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The Formal Arts of Debate

The supernatural martial arts of Creation exist because the Exalted of the First Age decided they would apply martial discipline and focus to their Essence, training anima with the same finesse as body. In doing so, a new kind of charm was created, independent of the type of being practicing it. Even the Gods, should they care to, could learn these new charms. Some arts require greater puissance and finesse of Essence than others, creating gaps just as with Sorcery: the Terrestrials to their own level, Lunars on the next, and in this case Sidereal and Solar Exalted sharing the top seat - the prior through finesse, the latter through force.

Unlike currently-known methods of Sorcery, the martial arts provide a way for each type of Exalt to exceed her own level (though not Gods - they may already ascend to higher levels through divine promotion of their Essence). In fact, the arts associated with the Blossom of the Perfected Lotus may only be accessed by this sort of growth, since both Exalted types who can practice them must first learn an entire style at the Stem (Celestial) level first. Yet, some examples show that this sort of progression upwards may once have existed in Sorcery as well: Mnemon is known to wield spells of the Sapphire circle through use of a powerful artifact, and the Scarlet Empress used sorceries beyond the Terrestrial level as well. From these examples, it seems that through principles of focusing power and sacrifice, greater sorcery can be achieved.

Therefore, though utterly lost in the current age, this project assumes that someone living in the First Age applied the Essence-shaping principles of Sorcery and Martial Arts to the purpose of communication. Debate, rhetoric, persuasion, logic - instinctively, Essence can be applied to help these things break through opponents' mental defenses, and to bind them once their defenses are breached. Yet like the fisticuffs and wrestling of the Exalted Hero styles, this is a crude method. Just as a mortal skilled in persuasion learns when to persuade with logic, emotions, or ethics - and in what proportions - an Exalt must learn the difference between skillful applications of Emotion, Compulsion, Servitude, Illusion, and the various other possible Social effects of charms.

Savants like to use metaphor to represent progressions in Essence, and this discipline is no different. As the martial arts have the Perfected Lotus of Understanding and Sorcery has its Three Circles of Emerald, Sapphire, and Adamant, so does Rhetoric have its metaphor: The Enlightened Listener. Pictured as a Buddha-like sage, slightly pudgy, the Listener always holds a scroll. This scroll is the Text, representing mortal persuasion. Unfortified with Essence, lacking in finesse, such arguements are not part of the Listener - he might put down the scroll at any time. The Listener's body is made up of the various elements, representing the Elemental aspect of persuasion. Elemental Essence persuades the body, rouses feeling and emotion from elemental similarities. Upon his body, the Listener also bears marks on his forehead, throat, stomach, and groin - these represent the gates of virtue, marks of the Divine. Divine arguements affect the flow of a target's Essence through these gates, thus altering the Listener more with a single arguement. Finally, the moon is pictured above the Listener, hanging eternally in the background. Eternal essence is like this moon; though the phase may change, and its position in the sky, it is always the same thing. The Listener cannot escape the moon any more than mortals can escape the sky, and so too can nobody deny an Eternal arguement. So it is that Mortal Rhetoric is known as the Enlightened Text, Terrestrial the Elemental Body, Celestial the Divine Gates, and the ultimate level the Eternal Moon.

Of course, it is no accident that Luna is pictured to represent the ultimate form of persuasion. Her children are known in the Age of Sorrows as barbarian warlords, but in the First Age they were great generals. They were leaders, and consorts of the Solars. It was their duty to make sure everything their spouses and masters did was accepted smoothly by their underlings, their job to take care of whatever their mates did not have time for. Killing everybody was right out (though the idea did appeal to some at times), so a gentler art was needed. Thus, to Sidereals, secret masters of fate, the ultimate martial mastery and finesse. To Solars the ultimate power of world-shaping sorcery. To the Children of Luna, words so moving and powerful none could deny them.


First, allow me to establish the basic premise of this project in crunchy terms.

  • This discipline is known as "Rhetoric."
  • A charm tree using these rules is known as a "Rhetorical Style."
  • The Socialize Ability is the central key to rhetorical styles. It, like Martial Arts or Occult, will be used for all charms.
  • Social attacks will still take place using the Performance, Presence, and Investigation abilities primarily, and defenses will often use Integrity.
    • These abilities will often be used as additional prerequisites for the charms.
    • These charms might also have Attribute prerequisites.
    • Any charm from these styles may Combo freely with any Social charm.
  • Like supernatural martial arts and sorcery, rhetoric is universal among Exalt types.
    • Terrestrial Level: Elemental Rhetoric is strongly based on emotion, teaching understanding of people through the correspondence of personality types to the elements.
    • Celestial Level: Divine Rhetoric argues from ethical principles, allowing the rhetorician to play on his audience's primary virtues.
    • Lunar Level: Eternal Rhetoric recognizes the changing nature of Virtue and Emotion, and so uses primal, perfect arguments to sway these changing factors in its own favor. Lunar Exalted are naturally superior at this discipline, since their own protean nature allows them insight into changeable things.

Now, some simple examples:

  • An Elemental Argument makes you feel angry at your friend.
  • A Divine Argument compels you to attack your friend, or oppose your own sense of Valor.
  • An Eternal Argument convinces you of your friend's misdeeds, showing clearly that only death will stop him.

Content Pages


I think this idea has been a long time in coming, and now that we have social combat, we really need it! I have a lot of ideas for this (including things like social weapons - using quotations, reading prepared speeches, defining 'extemporanize' and other tactics as standard weapons, etc.), but I also want lots of other people's ideas! So, please contribute! This is a CommunalProject after all!

And as a semi-random final note, I chose Lunars to be best at this for symmetry. Solars are naturally best at Sorcery, Sidereals naturally best at martial arts (sutras, baby - Solars don't get 'em), so I figured the Celestial trinity ought to be rounded out by giving this aspect to Lunars. - IanPrice, hopefully starting something good.

Interesting idea. Perhaps some initial example styles might be slightly based on the Virtue-based MA styles? It seems like the back story of those styles might be retconned into being a decent description of rhetorical styles. Also, one thing strikes me as very interesting: it seems like as you increase in the levels of rhetoric, the effects become more subtle, which is neatly opposite from, say, sorcery or martial arts. This, in turn, makes the whole "lunar trickster" idea even cooler. Not sure that was intentional, but I think it's the best part of the idea. (BTW, I fixed some spelling and "wikified" some formatting.) -- Wordman

Thanks for the formatting help. Always good to get things made right. Also, yes! I did intend that progression from obvious to subtle, because as a communication scholar, that's the progression I see in potency of arguements. I do intend to create some example styles of my own, but if you or someone else beats me to it, I don't mind at all! I'll comment and discuss happily. The four Arguements of Virtue would be great places to start with Celestial Styles. For games where these disciplines still exist in the Age of Sorrows, I could see Immaculate Dragon styles, practicing Divine Rhetoric in emulation of Hesieh, Dan'aad, etc. Similarly, I think that a "Five-Dragon Style" would be a good place to start for Elemental Rhetoric. - IanPrice

First, let me say that this is a great idea. At the same time, I'm disconcerted that Solars, the Lawgivers themselves, are not the top at this. Sure, Solars supposedly have Sorcery, but that's a post-primordial war thing. Being the great leaders they are, I'd imagine Solars would have this as their schtick, more than anything else. Let the Lunars have survivability, or healing, or shape-changing, or something. Solars seem to be so very social as leaders that I can't imagine otherwise. Perhaps actually making two side-choices, such as Solar and Void circle necromancy exist, at equal powers, side by side? -- GreenLantern

My assumption is that Solars can get this relatively easily. Just as they can get Siddie MA relatively easily. And similar to that, the natural Solar Social charms are so much better than everyone else's, they don't necessarily need the discipline to achieve the same results. My intention is not to tread on Solar awesomeness - but just as the Gods themselves disdain Sorcery and MA because they are already so powerful they don't need them, I believe that Solars would not be the ones best suited to develop a transcendent discipline for Social combat. - IanPrice, pretty sure Sidereal MA were developed post-primordial-war as well.
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