Thus Spake Zaraborgstrom/SolarVsSiderealCharms
Re: [Exalted] Sidereal vs Solar
I thought about this some while cleaning.
I don't like writing absolutes.
I just don't.
For example, in every discussion like this---including the WW forum discussion that spawned this thread---someone brings up that you can technically make new Charms for Sidereals. Find lost Charms. Quest for the Maidens. Whatever. And yes, this is true. I don't want to write "you can never have any new Charms ever," when what I mean is "you shouldn't have new Charms unless it makes your game better."
It is generally going to be hard to understand anything I write if you assume that I balance things with CAN and CAN'T. I balance things with EASY and DIFFICULT.
So . . .
There are five factors mentioned in this thread. Some of them aren't actually my affair, since I didn't write the Character Creation or Traits chapters. All of them are things balanced by EASY or DIFFICULT, not by absolutes.
It's true that that makes it really hard to give an absolute evaluation of raw Sidereal combat competence.
So here's what I suggest.
- Custom Charms.
- The need to participate in the Bureaucracy.
- Powers like WSAV designed for kung fu fate agents rather than Kombat.
- Solar Charms are older.
- Solars have few Charms at the Essence level for Sidereal Martial Arts.
Since it would be great to discard these as factors, let me summarize what the Sidereal Charms would look like if I had discarded them as factors during the creation of the Charms.
- If Sidereals could have custom Charms, then the whole paragraph in Geoff's outline about "short trees, with few prerequisites, some missing Charms, and a quick route to the top---but that's all you ever get" goes away. You can simulate this best by giving Solars 1.5x as many Charms.
- If Sidereals didn't have to participate in the Bureaucracy, then their character creation rules would be "ronin, plus astrology." So I'd recommend using that for this kind of test.
- If I cared about Kombat rather than games, then WSAV would probably be a top-tier Charm that made your TNs always 6. So, use that. Assume you need all the Craft Charms.
- If Solar Charms weren't showing their age, Sidereal Charms would on average cost about 20% again more motes. They were lowered in the final draft (6->5, 12->10, and misc. costs as seemed apt) on the data that whenever Solar Charms were adjusted, they were expected to wind up a little better and cheaper. Power Combat did part of this.
- If you can't figure out where Solars go at Essence 4+, either give them Sidereal Martial Arts (which is DIFFICULT instead of CAN'T in part because I knew there'd be some period of time before the Solars got high-Essence Charms published)---or rule out both Sidereal MA and the Essence 5+ Solar castebook Charms. Since I wrote Sidereal Martial Arts in good part to outline the kinds of effects you start seeing at that Essence range, it's a little mean to accuse them of being better than what anyone else gets.
It might be an unfair comparison. Sidereals with 8 Charms, 20% higher mote costs, 7 Backgrounds, 25 Ability dots, limited WSAV, and no SMA against the buffed Solar Exalted with 15 Solar Charms, reduced Charm costs, but some limits on splatbook Charms---that's a very different comparison than the current version, even if you also get to totally ignore all the stuff about custom Charms, bureaucracy, Solars showing their age, and Charm thematics.
If it's an unfair comparison, then I think it's also going to be unfair to totally ignore the reasons that Sidereals are gimped---
So, well. ^_^
P.S. I think the reason that I object to just dropping the custom Charm issue and the bureaucracy issue and so forth is that it amounts to a flat statement that that balance is wrong.
I gave Sidereals some advantages in exchange for custom Charms and having to deal with an entrenched bureaucracy. Yes, they can work around both---but working around these things takes energy. Either the amount of energy it consumes is about right for the advantages they got in exchange, or not. In short, either I did that balance right, or not.
Saying that "these issues are too nebulous to address, so let's assume they don't matter" is saying that the Sidereals are not balanced. Because it means that everything they got in exchange for those handicaps is free. ^_^
Solars with custom Charms are more powerful than those that can't make custom Charms.
The Solar billing says that they can make custom Charms---that they are as powerful as Solars who can do so.
In order to reach that power level, they need custom Charms.
The system does not provide a good way to make them.
So in order to reach their full potential, they have to be able to make custom Charms, which the system does not define well.
Now, you're probably thinking, "That's okay. The necessary power level is exactly as undefined as the actual power level."
Unfortunately, by reading an outline that said, "the Sidereals will exchange that power for something else," I forced the system to define itself. This creates the instability you deplore regardless of "who'd win?" The Sidereals could be weaker than heroic mortals, and as long as weighting custom Charms was a factor in their design, they would make other Exalts' mechanics inadequate by the terms of your argument.
The Sidereal mechanics, simply by existing, set an implicit weight on the power of custom Charms. By looking at the problem and assigning it a weight, I've created an implicit mechanical value for custom Charms. Either they live up to that value or they don't. It doesn't even really matter if you know my design process or not.
As soon as I was told in my outline to trade away custom Charms for something, Solar Charms became inadequate to capture Solar power level, because the ability to make custom Charms became part of the balance---which balance is not just "Sidereals are less powerful than Solars" but rather "Sidereals are exactly as powerful as Sidereals should be, which includes being less powerful than Solars."
In practice, you understand, what I expect this to mean is "if there's an effect in a fatsplat that Solars should have, stick it in their trees. They are not the mysterious unable-to-shoot-down-arrows Exalted of the Sun. I'm going to go ahead and write independent actions for Sidereal MA on the assumption that Solars pick up some equivalent somewhere. I'm going to go ahead and give Sidereals their pattern-spider secretaries on the assumption that if a Solar needs to know trivia they can get a Sherlock Holmes Charm and deduce it. Etcetera."
But sticking to pure theory, well, what it means is, if you have Sidereals in your game, your game has been affected by my assumptions regarding the power of Solar custom Charms, and yet you can't build those Charms in a solid fashion with the rules provided. This is, as you point out, broken.