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Dragon-Blooded Tactics

So we all know how great Fire, Air, and Earth aspects are when things need to die. A little Melee, a little Martial Arts, a little Thrown, whatever. However, while Water and Wood aspects are cool in their own realms, they seem to have fewer combat options than the other aspects. Am I missing something? What is your experience with these aspects and their combat tactics?

Additionally, are there any fan-created charms intended to correct this dearth of options? I've been considering some anti-feinting and tactical-analysis charms for Investigation, flowing-water-style defenses for Brawl, and feinting / surprise / sneak attack charms for Larceny, but I'm also a college freshman with a number of half-begun projects currently collecting dust due to school demands, so who knows when I'll get anything done.

I am primarily concerned with first edition, but I would like to know how this balance has shifted with second edition and the reshuffling of Aspect Abilities.


Water gets to use bizarre combat tactics. The first issue is that Water has nasty non-combat support options for warfare. It's the Water aspect who sneaks into the army camp a few days before the battle, poisons the supplies, screws up the paperwork, steals the artifacts, and then sneaks out again. (Buerocracy / Investigation / Larceny) If you've got a river or lake nearby, or even just an open resevoir, the Water aspect gets to clinch people and then jump in; forces the battle to be one-on-one unless the allies can swim hella good, and the Water has a huge advantage twenty feet underwater in heavy armour. Ocean warfare, of course, Water dominates. Run along the bottom of ships, slicing them open. Disguise your boats as a merchant fleet and then declare war at the last moment.

Wood is a bit stranger. Archery means you've got ranged support; notably, they also get to defend allies against whatever ranged allies the primary target wants to drop. Medicine means that Wood can be hopping along a fight, keeping allies from dying while making sure that enemies who escape will be too sick to return (and are a drain on enemy reserves), and dealing poison everywhere. Poison arrows! With Performance, they can also cover their allies with subtle music, hiding an assassination by pretending it's just a performance. Ride adds extra mobility; cavalry archers are hard to pin down, and magical cavalry archers are that much better. Finally, Survival makes sure that your army or friends have the advantage of terrain. You want to fight the enemy by a lake for your Water friend? You can do that.

1e and 2e aren't that different, here. Water swaps Brawl for Martial Arts, which gives them a bit of diversity, and Wood gets inherent poisons, which helps in close combat if they want to do that, but overall tactics haven't altered much. - FrivYeti

A very helpful analysis, thanks! I suppose I've not really considered Wood all too well, as it seems they do have a number of options, both in solo and group combat. I'm still kinda worried about the Water aspects, though - I appreciate that they can do all manner of cool and horrible things outside of direct combat, and naturally they rule the seas, but my major concerns here are a mechanical and a thematic one regarding their general in-combat options: first, they are restricted to essentially a single in-aspect combat style, that of brawling and grappling. Other DBs have strange charms diverging from their Ability's focus, often opening up new and useful combat tactics (see Thrown, or Lore, or Presence), while the Water Dragons seem to have few of these. Second, I'm not too happy about their combat option - it simply doesn't evoke 'fluidity' as well as it seems to be supposed to. Brawl in general seems rather unsubtle and unsuited to the Aspect - and where are the defensive charms? Surely water, the embodiment of the principle of strength in flexibility, should have more ways of being 'weak in the face of strength,' and so forth? ~WillCoon

This question seems to be about solo tactics. Probably worth mentioning the Challenge/BeginningWyldHuntTactics and Challenge/WyldHuntTactics pages for those interested in terrestrial synergies. -- Wordman

Yes, I suppose I was considering solo tactics primarily, but this is doubtlessly an unfair way of thinking about the Dragon Blooded. I will welcome analysis of solo and supporting/synergistic roles. As a note, Kraken observes on the Challenge/BeginningWyldHuntTactics page that "Aspects of Water do not offer much directly to the hunt," save naturally in ocean combat, pre-combat manipulation, and in jumping into bodies of water (it seems that the repeated emergence of this tactic should be illustrative of my point - surely the Water DBs should be able to do something other than grabbing people and jumping into nearby lakes?). Brawling / grappling does become rather effective (if you can figure out the timing rules) in groups, as you can just have your Water aspect hold down the glowy guy while everyone else guts him, but still, I want my Water aspects doing something other than grabbing people and holding them until they die (perhaps I'm just lacking in inspiration as to 'cool brawl stunts'...). In any case, it sounds like 2e offers some flexibility in granting them Martial Arts, but don't the Arts break aspect delineations anyway?
As a side note, I have seen somewhere a suggestion that Wood aspects, as those attunded to the flow of life energy, should be allowed to take Shadowlands necromancy. An interesting suggestion, though I'm not entirely sold on the rationale, but has anyone used this, or at least analyzed the concept to some degree? - WillCoon
As a note on that piece, I was specifically considering it (as a beginning hunt, for beginning solars) only from the perspective of published charms on both sides, though I'm pleased you read it and I hope it was at least a little bit useful. For more than grapple and hold, Water aspects really need some custom charms in brawl. Not so much for the damage, which as Cylyria notes in her comment below they are fairly well served, but for getting the accuracy to hit people, due to a combination of generally low acc weapons and a lack of dice adders. This issue is definately reduced somewhat in Ex2 with the addition of MA Excellencies. (As a secondary issue, they have to 'waste' two charms on simply dealing or parrying L damage. This means they have less charms to spend on useful stuff, an issue other aspects don't have to deal with. While a smashfist does L and allows parrying, the charms in question are pre-requisites for higher up the tree.)
Wood Aspects, with powerbows and target arrows, can get quite reasonable damage to armoured foes. Their big advantage in combat is that they can, if they choose, more or less remove themselves from it and shoot in from long range, while remaining mostly unmolested, which gives them a lot essence free for actually shooting at things, especially with their dirt cheap EA charm, combined with the reflexive re-roller for dealing with the low rolls. Sometimes the simplest tactics are the best. In Ex2, this can be added to with the Dragon-Graced arrows, which let them slowly cripple people, though more mundanely, poison works too. DragonBloodedMedicine/Telgar has some charms to aid with this.
Finally, both (and indeed all) Aspects can simply use an out-of-aspect style. IIRC, the out-of-aspect penalty only applies once per aspect used per turn. - Kraken who added this tag only because he accidentally made his edit minor the first time
I'm gonna mention water primarily, because it's the one people are having issues with.
Wood aspects are the master lone guerilla warrior. Survival can allow you swift overland movement (by avoiding terrain hazards), natural camouflage, scare tactics (swayed animals ravaging the campsite), poison making (not just for weapons and killing; an army suffering from diahrea is gonna have some nice penalties), and the more obvious archery sniper attacks. Imagine an enemy who can turn any environment against you and you have a Wood. Even at sea, they're pretty dominant; most battles are fought at range.
Water is less obvious in solo combat, but still don't discount the 1e brawl charms. First one adds damage to a clinch which, when combined with some Larceny for a disguise as the person's lover or friend, can be pretty nice. The second listed is a nifty addition to other attacks (lowering armor soak cumulatively at the cost of 1 mote per attack), especially when comboed with other Brawl charms (Fist-Spinning, Become the Hammer, and some kind of custom damage-adder). Really, after looking over the Brawl charms, only two seem wrestling-specific.
But really, they aren't meant for one-on-one, outright battles. Every game will have some splat like that and Water just happens to be it. They are, as someone mentioned, the infiltrators. Air might have stealth, but larceny can create a disguise even without charms. Bureaucracy can foil even the mightiest army, investigate can find the weak spots, and larceny charms can help you access their most potent weapons of war.
A war isn't really won by the soldiers involved. It's won by the planning and preparation taken beforehand. If you can foil that, you can win any war. -- Cylyria