ExAltered - Exalted Lite

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Chapter One: Introduction

In my opinion, the current Exalted rules set does not support the type of play the literature and themes of the game promote. The rules set is too complicated and therefore stymies creative and spontaneous play and obstructs free form and narrative driven devices.

The purpose and design goals of this rewrite are therefore:

  • To simplify, but allow flexibility.
  • To simplify, but keep the core dice pool and success-based mechanic.
  • To make the game playable as an Exalt, and specifically Solar Exalted. It need not be playable as a mortal. The problems I have with the current game rules are primarily that it is unnecessarily complicated for playing PCs who are Exalted.

Chapter Two: Attributes

Attributes no longer exist within this version of the Exalted rules. A character’s skill is now defined solely through their Abilities, whose system in general is now known as Traits.

Although this may seem an oversimplification, players should be aware that control is given over to them to describe their character’s physical and mental attributes based on their Trait ratings. For instance, a PC could have a rating of Athletics 4, and could be described as incredibly dextrous and agile, another could be incredibly strong but slow (Might 5, Athletics 0), while a further character could be both agile and strong with a toned layer of muscle; a good all-rounder (Might 3, Athletics 3). All are valid character description of characters with such trait scores. What matters now is that player creativity and effort is now largely focussed on the description and visualisation of their character.

There was also a mechanical imperative for this ruling; the alteration to the Charms. Charms now apply a success bonus of +1 to +5 to actions, which is the equivalent of rolling from +2 to +10 dice. When the system was initially developed, Attributes still existed (as Body, Mind, and Soul) but due to the extra dice such attributes awarded to a dice-pool, the impact of Charms was lessened. By reducing the standard action to just rolling the dice for the trait (instead of attribute plus ability), the importance of charm use and stunting has increased and led to a more desirable play-style. This should become clearer upon reading the full rules-set.

Chapter Three: Abilities

In these new rules, Abilities have undergone some changes.

Traits are rated from 0 to 5+ for Exalted and Magical Creatures, with the maximum rating equal to the individual’s Permanent Essence Rating or 5; whichever is the greatest. The maximum rating for Heroic Mortals and Extras is 5; such individuals can only therefore gain greater proficiency though Specialisations (see later).

Ratings

The following rating system should be used as a guide for describing all traits and can also be applied to other systems rated in the same way – eg, Virtues, Background ratings, etc:

○○○○○ Abysmal
●○○○○ Poor
●●○○○ Average
●●●○○ Good
●●●●○ Exceptional
●●●●● Superb

Traits are categorised into the following categories:

  • Animal Kinship
  • Athletics
  • Awareness
  • Bureaucracy
  • Craft
  • Dodge
  • Integrity
  • Investigation
  • Larceny
  • Linguistics
  • Lore
  • Marksmanship
  • Medicine
  • Melee
  • Might
  • Occult
  • Performance
  • Persuasion
  • Pilot
  • Resistance
  • Socialise
  • Stealth
  • Survival
  • Unarmed
  • War

The following changes from the standard Exalted 1st and 2nd edition rules should be noted:

  • Archery and Thrown now exist within the Marksmanship ability.
  • The Martial Arts ability is not present within the details of any trait’s scope of application. Unarmed has replaced this ability, as Martial Arts are now a universal discipline as distinct from the Abilities, and their related charms, as Sorcery.
  • Presence has been renamed to Persuasion, to clarify its application.
  • Sail and the operation of other vessels (eg, gliders, airships, etc) now exist within the Pilot ability.
  • Ride and the animal handling related skills from Survival now exist within the Animal Kinship ability.
  • Might includes any action relating to feats of strength and stamina (from the Resistance ability), Athletics now governs elements involving finesse.

Solar ability groups are therefore:

  • Dawn: Marksmanship, Melee, Might, Unarmed, War.
  • Zenith: Animal Kinship, Performance, Persuasion, Resistance, Survival.
  • Twilight: Craft, Investigation, Lore, Medicine, Occult.
  • Night: Athletics, Awareness, Dodge, Larceny, Stealth.
  • Eclipse: Bureaucracy, Integrity, Linguistics, Pilot, Socialise.

Specialities

Traits cover the specific skills a character possesses and many tasks may simply not be possible unless an appropriate level in an ability is possessed to increase the character’s dice pool and illustrate expertise within the field.

Specialities detail specific occasions of the ability in question and its usage. For instance, the Unarmed trait could have a speciality of fighting ‘Multiple Opponents’, which can only be applied to any unarmed action involving the engagement of multiple opponents. A character can have no more than three Specialities for each trait, and together these Specialities cannot exceed a total of 3 points. No single Speciality can exceed +3.

Ability Details – Craft, Languages, Lore, and Occult

For each dot allocated to the trait in question a character’s player may chose categories of interest and/or learning. This defines the character’s expertise within the ability in question and aids character focus.

Craft

For each point in Craft a character possesses, they may pick a proficiency in one of the five mundane crafts or any on the more esoteric ones, as outlined in the original rules.

Languages

For each point in Linguistics a character may pick one of the major language groups as detailed in the original rules.

Lore

Lore is knowledge and theory. The Lore trait comprises all mundane areas of knowledge and is dividing into the following categories.

For each point in Lore a character may pick two of the ten major areas as detailed herein:

  • Art and Literature
  • Cultures
  • Current Events
  • Flora and Fauna
  • First Age Technology
  • Geography
  • Government and Law
  • History
  • Philosophy
  • Religion

The above ten subjects are the main areas that comprise the knowledge in the Age of Sorrows. Other areas of interest and study exist within the Lore ability for characters to invest in, but these are more esoteric in nature.

Occult

Occult is the ability to understand and work magic. The Arts, Sciences, and Rituals detailed in the 1st edition Player’s Guide and other supporting supplements are now simply disciplines within the Occult ability.

For each point in Occult a character may pick two of the ten major areas as detailed herein:

  • Alchemy
  • Astrology
  • Enchantment
  • The Dead
  • Exorcism / Warding
  • Geomancy
  • Prayer
  • Demonology
  • Elementalism
  • Weather-Working

Chapter Four: Merits and Flaws

Merits and Flaws exist as defined in the Player’s Guide. Care should be taken in converting and creating new Merits and Flaws and altering their cost due to these overall rules changes but the principals that they add or subtract up to three dice to a particular action pool or offer in-game effects remains the same.

Chapter Five: Task Resolution

Chapter Six: Resolving Physical Combat

Players now narrate a conflict over an exchange of turns (or tasks), like describing stunts in the current Exalted rules and gain additional dice for their action pools based for such actions.

Each task resolution is a combat turn that takes up approximately 3 seconds of game-time.

The basic resolution for a conflict is to roll dice pools based on Attack Trait + Defence Trait vs. Attack Trait + Defence Trait of the opponent – ie, the same principal as opposed non-combat actions. The addition to this is that characters can split their Attribute and Ability dice pools (and any other bonuses) into Celestial [attack] and Terrestrial [defence] pools.

Players decide how to split their characters’ total combat dice pool between Terrestrial [defence] and Celestial [attack] options.

Once the dice bonuses have been 'split', each pool is rolled for the character’s attack action and their defence action, the number of successes being calculated from each.

Player 1 subtracts player 2's Terrestrial [defence] total from his Celestial [attack] pool total and, correspondingly, player 2 subtracts player 1's Terrestrial total from his Celestial total.

Each point of attack success is counted towards the opposing character's damage for the conflict exchange. Damage is then calculated using the rules found herein.

Let's use an example to illustrate it more effectively….

Frost Peony

Peony, a Heroic Mortal, has Melee 2 and Dodge 3. She is equipped with an exceptional straight sword.

Jamal Glassbreaker

Jamal, a Heroic Mortal, has Melee 5 (Duelling +3) and Dodge 1. He wields exceptional paired khatar.

Here’s an example of the two players’ descriptions…

Peony’s Player’s stunt description is as follows:

Their eyes locked for a long, terrible moment. Jamal's heart was perfectly calm, and as was his way, he counted its beats. He had counted but three when she exploded into motion.

How fast she was! Always, Jamal had been stronger than his wife-to-be, the greater warrior, but he had forgotten her speed was that of a viper. She had used three heartbeats to judge his stance, then launched herself from one of the marble columns, gleaming sword striking for his throat, long hair floating like a river of black silk behind her.

And Jamal’s Player’s stunt description reads, thus:

With the cold instinct of a trained killer Jamal defended himself with his khatar. With a grunt of exertion, he lifted her by her sword in a magnificent arc that ended abruptly in the column behind him. Spinning on his heel, he unleashed a precise and measured series of blows, delivered with regret, but no hesitation.

Somehow, sliding upside-down towards the ground, her viper-quick blade moved like quicksilver against his initial attack. There were more blows, and the stars gleamed in Jamal's khatar…

For the sake of argument, lets just say that each player is awarded one dice in stunt bonuses for their efforts. It should be much higher, but Heroic Mortal (Essence 2 characters) can only receive a maximum of 1 dice from such narrative.

So Peony's Celestial [attack] bonus pool is 6 (Melee 2 + Dodge 3 + Stunt 1). Based on her tactics, she opts to commit 3 Celestial [attack] bonus points to her Terrestrial [defence] bonus point pool. This therefore gives her a final split of Celestial 3 and Terrestrial 3.

Jamal's initial split is a Celestial [attack] bonus pool of 10 (Melee 8 + Dodge 1 + Stunt 1). Based on his description (ie, tactics), Jamal opts to commit 4 points of Celestial bonuses to his Terrestrial bonus pool. This therefore gives Jamal a final split of Celestial 6 and Terrestrial 4.

The conflict resolution is resolved as follows.

Peony’s player attacks and rolls a pool of 3 for 2 successes. Jamal defends – his player rolling 2 successes from his dice pool of 4. Jamal successfully parries Peony’s assault.

Now its Jamal’s turn. His player rolls and obtains a total of 3 successes from his 6-dice pool. Peony defends – her player rolling 1 success from her dice pool of 3, a poor result that could cost her.

Jamal therefore strikes home with a total of 2 successes (3 from his attack – 1 from Peony’s defence). The 2 points of success for Jamal’s attack are then applied to Peony’s health levels. Peony is injured from such an attack.

A Few Words on the Simplified Mechanic

Multiple actions in the form of dice splitting no longer exist. Multiple attacks and other such actions can be described as part of the players’ stunt descriptions, but there is no mechanical penalty or advantage (beyond the potential increase in stunt dice due to the expanded player narrative) to doing this.

You’ll also notice that no damage is applied from weapons or strength attributes and that damage is not reduced by any armour or stamina-based soak.

There is a major reason for this… As only one Body attribute now exists, that covers strength, dexterity, and stamina, all these traits are factored into the initial conflict resolution as the Body Attribute is rolled during that phase. There is no point in counting/using them again and it is therefore unnecessary to use them when applying or resisting damage.

Normal weapons and armour do not increase or reduce damage.

The reason for this is threefold; I wish to promote a Wuxia feel to the game where hand-to-hand combatants are not penalised for adopting genre conventions. Also, armour basically gives you protection but penalises mobility – so the gain is cancelled out by the weakness. Additionally I do not like equipment to have more affect on results than the characters’ innate abilities which in the old Exalted rules was often the case; Quarterstaff, I’m looking at you! Finally, I want to increase the importance and dramatic impact of weapon and armour artifacts – which will give dice bonuses to the character using them. Standard equipment is therefore flavour text and nothing else, although creative players can and will use it to their advantage when describing actions and stunts.

Chapter Seven: Multiple Opponents and Co-ordinated Actions

Due to the changes inherent in the conflict resolution system, it is of greater importance that lesser-skilled individuals co-ordinate their actions when facing a superior opponent. This also has the added advantage of speeding up combat as mooks/extras band together to face such superior opponents.

Co-ordinated Actions for Extras

For mortals, the co-ordinated actions rule basically states that each additional skilled individual adds one bonus dice to the lead characters total pool, and that the total of all such contributors cannot increase their leader's dice pool by more than 5 points. Therefore only five other allies can contribute effectively to the conflict in hand.

As can be seen, the above rule allows for groups of extras to attack, generally in groups of six or less, adding 1 bonus point for each extra combatant to their leader’s dice pool. This system also allows for extras to be led by the Exalted – ie, extras add dice to the lead character’s (the Exalt’s) dice pool.

Except under the rarest of situations, all NPCs that are not named are classed as Extras, and are therefore subject to this rule.

Co-ordinated Actions for PCs and NPCs

Although the above is a perfectly satisfactory system for resolution of many extras in combat, when applied to PCs it will be guilty of reducing some players to non-dice-rolling participants as only the lead character would roll any dice, an unattractive proposition for PC-driven conflict resolution or major NPCs.

Multiple NPCs/PCs fighting against one opponent have their own individual conflicts resolved with that opponent but add 1 dice for each ally they have supporting them (up to a maximum value of 5). This therefore allows for all PCs to be actively involved in combat but to also receive a co-operation bonus. It also has similarities (the dice bonus) to extras’ combat when PCs may face such groups.

If necessary a limit may be imposed upon the amount of conflicts that an individual can be involved in at any one time; this is equal to the character’s Permanent Essence Rating. Therefore mortals (with an Essence Rating of 1) can only engage in one conflict at a time, heroic mortal (Essence Rating 2), can engage in two conflicts, and Exalts (Essence Rating 3+) can engage in three or more conflicts, and so forth.

Chapter Eight: Resolving Social Combat

Chapter Nine: Virtues

It is my opinion that Virtues should be more integral to what defines an Exalt than White Wolf’s rules promote. The following section therefore contains alterations and additions to their rule-set.

Personal Virtues

Virtues are extremely private ideals and define a character’s deepest beliefs and personality traits, as such, the four Virtues are interpreted in many different ways based on what is important to the individual in question.

Each character should therefore interpret the four core Virtues (Compassion, Conviction, Temperance, and Valour) in an individual way. This demonstrates their morals and general personality. For example, Compassion might be interpreted as ‘Never Abandon Those in Need’ or as ‘Treat My Enemies With Honour’.

These descriptions should help to focus play and aid players when deciding under what conditions they can channel the virtue in question.

Intimacies

As the Compassion virtue is often seen as a dump-virtue of no particular use or benefit, the maximum number of intimacies allowed for a character is now equal to their Compassion rating.

Solar Virtue Flaw and Limit Break

Players are encouraged to create a Virtue Flaw very personal to their character.

In addition to the standard Limit Break/Virtue Flaw mechanics, the player can actively control a character’s Virtue Flaw. A player can, at any time, suffer Limit Break regardless of its current status/score and allow his Virtue Flaw to consume him provided he succeeds at a Temperance action.

When a character’s Virtue Flaw consumes him, the Exalt regains all channelled virtue points. They also obtain their Permanent Essence x2 in experience points, for acting out their virtue Weakness in a way that affects their character or the environment around them in a significantly negative way.

Willpower and Virtue Channelling

Due to the addition of a defined Social Combat system and the changes to the Charm rules, the need for Willpower has diminished and the trait is therefore no longer required. Because of this, Virtues can now be channelled without spending a Willpower point to activate.

Channelled Virtue Points are regained in the following manner:

  • Upon completing a Story, all of the character's Virtue Point pools are completely refreshed.
  • A particularly exceptional Stunt may recover a Virtue Point, up to once per Virtue per Scene.
  • A character that reaffirms or otherwise makes some significant progress regarding her Motivation may regain a point in any Virtue.

Chapter Ten: Condition Tracks

Chapter Eleven: Essence

Chapter Twelve: Solar Anima and Caste Powers

Chapter Thirteen: Charms

Chapter Fourteen: Martial Arts

Chapter Fifteen: Sorcery

Chapter Sixteen: Backgrounds

Chapter Seventeen: Artifacts

Chapter Eighteen: Miscellaneous Rules

Chapter Nineteen: Character Generation

Example Solar Character - Harmonious Jade

Abilities (including Specialities)

  • Animal Kinship 1
  • Athletics 3
  • Dodge 4
  • Integrity 1
  • Investigation 1
  • Larceny 3
  • Linguistics 1
  • Lore 1
  • Marksmanship 5 (From Surprise +1)
  • Melee 3
  • Might 2
  • Occult 2
  • Awareness 2
  • Resistance 2
  • Stealth 3
  • Survival 2
  • Unarmed 1

Merits and Flaws

  • Attractive (+1)
  • Wanted (-3)

Virtues

  • Compassion: 1 (People are not to be trusted)
  • Conviction: 4 (Always complete the mission objectives)
  • Temperance: 2 (Avoid emotional ties that confuse the soul)
  • Valour: 3 (Survival is an acceptable ideal)

Essence

  • Rating: 3
  • Motes: 6

Backgrounds

  • Artifact (Orichalcum Short Powerbow): 2
  • Artifact (Orichalcum Breastplate): 2
  • Contacts: 1
  • Resources: 2

Charm Techniques and Disciplines

  • Athletics Excellency (+1),
Graceful Crane Mastery (+2).
  • Awareness Excellency (+1).
Keen Eyesight Mastery (+2).
  • Dodge Excellency (+1).
  • Larceny Excellency (+1),
Lock-Opening Touch Ascendancy (+2).
  • Melee Excellency (+1).
  • Occult Excellency (+1).
  • Resistance Excellency (+1).
  • Marksmanship Excellency (+1),
There Is No Wind Mastery (+2),
Vengeful Draw Ascendancy (+3).
  • Might Excellency (+1).
  • Stealth Excellency (+1),
Easily Overlooked Presence Mastery (+2).