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The Exalted practice supernatural Martial Arts. Mortals generally do not, unless they spend years and years in Immaculate temples. For a mortal to unlock his Essence reserves to the point where this practice is viable is nearly absurd. Therefore, the concepts of "Chakra" were created. While not all Martial Artists think of them in this way, the sensei and developers of the Underground Styles, as Sidereal savants refer to them, knew that the only way to challenge the Dragon-blooded in the martial realm was to develop seats of power for mortals, in their own body.
There are five chakra in all, and while each style defines them differently, the seats of power remain the same. The Talon, or hand chakra, is the first to be learned. The disciple learns to focus their inner strength, purity of will, through the hand and into outer force. The Shield, or foot chakra, is the second. The disciple learns to focus their chi into a defensive barrier, hardening themselves against assault by physical force. The Crown, or head chakra, is the third. This is where the styles begin to diverge from one another, as the Crown chakra teaches the disciple the true meaning, the essence, so to speak, of the art they practice. Next are the Heart, or torso, chakra, unlocking the inner mystery of the style and marking the disciple as a true initiate, and the rarely mastered, and even rarer seen, Spirit chakra. It is rumored that each Spirit chakra power has a unique location, and a similarly unique power, though always true to the Heart.
Each style defines their chakra, mechanically speaking, by a different statistic. Four Mountains Fist style, for example, follows the Strength / Stamina / Conviction / Valor / Willpower model, while Purity of Soul style follows the Willpower / Conviction / Temperance / Valor / Compassion pattern. These traits correspond to the Talon / Shield / Crown / Heart / Spirit chakra. These chakra are "activated" by spending a point of temporary Willpower.
The differences between Exalted and Mortal martial arts lie in theme. Whereas an Exalted martial art, even one as narrowly focused as Five Dragons style, will have a variety of maneuvers and tricks, a Mortal martial art will focus exclusively on one thing, or set of things. Which is why each style has only 5 "supernatural" maneuvers. Due to the fact that even the sidereals aren't sure whether it's Essence that is channeled through the chakra, they tends to be exclusive. Exclusive how? Total concentration on one chakra (without certain forms and/or merits) as opposed to flowing Essence between maneuvers and forms. Only one chakra may be activated at once, unless a special merit is possessed.
- Martial Adept (5 points for mortals; 7 for Exalted)
- Prerequisites: Martial Arts as a favored ability.
- Some people have natural balance in their spirits and Essence flows. Some can only find this balance through intensive training. Either way, for those who acquire such balance, the limits they can reach with their martial arts are higher than most. Practitioners of the mortal arts of Chakra who possess this merit may activate an additional Chakra at the same time as the one they can normally have active. Practitioners of the Exalted arts of Essence may have one additional form-type charm active during a scene. When interacting with Prismatic Arrangement of Creation Form, this merit allows one form outside the prerequisite forms to be active, or for three outside forms to be active instead of the prerequisite forms. This merit is specifically allowed to be purchased with experience points, as per the other mystic merits for Thaumaturges in the Player's Guide. In addition to experience points, a character undergoing the training may trade in levels of the Lucky or Destiny merits to put those points into this merit.
- Born Martial Artist (5 points for mortals ; 3 for Exalted)
- Prerequisites: Martial Adept, Prodigy merit for Martial Arts.
- Above the merely adept, some martial artists seem to have been born under a star of destiny. These gifted fighters learn the most difficult combos of their style in mere days, and go on to develop wild, unheard-of techniques that others could not hope to master. Practitioners of Chakra with this merit may activate a total of three of their Chakra at once. Exalted martial artists with this merit may activate multiple form-type charms in a single Simple action, if they pay the experience points and take the training time to place the forms in a Combo. This merit is specifically allowed to be purchased with experience points, but the training requires the help of an astrologer. Sidereal Astrology can bring about the auspicious moment within a week, so long as the student trains and meditates until the epiphany is reached. The mortal Art of Astrology can only predict when in the next year the auspicious moment may arise. Using this method, it is necesssary to train every day at the appointed auspicious times, in order not to miss the appointment with destiny. In addition to experience points, a character undergoing the training may trade in levels of the Lucky or Destiny merits to put those points into this merit.
Each Chakra costs the same as an Art to purchase: 5 Bonus Points or 5 Experience Points. When purchasing Chakra with Experience Points, the training time for mortals is a number of weeks equal to the level of the Chakra (Talon = 1, Shield = 2, Crown = 3, etc.). For Exalts, it takes this number of days only. Due to the fact that the training regimens of these styles are designed for mortals, and very few Exalts deign to learn such lowly arts, most Exalted characters who actually wish to learn these styles must train independently of mortal masters. Thus, it usually takes twice the level of the Chakra in days, due to self-teaching. This is still less time than a mortal would spend, of course, but it is a minor source of annoyance that contributes to the general Exalted disdain for the Underground Arts.
Chakra add a certain amount of bonus, based on their related traits. Usually, activating a chakra adds a dice bonus to certain actions equal to the related trait, for a number of full turns equal to the trait (these dice bonuses count against the limit for dice bonuses from charms that any given Exalt type has). Willpower usually adds half its rating, but because of this proportional difficulty to gain a higher bonus, the effects usually for a whole scene. The duration may increase at later levels, especially Heart and Spirit. The range of applications for the bonus usually also increases. The following show some possible examples of these bonuses in practice.
Four Mountains Fist style (Form Weapons: Hammers, Sledges, Staves other than 7-section. This style is compatible with armor.)
- Strength - Talon
- The student of Four Mountains Fist first trains by applying his strength in a liberal yet focused manner. This begins with breaking boards, then proceeds to logs, living trees, and then to rocks. The rocks cannot usually be broken by mortals without mastering the Talon Chakra. Exalted sometimes have difficulty holding themselves back to complete such rudimentary training. When the Four Mountains Talon is active, the student does lethal damage with unarmed strikes, and adds his Strength in additional bonus dice to damage with attacks using the form's weapons. This Chakra lasts for the standard time: a number of full turns equal to Strength. The student must wait for the same number of full turns after the Chakra focus ends before activating it again.
- Stamina - Shield
- The next step up the Four Mountains is to meditate beneath a waterfall. Until the student can stand upright, they have not completed the training. The Four Mountains Shield doubles the student's Stamina with regards to Bashing soak, and allows him to soak Lethal damage with his full stamina (this is unchanged for Exalts, despite the comparative lack of benefit to them; this counts towards the limitations on Lunar soak charms). This Chakra lasts for the standard duration also: a number of full turns equal to Stamina. Due to the inherent weakness in soaking damage, this Chakra has no wait time.
- Conviction - Crown
- At the pinnacle of the first mountain, the student becomes a true practitioner of the Four Mountains style. Yet, standing in the way of this achievement is the student's master. After the physical training is complete, the master will declare his student to be an utter failure. The master will berate and admonish his student constantly, never giving him a moment's peace, and doing everything within his power to drive the student away. Only those students who are willing to endure this punishment constantly are allowed to continue training. If the student continues with his former exercises for a month of this treatment, the master's tone changes again; the student has graduated, and become a practitioner of the art. The master then explains the secret the student has learned: the Four Mountains Crown. With this Chakra, the student resists a number of dice of penalties (from almost anything, including wound penalties and other distractions, though not multiple action penalties) equal to his Conviction. The penalties so reduced are any that result from external or internal distractions such as pain, itch, wind, noise, etc. Impaired vision, unstable ground, and other things that would physically make actions more difficult are unaffected. This Chakra lasts for the standard time: a number of full turns equal to Conviction. Due to its incredible power, and the stress of the factors the practitioner ignores, this Chakra may be activated only once per scene.
- Valor - Heart
- To become a master of Four Mountains, it is not enough to be strong and dedicated. Fear, even of death, must be eradicated. The practitioner who wishes to achieve mastery sears his own flesh with hot tongs every day, inscribing sutras onto his body. His master provides him with charts of the body to memorize, then takes them away after a week of study, and tests the practitioner by requiring him to pierce his body with a dagger four times. If the practitioner was lax in his memorization, or if he does not trust his memory, his hand will falter and he will wound himself mortally. If he follows the procedure correctly, he will be fine save for a little bleeding, and will have mastered the Heart of the Four Mountains. To be rooted in the Heart of Four Mountains is to be certain and immovable: while the Heart is active, the master adds his Valor to his Hardness scores, with a maximum Hardness equal to his Soak scores. This applies to any armor the master wears, and lasts for the standard duration of a number of full turns equal to Valor.
- Willpower - Spirit
- There is no set training method to achieve the Spirit of the Four Mountains. The only text which exists concerning it is this, a sutra written by the style's oldes living master, Zhan Shinbo: "Tranquility is ferocity in slumber. To shout in the valley between four mountains is to be crushed by four avalanches. Be tranquil and slow to move. If you are forced to move, do not fall alone. The mountains change, but slowly. To be in the spirit of four mountains is to transcend the need for change, as your spirit encompasses all. Haste is irrelevant to the mountain, for it does not move, and needs not go anywhere. In the spirit of four mountains, one is already everywhere one needs to be." The Spirit of Four Mountains is unique, in that it is not activated for a duration. It is activated reflexively when the grandmaster is attacked, allowing the grandmaster to counterattack with a dice pool no larger than his normal Dexterity + Martial Arts dice pool, or his Willpower, whichever is smaller. This Chakra may be activated while another one is activated, though it may not gain the benefits of any other Chakra effects unless the grandmaster has the appropriate Merit.
Purity of Soul style (Not compatible with weapons or armor)
- Willpower - Talon
- Students learning Purity of Soul begin with extended periods of reflective meditation. Actually, they begin with extended periods of not being allowed to enter the dojo. Students who stay outside without food or water for a week are allowed in, and instructed in how that patience can be a weapon. When the Purity of Soul Talon is active, the student gains half her willpower as a pool of bonus dice to be allocated to any rolls she makes. This pool refreshes each turn. This Chakra lasts for the entire scene.
- Conviction - Shield
- After the first week of waiting outside the dojo, and the day of instruction that follows, the student is in for more waiting inside the dojo. This time, the student must remain in her room all day, every day, while smelling the delicious food that the masters spend much of their time preparing. Each evening, the student receives a bowl of water and a bowl of gruel. If she maintains composure for two weeks of this treatment, the student is invited to a lavish banquet and taught the meaning of her fasting. During the feast, she learns that she truly doesn't desire the succulent treats as much as before, and therefore the ones she does eat are more succulent because she eats more slowly. Self-control thus allows the student to take control of her situation. While the Purity of Soul Shield is active, the student gains a bonus equal to her Conviction to a number of parries per turn equal to her Conviction. She may also use any number of these bonuses as dice for reflexive parries. This Chakra has a wait time equal to Conviction.
- Temperance - Crown
- For the next month, the student participates in the banquets, giving her the opportunity to eat whatever she wants, as well as the chance to debate philosophy with the masters and other advanced students. It is at this time that the advanced students are actually led in the physical practice of fighting by the masters as well. The training is quite intense, making up for any amount the student might eat at the banquets. There are no graduated practitioners at the table, however, and the students eventually notice that the masters do not eat. Attempts to ask about this are met with deft changes of subject from the masters. Eventually, the student must figure it out herself. Those who gain insight into the meaning of this divorce themselves from the banquet table, returning to their meals of gruel alone in their rooms. After all, if they do not need the food, why even eat it? If a student sticks to the gruel again for a week, she graduates and is lauded as a true practitioner of the style. The Purity of Soul Crown grants its practitioners mastery over themselves. Penalties due to external circumstances, such as darkness, exposure to cold, and rain are reduced by a number of dice equal to the practitioner's Temperance. This Crown lasts for turns equal to Temperence, and has an equal wait time.
- Valor - Heart
- To become a master in Purity of Soul is an utterly different process from the curriculum taught to students. A practitioner who would master the art faces the fearsome task of defeating all the masters of his dojo, of whom there are always at least three, representing the Trinity of Perfected Understanding. Masters must be skilled in deadly arts, capable of crippling a man, but use them with such precision that they need not kill. Any practitioner who kills a master in the course of this learning does indeed master the Purity of Soul Heart Chakra, but she would immediately be cast out of the dojo, and possibly killed for her crime. The Purity of Soul Heart adds bonus dice to the master's martial arts damage rolls equal to her Valor, and makes her martial arts damage lethal. This lasts for the standard amount of time: full turns equal to her Valor, and has the same wait time.
- Compassion - Spirit
- Grandmasters of Purity of Soul exist only in fond dreams and memory. The secrets of this mastery are utterly lost to all existing dojo, though some savants claim that there never were any written tantras or sutras for this mastery in any case. It was to be passed on by word of mouth only, but all (or all known) grandmasters must have died in the great contagion. The eldest masters speak of their grandmasters as itinerant monks, who did not stay at any one dojo. They would travel the roads of Creation with nothing more than their clothes and a hat, surviving based on the kindnesses they gave to strangers, and the gratitude those strangers showed in return. Brigands posed no threat to these serene masters, their blades never seeming to find the right mark. While the Purity of Soul Spirit is in effect, a number of successfully-parried attacks equal to the grandmaster's Compassion may be re-directed at any other person within the reach of the attack, including the original attacker; this also applies to ranged attacks. These re-directions are counted from the time the willpower is spent to the end of the scene or when they are used up, whichever comes first. This Chakra provides no bonus to parrying the attacks, it simply causes them to go a certain way when they are successfully parried. It also does not apply to attacks which are dodged, or attacks which are parried using an Ability other than Martial Arts. Of course, this powerful Chakra has a wait time after the last redirection is expended equal to Compassion.
- Obviously, this stuff isn't done yet. Comments on the continuing creation process are welcome.
- Important to note: Chakra arts can be learned by Exalted characters, Fair Folk possessing the Root of the Perfected Lotus mutation charm, Mountain Folk, God-blooded, and any other being who could be classified in some way as human. These arts may not be learned by spirits, Alchemical Exalted, demons, or the like, due to their lack of the same metaphysical structure as the mortals who developed these arts. Those who learn the arts and are not Exalted are considered mortals for the purposes of buying the Martial Adept and Born Martial Artist merits, and for the purposes of training times.
- At this time, Chakra may be activated at a cost of 3 motes instead of 1 willpower by those with the ability to spend Essence, just like Thaumaturgical Arts. We are considering requiring a special Merit to do this, or not allowing it at all.
Ew, man. Wasn't TMA degrading enough? - willows
- How do you mean? We're creating this because several players are interested in playing heroic mortals and/or God-Blooded, and such characters don't ever get the kind of Essence pools that Exalts do. Thus, it's cool to have something at a level we can play with. Also, the Exalted styles don't seem so powerful if there's nothing to compare them to. Sorcery is great, for instance, but you appreciate its power even more when you look at mortal Thaumaturgy and think how much difference it makes to even practice Terrestrial spellcasting. - IanPrice
- Just to restate (partly because I did have to get my Creator's Credit (TM) in, this is most definitely a work in progress. I do have a major story arc planned in the game which will feature there, and there's a world-based reasoning behind them (besides the Just Plain Cool factor, which I will eagerly admit I fall prey to on a regular basis). The mechanics presented here are actually not the ones I had in mind, although thematically they're right on target, and mechanically they do about what I wanted. They sit a little bit high on the power curve for what I had in mind, but that's something which will be revised. So, add any comments you'd like, since I am very interested in seeing what others think! -SteveMattson
(Page created by IanPrice, rules credited to my storyteller Steve Mattson.)