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General Charm Creation Guidelines

Just came up with a few ideas on Charm creation that might help people to start out.

haren's Charm Creation Ideas

Think of Creation as a great big circuit of energies. It's designed to allow Charms to work, but it needs Essence to be shaped to do it. But then, why is willpower sometimes needed? What's it's purpose.

  • Essence is electricity. It's the amperage of the "Essence circuit". You need this to actually make the Charm to work.
  • Willpower is voltage. It allows you to force the Essence to run in ways it wouldn't want to run as naturally. It would rather take the easiest path, and even an Essence user must face this fact.
  • Health Levels are a sacrifice. Sacrifices create a sort of new path of least resistance, allowing an Exalt to get away with spending less willpower and perhaps essence for an effect.

But there is one more thing to think of. Limitations. A good limitation can be considered as effective as spending willpower or health levels. The less Creation has to "stretch" to accomplish what an Exalt wants, the easier it's going to be to do in terms of cost. Definately is going to take less Willpower. May require less Essence. If you look at Sorcery as a type of Charm, it gains alot of power by limiting itself with minimum times to cast different types of spells. The increased time lets Creation more gradually mold to the Exalt's wishes. Another good limitation to remember is the ability to Combo a Charm. A Charm that can't be Comboed is going to be limited in a fair number of ways. The point here is to work with something more believable. If you have any ideas, they're more than welcome.

Willows' Charm Criteria

  • A Charm should allow its user to do something in an unexpected and impressive way.
  • If it does not do this, then it should force whoever's reacting to the Charm to think about it carefully.
  • If it doesn't do that, then it should make its user make interesting decisions.
  • If it fails at that, it should do what it does in a colorful and thematically appropriate manner.

For Solars

  • Low-level Charms allow Solars to do human things very well.
  • High-level Solar Charms let Solars do human things inhumanly well.
  • No Solar Charm does the completely impossible; no Solar Charm steps outside the purview of the Ability that governs it.

For Martial Arts

  • A Celestial style has an identifiable image.
  • A Sidereal style has an identifiable strategy.
  • Any style should require its user to make a tradeoff, sacrificing supernatural ability in one area for supernatural flexibility in another.

For Infernals

  • Low-level Charms let Infernals draw upon their emotions to fuel their abilities.
  • High-level Infernal Charms let them draw upon the emotions of others, or make entities out of their own. Some allow Infernals to apply their skills in unusual areas.
  • All Infernal Charms are better used synergistically than independently.
  • It is the rare Charm that has an invariable effect; all should move on some scale.
  • No Infernal Charm acts completely directly; whether this is flavor or mechanics matters not.

Darius' Solar Charm Guidelines


Another thought- for Solar Charms, Minimum Essence is a quick and dirty guide to how powerful the Charm is.

Essence 1 is very simple effects- usally, a very lucky mortal could get the exact same effects as a single Essence 1 Charm allows, but it's deeply unlikely. Dice adders are the quintessential Essence 1 Charm.

Essence 2 is starting to get out there. People can probablly tell something weird is going on- you move to fast or talk too smoothly. No mortal could ever hope to reproduce the effects of an Essence 2 effect through their own abilities- although a Fae Noble or some other powerful critter might very well have the strength to simply bully on and do so.

Essence 3 is the ground level of Perfection for Solars. Effects that have Essence 3 should either be simply Perfect (one perfect action) or have a consumate level of coolness. Applicibility trumping attacks also tend to fall here, as do Persistant Defenses and the higher end published Multiple Action charms.

Er. Any cracks at Essence 4 and above? Essence 6 looks to be the next ground level of Super-perfect; attacks and defenses that consist of multiple Perfects (such as Protection of Celestial Bliss). Any gauge for between those two levels?

I'm almost inclined to compare Nobilis Aspect to what Solar Essence should be able to do...

Also, another point. Just to reitterate- Charms are generally as efficent as they get. Higher Essence means deeper abilities- but prereqs don't allow for the More Excellent Strike that buys dice ever cheaper. On the other hand, an Essence 2 version might buy those dice for a full scene...

Also, an often overlooked point. Solar Charm trees tend to be SHORT. Like, really really short. They're much more commonly two or three mini-trees rather than one all encompassing monsterous thing.

Something else occured to me this evening, while trying to price out a Charm.

Charms are broken down in power in three primary ways. The grossest/largest step is by Permanent Essence Requirement. Following this is Ability Requirement. Following this is Cost Category.

Cost category goes as follows. A Charm is either Cheap (1 to 3 motes), Modest (4 to 6 motes), Expensive (7+ motes), or Limited (10+ motes, where 1 Willpower is approximately 10 motes). These price scales vary from Exalt to Exalt type, but the breakdown remains reasonably consistant. Thus, why more efficent versions of Charms don't exist. The effect of the Charm, regardless of cost, determines it's Permanent Essence Requirement and Ability Requirement. The cost is just the final tuning step.

I dunno. It seems obvious, having said it, but it felt like a revelation when I first realized it :) DS

Balthasar's Charm Ideals

The second most basic building block of Exalted magic is the stunt. With the stunt, an Exalt doesn't even need Charms to far outstep mortal bounds. For beings who are, at their most basic, more than double the Ability of the most legendary mortal, stunts are the next level of power. They are a constant companion to the Exalted, and I believe stunts are the most 'basic Charm'. If so, it is one that all Exaltations share in common.

Extending beyond the basic stunt of the Exalts plunges one into the difference between Essences. You may boil Essence down to a descriptor of what power has been granted to the Exalt. I like to think of something I read once, about the primary differences between Exaltations being merely where they draw their magic and the properties of the magic they control.

Solars draw their magic from the ambient lifeforce of humanity. They serve above all things the ideal of humankind, and its images of perfection. Solars draw their power from not the basic elements of the virtues, but rather from the virtues that most motivate them. Their strength is inside them, but when it pours forth, it shines in elegant glory. Solars have planted within them a seed of the holy fire that chased away the Elder Demons Beyond the World. Solar Charms appear to be natural extensions of stunts, blended in with this virtuous holy seed.

Abyssals are mortals and Solars who have given themselves, body and soul, to the darkness that defies description. As this darkness has encompassed all things since the ruin of the Elder Demons, the Abyssal Essence is drawn from the runoff decay and corruption. If they were not aware of the gravity of their bargain when they made it, they certainly don't foster any illusions on the matter for long: They embody Death's wishes, and Death wants it all to end. Abyssals draw their magic from this pact, and their corrupted Solar souls serve well as the conduit for this decrepit Underworld Essence.

Lunar magic is an intuitive interaction with an animistic force that lies in the heart of everything. Though their shapechanging magic is heavily corrupted with the wild Essences of beasts, it was once much broader. I assume that Lunars are capable of changing their shape to match that shape of anything known in Creation, and not just animals. Their magic, then, is a form of sympathy for the spirits of all things. Adopting the properties of something else is the definition of shapechanging magic. Using it, they can become mountains when they must stand, and serpents when they must hide.

Sidereal magic is a proscribed set of procedural allowances given to the preferred agents of the Weavers of Fate. They obey rigidly proud mistresses, who claim to have forseen and written all their Chosen must face. Sidereals draw their magical power from the mighty presence of Heaven and the logical connection between their Virtues, their bodies, and the world around them. These scholars are amply versed in both sorcery and martial arts, because both are techniques instructed to them by beings other than their Maidens, and so have no oracle-god appointed limitations.

Terrestrial magic and Celestial magic differ greatly, as do the spirits corresponding with each. Elementals are myriad, and unable to slough off their mortal coil, and so too are elemental Exalted bound to exist entirely in the human frame. These are the chosen servants of the world itself - or at least, they are descended from them. And so, they wield the basic powers of the world itself, and draw their strength from its geomantic layout. If the world were different, so too would the Dragon-Blooded change, so intimate is their bond. Unfortunately for these communal Exalts, elemental essence is raw and unfriendly, and too much of it bled off introduces an elemental imbalance that can shred iron.


I thought it would be helpful to post some criteria for good Charms as well; I've posted some of mine. - FourWillowsWeeping

Ditto :) although Willows has managed to say everything I wanted to say better than I could. ;) - DariusSolluman

I'll join that bandwagon. If noone minds, I'd like to share how I percieve the motivations behind many different Exalted magics. - Balthasar

cool man - ?

Balthasar: You say you think Lunars should be able to assume any form. Have you written any charms to reflect this? I'd love to see your take on it - CorlanDashiva

I definately think that.  :-)

It's just a debate between whether divine logic or philosophical logic mandates the most of Creation's many worlds: Luna gave them the Essence of animals, but couldn't the tools she gave them to bring that animal out be used for other tasks, too?

Who's to say it could never possibly come to happen that a Lunar could achieve full energy shape, or divide himself into multiple various forms? Or to shape parts of his nervous system into more efficient configurations, to aid in higher thinking? Or turn to stone?

Mechanically, my only kneejerk limitation to these would be Essence and raw Attribute level. It seems pretty in-genre for master shapechangers, cinematically speaking, too (not that I've ever seen anything quite as cool with shapeshifting as Lunars). - Balthasar

I was thinking about it, but when it comes right down to it, Lunar Charms are all about enhancing the common Lunar trait, every Lunar is a "survivor". Maybe not in the nature sense, but they tend to be chosen from those people who fight on to live, and even thrive against tough conditions. And as a different viewpoint, what if Luna didn't "give" them the Essence of animals so much as unlock it?

The spark of Exaltation resides in the "animal" soul, but in almost all of the Exalted, their conscious mind or higher soul controls it's power. I'm going to say that the Lunars are the only ones who channel that power through their animal soul, the drive to live, to thive, to not only get by, but destroy dangers, escape traps, and do whatever was neccessary to reach those goals. That's a powerful thing, and given a high enough Essence, I can see the "animal" soul changing into some very unusual shapes to protect it's body. It's just that the animals of Creation are those shapes easiest for it to identify with, to become if needed. But the heart of survival is adaptation, as I'm sure any Lunar could tell you, and with the power and the right sort of situation presented, it will move past that boundry. But, just my opinion. :) - haren

Oh, another way of putting something. I see Solars as reaching towards superhuman perfection, where Abyssals reach towards an inhuman perfection. - haren

Breaking away from the Celestials for a moment... I've been spending my time recently adding Charms and fleshing out Charm trees. Recently, I've been considering the super-powerful Charms- Essence 5+. It's fairly easy to do for Solars; there's a _wide_ range of effects for them, and it's fairly easy to see where their Charms are going- perfection. So the question comes back to DBs, since sooner or later, I'm sure I'm going to run out of steam on Solars. What are DB super-Charms like? There's only one canonical example of a non-Martial Art Terrestrial Charm that reaches Essence 5; that's the super-resistance Charm in AB: Earth. To a certain extent, I understand this- there just aren't going to be that many DBs with Essence 5, 6, or 7, and, well, 8 is what, the Empress, and maybe that guy who's on the verge of going Sidereal? But it does make it somewhat more... shakey... in thinking about what the proper context for high-level DB Charms would be. Based on Perfected Scales of the Dragon and the Essence 3-4 Charms out there, I've got a few ideas:

    • Essence 5+ DB Charms can be 'Limited Perfection'. Basically, they have some effect that they do not have to roll for, but is ineffective or weakened against magical versions of whatever they're designed to deal with.
    • Essence 5+ DB Charms can be VERY large elemental effects- bigger than, say Dragon Vortex. Not just because that seems to be the sequence from the smaller effects, but because I imagine that Essence 5+ DBs start to become more and more like powerful elementals.
    • Essence 5+ DB Charms can be group versions of powerful single-person charms, and synergistic versions of group charms. Actually, I'm not 100% sure this is relevant- it looks like something need only be 1 essence greater than its normal version to be a group version, and ditto synergistic.

Thoughts? - IsawaBrian

Sounds good to me. I've been considering some high-Essence DB Charms myself, and came up with ideas for some that make DBs more like Elementals. They do, after all, have a shared ancestry. While I'll leave the shapeshifting to Lunars, I think it's perfectly within the DB theme with elemental transformations of various kinds. The Immaculate MA styles are already there, anyway.
I propose we aim for a high-Essence DB Charms theme for the next CharmRelay. Resplendence

I had thought of some things similar to this, but part of it was extremely anti-canon. Like for example, Immaculates who had mastered a elemental dragon style creating or using a Lore technique based off of the pinacle and creating a psuedo-dragon forged of their Essence and will. It isn't really alive or an elemental, but is very dangerous to face. - haren

I'm looking to make a few new solar charms, and I wanted to poll this thread to see if people think the following efffects are appropriate, and what the essence levels for them might be:

    • Converting [essence] attack dice to successes, as well as possibly a permanent version of that
    • Scene long pool doublers - buying your max pool for an entire scene at a flat rate.
    • Solar charm that gives a 2nd independent action - Vizzeroth