DragonBloodedGreatCurse/Everyl

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I've heard some people complaining that the Dragon-Blooded have it too easy with their Great Curse. It's not so much that it's minor that bothers people, it's that it's so easy to avoid that it is likely to never come up at all; its purpose in even existing becomes questionable. Recently, I came up with an idea to play up the Dragon-Blooded Great Curse, should the Storyteller choose to do so, so I decided to share the idea and see what other people think of it.

Dragon-Blooded have a Virtue Flaw. This is already implied, but not clearly stated, in the rules and the Dragon-Blooded character sheet. For the purposes of these rules, a Dragon-Blooded character's flawed Virtue is always his highest Virtue, and it can change if his highest Virtue changes through experience expenditure, Fair Folk soul-gnawing, or other permanent means. Unlike Solars and Lunars, a Dragon-Blooded's Virtue Flaw is based purely on his Aspect and highest Virtue. Each Aspect has a "The Great Curse:" writeup in Exalted: The Dragon-Blooded on pages 164 through 173; this describes the effects of the Great Curse upon each Aspect when they are suffering from it. This Flaw should be roleplayed to an extreme, much like a Solar Virtue Flaw, but is virtually guaranteed not to last nearly as long. Also, since the Terrestrial Great Curse is much broader in scope than the Celestial equivalent, it tends to blend with the character's personality more smoothly than a Solar's limit breaks (no compassionate pacifists going on murder sprees against slavers, for example).

So far, this is virtually unchanged from one potential reading of the existing Dragon-Blooded rules. The next part is where things are modified slightly - the trigger.

Dragon-Blooded do not have Limit like their Celestial cousins. Instead, their Great Curse is only triggered when they are low on Willpower and their anima is flaring too brightly from spending peripheral Essence. Instead of requiring the Terrestrial to be completely out of Willpower before there is any risk of the Great Curse taking hold, it is triggered any time the character's temporary Willpower points are less than his flawed Virtue and the Dragon-Blood has spent more motes of peripheral Essence in the current scene than his permanent Willpower rating.

The Great Curse takes ahold of the character's actions until such time as he no longer meets the "breaking" conditions. This can happen either because he regains some Willpower (perhaps by fulfilling his Nature) or because his anima dies down enough for him to regain control. (According to the Exalted Errata, during the scenes in which one's anima is dying down, it should be considered to start at the highest mote-count of the new level - so if one spends 9 peripheral motes in one scene, he will start the next scene having effectively spent 7 motes, for example).

The net result of this system is that high-Virtue Dragon-Blooded are more susceptible to the Great Curse (much like Solars and Lunars), but not radically so; avoiding excessive anima flaring and overexpenditure of Willpower will go a long way towards keeping a Dragon-Blood in control of himself. When a Dragon-Blooded does succumb to the Great Curse, the attack will tend to be shorter, as his anima will probably die down enough for him to regain control sooner. I would also recommend playing down the "elemental fury" aspect of the Terrestrial Great Curse with this rule set; since it is now something that can happen in many highly-stressful situations, it should be more subtle, seeming to be more of an extreme of the character's personality than possession by his Aspect element. This would also explain why the Realm tends to be distrustful of sorcerers; since their profession involves spending massive amounts of Essence and Willpower on a regular basis, they would experience the Great Curse more often, and would therefore be seen as unstable or eccentric regardless of their true personalities.


Examples of these house rules:

Niraj the Air-Aspect has Compassion 4 and Willpower 7. As long as he has at least 4 points of temporary Willpower left, he's fine, regardless of how brightly his anima is flaring. However, the life of the Exalt being what it is, he inevitably finds himself in a pitched battle, forcing him to spend several Willpower and a goodly amount of Essence, bringing his total down to 3 Willpower points left; he has only spent 6 peripheral motes, though, so he's fine. On the next round, he loses initiative, and opts to defend with a reflexive Flickering Candle Meditation, fueled with peripheral motes - unfortunately, this drives him up to 10 motes, exceeding his Willpower and triggering his Great Curse. Angry at how petty and creul society can be to force him into this situation, he stops pulling his punches and soon kills the foolish bandits who attacked him. With the threat averted, he continues to be driven by Compassion and wastes no time in feeding an expensive Sweet Cordial to one of his wounded bodyguards, saving the mortal's life - and fulfilling Niraj's Caregiver nature, returning his Willpower to 4 and ending the influence of the Great Curse over him, even though his anima is still burning at the 10-mote level. He immediately regrets wasting the Sweet Cordial on a mere mortal, knowing that his House will not approve of the "wasteful" expense, but it seemed like the thing to do at the time. If his Nature had been something other than Caregiver, he probably would not have regained Willpower in the scene, but he would regain control at the beginning of the next scene, when his anima died down to the 7-mote level - equal to, but not greater than, his permanent Willpower.

Alternative systems (These are house rules, after all)

Every round that a Dragon-Blooded's anima is flaring at the 16+ mote level (or its equivalent for the well-bred) and his Willpower pool is lower than his highest Virtue, roll his flawed Virtue. If there are any successes, the character succumbs to the Great Curse until either his temporary Willpower rises to equal or exceed his flawed Virtue rating or his anima dies down to no higher than the 1-3 mote level.

or

Trigger as directly above, but the roll is at a difficulty equal to the number of temporary Willpower the character has remaining. If he has no temporary Willpower and his anima reaches the 16+ level for even a moment, he automatically succumbs to the Great Curse.

or

Take one of the two rule sets immediately above, except change the duration to one scene per success rolled.

Comments

Self-commentary: I suspect that there is a far simpler way to explain this system, but I can't seem to figure out what it is. I'm open to suggestions. Also, I'm considering upping the numbers on the motes/level table from 0-4 to 1-5; this is a little easier conceptually, and makes there be a practical difference between a Virtue of 4 and a Virtue of 5, but I wanted to make it "like the standard Great Curse, but with a little more." Does anyone have an opinion on this? -Everyl

If I were you, I'd remove the chart. Just decide a critical level of anima flare, and say that when the Terrestrial has less Willpower than their flawed virtue and an anima flare of whatever level you choose or higher, the great curse activates until the next time he gains willpower. It makes the Great Curse a little more common, but it cuts out the table-referencing and you can always ballance it out by making the requisite anima level very high. -Seraph

I agree with Seraph but other than that it is a much better than the canonical version- Paladinltd

Thanks for the comments! I changed it a bit, losing the chart but keeping some variability in the threshold anima level, since I couldn't decide where to put an absolute cutoff. I wanted it to be significantly higher than the Great Curse threshold in the official version, so they wouldn't be going nuts constantly, but I didn't want it to be so high that they could never fall under the influence of the Great Curse unless their anima was burning at a literally painful level. Basing it on permanent Willpower gives me the best of both worlds, as it makes some DBs better at maintaining control than others, but is still pretty simple to keep track of. What does everyone else think about it now? -Everyl

It seems potentially problematic. Consider: the average starting character has a permanent willpower in the range of 5 to 6, with a few high-virtue maniacs and people willing to blow BPs on willpower with 7 or 8. That's a really low threshold. At five or six peripheral essence, the anima banner is just becoming visible, as I recall. You might want to up the threshold. -Seraph
Well, under the canon system, it's if your anima is showing at all... meaning 4 motes of peripheral Essence, less for the well-bred. This actually raises that, since the lowest Willpower you can have without taking Flaws is 5, which translates to 6 motes of peripheral Essence, regardless of Breeding. At that point, depending on your Breeding, you either have a visible, but non-damaging, anima, or your anima is at the one-die-per-minute level. If your Willpower is higher - we'll say 8, the highest you can get without dumping tons of bonus points on it - then the Great Curse doesn't affect you until you've spent 9 motes of peripheral Essence, which is either one die per minute or one die per three turns, depending on Breeding. Theoretically, you could get up to Willpower 10 (11 motes), which is one die per three turns, regardless of Breeding.
I thought about setting the bar quite simply at the 11-15 mote level of anima flare, but that would make it so that they can only ever suffer from the Great Curse when their anima is at its penultimate level. Even the 8-10 level is damage-inflicting. I also wasn't quite comfortable with the idea that high Breeding results in easier "limit breaks." That's why I came up with a standard that's independent of the "brightness level" of the anima, without just being an arbitrary number. Maybe it would be better to make it Willpower + (some other trait), but I don't know what would make sense for that second trait... Essence doesn't seem all that fitting, since, it's the character's Exalted Essence that's cursed in the first place. Hmm... this deserves thinking about. -Everyl
The trouble is, with this system we are also decreasing the number of willpower points you can still have left before the curse activates. Requiring that your anima be showing at all, and you be totally out of willpower is much different from anima showing at all (which, in essence, the willpower system would be) and have less willpower than your highest virtue. No one in their right mind spends their last willpower unless they're about to die, but spending down to three or four in a really tough fight is probably pretty common. There's got to be a trade-off in the two elements - willpower level and anima level - otherwise the DBs would be totally insane. -Seraph
I think I understand what you're saying, but I'm not really sure what to do about it... the anima chart only goes up to 16 motes. The anima level, as I have it set up, is from 6 to 11, depending on your Willpower rating, higher is better. That's a lot more clearance than the book gives you, with 1 to 4 depending on Breeding, lower is better... though I'll admit that it's a lot easier to keep your Willpower pool above 0 than equal to or above your highest Virtue. I don't want to make the cutoff *too* high, or it'll never last more than a single scene... though I suppose that isn't necessarily entirely bad.
Wait, I just had a brainstorm... I'll add it in up above as an alternative and see what people think.
Okay, that was several ideas... but I couldn't decide which I liked most, so I posted 'em all. -Everyl
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