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Charm Terminology

It has been noted previously (by RSB amongst others), that it is best to read Charm mechanics as if they were technical documents written in rigorous English. Unfortunately, this is can be very difficult since the Charms are written by a number of authors each with their own writing styles, and is made harder by their being a lack of exactly defined terminology. This is particularly the case for combat-related Charms, where a misinterpreted sentence can mean the death of a character.

With this in mind, the following is an attempt to create thorough (or at least as thorough as English will allow) definitions of a number of terms to match the variety of Charm technology that has been created over the last four years. With luck, this will help shed light on the ways that Charms interact.


Since no one seems to know what an attack is, I offer a provisional definition:

An action producing attack successes, that can be parried or dodged unless specific conditions make this impossible. These attack successes generate a damage pool that is compared against soak, and the portion of the pool that remains are rolled to determine an amount of Health Levels of damage.
Notice that this definition also happens to capture the property of shaping attacks, though those point out to us that an attack form may have idiosyncratic definitions of parry and dodge.
An action, used with an Ability that generates attacks, used to interpose some barrier between the attacker and target; unless other effects intervene, it is used in response to an attack, and reduces that attack's successes.
An action associated with the Dodge Ability; parallel to a parry except that it relies on the defender's mobility rather than the aegis of some third party.

In all cases, these definitions are swayed by the operation of Charms.

Defensive Charms

The defence created by this Charm trumps applicability.
Example: Heavenly Guardian Defence
A dice-pool is not rolled, the Charm takes effect.
Example: Impeding the Flow
The defence created by this Charm does not function against attacks enhanced by Charms, sorcery or the Five Magical Materials. This is a subset of Conditional.
Example: Portentous Comet Deflection Mode
The defence only works when certain specific conditions are met, or against certain kinds of attack.
Example: Vengeful Gust Counterattack
A dice-pool is rolled and the successes generated compared to those of an incoming attack.
Example: Reed in the Wind
A dice-pool is rolled and the successes generated compared to a difficulty given by the Charm text. Provisionally, we consider these to be instances of the generating effect; SAE is an indirect dodge, and cannot be used against undodgeable attacks such as CoCT.
Example: Safety Among Enemies
The defence created by this Charm is capable of defeating Perfect attacks.
Example: Seven Shadow Evasion

Offensive Charms

The Attack's description explicitly lists an alternative possible defense, usually (but not always) after stating various forms of defense are inapplicable.
Example: Earthshaker Attack
Natural defences are not applicable to this attack. The target must use a defensive Charm.
Example: Blazing Solar Bolt
This attack will always strike its target, even if reduced to zero successes by a defence.
Example: Accuracy Without Distance
Seeking (Provisional)
This attack bypasses any cover that the target may have, i.e.: shields or fortifications.
Parrying is not an applicable defence to this attack, whether natural or Charm-created.
Example: Owl Seizes Mouse
Dodging is not an applicable defence to this attack, whether natural or Charm-created.
Example: Cascade of Cutting Terror

Combinations of Terms

For many of the effects given by the vast number of Charms that are now extant in Exalted it is necessary to combine the terms given above to properly create the effect. As an example, Heavenly Guardian Defence (the original perfect defence) is, using the language above, Automatic and Absolute and Perfect, while Safety Among Enemies is Indirect and Perfect.

Similarly, it is possible to combine these terms to create Charm effects that do not yet exist canonically—there is no defensive Charm that the terms Direct and Absolute could apply to as yet, but I do not believe that such an effect is necessarily precluded from existing.

Certain combinations of terms make no sense however—a good example would be Direct and Perfect, I don't see how any Charm with that combination of effects could be written in a way that made sense (although others smarter than me may well.).


To further clarify which keywords apply to which Charms the list below will (eventually) cover every appropriate Charm published.


Arrow Consuming Flame Defence
Bulwark Stance
Defense of Shining Joy
Dipping Swallow Defence
Dragonfly Finds Mate
Duck Fate
Indirect, Perfect
Five-Dragon Blocking Technique
Five-fold Bulwark Stance
Flickering Candle Meditation
Flow Like Blood
Golden Essence Block
Heavenly Guardian Defence
Absolute, Automatic, (Perfect)
Impeding the Flow
Portentous Comet Deflection Mode
Brittle, Indirect, Perfect
Reed in the Wind
Reflex Sidestep Technique
Safety Among Enemies
Indirect, Perfect
Serenity in Blood
Absolute, Automatic, Perfect
Seven Shadow Evasion
Automatic, Perfect
Shadow Over Water
Vengeful Gust Counterattack


Accuracy Without Distance
Blazing Solar Bolt
Cascade of Cutting Terror
Dragon Vortex Attack
Undodgeable, Unblockable
Owl Seizes Mouse
Undodgeable, Unblockable
Tsunami Force Shout
Wrathful Winds Manoeuvre


If there is any kind of Charm technology that I have forgotten or missed from here, please add it here. I am going from memory which, apart from the MRB and EDB is somewhat spotty. - Moxiane

Comments that have been incorporated into the page have been transferred to the archive below.



I think that a Charm that reduces your opponents dicepool is a Direct defense, since it has exactly the same purpose but with a different mechanical effect. That is, your dicepool for defense is still rolled (even if that dicepool is zero!) and compared to your opponents incoming attack successes (even if that attack dicepool is zero). What you propose as a Greater Reducer or Reducer+ would simply be another Direct defense. - Epsilon

That's a good point, and I had actually thought of it. I discounted it because I did not consider a pool of Zero to be rollable. My oversight! B-) But consider, a direct dice-adder type of attack or defense does not have the same limitations as the dice-remover type (ie: To the opponents Essence, or Zero if explicitly allowed), and it is this thinking that tipped me to decide they were a new type that required naming. Anyways, this is enlightening... nikink

Don't forget to add "Hanging" to the Extra Action list. ~ G

This is a hard effect to define! Compare the texts of Principle of Motion and Protection of Celestial Bliss; they are not the same. Care to propose a definition, that captures these two effects and can be generalised to other Charms? - willows
How are they different? They both 'generate N of type X effects that hang, until used.'. Principal of Motion generates Valor invocations of a Reflexive charm that gives an extra-action. PoCB is basicly N invocations of HGD. -FlowsLikeBits

I would suggest Accurate for Perfect, under Offensive charms, as having two different perfect's is kinda confusing, and requires one to think about weather it is a Offensive or Defensive charm. This also gets weird for some types of counterattack. As an example for Seeking, I would suggest Flight of the Ice Hornet.

I would also suggest Effect for things like Earthshaker Attack, which I think is 'not an attack'(and horribly named), and thus canot be parried or blocked, i.e. Things like Terifying Apparition of Glory. Thus, HGD would not work against these, because, they are Not An Attack.(I admit, this is somewhat unclear) Thunder Wolf's Howl would be another example. -FlowsLikeBits

Here's a thought: try to nail down a definition for the term "applicability". It seems fairly intuitive, but it would be useful, I think, to be really clear about what such a central concept means. Also, regarding the indicision on the terms [brittle] and [conditional], it seems that they aren't really all that redundant. Observe: posit two different defense modes, labeled defA and defB. Both will have some degree of the scalar feature [Applicability] (or maybe [Anti-applicability]). Suppose defA's [Applicability] covers some number of types of potential attacks, but is suceptible to a list of attacks that can get through it. For an attack to get through defA, it must be on that list. Now suppose that defB's [Applicability] also covers some number of types of potential attacks which are specifically listed in the charm's description. For an attack to be applicable to a target utilizing defB, the attack must NOT appear on the list of inapplicable attacks. Given these, and my understanding of how the terms are written, defA would be termed [brittle] and defB would be termed [conditional]. The key difference is that one term defines a top-down approach to limiting [applicablity], and the other a bottom-up approach. Both, I think are valid and valuable approaches. I would suggest some rewording of the two terms to make that distinction clearer, and I am more than happy to provide my own reword, if noone objects. On additional thought, perhaps a better label for the bottum-up limiter might be sought, as ultimately both [brittle] and "[conditional]" are conditional features, just in different ways. Unfortunately, I can't think of a good term to suggest in its place, off the top of my head. -Suzume (who fell asleep while writing this... I hate being sick...)

I don't think that these are really sufficiently different to be distinguished in terminology; "I operate if (X or Y or Z)" is the same statement as "I operate if not(notX and notY and notZ)", just worded in a different way. It doesn't have any substantial impact on the interaction of effects. - willows

There are a few official terms that should be mentioned here, probably: "form", "stance", "shaping", "assumption", "glamour" and "synergistic". A few of these (particularly the first two) don't exactly match the rest (they describe what the charm is rather than what it does), but still are a specific "category" of charm. There are also few other concepts that exist in the game that could be listed here. One is something like "multiple": charms like Ox-Body that can be learned more than once. Another is something like "restricted": charms that others expressly cannot learn, e.g. charms that explicitly say that Eclipse caste can't learn them or that "require permission of a Maiden". Yet another is something like "versatile": charms that can be comboed with charms from other trees. - Wordman