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Alternate, Nobilis-like Mechanics for Exalted
Some people dislike the dice-rolling and large quantity of charms involved in the mechanics for Exalted. To that end, I have produced a set of simple, abstract rules for Exalted that draw heavily on the mechanics of Nobilis. My version builds upon ExaltedNobilis, a rough outline proposed by FourWillowsWeeping. I feel they are particularly well-suited for games or scenes running during the nebulous and mythical First Age.
Characters have four attributes—Flesh, Caste, Anima, and Essence. Some of these attributes can have additional descriptors. Characters also have a pool of Motes they may draw upon during play.
Flesh is a measure of the character's ability within the realm of mundane accomplishments, even if such ability is far beyond the reach of ordinary mortals.
Caste is a measure of the character's focus within his ordained area of specialty, both in terms of an extension of the Flesh and more metaphorical aspects thereof.
Anima is a measure of the character's supernatural ability to affect the world around him in any way desired.
Essence is a measure of the character's magical strength, both providing him with his reserve of Motes as well as protecting him from hostile magic.
Actions of interest to the characters are accomplished by means of Feats. A Feat is a single act, ranging from the trivial to the Earth-shattering and from the mundane to the outright impossible. Example Feats include attacking your foe with a sword, forging a suit of armor, training a thousand peasants into an elite Legion in one week, seducing the Scarlet Empress, outrunning an explosion, and cheering a despondent comrade by cutting away his sorrow with your daiklave. Based upon the desired effect of a Feat, a difficulty number is set.
0 Commonplace. What any human could do. 1 Professional. Outperforming anyone except an expert in a relevant field. 2 World Class. Matching the performance of one of the top few individuals alive in that field. 3 Unbeatable. Anything a human could do if he were the best in the world at that field. 4 Improbable. Anything a human could only theoretically do. 5 Legendary. Something impossible that you could believe that a human once did. 6 Impossible. Doing something a human could not do without breaking the laws of physics. 7 Reality-bending. Superhero stunts, the abjectly ridiculous. 8 Breaks Local Reality. Damn near anything that's easy to imagine and doesn't affect a huge area. 9 Reality-breaking. As above, but unlimited in area. 10 Anything. The most complicated, detailed, vast, and powerful feats imaginable.
To accomplish a Feat, a character needs to employ sufficient skill to meet the difficulty number. Each attribute may or may not be relevant to the nature of the Feat, as detailed below. If the sum of a character's relevant attributes meets the difficulty of the Feat, then he can accomplish it. If not, he can expend Motes to make up the difference on a one-for-one basis. The number of Motes a character can expend on a single feat is capped as per the limits described below.
Feats are normally instantaneous actions. Feats can also be made scene-length by increasing the difficulty by 5. For the remainder of the scene, the feat will remain in effect, either continuously, or triggering whenever appropriate. For instance, as a difficulty 8 feat, an Exalt could automatically parry every attack against him for the rest of the scene with skill 3 without any need for further conscious action on his behalf.
When performing a Feat, characters can enhance the Feat with a Stunt, which is a creative description of how the character is accomplishing the desired goals. Depending on the quality of the Stunt, as per the original Exalted rules for Stunting, decrease the difficulty of the Feat by one to three.
Flesh is applicable to any mundane task, even exaggerations of them that are impossible in the world as we know it. Anything a normal human could do falls under the purview of Flesh, such as being able to fight, run, tell stories, be charming, sneak around, make plans, cook dinner, care for the sick, and paint portraits. Flesh even covers tasks such as draining a lake by drinking it, fighting an entire army bare-handed, and leaping over a mountain range. Such mythic Feats will be very difficult, but Flesh still contributes to the skill needed to accomplish them. Flesh does not apply to metaphorical effects and other attempts to bend the laws of metaphysics. Talking a blade out of wanting to hit you, literally pounding sense into someone by knocking knowledge out of a book into his head, and other such feats must rely on different attributes.
Caste has one descriptor, which is the character's caste (or aspect, for Terrestrials). Unexalted beings instead have their profession as a descriptor. Caste is applicable to anything that falls under the descriptor. This includes, of course, all the skills listed under that caste for whatever type of Exalt the character may be, as well as activities that can be interpreted to be part of that caste's role and purpose.
Anima has multiple descriptors, which are purchased separately from the rating in Anima itself. Anima may be employed in any Feat where any of its descriptors are applicable. Anima descriptors are things that the character can do or professions defined by their skillsets, usually certain areas of supernatural prowess, such as Sorcery, Scarlet Tears of Autumn Style Martial Arts, or Wandering Scholar.
Essence has one descriptor per rank the character has in it. These descriptors should cover what the character himself is like, either through properties of his personality or by listing important personal goals and motivations, such as Valorous, Subtle, Restore and Uphold the Solar Deliberative, or Provide for my Family. For each descriptor that is applicable to a Feat, the character counts one point of skill. Essence itself is not normally used when performing Feats. It is, however, used defensively; the difficulty of any undesirable Feat directed at a character is raised by the target's Essence. Feats meant affect multiple individuals must overcome their combined Essence.
Essence also grants Motes; characters have ten Motes for each rank in Essence. Spent motes recover naturally. Characters recover no motes for each hour of strenuous activity, such as combat, their Essence in Motes per hour of light activity, such as walking, and twice their Essence in Motes for each hour of rest, such as receiving massages or meditating.
For characters who are Exalted, three times their Essence in Motes is Personal, and seven times their Essence in Motes is Peripheral. Personal Essence can be spent without effect. Peripheral Motes cause an anima banner to display when used, as per the rates under normal Exalted rules, which fades over time, also at the rate given in the original Exalted rules.
Character Creation & Advancement
Characters are created with 100 points, which can be spent on attributes at the flat rates given below, which differ for each Exalted type to reflect their varying specialties. Each character type starts with one Anima descriptor for free, and can purchase others with points. Attributes other than Essence cannot be raised higher than the lower of 5 and Essence. As play progresses, characters earn experience at the same rate as under original Exalted rules, which can be spent just like the original allotment of points.
Solars & Abyssals
Flesh 10 Caste 5 Anima 10 Descriptor 10 Profession / Destruction or Necromancy Essence 15
Solars receive their mortal profession as a free Anima Descriptor, while Abyssals may choose either Destruction or Necromancy. When performing Feats, Solars and Abyssals may spend motes up to the sum of their Flesh, Caste, and Anima, if each of them is relevant to the action. Eclipse and Moonshadow Caste Exalted may purchase other forms of Caste (and analogous attributes like Aspect) normally belonging to other Exalted for 7 points per level.
Flesh 10 Caste 5 Anima 5 Descriptor 15 Shapeshifter Essence 20
Lunars receive Shapeshifter as a free Anima Descriptor. When performing Feats, Lunars may spend motes up to the sum of their Flesh and Anima, if each of them is relevant to the action.
Flesh 10 Caste 5 Anima 15 Descriptor 5 Astrology Essence 20
Sidereals receive Astrology as a free Anima Descriptor. When performing Feats, Sidereals may always spend motes up to their Essence.
Flesh 10 Caste 5 Anima 10 Descriptor 10 Prince of the Earth or Immaculate Martial Arts Essence 25
Most Dragon-Blooded receive Prince of the Earth as a free Anima Descriptor, reflecting their superior education and social status, though members of the Immaculate Order receive Immaculate Martial Arts instead. When performing Feats, Dragon-Blooded may spend motes up to the sum of their Flesh and Caste, if each of them is relevant to the action.
Flesh 5 Caste 5 Diplomat / Warrior / Entertainer / Worker / Noble Anima 10 Descriptor 10 Glamour Essence 25
In place of Caste, Fair Folk have an attribute for their Type, which functions identically and is one of Diplomat, Warrior, Entertainer, Worker, or Noble. They receive Glamour as a free Anima Descriptor. When performing Feats, Fair Folk may always spend motes up to their Anima. Fair Folk have an effective Essence of Zero when defending against attacks made with cold iron.
All forms of mortals are low enough in power to be represented by nearly identical stats which cannot be raised with experience. These fixed stats are given below. In place of Caste, they have their everyday profession.
Flesh 1 Profession 1 Anima 0 Descriptors None Essence 1
When performing Feats, Heroic Mortals may spend one mote, or two if their profession is applicable.
Flesh 0 Profession 1 Anima 0 Descriptors None Essence 1
When performing Feats, Mortals may spend one mote.
Flesh 0 Profession 1 Anima 0 Descriptors None Essence 0
Note that since Extras have Essence Zero, any number of them can be affected by a single Feat without increasing the difficulty.
Combat & Injury
Combat is divided into turns, roughly three seconds long. All characters involved in the combat state what they are doing for the turn, and these actions will all resolve simultaneously. By default, characters can perform a single Feat. If a character wishes to perform more than one Feat, then the difficulty of all the Feats he is performing is increased by the number of Feats he is performing. Feats used to injure other characters can be opposed by another Feat. If the attack is not opposed, then it will deal damage to the target equal to the difficulty of the Feat before increasing it due to the target's Essence. (That is, if a character with combined skill 5 attacks a character with Essence 2 who does not defend himself, then the defender will take 3 levels of damage.) Defending against an attack with a Feat subtracts the difficulty of the defending Feat from the damage dealt; attacks reduced to zero or less damage are not successful. The defending Feat does not have to overcome the attacker's Essence.
In addition to instantaneous Feats, persistent Feats can also be performed. By increasing the difficulty of a Feat by 5, that Feat can happen automatically whenever it is appropriate for the remainder of the scene. For example, with a Feat of difficulty 9, a character could receive an automatic defense of 4 on every attack against him for the rest of the scene. Another difficulty 9 Feat could give him a level 4 counterattack against every attack as well.
Characters can only take a limited amount of damage. Characters have three health levels, plus two health levels for every point of Flesh they have. These levels are evenly divided into +0, +1, and +2 health levels. In cases where the total number is not divisible by three, if there is one extra level, it is +1, and if there are two extra levels, they +0 and +2. When characters take damage, they check off one health level per point of damage, starting with +0 levels, then +1, and finally +2. The difficulty of all Feats a character attempts is increased by the highest health level marked off. Damage heals at the rates given in the original Exalted rules. If a character takes Ox-Body Technique as an Anima Descriptor, then he may add his Anima to his Flesh for purposes of computing how many health levels he has. When in Deadly Beastman Form, Lunars also add their Anima to their Flesh for the purpose of computing health levels. (This is cumulative; if a Lunar has Ox-Body Technique, then he receives this bonus a total of twice while in Deadly Beastman Form.)
Characters in combat will often wish to attempt collaborative Feats to attack powerful opponents. Collaborative Feats allow multiple characters to contribute to a single, more powerful Feat. Each attacker must overcome the defender's Essence individually, but any skill available past that point is added to the skill of the combined Feat. For example, two characters with applicable skill of 5 and 7 attacking a character with Essence 3 will deal (5-3)+(7-3)==6 levels of damage if the victim uses no defense. He could defend against this with a single Feat, but perhaps the defender is capable of stopping two separate attacks of 2 and 4 damage, while some of the 6 damage may get through.
Artifacts are represented as objects with attributes and one or two descriptors which can be used by the character attuned to them just like any other attribute. The attribute rating of the artifact equals its dot-rating under original Exalted rules. For example, a Daiklave is Melee:2, and would contribute two points of skill towards any task involving close-range combat. Artifact armors add their rating to the difficulty to be affect by enemy feats in combat. Artifacts purchased at character creation should generally cost five points per dot. (For reference purposes, the Eye of Autocthon is Everything:10.)
Let's show all this in action:
Glorious Anthem, a young Night Caste Solar Exalt, and her No-Moon Lunar spouse, Drinks-But-Monthly, whose totem is the camel, are engaged in a rather distracting activity.
Flesh 2 Caste:Night 3 Anima 2 Descriptors Daring Thief Essence 3 Descriptors Charming, Intuitive, Steal First Age Artifacts
Flesh 2 Caste:No-Moon 2 Anima 3 Descriptors Shapeshifter, Sorcery Essence 2 Descriptors Determined, Explore the Wyld
(Note that both are legal starting characters.)
Porkchop Handaxe, secretive Bronze Faction Sidereal Assassin, attacks them at an inopportune moment.
Flesh 3 Caste:Secrets 4 Anima 3 Descriptors Astrology, Trustworthy Advisor, Obsidian Daggers of the Heart Style Martial Arts, Relentless Hunter, Learned Doctor Essence 4 Descriptors Cynical, Handsome, Loyal, Maintain Order
Artifact: The Weeping Claw, a Hand-to-Hand:1 weapon
(Porkchop Handaxe is a much more experienced character.)
Reacting to sneak attacks is difficult, but both of the targets are very perceptive. Flesh clearly lets you sense your surroundings, as do Caste:Night and Daring Thief. Caste:No-Moon also covers perception, and Drinks-But-Monthly is in his Beastman form at the time, letting him use his enhanced Shapeshifter senses. Each of the ambushees has a skill of 7 with respect to detecting the attack.
Stealth is a natural thing, thus covered by Flesh, and definitely under the domain of Secrets. That's a skill of 7 already. Relentless Hunter might be applicable, although it leans more towards determination than sneakiness, and while Obsidian Daggers of the Heart is a vicious style, it's not particularly subtle. Porkchop could increase his skill by spending motes, but he'd rather save them, especially since his targets could as well. It doesn't matter much in any case, as both of our heros want to take defensive actions on the first turn anyway.
Glorious Anthem declares that she will Flow Like Blood, setting up a persistent dodge effect. Again, her Flesh, Caste, and Anima are applicable. This gives her 7 skill, with the option to spend up to seven motes, of which she has thirty. Figuring that keeping her own skin safe is an important priority, she splurges, yielding a total skill of 14. She uses this to set up a persistent dodge at skill 9, invoking automatically whenever she is attacked for the remained of the scene. Between her Essence of 3 and her Flow Like Blood of 9, it'll take 13 points of skill to actually hit her.
Drinks-But-Monthly wants to create a persistent rapid healing effect using the resilience of his Beastman form. Instantly healing wounds is not even remotely possible for mortals, so Flesh is not applicable. It's not a No-Moon skill either, so he has only his Anima of 3 contributing skill. However, his Essence Descriptor of Determined could reasonably apply to the tenacity needed to keep getting back up even under massive punishment, so he gets one point of skill from that, for a total of four. He can spend up to three motes, because his Anima is applicable but his Flesh is not. He does so, for a total skill of 7, allowing him to set up a persistent skill 2 healing effect each turn, which will heal him of two levels worth of injury.
Sensing the Camel-beast as the biggest threat, Porkchop Handaxe decides to focus his efforts there. Flesh is quite applicable to dealing death, as are his masterful Martial Arts, but Secrets are not, giving him a skill of 6. His weapon, The Weeping Claw, brings this up to 7. Knowing the legendary toughness of the Lunar Exalted, he decides to execute a series of vicious slashes seeking to stab his foe in the heart from both front and back. Mechanically, he is performing three attacks, and spending three motes on each (he could spend up to four motes on each, since he has an Essence of 4). With his mote expenditure, each attack has effective skill 10. This is offset by his opponent's Essence of 2 and the increased difficulty of multiple Feats, another +3. Each attack will thus deal 5 levels of injury.
Drinks-but-Monthly instantly heals two of the levels of damage, leaving him with thirteen. Since he has Flesh 2, he would normally have only seven health levels, but he is in his Beastman form, so his Anima adds to this, granting him another six health levels, for a total of thirteen. This is equal to the damage he has taken, and he is slain. The round ends.
Enraged by the grievous injury done to her mate, Glorious Anthem leaps at her foe from behind before he has time to turn around and deal with her. Her Flesh of 2 is applicable, and her clever surprise tactics allow her to apply her Night 3 as well, which is normally not usable for offensive combat actions. In addition, her player narrates the attack reasonably well and gets a Stunt Bonus of 1. She has a total of 6 skill, and can spend five motes (the sum of her applicable attributes). Figuring she should press the advantage while she can, she again spends the maximum possible, leaving her with 18 of her 30 starting motes. She is not concerned about holding back for defense, because she is protected by her awesome persistent dodge.
Porkchop Handaxe is thus facing an attack of skill 11. With his Essence of 4, this means he'll take 7 damage if he does nothing. Since his Flesh is 3, he has nine health levels, and will survive the onslaught, but it won't be fun. He decides to try to block the attack. He also notes that his opponent is flowing and shimmering strangely, and he knows that she is nearly impossible to hit. (In fact, with his combined skill of 7 and the ability to only spend 4 motes on a Feat, he can't hit her at all unless he stunts well or creates extenuating circumstances.) Noting this, he decides that one target down is enough for today, and that a retreat is in order. He would like to take a second action, invoking the Avoidance Kata and writing himself out of the scene entirely. This is an absolutely impossible effect the Storyteller rules is difficulty 6.
For the Avoidance Kata, Porkchop Handaxe's only applicable attribute is his Secrets, as covering up the actions of the masters of Fate is a very secretive thing to do. He's performing two Feats, so the difficulty of 6 is increased to an 8. If he spends a full four motes, he just makes it. For the purposes of blocking the attack, his combat skill is still 7, as before. By itself, this will let him block five levels of damage, since he is acting at +2 difficulty due to performing two Feats. He decides to spend the other two motes to keep his skin unscathed, then his Fate rewrites itself so that he was elsewhere the whole time. Glorious Anthem is left in tears over the body of her lover, who has clearly suffered a heart attack so terrible that the force of it burst through his chest both front and back.
This is really cool. dude. -w