the one charm that directly improves withering attacks is more like a gambit that makes the enemy pay for the initiative instead of you (and you get Withering accuracy as well.) It novas but needs wind up.

    Next I'll look at Essence 1 Athletics. Why? To mostly avoid concept fatigue.
    Last edited by ScarecrowJ; 04-17-2016, 04:10 PM.

  • #2
    I'm the Unsung Hero, and I approve of this effort.



    I post Artifacts in this thread. How I make them is in this thread.
    I have made many tools and other things for 3rd Edition. I now host all of my creations on my Google site: The Vault of the Unsung Hero

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    • #3
      Very useful, thank you.

      Originally posted by ScarecrowJ View Post
      This isn't even acknowledging the fact that
      Was there supposed to be something here? It just abruptly cuts off.


      I'm feeling bluuuueeeee~

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Prometheus878 View Post
        Very useful, thank you.



        Was there supposed to be something here? It just abruptly cuts off.
        It was supposed to be something but I completely lost what it wa... oh yes. Being able to split targets meaning you can avoid wasteful overkill or spread out wound penalties on enemies.

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        • #5
          Minor correction about Phantom Arrow:

          This effect is a 1 mote cap breaker that can add 1, 2, or 3 dice depending on your character. Using this though will numb you to the Intimacy until it can be reaffirmed.
          Intimacies are actually worth 2, 3 and 4 (ref: pp.170, bolded part of the right-most column).


          Bearer of the legacy of Trauma Bear
          Need a dice-roller? Check out Dicemat.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Fata-Ku View Post
            Minor correction about Phantom Arrow:



            Intimacies are actually worth 2, 3 and 4 (ref: pp.170, bolded part of the right-most column).
            Thank you. That only really boosts the effect of the ability by a bit.

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            • #7
              Perhaps I'm missing something but where does it say you can use force without fire out to medium range ? I thought it could only be used at close or short. In any case I've found that particular charm very useful so far mainly as it stops anyone getting to you and the falling damage rules make shooting people off things very appealing.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Daltormind View Post
                Perhaps I'm missing something but where does it say you can use force without fire out to medium range ? I thought it could only be used at close or short. In any case I've found that particular charm very useful so far mainly as it stops anyone getting to you and the falling damage rules make shooting people off things very appealing.
                Nope! I was wrong. I made another mistake. It's still a nice charm.

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                • #9
                  This is an utterly fantastic analysis.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Hey, we're kinda sorta tangentally doing the same thing.


                    Read my shit at my homebrew topic, 2.5e and 3e material!
                    Play Alchemical's in 3e now, you're welcome.

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                    • #11
                      I'm looking forward to the rest of these, because reading the first one with my morning tea really was a great way to start the day.

                      Last edited by HerrTenko; 04-18-2016, 05:14 AM.


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                      • #12
                        Athletics

                        Essence 1 Charms: 11 (1/2/5/2/1)

                        Athletics is one of the movement abilities. It also helps with feats of strength. For additional fun, it has massive support for your combat needs.

                        Graceful Crane Stance is the first charm to Athletics and it's one of the few "you just do" charms. If you're on a wire or a beam, you don't need to roll (Dex+Athletics.) You just do. Useful, and its requirements are the lowest possible. Not too much to say about it; it's incredibly straightforward.

                        Monkey Leap Technique is another introductory charm. It's a supplemental movement charm that allows you to leap an entire range band. If you continue using it, you get a discount on the cost. Use it with Graceful Crane Stance and you can do the ninja tree leap the kids all seem to love. Do remember that it counts as your movement action for the round.

                        Soaring Crane Leap was kind of complex to me at first reading. Well, it's not really that complex. The problem is that it does 2-3 different things, but they're written in rapid succession in a single paragraph to make them seem to blend into each other...

                        1. It allows you to fall 2 range bands without fall damage. If you have a serious fall, you have to activate it every 3 bands.
                        2. As you fall you can also use your movement action to glide forward a range band as you fall.
                        3. If you have sufficient momentum, you can use Soaring Crane Leap's second effect without falling. (The example given is using Monkey Leap Technique then Soaring Crane Leap to travel forward 2 range bands over 2 turns without having to land.)

                        Somehow I suspect I got that wrong somewhere.

                        Foe-Vaulting Method is the first of the universal combat boosters that Athletics offers. It allows you to roll Dex+Athletics against the targets Evasion (not Defense, Evasion.) If you succeed you leap over them and get a surprise attack on the target. This can only be used once a combat, but it has a recharge. You need to hit with a Decisive; then go back up to Initiative 6. (Or be a Dawn and activate their Recharge reset anima power. Or be an essence 5 Dawn who goes straight to 6 Initiative when they use a decisive while they're at Bonfire level.) There are a good portion of Athletics charms that grant attacks like this, and are a good investment for anyone who could need them.

                        A Surprise attack isn't as amazing as an ambush, but don't sneeze at it. -2 Defense is huge, this can push a 7 Parry super-titan to "merely" a 5 or a 3 Defense foe to the point where almost all your successes become additional damage. but it's an extra bonus that can ensure a hit on an attack, as well as making it easier to get additional successes (and thus more damage on a withering attack.)

                        Lightning Speed is the third athletics charm without a prerequisite. This one enhances Rushes in combat and tests of speed outside. You get an automatic success (that is a charm success, so this counts against your limit) and you can reroll 5's and 6's until they disappear. Now that may sound small, but that is a force multiplier with an excellency. I don't have an exact math on me, but this effectively removes the 5 and 6 result from your d10s and turns it into a weird-shaped d8 that goes 1-4 then 7-10.

                        Weird visualization and wonky math assumptions (seriously wonky) aside, this gives each die 5/8 average successes rather than the usual 5/10. Or for people who like decimals, .625 per die rather than .5.

                        Winning Stride Discipline is a way to regain motes when winning a contest of speed. For every success you roll higher than your best competition, you can either regain 2 motes to be spent on the next athletics charm you use on your next turn, or two initiative. Now it's not explicitly stated, but I'm 90% sure rushes are a test of speed. If your ST says no, I have no issue with him going with that. Anyway, the charm is permanent, has cost, and just happens when you succeed. You need Lightning Speed to learn it, but it effectively gives you another avenue for either motes for Athletics or for Initiative in combat.

                        Now a general balance (as in balancing your checkbook) for initiative is that every withering damage pushes the initiative balance by 2 into your favor. They lose one and you gain one. Being able to gain 2 is roughly equivalent to that shift. Roughly. It works better in your favor against multiple targets (you shift the balance 2 in your favor against all of them) and it's less effective when against a single target (you'll never crash them and they still have the same init as before.)

                        Still, Winning Stride Discipline, if your ST agrees rushes are tests of speed, can give you similar benefits to attacking outside of needing to attack. This can allow you to focus on other elements of combat (namely movement) and still be working towards pushing the fight to its resolution.

                        Increasing Strength Exercise is one of my favorite athletics charms. It doesn't seem to do a lot; It makes you stronger! But it does some fun stuff to the combat engine if you look closely.

                        So increasing strength exercise increases your strength (duh) by up to your essence for a scene. You can't go higher than double your strength though. This can allow you to meet higher feat of strength requirements, allowing you to attempt to lift larger stuff (and providing additional dice to attempt it with.)

                        Anyway, this charm also gives your Decisive base damage by 1 for every dot of increase. This effect becomes one of a multi-attacker's best friends. You know how most charms that let you multi-attack take your Initiative and then split it for each attack? This adds to those after the initiative is split, so now multi-charms like Trance of Unhesitating Speed now get bonus damage to each of the attacks. Any and all of them you use in a scene now have a damage boost for each of their attacks.

                        The basic strength increase also improves your ability to make withering attacks. This helps Archery's problem with the lack of withering support it has. This helps Brawl's everything. This gives Melee a lot of support for it's strength-based effects. This helps out Thrown's massive amount of flurries. It turns Tiger Style from "scary" to "terrifying." This charm does a lot with a simple concept. And it's an introductory charm; it has no prerequisites.

                        The weaknesses it has? It's Simple, so many characters just don't have the actions available to use it. In addition, at essence 1, it may not seem as impressive in practice as I make it sound. You're only adding 1 dot and 1 extra Decisive damage. In addition outside of a very generous application of RAW to allow the Decisive boost to apply, it doesn't benefit (normal) use of Crossbows and Flamepieces.

                        If you haven't guessed, it serves as an Infinite (Strength) Excellency for the scene (and a bit more.) If you wonder why writers and Devs list this charm why you wouldn't want strength used for attack rolls in 3e, it's because it'd bring back the I(A)M paradigm.

                        But really I just like the charm a bit too much, so I thought about a lot of things it could help with. This is where I say "yeah, be careful with what I say here. I might be too into something for fair analysis."

                        Increasing Strength Exercise's first branch-charm, Ten Ox Meditation, helps its parent charm by focusing further on the niche of Feats of Strength over combat application potential. If you don't have the strength to meet the requirement to do the task you want, you can still attempt it and convert 3 successes (and the initial mote cost) into bonus Strength towards meeting the minimum. You do not get to add an additional die to the roll for increasing your strength.

                        Now, one way to look at this charm is to imagine that every Strength requirement you are under increases the difficulty of the task you are attempting by 3. In addition, this can help you meet minimums that not even Increasing Strength Exercise could get you to. At Essence 1, this is how you can manage Strength 7 Feats of Strength.

                        It honestly is probably more powerful than Increasing Strength Exercise in its niche, but it's use is only in its niche. Then again, you don't need to compare them. You need Increasing Strength Exercise to take Ten Ox Meditation, and you can use them together in a scene.

                        Oh boy! It's time for Thunderbolt Attack Prana! Except I know it by a different name for my spear-wielding dawn: Jump. (It even doubles damage at the end, I'm smiling too much at that simple little nod or coincidence. I can't figure out which.)

                        This charm is a supplemental decisive booster that can work with any combat ability, but only on non-ranged non-ranged attacks. You can also only use one other ability with it, but still. This lets you leap at a foe up to short range away and attack. If the attack hits, the damage it rolls is doubled. All of it. Roll only 4 successes on the damage roll? Now it's 8. If you attacked an aerial foe, you can fall a single range band without taking damage.

                        Doubling post-roll damage is amazing honestly.

                        The leap does count as your movement for the round if you move the full short range, but it won't if you stay in close range.

                        Now what stops this charm from being used all the time? It costs a willpower as well as the mote cost. In 3e that's far more serious than even 2e. This also thankfully stops it from being found in a ten-attack melee combo.

                        I'll need to reread the book to see if the ten-attack melee combo that popped up in my head is actually possible.

                        Enough explosions of violence. Now we are back to gentle wire-fu movement with Feather Foot Style. This charm lets you run on fluid surfaces so long as you keep running. If it's on lava or other dangerous or otherwise harmful surfaces, you won't take damage so long as you keep moving. Outside of the fact that it's mute, there's not much to say about the charm besides that it does what it says it does.

                        The Athletics 5, Essence 2 innate upgrade allows you to stop on the surface for the duration of a stunt. That's pretty much so long as you describe yourself as doing something though your ST is the final arbitrator on that. Describing your character as running across the lake, then stopping to knit a scarf for his lover would likely lead to you needing use of that "Underwater" specialty for Craft. This standing effect doesn't protect you from the reality that the floor really is lava either.

                        So let's talk about the Mute keyword. This keyword is an extremely useful tool to an exalt not wanting to suddenly become a walking target. Even excellencies add to Anima after a certain point. The Mute keyword though, lets you go over 4 peripheral motes and still get extreme displays of skill. It's a cherry on top of a the cake that is a charm.

                        Another Mute charm right after Feather Foot Style is Spider Foot Style. Now you can run on walls! And ceilings! And simply stand there too! An interesting thing to note is that it has a curious duration. It lasts (Essence + 1) turns. Since it's a reflexive charm though, you can reactivate it when the duration ends, and if a stunt works enough, you can add 1 more round to the duration.

                        Essence 1 Athletics in review: Essence 1 Athletics focuses on many things. It has running, leaping, lifting and breaking, and it even has some really good offensive combat use. Heck, it has charms I'd have a hard time justifying to not take for many of my characters. It opens up possibilities for your character and gives them many tools for many situations.

                        Next is Essence 1 Awareness. What will we see when we look there?
                        Last edited by ScarecrowJ; 04-18-2016, 08:22 PM.

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                        • #13
                          With regards to thunderbolt attack Prana I think the major reason you can't use it on every decisive or multiple times in a mulriattack is that at least against non-flying opponents it has to be used at short range rather than up to short range, i.e. it has to be a closing attack rather than an attack against someone you've spent the last few rounds engaged with. This means to utilise it in combat you have to maneuverer yourself so that you start your turn in short range of an enemy whilst not engaged with anyone else. I like this though as the charm is still powerful as doubling damage is a big deal but you need to move around a bit in combat to set it up which works nicely with it being an athletics charm.

                          I really like the analysis by the way, talking about charms in context is really interesting and i may well intervene with my thoughts semiregularly if you don't mind?
                          Last edited by Daltormind; 04-18-2016, 09:28 AM.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Daltormind View Post
                            With regards to thunderbolt attack Prana I think the major reason you can't use it on every decisive or multiple times in a mulriattack is that at least against non-flying opponents it has to be used at short range rather than up to short range, i.e. it has to be a closing attack rather than an attack against someone you've spent the last few rounds engaged with. This means to utilise it in combat you have to maneuverer yourself so that you start your turn in short range of an enemy whilst not engaged with anyone else. I like this though as the charm is still powerful as doubling damage is a big deal but you need to move around a bit in combat to set it up which works nicely with it being an athletics charm.

                            I really like the analysis by the way, talking about charms in context is really interesting and i may well intervene with my thoughts semiregularly if you don't mind?
                            I have no issues with that. This is a forum. Discussion is what it's for

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                            • #15
                              Another thing about Foe-Vaulting Method: it works very well with Ebon Shadow. Ebon Shadow has several charms that can only be used with Unexpected attacks.


                              STing Bronze Age Exalted

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