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Astrology. If you use it well, it's the bomb. Sidereals get a year of intensive training in its proper application and details from someone who has probably been using it for at least 200 years. The players? They get none of that. More specifically, without a bureau to ask, its very difficult to figure out exactly how and when to use astrology. Recently, one of my players came up with the following ascending destinies for himself (at Essence 4):

  • Hound-Chases-Rabbit Blessing in the college of the Gauntlet: +1 Willpower whenever he successfully activates a particular (and packed with reflexives primarily) combo
  • Hound-Chases-Rabbit Blessing in the college of the Sorcerer: +1 Willpower whenever he uses sorcery (based on the character in CotI)
  • Artless Prodigy Blessing in the college of the Spear: -1 TN to Martial Arts when using his MA form of choice
  • Artless Prodigy Blessing in the college of the Treasure Trove: -1 when acting as advisor to the Dragon-Blooded

Now, these are quite powerful astrology effects, especially when he spends the power to make them affect every chance they can. I'm not sure if this is appropriate, or not. In one hand, it's great, and wonderful, and he's exalted, and all, but on the other hand, they have the ability to bend the game a bit. As all players are Sidereals, they're all capable of such things, so it won't really unbalance the PC side of the game, and as long as the NPC's have appropriately scaled access to astrology effects (with DBs perhaps having one or two general effects on them, and other Sidereals having a 'full load' as well), it shouldn't unbalance the game in general. Still, the book is quite unclear on what scope astrology has. I've heard people suggest that it's roughly the scope of a specialty, but even then, the above effects really do seem to fit the scope of specialties - a single combo, a 'sorcery' specialty in Occult, a 'MA style' specialty in MA, and even a suitable performance or presence specialty.

Thus the question: What do you think an appropriate scope is for Astrology? Do you have Sidereal players outfitting themselves like this, or not? - - GreenLantern

There are four things to think about, here, which I think tend towards this not happening:
1) How much raw power does your player's Sidereal have? Remember that he needs to drop 4 successes into Scope and 2 into Power in each of four Colleges to get that effect. His die pool's not high - Essence + College, with a few bonus dice from prayers, Craft (Fate), and horoscope. Unless he's got high scores in four Colleges, two of them Battles and two Secrets, this is going to be hard just to do.
2) Paradox. This is important. The character's pulling up four to five dice of Paradox for each effect; there's a good chance that he's going to get flattened.
3) Censure. Sidereals really shouldn't have numerous censure-worthy effects on them for the purposes of making their lives a bit easier. If I was an Elder Sidereal, I would be wondering why Mr. Astrology thinks he needs that many constant effects, that much Willpower, and that much spellcasting. Remember that astrology does muck up fate, and constant use of four seperate powerful effects on yourself is going to raise eyebrows.
4) Limits. By putting these four powers on himself, your player has just ensured that he can't put ANY Resplendant Destinies on himself. No one can have more powers on themselves than their Essence, and most Sidereals are going to want at least one and probably two Resplendant Destinies around.

So, in conclusion, I don't think most Sidereals below the Essence 6 range are likely to have more than one effect like that on them. - FrivYeti

In response, then, I say the following. Note that I totally thank you for your replies, but I'm obliged to give you the same arguments I heard.
(1) Raw power is pretty easy to come by, if you've got the charm that drops your TN for astrology rolls, started as a Serenity, and have oodles of the appropriate colleges around. With a starting pool of 7 colleges, that's 2, 2, 2, 1, giving him access to all four colleges, and allowing him to put the weaker one in the Sorceror, and use the "once per scene" effect if he has to, as you often don't need sorcery more than once per scene.
(2), where you mention paradox. The issue is that if the player comes up with enough successes, and is given enough down-time, he can simply use the wrapped fly ritual to burn his Paradox back down again. Sure, it'll take a month for each effect, but often, that's something Sidereals have aplenty - time. Once each effect is up, as long as the duration is over a few years, it's totally worth it. Also remember that when you incur paradox, like damage, you roll it. Thus, 4-5 paradox can easily (and if you're lucky) be rolled down to 2-3 actual paradox, giving a bit more breathing room.
(3), is censure. You say that you shouldn't have censure-worthy effects, but I make the claim that these aren't really censure worthy. These, in many respects, seem just like the kind of thing you'd see a Sidereal do. Of particular mention is that you get censure (according to the text) for overly long ones not because they much with fate, but because you shouldn't need an effect that long - it'll often have unintended consequences. As a Sidereal, you're fully aware of the consequences of personal astrology. It's when you have a curse 'to the 7th generation' that things tend to get out of hand. With a Sidereal, though, 'to the 7th generation' really means "until I start thinking about my twentieth-of-life crisis". While the pattern spiders are a problem, if you've got allies and backing, censure shouldn't really be an issue for only four effects - and if you're not making enemies in Yu-Shan. If you are, well, that's a whole nother problem, and it doesn't matter if you did anything wrong or not.
(4) True, the resplendant destiny problem does exist, and is a sound one. Since most Siddies like to have 1-2 resplendents just lying around, you won't see this until higher essence. Still, the question is:
Are they all valid and legal effects, really? What's the scope of a single blessing? For example, can I have one that gives me +1 WP every time I breathe? What about one that drops my TN by 1 anytime I'm doing anything that I might fail at? Or drops my TN any time I'm near another Exalt? What's the scope of a curse?


Good points, mostly. Let's see...
1) Even with Essence 4 and College 2, you're going to need to get three or four bonus dice and burn through a heap of motes and Willpower to get enough successes. Remember that you need 2 for you, 4 for Power, and (I assume) at least three for Scope if you want the effects to last. That means 9 successes, which means (if you go for a perfect success) getting at least 3 bonus dice from prep, followed by 12 motes, 4 Willpower, and a health level. Not a small commitment.
2) Fair point, as long as you've got the duration behind the astrology.
3) Remember that astrology is screwing up fate, and leading to potential snarls. I would argue that any one of these would not be censure-worthy. But Sidereals are specifically not supposed to throw around astrology. Duration isn't the only issue. As an elder, I would be asking: Why is he casting sorcery every scene? Why is a SIDEREAL using Combos every scene? Why does he need to constantly be using his Martial Arts? Why is he doing that AND advising Dragon-Bloods? Why do all of these powers need to activate more than once a day? If there isn't a damned good answer, I'm going to be pissed off. It's not 'only' four effects. It's your entire possible allotment of powers, all tricked out to their maximum potential.
Now, are they all valid effects? Yes. As a rule, I'd follow the level of specificness required of Specialties for target numbers. If it would qualify for a Specialty, it qualifies for an Astrology. There's no problem on the scope, only on the scale. - FrivYeti
Ok then. Thanks for the debate, as I agree with you on the fac that they're all valid, just twinked, and just wanted to hash it out with someone.
  • I do think that clause (1) with a 12 motes, 4WP, and a HL isn't that bad, as you can get that back in a single day if you try at all (the Willpower-bolstering Performance charm comes to mind), so you really can throw one of these up per day.
  • In terms of censure, there is the game-setting issue of what is and isn't expected. You mention "why are they using Sorcery every scene?", and "Why so many combos?". The trick is that they're not, but want to have the ability. An Exalt that if necessary can open up a combo every round without trying is a devastating thing, to be used for demon-killing, emergency situations, etc. The problem is that there is no "Every time it comes up for a single scene." It's "Every time it comes up for some long duration you'd like it to be hanging around." If you could tie astrology (ascending) to a resplendent destiny it would actually be kindof neat - have a duration of 3 months or so, with a high occurrence rate, allowing you to keep something like an emergency astrology package around, and if you need it, just don that resplendent destiny and *poof* you fall under the purview of the TN and WP blessings.

Otherwise, as I said, thanks a lot for hashing things out with me. I'll make sure to abuse the player if he gets too out of hand, of course, but at least the effects themselves aren't that badly out of specialty-range. -- GreenLantern