Heru had some interesting concepts about "Levels" of artifice that I found interesting. It was a very coarse ranking, discussing Mortal, Terrestrial, Celestial, and Solar "levels", and claiming that each of those broad categories had numerous sublevels, such as the 1-5 that we've come to so heavily rely on.
The original write-up on his pages spurred thought in my head, about how different things like the 5-metal shrike and the Realm defence grid are from, say, a Daiklave, or even some of the other artifacts. As time went on in Heru's discussion, I found that his thoughts deviated from mine - he left the realm of crunch, and fell to the onslaught of others, changing and morphing his idea in a way I didn't so much agree with. So now I'm just throwing some things out there...
There are four main categores of artifact: Mundane, Emerald, Sapphire, and Adamant. These are broadly defined categories, indicating the relative 'tech level' that went into building something. General themes include:
- Mundane: Generally not that impressive, and possibly made by a very skilled mortal thaumaturgist. Certain pastes, trinkets, amulets, and other such things fall in this category. Perhaps a sword made of one of the 5MM, with no additional work. Still useful against creatures "only vulnerable to the 5MM", but not balanced, weighted, or even necessarily attunable.
- Emerald: The level generally worked by Terrestrials. Includes basic Essence-shaping, and often complex annealing. Much of the magic in these artifacts is inherent, flowing from the natural tendencies of the type of magical material used. Quite often these artifacts are mere extensions of simple machines, with little in the way of complexity. Warstriders are explicitly not in this category, while most mundane artifact weapons and armor are.
- Sapphire: The typical level of artifice in Exalted. These are much more reasonably considered 'wonders', with Daiklaves of this level now including special 'features', armors that have additional functions, and larger devices to larger goals, such as Warstriders. Things such as the paired lightning torment hatchets would fall into this category, as would most anything Wiki-designed to be 'balanced'.
- Adamant: A rare level of artifice, this is not truly a "Solar" level, so much as it is a "Solar of Essence 5+, possibly with help and time" category. Including the 5-Metal Shrike, the Realm Defence Grid, and many of the highly adaptive things, such as automatons that mimic life effectively, or weapons that are truly world-shattering. Very few players will ever have access to something of this sort, as the creation of such a device, even by a high-Essence Solar, often requires 'extreme measures', such as a Factory-Cathedral, 10 years, and extremely rare components. Larger scale projects might require teams of assistants, preparing the materials. Devices of this category are also often devices that are self-repairing, or self-maintaining versions of lower-tier artifacts, such as truly indomitable warstriders that can repair on the field.
The thing is, no one is restricted to their level - it's just hard to build out of it. Much as a peasant might not know how to make a sword, he can try. Much as a machinist might not be able to make a steam engine easily, his ability to make the parts for one is helpful. A Mechanic can make engines and systems, while a well-trained engineer can devise such complexities as the aircraft, the ferrari, and the ICBM. This one of the goals I'm trying to put across - almost different approaches to artifice, even, based on the innate level of invention you've got.
- Mundane: Tab A, Slot B, at best.
- Emerald: Shape as a primary design technique. Material as a secondary.
- I wish to design something to help prepare my food. I will design a pot, such that the least god created in the process understands that he is to cook food. This pot will have an interior lining of Red Jade, such that the least god has something to work with, and an exterior of any arbitrary insulating material. If the material is valuable, and ornate, the pot will have more value, and thus the least god will be stronger. If the symbols on the pot are appropriate to the task at hand, I might please the least god, ensuring the pot works as desired.
- Sapphire: Machine-level design. Many shapes and materials combined to interact with each other.
- I wish to design something to help prepare my food. I will design a system that converts raw ingredients into meals. This system will involve a closed box that hides the existence of the food from the world, so that the food's interaction with destiny is at a minimum, this making it's absence go unnoticed. In the box will be a device that alters the essence flows of the food at a fundamental level, releasing their innate form and temporarily turning it into a more abstract form. The device will have a small god of creation in it, that can speak to the user by touch, allowing the user's thoughts to indicate the desired result. The small god of creation, bound into the box, was actually transplanted from a recipe booklet that the artificer favored.
- Adamant: System-level design. Many machines, with a possibly complex control system. Often orders of magnitudes larger and more complex than Sapphire designs, and featuring materials or components developed explicitly for use in this project.
- I wish to design something to prepare my food. A human-like construct, itself containing the very soul of a fair-folk whose story involved cooking for great events, is formed, such that it functions as a self-repairing automaton, whose only goal is to serve meals suited for a king. Capable of shaping actions to create superlative meals, themselves in superlative dining halls, this construct serves as the caterer for the Solar deliberative.
This isn't a hard-and-fast rule, mind, merely a way to conceptualize how different things are between ranks.
Having said that, I repeat again that you can build across ranks. A Terrestrial, with time and effort, might combine his machined components together into a system - such as a warstrider. However, it helps greatly to have an example to work from, or plans at the very least. A Celestial, working on a device, can be greatly assisted by terrestrials, who can easily prepare many of the components, the frame, et cetera, but can't really grasp the overall design that easily. A Solar, working on a large-scale project, can safely off-load a subsystem's design to a Celestial by giving them complete specifications for what the subsystem is to do, and how it is to behave. Still, the Solar is the only one on the team capable of integrating, fine-tuning, and more importantly, originally conceiving of the design. Thus, I can claim that having lower-level helpers is more than just having other craftsmen - it can be vitally useful to offload work that they're more than capable of doing. This is, in some sense, how our society works.
Thus, if this is the fluff theory, the mechanics come next. That is to say, "where's the beef?"
(The rest of this is very much in progress - more so than even the stuff above):
There's a scale of complexity, that's quite large. Say, 0-7 for each tier. A given artifact can fit in multiple places. For example, a Daiklave with the ability to poison its target might be high in the Terrestrial tier, but low in the Celestial. Something such as a Celestial armor might be high in the Celestial tier, but low in the Solar. This has interesting side-effects, in that an artificer has the choice of what techniques to try and build something with. For example, suppose (in the really real world) I want to build a device that slides between a door and door-frame, and can be turned to grasp (and release) the handle on the other side of a door. I can use basic mechanical techniques, such as "Bend and try" (AKA Terrestrial) or I can use engineering techniques of "Measure a bunch, draw in in CAD, and choose the correct material" (AKA Celestial) or even go so far as to put a processor on it, a power supply, and have an onboard controller that actually senses the catch on the other side of the door and attempts to manipulate it (AKA Solar). Now, in most cases, it's far easier to just use the lowest level of technology out there, because it's such a simple task. Going to a higher level overcomplicates things. Then again, when building a device to shuttle people to the moon, it's far better to spend the design time, with the engineering, methods, and techniques, so that you can make it work without massive and expensive failed attempts. It's all about applying techniques to a problem.
So, when designing an in-game artifact, the question must be asked by the artificer: What level of technique and technology do I wish to bring to bear on this problem? Many tasks don't require that much - a truly inspiring Daiklave can be built using only Terrestrial techniques. Other tasks, such as the Realm Defense Grid, Brass Leviathan, and Automata really only seem possible with careful and methodical planned work. Warstriders can fall into the middle-ground, with simple and functional warstriders being possible at the very high end of Terrestrial. Larger, more comfortable and more versatile warstriders don't really need to push Celestial technology. Truly magnificent self-repairing, partially autonomous, flying Warstriders (that can shape-change into multiple forms) can be designed using Solar techniques. Using Solar techniques to build a 'grunt' warstrider just isn't worth it - why use custom engineered materials and other esoteric tricks when you just need to make something go?
Back to rules. Suppose there are 8 (inclusive) levels, from 0-7.
0: Nearly trivial with this level of technology. Almost a waste of what can be done.
1: Basic level of work with this technology. Nails, pipe, beam and rod fall into this category.
2: Reasonable level of work. Swords, wheels, and other functional devices. Run of the mill Daiklaves fall into this category, as do many mass-produced artifacts.
3: "Good" work. Something you'd expect of a custom store, more than a large market retailer. Perhaps one to two odd features. One reasonable craftsman with time on their hands can perform work such as this.
4: Custom work, with special features. The craftsman might be considered 'experienced' if able to consistently do such work.
5: The most complex thing that can be reasonably built using this technology. Expect one to two failures before success is reached. A highly skilled artisan alone can fashion something of this nature, but more generally it is expected that the artificer have roughly 2 assistants.
6: Exceeding the limits of the technology, it is expected that significant planning be done beyond the norm. At least 2-3 prototype-style devices will generally be built, and a large number of assistants (15) will be necessary.
7: A wonder of artifice, it is expected that at least 5 senior assistants of nearly equal skill level have assisted, each with their own 15-man teams. Such a project can take years of design work, not to mention construction. Once a suitable design is found, it may take hundreds of men to actually implement, and years of devising and obtaining the required components.
Using such a scale, it is possible for many crafts to be covered. Mundane crafts are easiest to address.
With some examples, it becomes reasonable to note that traditional "Daiklaves" are Terrestrial, Rank 2. Something like Mnemon's Daiklave isn't that special (it just poisons people), and would only be Terrestrial 3. Lightning Torment Hatchets might be Celestial 4-5, while Silk Armor might only be Celestial 2. Soul Mirror, while interesting and powerful, isn't that much of a technical acheivement for someone working with Soulsteel. Perhaps Celestial 4-5, or Solar 4, depending on how powerful your ST considers soul manipulation. The [[[BogModWeapons/KuklasClaw]]] might be a remarkable acheivment for Terrestrials, at Rank 6-7, but isn't that spectacular for Celestial work - perhaps 3-4. A Solar would still need to build it, and thus, it might be 2-3 for a Solar.
One of the tricks is that since objects have multiple build choices, there is a chance it's actually harder to build something with a higher tech level. Base difficulty for crafting is therefore dependent on what you're trying to do.
Mortal: Craft 0
Terrestrial: Craft Difficulty 2, Occult Difficulty 1, Lore Difficulty 2
Celestial: Craft Difficulty 3, Occult Difficulty 3, Lore Difficulty 2
Solar: Craft Difficulty 4, Occult Difficulty 4, Lore Difficulty 4
To actually construct something requires numerous rolls, of four types.
Planning is generally a Lore roll, invoving a basic understanding of what different ways one might approach the problem. Design is most commonly an Occult roll, to work out the details of any inscriptions or special thaumaturgical principles that should be followed in the construction. The Construction phase is the most commonly understood phase, where the craftsman actually builds whatever it is, combining metals to make alloys, then forming those alloys into the desired shapes. Testing, a fully optional yet recommended phase, is where the artifact's essence flows and operation are tested for longevity and functionality. Without this phase, there is no way of ensuring that an artifact won't fail to function under varying conditions, or worse yet, build up a dangerous essence imbalance, causing an explosion. Testing can be performed with either Occult (at a difficulty penalty of +3), or the appropriate usage of the artifact, such as Melee for a sword. It can be great fun finding an appropriate sword-master to test your new design, especially when you give them the caveat that 'it may explode, flaying the soul from your body.
In practice, the difficulty and time for each roll depends on how far you're stretching what's possible with a given technology level. For mortal technology level 0, each roll is distanced by 15 minutes of work. Each increase in rank doubles the working time between rolls, with a Mortal 4 design therefore requiring 4 hours between rolls, while Mortal 7 requires four days between rolls. Going to Terrestrial 0 does not however, require eight days between rolls - instead, going to Terrestrial 0 requires as much time as a rank 2 of the previous technology level, and thus, One hour between rolls. This pattern holds for all technology levels, so I note it as a rule:
The base time between rolls is 15 minutes, for a Mortal 0 design. Increasing to the next type of technology (e.g. Terrestrial) requires four times as much time between rolls, and thus, one hour. Again going to the next type of technology (Celestial) requires another factor of four increase, for a total of four hours between rolls for Celestial 0 designs. Solar 0, then is 16 hours between rolls, commonly called "Two Working Days". Moving from level 0 to each higher level results in a doubling per step, with Celestial 6 therefore requiring 6 doublings of time as compared to Celestial 0. Since Celestial 0 is four hours per, Celestial 6 is therefore 64 times as long between rolls, or 32 working days per roll. The highest time possible between rolls, then, is Solar 7, at 256 Working days between rolls.
In addition to the increased time commitment, increasing rank makes the project much more difficult, above and beyond the base difficulties. Rank 4 and higher objects have an increased Craft difficulty equal to (Rank-3). Occult difficulties increase for non-Mortal designs the same way, while the Lore difficulty only increases for non-Mortal designs of rank 5 and up, at a difficulty of (Rank-4).
Thus, the most complex design possible, at Solar 7, is not just 256 working days between rolls, it also has a difficulty (of each roll) of Craft: 4+4=8, Occult: 4+4=8, and Lore: 4+3=7. Not simple by almost any standard, and yet the charms of the Solars are especially well suited to reducing time between rolls, and most importantly, reducing the effective difficulty of those rolls. Also note that those are explicitly not the required minimum ability levels - merely the difficulty of the rolls. Thus, a Solar with appropriate charms could easily get those difficulties down with various charms, making it a near-certainty that they'll succeed, in some shorter amount of time. Note therefore that the rolls are not necessarily the time-limiting factor. Instead, recall the discussion of the technology levels, where teams of assistants and prototypes are often required. While one might be a superlative craftsman, if a factory-cathedral is required for construction, you'll need a lot of charms to get around that. Often, it's much easier to build a factory-cathedral, and staff it with trained assistants. In such situations, it is important to remember that if your assistants aren't as ridiculously powerful as you, the 'side' tasks will dominate, meaning that the Solar will end up waiting for prototype construction, waiting for raw material processing, and waiting for that rare herb to be hand-delivered from the far East. This section of construction is entirely up to the Storyteller, giving them a 'knob' for adventuring and speed-limiting an artifact-happy Solar. It is noted, however, that to make things seem 'fair', that you should always try and require a 'special' component, ingredient, or task of any artifact of rank 3 or higher. This way, the player won't feel that you're totally 'trying to screw him' when he decides to make a fairly awesome artifact, and suddenly you come up with time-limiting tasks, such as having Dragon-Blooded assistants, and a supply of material. Those things should probably have been helpful on previous projects, and the character should have already had some motivation to get them (unless, for some reason, the character's first artifact of any significance is a large project).
Said more eloquently, then, I repeat: Storytellers should use the 'soft' part of artifact creation not just as a hook for some plots, but also a specific place to encourage the artificer to 'branch out' into other areas, such as Bureaucracy, Performance, Presence, et cetera. While being a great solo worker is possible, make sure to include mention of where the character is wasting time waiting for materials processing, and wasting time on doing menial labor. Pay particular attention to the 'menial labor' part. Include a bunch of difficulty 1 rolls that take about 2 weeks each for basic rough-edging on things, and suddenly you'll find a time-pressed Solar realizing that it's more efficient to spend time recruiting help than to do everything themself. At the same time, should your Solar have access to a factory-cathedral, 100's of mortal workers, and some Exalted crafts-assistants, the storyteller should also expect designs in the range of Celestial 5+ and Solar 4+ on a fairly regular basis, and be prepared for the impact this can have on the campaign. After all - the Solar is a chosen supreme craftsman of creation, in a fully outfitted construction lab. What else do you expect to happen but wonders?
Ok. I am unsure of where to start. The concept is quite cool, but it has a number of problem. First of all, it is a one to 7 system. That is very strange in Exalted It relies on mathematics non-intuitive to a lot of people (exponentiality of 2 for example. I had a math teacher once that said that he considered mankind’s inability to think exponentially on Intuition one of its greatest weaknesses) It also contains MANY calculations and rolls, and more importantly, the chain of events is hard to follow. I talked to Heru, and I got the impression that he found the crunch hard to keep track of. Essentially, while it is cool, if I understand it correctly, It adds many layers of complexity to artifice processes. And those level don’t really add much to the game, IMO.tha said, compared to their S&S analogues, your ideas are better. However, they are currently a bit too messy to evaluate properly. I think this doesn’t really overlap with BoA. Let me elaborate. BoA cares more about the crunch of the artifact itself, while your system deals with the construction phase. They don’t overlap that much. Overall, I need a bit more clarity to make a decent evaluation. It is a bit to much like a research paper at present, (despite having read a bunch over the years, I am still annoyed by them)….I doubt I can help with the cleans up yet, since I still have trouble to keep track of the text, but clean it a bit and then maybe I can help. – Azurelight
Azurelight - Thanks for the advice. Of course, as a computer engineer myself, binary exponentiation is a built-in funciton of my brain, so having someone chastize me for it helps me remember how little the rest of the world cares for it. I also suppose you're right about the fact that it's not too targeted. It tells you how to build an artifact, but not how powerful each of those levels should be. Finally, as for the 7 levels, that is fully intentional. One of my goals of using the 7 levels is to show that with 'supreme effort', it is possible to transcend basic limitations a bit, allowing large teams with a dramatic expenditure of resources to get farther. Regardless, it seems like I first need to re-focus my 'research' into the rules for how powerful an artifact needs to be, and then work on cleaning this up. Can't simplify something that doesn't have a goal... -- GL
I actually think it works well, really, I would just need some cleaning up. Concerning power I still think the token system is a good idea . I worked fince for me. Then again, part of my intention was to trow the canon power levels of artifice out the window. I think the above materila can be merged with most part of my system just fine ,since the do not overlap that much. The binary problem can be solved by adding a simple table.
Also. could you tell me what issuse you had with MY system? I want C&C so I can continue working. -Azurelight