In Exalted, 1st ed.
This part will be shorter than Part 1, if only because my proposed changes are simply described and exemplified.
We have three issues that we’d need to overcome to make Astrology (1) usable, and (2) balanced out of the MAD scenario described at the bottom of Sidereals, 1st ed., pg 212: “…[T]he Sidereal [Astrology] must have always been behind both sides all along, or your game will veer wildly out of kilter…”:
(I) If the Sidereals are the Age of Sorrows equivalent of “Mage: The Ascension” (or “:The Awakening”), and Astrology is meant to represent the ability of the Mage to interact directly with the Weave/Loom of Fate, then Sidereals lose something if Astrology is simply deemed ‘unusable’.
(II) But if the Sidereal PCs can, perhaps in the span of decades, basically award an effectively permanent +1 die/success, +1 willpower generator, +1 Virtue bonus to all PC actions, how do we balance it against the major NPC antagonists? Assume that all major antagonists with any possible connection to Yu-shan and/or the Sidereals also have this bonus (e.g. Mutally Assured Dice-truction).
(III) It is effectively impossible* for a novice Sidereal to create any kind of Astrological effect that matters over the course of a short story. But it is essentially easy/free for elder Sidereals to create powerful, effectively permanent Astrological bonuses to themselves, and penalties to their enemies.
*: (Covered in Part 1)
The poetic irony is that the game already categorizes attributes, abilities, colleges—every mechanic that might be useful to Astrology. I would propose the following mechanical changes:
* Have Frequency and Duration be counter-related to one another. A Fate Effect could manifest every time the dice are rolled for a month, or once every week or so for a millennium.
* Have Functions apply a simple +/-1 modifier. It can be -/+ to the difficulty (DC) in dicepools of 8 or fewer dice, +/- a die in dicepools of 8 or fewer dice for opposed actions, or +/- to the target number (TN) in dicepools of 9 or greater dice.
* Have Effects target specific Abilities. Each Ability is related to a College anyway, so just have that part of the declaration apply to the College’s related ability. This may make more sense anyway: currently, the colleges refer to types of people, and the applied fate may be anything. Instead, force the fate to be related to the college, and allow the Sidereal to target anybody. If one is sitting in a physics class, one is studying the what of physics; the who of the student is inconsequential.
* Allow a singular Sidereal to create a small Effect on her own; save all of the cooperation and supplication to the various idiot spirits of Yu-shan for more powerful Destinies. Make these provide +/-2 or +/-3, to demonstrate the true power of the Loom of Fate on a fated subject. In context, the +/-1 that an individual Sidereal can manipulate is a relatively small manipulation of the Weave.
* I understand why the Prayer roll is Charisma + Performance, but I don’t like it. “Oh please, dear sweet Pattern Icky, please hear my pathetic plea to a low-functioning automaton and kindly nudge Fate a bit this way and that. Thank you. Love, a Sidereal who is supposed to fucking control fate.”
Instead, allow each Sidereal caste to use, oh, I don’t know, some Ability that they would actually use and develop. I propose for the Fatalistic Meditation roll:
Of Mercury: Perception + Endurance
Of Venus: Charisma + Performance
Of Mars: Wits + Presence
Of Jupiter: Intelligence + Lore
Of Saturn: Manipulation + Awareness
**Jessi’s Procedure for Sidereal Astrology
- Plan Destiny: Intelligence + Craft (Fate), DC the highest Essence of the target Scope. Every two surplus successes adds +1 Effect die. Still requires a day of work. Modify DC according to materials available (e.g. library in Yu-shan -2 DC, camping in a random field in the South +2 DC).
- Chart Horoscope: Perception + Occult, DC 1. Every two surplus successes adds +1 Effect die. Still requires a day of work. Modify DC according to ability to watch stars (e.g. -1 DC at observatory or can work all night, +1 DC if weather poor or forced to work during day).
- Ritual Behavior: Roll any applicable Stunts up into this. Bear 3 Trappings of the College, +1 die. Bear all five, +3 dice. Don the resplendent destiny of the college, +2 dice. “I don’t bother with any ritual crap.” “Okay, no stunt dice.” “To bear the Trappings of the Gauntlet, I subsume myself in the resplendent destiny of a Legion officer, Sergeant Kara Keerkourt. My uniform is perfectly pressed, but retains the bloodstains from previous battles. I train the soldiers of my platoon fairly, but taxingly, brutally pushing them to their limits with my meaningless demands of push-ups and wall-sits.” “Cool, cool: all five trappings of the Gauntlet, donned the destiny of Kara Keerkourt, +5 dice to Effect roll.”
* Fatalistic Meditation:
- ‘The Pattern Ickies are fickle about one’s hand-writing.’ Horseshit. To work the Loom of Fate, a Sidereal first engages in a period of Fatalistic Meditation. (Use the attribute + ability mentioned above.) Each caste of Sidereal engages in this differently; e.g. a Chosen of the Maiden of Journeys relies upon her perception of the strings of fate all around her while she endures the process of meditation. The DC of Meditation is based upon the extent of the Fate to be designed:
DC 3 for a +/-1 Effect
DC 7 for a +/-2 Effect
DC 12 for a +/-3 Effect
+1 DC if the target of the Effect can be seen, but not touched
+3 DC if the target of the Effect cannot be seen or touched
The Meditation roll may be modified by:
- Lengthy Meditation: +1 die for every eight (consecutive) hours of meditation, max +5 dice. Note that each day can tolerate but a single eight-hour period of meditation.
- Cooperative Meditators: +N dice, N2 = the sum of the permanent Essences of the cooperating Meditators. (Terrible decision, by the way, of forcing WoD gamers to discuss traits in both ‘permanent’ and ‘temporary’ terms.) I’d probably set the max at +10 dice for 100 (102 = 100) Essence worth of cooperators. That’s a decent sized cult of 100 normal humans, or a conclave of twenty Essence 5 exalts. And I’d double the effective Essence of any participating Sidereal—so, ten Essence 5 Chosen of the Maidens. I would also require that any cooperative meditators be excluded from any Effect created by this Fatalistic Meditation (except for the Sidereal who initiated it)—this would serve to limit large Meditation bonuses to those Sidereals who have performed their work in Yu-shan to the extent that they can marshal the cooperation of their peers. Or, Sidereals of either faction could gather a relatively large number of Exalted (Dragon-Blooded for Bronze Faction, Solars and Lunars for Gold Faction) to aid them in manipulating Fate.
- Heavenly Favor: I’d change this Background (pg. 241) to represent rewards for steady work within Yu-shan with the spirits and gods therein. +1 point in the Background for every (time period; season, perhaps?) spent performing one’s inane duties in Yu-shan. These coalesce in heavenly benefits when the Sidereal actually needs to manipulate Fate. +N2, where N is the number of points in this Background that the Sidereal is willing to ‘spend’. I might cap it at 3 points, for +9 dice.
These represent specific time that the Sidereal must give up to Meditating on the Fate she intends to craft, as well as the ‘good-will’ she has built up in both her exalted contacts and her duties in Yu-shan. However, merely having 7 Meditation dice (and thus no bonus dice) has an expectation value of 3 successes, which means a relatively young Sidereal can comfortably rely on achieving the +/-1 change in fate. But it takes about 16 Meditation dice to achieve a +/-2 fate, which either requires the use of Charms (and, since Sidereal Charms are limited to their Essence in maximum bonus dice, an Essence of 6-ish) or assistance (or assistants).
I would not allow excess Meditation successes to roll over to the Effect roll, except perhaps +dice up to the Meditating Sidereal’s Essence in surplus.
Example 1: The young Sidereal, staring up at the stars while her Circle camps at the edge of a cliff.
Iniyari looks fondly over the sleeping forms of the other exalts of her Circle, then back to the night sky. Meditation is a form of rest, so she stares up at the night sky to divine a Fate useful to her the following day. She finds an Ascendant destiny in the College of the Mask—someone near to her can be proclaimed Ascendant in Stealth. Her proclamation: “I pronounce that the Lunar known as Windwalker be taken into the College of the Mask, there to perform Ascendantly once per scene for the next week.”
This proclamation, if successfully Meditated upon, would give Windwalker +1 auto success to Stealth checks (or -1 TN, or -1 DC) once a scene for the coming week—an immediate, if small effect that matters to the members of the Circle. I would allow Windwalker to determine when she would like to use her 1/scene ability, and I would let her see the result of her roll first, and then determine if she’d like to use her Ascendant Fate of the Mask.
Iniyari rolls Intelligence 4 + Lore 3 to Meditate on this Fate. Give her +1 for Lengthy Meditation, but no Cooperation or Favor. With 8 dice, she’d pass this roll ~68% of the time (not counting 10’s). 1 pt willpower, 1 Paradox die.
Example 2: A group of Gold Faction Sidereals have information that several Wyld Hunts are to occur simultaneously.
“Some five or so young Solars will be targeted in the same 24 hour period!”
“Here, in Lookshy; here, in Nexus; here, just south of Sijan; and another two within this triangle.”
“That’s 15,000 square miles of territory! There are but three of us!”
“A Destiny, then? To help protect them?”
“But an Ascendant Fate of the Ewer for the Solars? Or a Descendant Fate for their hunters?”
“We don’t know enough about the latter. An Ascendant Fate of the Ewer then.”
The three Sidereals sit to Meditate. Because the Chosen of Venus has studied in the College of the Ewer, she will lead the craft of the Destiny; the other two will cooperate. The Chosen of Venus has Charisma 4 + Performance 5. They have three days before the attacks are to occur, so they will meditate in three 8-hour periods (+3 dice). All three exalts have Essence 5, so the Cooperators provide +3 dice (10, rounds down to 9, which is the square of 3). The Chosen of Venus uses a Charm each of the three days to increase her Cha + Performance roll by her Essence.
The final Fatalistic Meditation roll has a pool of (Charisma 4, Performance 5, Charms 5, 6 bonus) 20 dice, expectation value 8 successes—not enough to get the +/-2 level with the +3 DC for neither seeing nor touching their targets. So the Chosen of Venus will have to travel to Creation and find a vantage point which will allow her to overlook much of the eastern Threshold. Optionally, she could task five spirits with delivering the Destinies for her. Given the 3 days of effort, she doesn’t want to risk the spirits failing to find the Solars, so she’ll travel to the real world. Cost: 1 willpower,
Her proclamation: “I pronounce that the Solars of the Eastern Threshold, from Lookshy to Nexus be taken into the College of the Ewer, there to perform doubly Ascendantly as often as needed for the next month.”
* Effect Determination
Now that the Meditation is passed, roll the bonus effect dice determined in the Pre-Med: Plan Destiny, Chart Horoscope, Ritual Behavior. Possibly, add any extra successes from the Med roll (up to the Sidereal’s Essence) as well. There are two ways that I would think about using these for the Effect:
(A) Add a number of dice to these bonus effect dice equal to the Sidereal’s Essence + College. Roll them, and distribute the successes on Scope, Duration, and Effect, with the understanding that Duration + Effect cannot exceed the Sidereal’s Essence + College. This approach represents all of the Sidereal’s hard work, and her expertise in her college and the raw power of her Essence.
In Example 1, Iniyari has an Essence of 3 and College of the Mask 3. Her bonuses pre-Med are simply +1 from bearing three trappings of the Mask (quiet, soft fabric, mask). I would probably not allow her to use the same eight-hour meditation period to work on the Planning or Horoscopes; if Meditation basically counts as sleep, then her brain cannot be active enough to perform either of those actions. Using (A), Iniyari rolls Essence 3, College 3, +1 bonus: 7 dice, EV 3 successes (not counting 10’s). But the 1/scene Effect requires 3 EP, and the week Duration 0 EP, which would leave 0 EP for the Scope—not great, since Windwalker’s Essence is 2. However, technically 2 is closer to 1 (requiring 0 EP because log10(1) = 0) than 10 (requiring 1 EP). I’ve never really liked games that always round just one way; I’d give it to her, but I could also see the argument for hoping for a slightly higher roll (29% to hit 4+ successes on 7 dice, not including 10’s). Perhaps, if a Sidereal is just a single EP away from a desired Effect, the Storyteller could give her five Paradox dice in exchange. Such an act would definitely fit the theme of the Sidereals: trading their own health and sanity to ensure appropriate Destinies could be meted out.
(B) Just use the Sidereal’s Essence to determine Duration + Effect. Roll the Sidereal’s College plus bonus dice from the pre-Meditation, and apply them to the Scope. This represents the Sidereal’s base control over Fate (i.e. from her Essence), and the Scope of the Destiny that she creates is based upon all of her pre-Meditation work.
In Example 2, the Chosen of Venus has an Essence of 5. Using (B), she spends 4 EP on Frequency, 1 on Duration. She has an Ewer College rating of 5. In the three days of Meditation and planning, she estimates that the highest Essence a Solar in this region would have is 4. She rolls Int 3 + Craft (Fate) 4 vs DC 2 (she and her fellow Sidereal are working from a library in Yu-shan). Expected value of 7 dice is 3, so no bonus there. She rolls for the Horoscope: Per 3 + Occult 4. EV = 3, but the DC is reduced to -1 because they can work at night and can observe the motion of the stars on the dome of Yu-shan. Four surplus successes equates to +2 bonus dice. Finally, she pulls out her resplendent destiny of the good Monk Asha, bearing all five of the trappings of the College of the Ewer, for +5 bonus dice. Total Effect dice: 12, EV 5. This is enough to affect a regional Essence of 100,000. If she could touch or see the Solars individually, this would be more than enough. Since she cannot, reducing this value by 1/N allows her to affect a “prefecture or principality”, total population ~20k. At 750,000 people, Nexus proper is out (“Exalted”, 1st ed., pg 56). But the Fate can affect Lookshy and Sijan, each with population ~10k.
If, as the Chosen of Venus loops around the near eastern Threshold, the Solar near Nexus happens to be outside of that city, then s/he can be included. And it turns out that one of the five Solar targets has Essence 5, so s/he’s out because the Meditation only hit Essence 4 or lower targets. Of course, if a Solar has Essence 5, s/he can probably handle a Wyld Hunt.
If you limit the Essence of Sidereals to 6 in your Exalted game, then option A is probably better. But if Sidereals can achieve Essence 8 or even higher, then option B would better represent the raw power such a being would have over the Loom of Fate.
N EP, wherein 10N = the population’s collective Essence, or N = log10(collective Essence).
N = 1 is 10 points of Essence, N = 2 is 100 points, N = 3 is a thousand, etc. At some point (about N ≥ 3), Fate doesn’t affect a specific group of people so much as all of the living things within a specific geographical location. At this point, I’d cut the fraction of ‘humans’ targeted by 1/N. For example: if a Sidereal wants to target a town of about 1,000 residents, she’d need to spend 4 EP (which would normally target 10,000 Essence) to account for all of the Essence ≥ 2 humans, exalts, and spirits within the town, as well as all of the creatures and spirits with significant (i.e. ≠ 0) Essences.
EP Duration of Fate Effect
0 1 week
1 1 month
2 1 season (rem: 3 months/season)
3 1 year (rem: 5 seasons/year)
4 10 years
5 20 years (defined as one generation)
6 3 generations
7 7 generations
8 15 generations (300 years)
Note: Duration and Frequency are related:
Sidereal’s Essence = Duration EP (above) + Frequency EP (below)
EP Frequency of Fate Effect
3 1/scene or hour
4 Every Ability roll
In your Exalted game, the power of these Effects would be balanced by the Sidereal’s Essence, depending on which of the options A or B you’d prefer. A starter Sidereal with Essence 2 could make an Effect pop 1/month for three months (e.g. researches, long-term crafts (Manses), long-term bureaucratic efforts), 1/week for a month (e.g. short-term crafts (weapons, objects), long-distance travel, long-term treatment), or 1/day for a week. Yes, adding one die or lowering the TN by 1 for just a few rolls is pretty minor. But it’s an Effect that a young Sidereal can create with little difficulty, and has an immediate impact on the PCs’ goals.
By the time your Sidereal has Essence 6, she can work some serious Fates: +1 Dodge every time one dodges for a season, +1 Martial Arts once a scene for a year, etc. It’s still balanced by the fact that the Sidereal could only Meditate for a +/-1 modifier; but if you think of Essence 6 as ≈ Level 20, then this is the sort of Effect you’d anticipate such a character to command. If the Sidereal opted to Charm up the Meditation roll, then the modifier could be +/-2, which is also something one might expect from the equivalent of a 20th level character.
* Paradox: Fuck do I hate Paradox. “Careful of using your class abilities too much, kids, or you’ll get bitten by a Pattern Icky!” Ridiculous. Paradox in “Mage: The Ascension” was far better implemented. I would propose something similar for the Sidereals. Furthermore, it would be interesting if Paradox effects were unique to each of the Colleges. “Oh, gee, I’d love to write you a Destiny for Martial Arts, but I’m nearing my Paradox Limit and really don’t want to risk coming down with a case of White Sun Sickness (pg 197)!”
I’m not going to say too much more about Paradox here; maybe next month I’ll write up a chart of the Colleges and their associated Paradox Risks. I would add that I’d make it easier to bleed off Paradox. Treat them like health levels: a Sidereal who avoids tampering with Fate can burn off a point of Paradox per day at the 1-3 Paradox levels, per week at the 4-6 levels, and per month at the 7-9 levels. Ex: if a Chosen builds up 9 Paradox points, s/he could bleed it all off in 3 months, 3 weeks, 3 days (11 weeks, 3 days, or 80 days). Altering Fate is a Sidreal’s job. It’s not just a cool class perk—the entire book describes Sidereals’ command of Fate as their duty. And we’re going to punish you for doing your job??
* Resplendent Destinies
I don’t have too much to say about Resplendent Destinies, except for: (I) they’re pretty cool; (II) they’re pretty useless in a game, unless the entire Circle can assume similar Destinies, or they’re handled in the off-time between games; (III) from Part 1, it’s obviously impossible to generate enough Effect Points to sustain the use of Resplendency for very long; (IV) Many of the Resplendent Effects are just garbage.
I would give each Resplendent Destiny the same five basic Effects. And because a Sidereal only needs Duration to maintain a Destiny, I would let them store excess EP (from either option A or B) to use for the Destiny.
Effect 1: Supplement Ability. Cost: 1 EP: You may add your Essence to an Ability roll for the College’s related Ability.
Effect 2: Blend into Reality. Cost: 1 EP, 1 Paradox die: You may hide yourself among those in the Precincts of the College. You avoid all legal, bureaucratic, and official scrutiny, and supernatural trackers must beat your Attribute (usually Dex, Manip, or Wits) + College’s Ability, with Essence added as auto successes.
Effect 3: Excel at Profession. Cost 1 EP/week: You are a paragon example of this Destiny. As a commander, your troops can march farther, face down more terrifying circumstances. As a captain, your ship can sail faster, your men’s loyalty is higher. As a teacher, your students learn quickly. As a musician, you sell out crowds. As an orator, you move the peoples’ hearts and minds.
Effect 4: Paragon Manifestation, Literal. Cost: 3 EP, 1 Paradox die: A giant shield springs up to protect you from attacks this round/scene. You transform yourself/someone into a crow for a day/week. You manifest a magnificent Peacock or other highly valuable/rare animal into existence. Your target falls in love with you instantly. From a ship’s wheel, you manifest a sailing vessel large enough for your retinue.
Effect 5: Paragon Manifestation, Metaphorical. Cost: 3 EP, 3 Paradox dice/week or month: Examples:
- The Messenger: You can travel via the spirit realms 100 or more miles a day, allowing you to single-handedly handle the routing of important messages in a geographical locale. OR: You stand in the space between Creation and a Death Land, safely ferrying anyone who wishes it across the boundary regardless of time of day. You can allow spirits to Manifest for free by touch.
- The Pillar: For a month, you can reduce the local crime rate to zero as you facilitate bonds of friendship and community in a village or large neighborhood w/in a city. Marriages, dedications, and other social rituals happen with high frequency and local participation. OR: Within a week, you can find the ‘one true love’ for a Dynast. They will be ready to wed by the end of the week, and their bond will last a lifetime.
- The Banner: During a week, your presence among the soldiers makes the Legion completely fearless—they pass all Valor and Willpower checks. OR: For every month in which you decry the local rulership or the leadership of the Realm, you turn a cumulative 25% of the populace against it. Protests and riots are followed by new elections, the overturn of the government, open revolt, and armed conflict of the peasantry vs the Junta.
- The Treasure Trove: Scouring the face of Creation for a month will find you that which you seek, no matter how valuable or rare. OR: Your influence leads directly to new discoveries, philosophies, and epiphanies. Research is completed on a timetable one magnitude less than usual (e.g. months to weeks, weeks to days). A technophobic village comes to fully embrace technology. A town without a university suddenly constructs one before the month is out.
- The Rising Smoke: (Similar to the second example under ‘The Banner’; some of the colleges overlap, which is fine—this way Sidereals do not necessarily have to spread their Colleges so thin as to attempt to cover all possible Fates/Destinies.) OR: The curse of death has been called upon the target, who will die within the week if s/he cannot fight off supernatural creatures (e.g. Circle 2 Demons).
See? Simple. Or, perhaps not. I didn’t think of this 13 years ago when I first bought the game. Of course, I haven’t been a professional game designer for 13 years. Just like I published my first book in 2012, my first game won’t be published until first half 2017. I’ve learned a lot about game mechanics in 13 years. I have a philosophy on crime that I can paraphrase here: the onus, the burden of the game rests solely upon the shoulders of the game developer. The public has an eternal amount of time to pick it apart, beginning immediately after publishing.
I’d say something about hindsight, but my glasses prescription is pretty high.