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Playing a Support Character

The key to playing and enjoying a support character is understanding one’s role in the story. Support characters are never the hero of the story, but they can be heroic and can be the hero of an appropriate situation within the story. They can save the day, if that is within their concept, but in the end they aren’t going to overshadow the Hero in importance to the outcome of the story itself. Han Solo, for example, redeems himself at the end of Star Wars IV by returning to the rebel fleet and making it possible for Luke to fulfill his destiny in destroying the Death Star.

Support Characters invariably define themselves by how they relate to the Hero. They have specific roles to play, and playing those roles correctly is the key to having fun with them. Obi-Wan Kenobi is mentor to Luke. Han Solo is both comic relief and a foil to Luke’s naiveté and optimistic outlook. Lea is the damsel-in-distress, but quickly turns that on its head.

It is important to note that although Support Characters play a subservient role to the Hero in the course of the story, they are not subservient to the Hero in how useful they are or how enjoyable they are to play. Support Characters are often more wise and/or powerful than the Hero. They always have skill sets that the Hero does not that ultimately prove essential to the overall outcome of the story. They can also be more downright fun. While the Hero contends with self-sacrifice (the fundamental Hero concept), the Support Characters need not focus on such a serious matter and are free to be motivated by whatever the player so chooses. Although Obi-Wan is chiefly concerned with training Luke so as to defeat the Empire, Han is concerned with himself and saving his own skin.

Support Characters are extremely varied in concept and design, and offer much greater flexibility of choice in character creation than does the Hero.

Support Character Creation

Most of the normal rules for Exalted character creation apply here. The default template we will be using for Support Characters is the outcaste Dragon-Blood template. That is because, although the Jade Isle is located near to the Blessed Isle and also to Lookshy, neither type of Terrestrial Exalt is likely to come to Two Rivers School of Enlightenment and Martial Arts to train, as very few will have heard of it. And all characters—Support or Hero—must begin the game as students at the school. It’s also a good default power level for the game.

Other concepts are viable in this game, and I will consider any reasonable request for a character concept. I will judge the character based on relevancy to this game as well as in regard to game balance, although raw power will not be my only guide. Role, uniqueness, and usefulness will play a larger role in guiding us than raw might. Since other concepts may require different rules, those below are only for Dragon-Bloods.

Be sure to see my Houserules and those employed by Prax and the Black Orchid Society for changes I will be employing in-game.

Step I: Choose Concept

Choose Archetype, concept, elemental aspect, and Motivation.

All characters begin play as advanced students at the Two Rivers School of Enlightenment and Martial Arts. As such players should choose a Martial Arts concept for their characters. Players are strongly encouraged to further define the concept so as to differentiate their character from the others.

All normal rules apply, except all Support Characters should choose at least one, and often more than one, Archetype that defines his or her role in the story. You are free to invent your own Archetype, but appropriate sample Archetypes include:

  • Adversary - This is not the villain. Rather, this is a character who challenges the Hero and his ability to succeed. The Adversary antogonizes the hero, questioning his course, his decisions, and his very being. The Adversary may do so directly, but more often these challenges are more subtle and the Adversary may be very innocent in his challenges. For example, the Adversary may simply be a natural leader whose decisions limit the Hero's abilities. The challenge the Adversary presents is something the Hero must overcome.
  • Anti-Hero – The foil to the Hero, his beliefs and Motivation are often at odds with the purity or innocence of the Hero. That is not to say he works against the Hero, as that is the role of the Shadow or Villain. Rather, the Anti-Hero is on the Hero’s side, but often for different reasons. Han Solo is Anti-Hero to Luke.
  • Damsel-In-Distress – In Exalted this should not be the helpless princess in a tower, as that is anti-thematic. However this is always a character who needs the aid of the Hero for one reason or another. This character is often a love interest of the Hero, but need not serve that role. It also does not need to be female. It is simply a character who needs the Hero's help for personal reasons.
  • Guardian – The Guardian is a warrior who protects the Hero, either because the Hero is weak or because there is a threat that the Hero cannot face because of some lacking quality or ability. The Guardian serves because of duty, because his own moral code demands it, and not out of affection or love for the Hero.
  • Love Interest - This character is specifically there so that the Hero might win his or her affection. That is not, however, to say that he or she is all sappy and lovey with the Hero from the get go. Often times Love Interests are also Anti-Heroes or Shapeshifters. They might not get along with the Hero for one reason or another. Or they might have some quality that makes them unatainable. In other words, this is a character's whose heart must be won or earned, and doing that can be as great an obstacle as the Hero will face the entire story.
  • Loyalist - This character is perhaps the most trusted companion the Hero has. Very often strong, brooding, and quiet, this character is unquestionably loyal to the Hero and the Hero knows he may call upon this character to do whatever is necessary when the time comes, even if it means his own life. This dog-like archetype is commonly paired with Guardian or Soldier, and this character is very often a brawler or scrapper.
  • Older Sibling - The Older Sibling archetype acts a mentor for the Hero. Although the more traditional mentor archetype is filled through the character of Master Li, the Older Sibling archetype plays a quite different role. This is an older, wiser character who looks out for and guides the Hero along the Journey while participating in the action. Although this archetype is called Older Sibling, the character need not actually be related to the Hero. This character typically has a close relationship with the Hero, and trust and mutual affection between the characters are common.
  • Shaman – The shaman understands the deeper mysteries of the universe. He acts as a guide to these mysteries and through them aids the Hero along his journey. The Shaman need not be a sorcerer, but usually is. He is often deeply mysterious him or herself, and the Hero often cannot understand the shaman's world. Sometimes this manifests in the shaman's personality, and he can be brooding or distant or kooky or somehow off as far as the Hero is concerned.
  • Shapeshifter - The Shapeshifter is a difficult archetype to understand. The shapeshifter is a character whose role will change during the course of the story, perhaps more than once. She wears a mask that misleads the Hero by hiding the character's intentions and loyalties. The shapeshifter's alliances and loyalty are often uncertain, and the sincerity of her claims are often questionable. This keeps the hero off guard and forces the Hero to question beliefs and assumptions. The shapeshifter is very commonly also a Love-Interest.
  • Soldier - The Soldier is a fighting companion to the Hero. Unlike the Guardian, he does not work specifically to protect the Hero. He is a fellow warrior, and a stalwart one.
  • Trickster - The Trickster is a clown, a mischief maker. He provides the comedy relief that a story often needs to offset heavy dramatic tension. The trickster keeps things in proportion. The trickster usually represents the force of cunning, and is pitted against opponents who are stronger or more powerful.
  • Younger Sibling - The opposite of the Older Sibling. The Younger Sibling is less wise and less experienced than the Hero, and the Hero needs to look out for her by playing the role of Older Sibling. This character typically has a close relationship with the Hero, and trust and mutual affection between the characters are common.

Step II: Choose Attributes

All normal rules apply. Dragon Blooded characters start with 7/6/4 to distribute among the nine attributes.

Step III: Choose Abilities

Characters must begin play with Martial Arts ooo or higher, and Martial Arts must be a favored Ability. Outcastes start with 25 Ability Points, at least 13 of which must be from Aspect or Favored Abilities; at least one dot must be in each Favored Ability; none may be higher than ooo without spending bonus points. Taking a fifth dot in any Abilitiy costs double. No character may take a combat related specialty above +1 at character creation, except in punches, kicks, clinches, or other forms of unarmed combat, which may be up to +3.

Step IV: Choose Advantages

I have modified the rules for some Advantages. See below.

  • Choose Backgrounds (7 — except for breeding, use Backgrounds from Exalted Core and from Scroll of the Monk; Mentor ooooo is free; Artifact is not permitted without my express permission, and only at double cost and when its use is for character enhancement and not just a dice adder; three new Backgrounds are available; no background other than Mentor may be higher than ooo without spending bonus points; taking a fifth dot in any Background costs double).
  • Choose Charms (7 Dragon Blooded Charms, at least 4 of which must be from Aspect or Favored Abilities; Characters may not elect to take the Celestial Martial Arts option per the normal rules, nor may they select Terrestrial Circle Sorcery. Instead a character who wants Celestial Martial Arts or Celestial Circle Sorcery should see the new Backgrounds, which are more powerful anyway).
  • Choose Virtues (5 - none may be higher than ooo without spending bonus points).
  • Choose Intimacies (Up to starting Compassion. All support characters should begin play with an intimacy focused on Master Li, The Two Rivers School, or the Hero. All three are viable. I will accept a character who does not have an intimacy to any of these three if and only if good reason is given (I define "good")).

Step V: Finishing Touches

Record Essence (2), Willpower (sum of character's two highest Virtues), Personal Essence pool (Essence + Willpower + any gained from Breeding), Peripheral Essence pool ([Essence x 4] + Willpower + [sum of the two highest Virtues] + any gained from Breeding) and health levels (7 + any gained from Charms).

Bonus Points

Bonus Points (15) may be spent at any time during character creation.


Post some if you want.

- Created by Yeled