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#1: Protocols or Why Doesn't Your Group Use Them Already

I can't believe I glossed over this style when I got the PG.
I thought to myself, oh, it's just a Terrestrial style, what could possibly be in there?

Really. Seriously. Why don't you? Have you even read the protocol rules?
"Oh," you say "It's a multi-person combo! Neat, but not game breaking."

Well, I'm not here to talk about the combo part.
In fact, that's not why protocols are powerful at all.
At that point they're useful, but can get xp costly if you're actually throwing useful Charms in them and especially if you aren't Dragon-Blooded since the costs are doubled.

Let's open our books, shall we?
Player's Guide, pg 242, Five Directions Formation Protocol, paragraphs 9 & 10 in the charm.
Specifically, paragraph 9, line 1, and paragraph 10, line 2.

The first one states that if you have a Charm with a duration longer than instant, you can give its effects to your buddies at minimal cost - 1 mote per person.

And the second one reads that those Charms last as long as they normally would have. In that case of scene long charms, they get them for the rest of the scene.

Now, if you've got a group that works well together and you can get everyone to focus on different aspects of scene-long ass-kicking, you've got yourself made.

Example: Four Solars have a protocol they know. It's got Thunderclap Rush Attack and some other cheap, reflexive charms. Turn one: Solar A activates Five Fold Bulwark Stance, Solar B activates Flow Like Blood, Solar C activates Terrifying Apparition of Glory, and Solar D uses Glorious Solar Plate. Turn two: They activate the protocol and bleed the effects to one another. Now all four have all those charms active on themselves, and since all the charms in the protocol were Reflexive, they can still do whatever they want to. And since Thunderclap Rush was included, they also have initiative if they want it. If they break the protocol, they lose access to whatever charms were in the protocol, but that's not why they had the protocol in the first place.
You'll notice power-up time is dramatically decreased. If one Solar tried to activate all those in combat, it'd take 4 turns, and then he could finally do something on the fifth, and on whatever turn FFBS was activated. This takes it down to one turn for a whole group, and on the second they have the initiative. Sick? Deliciously so.

So, what about those first 8 paragraphs in Five Direction Formation Protocol? Don't need 'em, other than that they tell you how to build the protocols themselves. They key is to keep your protocols as cheap as possible. Protocols can get pretty pricey since everyone must donate at least one Charm to the combo. The key is to find the cheapest Reflexive charms you can. Reflexive, so you can still do whatever you want after you bleed all your nifty effects to one another, and preferably something that helps out with initiative. Luckily, those type of effects tend to be pretty low on the requirements.

Let's try it with a mixed group. A couple Solars, a couple Sidereals, and a Dragon-Blooded.

Turn one: Solar A - Flow Like Blood, Solar B - Four Halo Golden Monkey Realignment, Sidereal A - Four Magical Materials Form, Sidereal B - Maxed out Blade of the Battle Maiden, Dragon-Blooded - Bellows-Pumping Stride. Turn two, protocol. What we have now is every one at double movement, +a bunch of dice to MA attacks and parries, a reflexive MA parry, and a reflexive dodge. Oh, and Four Magical Materials Form. Congratulations, you managed to get a DB to use an SMA charm! For a scene no less! If the group's Siddys don't get a Salary increase for figuring that little nugget out I'd be suprised. This could be the path to getting DBs armed with SMA. Isn't that a happy thought to all the DB lovers out there?

In a Sidereal group where everyone knows the various scene long SMA effects, this can be absolutely terrifying. Take four Sids, for example.

Sidereal A - Prismatic Arrangement of Creation Form. Sid B - Charcol March of Spiders Form. Sid C - Four Magical Materials Forms. Sid D - Maxed Blade of the Battle Maiden. Now everyone is combat hardened, has 3 independant actions, whatever else CMoS Form does, and loads of extra dice. Throw in a guy who knows Demense Emulation Practice and everyone's doing Agg damage as well.

The protocol approach is also extremely mote efficient for the power output everyone's getting. Okay, maybe not for the guy who's maxing his BotBM in the examples, but it's still better than if he did it and didn't share. Consider: When you activate Flow Like Blood (5 motes, 1 willpower) it's a good scene-long effect. Say there are four other people in your group. Now the cost is effectively 9 motes, 2 willpower, and now 5 people have it active. If everyone else spends the mere 4 motes and 1 willpower as well, you've got four extra Charms active on you that didn't cost you a thing.

However, there are some drawbacks. It's all about people working together, and that can be a hard thing to get working. Everyone in the protocol has to be present and everyone has to be within 10 yards of one of the other people involved. If one of your teammates decides that things are currently better solved by Monkey Leaping somewhere inconvenient for everyone else, there's no getting around it. That's why you make your protocols with the cheap, reflexive stuff. That way you can have one for when Monkey Leap boy is there, and one for when he's gone away, and maybe on for when the group has to split up. Shaggy and Scoobie always went together and Fred, Daphne, and Velma were always in the other group. Now you know why: Protocols.

Another drawback is the experience needed to get to the point where this is can be really effective. The people who tend to get the juicy, good, scene long stuff aren't the DBs, so they have to pay double xp. And this isn't something a group of starting characters should try to pull off right out of the gate. Five of their charms would be eaten up to get the Five Directions Formation Protocol, and then sacrificing the rest just to get a good scene-lengther isn't a good idea. First, the tree you go up might not have a good cheap, reflexive charm, and second you'd be buying your protocols with bonus points which are better spent elsewhere at charcter creation.

Granted since the cost is split everyone would probably only be paying the one bonus point for the Charm they're adding to it, but you're still hanging your entire group's survival on the fact that in you first game sessions every time something goes dowm you're all going to be 10 yards apart and ready to go. Try to build a solid foundation for your twinking. If your character doesn't survive he's never going to be the demigod that makes your Storyteller weep with confusion and desperation. And here you're building a whole group of 'em.

"Well," you say "This is all well and good, but getting my group to work together is like herding cats. Not gonna happen."

Well, them's the breaks. Someone (haren actually) suggested using mortals trained in Crimson Blade to power a protocol. A sound idea, and while in the style there are 5 charms that can be donated to a combo, alas mortals, ghosts, and even the God-blooded may never combo any Martial Arts charms they learn. I was excited and giddy at first, and now my dreams of orichalcum-sheathed, starmetal-clawed, five jade furied mortals are shattered. However, it's probably for the best.

Edit: Don't discount the use of mortals quite yet. As is noted is the comments below other magical enhancements might give the unExalted the oomph they need to do it, but super-enhancing mortals will have to wait until another issue. If you can get your ST to allow some way of letting it happen, either through Power Awarding Prana or some custom means, that changes things a bit. One, you don't need the other PCs to focus on this protocol thing with you, but two, you're only going to be distributing one scene-long among a bunch of mortals and not really getting anything back for it. However, if that one scene long is Four Magical Materials Form (a personal favorite) or some other high-powered effect, you've got quite the suprise army under your command.

See you next issue.


Well, it says that they can't combo MA charms, but depending on what you're playing, that doesn't mean your mortal flunkies can't be in on the fun! For just Solars, I have 3 words: Power-Awarding Prana. If we're assuming anyone but a DB with the Mantle of Brigid, then how about taking about 2 days to Imbue them with the power of sorcery enhancements? ^_^ Sure, maybe your ST won't allow (and almost certainly won't approve of it, unless he awards clever bending of ideas.), but what have you got to loose by trying? - haren

The thing is, as is written they couldn't say "I buy a protocol" any more than they could say "I buy a combo." I'd forgotten about Power-Awarding Prana though, and that would probably do the trick as might any of the other 'power awarding' Charms out there. Making them Amalgams or other sorcerous enhancements might work. Heck, you could just have someone develop a superior version of the Charm, a custom spell, or some kind of atrifact that let it happen. - Mnemosynis

sighs in relief It wasn't just me who saw the sheer twink potential of Protocols, though I admit I didnt explore the SMA aspects of it, merely celestial styles. and Eagle wing style (flying attack squadron of DOOM). Oh, and With One Mind, so that when your circle has all its Golden Monkey / Fivefold Bulkwark parries up, everyone in the circle can benefit from all of them, getting you many parries per attack, as well as the other boosts it gives. - Kraken
P.S. While Power-Awarding Prana is nice, if I recall correctly, the costs are paid by the Solar who does the imbuing, so he has to have a very large mote pool to pay for the Power-Awarding, then the charm itself, then the bleeding too.

I will admit that Power-Awarding Prana is expensive, short-term, and probably not the primary way you'll want to do things. Imbue Amalgam is by far the superior choice, but not everyone has that option. I think that Power-Awarding is sort of the "in a pinch" way of doing it. Just give someone a reflexive charm that's cheap. Alot of dice adders fit that bill. ^_^ - haren

Brilliant. This is the way that Solar-slaying Wyld Hunt talons are made. Immaculates supplementing their one- or two-Dragon Style mastery with a touch of Sidereal MA (even something as elemental and easy for a Sidereal to obtain as the Unnatural Many-Step Stride or the Dance of the Hungry Spider) and the power to overlap their powers! It's like if Captain Planet were a swarm. There are some truly bone-chilling combinations of MartialArts on the Wiki that I want to try out with this.

Unfortunately, without the Prismatic Arrangement of Creation Form, it's more likely than not that you will be reduced to attacking bare-handed, which isn't necessarily the best place for a group of speardancers to be. Partiularly if the use of the Five Directions Formation Protocol limits the users to the weapons of the Crimson Pentacle Blade Style, which doesn't seem to share any weaponry with the Celestial and Sidereal styles that we know. - willows

Having reread the protocol rules is seems like, yes, on the turn the protocol is actually in use you'd be limited to using Crimson Pentacle weapons as per normal MA Charm rules, however the bled effects of other Charms seem to be a more secondary side effect of the Charm, and the weapon restriction wouldn't actually be in effect while you weren't actually using protocols. Meaning a melee-oriented Solar group could power-up and then whip out their daiklaives. Though an argument could easily made for not allowing such things, this's the way I'd be inclined to rule it as breaking the 10 yard limit doesn't end the scene-long effects, while that would immedietly stop an actual protocol in use. Though if you bled an MA form of some sort you'd be restricted to whatever weapons that allowed. -- Mnemosynis

This analysis definitely contributes to my impression that parts of CPB are much too useful to be in a Terrestrial tree. Of course, parts of it completely suck, but still. _Ikselam

I haven't read the Protocol rules yet (lacking the DB book, le sigh), but I would like to point out that in the example

Sidereal A - Prismatic Arrangement of Creation Form. Sid B - Charcol March of Spiders Form. Sid C - Four Magical Materials Forms. Sid D - Maxed Blade of the Battle Maiden. Now everyone is combat hardened, has 3 independant actions, whatever else CMoS Form does, and loads of extra dice.

you're attempting to combine three Forms- Like I said, I don't know about the rest of it, but that at least will not work. "A character can only benefit from one Martial Arts Form-type charm at a time." Nitpicking!  ;) &Arafelis

Clearly, Arafelis, you've also not read Sidereals. Prismatic Arrangement of Creation Form, in addition to its other effects, allows the user to use two additional Forms at the same time. - willows

Finally, Crimson Pentacle style is in the Player's Guide, not the Dragon Blooded book, for any confused.
-- Darloth