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Myriad's Power Combat 450

Lessons on Tactics

In Realm Year 874, Delaine the Foot, a century-old Solar hero of the wars against the fae invasions was trying to impress a younger pack of Lunars so they'd join him in his crusade against a demon outbreak that had run him out of his kingdom. In order to do so, he set out to destroy a twisted, hated, but powerful Lunar who consorted with demons and the dead and who was pursuing the younger pack of Lunars at the time with the intent to hunt them as game.

He prepared his divine gear and set out into the hills to find Syphus, the Glorious in Disgrace. Stopping in what he knew to be the Lunar's territory, a countryside featuring green, rolling hills with small copses of trees and the occasional stream strewn about, and no human interlopers. Anything that looked human that entered the territory inevitably ended up dead. So Delaine the Foot, anima blazing, yelled out a challenge to battle.

Let's welcome Delaine the Foot, a combat-oriented young Twilight. He probably has various Twilight-y skills, but he's a century old (500xp by downtime rules) and has about 300xp dumped into combat. (Conveniently, this is about the combat-dedication level that makes for good "single-Exalt boss" characters for less experienced PC Circles) Note that this is fairly similar to the combat-dedication of Power Combat 101's Alakra. He is Essence 4. He is known for a deadly combat style that features near-invulnerability to normal damage and the speed and strength to stomp down anyone who can't take it or get out of the way.

He is equipped with a pair (functions as one, but aesthetically I prefer it to be a pair) of orichalcum God-Kicking Boots (known as the Vicious Spine Dancers) and an orichalcum Reinforced Buff Jacket (known as the Sun's Contempt). He also has some exceptional javelins.

He has numerous charms, and since he's come looking for a fight, has activated Battle Fury Focus, Increasing Strength Excercise, and Feather-Foot Style ahead of time, for a total of 23 motes commited (counting artifacts). The lesson here? If you've got multiple powerup Charms, try and arrange your fights so you don't have to worry about getting up Charms in time. In short, avoid ambush. Powered-up high-xp Exalted often are already glowing, anyway.

His relevant attribute and ability scores are Str 4, Dex 6 (Legendary Attribute), Sta 5, Wits 4, Brwal 5 (+3 Kick), Melee 5 (+3 1v1), Thrown 5 (Multiple Attacks +1), and Dodge 2 and Essence 4.

The sounds of wildlife around him ceased, and Delaine saw the snakeman coil and crawl his way down the trunk of the highest tree in sight, off in the distance hill over. The Lunar hissed his contempt and began to execute martial arts kata performed in the dangerously sinuous manner of the snake. As his tattoes flared with essence and the silver patterns of his scales became obvious to the eye, Delaine rushed across the landscape.

And so it began.

Our second character today is Syphus, a mean old nasty Lunar who has most of his xp dumped into combat and some unlikely background that lets him take any Celestial martial art I find appropiate. In short, a standard ST-spot-created super-monster-- a Full Moon who's total combat commitment ranks somewhere from 300-350xp-- I'm not sure exactly.

Syphus also gets the advantage (especially since he's one of those Lunars that hangs around in DBT all the time), dropping down several hundred yards away, out of Delaine's movement for a few rounds, during which he activates Scimitar Claw Technique, Snake Head Defense, Snake Form and Essence Fang and Scales. His DBT gifts are Horrifying Might, Rugged Hide, and Wound-Knitting Power. He's got moonsilver Hearthstone bracers, but no Hearthstone, and a total of 24 motes commited and a Willpower spent.

His relevant attribute and ability scores are Str 2, Dex 10, Sta 8, Wits 5, Martial Arts 5 (+3 against opponents with lower inititative), Dodge 5 (+3 full dodge), Athletics 3, and Essence 4.

His base soak is 17L/17B.

The two characters, I'm fairly certain, would alternate in who won if they actually fought, but I will use certain pre-planned decisions to explain certain features of high-xp Exalted Combat.

Lesson 1: High-xp Exalted often have ways of dealing with flurry attacks.

The preternaturally quick snake waits for the Solar to get closer. Delaine leaps, lands with one bone-shattering boot to the snake's skin, and proceeds to walk up Syphus' body, finishing with a boot to the face. The Lunar's tongue, a snake itself, slithers out of his mouth on its own and bites the Solar as he comes into range, however, a nasty surprise.

When they get into range, the Lunar goes on initiative 25 but delays. The Snake Head Defense attack goes off, and the Solar ignores the tiny snake-- he rolls 5 successes on the Stamina+Endurance check to resist the poison, more than enough. Against the damage, he activates the Twilight anima power for 5 motes and takes no damage, The Solar goes on 17, and confident in his defense, splits his attack four ways (starting at 10 dice and going down to 7, between multiple action and Snake Form penalties) in an attempt to flurry the Lunar. He scores 6, 4, 4, and 3 successes. The Lunar, seeing that the Solar is using Brawl and thus not a valid target for Snake Body Technique, goes Full Dodge, starting at 25 dice. He easily evades each attack and activates Joy in Adversity Stance, although he has spent no non-commited essence. If Delaine were a mechanics nut, he'd be worried right about now.

In PC, the boost to active defenses makes it easier to evade blows-- this is specifically to held defend against people from exploiting Essence=ping and getting tons of damage dice via flurry attacks, and many experienced Exalted will be ready to deal with this. In addition, if the attacks fail to prompt a magical defense, the opponent may continue to power up and will learn much about your basic attack strategy.

Lesson 2: In fact, you may often be punished for trying such a tactic.

None of the Solar's kicks connected. The next thing he knew, he was faced with a set of silver claws trying to gut him. In response, he dropped back into the Spinning Gold Defense, Mark 2 maneuver that he had recently perfected, turning upside down and head-spinning so fast that the first attack that struck him caused him to spin even faster, catching the Lunar with a kick to the chin as he did so.

New turn. The Lunar goes on init 32, well out of the Solar's possible initiative range. He splits his action 5 ways (guessing correctly that the Solar's Rate is 4 after last round) and makes a probing attack at 16 dice, to test the Solar's defenses. He scores 7 successes and the Solar offers no active defense. His raw damage is 16L, piercing. The Solar launches into an unlikely Combo and soaks the Lunar down to minimum damage and then uses the Twilight anima power to try and avert damage-- both the Lunar and Solar roll 4 dice, but the Lunar's are damage dice. The Solar expends 8 motes (since Essence-Gathering Temper must be used BEFORE the anima power and Willpower-Enhancing Spirit) but regains the Willpower. The Lunar's snake-tongue attacks as well, and meets the same defense from the Solar-- the Solar takes no damage and regains a net of 10 motes.

The Solar then spends 3 motes on Solar counterattack at 18 dice. The Lunar goes 'uh-oh', because he hadn't planned on counterattacks when splitting his action, and even though Solar Counterattack is a Melee attack, Snake Body Technique can't be used against counterattacks. The attack comes in at 18 dice, and the Lunar spends an action and 4 motes to dodge at 9 dice with 4 auto-successes. The attack gets 6 successes, and so does the dodge. The Lunar regains 4 motes.

Syphus evaded the strike to the chin with no more than a gesture and a step, but Delaine was not fooled and saw he had his opponent at a disadvantage, so he pressed his attack as he had before, kicking as he spun.

Syhpus holds his action for defenses, so Delaine tries to flurry him again, hoping (correctly) that Syphus didn't split his dice pool enough ways. Delane rolls as many dice as last round, scoring 5, 3, 7, and 4 successes. Syphus uses his remaining 3 dodges on the first three attacks, buying 5, 3, and 4 auto-successes. The last two attacks hit, with 1 and 4 successes respectively. Delaine rolls 4 damage dice twice, and does 3 levels of damage, reducing the Lunar to a -1 wound penalty. The Lunar regains 10 motes. The Solar is down a total of 3 regainable motes, the Lunar 6. The Lunar's pool for resisting knockdown is 12-- he easily succeeds on each check.

Syphus failed to anticipate a counterattack, even though it's something a lot of armed Solars have, and planned his actions poorly. This also serves as a good example on how different types of Exalted fight differently-- the Lunars have to worry about balancing offensive and defensive actions, while Solars often can afford to dedicate their entire dice action to offense or defense and rely on magic for the other. Trying to flurry the Solar only got the Lunar down on essence and down three health levels.

Lessons 3&4: High-xp Exalted often have expensive powerups that they will only activate when sure they would be useful. Also, they have multiple modes of offense and defense.

Syphus staggers back, bleeding, but still strong and getting stronger. He retreats, moving with an impossible grace, down the hill and across a creek before beginning to ascend the other side, but not before his tongue of his own volition darts it once again to bite at the brave Solar. The Solar ignores the snake, and his opponent's retreat, and instead draws a pair of javelins from the brace on his back and using those two, hurls hundreds of javelins at the Lunar. Syphus rears back, and begins to coil back, red burning in sudden hot flashes here and there throughout his anima, before striking down every javelin in a sudden flourish of moonsilver.

The Lunar heals a health level, wins init yet again and retreats as far as he can while retaining his action. Even though his Dexterity is 10, the Solar's movement is doubled, so Syphus will be unlikely to be able to escape the battle entirely. The snakes attack as the Lunar retreats, but the Solar relies on his anima power to dull their damage, spending 5 motes.

The Solar chooses not to pursue, but instead splits his dice pool twice and hits the Lunar with a pair of uses of Cascade of Cutting Terror-- the attacks are at 24 and 22 dice and are undodgeable. The attacks score 11 and 4(!) successes. The Lunar pulls out a surprise, activates Blade of the Battle Maiden for 20 motes, 2 Willpower, and goes full parry at 26 and 25 dice and parries both attacks. He regains 4 of his 6 regainable motes (and is down 3 Willpower), while the Solar is now down 22.

The two combatants play a dangerous game where the Lunar bets he can stop whatever the Solar can do with those javelins. The Solar, hoping the Lunar's parry isn't as good as his dodge, uses his high-dice pool undodgeable attack, knowing he can regain the essence back later even though he's going through his essence pool quickly because of all the essence he has committed. He couldn't know the Lunar would be able to powerup even further while also parrying the attacks (this, by the way, is not a typical Lunar strength-- this Lunar is just silly because it's an ST-obstacle). Syphus has a decently larger essence pool than Delaine (this is actually typical at Essence 2-4 if the Lunar has a high Virtue or Willpower), and so he can afford dumping that much essence into further increasing his dice advantage, switching modes of defense mid-fight to confuse his opponent.

Lessons 5&6: High-xp Exalted often have attacks with nasty effects other than damage-- soakers should especially watch out, but there are ways to defend oneself. Fully powered-up Exalted can attack while defending themselves impressively, especially against opponents with a lower Rate or via reflexive Charms.

The Lunar's wounds bound themselves back into intact flesh and scales as the Lunar moved back forward, opening with a claw flurry so vicious that nothing could stand up against it. But Delaine knew his flesh would stand against anything and he would be stronger for it (and he needed the power), and so he again fell into his Spinning Gold Defense, Mark 2 technique.

However, this time, the Lunar's snake tongue gained purchase in his flesh. He could not keep this up forever, and so he again began his offensive. He found himself unable to strike the Lunar yet again. This could take a while...

The Lunar, confident in his ability to last out the fight (considering he's now up to -0 with a single hlvl of damage), splits his action seven ways with his claws and makes 2 attacks, secretly empowering each with Adder Fang Method in an attempt to get as many chances to roll damage as possible, relying on the statistical eventuality that the Twilight will roll badly on his anima power check. His attacks are at 24 and 23 dice, scoring 10 and 9 successes. Both attacks are soaked to minimum, and the Solar regains all spent motes and Willpower except for the last 8 motes spent on the last attack. Because the Twilight anima eliminates all damage from the 3 attacks, Adder Fang Method doesn't go off. Poor Lunar, down 8 motes.

However, the snake-tongue attacks, and in a run of bad rolls, the Twilight ends up spending a net total of 2 motes and still taking a level of lethal damage from the snake. He manages to resist the poison, however. He spends 6 motes on Solar counterattack (16 down) and splits his attack four ways, again. The Lunar's remaining parries start at 18 dice. The Solar's attacks score 9, 7, 4, 3, 6, and 3 successes. The Lunar parries the first 5 attacks, and regains all spent motes. The Solar hits with the last attack, and gets 2 damage successes, putting the Lunar at -1 again.

Here, we see that the Lunar can hope to, on occasion, actually damage the Solar and drain him of some essence and health levels, especially with the extra attack his head-snake makes each round. He just has to hit him enough times, but most of his actions are taken up defending against incoming attacks. The Solar is also slowly damaging the Lunar, however, but if that regeneration keeps up he could lose as well. Both fighters have supernatural endurance and damage resistance, including the ability to regain lost essence (Lunars are normally the only Exalted type that does not do this very well, as their Charm for it is hidden deep in a not-widely-useful tree-- it was actually cheaper, xp-wise, to go the Lunar Martial Artist route, in this case). They're going to have to start pulling out more magical offense to win this fight, as the Lunar has started to notice, but the Lunar's poison magic requires him to score health levels of damage to use, and that's exactly what the Solar is largely proof against.

Lesson 7: The longer one fights with a high-xp Exalted, the more risk they run of their defensive pattern being analyzed and countered. The same applies vice-versa.

The Lunar moved to the left as his snake-tongue extended out to the right, and the Solar found himself facing attacks from both directions. Finally cornering his opponent where he wanted him, he bounced back from the blows as his limbs all began to glow a flickering gold. A silence fell over the wilderness.

Delaine the Foot darted forward, ducking into a backspin before striking his foe from below with a rising screwdriver kick, knocking the Lunar shortly into the sky. He pursued Syphus upwards, twisted, struck a pose in mid-air, and delivered a stone-crushing blow to the Lunar's spine, pushing him back towards the stream. But the pain was not over-- quicker than humanly possible, the Solar landed, pursued the Lunar, and in a rising somersault landed both of the Vicious Spine-Dancers on the Lunar's head, using it to propel a backflip that ended with him below the Lunar, smiling serenely even as his feet rotated beneath him at greater and greater speeds. "Such is the pain brought on by the deadly Breakdancing Crane." The birds scattered from the trees with the force from the final blow, and the Lunar's face would never be the same.

At least, that's what he had planned. He had not planned on the Lunar smiling, calling on the favor of his patron, and evading each blow by twisting his body in various serpertine fashions without so much as having to change his position, and then swiping him in the head. But Delaine the Foot being the unconquerable Delaine the Foot, he did not take wounds from the blow, but power.

The Lunar (healing a health level and splitting 6 ways) and his snake-tongue make their respective attacks, and the Solar activates his 'Breakdancing Crane Busts Busts Busts A Move' Combo, the first part of which is the familiar soak-and-recover deal. The Solar regains half of his spent motes but not the Willpower (8 motes, 1 Willpower down), but has some bad rolls again and takes another level of lethal damage (good thing Battle Fury Focus wipes out that -1 wound penalty), but resists the poison successfully.

The Solar then brings out his supermove, and makes 4 18-dice attacks that are unblockable and double extra successes for damage purposes, on top of having boosted damage in the first place and doing knockback (because Brawl Comboes are wonderful). He channels Valor on the last attack to get 22 dice, and now has spent 28 motes, 3 Willpower. After subtracting 4 dice from each attack for the Lunar's Snake Form, he scores 11, 2, 7, and 9 successes. The Lunar cannot use his boosted parries since the attack is unblockable (hah, says the Solar), and so dodges instead, starting at -7 (-1 extra for wound penalties). The Lunar buys 10 auto-dodge successes against the first attack, 7 against the third, and 9 against the fourth, going through most of his essence pool in the process. He successfully dodges all attacks, and regains 18 motes, leaving him down 8.

The Lunar spends his remaining action on a claw attack at a total split action, wound, and init-delay penalty of 22, that is, at 9 dice. He hits-- the Solar regains 12 motes, 2 Willpower, and takes no damage.

The Solar has a good idea-- let the Lunar go first to whittle down his pools, then hit him with high-dice unblockable attacks to bypass his magically boosted parries and assault his (unbeknownst to the Solar) non-specialty-having split dodge pools. And it's a good, solid tactical idea-- he knows that the Lunar's split dodge won't be nearly as impressive as his full dodge, especially since the Solar doesn't have to split his own attack. And he's right-- the Lunar initiatially is forced to spend more essence powering his dodges (because taking hits from the Combo would have been disastorous) than the Solar did powering the attack. But since this is high-xp Exalted combat, both opponents have devised ways to be, essence-wise, inexhaustible. Obivously, essence-regain should be a concern of all high-xp Exalted combatants-- otherwise, one of these fighters would have exhausted the other long ago.

Lesson 8: High-xp Exalted combat often ends in a draw.

Delaine the Foot bowed to his opponent. "You seem unassaultable and inexhaustible. I compliment your technique."

Syphus hissed out his words as their animas competed for light and dominance over the meadows. "And you as well, Solar."

"I have a proposition."


"I will assist you in hunting down the pack of Lunars that has been harassing your territory."

Though in reality the opposite was true, the Solar's implication that it was his territory greatly interested the Lunar. "And what is the rest of your proposition?"

"Assist me in driving some demons from my kingdom, and we shall have a non-agreesion pact from then on, barring some intentional offense on one of our parts."

The Lunar hissed in happiness. "It is a deal."

Neither Exalted wants to push the fight to its conclusion-- after long minutes of fighting, slowly accumulated wounds overcoming the Solar or the Lunar rolling badly on a dodge or parry and suddenly getting knocked down to his -2 health levels, which might be enough of a dice disadvantage that the Solar's wipe-out Combo might catch him at a bad moment, essence-wise, and do unacceptable amounts of damage (the Solar has 13 health levels, the Lunar has 21). So they agree to a draw-- neither would win quickly or well, but instead victory would be hard-won and dangerous. They settle their grievances with an alliance of sorts, and the two heroes continue about their lives.


After-Fight Thoughts

The Solar had an auto-init effect, but figured going after an opponent as agressive as the Lunar would be best. He never really got much use out of Feather-Foot Style, but that's because the Lunar never fled out of his overall attack range-- otherwise, he would have needed it to prevent the Lunar from fleeing to regenerate wounds and returning to fight, and also in order to follow the Lunar if he was knocked backwards by repeated Crashing Wave Throw hits.

The Lunar is a very, very strong build. He suffered because his two nastiest tricks-- Snake Body Technique and his various natural poisons, were those negated by the Solar's chosen modes of attack and defense. Instead, the Lunar was forced to rely on his secondary tricks-- enormus dice pools and a very high Rate.

The Solar could have benefited from a perfect attack. The Lunar could have benefited from a damage-success-buyer.


Pretty cool. Just expressing appreiciation and encouragement. I'm not familiar with Lunars really, but in Lesson 1, second paragraph. In't poison usually Stamina+Resistance, rather than Stamina+Endurance? -FlowsLikeBits

Cute how Lunar poison evades Resistance-boosting effects by making you roll a different Ability to resist it, isn't it? Seems like it'd make a nasty surprise. -TheMyriadOfShades

I changed that. Endurance shouldn't help with resisting something like that, especially as it's more of an acid than a venom in many cases, it has no penalty and just does extra damage. Also, it makes some poison resisting charms utterly fail, because they apply to resistance... and what use are poison resisting charms if they don't work on poison?
-- Darloth

That is sneaky. It kinda sounds like a typo to me. Although don't most poisons do damage even if you succeed? (Which is the insanely nasty thing about poison.) -FlowsLikeBits, or maybe this is that wacky Lunar charm design I keep hearing about
It's the wacky Lunar Charm design. From a OOC perspective, it makes absolutely no sense. From an IC perspective, it just means that Lunar poison is especially hard to resist, and certain people's Charms have no effect against them. I'm sort of OK with that, but your mileage may vary. Exalted is a game of interpretation, I'm afraid. -TheMyriadOfShades
Honestly, I'd call that poor design, as that starts the whole "different types of perfection" game I'd rather avoid. From the look of it, it looks like a balanced effect that probably shouldn't have been called "poison". Anyway, sorry for the tangent. -FlowsLikeBits

Very nice. Very well done. I bet it was difficult to come up with such an even match I don't know enough about Lunars to comment, but Delaine is a very creative build. Neat.(Although I counted 19 charms these+prerequisites:(CoCT+,Hammer on Iron+,CWT+,Battle Fury Focus+,Solar Counterattack!+,Featherfoot Style+,Iron Kettle Body+), which seems a bit low for 300xp of combat focus. He could have had clinch charms, which would be pretty useless.). This also demonstrates why Martial Art's seems almost necessary for higher xp combat. The range of effects you get from it is just to usefull, unfortunatly. Anyway, really cool. Ok if I refer people to this? -FlowsLikeBits

Certainly OK to refer people. Delaine is rocking 24 Charms and exactly 298xp-- he didn't have to use his parry Charms (he has GEB, DSD, and HGD in his defensive Combo) because the Lunar wasn't packing any really nasty non-damage effects. He also knows Tiger-and-Bear Awareness, an MA Charm from the PG, that goes off in response to surprise attacks, but the Lunar wasn't an Ebon Shadow Stylist (the two characters are both designed for general fighting, not specific combat against one another, so they both have a wider defensive set of powers than they strictly need). The reason he doesn't have more Charms is because he has a lot of xp dumped into Comboes and shoring up his Attributes, Abilities, and Specialties-- you have to support your Charm purchases with the right stats to use the Charms with (for example, Stamina 5 was essential to using EGT) or else they won't work like you want them too, and a character with Delaine's non-persistent primary defense needs Comboes for every situation. Thanks a lot for your comment. -TheMyriadOfShades
Thanks. That's a good point about the Abilities/Specialties/Attributes. I wasn't sure how to account for them. I imagine Delaine can't be very XP efficient if he's a Twilight and has every Dawn ability except Archery.(Does show the advantage of the Dawn caste here, actually. Altough to get almost exactly the same build you'd have to throw in Death Parrying Stroke, or something). This also might be good example for the "Lunars Suck" comments.(Oddly enough, the Lunar is ony a few charms away from the damage buyer in VBoS, Lucky Solar) -FlowsLikeBits
To be fair, he only has a 3 in MA, just enough for the anti-surprise. And if you're not saving xp for other things, it's easy to start with 3s in a lot of combat-relevant stuff. It is a Dawn Caste advantage, though-- much past this xp level and it would really, really start to show as I was forced to diversify more into Melee and MA. To get the same build as a Dawn, though, you have to get Five-Dragon Blocking Technique and Death Parrying Stroke. It's a better technique, though-- no risk of rolling badly, and you can use it fairly well against damage-success buyers, too. -TheMyriadOfShades

First, I like the fight, it was interesting to read. This is just a small question, but you note that 'both opponents have devised ways to be, essence-wise, inexhaustible.' Thinking about canon options available, you seem to have nailed the only two there are for non-Abyssals (Joy in Adversity or EGT). Have I missed any? And if not, what other charms could you see in other abilities? - Kraken

The DBs have one that lets them burn Willpower for motes when in contact with their element. The Sidereals have the ones tied to their Virtues, and the Lunars have one hidden high up in a tree that works upon killing an opponent. -TheMyriadOfShades

I did rememeber the high-tree lunar one, but I was more thinking for fights like this, where there is no death (Which I should have specifified - fights where you can farm extras for essence are a different ballgame and generally not so threating to the characters involved). The Dragonblooded on I remember too, though without some lore twinking, isnt that much better than an +2 powercombat stunt (though it could be with something like the sphere of the revolutionary dog), and is a simple charm which is less than ideal for combat. The Sid Virtue Charms I had plain forgotten about, though I was mostly thinking about Solars, so I'm sticking to that excuse ^^; - Kraken

Also, remember that Hungry Ghost is a Celestial MA, and it has both the Form and Power-Reaping Prana. It depends on how restricted your ST thinks it should be-- it's never stated how well known the style is outside the Abyssals, but it makes a truly excellent style in only a few Charms. Lunars benefit particularly from it, I personally think. -TheMyriadOfShades