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Chakras and Chi: The Building Blocks of Exaltation
(Based on an adaptation by my Storyteller of the Renown system from cWoD.)
Shards of Exaltation are made of Essence Patterns. Chakras define and delineate those patterns, and express how they relate to each type of Exaltation. The quanta of Essence themselves are called "Chi".
While Autochthon certainly designed Exaltation, he did not design Chakras. Like Virtues, they are concepts inherent to the universe, definitions of behavior and existence that apply to all beings, regardless of power or station, and each one could, in theory, be traced back to its own Shinma somewhere out there in the Wyld. What Autochthon did was design a crucible that would encapsulate and energize specific Chakras within a person, based on those most strongly embodied by the God who Exalted them. In other words, Autochthon invented Chi.
There are ten Chakras, each defined by a type of action and defining a state of being. Each one has a Permanent and Temporary Chi pool, and each pool caps at 10. If an Exalt has 10 Temporary Chi of a type of Chakra, she may use a Standard Action to convert them into 1 Permanent Chi of its same type. She may make the same conversion in reverse, but that is a Full Round Action and requires a successful roll of (Permanent [Relevant Chakra]+Essence), Difficulty 5. Internal penalties apply, External penalties do not. She may not do this if the Chakra in question is one of the three that defines her Exaltation and doing so would bring that Chakra's Permanent Chi lower than her Essence.
"Truth, Justice, and the Integrity of Creation"
Honor is the Chakra of Goodness. It defines selfless heroism, is defined by defending others, and is associated with Creation. Pushing back powerful evils or resisting dark temptations are likely to earn points of Honor.
"History shall sing of my greatness for ages to come"
Glory is the Chakra of Power. It defines authority, is defined by victory, and is associated with The Unconquered Sun. Acts of earth-shaking awesomeness or profound epicness are likely to earn points of Glory.
"The more I change, the more I stay the same"
Shift is the Chakra of Change. It defines versatility, is defined by adaptability, and is associated with Luna. Novel solutions to difficult problems or unexpected choices that end in success are likely to earn points of Shift.
"Oh what a tangled web we weave..."
Mystery is the Chakra of Secrecy. It defines concealment, is defined by hiding (whether a thing, an idea, or even oneself), and is associated with the Five Maidens. Acts of social intrigue and successful deception or acts of stealth that escape certain detection are likely to earn points of Mystery. (Night Castes often earn their Quintessence with this.)
"United we stand, divided we fall"
Synergy is the Chakra of Cooperation. It defines community, is defined by collaboration, and is associated with the Elemental Dragons. Participating in a massive joint effort or stably cementing an unlikely alliance are likely to earn points of Synergy.
"There is no greater joy than a well balanced equation"
Logic is the Chakra of Reason. It defines validity, is defined by calculation, and is associated with Autochthon. Solving a massively complex riddle or accurately preparing for a nigh-unforeseen difficulty are likely to earn points of Logic.
"Ask not for whom the bell tolls..."
Jhor is the Chakra of Decay. It defines mortality, is defined by entropy, and is associated with the Void. Bringing an end to massive powers or bringing death to powerful beings are likely to earn points of Jhor. (Chosen of Endings often earn their Quintessence with this.)
"Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned"
Penitence is the Chakra of Humility. It defines righteousness, is defined by obedience, and is associated with the Yozis.
"Is this the real life? Is it just fantasy?"
Plot is the Chakra of Story. It defines what most would call insanity, is defined by self awareness, and is associated with the Wyld. Recognizing your place in the story and especially breaking the fourth wall are likely to earn points of Plot.
"I am that I am"
Quintessence is the Chakra of Being. It defines the state of existing, is defined by staking one's Self in reality, and is associated with Shaped Existence. Once per session, an Exalt may spend two Temporary Chi to convert a third into Temporary Quintessence. All three of these Temporary Chi must be from Chakras that do not define her Exaltation. Since Quintessence is a rather esoteric Chakra, it is unlikely to be awarded often in the story, so this is the most reliable way to raise it. This is also the only way that Chi can be converted from one Chakra to another, with one exception.
Note that all ten Chakras define states and actions that any character can, and probably will, partake in at least a little bit. Chi, however, does not come in quanta the size of motes. A quantum of Chi is more analogous to a point of Willpower in strength and force than it is to a mote of essence. Actions of enough magnitude to gain Chi in a Chakra are more likely to occur in those Chakras that define one's Exaltation, and should certainly be so significantly more often than not. If you find yourself gaining significantly more Chi in an off-template Chakra than in those that define your Exaltation, it's possible you are playing the wrong character. Of course, outside-the-box characters do exist, and can be played well. However, such a character travels a more difficult road, because she is working her will counter to the nature of the power that allows her to do so. This will understandably be more difficult than embracing the nature of the power and working along its natural lines. She may find it useful to create Charms that allow her to use or channel off-template Chi in some useful way, though such a Charm should be extremely expensive and require a high Essence-level to perform, as such a feat by definition runs counter to the Essence of her Exaltation, which is the power that allows her to use Charms in the first place.
Defining the Shards
Using Chi: Earning and Burning
On a two-dice stunt, a player may choose to take a point of Chi instead of essence or Willpower. On a three-dice stunt, the player receives a point of Chi in addition to her choice of motes or Willpower. In either case, the Storyteller determines the Chakra based on the action of the stunt. The Storyteller may also award points of Chi at quest completions, chapter breaks, after particularly epic battles or scenes, or at any other time he deems it appropriate. Note that the Chakra should always be determined based purely on the action it is being awarded for, with no account to the character's Exaltation. It is up to the player to decide if her character will primarily act in accordance with or in defiance of the nature of her Exaltation; her choice should not influence the Storyteller when determining what Chakra an action would increase.
Characters may also "burn" a point of Temporary Chi to add an automatic success to certain types of actions, similar to burning a point of Willpower. She can also channel a Chakra, similar to channeling a Virtue, by burning a point of Temporary Chi to add the relevant Chakra's Permanent Chi to her dice pool. She may only do these with the Chakras that define her Exaltation. It is up to the Storyteller to decide whether it would be allowed, and which Chakra would apply, on any given action. (Note: Even in a story where the nature of Chakras and Chi is completely unknown, Exalts still instinctively know how to draw on this power, the same way they instinctively know how to use Charms the moment they Exalt, before anyone has had a chance to explain to them what Charms are or how they work. They may or may not know the nature of this power, but they definitely know how to use it.)
Chakras and Permanent Essence
As Chakras define the form of an Exaltation, and Chi defines the energy of an Exaltation, so Permanent Essence defines the power and substance of an Exaltation. An Exalt's Permanent Essence rating can never be higher than the lowest Permanent rating among her three defining Chakras. If she wishes to Essence up, she must acquire the necessary Chi to do so.
So Who Knows This Stuff?
Authochthon, Lytek, and the Ebon Dragon are the only ones who canonically must know every detail of this. (The Ebon Dragon had to know it to design Infernal and Abyssal Exaltation.) How much of the rest is known, and how common that knowledge is, is up to the Storyteller. It may be that Authochthon and/or Lytek explained to the Celestines exactly what the design was and how it works, and they may in turn have passed that knowledge on to the Exalts of the Primordial War. If that is the case though, an important question must be addressed: Why are there no Charms that use Chi? One explanation could be that even the mad savants of the High First Age were unwilling to toy with the Essence patterns of their own existence, the very substance of their own Exaltation. Or it could be that such Charms did exist in the First Age, but, like so many other ancient wonders, knowledge of these Charms has been lost to the ages. Or it could simply be that Autochthon never shared his designs, and Lytek never betrayed the secret, and so all of this remains unknown. This is all up to the Storyteller.
In any case, there is nothing stopping Exalts from creating new Charms that use Chi, if they know about it. One Temporary Chi should be considered roughly equivalent in strength to one Willpower — or slightly stronger — when calculating the power of the Charm that uses it. Note that the Charm should in some way reflect the nature of the Chakra it draws from; Chi is always aspected to a Chakra, and the closest it ever comes to being unaspected is when it is aspected to Quintessence. As always when creating new Charms, work together with your Storyteller to come up with something you both like and think is fair.
(Alchemicals work a bit differently than this.)
The first Chakra that defines an Exaltation is unmovable, unchangeable. It could not be swapped for a different Chakra without destroying and remaking the Exaltation itself, and it is unlikely that anyone besides Authochthon (or maybe Lytek) could accomplish such a thing. The second one, however, is somewhat less permanent (though only somewhat). Once in an Exalt's lifetime, she may choose to swap her second Chakra for one of the three others (Honor, Jhor, Penitence, or Plot), altering the template of her Exaltation. Such a feat can only occur once per lifetime, and cannot be done simply on a whim. There are two ways to make this happen, and neither is especially easy.
The first method requires that the Permanent pool of her target Chakra be greater than or equal to her Essence. She must go to a place where essence of the type associated with her target Chakra is strong and concentrated (the most obvious choice would be a demesne or Manse), and meditate there, without interruption or sleep, for however long it takes to succeed on an extended (Intelligence+Occult) roll with a cumulative difficulty of (Essence*10) and a roll interval of four hours. Expect this to take several days.
The second method only requires a minimum of one Permanent Chi in the target Chakra, but a power and will equivalent to that of a Primordial must actively force the change to occur. (Lytek can also do so, but any attempt to convince him to mess with an Exaltation [other than to restore it to Honor] suffers a -10 External Penalty.) In this case, the remaining Permanent Chi necessary to maintain her Essence is forcibly converted from her current Chakra to her target Chakra. (Choosing to accept insanity while in Limit Break functions as this method, the Great Curse acting as the required "power and will equivalent to a Primordial". However, Limit Break is not necessary; one could theoretically find a Raksha Noble or an Unshaped of sufficient power and get them to do it instead.)
Whichever method is used, at the moment of the change the Exalt instantly receives 100*Essence EXP, spendable on anything, purchasable immediately.
These two methods each have their benefits and drawbacks. If the Exalt is changing templates simply to gain more or better power for herself, with no intention of serving the masters of the relevant faction, she may prefer to choose the first method. It is much more difficult, but can (in theory) be done in secret, without drawing the immediate attention of any major forces (though sooner or later, it is bound to come out). However, if the Exalt is willing to submit her will to the plans and designs of her target faction, she may wish to forgo the arduous task of gaining and maintaining that much off-template Chi, and the days of sleepless meditation, and just have the masters force the change directly.
An arduous trek for a distant reward? Or immediate power in exchange for your soul?
There is no going back.