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Merit and Flaw Abuse

This page is about holes in the Merits & Flaws system. Here is a collection of Flaws that are overvalued, Merits that are too good, and just plain abusive combinations. (Any flaw or merit that is just too cool not to take should also be on these lists.) At the end is also a list of Flaws that are too harsh for their point value, and Merits that don't do enough. Feel free to add any others that you can think of.

Note: if a variable cost Merit/Flaw is listed as having only a single cost, or only part of its actual range, it is because the described exploit only exists for the given point level.


1. Superstition (Unlimited points)
According to this, being Jewish is (in theory) a 39+ point Flaw. Why? Because you think that the following animals are "unclean and unfit for human consumption":

camel, rock badger, hare, pig, lobsters, oysters, shrimp, clams, crabs, eagle, great vulture, the bearded vulture, osprey, kite, falcon, raven, ostrich, night-hawk, sea-mew, little owl, the cormorant, great owl, horned owl, pelican, carrion-vulture, stork, heron, hoopoe, bat, etc.

I see nothing in the rules to suggest that this flaw stacks with itself, so being Jewish is, in fact, a 1-point Flaw. --MF
Obviously, this would only apply to animals that were commonly used for food --FlowsLikeBits

2. Oathbound Magic + Sterile (10 or 11 points)
A thaumaturge could take Oathbound Magic with the legendary oath "to engage in no [sexual] gratification of any kind", combined with the 2-3 point version of Sterile. With a little additional mutilation, the result would be the character swearing an oath not to do something that it is physically impossible for him to do.

Legendary Oaths only permit certain sorts of behavior, thus that is an invalid Legendary Oath. At best, an oath of total abstinence 'impedes the character, restricting his behavior in some significant, but not life-changing fashion'- since he could never seek magical regeneration for his sterility. Six bonus points for being a eunuch mage. $.02 &Arafelis
Total sexual abstinence is one of the example legendary oaths from the write-up of the Flaw. - Raindoll
Total sexual abstinence as a legendary oath should mean more than just never using your genitals. Even something as simple as a kiss or a more-than-just-friendly hug would probably violate it. Heck, that's part of what makes it nasty - if some debauched god/demon/Dragon-Blooded started sucking on your ear, not aware that you can't perform - or knowing that, but also knowing your oath - you're gonna be in trouble with who or whatever you swore that oath to. -Everyl
Actually, the write up is "no self-gratification of any kind", which I would interpret as being more than sexual -FlowsLikeBits

3. Oathbound Magic: Minor Oath (1 point)
You can get 1 bonus point for swearing never to use a Grimcleaver. I find this amusing beyond all measure.

This should probably be, never use an axe. The example is straight swords. At the very least you'd need the artifact attunement merit to have this even have a chance of making sense. I.e. an Oath to never use something you will likely never encounter is obviously silly. And not like you could use one if you did encounter it. -FlowsLikeBits

4. Disciple (4 points)
This is not a flaw. (This "flaw" gives you points based either on how bratty your disciple is, or how often you are in contact with him. A disciple that follows you everywhere is a cool addition to your character, not a flaw.)

Technically, the Disciple is a useless (though placid (or bratty)) hanger-on that you have to save. Losing your Disciple via zombie or ninja means losing the flaw; either you gain an equal number of points of Flaws as your superiors or the disciple's family growl, or you pony up the xp to buy it off. In order to get a USEFUL Disciple, you've got to commit Background to it- and you still have to keep saving 'em. I agree it's probably over-valued, but that's an incorrect interpretation of it. $.02 &Arafelis

5. Damaged Artifact (1-to-3 points)
If you have a sorcerer with Incantation of Effective Restoration, this Flaw is a joke. ("A grand daiklave for 1 bonus point? Yes please!")

IoER isn't in Savant and Sorcerer, so you could say it's effectivly deprecated. Also, most people house rule it -FlowsLikeBits

6. Unbidden Oracle (1 point)
Another one from the not-really-a-flaw department. It may be inconvenient, but that is completely outweighed by how cool it is.

A 1-point flaw is more inconvenience than danger, and I think this falls into that category just fine. And since it is a flaw, I think a good assumption is that the portents are mostly worthless, being either very obvious or thoroughly inscrutable. -LiOfOrchid

7. Greater Curse (5 points)
If you have the right kind of Virtue Flaw (one that won't get you killed or make you totally non-functional), this is actually desireable. Limit breaking is fun, plus it gives you a whole mess o' Willpower.

My call on this is that Greater Curse basically gives your ST free reign to make your Limit Breaking not even remotely fun -- like most flaws should ideally be, it's giving the ST enough rope to hang you with. I think the real problem here is that some Virtue Flaws just aren't curse-like enough (Foolhardy Contempt on a sufficiently big Dawn comes to mind), which is very much an "ST should find situations in which this Virtue Flaw makes your life hell" problem and not a rules problem. -- AntiVehicleRocket

8. Favor (6+ points)
If someone with Patron 5 takes this towards his patron, that doesn't change anything. He's getting points for nothing.

9. Ritual Suicide (3 points; Ghost-Blooded only)
Any flaw that only kicks in when you turn 30 isn't a flaw.

It obviously is if you're 29, which is probably the intended use of this Flaw. -- Resplendence
And it could just as easily be when you're physically rather than chronologically 30. No like there isn't aging magics in Exalted. - haren
The question in my mind is the timeframe of the adventure. If it's a one-shot or only intended to last a few years, then yes, this is broken. On the other hand, if it's an epic plot intended to last centuries, having to kill yourself at 30 seems like a pretty dire problem indeed. -- AntiVehicleRocket

10. Vice (3 points)
It takes effort to make this a flaw at all. If I have a Compassion penalty against child molesters, or even the ugly, the only way that could hamper me is if I wanted to channel a virtue to aid them.

11. Blind, Unusual Appearance, Eyes of Wicked Madness (10 points, 9 for Exalted)
If a character is blind, there is no disadvantage in taking Unusual Appearance: Neon Green Eyes and the flaw version of Eyes of Wicked Madness (if applicable), since he has no reason to ever have his eyes open and uncovered. Similarly, there is no disadvatage to taking Unusual Appearance: Weird-Colored Eyes in conjunction with the flaw version of Eyes of Wicked Madness.

The combination with blindness obviously means that you have creepy, staring blind eyes. _Ikselam
Yeah, but you have no incentive to ever have your eyes open. - Raindoll
Well, sure, but that's getting into the territory of "ST disallows this clearly abusive exploit" or "ST makes up reason you can't actually do this." Like, I dunno, you're blind because your eyes burn with the searing light of the sun, which shines like a Caste mark, or something. _Ikselam
Well, Eyes of Wicked Madness and Unusual Appearance(Eyes), is obviously redundant and impossible as the Eyes of Wicked Madness replaces your eyes-FlowsLikeBits


1. Past Lives (5 points)
Like Savant, except cheaper and cooler.

2. Divine Apprentice (3 points; Divine God-Blood only)
"Rare and coveted apotheosis": 3 points.

The real cost of this isn't in bonus points, though -- it's in having a a high-level Patron celestial god, and more importantly, it's in spending your entire life playing gofer for a high-level Patron celestial god, which is guaranteed to be Big Fun. Presumably if you spend too much time not at the beck and call of your celestial parent (like, say, if you go on unauthorized adventures?) this Merit goes poof. -- AntiVehicleRocket
Actually; you are guarunteed Endowment by your patron when you reach Essence 3. This turns you into a entity of the apropraite type and makes you a ST charachter. It doesn't appear to have any real benefits other than minor social benefits with other gods. Since this effectly means if you raise your essence to high you lose your characther, this is a dubious merit. It's a happy ending, but still. Not to mention that the resulting entity would probably be unemployed and end up as Starmetal. Woohoo... --FlowsLikeBits

Umm, but, it doesn't actually say that you are turned into an ST character, that's just some extrapolation you are making. Thus, it's actually pretty awesome. - willows
Also, I don't see any reason to assume that the character would be unemployed and turned into starmetal. I mean, the divine parent spends decades of effort raising the God-Blood, keeping the child secret and/or paying hefty bribes to avoid censure, grooms him for divine ascension, pours a huge amount of personal energy into carrying out that ascension... and then suddenly has no work for the new godling and abandons him to the divine censors? The only way that makes the remotest bit of sense is if the god's entire reason for having the God-Blooded child in the first place was to get a bit of starmetal. It makes considerably more sense if the god would only bother to groom a Divine Apprentice if it already had a job in mind for the potential godling. -Everyl
Ok, the Starmetal comment was a joke. However the text says "he is assured of recieving an Endowment if and when he reaches a state of suffiently advanced spiritual development(Essence 3)." Under Endowment(pg 81: PG) "A promoted God-Blood transcends flesh and becomes a little god or elemental of the same type as his parent. It is strongly reccomended that God-Blooded who attain this rare and coveted apotheosis becomes Storyteller charachters." Thus, you effectivly pay 3 points to get a 1 die social bonus vs god-bloods and little gods and a max effective essence of 2. I suppose the problem is that there is a fairly large power jump involved(god-blooded-->godling), so you have problems unless the ST is prepared for it. --FlowsLikeBits

3. True Love (3 points)
It would be humorous if a narcissist or a character with Multiple Personality Disorder took this Merit with the "partner" being himself. He'd get an extra die on almost every roll he made.

I think this falls under the "insufficiently specialized specialties" problem, in addition to the obvious "ST who is either hopelessly naive or has something horrible waiting in the wings for this PC" problem. -- AntiVehicleRocket

Overpriced Merits and Underpriced Flaws

1. Amnesia (5 points)
The 5 point version of Amnesia is just insane: this is at least a 10 point Flaw.

2. Weak-Willed (1-to-10 points)
A lost point of permanent Willpower out to be worth more than just a single bonus point.

3. Dying (6 or 10 points)
At the higher levels, this Flaw is absolutely ridiculous. This isn't a matter of the flaw granting too few points; a flaw like this shouldn't even exist. Why not go all the way and add a 15 point version, where you drop dead in the first 5 minutes of play?

Because then some twink would try to use it to create an overpowered ghost character? Not that the one-week version is really any different... -- Mapache

Trait Burners

This is just a list of Flaws that allow you to sacrifice Traits for bonus points. No value judgement is implied. (Note: as a rule, flaws that allow you to sacrifice trait dots for bonus points prevent you from spending bonus points on traits of the same category, to prevent point-shuffling.)

  • Weak-Willed (1 point per Willpower dot forfeited)
  • Weak Essence (6 points; start at Essence 1)
  • Unskilled (1 point per Ability dot forfeited)
  • Callous (2 points per Virtue dot. Additional restrictions apply.)
  • Diminished Attributes (3 points per Ability dot. Prohibiton against buying only applies to same catagory of Attributes.)


Not having access to the Player's Guide yet (but soon! Oh yes, so sooooon! Ahem...) but with regards to the Damaged Artefact flaw, perhaps it was badly made, thus making Incantation of Effective Restoration ineffective, since its damaged state is as good as it ever gets? - Moxiane

The text of the flaw indicates that it represents a once-functional artifact that has been broken. Plus, it specifically says that artifacts damaged by this flaw can be repaired. - Raindoll
Ah... well, that isn't so great. A flaw you can buy off as a starting character simply by having IoER is pretty poor. - Moxiane

Hmm. I'm not sure I can agree with the Oathbound Magic + Sterile = Bad Thing. I mean, why else would all those Wacky Eunchs be sorcerers? DS

Not all of these are "bad." (For example, Past Lives is definitely cool.) I'm just observing that you're getting something for nothing. - Raindoll
A certain degree of something for nothing serves, IMO, to encourage sterotypes. Mind you, I'd prefer if they were explicitly spelled out, but meh. :) DS, writing from the Library before class, cause he arrived early.
I disagree that Past Lives is cool, and I was stunned (and not in a good way) to see it in the PG. I remember [GCG talking] about why he didn't put a Past Lives background in the core rules, and I agree with the argument he used then (a background that everybody has to buy levels in isn't a background--viz. the Avatar background in M:tA). I'm definitely forbidding that Merit in my games. --MF
You don't have to take Past Lives, and to be honest I can see a lot of people not bothering with it. - BogMod

Actually, Past Lives is not nearly as good as Savant. Until level 5, the bonus for first age-knowledge rules is significantly lower than what you get from Savant. More over, one NEVER gets the +Savant bonus to your Lore, Occult, Craft for purposes of dealing with First Age items. Considering that a Savant 5 character has the same dice bonus, AND +5 to those three abilities with First Age stuff, I'd say he's more than getting his 2pts worth. With level-4 in both, it's no contest. -- CS

I partially agree with you: savant is obviously better than past lives at the 1-4 point level. However, I'm not sure I agree that past lives bonus is never added to Lore, Occult, or Craft for dealing with First Age items: at the 5-point level, the bonus applies to "any roll related to knowlege of the first age" (noted in the 4-point level), "technology operation (noted in the 3-point level), and "any roll to operate the magical technology of the era" (noted in the 1-point level). - Raindoll
Actually, Savant doesn't give you extra dice for Craft/Occult/Lore. It gives you extra DOTS. That's a lot more useful than extra dice, especially if your using Savant and Sorcerer and thus have to meet various requirements in order to forge or use various items. - CS

Most of these issues are easily solved by a storyteller being aware of what the players are doing with their characters. A question about superstition, can you really take it multiple times? And even if you can you can still get no more then 10 points of flaws no matter what the value should be. It even puts in bold print that the storyteller can veto any selection made for any reason period. I think they considered most of these situations and gave us the benifit of the doubt that we wouldn't do half the things you described. - BogMod

Hell, I'm not even talking about the larger bits. Flaws that aren't worth points based on how "cool" they are; gah:P This is mostly, I suspect, an example of someone who doesn't like Merits and Flaws. -- CS

What? You read me entirely wrong: I love Merits and Flaws. I don't think the Merits and Flaws need to be changed. For the example of Unbidden Oracle (which I assume you were talking about), it is my opinion that it wouldn't be a hinderance to any character for whom taking it would be thematically appropriate. Is the old temple priest who sometimes blurts out strange prophecies worse than the old temple priest who doesn't? Perhaps this is actually the intention of certain Flaws: you're not gaining points for taking a disadvantage, you're being rewarded for making your character cooler. The more I think about it, the it makes sense. -- Raindoll

Then I apologize:) I like the Merits and Flaws too:D As for the question at hand; it's not a question of "Worse" it's a question of "more inconvenienced." The point of flaws is to reward characters for fun little things that make them cool but can cause problems in play. It's both a reward for doing something nifty (especially for the 1pt ones), and a slight payback. None of the flaws are really priced enough to /make up/ for what you get for them...they're all noted on the idea that your giving up more than you loose. Much like how a 1pt vice gives you -2 to a virtue, affecting Raindoll/HOW YOU BEHAVE// (not just your virtue dice). But anyway:) I disagree with some of these, but it's no biggy. -- CS

Unbidden Oracle and Disciple, especially, require ST real involvement to qualify as flaws. Anyone who disagrees can try taking either one in any game I run, and getting into conversations like this, with a Disciple in tow: "My lord, you have called me here to attend to you. My knowledge of herbs is limited, but I shall endeavor to use all my..." "Yer Majesty, isn't it true you just want my master to cure your impotence?" "..."

Don't even START with Unbidden Oracle. "Vizier, how likely is it that the approaching heralds are hostile to us?" "About as likely as me turning into a newt." You later discover that the heralds are imminently-hostile Fair Folk and they brought some amusming glamour tricks to show off.. -- BillGarrett

I have to agree with BogMod above - an ST worth his name would stop any abuse. In fact, what kind of people are you playing with, folks? We'd make short work of any twinks in our game. Either you do your best to add to the story, or you're out.
What's more, the complaints about Flaws being potential Merits are quite pointless. If a Flaw doesn't have the negative impact written because of various circumstances, it's not a Flaw - it's a quirk at best. No points, move on. That Flaws are potentially cool have little to do with it. A very debilitating Flaw can be the ultimate coolness, but it still has to be troublesome. -- Resplendence

See, I disagree. I've long felt that the idea of a flaw providing points should be debilitating as a negative holdover from days long past. In my vision, Flaws are meant to be reinforcing sterotypical behavior, while Merits are meant to be punishing it. Thus, if every Solar has Virtues of higher than 3, except you, that should cost points, not return them- since you're deviating from the norm. On the other hand, if most (but not all) Exalted have some degree of memories of their past lives, that should GIVE points when you take it (to the sterotypical level).
Merits and Flaws should be reinforcing genre and the bell curve of normality. DS
Reinforcing normality, eh? It's a novel way of seeing things, but to me it sounds like you're forcing characters into stereotypes, which I don't see as a positive thing. I'll stick to using Merits and Flaws as a way of formalizing and encouraging deviations from the norm. Resplendence

I prefer the way Seventh Sea handled Flaws and would use it in all my game. That is: You must purchase a Flaw. Every time that flaw comes up in play, you get some bonus. This means people will end up taking cool Flaws, and getting around them is, well, stupid. If the fact you're blind never proves to be a hinderance during play, then being Blind never gets you the bonus. In Exalted I might be inclined to make such Flaws worth a pool of "stunt dice" (dice which you could spend at any point to increase an action dicepool, and that work in all ways like stunt dice) or an extra Experience point per session (maximum of either one Experience per session per Flaw, or one Experience total). - Epsilon

I'm not sure I agree. You mean, the way flaws work in Seventh Sea is at character creation I pay for the priveledge of weakening my character in most circumstances, in return for a bonus in a few circumstances? So, I pay points to have only one eye, for example, and normally suffer the penalties for having one eye, but in those occasional situations where the eyepatch makes me look dashing, I get extra dice? Or, I pay a one-time cost of two freebie points, and every time I get blindsided in a session, or make a ranged attack, I get an extra experience point? I hate to sound like a twink, but let's say I made a one-eyed archer, who is just so good with the bow, he's willing to try to overcome his debility and fire off arrows anyway. Because one eye gives a penalty to ranged combat, he'd be getting an extra experience point almost every session he got into a fight. OK, a less twinky example (ie. one with more backstory and a respectable justification): a one-armed swordsman, who lost his arm to angry rival martial artists, and is in the process of perfecting a sword-based, one-armed style powerful enough make up for his maiming. In both cases, the flaw would probably pay for itself in two or three games. -Seraph
You would pay points for having one eye, and if the disadvantage ever came up in play, then you'd get the bonus (whatever that happens to be) for it. In Seventh Sea, this was a variation on drama points. If the disadvantage of having one-eye never came up in play, then you'd never get the bonus for it. And yes, you could go the twink route and build a character specifically to take advantage of the system. Actually, I'd encourage this (to a limited extent). Playing a blind swordsman who practices so hard he becomes a better swordsman than anyone else, that just strikes me as something that should be cool and encouraged. The trick is that the Flaws, in this case, woudl all have to be fairly major things (and in Seventh Sea they were, and had a fairly large cost as well). For example, "one-eyed" probably wouldn't be a Flaw, but Blind might be. One-armed would probably be a Flaw, but I would say it wouldn't apply as a disadvantage to the swordsman in most situations unless he was being specifically penalized for it (for instance, if he needed to use a bow) because you can still wield a sword one handed with no drawbacks in Exalted. I would charge probably a flat 5 Bonus Points per Flaw, and disallow Flaws that I didn't think would be "severe" enough. - Epsilon
That makes a lot more sense, but I still think I prefer the way it's presented in Exalted... of course, if I ever get a chance to actually play Seventh Sea, or some similar game I'll have a better informed opinion! -Seraph
Nobilis handles it similarly, but not quite the same. In that you don't actually pay for the flaw, you simply choose it. Then whenever it comes up, you get a bonus. I've thought about such a system, but the problem I've had is working out what to give as a bonus for when the flaw kicks in. I mean experience is out of the question. Bonus dice might be fine, because they stop twinking like the archer in the above example. Sure he gets dice whenever he shoots with one eye, but he also loses them as part of the penalty of being one eyed. The problem of course with this route is it seems only to weaken or negate the effect of any given flaw, leading to the question of why it's a flaw, or why you got it in the first place. It has to really reward something other than the action that triggers the flaw, yet it can't outweight the action. And that was where I was never able to work out a good approach. -- NightRain
I think the Nobilis way has merit; I've been thinking about it as well. I actually think experience is the way to go. One extra exp after game sessions where any of your flaws is a hindrance, and two after sessions where it's a potentially life-threatening hindrance, seems to me to be (with the amount of exp generally given out in Exalted) not too big a deal - nice, but not game-breaking. Not stacking, so multiple flaws give you a larger chance of the bonus rather than more actual experience points, is important. So if my Eunuch with a Vow of Celibacy is threatened with death if he doesn't sleep with the Fair Folk Noble, he just gets 2 extra exp at the end of the session and not 4. And if he's also blind and suffers a crippling dice penalty in the fight to escape, he still only gets 2. -- Davidl
I think the problem with experience though is that it is potentially unfair to other players. But I do like the non stacking idea. How about something instead that gives you Willpower back at the end of (or during?) a scene in which a flaw hinders you. And like you said, it can't stack, so the one eyed archer can not replenish he entire willpower pool in one hit. And if it's really life threatening, then and only then do you get an experience point at the end of the session. - NightRain
Willpower works - I like that. Like Nobilis, you'll have to distinguish which Flaws are "always on" (Limits) and thus worth character creation points (if only to keep God-Bloods viable character choices) - like any of the "trading in dots of something-or-other for bonus points" flaws - and which are worth Willpower when they come into play (Restrictions). It also occurred to me that some might be interesting if tied to Virtues, giving you temporary points back for channeling. Vow of Celibacy would fit well for either Conviction or Temperance, for example. - Davidl

I'd like to A)Say the 7th Sea/Nobilis approach sounds interesting. I had come up with something vaguelly similiar for a game I'm working on(in my free time, that will never be published, ever.). and B)Yeah, just don't allow blatant twinkery.

Some of these seem like blatant exploitations; for instance, I'd probably let a character have a Damaged Artifact if they begin the game with the ability to repair it, but then I'd make 'em pay the double xp to buy it off. ("Your magic fails." "Why?" "Good question. Do research."). If a character was Oathbound to never use Grimcleavers, he'd definatly awaken tied to the ground, hands free, with a Grimcleaver nearby. Yay for divinations and spies! etc. I agree that Merits and Flaws can be exploited, but that's what we've got STs for (age old argument, yadda yadda- you did bring up some good flags to note). If the rules ran themselves, we could play Exalted at home in boxers with pizza smears on our faces.

Not that the rules failing to run themselves necissarily stops people from doing this.

$.02 &Arafelis

Just thought I'd point out that the new World of Darkness system uses flaws in the same general style that you guys are hypothesizing about. IIRC, you can take one or two flaws at no cost. At the end of any game session in which at least one of your flaws proved to be a significant hindrance, you gain one additional experience point. Simple, clean, effective. That being said, I think the older system works better for Exalted, just because God-Blooded tend to have so much messed up about them, and you can't represent that with a hard one or two-flaw limit.
Also, having run games in other systems for characters with the Unbidden Oracle flaw, I can safely say that it's fully worthy of being a flaw for its hindrance value. It tends to predict bad things, and nobody likes the bearer of bad news... and many people will blame the character for whatever he predicted, too. I mean, with a cruel enough ST, that thing should probably be worth more than one point. Say, the characters have just arrived at the capital of a kingdom they like, bearing important news. When they are admitted to see the king, one of them blurts out, "By dawn this city will be a smoldering ruin." If they manage to talk their way out of that, imagine what happens when an earthquake strikes overnight, triggering a fire that burns most of the city to the ground... -Everyl

I just want to note that the Sterile / Oath Against Sex "abuse" isn't exactly what I'd consider an abuse. Yes, it prevents you from violating your oath, but if oaths explicitly give enhanced power for the sacrifice, I would consider that getting that power in exchange for LOPPING OFF YOUR OWN JUNK WITH A KNIFE isn't really counter to that concept.

Also, technically it doesn't prevent you from getting sexual gratification unless you also de-nipplize yourself. - Ben-San, a bastion of good taste as always

I think that the combination of Slow Healing (4 pt Flaw) with Mutation (Regeneration) is pretty bad. Since you can't gain Regeneration if you heal any faster that a mortal it was nice of them to include a flaw that corrects that problem and gives you bonus points too. Can we say ST denied? - Myrlan

One merit not included here that is far underpriced: Mutation (Tough). It's an affliction, so the Merit costs 4 points to give you +2 Strength, +1 Stamina, three health levels, and soak lethal with full stamina. That'd normally cost 16-17 bonus points, not including the soak bonus (depending on whether Endurance is favored for Ox Body); moreover, the mutation is expressly noted as non-obvious. The merit ought to be a little more efficient than straight bonus points, but that's ridiculous. - Varazes