Sidereal Astrology Examples
I do not recall the last time I had this much difficulty and failure trying to Google a query. It’s easier to find full copies of scholarly journal articles than it is to find answers to this query:
“May I please have an example of how Sidereal Astrology is supposed to work?”
Context: I was young in college when the very first Exalted book came out (published by White Wolf), and bought it and the other four Exalted books, and a couple of the other supplements in 2002 and 2003. So we’re talking 1st edition Exalted here. My favorite type of Exalted are the Sidereals—because my favorite White Wolf product was Mage: The Ascension. Criticisms, real and imagined, aside, I’ve always enjoyed my time with White Wolf products. During the late 90’s and early 00’s, I collected every “World of Darkness” main product line (e.g. Werewolf, Vampire, Hunter, Changeling…now I’m just reading spines off my bookshelf), every Exalted 1st edition exalt book, and several of the new “Chronicles of Darkness” books…which did not go by that series name when I bought them.
Point: I have never found myself at a loss in a White Wolf product. Until Sidereal Astrology.
I remember thinking in 2003: ‘I have no fucking idea how this is supposed to work.’ Fast forward to yet another move this past summer, yet another opportunity to find old stuff to put in the annual White Family Yardsale. I put all of my gaming books on the shelf. Then I start reading through Exalted again, just like I did 13 years ago.
And I still have little idea how 1st ed. Sidereal Astrology is supposed to work. I feel less bad about it, though. My Google searches engendered the following conclusion: no one knows how it was supposed to work. Everyone can recite the instructions for how to make an Astrological effect, but I have yet to find a single example of implementing an Ascending or Descending Astrological Fate. Resplendency seems to be understandable enough.
Hence, I present here my guess as to how these Effects are implemented in-game (again, 1st ed.), and how I’d prefer Resplendency would function. “Jessi: this has nothing to do with your books, nor the games you are designing and/or playing.” You are correct. Thank you, slightly stalker-ish reader, for knowing my habits and projects so well.
* A single, very powerful Effect on a group of Exalts by an Essence 3 Sidereal *
Reading from Sidereals, 1st Ed, pg 208: “I pronounce that the subjects be taken into the College of the constellation invoked and there be subjected to the destiny you plan for them with effect frequency until the duration elapses.”
Ana’e, my Sidereal, Chosen of the Maiden of Secrets, therefore declares: “I pronounce that the members of my circle—five, including myself—be taken into the College of the Sorcerer and there be subjected to the Hound-Chases-Rabbit Blessing while expending motes of Essence to power Charms, Combos, Sorcery, or Anima effects with Overpowering frequency until one season elapses.”
~ College of Sorcerer correlations: Humanity, geomancy, artifice, demon summoning, infernalism, talismans, Essence Use, egotism, Yozi-slaves.
~ Hound Chases Rabbit Blessing: target regains 1 pt Willpower for accomplishing a task related to the blessing.
~ “Overpowering” frequency: “The effect is overpowering. It manifests every chance it gets.”
The gameplay mechanics of this Astrology: every time Ana’e or another member of her Circle (i.e. “party” or “group”) expends essence to power their Lesser/Greater Anima Signs, to power Charms and Combos of Charms, or to power Sorcery of any circle, s/he gains a point of temporary willpower. (“Totally broken, Jessi!” Sidereals, pg 212: ‘This Breaks the Game!’ “No Storyteller would allow this, Jessi!” Hush. Storytellers are no more the end-all-be-all of RPGs any more than DMs, GMs, etc. Poor Gary is dead, and with his passing, that attitude is likewise.)
- For Effect Scope, my Circle comprises five exalts with Essence 2+, let’s say 12 total, so Ana’e would need 12 Effect Points/Successes
- For Effect Duration: 1 EP
- For Effect Power: 4 EP (Invites Censure and 3 Paradox dice)
Total: 17 EP. Not something to take lightly.
- Prayer roll, which I’d rather consider a “Fatalistic Meditation”: Charisma + Performance, DC 5. Let’s say that gives me 7 dice so far. Probability of hitting DC 5 with 7 dice ≈ 9.6%. (This does not include that 10’s are worth two successes.)
- Create Petition: Wits + Linguistics. Let’s say 8 dice. Expectation value = np = 8*0.4 = 3.2 successes. If one of those is a 10, the expectation value becomes 4.2, which subtracts 2 from the DC of the Prayer roll:
- Petitioned Meditation: DC 3 with 7 dice: 7C3p3q4 ≈ 58%. Getting better.
- Cosigners: our circle has one solar and one lunar, who can cosign the petition with Wits + Linguistics, DC 1. Let’s say they both succeed, for two more dice on the Prayer roll.
- Lengthy Prayers: a small sacrifice of nine hours to give our Circle endless supplies of temporary willpower for a month. +3 Prayer dice
- And…Stunts! For the sake of argument, let’s say Ana’e gets +3 dice as well. (I understand that I can’t always get a 3-die stunt.)
- Fully enhanced Fate Meditation roll: DC 3 with 15 dice: 15C3p3q12 ≈ 97.3%. Fantastic.
- Base Effect roll: 1 temp willpower, Essence + College (let’s say 7 dice). But bonuses:
- Petition: +1 die / additional successes. The expectation value of 15 dice (again, no 10’s) is 6. The DC of the Meditation roll was 3, so 3 extra successes = +1 Effect die
- Preplanned Fate: 1 day of planning, Int + Craft (Fate) roll, DC = highest Essence. Let’s call that 3. Let’s say Ana’e has 7 dice: expectation value is 3 successes, which hits the DC. Succeeding at this roll gives +1 Effect die / 3 successes, so +1 Effect die
- Precomputed Horoscopes: As Preplanned Fate above, but uses another day and rolls Int + Occult. Let’s keep it easy: 7 dice, 3 successes = +1 Effect die.
- Ritual Behavior: 3 days wearing three Trappings of the College (let’s go with caste mark, armor, and regal bearing—Ana will wear a tiara and a big, violet cloak while sitting in a fancy chair for 3 days) = +1 Effect die. Because this Effect targets five Exalts, and Exalts are in the precinct of the College of the Sorcerer, +1 Effect die.
- Modified Effect roll: 12 dice. Expectation value: 5 successes. The probability of rolling 17 successes on 12 dice is virtually impossible.
Okay, so that was a bust. Obviously, Ana has to target each exalt of the circle individually. However, the expectation value is only 5 successes, which are all spent on the Overpowering frequency and the Seasonal duration.
-- Conclusion: It is statistically unlikely for an Essence 3 Sidereal to craft an overpowering effect targeting an exalt that lasts for a season.
* What can a new Sidereal character accomplish with Astrology? *
Let us stipulate this Sidereal has:
= Essence 3, and 4’s in all relevant Attributes and Abilities.
= All necessary time
- Petition makes Meditation roll DC 3, two cosigners +2 Meditation, lengthy (9 hrs) +3 Meditation, no stunts
- Modified Fate Meditation roll: Charisma + Performance + 5 dice vs. DC 3: 94%. Awesome.
- Petition = +1 Effect (EV is only 5 successes, so this doesn’t happen 1/3 of the time); Preplanned Fate 8 dice DC 3, EV = 3 successes = +1 Effect; Precomputed Horoscopes = +1 Effect; Ritual Behavior = +2 Effect => +5 Effect dice
- Modified Effect roll: 12 dice, EV = 5 Effect points. 3 come off the top for targeting the Sidereal, which leaves 2 Effect points. The effect can either be 1/week for 3 months, or 1/day for 1 month.
The possible proclamation: “I pronounce that I be taken into the College of the Sorcerer and there be subjected to the Hound-Chases-Rabbit Blessing while expending motes of Essence to power Charms, Combos, Sorcery, or Anima effects with Moderate frequency (~1/week) until one season elapses.”
“…with Strong frequency (~1/day) until one month elapses.”
- Cost: 3 days (bearing the Trappings; 1st, 9 hours for Lengthy Prayers on Petition; 2nd, Preplanned Fate; 3rd, Precomputed Horoscopes), 1 pt willpower, 1 Paradox die (EV = no Paradox result).
…2 Paradox dice (EV = 1 Paradox point).
- Were I the Storyteller for this group, I would make this an effect that the Sidereal’s player (or, at her discretion, the target of the Effect) can activate at will, up to once per week (or day). Given that the Frequency table actually says: “…It manifests about once per week (or day)” [emphasis added], I’d let her do it twice in a week/day if she’d had no reason to trigger the effect in the previous week/day. Actually, if the frequency were 1/day, I’d let her manifest twice in a day with the limit that she couldn’t use it the next day.
-- Conclusion: It is likely that a novice Sidereal can maintain a Fate effect that returns a point of temporary willpower upon the use of Essence 1/day or week, for up to a month/season. Is that important? Not necessarily, but it can be replaced with -1 DC (or +1 auto success in opposed rolls) if Ana’s dice pool is less than 9 dice, or -1 target number (TN) if Ana’s dice pool is 9 dice or greater. Such as…
“I pronounce that I be taken into the College of the Treasure Trove and there be subjected to the Blissful Idiot Blessing while making Lore checks with Strong frequency (~1/day) until one month elapses.”
…Which seems…dumb. Even if it were +1 success to all parry checks, all Martial Arts checks, all Craft (Fate) rolls…just, why?
* What is the best a circle of elder Sidereals can accomplish in Astrology? *
- Essence 6, 5’s in all relevant attributes/abilities.
- Access to 4 other cooperative Sidereals, each Chosen of a different Maiden. AND a Solar, and a Lunar, and six other Sidereals who are members of the applicable college.
- The head of the appropriate Division in the Bureau of Destiny owes Ana a favor.
- Unlimited time.
- Petition makes Meditation roll DC 1, 12 cosigners (4 Sidereals of different Maidens, 6 Sidereals of the appropriate college, a Solar, a Lunar) +12 Meditation, lengthy (9 hrs) +3 Meditation, stunts +3 Meditation, Countersignature +3 Meditiation.
- Modified Fate Meditation roll: Charisma + Performance + 21 dice vs. DC 1. Expectation value for 31 dice: 12 successes. Let’s round up to 13 b/c we’re not counting 10’s and it makes the surplus on the Meditation roll 12 successes => +4 Effect.
- Petition = +4 Effect; Preplanned Fate 10 dice DC 6, EV = 4 successes = +1 Effect; Precomputed Horoscopes = +1 Effect; Ritual Behavior = +2 Effect; the Essence of all other Sidereals who signed the petition = +60 Effect (if each is Essence 6) => +64 Effect dice
- Modified Effect roll: 11 + 64 dice, EV = 30 Effect points. 6 come off the top for targeting the Sidereal, which leaves 24 Effect points. The effect can last 2,000 years, manifests constantly—basically, it’s a permanent upgrade. This only requires 14 Effect points, which means the effect could apply to two other Exalts or beings of Essence 5 each.
- Cost: 1 point willpower, 7 Paradox dice (EV 3 points Paradox), and two invitations of censure.
-- Conclusion: Basically, all very powerful or Fatefully important beings in a game of Exalted could be expected to have permanent +1 dice, -1 target number, recover 1 point of willpower for any action, +1 on all Virtue rolls. Let the effects last 2,000 years each, and it wouldn’t matter how long it took to finish all of these Astrological effects. The aforementioned sidebar on pg 212 titled “This Breaks the Game!” mentions this very concept in the last paragraph: “…the Sidereal hand must have always been behind both sides all along…”. There are only ~100 Sidereals in all of Existence (though in my games, I upped that number to ~500, just to avoid the obvious fact that all Sidereals would know each other if there were only 100 of them), so why wouldn’t all of them possess these benefits?
“Because it would take years—decades!—to create these Effects for every possible action, and safely bleed off Paradox!”
“Well, what about all of the Censure?”
Pg. 219: “…invites the censure of his peers.” So, either all of the Sidereals are in on it, and they all benefit; or, both factions tend to their own, each ignoring the effects of the other; or, either faction censures the other constantly, and no one gets the benefits of Astrology. (The US Senate and House, 2010-2016, anyone?)
It was obvious to me even 13 years ago that the Sidereals were meant to be the equivalent of Mage in the Exalted Age of Sorrows. (FYI: Lunars = Werewolves, Dragon-Blooded = Hunters, Abyssal = Vampires, and fuck if I know who the Solars were supposed to be.) Because of extended actions, even low-level mages could create pretty powerful magical effects, despite the threat of the Ban-…I mean Paradox Hammer.
Yet, in Sidereals, the book itself suggests that your game doesn’t use Astrology—one full chapter in the book! “But what if the PCs have access to all of this Fate shit that stacks with other bonuses?? They’ll be monstrous powerhouses!” Why? Because they’ll apply it to all of their combat abilities?
This is another clear point of dissociation between the lore and mechanics of White Wolf games. Adam Koebel has made this point time and again: [White Wolf games] claim to be about diplomacy and seduction and investigation, but they focus so much on combat and how fast a tank moves during a round and how much damage claws can do to concrete. Adam Koebel, and many other fellow game designers, have taken this philosophy to heart in the last decade: make your lore fit your mechanics, and vice versa. If 1/3 of your rulebook is about combat, and another third is about spells, then you can’t be surprised when your game focuses mostly on casting spells during combat.
Given the authors’ explicit advice to ignore Astrology, why did they bother making mechanics for it? I now understand why there is not a single post on the internet regarding actual examples of Sidereal Astrology—no one uses it!
“Well, how would you do it, Jessi?” Good query. My spouse and I observe this philosophy: ‘Don’t bring up problems without proposing solutions.’
Stay tuned for later this week (161103).