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Why Vervain Hates the Dawn Caste

Note that this is basically a rant without a real point. It does, yes, carry over to the Abyssal caste which matches up to Dawn. That said:

It's simple, really. The Dawn Caste is just dull. I still wonder why it was set up the way it was; if you look at everyone else's castes/aspects, even the Chosen of Battles have more interesting abilities. This is something that really irks me, because most of the time it feels like a player who choses to play a Dawn Caste is shooting himself in the foot. Very few people actually want five different combat abilities; some characters have as many as three, but that seems to be about the limit of reasonableness. Dawn castes are described as being generals and great military minds, but that would seem to indicate to me that they should probably get presence as a caste ability, if nothing else. Zenith can keep performance, which is what they really need, and other abilities can be re-shuffled without too much trauma.

This is my problem: if an Eclipse had only his caste abilities (I know it wouldn't happen, but imagine for a moment), he would still be able to perform a wide range of tasks. A Night caste would be relatively effective with only her own abilities. Zenith and Twilight would still have a range of things they could do, too. And then the Dawn caste? They hit things. They have a wide range of methods of hitting things open to them, but in the end, it all comes down to hitting things.

And it pisses me off. It means that most Dawn Caste characters will have the majority of their points in other castes' abilities, with a lot of empty slots in their own, which is pretty much inefficiency. If I wanted to make a general, I'd probably make her be Zenith caste, and favour melee, lore, ride, archery and craft (war). If I made the same character as a Dawn caste, I'd favour lore, ride, craft (war), presence, and... resistance? endurance? survival? Nope, not enough slots left. It's not to say that I'd be prevented from taking all the abilities I wanted for the character, but wouldn't it slow her down as she advanced if several very significant abilities weren't favoured? It's not a problem I have when constructing characters of other castes. Just Dawn.

And now the ranting is done. Sorry about that.


Well, I feel obligated to say that while the other Castes can be effective working with just their Caste Abilities, they cannot perform their Caste *roles*. Zeniths need Linguistics, Lore, and Occult to properly understand and teach the glory of the Unconquered Sun. Twilights, as worldly savants, need the Zenith hardship abilities and Eclipse transport abilities to properly apply their knowledge across Creation. Nights need Dawn combat abilities, Zenith and Eclipse social skills, and Twilight understanding to come up with and use their unorthodox styles, to know what they need to know. Finally, Eclipses need Zenith social abilities, along with Awareness, to properly engage themselves in social settings. And, while it is true that the Dawn Caste only has combat abilities for its Caste Abilities, I think it's important to remember that in the epic style, a general's combat prowess comes before all other considerations, and charisma or cunning are simply bonuses. -- Will

By limiting yourself with that "in the epic style" bit (which I disagree with anyway), you practically invalidate your former comments. I could as easily say, "In the epic style, a diplomat's way with words comes before all other considerations, and artistic skill or a commanding presence is simply a bonus" or "In the epic style, a sage's knowledge comes before all other considerations..." you see where I am going here? The frustrating bit is, that might be true for some of the other archetypes, but I don't think it is true of generals. Generals typically needed one of two things in addition to combat prowess... either the charisma and presence to lead their troops or the strategic skills to win the battles they fight. Look at the epic figures here and come up with one that didn't have one of these... if you do, I suspect they had something else that supplemented thier own combat skill instead. -szilard

I'm pretty much with szilard on this. Your points on the other castes are valid to some degree or other but I wasn't intending to imply that the other castes could function well in isolation -- simply that they could function better than the Dawn caste. And I stand by that. - Vervain

Vervain, I agree with something similar to your complaint! (I also like exclamation points more than a reasonable person really should.) Now, my thought about Dawns is that they suffer from WW's tendency to think about Abilities as, like, "a specific narrow category of things you can do", and then trying to slot them into splats, which are, "kind of stereotypical dramatic roles." Unfortunately, these just aren't compatible!

I'm thinking that, for Dawns at least, it's useful to think of the Abilities more like, "specific schticks that fit into the stereotype." So, like, look at Melee...this Ability should allow you not only to "fight good", but also train and lead warriors in close armed combat; Archery broadens to permit sieges, Thrown involves ambushing, skirmishing, guerilla warfare, and other brief-engagement techniques, and so forth. This makes it possible to have Dawn Abilities support leadership, and at the same time, injects some much-needed diversity into generalship. - willows

That would make a good deal of sense to me, really, but the problem is also that many of the charms to allow things like fast training of troops fall under performance, etc... which sort of undermines this take on things (which, charms aside, seems pretty valid). There's also this slightly strange business of craft (war) for tactics and planning, which also sometimes seem to fall under lore... and altogether it leaves me a bit confused. Oh well. - Vervain
I think that those instances of Performance for leadership and training and Craft (War) are instances of the same poor craftsmanship that led to the suckiness of the Dawn Caste in the first place...and Craft(War) is totally, like, a dorky Blizzard reference. I assume that if you're going to reinterpret the Abilities like that, you have to reinterpret them all, which means that Perf might be useful for stirring war anthems and pre-battle speeches that set fire in the troops' hearts, but the sheer military strategy goes under the under Dawn. It's kind of like the difference between Sun Tzu and Empress Jimmu... one is a brilliant arranger of armies, and the other is the beloved daughter of the Sun; they are both unsurpassed warlords, but the way they got there is really different. - willows

I forgot I wasn't logged in any more on this computer when I made those comments, sorry. - Vervain

Personally, I always hated the entire caste system. What, were young exalts given the Solar Aptitude Test and then placed in a caste? Why am I good at stuff I've never used! It always seemed like they just started with Fighter-Cleric-Mage-Thief-Bard. It make vague sense for DB's and to a somewhat lesser degree for Sidereals, as they are chosen of 'different' entities.(It also helps that they both get somewhat more coherent splits). I would agree that Dawn probably get the worst of it though. Comeing up with a use for more than 3 dawn abiltiy requires some effort. One idea would be to allow people to shift 2 abilities from their cast to elsewhere. I've also thought that perhaps as they get older, the differentiations of caste go away and they unify to a degree, perhaps in the form of additional favored abilities. --FlowsLikeBits

You realize all the castes suffer form this, right? If I want to play an Eclipse negotiator and statesman, what use do I have for ride, or sail? Honestly. Ditto Night caste and stealth, or Zenith and Survival. What if you want to play an Urban priest. Whoops. Solars suffer more than some other exalt types, but they /also/ get five favored abilties. That's enough to do anything any other type of exalt gets as their caste or aspect abilities, and /still/ kick ass for the good guys as a Dawn. - Scrollreader, with his two koku.

I am pretty much with Scrollreader on this one. _Ikselam

I don't mind their abilities, but I think the Dawn anima power sucks (incompatible with several Charms, not as good inherently as most other castes' anima powers). - Arafelis

The Presence charms that ape the Dawn anima power also seem to do the job better. Thing Scrollreader doesn't seem to touch on is that one or two Caste abilities are not immediately useful for a given concept. And ride or sail could be made useful to a negotiator or statesman in a much more plausible fashion than archery could made useful to, say, a brawler like Demetheus. Survival also has some stuff that could be useful in an urban setting (e.g. traps . . . and I think Hardship-Enduring Medicant Spirit would be useful in Nighthammer, or any of the other environmentally hazardous urban locales). Build yourself, say, a Martial Artist. Unless you are going for Righteous Devil, Wood Dragon Style, or Air Dragon Style, would you really buy any other abilities? For a Snake stylist, that is Archery, Brawl, Melee, and Thrown that do not apply. Melee and Martial Arts are sufficiently broad in their charms that you do not need the other Dawn abilities to fill in any gaps. Archery, Brawl, and Thrown provide little in the way of defense, and Dodge or Resistance seem like better defensive options than Melee. Dawns are looking at 3-4 Caste abilities that contrast with their concept, in place of 1-2. Really, if you want to play a warrior type, it seems like you're better off with some other Caste favoring the combat ability (implicit is the agreement with the assertion that one often has no more than a single combat ability, or two at most) you want than to play a Dawn. You would be just as good, and not burdened experience and training time wise because you could not favor all of your relevant abilities. ~ Andrew02 whose name needs no hyperlink

And I'd argue that it makes that dawn as narrow as if you took an Elipse with Socialize, and no Presence. Sure, you /can/. And you'll rock out in that one situation. But as you progress, and gain XP, a diversified dawn caste can take advantage of several different charms from different abilities. You might be a snake master, but need to get through a wall? A brawl charm or two will see you through. They're shooting at you! Well, pick up a bow and shoot back, with a dice adder, and maybe burning arrows. Having just one trick in exalted is nice to keep up, but not to excel. Just like only having socialize charms. Sometimes you /need/ Presence. Anybody can snag socialize as a favored ability, and do well at it. But when things get hairy, and complicated, the guy with several syngergistic options will always win out. Combat, in my experience, tends to be the same way, as Exalt on Exalt combat encourges such synergies in the combat abilities, and choosing charms from the whoel spectrum of combat abilities can be very handy. - Scrollreader

Indeed. Valid points all. But the combat abilities are not as differentiated as the social abilities. There is little distinction between combat abilities, and they work either 1) I hit the enemy when he's close, or 2) I hit them when they're far away. Socialize, Presence, and Performance apply to distinct situations and it would require some special measure to force them to work outside their given domain. Melee could just as easily be supplemented by Athletics or Ride to enable you to quickly come to hand-to-hand range as it could be supplemented by Archery, and a Martial Artist would be just as well served (perhaps better) to learn charms from a powr style than Brawl. Presence, however, cannot generally substitute for Performance, or only to an extent less greater in scope than the combat abilities can. ~ Andrew02
It's hard to make an argument for charms for 5! combat abilties, yes, you get flexability, but you get diminishing returns after a while. And if you have that many dawn abilities and charms, other areas must have suffered, making the charachter fairly one dimensional(combat focused). Thrown and Archery are somewhat redundant as secondary combat abilities, and if one is the charachters main focus, a melee-range abibility is a better choice. If I already have 2 of (Melee,Brawl,MA) and one of say (Thrown, Archer), even keeping a combat focus, there are better choices. Avoiding the obvious(Dodge/Resistance/Endurance/Athletics), Occult would give the abiltiy to attack spirits and there are many nifty battle focused emerald spells. Persence is good for warefare & leadership. Craft(war). Lore has the lieutent boosting abilities. How many ways of hitting things do you need?(Esp since you can't combo them easily). I think it's somewhat possible to make and agument for the 3 melee abilities(Solar melee rules, MA is MA, and Brawl has a few tricks), -FlowsLikeBits

I have two points to address here, having played the game since it came out and having one active Dawn PC and one active game with a Dawn PC.

First, the Dawn CASTE itself may not be tremendously interesting. Not all Castes can thrill and excite you. I prefer to think about interesting CHARACTERS, and worry about how jazzed I am about the Caste abilities later :) My own PC has been remarked upon as one of the most interesting characters a fellow player has ever seen. My game's Dawn PC has only used his anima power one time, but that one time it was tremendously effective. He's made productive use of two of the five Caste abilities and is currently walking up Prismatic Arrangement of Creation.

The second point follows from this. My Dawn PC is building up Archery, Brawl and Melee. His combat focus is "big damage". Brawl gives him good grappling and knockback; Archery gives him a solid ranged attack; Melee gives him a solid hand-to-hand attack. So far the specific Charms he's going for are differentiated enough to make each attack mode useful. The dedicated fighter who only has one fighting style will sooner or later regret it. -- BillGarrett

Personally, I think castes in general are strange, especially for solars and lunars, but that's a different thing. The point here is that, with the other castses, if you make fairly stereotypical charachter, you can use all your caste abilities, and they are all usefull. (Eclipses get hit a bit here, as Ride and Sail are fairly worthless, but they do get the best anime ability). The Dawn caste abilities are such that having all five of them is not very useful, thrown and archery are particulary redundant, as they do essentially the same thing, and solars rapidly transend difficulties such as distance or ammunition. Yes, more than one gives you flexiblity, but you get diminishing returns pretty quick --FlowsLikeBits
I have to disagree on at least one point here - Thrown and Archery have very different strong points. Archery is great for doing really massive damage (look at Combos/BillGarrett and the Strider-Slaying Archer's Onslaught). Thrown doesn't do a LOT of damage, but it has one of the few non-Sorcery scene-long dice pool penalizers in the Solar arsenal. A lot of people think "dice penalties, so what?" A lot of people also don't fight heavy-regeneration Full Moons. Going up against a well-equipped, nigh-unkillable Lunar made me appreciate just what a -12 on all your actions for the scene can mean. -- BillGarrett
I've definitely seen interesting dawn caste PCs (and also some spectacular failures), but essentially, those PCs have found that they're starting to fall behind at higher levels whenever we do anything which isn't combat (and in one case, is falling behind even in combat, having been knocked out and left for dead by 5 extras with spears. Ahem. But that was just an Incident with the player not understanding combat tactics -- quite a severe failing when your PC is dawn caste), and their players seem to be becoming somewhat irritated with the characters, even though they were pretty neat lower down when, erm, none of us were particuarly spectacular. This is probably just our group, as we're not renowned for having competent players, on the whole, but people seem to find it hard to make a Dawn Caste work long-term, for some reason. This just sort of leads to my further dislike of the caste. Oh well. I do think that the dedicated fighter who thinks they need five fighting styles would come to regret it too, when they were having to spread their exp between those and anything else they wanted, like presence, endurance, resistance, etc... and the charms that go with them. I just feel they're at a disadvantage and so people need to put in more work to make them effective, rounded characters, which is why I groan when a not-very-skilled or new player wants to play a dawn caste. -- Vervain
Sure, that's fine. I'm just concerned that the distinction between "requires skill to play well" and "sucks" should not be lost :) I concede Dawns can fall into the former, but I will still disagree with the latter. -- BillGarrett
I'm more or less of the opinion that the Dawn Caste could be neat but with tweaking, and I truly don't like the way it is at the moment for all the reasons above, but here we shall just have to agree to differ. ;) There is a distinction between requiring skill to play and sucking, for sure, but I tend to feel that the caste is generally quite... how shall we say... awkward in its construction, even when compared with the others (which, sure, still feel pretty artificial). - Vervain