Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Exalted: So you want to specialize?

Another question I got asked is how do you specialize as an Exalted character in areas like Martial Arts, Sorcery, Crafting, etc? Beyond my advice for new players this is a more advanced area that intermediate players need to consider. So lets call this Exalted Player Advice Intermediate.

I'm going to feature each of the different area of specializes that Solars are good at and how to get the most bang for your buck early on and tips on growing the skill of this character.

Martial Arts:

Welcome to the GREAT CHARM SINK in Exalted character options. Even more so than Sorcery, Melee, or any other talent tree...with the exception of Lunar Knacks...Martial Arts as an ability has the most charms to buy. And that's the trap. You don't want to buy them all. At all. You want to specialize otherwise you'll have a character who is only half effective at any one time depending on weapon, form, and lack of other charms.

When you start picking Martial Arts charms you need to look for synergy. The first test is if the martial arts you wish to cherry pick charms from have complimentary weapons. If not, then you will be wasting your time down the line building up ties to artifact weapons that only support one tree. Now if you plan on being flexible it's fine to mix and match early on but don't dip into anymore than 2 martial arts trees. Sure you can focus on unarmed combat, but unless you have a form charm that grants you the ability to parry melee attacks, or deal lethal damage, you are in trouble.

The second big issue IS form charms. These are the mid tree power up scene long charms that change your character's fighting options. Forms are critical to signature combat styles when layering on complimentary charms for combos. If you are in a form that grants counter attack bonuses, and the charms in the tree seem to focus on that, suddenly charms from other trees that punch through armor or cause someone to fixate on you during combat may or may not help that build. (Unless you want to play a hypnotic, armor piercing, parry monster.) You can only have 1 form active at a time. Advanced martial artists do form switching in combat based on their current enemy, but that is a costly trick and better served when you Essence is higher and your understanding of switching weapon/attack modes can work to your benefit.

As you gain experience, style points, whatever 3E will give you to build you character consider a few things. Don't just buy Martial Arts charms. If you want to be a specialist, fine, but spend 2 to 1 on Martial Arts to non-Martial Arts charms. That way you can have critical things like Ox Body, Dodge Charms, and eh a few social/adventuring charms to round you out. Next early on don't worry about reaching the pinnacle of a tree. Use one as your primary, and master it's form and a few past it. But when you identify other form/styles that compliment yours branch out from there. Think about combos and work to tier them. Small 2 charm, fast but useful ones. Multi charm ubers. Etc.

A note about Sidereal Martial Arts. They are powerful...but broken in 1E (to a lesser extent) and 2E (to a greater extent). 3E seeks to address this by breaking up the tiers a bit and focusing more on the utility of Sidereal Martial Arts. Only Sidereals and Solars can learn them, natch. And eventually aiming for one as you top tier development is a good idea. But a Solar who's mastered 2-3 full trees with a background of additional charms will be more powerful in the long run than someone who's sacrificed all their charms to get only a few charms into a Sidereal Tree. Even Sidereal players need to be careful not to jump deep into their forms with out fleshing out their limited charm options.


Sorcery is a tricky bird. It's expensive in Charms, but not quite as bad a Martial Arts, however you can pick up spells that don't immediately help you. Some Sorcery spells are very situation, all are painfully obvious, and the essence cost can leave a Sorcerer hurting in situations like combat. That said, sorcery is a crowbar for almost any situation if you know how to utilize it.

Specialist Sorcerers need to first sit down and think of a few things. What is their theme? Are you a by the book caster? A shaman who learned magic from the world? Someone who listened to the whispers of Yozi's in their dream to learn? That can color the spells you pick. Next you need to ask yourself what role you want your Sorcerer to fill? Are you a crafter? A summoner/binder? A combat mage? With those choices in mind we move on how to pick your spells carefully.

First off 3E is going to offer charms that interact with Sorcery more. This is important. Do not spend all your charms on just sorcery or sorcery boosters. If you have 10 starting charms, set aside 4 for 'quality of life' things. Dodge, combat, social charms will keep your character alive to use their spells. Don't underestimate the usefulness of practical skills to keep you going. And the Excellencies to power them. Being an expert in Occult means more than just being good at spells. It means being a subject matter expert on demons, ghost, and gods. Lore is a catch all 'need to know stuff'. matching skill. Awareness, Investigation, Presence, and Linguistics will go a long way for you. Linguistics especially, because the more you know of Old Realm the better you are at dealing with spirits!

Spell choice is the next element of building your character. After you picked up the required charms to cast the spells, you have many options. Starting players may be tempted to step into Celestial Circle Sorcery starting out. And it is vastly more powerful than Terrestrial. The downside is the cost to do so will limit you to a handful of spells. This is something I would NOT suggest for new players. Focus on building a Terrestrial circle base of spells then using your ability to advance up the circles to your advantage as you grow as a character. (And btw: All this advice applies to Necromancers too! Necromancy is just Sorcery with a different thematic.)

Remember when I asked you to pick out your theme as a caster earlier? This is why it matters. There are a handful of spells that I'll call bread and butter, everyone  should consider options. But past that, learn to your theme! A demon binder will be less worried about things like enchanting others. Or a combat mage needs to drop spells into ranged or up close options. Etc. But getting back to those handful of great spells you might consider the list is: Death of Obsidian Butterflies (The ultimate mook killer), Stormwind Rider (Party transport), Summon Elemental (Less problematic than demons), Invulnerable Skin of Bronze (Self protection), and finally Emerald Counter-magic (unless it's not a feat in 3E). Just keep those in mind. Most folks who are up on Exalted lore will notice that the spells are a lot of what you'd see in the Black Treaties. There is a reason for that, they are excellent beginner spells. Having 2 or 3 of these will go a LONG way to helping yourself and the party.

A note about summoning. It's dangerous even with Elementals. The elementals have courts they communicate with and word gets around if you abuse your summoned aid. Demons are will live up to the spirit of their binding but if you give them too much latitude they might find outs to vent their demonic nature. Finally summoning is one of the most showy of all the spell types. You need a circle and lots of time to make it work. Also the amount of essence you will burn to browbeat a creature into serving you will leave you open to attack. So keep that in mind you newbie summoners.

Crafting and Evocations:

This is a little trickier but still very charm consuming. A good crafter will have multiple specializes in craft and odds are you'll invest half or so of your starting charms in the tree. I'm not sure how 3E will handle these but there is one Solar charm that is a must have. Craftsman Needs No Tools is the end all be all of the mobile Solar craftsman. Most other Exalted are okay with out a workshop, such as Lunars and Abyssals (if they have a supply of bodies). But others like Sidereals and Dragon Blooded are in a trouble. For Solars this is not a problem. You can be sitting on the side of a mountain using your bare-hands to repair objects, make a shelter, carve out sword from raw ore. You name it. Add to that Craft Excellencies and charms that reduce crafting time and I've seen a Solar in a day bang out a Battalions worth of perfect (Solar PERFECT) weapons and armor from raw iron stores. It's something to keep in mind when you consider the scope of Exalted abilities. (Mind you, I've seen Sidereals using one of their charms to take a complicated clock work and make it from raw materials in minutes...but only because they had a blueprint to work from.) Each Exalted type has strengths and weakness when crafting. Some of them are system design flaws the 3E devs are aiming to fix for the other Exalted. Because as it stands except for unique cases Solars are king.

This brings us to Evocations. Either as an artifact user or crafter you have to take the charm gobble that happens when learning and developing them. The devs have clarified that only Artifact 3 or above in 3E will have Evocations. Less than that and the artifact will have a non-Evocation minor magical effect. Such as a Collar of Dawn's Cleansing (keep me neat) effect. Evocations have the potential to be a charm sink much like Martial Arts, however unlike Martial Arts they are specific to the artifact your character is linked too. If you are playing a crafter or a warrior who's invested in your artifacts I would consider what iconic effect do you want the artifact to have? What evocation effect such as burning weapon, blinding light, enhanced movement, fits the theme of your character. Evocations are as much a part of who your character is as the artifacts and charms they have. Crafters will have to keep in mind that Artifacts 3 and above are costly and hard ventures to create, so invest yourself wisely when making them. But it does seem very awesome to be wearing signature gear you yourself made. Note that the devs have mentioned that Solars by default will get the most out of ANY magical artifact material or no's evocations.

Final suggestions:

Solars or Exalts in general are powerful generalists. Some types play better at it than others (Solars and Dragon Bloods mostly), but specialization of a character is never a bad idea. After all everyone wants to have something unique about themselves in the game. A lot of my suggestions above can be boiled down to specialize but keep a few charms in the pocket for plan B options and the reason for that is Solar's amazing generalization ability. Excellencies allow them to be master level of anything they are favored in, and if they dabble in charms in other skills they will gain the Excellencies. It's not unimaginable to play a Solar expert at all with a broad range of charms in many fields. But the down side of playing Mr. 2nd Best is you will outshine anyone who is just okay in skills and hog table time from others who spent a LOT of charms and points in building their specialists. A good rule of thumb with Solar characters are a nice broad base of skills and charms with a sharp spike of specialization in the 2-3 primary charm trees that match their theme. They will remain useful in a broad campaign and feel awesome when they hit their peak charms later on down the road.

Ta! Have fun building...when 3E finally drops.