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Right, so Dave expressed concern that Abyssals are too tough and nasty in some fields. Not really overpowered and unbalancing, but bordering it.
I disagreed with him, and offered to show him why, and he said "YAY!"
So I will.
This will, however, be a rather dry discussion, rather than my patented, uber-cool story set up :) \\ ~Mailanka
I'll discuss resistance first. It's rather easier to compare. I will limit my discussion to soak bonuses, rather than discussing the ability to resist poison/illness and the ability to summon armor, because the first isn't in high demand, and the superiority of the Abyssals in the second is both marginal and well known.
Both Solars and Abyssals have a perfect soak charm. It's effects, costs, and prerequisites are, I believe, essentially identical, so I will also not discuss them.
Soak. Very common, reliable defense that is often overlooked. It tends to come from two places: Armor, and soak charms. For some exalted, the Dragon Blooded in particular, and the Lunars to a lesser extant, this can be mixed. For Solars, it cannot. Abyssals can to a degree, but lets break down their soak charms, shall we?
The bulk of their soak comes from either Ivory Blossom Carapace or Crimson Petal armor. In either case, like with Solars, they CANNOT be used with armor (they ARE armor, though I note that they are not actually described as such. It would be an interesting topic to debate if they should be considered "natural soak" or armor soak. In either case, both have their advantages, so it balances out and I won't factor it into this comparison). Ivory Carapace has mobility penalties, and for the purposes of soak, Crimson Armor is superior (Ivory has its own benefits, but we will not discuss that at this moment) and thus will be the focus of comparison.
For crimson to be at max costs the Abyssal 10 motes, and 1 willpower. There are no mobility penalties. This costs the wielder three charms worth of xp. This grants a +10L/+10B soak
The other staple Abyssal soak is Spirit Hardened frame. It offers a +1 bashing soak per 2 motes spent, and IS cumulative with armor (it's real draw). It does add to lethal, but only half the amount of the bashing. This means for 20 motes, the user gets a +5 lethal soak.
Thus, naked, an Abyssal can have (assuming stamina 5) a lethals soak of 17, and a bashing soak of 20. This costs him 30 motes, 1 willpower and a health level, and two turns to fully activate.
Solar soak charms are well known: Durability of Oak, Spirit Strengthens the Skin, and Iron Skin Concentration.
Durability of Oak is random. As a result, one might spend 50 motes and get a +3 soak. Alternatively, it is entirely possible that a Solar can spend 3 motes and get +10 soak from it. On average, it takes 2 activates and 10 motes to get +10 bashing soak.
Spirit adds up to +5 bashing soak for a total of 10 motes.
And Iron Skin converts bashing to lethal for 3 motes 1 willpower.
The result? A naked Solar can have (assuming Stamina 5) a lethal and bashing soak of 20. This is three higher than the Abyssal, and costs 23 motes, 1 willpower: 7 motes and 1 health level cheaper. The cost is an additional 2 turns more of activating charms to achieve this high soak.
The Abyssals, of course, are not without their advantage. Spirit Hardened Frame can increase ARMORED soak by 5. This means an Abyssal in super heavy plate can have a Lethal soak of 24! But it comes at the EXTREME cost of 20 motes, not to mention the commitment cost of the armor... all to hit a soak of 4 higher than the naked solar.
A solar has access to Iron Kettle Body (and Unfailing Tortoise). While a little pricey to buy, they ALSO add a +5 to armored soak... if one is willing to sacrifice his charm for the turn (or instant). While not terribly useful against mass attacks, it can be just the ticket to making that uber-attack managable, and at a cost of 2 motes, the price is definitly right.
When it comes to armorless soak, Solars seem, to me, to have a definite edge, both in cost and effeciency. Abyssals are better off sticking to their armor :) \\ ~Mailanka
Blood still dripped from his long, shadowy blade as he surveyed the dead about him. The bodies of the villagers and soldiers were rent and torn, an arm hanging at a strange angle here, blank, staring eyes filled with horror there. As his armor shod foot stepped through the blood soaked muck, the flies began to gather, their hum a hymn to oblivion. The stench of rot was already begining to pervade the small village. A faint twitch drew his attention, and with a quick motion of his daiklave, he stilled it, and tasted of the power of life.
Some would appreciate the art of all of this, but Murderer Stained with Sorrow only wanted more carnage, more pain. He was tall, thick in body with pallid white skin that seemed swollen with muscle. Short spikes of red hair decorated his scalp, and black eyes glittered like obsidian. As he stalked through the streets of the town, he showed his razor teeth in what seemed a permanent grin.
First, I'm going to focus on everyone's FAVORITE combat ability: Melee. The themes I'll show with Melee tend to be found throughout all Solar/Abyssal combat charms, and as interesting as the variations are (Solar Brawl can, for example, do a hell of alot more damage than Abyssal Brawl), I don't have time to POSSIBLY compare all aspects. But Melee is what most Abyssals and Solars tend to focus on, so that's what I shall discuss.
First of all, Abyssals are the king of slaughter. Compared to Solars, they are superior at killing mass numbers. Against 50 mortals, for example, through judicious use of Ready in 8 directions and split dice pools, a solar will tend to kill them in 5 turns. By comparison, with Hundred Razor Circle, and Glorious Carnage Typhoon, Abyssals tend to kill them in 2-3 turns. With Crimson Banquet, they'll even walk away stronger than they started.
He suddenly slowed to a stop, his armor glistening wetly in the light of the cresent moon. Standing before him in the street, a young woman stopped him from surveying the rest of his handy work. Long, silken white hair flowed on the nights breeze, framing an ageless face with bright eyes that burned with wrath. Her slim body was clothed in a tight fitting leather armor that revealed the shape of her form while protecting it at the same time, creaking faintly as she moved to face him. But what held his attention was the long, smoothly gleaming golden blade that was as gracefully formed as she.
Her voice was like the song of innocence as she spoke. "I am called Invulnerable Sword Princess, and I am here to end your slaughter."
The Murderer Stained in Sorrow laughed heartily. "Oh, I shall enjoy your defeat, pure one. I shall enjoy staining your golden soul black with sin. And when you weep for mercy, I shall enjoy sending you on the bloody path to Oblivion."
Before she could react, his gauntlet seized the hilt of his blade in its sheath, and with impossible speed, his blade sliced the air. Floating away from him on dancer's feet, her blade clashed with his, and the battle had begun.
I will not "create" characters for this fight. I will simply assume both have maxed dice pools (16 dice to attack, for example) and all Melee charms. Essence Pools will be discussed in brief, but this isn't an actual fight, just a comparison of charms with nifty framing.
At this moment, she has Five Fold Bulwark Stance active, and he has Crimson Banquet and Eye of the Tempest. His parry is 15, hers is 16. Her iniative is 14, his is 13. She has a "buff jacket" and he has Soulsteel articulate plate. Not that most of this will matter.
An outsider would have had a difficult time following the fight. They moved faster than the eye could follow. Her blade flickered over and over against his defenses, and each time, his smashed hers aside, and attempted to slip past her now vulnerable defenses. But her magic guided her blade again and again to swat aside his attacks. Then he pressed the attack, his trying to force his blade past hers, and again and again, she deftly guided it away from her, and tried to slip her blade past his defenses, and again, his wall like defenses held them back.
In less than three seconds, twenty blows were traded, and then he leapt away from her. With a delighted sneer, shadow gathered around his blade, and he struck. Magic coursed down his hidden blade as an impossible amount of power exploded towards her. There was a flash of blinding light, and a thuderclap of sound, and a wave of shadow, followed by a wave of light, blanketed the remains of the villagers. His blade was locked with hers, and both of their caste marks gleamed, hers a virtous sunburst, and his a desecrated mockery of hers.
First, we face off counter versus counter. Invulnerable Princess splits her dice pool 5 ways and attacks. That's 11(5) 10(5) 9(4) 8(4) and 7(3). He parries, of course, with 15 dice (7 successes each time). He also activates Vengeful reposte against each of her attacks. As he rolls, on average, 7 successes against her 5, 5, 4, 4, and 3 successes, he gets a 2, 2, 3, 3, and 4 success attack against her. The charms states that this counter can't be parried or dodged without magic (as quick as it comes, this seems reasonable considering how fast it must be). However, the loosest interpretation of "magic" is that any charm that provides a parry or a dodge is, after all, a magical defense, and so her five fold bulwark EASILY swats it away.
After failing to hurt her, he tosses off five attacks of his own, with the same results. As she parries his attacks, she uses her own counters. Solar Counter is certainly a possibility, and while it costs more (3 motes per counter rather than 1), she gets a better counter. He has to actually parry, and his attack is based on that parry. She, however, gets her FULL attack dice pool (her 16 vs his 15... we'll say he consistently gets lucky, but chances are, that isn't the case... maybe his armor saves his happy ass...). Alternatively, she can use Ready in 8. He spent a total of five motes, and with ready in 8, she also only spends 5 motes, to get 5 counters.
This begins to show the superiority of the Solar in a one on one fight. While charms like Vengeful Riposte are great against mortals, and while Hundred Razor Circle is CLEARLY superior for killing, say, five mortals, neither hold a candle to Ready in 8 for taking down a single opponent.
Granted, Vengeful Riposte only needs Elegant Flowing Defense, while Solar counter needs Dipping Swallow, but any Exalted will take a reflexive full defense over a dice buyer any day, so both will end up getting at least three charms.
Our second little exchange shows another nifty principle. Yeah, the Abyssal is superior in the sense that he can slip past your defenses better than a Solar can, by using Furious Blade (which is as good as Excellent Strike) and/or by using Five Shadow Fient (which has no equivelant). However, in either case, a perfect defense always wins, so it really doesn't much matter except beings that DON'T have perfect defenses. Further, Five Shadow Feint only works against the first defense. If caught without a charm, a Solar can always then abort to a dodge after his parry has been cut to nothing. So this technique, while useful against Lunars and Dragon Blooded, is wasted against Solars. Not to mention that using both in a combo is a death knell to your essence pool.
Blade locked against blade, Murderer Stained in Sorrow smiled maliciously, his eyes inches from hers as their locked blades battled for supremacy. Suddenly, she felt the pulse of power that threatened to tear her blade from her, and with a shot, she battled it. Her face grew hard, and her castemark burned with bliding, heatless white fire, and with a sudden surge of essence, the Murderer was caste from her, his blade falling far from where he landed.
Her face hard with determination, she let loose a battle cry, and leapt high into the air, her blade coursing with golden essence. Cursing under his breath, he siezed a less familiar magic, and flowed away from her blade as it cleaved the cobblestones beneath where he had just lain. Casting his hand out, he summoned his blade to him, holding it before him.
As she turned to face him, he sneered at her, his voice fille with mockery. "You fight well, righteous warrior, but I think it is time for me to stop playing games. Behold the power of Oblivion."
As he spoke, the air around him was rent with impossible cold, and an aura of darkness so deep it must come from the void began to ripple around him like a torn flag in the wind.
She shook her head, undismayed. "And still you do not understand. The light of the Unconquered Sun always defeats the wane shadows of the underworld."
And heat flared around her, blistering his eyes as he looked at her. He was forced to step back as her visage of vengeance tormented him.
Again, we do two turns. While I'm breaking some technical rules, I'm attempting to break down a few techniques.
First, Murderer tries Attunement Shattering Block. Yes, I know this should happen after a parry. But lets break down what it actually does: You have to spend 3 motes and 1 willpower, successfully block, and then your opponent must fail an Essence + Melee check with a difficulty equal to your Essence. IF they manage to fail, they can simply spend an amount of essence equal to the attunement cost of their blade. Against, say, an artifact 5 blade with an attunement cost of, say, 12, this is useful: 3 motes and a willpower to make them spend 12. Against most daiklaves: attunement 5, it's a waste of your time.
We take away Murderer's blade to show you a different combat technique. As has been stated with some annoyance, Flitting Shadow Form CAN be a "poor man's perfect defense." Much like Five Dragon Fortitude, however, it's extremely undesirable. Assuming Invulnerable Sword Princess whipped out Excellent Strike to attack, she's got 26 dice to hit for 10 motes. He must spend THIRTEEN motes to assure safety. When defense is costing more than offense, it simply isn't worth it. I would also point out that buying a die rolled to subtract a success and simply subtracting a die is about the same thing. In some situations, one is better than the other, and subtracting dice is slightly better if you can eliminate all, but it's not THAT much better...
So, in any case, he rolls away and uses Blade Summoning Gesture to get his weapon back.
While we're talking about big combos, I'd like to compare the uber damage charms of each. Hungry Tiger and Savage Shade amount to the same thing. However, Fire and Stones and Artful Maiming ARE different. The second is a good "dirty trick" that if it works can seriously hamper your foe. But it has to hit, and it has to damage (which is harder said than done), and against a being that can regenerate limbs, this is more an inconvenience than a real problem. Fire and Stones, while cleaner, tends to be more effecient in the "typical" fight, as it buys straight successes. Fire and Stones requires less in the form of prerequisites, by the way.
Next, we move to Reaper of Men vs Corona of Radiance. Reaper of Men is, of course, more generally useful. It kills mortals, it kills Solars, it kills everyone. Corona of Radiance, while more specific, is DEFINITLY the more powerful technique. Once again, while the Abyssal can slaughter lots of lessers, against a Solar, they come out on bottom. Solars are the better "kill the mighty evil" hero, giving her the edge.
The Murderer is, to be honest, in trouble. His charms tend to cost him more to get those "better" effects, and he isn't regaining them all that well. Yeah yeah, every time he hurts her, with Crimson Banquet on, he regains a mote... but he has to HURT her first. Lets face it, you tend to need motes to hurt someone, making this a bit of a catch 22. If you have no trouble hitting and hurting your foe, you're really not in any need of more essence to kill them. If, on the other hand, you need lots of essence to hit and hurt them, then chances are, you're not hurting them. The essence gaining charms are ONLY useful against mortals, typically, or people who use massive amounts of ox-body and/or regeneration as their defense.
Against a Solar with lots of parry, dodge, and/or soak, this technique isn't really as useful as it looks.
Desperate, and begining to feel the first stirrings of fear, Murderer Stained in Sorrow let loose a fearsome cry, and with a burst of shadow, exploded towards her. With a lopsided smile, her eyes glimmering with certainty of victory, Invulnerable Sword Princess, leapt against him, and both of their blades moved in an impossible blur of speed. There was a flash of power, and then both flashed past one another.
Invulnerable Sword Princess landed lightly on her feet, and behind her, the Murderer thundered to his feet. After a long, silent moment, the Deathknight collapsed to one knee, blood seeping from his mouth.
"You've... you've won this day, bitch. But I'll be back... I swear."
With resonating words of darkness, the Murderer tore a hole in reality, and as Invulnerable Sword Princess turned to stop him, he escaped into another reality.
"When you do..." her bell-like voice whispered "I'll be ready."
Finally, I compare multiple attack charms. Glorious Carnage Typhoon isn't useful against a single opponent, so an Abyssal must use Unfurling Iron Lotus. With Essence 3, it costs 9 motes, and you get a total of 4 attacks. With Iron Whirlwind, for 5 motes 1 willpower, the Solar gets 5 attacks. To be able to do the equivelant, an Abyssal needs to have Essence 4 and spend 12 motes, which is MUCH more ineffecient. Peony Blossom, while ALSO very ineffecient (18 motes for 5 attacks), it has, potentially, a limitless amount of attacks, so long as you can pay for it. So, for sheer number of attacks, Solars win with Peony Blossom. For effeciency, Iron Whirlwind also wins.
Again and again, it becomes obvious (at least to me) that Solars are the superior duelists. Like bullies, Abyssals LOOK better, but its only really against the weaker foes. Against equal or superior foes, Solars are the mightier exalted...
which is, in a way, appropriate.
A few final notes on battle:
Pain Eating Focus is inferior, regaining only an amount of Essence equal to Essence, while Essence Gathering Temper maxes out at stamina. Abyssals can gain Dexterity, thus making all their actions superior, but this costs 5 motes per die and precludes any gain on Strength bonuses (and probably counts against the "dice provided by charms" cap). While it takes more charms to get to, Blood Thirsty Sword dancer spirit is both cheaper, provides, at the same time, a better benefit than Insensible Corpse. (though more limiting in actions) and doesn't stop you from maxing out your strength with essence.
Abyssals are very strong, very terrifying in battle, and in many ways, they should be. While I, at least, had the sense from the main book that Abyssals would be weaker than Solars, with the inclusion of the idea of "turning" Solars, it makes sense that Abyssals would at least APPEAR superior. The Dark side must be tempting, after all, or nobody will give up their eternal soul for that power. But clearly Abyssals don't dominate Solars in the battle field. Light can and often does beat shadow, especially when they are evenly matched. While the Abyssals have advantages (More artifacts, better starting stats (a little), a better sword summoning charm (but then, the Solar version is just utter crap. The DB version is BARELY weaker), they are not better duelists. As usual, white-wolf has very carefully balanced these exalted against the others so that, just as the book says, NOTHING is certain when two exalted go head to head.
Well anyway, I hope that helped. This is pretty consistent with what I've tended to see come out of battle. Solars vs Abyssals are some of the most dramatic and climactic battles I've seen, but handled correctly, most Solars are dead even with most Abyssals, and solars geared to defeast Abyssals almost always win.
Darn, and I was hoping to read more. However, I might note that the "average" case of DurabilityOfOak is not really reliable.
( true. I tend to see Durability meander back and forth between 7-12 motes, between 2-3 turns. If you're willing to live with a little less than the highest, you'll be ok. Still, you'd need SEVEN more motes before you're as ineffiecient as Abyssals Discussions/I> ~Mailanka)
This is my major complaint with the Solars soak tree. Anyways, one thing that irritates me about Abyssals is that their "perfect soak" charm is the same cost and prereq. count as Solars. I do not believe they ought to have such a thing so cheaply. In general, I think that the Abyssals ability to subtract dice from other's pools is in many ways like a perfect defense, in that you can make it so that no matter what, someone else's actions are wasted. Weaker and more expensive, but very effective when used correctly. Thusly, I think that Abyssals shouldn't easily get the same perfect defenses. There should be another charm in the tree, there should be a higher essence requirement, or there should be a higher cost.
Really, it's little things like this that tick me off about the Abyssals. People love to use the "no essence in creation" line as a claim to game balance, but the simple fact is that a lot of Abyssals are active near shadowlands, where the essence-regaining playing field is even. Further, Abyssals have a recourse for this, killing mortals. Solar lack a similar recourse (although Solar have Manses more easily, I guess).
Abyssal Linguistics might be a little better from a mechanical utility perspective, but I <i>like the Solar tree better. I think the reading-and-writing Charms are cool, even if it is odd for them to be under Linguistics instead of Lore.
The only AbyssalCharms that actually make me angry are Insensible Corpse Technique, Breath-Draining Prana, Essence Engorgement Technique, and whatever their equivalent of Surprise Anticipation Method is. My biggest problem is with EET, because I think it doesn't do a very good job of addressing the problem it's supposed to solve: Abyssals' problems regaining motes in Creation. The obvious, not-highly-susceptible-to-abuse way to do this would be to have EET simply allow you to get more motes per pint of blood drunk. Having it expand your peripheral pool is like "solving" the problem of your car getting poor mileage by increasing the size of its fuel tank.
Anyway. That's my tangential rant for the night. Move along, citizens.
I have to agree with Ikselam in his choice of 'bad' Abyssal charms. I thought that their superior version of Suprise Anticipation Method was just a product of Nephilpal having had more actual experience playing Exalted than the developers of the original charm did, and I can't see any reason why the Abyssals should have a better version. In my game I've changed them so that In Creation, the Solar version works as the Abyssal variant is written, then in the Underworld it works as in the Core Rules, and vice versa for the Abyssals. Seems to be working okay so far, and my players are grateful because now they don't have to go spending both Essence and Willpower every time they get ambushed.
I hope Mailanka posts the rest of the argument we've been promised, tonight.. :) I've had a _really_ bad past four days (My $500 paycheck bounced, I missed a day of work because my flakey car-illiterate roommate's car broke, I had a $100 erroneous charge on my checking card, and I hurt my leg, stick a fork in me I'm done) and it'll be the highlight of today to see it. :)\\ -- DaveFayram
Archery is where the Abyssals flat out win. Combo the cold arrow with the damage five times extra action charm. Unless whoever you are fighting is very lucky, or you are very unlucky than the solar is now a shivering wreck that isn't going to dodge or parry anymore of your attacks. The dirtiest thing about this is that a starting character can easily get it. You could probably also get the combo of the damage five times, with twisting spiteful shaft and essense stealing. You get all your essence back while I start on your friends. You can even stick in the perfect dodge as well, you will likely have plenty of essence. If you want I can make the specific dirty abyssal archer. -Jaelra
Hmm. By How I recall the Combo rules working.. I assume you are meaning 'Iron Sleet Attack' and 'Withering Feathered Maelstrom'. ISA is a primary charm, WFM has 3 prereq's. the combo would cost.. 2 willpower, 12 motes +4 per additiona lattack after the first (since you only get another attack if your attack hits, stopping when you have done damage a numvber of times equal to your archery of 5.) Kinda expensive.. let's say your target as dex 4: You're spending 2 willpower, 24 motes to reduce their dex to 0. hmph. If we assume a Dexterity-reducer based on Infirmity-inflicting gesture, you could probably get a similar effect for 1 WP, 20 motes. - Molikai