TheMyriadOfShades/PC255

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Myriad's Power Combat 255

A Brief Look At Different Approaches To Defense

The Wyld-twisted forest shivered in the hot sun, and Xelian, fae hunter and Chosen of the Saturn, finished his battle preparation kata several minutes before his opponent appeared, as he usually did. He was good at anticipating trouble.

Meet Xelian, the 100xp Sidereal. A member of the Gold Faction in good standing, he's got a starmetal grand daiklaive called Last Sight of the Lost and starmetal hearthstone bracers with a non-relevant Hearthstone. He's a master of the Celestial Monkey Style, and a student of the Violet Bier of Sorrows and Five Dragon styles. He's activated Four Halo Golden Monkey Realignment, Five-Dragon Blocking Technique, Blade of the Battle Maiden (full charge), and Defense of Shining Joy, for a grand total of 37 motes, 5 Willpower, plus equipment (12 motes). He's got only 6 motes and 2 Willpower free, but he's not too unhappy, because it's enough to power Impeding the Flow in case something gets past his 27 dice persistent parry and 16 dice persistent dodge. On the offensive end, his daiklaive attack is Spd 20 Acc 30 Dmg 18L Rate 3. He's got 8 health levels. His soak is 2B/1L since he's only wearing robes, but somehow I don't think he's all that concerned about that.

This Sidereal is built on the good old Solar/Sidereal dice monkey dual-persistent strategy, with a BotBM twist. He can't trump applicability yet (that might take another 20 or 30 xp) but without negating parries or dodges, incoming attacks will be facing off against 43 dice of defense on everything, all scene. If something isn't unblockable or perfect, he can ItF it for 3 motes. His offense is based around the fact that he can make high dice pool attacks with a lot of damage behind them all scene, which will hopefully batter past defenses or bleed his opponents of all their essence, too.

Imagine the Sidereal's surprise (at the nature of the attack, not the attack itself) when a Lunar in his warform, and not a Fair Folk, tried to ambush him, jumping down from the top of a giant skin-shedding mushroom, a blur of sleek brown and red fur and moonsilver claws flashing!

Meet the Quicksilver Mongoose. He's got a moonsilver reinforced buff jacket called Violence in Movement and moonsilver hearthstone bracers with a non-relevant Hearthstone. He's in his mongoose beastman shape, with the claw, soak, and Horrifying Might (first purchase) gifts. He's got no scenelongs up, and his equipment is costing him 7 motes, leaving him with 61 motes and 8 Willpower free. His claw attack is Spd 15 Acc 22 Dam 12L Def 21 Rate 7. His soak is 24B/21L/7A. He's got 7 health levels (Ox-Body is next on his to-buy list).

The Lunar, also a dice-monkey, has a wide assortment of Instant defensive Charms and is DBT-maxed for Dexterity (with a preference for Stamina over Strength). The lynchpins of his defensive strategy are Crouching Tiger Stance (which will grant him a parry at 23 dice) and Snake Body Technique (which will grant him a dodge at 27 dice) and his Quick Mongoose Surprise combo which combines the two of them with several Lunar dodge Charms to enhance Snake Body Technique.

The Sidereal has an effortless powerful defense that lasts all scene, along with healthy amount of offensive dice boosting. The Lunar has access to both a reflexive dodge and parry that both cause counterattacks on success, but both have use restrictions. However, in a Combo the Lunar can accumulate even more defensive dice than the Sidereal (54, to be exact), and that's before he begins buying automatic successes. The Lunar has more and better defensive power, but must wait for the right situation to manifest it.

Lesson 1: Widely applicable scene-long defenses are easier to use due to scene-long mote economy and the ability to commit one's entire action to offense, as well as the ability to completely disregard initative. Lesson 2: Users of limited-use Instant defenses must plan their actions well, in case one of their defenses becomes unuseable. Lesson 3: Some effects do not interact with active defenses, and effectively bypass dodges and parries, persistent or not.

The Lunar began to spin like a top in mid-air, and as he fell the deadly vortex of his claws engulfed the Sidereal. But Xelian sidestepped gently to give his sword room to dance with the Lunar, deftly guiding the great beast into a kneeling stance, where the Last Sight of the Lost fell on his neck with all the pitiless efficiency of an executioner's blade.

The Lunar spun to meet the dancing sword, claw against blade to buy him time, and executed the Quick Mongoose Surprise, the trickiest of maneuvers. He twisted around the attack at the narrowest angle, and as the Last Sight of the Lost twisted and turned to strike him, he switched places with the Sidereal, who efficiently decapitated himself.

The Lunar wins initiative (which is full of ramifications for the Lunar, who can only reflexively parry before his initiative unless he uses Feline Guard Technique, which forbids him to dodge-- as a persistent defense user, the Sidereal cares a lot less about his initiative count), and seeing as his opponent is openly displaying a sword, knows Snake Body Technique will be effective here. He's confident in his gigantic reflexive defense pool, and so he simply splits for two actions, the first an attack to test his opponent's defenses, and the second saved for another attack if the defenses turn out to be too weak for his large dice pools or for a parry in case of a counterattack, since Snake Body Technique isn't effective against counterattacks. We know this won't be too effective, but he has no way of knowing of the Sidereal's massive persistent defense pools. He tries his best and gets a 1-die stunt, so his attack pools is 21 dice. He gets 19 (!) successes, well above average.

The Sidereal gets a 1-die stunt and his 45 defensive dice score 26 successes (bizzarely, the dodge scored as many successes as the parry), and the Sidereal decides to see if he can end the fight now with a single 31-dice attack (he imagines that, at worst, he'll get hit with a counterattack he can defend himself against), and gets 16 successes.

The Sidereal's unimaginative tactics cost him, however, for the Lunar has led him into a trap. He gets a two-dice stunt as he first uses his second action to parry the attack at 20 dice, scoring 10 successes. He does this merely to weaken the attack, but not to stop it, because Snake Body Technique works better against attacks that don't have a lot of remaining attack successes. The Lunar then activates his Quick Mongoose Surprise Combo, and activates Snake Body Technique (5 motes, reflexive dodge at 27 dice), Unmoving Bear Defense (2 motes, adds his Essence in dice to the dodge, up to 31), and Bending Before the Storm (11 motes, convert all 11 Dexterity dice into successes, leaving 20 dice), and channels his Valor (1 Willpower, adding 4 dice, up to 24). The 24 dice score 15 successes, for a total of 26 successes on Snake Body Technique, or a total of 36 defensive successes. The Lunar is left with 20 extra successes.

Now, here's where the nasty part comes in. Snake Body Technique has a lot of use restrictions, but it needs them. Because it's not a counterattack, nor is it even a seperate attack-- the attack is not re-rolled back at the attacker. Instead, "if the roll succeeds, any damage from the attack is applied to the attacker instead of the Lunar, with extra successes by the Lunar increasing the number of damage dice." (E:tL, pg. 137) Oops-- the Sidereal just hit himself with a raw damage of 38L. The Sidereal does all he can-- he activates Five-Dragon Fortitude, which has an infinite cap on the amount of soak it can add, but since all the Sidereal's essence is tied up in tossing around at least 30 dice at any problem his sword can solve, he can only add 6 to his lethal soak, for a total soak of 7, leaving him with 31 damage dice. He scores 9 damage successes, and dies a turn later. Bummer. The Lunar regains 4 motes and is down 14 motes, 2 Willpower, and a Valor channel.

Put briefly, persistent defenses are better at defending you, but they're not perfect. Instant defenses are expensive (the Lunar probably could have defended himself with just Snake Body Technique and parries, but that's at a cost of 5 motes versus every attack), but if they have extra effects (like counterattacks or automatically dealing damage to the opponent who just failed to hit you) they might be more useful. However, only certain Instant defenses are this useful-- Snake Body Technique, Crouching Tiger Stance, Crimson Palm Counterstrike, and other defend-and-counterattack effects. Since persistent defenses generally don't come with these extra perks (Steel Devil Style does, but it's an Essence 4 Solar Charm) persistent defense users are more likely to use cheap instant counterattacks like Solar Counterattack and Vengeful Ripsote, which don't impede their main action.

FIN</I>

After-Fight Thoughts

Instant defense users, it should be noted, often have the free essence to spend a lot of essence all at once, and do it several times. Persistent defense users are often much more careful about essence expenditure, since they have more essence committed to effects. All characters who rely heavily on active defenses tend to be dice monkeys, and non-Lunars who rely heavily on dodge tend not to wear a lot of armor due to mobility penalties-- moonsilver allows one to bypass this problem. The Lunar, unlike the Sidereal, could have actually taken a few hits, but the Sidereal's MA restrictions on armor and the lack of a lot of reflexive soak-boosters in MA forbid him from having similar luxury.

Sidereals are hugely into the persistent defense mode (their essence pools and the somewhat costly of their Instant defenses encourages this), while Lunars are forced into the Instant defense mode, since they lack persistents. Solars are actually fairly good at both.

Many people feel persistent defenses are always better, and take from this the conclusion that Lunars are bad at combat. This is somewhat misleading-- the Lunars don't get a lot of defensive options that don't affect their action, which forces them to plan their actions well, but the effects of their defensive Charms (Snake Body Technique, Crouching Tiger Stance, Foot-Trapping Counter, Scales of the Dragon) are generally quite powerful. The Lunars give up options on how and when to use their action, but they gain a fair amount of power out of it.

The fight was a little unfair, though. Snake Body Technique is hard on Sidereals, since it works on their two favorite combat abilities and bypasses their strong active defense and instead goes straight for their oftentimes-less-impressive soak and health levels, using their own starmetal-enhanced damage (not that there aren't low-damage high-soak Sidereal builds, but they're comparatively rarer). It's less miraculous against other Exalted types, who tend to be more varied in their builds.

The Sidereal really could have benefitted from a counterattack, since neither the Lunar's reflexive dodge nor reflexive parry is applicable in such a situation (since Crouching Tiger Stance can't be used after the Lunar acts). However, with the exception of Crimson Palm Counterattack and the counterattacks hidden in various MA trees (and with the exception of Mantis and upper-level Charcoal March of Spiders) most MA counterattacks aren't great, being of the "take a hit first" variety.


Comments

Very nice and insightful, as usual. :). Although, honestly, a charm that allows you to redirect an attack back to an attacker, AND doesn't give them a chance to defend seems broken to me. I suppose if fail to beat the attacks successes you get hit, but still...yowch. What are the other restrictions on it? -FlowsLikeBits

It only works against Melee and MA attacks and doesn't work against counterattacks, and you only get your extra successes on the defense. And it counts as a dodge.

It's quite powerful in a specific circumstance if used correctly (that is, if you can back it up with a ton of dodge successes), and isn't hard to get around-- it's not that useful against spam-attackers, either, because it's expensive and redirects the original damage, so an opponent with higher soak and lower damage (the opposite of the Sidereal here) wouldn't be so worried about it.

In short, it's like a lot of Lunar Charms. Very nasty, hard to use. It's also not entirely unique-- Vengeful Ripsote is much cheaper and is somewhat similar, except in that case the counterattack simply can't be defended against without Charms (making it very dangerous against opponents, like DBs and Lunars, who tend to reserve normal actions for defenses). Lunars don't have persistent or widely applicable defenses like the Solars and Sidereals, but the defenses they have do tend to have nasty extra effects to them, especially if you Combo them in the right ways. -TheMyriadOfShades

Honestly, I'd call an unblockable+undodgeable counterattack a bargin for 5 motes. Even with some applicability limitations(the only thing it doesn't work against in Brawl. And ranged counterattacks are pretty rare(IIRC Lunars have the only one?). Which Lunars are better at anyway.) And can't be blocks without a charm is pretty weak(depends on what you consider a charm though. 5DragonBlocking? I admit this is vague.) Honestly,under these conditions, I probably wouldn't use a full charge on BotBM. Honestly, it still seems fairly broken to me, as there are VERY few effects that allow one to defend after being hit. Bypassing defences is quite powerful. And being able defend yourself while doing so. (I'm guessing the Sid lacked the obvious one, being Death Parrying Stroke. Which would have kept him alive, although probably hurt enough that this never happened). -FlowsLikeBits
It's powerful, I agree. The Lunars are like that-- Lightning Stroke Attack is a ranged attack Charm that's 6 motes and is unblockable+undodgeable, and in a tree with plenty of damage-boosters. That's certainly as nasty as this, since you don't need to be attacked first to activate it. It's not unstoppable, though-- switch attack patterns to Archery, Brawl, or Thrown, or get a lot of soak and health levels. Both are good counters to Snake Body.

You're probably right about the full charge on BotBM. I was worried about the Lunar rolling lucky on an attack and blowing past the persistents anyway, so I dumped a ton into it. These characters are caricatures of what is possible-- I would hardly expect in-game PCs to toss around this many dice or to rely so heavily on their active defenses. This example is meant less as a combat balance example and more just pointing out a few things about active defenses in particular. -TheMyriadOfShades

Still pretty nasty. Honestly, I'd probably allow people to stunt perfects against it, as it seems REALLY evil otherwise(and still a win for the Lunar). I'm detecting this weird trend were all Lunar charms seem to be broken(in various directions). I suppose you could argue tht it balances out, but's still an annoying way to have a splat. -FlowsLikeBits

At that level of celestial combat, a Sidereal really can't afford not to have Avoidance Kata. It would have saved him from a rather embarassing and grisly death. -braincraft

Well, yeah. I'm sort of just looking at combat, not at what I'd recommend people build their actual characters like. -TheMyriadOfShades

Grasping Mantis Defense (From Mantis Style, obviously) has some of the same awesome broken power as Snake Body. For 5 motes it gives you a Martial Arts parry, and if you succeed, extra successes are immediately applied as extra successes on a Hold, skipping the defense step entirely. - medivh

Actually, it doesn't. The wording is: "The character's opponent is automatically placed into a hold using the character's net successes as automatic successes on the hold attempt. I don't think it can't be defended against. - FrivYeti
Really, let's be honest here. Lunars and Mantis Style users weren't exactly wiping the floor with everyone to start-- a powerful defense-negating Charm or two won't hurt. -TheMyriadOfShades

Um. You <i>do realize that the Sidereal completely wasted 4 motes and 1 Willpower before the fight, yes? With a full BotBM charge and Four Halo Golden Monkey Realignment, the character gains absolutely nothing from Five-Dragon Blocking Technique. Note the dice-adder cap and that Blade of the Battle Maiden "cannot more than double her normal Dexterity + Martial Arts pool with any combination of effects". The bonus dice from Five-Dragon Blocking Technique (like the bonus attack dice from Four Halo Golden Monkey Realignment) can't be applied, its reflexive parry capability is already provided more effectively by Four Halo Golden Monkey Realignment, and the ability to parry lethal attacks barehanded is covered (for the most part) by BotBM.With BotBM at full charge and Four Halo Golden Monkey Realignment, the character has (assuming Dex and MA at 5) a 20-dice persistent parry, plus or minus Defense. Also, the character's persistent dodge should be (assuming Performance or Dodge is at 5 - surely one of them is) 17 dice, before specialties. - David.

And interestingly enough, a noble Rakshasa combat monster could have owned either of them and possibly so at character creation. No? Immaculate arts, millipede mind, a good reflexive parry, glamour sorceries, high attributes/abilities god-monster stance would have crushed.


If I'm not mistaken, don't the Solars have their own little nasty surprise that's basically the same as what the Lunar does here? Snake Strikes the Heel... ok wait quick re-reading of text shows it's not the same but very similar in scope... Allows instant Dexterity+MA counterattacks to any blows that land adding the opponent's extra successes to your roll. Which means that it doesn't work all that well in a situation with this much experience pushed into the characters. However it strikes me that a high-soak martial artist at lower exp levels could benefit from the same idea build. Snake Form (bashing increase (+5 usually), attack success decrease), Invulnerable Skin of Bronze (huge bashing increase (+12)), Essence of Fang and Scales or an Adamant Skin Hearthstone (use bashing soak as lethal soak, or convert lethal damage to bashing damage respectively) coupled with a Twilight Caste with a combo including Essence Gathering Temper, Snake Strikes the Heel,as well as some type of dodge or perfect defense charm could probably mimic a similar effect while keeping their essence level up. Any thoughts? (I only recently got into exalted soooo correct me if I'm wrong on any of that)- Gast

No, it's a good basic idea, though I conceived it as Adamant Skin Technique + Snake Strikes the Heel + Essence Gathering Temper. Then I grew mildly annoyed that a 'supple and graceful' style was going to be using a stand and take it approach. -- JadeSerpent
Yeah it bothers to me too, I just let PC's use reflexive defenses after rolling their counterattack. - Issaru who knows all effective users of Snake Stlye have reflexive dodges
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