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Shaping Combat 101

or Oh God Why Am I Doing This

All right. Here is my attempt at a fully-realized shaping duel. It will involve all four kinds of shaping, and four raksha. Hopefully, I'll describe just what the raksha do in shaping combat, or at least my understanding of it. Plus, I wanted to run a shaping duel. Nyah nyah nyah.

The Characters

ShapingCombat101/Tandava, Little Trouble Boy. (Xia)

There is fire in his eyes and in his bones. His footfalls are the beating of drums, his voice is the pulsing call of the flame-dance, his heart is a tiger and his love a dragon. He spins in wild circles, drawing the entire world into his mad devotions. When he raises the blackened, gnarled claws that adorn his hands, the light flickers and the heat rises. Tandava is the dance, the violent, whirling, ravishing dance that mortals fear and that gods long for and that all but he do not partake of.

(Little Trouble Boy is a rather typical raksha designed to be a shaping duelist, if not as specialized as they usually come. He has abilities from all four Castes, meaning his shaping parries are rather more efficacious than his specialist brethren, but he's also quite competent when it comes to dodge. He's pretty untouchable in Sword combat, due to his high soak, Dexterity, and abundance of Sword Charms, but his offense is lacking. When it comes to Cup combat, the reverse is true; his Charms are all offensive in nature and can be quite debilitating, but his soak is rather low. Obviously, Ring and Staff combat are much more troublesome, but that's where the dodge comes in.)

ShapingCombat101/Adrishta, The Cloth Doll. (Panjandrum)

Her eyes are sewn on. Her mouth is sewn shut. Her long, graceful fingers are silk. Her lithe, twisting torso is calico. Where she walks, the Wyld slows and darkens, dimming to the twilight she so prefers. Where she walks, the dead things come out and play. She shakes out her hair and they scurry, but to no avail. The drifting threads of gossamer and spidersilk tangle them up and dart them through. The Cloth Doll is a seamstress, of people, of nations, of worlds. And she cannot stand to be alone.

(The Cloth Doll is a Ring duelist, plain and simple, with a wide array of offensive Charms with which to Incumber all opposition. She can do a few things in Staff combat as well, but its not her primary focus. Unlike Tandava, Adrishta relies on her high soak and dodges to escape hostile shaping, having very litle ability to parry attacks from outside her specialty.)

ShapingCombat101/Pashasiva, History’s Noose. (Scribe)

History’s Noose is a subtle thing, never noticed until wrapped around one’s neck. But then it is too late. Pashasiva is not heartless, precisely, but he is ruthless. He is the inexorable march of fate that crushes heroes beneath its feet. The endless cycle of rise, fall, and rise again is his. It is the thing in his heart that defines him. It is his solace and his impetus. His principle of motion. And he does not fail it.

(History's Noose is quite specialized. He spent most of his bonus points raising his Essence to three, meaning that his abilities are lacking compared to his opponents; in fact, he has no ability over five, not even Favored ones. Pashasiva is all Staff, all the time. His offensive Charms come exclusively from the Laughing Monster Style and are quite advanced. In addition to this, his Essence of three gives him ten extra motes to play with. However, he's not great at avoiding attacks, relying mostly on passive defenses, such as his Resistance Charms.)

[[[ShapingCombat101/Mangala]]-Kriya]], The Dead Flag. (Eshu).

Arrogant and contemptuous, she walks the byways of chaos without a care. She sings to the stones and she sings to the sky, but never to the creatures that she stumbles across. Those, she hunts, catching them with monstrous legions and with sweet nothings, ravishing them until her unworldly hunger is sated. Then she moves on, adding another bone to her collection. Few things stand in the path of Mangala-Kriya, but she is grateful to them when they do.

(The Dead Flag is quite similar to Little Trouble Boy, but more specialized. She's even better at dodging than Tandava and, on top of that, has a significant advantage when it comes to health levels, due to her Wyld Prince Resilience. Her combat Charms are almost entirely offensive, and she can attack pretty quickly with her Sword Charms.)

It is assumed that each character has full Essence, Willpower, and a pool of 10 gossamer

The Scene

These four duelists are all members of a particular court, let's call it the Twisting, Lambent Flame, and all happen to be questing in the Middlemarches, out near where the Deep Wyld border lies. Each is there for a different reason. ShapingCombat101/Tandava is performing his dance. The waypoint he currently occupies is the Forest of Living Smoke, wherein the ghosts of all fires extinguished in all the long ages of the world come to rest. He is comforting them in their sorrow. ShapingCombat101/Adrishta is manipulating the fabric of society in the City of Clocks and Owls, slowly and carefully pulling apart the seams of the peace treaty that has bound the Aerial and Analog legions from making war on each other these past centuries. ShapingCombat101/Pashasiva is meditating on the nature of the recent rise and fall of the Opindian empire in the Tome-Library, while idly monitoring the coming military coup in the Nation of Eels. [[[ShapingCombat101/Mangala]]-Kriya]] is finishing up a particularly nourishing meal after hunting and killing the Rath-Terror Claw with her own hands. She gnaws on its bones while reclining at the Glade of Twelve Duchies, where the son of the Poplar family has fallen desperately in love with the daughter of the Maple line, his father's sworn enemies.

(This is what raksha do in the Wyld. Indulge their self-image. Each occupied waypoint is five waypoints from each other occupied waypoint.)

From time to time, each of our heroes has been casting about with their senses, just to make sure no interesting creatures are sneaking in under their radar. ShapingCombat101/Pashasiva's meditations are disturbed when he realizes that there are three of his fellows very close to his current position. He recognizes one of the Essence patterns as his long-time rival ShapingCombat101/Adrishta! Not only that, but those uncouth Warriors are here too! History's Noose suspects treachery.

Moments later, the Cloth Doll picks up the tiny vibrations through the Wyld that signal the presence of other raksha. She stops her games, just as the Analog legion was about to stage their surprise attack on the sleeping Aerial legion, and readies herself. In the forest, Little Trouble Boy picks up on something as well, though his senses are not as keen as the two Diplomats and he only notices the presence, but not the nature, of his opponents. Meanwhile, the poor, oblivious Dead Flag gnaws happily, blissfully unaware of the coming conflict.

(Scanning the Wyld requires a roll or Perception + Awareness as a Ring-shaping action. Adrishta got three successes, while Pashasiva got four, meaning they acquired what amounts to a quick visual scan of all subjects in the area. Tandava only got two successes, meaning that he is only able to assess the movements of the other raksha, but not identify them. Mangala-Kriya, as noted, got no successes.)


Turn One

ShapingCombat101/Tandava, ever-vigilant for partners, ceases his dance and the ghost flames cry and moan. From their moans and his own deep, powerful voice, he calls up a heart thorn, summoning it from its erratic orbit ‘round his soul in the places Elsewhere. It is a shard of ecstasy, of the conscious bliss that comes with knowing self-destruction. Then he tears away, like a mote from a bonfire or a knife-edged shadow.

(Little Trouble Boy wins initiative, rolling an 8 and adding this to the sum of his Feeding Virtues, which is also 8. His initiative, therefore, is 16. For his action, he uses Cup-Shaping to call up one of his possessions, in this case a Heart Thorn, from Elsewhere. He rolls Conviction, the primary trait for Cup-Shaping, plus Performance, due to the description of his action, netting 4 successes, more than enough. Then he moves one waypoint toward Adrishta.)

ShapingCombat101/Adrishta extricates herself as quickly as possible from her engagements in the City of Clocks and Owls and takes stock of her situation. She certainly does not want to confront Little Trouble Boy on his own terms, but History’s Noose is vulnerable, having difficulty rousing himself from his meditations. She decides to err on the side of caution and attack ShapingCombat101/Tandava.

With her decision firmly in place, the Cloth Doll focuses her will for a mere moment and holds a World Heart in her hand, the cool metal of its surface thrumming with power against her calico flesh. She whispers to it and kisses it, pressing her lips against the egg, coaxing laws and substance from the silver mist swirling within. A thin glimmer of Essence drifts from her pursed lips, coagulating into the requisite gossamer. With an hush and a gasp, a principle of existence flies out to strike down ShapingCombat101/Tandava.

The principle it dictates is this: The world is dark and cool and quiet. Violence is an intolerable act. Heat must cool. Flame must die. The water must creep over your face and the chains must bind your arms tight behind your back. You cannot proceed. You must desist. The lock has no key and no one can see your manacles.

But Little Trouble Boy burns brighter than the new shape of the world and its logic holds no suasion over him.

(ShapingCombat101/Adrishta’s inititative is 15. She takes two actions this turn; readying her shaping weapon and making a ranged Ring attack. She rolls Intelligence + Craft (Glamour) to summon her tool from nothing, rolling 3 successes. The World Heart has the following statistics: Accuracy +1, Damage +0, Rate 3, Range 6, Maximum Perception 4, and the damage it inflicts is Piercing. Now, for her attack. She has activated the Charm Luminous Exhalation, which allows her to make a ranged attack without gossamer ammunition, for 2 motes. She again rolls Intelligence + Craft (Glamour) because her attack changes the physical aspects of the environment. She only rolls 1 success. ShapingCombat101/Tandava’s soak is reduced to 9, but the Cloth Doll can only muster 5 dice of damage, so she pings. No damage. However, due to her pretty description that merits 2 stunt dice, she gets back her Essence. Yay!)

ShapingCombat101/Pashasiva, finally roused from his meditations and thoroughly incensed, begins to formulate his own plan of attack. With gentle words and wicked lies, he beguiles the people of the Tome-Library to bring to him the Courtier’s Caul that is his. Then he moves toward ShapingCombat101/Adrishta with the calm assurance of the rise of nations.

(History’s Noose is doing as Little Trouble Boy did, though his initiative is only 11. He summons his shaping weapon, using Manipulation + Socialize, getting 2 successes. He then moves one waypoint toward the Cloth Doll.)

[[[ShapingCombat101/Mangala]]-Kriya]] gnaws on the bones of the Rath-Terror Claw in the Glade of Twelve Duchies, and does not know of the things around.

(Yeah. The situation stands like this: ShapingCombat101/Tandava and ShapingCombat101/Pashasiva are four waypoints fromShapingCombat101/Adrishta and closing. [[[ShapingCombat101/Mangala]]-Kriya]] is five waypoints from everybody and doing nothing. She's just a tad oblivious.)

Turn Two

Initiative: M-K, 17; T, 16; P, 14; A, 13.

[[[ShapingCombat101/Mangala]]-Kriya]] pauses her meal, scenting blood and gossamer on the ethereal wind. She raises her great head and looks outward, before letting loose a terrifying howl of hunger that cannot be contained and tearing away, leaving the fabric of reality in tatters. The Maple princess mourns the death of her lover, the Poplar marquis, in the Glade of Twelve Duchies in the wake of the Dead Flag's indiscretion

(Hey! The Dead Flag finally noticed what's going on (meaning she rolled 3 successes on a Perception + Awareness roll as a Ring-shaping action). And, with her initiative of 17, she even goes first! This turn, she completely forgoes a shaping action to instead rush forward two waypoints, towards poor, beseiged ShapingCombat101/Adrishta.)

ShapingCombat101/Tandava finds himself wrapped in the cold darkness of the Cloth Doll's shaping, his blackened claws bound tightly behind his back whilst the water creeps slowly over his face, drowning him. But Little Trouble Boy will not be bound. With a hum and a smile, he unleashes the tiger in his heart, to batter down the constricting laws of the world and release him from the Cloth Doll's petty chill. He takes hold of the laws of the world and loves them, with the savage intensity of a dragon, tearing them down and ripping them apart and then burning the remnants to cinders. Thus is he made free to dance forward once more.

(Now, because of the shaping ShapingCombat101/Adrishta enforced on him, ShapingCombat101/Tandava shouldn't be able to proceed or act violently. He could, of course, but that would mean spending a willpower and suffering from an environmental penalty of -2 to all his actions. He doesn't want to do that. So, instead, he just shapes away the Cloth Doll's impositions. BEcause of the savagery and violence, he makes the roll using his Dexterity + Brawl as a Sword-shaping action. With his pool of 13 dice, plus 2 for the stunt, he rolls 7 successes and frees himself. Then he moves forward one waypoint.)

ShapingCombat101/Pashasiva gains momentum, spurred onwards by the weight of nations that is his birthright.

(Forgoing the shaping action, rushing forward two waypoints)

The Cloth Doll is afraid. But, through an effort of will, she turns her fear into anger. She casts out, once more, with her senses and finds that History's Noose is speeding towards her. ShapingCombat101/Tandava is getting uncomfortably close, but he won't be here soon enough to do her serious damage. She turns her attention to ShapingCombat101/Pashasiva. The cold metal of her World Heart is assurance and courage against her silken fingers. Again, she coaxes forth laws and imperatives with the caresses of a lover, but this time, she feeds her weapon a scrap of dream as incentive. Holding the stretched piece of gossamer with deliberate care, the Cloth Doll coruscates it in an aura of Time, letting her Ring force causality and rigor upon the mortal fancy. Then she releases her attack.

The world twists. History's Noose finds himself behind a screen on which shadow puppets play. He can barely see them, for the light is flickering and intermittent. They reach out toward him, drawing him into their play. Thin rods of rosewood and mahogany are jammed into his joints and through his spine. He cannot move of his own volition. The puppet master controls him. He looks down and sees a great, shadowy creature there, below the light of the candles. It is moving him. He is a doll. Nothing more. The realization tears at him like iron knives and, in his Heart, he finds himself persuaded.

(Again, ShapingCombat101/Adrishta releases her prowess. She spends one gossamer and two motes of Essence to power her attack and activate the Charm Endless Yawning Void. She rolls Intelligence + Crafts (Glamour) to hit. Adding in the two dice for her stunt and the two dice granted by her Charm, along with the accuracy bonus of her World Heart, gives us a dice pool of 19. Six successes. History's Noose can't dodge, so we immediately roll for damage. The Cloth Doll has 14 pre-soak damage dice to play with. ShapingCombat101/Pashasiva's Ring soak of twelve reduces that to two dice, but both come up as successes. History's Noose is now down two health levels and is at a -1 wound penalty for it.)

Turn Three

Initiative: M-K: 17, P: 15, T: 11, A: 10

[[[ShapingCombat101/Mangala]]-Kriya]] is still angry and hungry, dashing through the Wyld and tearing the very concepts of space and time asunder.

(Uh-oh! The Dead Flag is now two waypoints closer to ShapingCombat101/Adrishta.)

ShapingCombat101/Pashasiva is wounded. His sense of self has been damaged. The Cloth Doll has seen to that. But History’s Noose will not be deterred. He has, however, been chastised and so advances with more caution. As he moves forward, he begins pouring Essence into his Staff Grace, and becomes the Between.

(Okay, he really should have done this sooner, but I forgot and don’t want to go back and re-do it. History’s Noose moves one waypoint closer to the Cloth Doll, and activates the Laughing Monster Stance for 6 motes. This Charm is Simple, lasts for one story, and allows ShapingCombat101/Pashasiva to reflexively spend one Willpower whenever a shaping attack misses him and redirect it to a target of his choice.)

ShapingCombat101/Tandava rips through the fabric of the world like a flame or a tiger, advancing toward the cowardly worker.

(Moving forward two waypoints.)

ShapingCombat101/Adrishta is feeling remarkably confident. She felt the heft of narrative weight as it snagged at the soul of History’s Noose. Again, she begins to caress the metal egg in her body’s hands, feeding it a thin sheen of Essence from her lips and fingers. Another principle of the universe is born.

But the Cloth Doll is clumsy, and her laws are delivered stillborn, stagnant and faulty.

(Knowing that she’s going to need to conserve her Essence and gossamer for when everybody arrives, ShapingCombat101/Adrishta makes a simple, ranged Ring-attack against History’s Noose, activating the Luminous Exhalation instead of spending a point of gossamer. But… oh no! Her Intelligence + Crafts (Glamour) pool of 14 results in no successes! This bodes very poorly.)

With the deft fingers and the infuriating grin of the Laughing Monster, History’s Noose catches the Cloth Doll’s clumsy shaping and turns it against her.

The Cloth Doll feels her world shift and change. The City of Clocks and Owls warps, as if time had sped up. She watches the City fall beneath the march of armies and the heavy tread of progress. She sees its people led away in chains, their moans falling as hymns to ShapingCombat101/Pashasiva and his workings upon the Cloth Doll’s ears. The Cloth Doll smiles her calico smile, laughing off this petty logic and intellectual posturing.

(One Willpower, 5 attack successes and no damage later, the turn is over. Here’s how we stand: ShapingCombat101/Tandava is at full Essence and Willpower, has ten gossamer remaining, and has a Heart Thorn readied. ShapingCombat101/Adrishta is down one mote, leaving 19 in her pool, but has full Willpower and nine remaining gossamer. She has a World Heart at the ready. ShapingCombat101/Pashasiva has lost two of his six Ring health levels and labors under a –1 wound penalty, has 6 of his 30 motes committed with ten points of gossamer, a Courtier’s Caul at the ready, and Laughing Monster Stance up. Mangala-Kriya has full everything and no Charms activated. Everyone is one waypoint away from the Cloth Doll. Oh noes.)

Turn Four

Initiative: T: 12, A: 11, P: 11, M-K: 10

ShapingCombat101/Tandava steps forward, into a café. The City of Clocks and Owls slowly vanishes, fading away into mist and the steam of boiling kettles. The Cloth Doll is seated at a wrought-iron table, a cup of tea before her, a vase of long-stemmed roses at her right hand. Little Trouble Boy takes the seat across from her, his eyes boring into hers with the diamond-tipped intensity of a dragon and a monster. He reaches out the blackened claw of his left hand and touches a rose petal as it falls. His face is lit with maddening contours and shadows as the roses burst into flame.

The Cloth Doll just smiles and ShapingCombat101/Tandava’s emotional appeal cannot effect her, for she is a cold and callous creature.

(Yes! Finally! Cup-shaping time! Little Trouble Boy moves forward one waypoint, into the City of Clocks and Owls. Then he makes his Conviction + Performance roll, scoring three successes. However, ShapingCombat101/Adrishta declares a full shaping Dodge and gets 9(!) successes. No dice.))

History’s Noose enters the café, his hands and face glimmering with the near-invisible sheath of his Courtier’s Caul. With a twitch of his finger, he sets terrible events into motion.

The waitress, her face a blank mask of white Jade and her body a writhing mandala of lustful passion, steps towards the table. She sets her hands upon its wrought-iron and murmurs, with a voice like a drowning man’s, “What will it be?”

“True love,” quips Little Trouble Boy. “True hate,” sighs the Cloth Doll. The waitress smiles and steps away, ShapingCombat101/Pashasiva’s hands twitching in time with her movements. “Why Adrishta!” cries the waitress, “what lovely rings you have to adorn your fingers. I would kill for rings such as these! May I look at them?” The Cloth Doll is pleased and extends her hand, only to find the waitress scurrying away, rings in hand.

“What arrogance is this?” she cries, too late, for the webs of obligation have already closed around her and the rings are no longer hers. But the Cloth Doll laughs and wishes three armed thugs into existence, their heads black and smooth, bristling with oily scales. They proceed to protest long and loud, but the waitress has already escaped with her prize.

(History’s Noose rolls his Manipulation + Socialize as a Staff-shaping attack, because the waitress is flattering the Cloth Doll and lying through her white Jade teeth. On 11 dice, his Courtier’s Caul has –1 Accuracy, he scores 6 successes. Adrishta only gets one success on her dodge. With the Caul’s +12 damage, his Charisma of 6, and his 5 extra successes, this gives History’s Noose 23 damage dice! Adrishta’s soak is halved, leaving her with 8, and she suffers 7 Staff-shaping health levels. However, she activates the Furiously Stalling Destiny Charm, letting her make a Staff-shaping counterattack for 2 motes. Though her attack roll nets 4 successes, she can’t even manage to ping a health level on History’s Noose.)

[[[ShapingCombat101/Mangala]]-Kriya]] tears through a wall in the café, snarling viciously. She is surmounted by a chiaroscuro anima banner, emanating from the terrible mask she wears, and immediately rushes forward, sezing ShapingCombat101/Tandava’s throat in her delicate hands and lovingly throttling the life out of him. Little Trouble Boy, fueled by his all-consuming love, denies his death, writing himself as a being too compassionate to be simply killed in this manner. And lo! He does not die.

(Sword-shaping this time. After her quick and dirty description, the Dead Flag rolls Dexterity + Brawl. She has a Nishkriya Mask on ( +4/+3/+3/+1/3). 9 successes. ShapingCombat101/Tandava activates his Assertion of a Greater Vision Charm for 2 motes for a reflexive dodge. He’s not messing around either, and channels Compassion for 4 extra dice. He rolls 12 successes.)

(Recap: ShapingCombat101/Tandava: 18 motes, 7 Willpower, 3 Compassion channels, and 10 gossamer left. ShapingCombat101/Adrishta: 17 motes, 9 gossamer, 1 Staff health level remaining. –1 wound penalty. ShapingCombat101/Pashasiva: 24 motes, 7 Willpower, 9 gossamer, 4 Staff health levels remaining. –1 wound penalty. [[[ShapingCombat101/Mangala]]-Kriya]]: Full everything.)

Turn Five


Because it's appropriate, CAN YOU SMEL-L-L-L-L WHAT THE RAKSHA IS COOKIN'???? --Prions

(1) I am so gonna put "The City of Clocks and Owls" into my upcoming E:tFF game. (2) How did Tandava come to have six Caste Abilities, and Pashasiva only three? (3) You want any help with this, or is it going to be a virtuosic solo project? --MF

Thanks! Fixed. And I had written out a full round of combat, but I was doing it directly onto the page, rather than into a Word document, and... it went away. Agh agh agh. Also, I'd appreciate any help you, or anyone else, would care to give, especially since I'm going to be in a place without internet starting... at one o'clock today. -- OhJames
What about Backgrounds?ShapingCombat101/Adrishta, in particular, is totally hosed without some dots in Gossamer: she doesn't have any Comboes, so she can never use any of her Ring-combat Charms except Luminous Exhalation. --MF
I didn't really feel like dealing with Backgrounds. I am assuming a pool of 10 gossamer for each, along with whatever shaping weapons I feel they deserve. I should throw in a couple of comboes though... -- OhJames
No, you shouldn't, if they're meant to be starting characters. And I was working on a second round for you, but I had to do some actual work.... --MF
Characters can start play with Combos. They cost 1BP per Charm in the Combo. Most don't, but that doesn't mean it's impossible. - Moxiane
...And all four characters have already spent all their BP. --MF
Guess I should read the whole page before commenting, yes? blushing Moxiane

Interesting! I totally did not realize that shaping attacks can impose environmental penalties as well as doing shaping damage. That's nasty. --MF

Are we sure they can, against other shapers? I know they can against mortals, but I wasn't sure against actively shaping enemies... Could some informative soul clarify this issue for me please?
-- Darloth rolls Manipulation + Socialize as a Cup-shaping action to see if he can persuade anyone into doing the research he is too tired to perform right now.
Well, it's unclear. Check p. 134 of the Fair Folk book. I would interpret that to include raksha, although presumably they can see through shaping automatically, but it could really go either way. -- OhJames
I was always under the impression that this remained true so long as the next raksha's shaping action isn't conforming to the world above. For example, if Little Trouble had, say, spun through the dark water, raising it to a froth of violence, and diving through the whirlpool as he shows that even the stillest waters run deep, I would say that he wasn't denying the reality, just changing it. I believe that the rule is that denying a shaping action requires Willpower; modifying it does not. - FrivYeti

This is wonderful, and so informative! I really look forward to anything else you care to add...DeathBySurfeit

Eeek! I'm sorry I've been lax recently. I'll do more, I promise (curse you short attention span!). -- OhJames

Awesome work, as always! I'll try to match it when me and Fiat get around to the 500 XP One-on-One Shaping Throwdown! --DarkheartOne

IIRC when a Raksha gives up their shaping action they can move 3 waypoints not 2. (they skip the middle 2). -HeWhoSpeaksOfDarkness

They don't actually skip the middle 2, for purposes of traped waypoints, but zoom through the at the speed of thought avoiding their narrative context. -- Blackedout