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Kinda a weird brainwave here, and I love tinkering, so here goes. I'm really bad at saying stuff, so this probably won't go anywhere.

Exalted combat, particulary with mortals is well, just wacky. This comes from the fact that losing iniative means your kinda screwed, as you can't do anything, but defend. However, even if you win, it's still weird, as you have to guess how many actions your opponent will make, in order to defend! This seems almost as weird.

Stuff to try to fix:

  1. No need to read opponents minds when splitting, make mortal combat workable
  2. Winning init should be usefull, but not uber
  3. Avoid race to zero. You should always have a chance of defending, as one die has a 40% chance to hit! However, it should still be possible to be overwhelmed by attacks, and doing more attacks should hurt your defences in some way.
  4. Avoid to many steps, or slowing things down. Speedup would be nice.

All these problems come from the fact that you need to know how many actions your making when splitting., so we fix that. The goal being to allow people to act and react throughout a turn, without needing to figure out how many actions you need ahead of time. This gives a more smooth flow of combat to me.

Imagine a hypothetical perfect system where everyone know how many attacks were comming at them, at split at the head of initiative. Now, one can do this with very strick declarations, but I think it would slow stuff down to much. (thanks to GregLink here). Instead, we try to sequentially split the action throughout the turn.

Possible Solution:
For each additional action one takes a turn, there is a cumulative -2 die difficulty. So you go -0. -2,-4, etc Now, under the old system, you effectivly lose 2 dice per action when splitting, however they are distributed in a different way.

Option: You could also take a cumulative +1 difficulty, rather than -2 dice. Some people find this simpler than a cumulative -2. Statisticly, this is the same. A die penalty interacts better with things that reduce penalties, and makes it clearer when people can't attempt actions anymore. On the other hand, a difficulty has a more heroic feel, as you could hit a difficulty 6 with 6 dice. Maybe. Although, the only really danger is that people keep trying for to long. If the attacker doesn't make the difficulty, the defender doesn't have to defend. So oversplitting is kinda self limiting.(a miss gives you a +1, but not the defender).

Clarification 1: Aborting to a full dodge/parry still works the same. This is superior to splitting, since your taking a -1 cumulative penalty per attack vs a -2. The drawback is you can't attack of course. Suggested by wordman: You can do a full defence, this is like a full dodge/parry, with the cumulative -1 penalty, but you may choose a dodge or parry action vs each incomming attack, the penalty is the same either way. (Only really matters if you do full X, and someone throws an un-X'able attack at you, as otherwise, one always better. And it makes full defence with low rate weapons usefull.

Clarification 2: This kinda assumes Power Combat, or least that weapons have rate. This prevents infinite splitting. This isn't technically necessary, but it's nice to prevent people from just splitting infinitely, and prevents weirdness in the case you found a bow with a really high rate and use Accuracy Without Distance

Now, winning init is still usefull, as you get to do something to your opponent, before the can do something to you. Thus forcing them to take wound penalties, stand up, etc.

Why Does This Work?

I think this works because most combat rolls are opposed. So the attacker and defender are both splitting the same way, with the same penalties. If I attack you, and you attack me, we both split two ways, once for the attack, and once for the defence. I compare my +0 attack to your +0 defence, you compare your +1 attack to my +1 defence. Similary if one of us has to make a balance check or something. What is nice is that, each of us get's to do something, no matter how many times the other person attacks. However is quite possible to get overwhelmed by numbers of attacks. If you have a 7 die pool, and face 3 atttacks, the last one is at -6 dice, good luck.

This also makes Extra action and the defence charms make sense. You ignore the splitting penalties for those action(s). It also makes things like persistants less uber, but still really usefull. This also removes the case of people "not having an action", which always felt odd. Now, you can pretty much always take an action reflexivly, if you need to, just at an increasing penalty.

Also, there is no need to "hold" actions anymore. If you need to act later, you can. If you want, one could allow people to hold actions by taking the split penalty now, declaring a trigger, and using it later. So if somewhat is guarding a door, they could hold their -0 action, so their defences would be at -2, -4, etc. But when someone chame through the door, they get hit with the -0.

I'll try to clean this up a bit later, but comments would be appreciated.


I agree with part of the problem, but not the solution. The reason the current system works is that there's a reason to focus only on one strike, and getting one good attack roll. In the system you propose, there's no reason to hit only once. In fact, it is FAR superior for me, the person acting first, to just attack ad infinitum, until the difficulty is like 10. Then, I've had 10 chances to hit you, and you can now act. By the way, your first attack at me will be at difficulty 11. In the traditional system, I'd never even think of splitting my pool 10 ways - the first action would be at -10 due to all the flurries I'd be making, and I'd almost never connect with the last. The opponent could then full dodge, simply backing away from the epiletic spasm that is his opponent, starting with a full pool, going to -10. In this way, the full dodge is always numerically superior to offense in terms of dice, but initiative gets to control the flow of combat a bit more. As for the statement that "...losing iniative means your kinda screwed, as you can't do anything, but defend.", I believe that's wholly incorrect. When losing initiative, as a mortal, you have two choices - dodge and parry. Odds are, your dodge pool is pretty bad (Dex+Dodge+1[Essence]), and your melee pool is also pretty bad (Dex+Melee+Defense), but if your weapon has a +2 or better, it's better than dodging. Now, with dodge, you have the choice of 'full dodge' allowing you to get dodges in the order (-0, -1, -2,-3,...), assuming someone attacks you 4 times in a round. Thing is, no one is. Your opponent, also mortal, has a total pool of maybe 3 Dex, 3 Melee (well trained!) and an Accuracy of 2, for a total of 8. Splitting 4 ways gives him 4,3,2, and 1 die. Just not worth it, really, especially given botch chances, and the fact that then he has no defense, and if you've got a friend, that's bad. So we'll think real hard about maybe splitting 3 ways (5,4,3 dice), where my last attack has, on average 1.2 successes (mortals don't get double 10's). That's not enough to punch through a shield if he's carrying one, and really not even enough to hit, so I'll go with a double-split, for 6,5. That's a nice pair of pools there, and lets me hit twice. My opponent can either dodge at (3 Dex+3 Dodge +1 Essence) for dodges of 7,6, or he can parry with his defense 2 weapon at (3 Dex + 3 Melee + 2 Defense) pools of 6,5. Parrying, in this situation, isn't that bad a thing, comparatively. More importantly, my opponent isn't even splitting his pool that much.

Given that a Str 3 soldier wielding a +3L sword does about 6L per hit, enough to seriously maim an extra, and even really hurt a solid mortal, possibly crippling him for life (no lethal soak, and permanent damage if you hit the low health levels), we're both thinking of wearing some armor, with maybe -1 mobility penalties. This makes our pools even lower, and means we're even less likely to get more than two useful actions out of a split. Even with Dex 4, Melee 4 (freikishly well trained!) and accuracy of 2, that's 7,6 for attacks, or 6,5,4 and the last attack won't get past a shield the very vast part of the time. Suddenly, going parry gives you a lot more freedom, and allows you to attack back yourself if he rolls badly on his attacks.

Overall, mortal combat works pretty well if all characters involved can split their pool.

Sadly, that isn't how things are done. Instead, the person with highest init declares, splits, and acts, before lower init people get to split, forcing them to 'abort', to either a single parry, or a full dodge. Since we've shown that two actions for the init-winner is viable, you've got to full dodge to have a chance there, really limiting combat options. This isn't a problem in other Storyteller games, though, because of the up-down initiative rule. The lowest init declares first, and so on, giving everyone a chance to declare their split, then the highest-init acts, with the knowledge of other's splits, and since everyone could've declared splits, everyone can parry and do fun things. Thing is, Exalted doesn't have an up-down init system, it has a 'fastest to slowest' system in the normal case, and a 'first to last' system in the Power Combat case. In both systems, there's no chance for the guys at the end of the round to split. The fix, in my head, is to allow everyone to declare their splits (in any order they want, I don't care), then start at the top of the list and act down. It doesn't matter if the top of the queue declare splits first in the Power Combat case, because hey - those big weapons take time to get moving, so obviously you're planning out your swing(s) early. In the normal case, the 'fastest' guys are getting in, making up their mind, and acting. If you want to go the other way, that's great, but overall, I think all these problems go away if you just allow people to split without aborting. - GregLink, laboring a point and a lot of examples for very little effect

Well, you did convince me to go with cumulative -2 dice, rather than cumulative +1. I added a little discussion of that issue though. I clarified that I assume rate on weapons, so a rate 10 weapon is pretty rare(I can think 2, possibly 3). Also, it's still better than the current system, which would require you to abort if attacked before your init. This way, at least you have a chance to hit. And if you do, your opponent will have trouble defending after trying to hit you that many times.
I considered a "split before init" system also. The main problem with this is that, unless you use the up/down declare, and are really specific about the delarations(So people not only declare what they are doing,but who they are doing it to), you still have to guess how many attacks are comming at you, so you know how much to split for defences. That is why I went with a more ablative approach, so you don't need to know how much your going to have to react ahead of time. Attacks before you init reduce your main action, and attacks on your init reduce your defences for afterward. Because having to know what everyone else is doing to plan my action is real pain. Edit: Also, oversplitting is self liminting, assuming you don't run out of rate. If you don't make the difficulty, the defender doesn't have to defend, so you give your self a +1, but not them. This spiral doesn't go anywhere. :) -FlowsLikeBits
Under the "split without aborting" idea, Dodge gets weaker. Uh... unless you can still abort if you want to instead of declaring a split. That isn't the assumption I made when first reading, but re-reading doesn't rule out declaring an abort instead of a split. If you can still abort, I think I like the idea. Does it cause any havoc with any charms (I'm thinking some Lunar ones, in particular)? - Wordman
Clarified, you can still abort. (And it's still better!). I'm not an expert on Lunars, but I don't think there are any problems. You need to use the cumulative -2 dice option(prefered now anyway), rather than cumulative +1 difficulty because I don't think the Lunar split penaltiy reduciers work in multiples of 2. (Now the Autochotian charms give a -1 per arm as do the FF version, while Tree's Many Branches gives a -2, which is nice). -FlowsLikeBits

Regarding "dodge is the only winner when aborting", what parts of this system will allowing a Full Parry maneuver (like in Power Combat) not solve? -- BillGarrett

What about a bit of a hybrid approach to the initial suggestion and the "split without aborting" idea? I'm thinking of something that doesn't try to solve the same problems as the initial idea (i.e. needing to know how much to split), but a) weakens the advantage of going first slightly, b) prevents the need to race to zero and c) avoids a two-pass declare/act system. How about this: if you get attacked before your action, you have three choices: 1) do nothing, 2) declare "full defense" or 3) declare a split. Declaring a split works like canon, except you cannot use actions for anything but defense until reaching your action tick. If you declare full defense, you can make any defensive actions with a progressive penalty to your pool for each action taken. This is like full dodge, but you can mix dodge and parry actions. Naturally, you cannot attack when full defending. Essentially, in choosing 3 over 2, you are giving up dice (and potentially running out of defense) for the possibility of acting later in the same turn. - Wordman

I'd consider full defence a seperate issue, but it seems like a good idea to me. Mind if I add it?(With credit of course!) -FlowsLikeBits
If I did, I wouldn't have posted it. Have at it. Rip. Mix. Burn. -Wordman

Wordman's suggestions seems reasonable. Here is a third proposal: There are two kinds of actions that may be declared during a turn. Defensive actions may be declared at any time, may be either a dodge or a parry (but only one per attack without charms getting involved), and suffer a cumulative -1 to the die pool per action taken this turn. Initiative actions occur on the character's initiative, and may be split just like normal, except that they all suffer an additional -1 die penalty per Defensive action taken that turn. For example, let us say that an example character was attacked 3 times before his initiative. He may dodge or parry these attacks at -0,-1,and -2 to his die pools. On his initiative, he splits for 2 actions at -5 and -6 to his dice pools. After his initiative, he is attacked again twice and may dodge or parry these attacks at -5 and -6 to his dice pools. No worrying about how many actions you should save for defense; just how many actions you should declare. The only question becomes: are your dice pools large enough? Thoughts? -Madwand

The only problem I have with it is that attacking doesn't make defending any harder. I think it should. Seemd to me that comitting to an attack means sacrificing defense. - Wordman
Actually, it HAS made defending harder under that system. If, for whatever barmy reason, they decided to use their initiative to, say, dance a merry jig and blow raspberries (lets say they don't care how they do, and this counts as a reflexive action, so doesn't take up any dice) then their defences would be at -3 and -4, not -5 and -6. The example has two sets of numbers the same, which is a mite bit confusing, but it does make sense if you read the words and not look at the numbers... Defences go X, X-1, X-2, etc... Attacks have the normal split, but ALSO get whatever negative the defence has got to, so they're (X-3)-2 and (X-4)-3, and then the defences continue, so X-5 and X-6. Now, working it like that has pointed out to me that the attacks would actually be at -5 and -7 as the rules were written. I'm not sure if that's the intent, but it'd be complicated to fix without confusing the issue more. Hope that helped a bit?
-- Darloth
Hmm, I *think* I did the math correctly. The attacks are actually at (X-3)-2 and (X-3)-3, where the first "minus" is for the number of defensive actions taken this turn (3), and the second "minus" is for the normal penalty for splitting actions. The only problem that I can see with my suggested method here is that it makes defenses even more Uber than they were before, and all defensive charms become somewhat more powerful -- even charms like Reed in the Wind become fairly practical. This could be mitigated by a variety of means, such as no longer adding Essence to dodge pools or imposing some additional dice pool penalty to all Defensive actions to reflect their hurried nature (raising the possibility that it may still sometimes be better to save an action for defense, which would only suffer the normal splitting penalties). There are lots of options that can be tinkered with here. -Madwand
Perhaps an easier way of stating it would: You have a cumulative die penalty throughout the turn that applies to all actions. Defensive actions(dodge/parry) give a -1 penalty, while other ones give a -2. So if one defends thrice before init, attacks twice, and defends twice after init. One has -0, -1, -2 on your pre-init defences, -4, -6 on your attacks and -7, -8 on your post-init defences. I think this is what you were going for?
This doesn't really keep the dice the same though(You did mention this). Asssuming one could split before init and one was prescient, one would get -7, -8, -9 for the pre-init defences, -10, -11 for your two attacks and -12, -13 for the post-attack defences. The proposed system would give -0,-2,-4 for the pre-init defences, -6,-8 for the attacks and -10,-12 for the post attack defences. (It's because my system gives the first action "for free", for the case when nothing requires you to split. So we're off by one. The best way to fix this would be to apply a -3 on the first split action and -2 thereafter, but that seemed to complicated. ) Anyway, since most of these actions are opposed, and your both splitting, I don't think it matters to much. -FlowsLikeBits
Ok, there seems to be a great deal of confusion over the system I'm describing. I'll try to restate: Defensive actions take a cumulative -1 to their dice pools per previous Action taken, no matter whether the defensive action occurs before or after initiative, or whether the previous actions taken were Defensive or Initiative actions. Initiative actions also take a cumulative -1 to their dice pools per previous Defensive action, in addition to the normal penalty for splitting actions. I'm not sure where the numbers for the examples the previous two paragraphs have given have come from. Here is yet another way to restate this: all actions (Defensive or Initiative) take a cumulative -1 penalty per previous action taken. Initiative actions may be declared as split, and take an additional -1 penalty per Initiative action declared. The math is the same with this wording, but it may be an easier way to think about it.-Madwand

What I did for a while was adopt two "kinds" of actions in a combat turn - attack and defense, each with an independent dice pool. Then, I would apply the splitting penalties as usual. It was pretty much like Madwand's, but with a few changes. Attack actions could be taken only after the character's initiative, while defensive actions could be taken anytime, as long as not simultaneously with attack. Also, there would be a penalty for defensive actions taken before the character's initiative (-1 per initiative tick he anticipated his first defense movement). -Nabeshin

I've been thinking about the criticism I had of my own system above, and also the fact that the math seems to have confused people, and I think I've come up with a new system that solves both issues: Defensive actions may be taken anytime. Attacks may occur anytime during or after initiative. The first time a character needs to take an action, whether defensive or attack, he must decide then how many times he will split his attack pool. All actions that turn will take a penalty equal to the number of attack actions declared (unless the number of actions is 1, in which case, no penalty, as per the normal rules). In addition, all actions will take a -1 per previous action taken. So for my above example with 3 defensive actions taken, 2 attacks taken, and then 2 defenses taken, the die pools would have been at -2,-3,-4 for the first 3 defensive actions, then -5,-6 for the attacks, and finally -7,-8 for the last two defensive actions. "Full dodges" are still possible under this system, but defensive actions aren't quite so Uber as they were when also taking attack actions. This is somewhat similar to Wordmans system above, but defensive actions don't penalize dice pools for splitting, and you don't run out of them until your dice pool is reduced to 0.-Madwand

Currently, the standard system doesn't destinguish between initiative and defence actions(other than you can take defence actions before your init. Also, offensive and defensive actions have the same splitting penalty. Your system seems to make defensive actions cheaper, which I think would tend to make defence a bit stronger, but I'm not sure how big an effect it is. It seems more complicated than what I was looking for though, but viable.

I used pretty much the same mechanics Madwand posted here a little while back. What let me reconsider is the fact it's really heavy on the number cruching side. For math-heads like myself this wasn't really obvious at first, but try to convey that to your players :-). The ideas of all you other contributors here seem to go in the same direction crunch-wise.

One less crunchy alternative has its base is NOT trying to divide a basic SINGLE action per turn into offense and defense action, but start from a basic set of ONE offense AND ONE defense action per turn. Bear with me...

  • Start of the turn: determine order of actions (roll for initiative)
  • First combatant acts: Each combatant has TWO basic actions to use in his turn. If you are first to go you must decide if you want to use both actions in an active manner (read: attacks, simple charms, stand up, jump or whatever), in a passive manner (read: dodge, parry) or one each. If you are attacked before your initiative you may use them up for defense, but if both your actions are committed to defense you can do nothing else in that turn.
  • Defense: A single defense action works like "abort to parry/dodge". So once an action is commited to parry, you can parry every attack against you. The pool is progressively reduced by 1 die just as before. In the case of TWO actions committed to defense you may BOTH parry AND dodge every single attack against you. The successes are added together. Each time a defense pool is used, reduce it by one die. So, if you dodge AND parry an attack, reduce both.
  • Attack: Each action committed to attack or some other active endeavor can be split using the standard rules.
  • Charms usage: Using a simple charm now lets you defend yourself, though doing that, while casting a spell should break your concentration. An "extra-action charm" is basically a simple charm that converts one of your actions into multiples. The rule of "may not split a dice pool when using extra-action charms" only applies to the action used to power up the charm and all its multiples. The second action can still be used for defense (now always cascading) or for splitting up.
  • Movement: Movement now counts as an action, unless you just make a step. So, for example "Glorious Defender of the Bone Castle" could move 16 yards and attack (splitting the first action) AND defend (cascading parry). Sprinting would still consume BOTH actions (no splitting)

Apart from bigger dicepools, this made combat a lot quicker for my campaign. I even toyed with the idea of using the old WOD-rules for "truly" splitting the dice-pool among actions, and restricting splitting only among actions that use the same pool. DogSkull eagerly awaits you splitting HIS dice-pool ;-)

Interesting idea. It sorta gives everyone a Gem of Perfect Mobility, or has them fight like a Spirit with Principle of Motion. I'd be interested in hearing more how it worked. It changes the balance by making defence stronger, but I'm not sure how bad it is. For instance, this makes dual defences much, much more common. This does seem like it would be very hard for people to hit. How did it work out? -FlowsLikeBits

As you pointed out, it did make combat take a bit longer, as defenses were stronger. But it didn't matter much. Mortals were a bit more viable as enemies than before. Exalts truly shined with the Charm-enhanced ability to crack a defense no matter what. Fights among Exalts tended to run a bit more smoothly. Since there are a lot of defense Charms out there that take a simple action to activate the players tended to activate them when they were needed, and not everytime some shadow moved 20 yards away. Once you run out of Essence you are back to basics anyway. One extra rule we used truly proved golden! To dodge an opponent, you have to be able to move out of weapons range of the opponent (usually just another yard away) without entering another enemy's weapon range. Once your back is to a wall, well... :-( Still, stunts and Charms were able to break that rule. The double defense thing was primarily a way for mortals to even have a chance of defending. But this panic move takes away their chance of doing anything. And then i thought, chickenplay is for chicken. What seasoned soldier with a reputation to defend lets his own chance to kill the enemy pass, unless he's all alone, in a panic or not really a soldier at all (how about valor 1?) Also there is a Mobility Penalty applying to dodge pools (rigourosly enforced). So what do you do, if your opponent blocks AND dodges your first attack? Hit him again with your second action! He won't bite back, his defense pool is effectivly reduced by 2 dice... :-) So basically it worked out. Oh, and we never added Permanent Essence to defense btw. DogSkull
Interesting. I was kinda going for power combat compatibility also, but I don't think it affects things that much. I wouldn't use the dodge rule, as that seems to rule out dodges when surrounded, although pretty much anyone can jump high enough to dodge :), so it's not that big. Also dodge was kinda weak under classic combat anyway. I was also trying to simplify the math behind the normal splitting rules a bit.( I know some people who HATE it). Anyway, if you want stronger defence, that seems like a reasonable option to me. -FlowsLikeBits

Actually, one die has a 40% chance to hit. On average it does 0.5 of a success, and so a large pool will typically result in 50% successes... but always remember that the hit-chance is 40%. 7, 8, 9, 0.
-- Darloth