Terminology Refinements

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Exalted is a rule intensive (i.e. "crunchy") game. Sometimes White Wolf admits this to themselves. Sometimes, they like to pretend it isn't, and actually make things more complicated under the guise of trying to keep them simple. The terminology they use is often guilty of the latter, where they use loose definitions of words, rather than a more "legalistic" definition. This keeps the game "friendly" to the reader but, in a game where things like charms regularly tweak the rules, lack of good definitions for certain game concepts make charm definitions verbose at best and incredibly confusing at worst.

This page defines the terminology changes made in the Second Edition Exalted games I play. These are not rules changes, as the intent is to keep to the canonical rules as much as is possible. However, since terminology problems in Exalted result in rules ambiguity in some cases, applying terminology changes in an effort to remove such ambiguity necessarily requires choices about what a rule really means that may or may not be canonical.


A number of values are calculated using attribute and/or ability traits in a calculation formula, such as DV, movement rate, feats of strength and so on. The book comes very close to categorizing these values into two different buckets, but doesn't complete the job. We do here:

  • A static value is a calculation based on attribute and/or ability traits that is explicitly divided in two. This includes defense values.
  • An unrolled value is a calculation based on attribute and/or ability traits that is used without division. Such values include movement rate, feats of strength and so on.


Much of what is confusing about Second Edition revolves around timing. Much of this stems from the (at least) four completely different concepts that the Core Rules describe using the word "action". Another issue is the complete lack of specific words to define key timing concepts, which then appear in charm descriptions using very awkward phrasing. We solve this problem by using the following definitions:

  • A character's moment is the tick on which she acts. Thus, references in the book to a "character's next action" are changed to read a "character's next moment". Characters can activate only one specific charm (or Combo) per moment. Characters get one complex action per moment (see below).
  • An action is one of a collection of things your character can do, such as move, attack, guard, etc. A flurry is an action that contains a collection of other actions. Actions always have a Speed (even if it is zero) and usually modify DV. Extra action charms produce a flurry. Supplemental charms are tied to actions (with some specifically modifying flurry actions). It is also occasionally useful to refer to particular sets of actions, like so:
    • A movement action refers only to use of reflexive Move actions.
    • A simple action refers to an action that is neither a Move nor a flurry action. Extra action charms almost always generate multiple simple actions. While a flurry is not a simple action, it contains only simple actions.
    • A complex action refers either to a simple action, a flurry or an action that precludes the use of a flurry (such as activating a Simple charm or joining battle). A "character's complex action" is shorthand for "the simple action or flurry the character chose to use in his moment". In this context, the implication is that the character has only one complex action per moment. For example, a supplemental charm that enhances all actions in a flurry with a single activation would be said to enhance a complex action. Most supplementals, however, must be activated for each simple action. Some very powerful charms (e.g. Charcoal March of Spiders Form) may grant a character multiple, independent complex actions in a single moment.
  • A single die roll forms an instant. An action usually results in a single instant. Reflexive or permanent charms may also generate instants. A given charm can apply to an instant only once. The core book occasionally refers to an instant as an "action" or, more commonly, "dice action".
  • A turn is the amount of time between a character's moment and his next moment. Thus, charms stating a duration of "until character's next action" could instead be given a duration of "one turn". Likewise, charms with durations listed as "five actions" are read to mean "five turns". Note that turns are not absolute, but rather tracked separately for each character, and depend on the Speed of that character's actions.
  • A cycle is the amount of time between refreshes of a character's DV. Thus, charm effects that last "until character's DV refreshes twice" instead last "two cycles". Note that cycles are not absolute, but rather tracked separately for each character. Cycles often, but not always, have the same length as turns.

Applying to Combos

So, looking at all 37 of the uses of the word "action" on page 245 of the core rules, most of them remain the same. The following change (with changes in italics):

  • "Combos allow a character to use two, three or more Charms in a given moment."
  • "The supplemental Charm may benefit the character’s reflexive instants, including instants given by reflexive and permanent Charms, if it can validly apply to them.
  • "If there is neither an extra-action nor a simple Charm in the Combo and the reflexive Charm can validly benefit one or more of the character’s instants, the character may use the reflexive Charm to supplement it."
  • "If there is a supplemental Charm in the Combo and the reflexive Charm gives a reflexive instant and the supplemental Charm can validly apply to that instant, then the supplemental Charm may benefit that instant."
  • "The reflexive Charm can be used outside the character’s actions, as usual. However, the player must state that the Exalt is using a Combo, and which Combo, and must pay the price for the Combo (see below), as soon as the player uses the first Charm for that Combo in a given moment—he cannot use a reflexive Charm and then later in the moment declare that he actually wishes to use a Combo containing that Charm."
  • "Developing a Combo enables the Exalt to use multiple different Charms in the same moment, but this is not without cost."
  • "A character can activate a Combo only once per moment and cannot use a Combo during an action in which she has already used Charms of any other sort."

Applying to Charm Activation

The rules on page 142 dictate how charms may be activated. Some of the terminology above can make these definitions a bit more clear:

  • "Magical beings may activate a reflexive Charm on any tick, whether or not they have an action that tick. They may use the same Charm multiple times on the same tick if circumstances permit..., but they cannot use the same Charm more than once per instant.
  • "Characters may not use a reflexive Charm unless they have not activated any other Charms since their most recent moment began."
  • "Characters may use supplemental Charms only during an instant. This type of Charm always enhances an instant in some way."
  • "The same supplemental Charm may be activated multiple times during a complex action, but only once per instant."
  • "Characters cannot use a supplemental Charm if they activate any other Charms during their turn."
  • "Characters may only use an extra action Charm during their moment, and they cannot activate the Charm more than once in that moment."

Note that the rules for Supplementals can be read in a number of different ways. As an example, suppose Caleb is under the effect of a scene-long charm that provides a free counterattack instant any time he is attacked (e.g. Loving Heart Stance). When Caleb's moment comes, he makes an attack, but does not use any charms. Prior to his next moment, Caleb is attacked, and uses the instant granted by the charm to counterattack. As clarified above, the rules would allow him to use a supplemental of the same ability (e.g. Fiery Garda Force Attack) to augment this counterattack; however, one could read the original rules on pg. 142 as explicitly preventing this, depending on how they are using "action". The rules above assume the "whatever is cooler" principle was the intended meaning.

Specific Applications

Certain charms may require changes other than the general tips listed in the definitions.