The Time of Tumult is one of great conflict, and the Exalted that live through it will invariably find themselves in armed conflict, wielding their great weapons and powers of destruction.
Combat is split into distinct Rounds, where each character has a chance to take one Action, such as Attacking, using a Charm, or any other maneuver that they might wish to perform. Any powers that take up a full action are denoted as Simple Powers.
On their turn, a character is able to perform two actions, though only one can be a Strike by default. (e.g. a single Maneuver and Strike, or two Maneuvers.) The Actions may be performed in any order the Player desires.
There are some charms or powers that may grant a bonus action. There is a hard limit of 1 bonus action per Turn, no combination of Powers or effects can exceed that limit. Supplemental Powers that grant a maneuver’s effects through do not count to that limit. (e.g. If a Charm that supplements a successful Strike with knockback.)
Often, the actions of a character will be against a single target. While, mechanically, these are two different actions, they do not need to be described as such. For example, if a character performs a Brawl Strike and then Holds a foe, it can easily be described as “I lash forward, grappling them down, hitting them onto the floor.” Each aspect would still require the roll to see if it was successful, but they are handled by the same description.
If there is a Stunt, apply the benefits to both rolls.
In combat, Turns follow a swinging back-and-forth focus: once one character finishes their actions, it is passed to the next side to the opponent with the most narrative weight or physical proximity to the action, as determined by the Storyteller. For example, if a Player Character is attacking a monster, the monster would be the next to go in the action, and then the spotlight would swing back to the Player Character closest to the monster.
Each character only takes one turn per Round. Once all combatants on a side gone, the remaining characters finish their turns—no character should be skipped in a Round (unless they willingly passed.)
The first person to act in the combat scene should naturally flow from the end of the last scene—if a character launched a surprise attack, or was the first one on the combat scene, they are the one to act first.
However, if it unclear (as it often is,) the first character to act is determined by a (Wits + Awareness) roll performed as combat breaks out—the character with the most successes acting first, (Ties are resolved with a coin flip)
The Storyteller is the ultimate arbiter of the combat flow, guiding this alternating spotlight as they feel best fits the mood, but characters volunteering for an action, or passing their action over to a fellow character should be encouraged and respected as best as possible.
Alternate Turn Orders
Turn Order is a mechanic highly and contentiously discussed. Everyone has their favorite way of handling combat—all with their own individual benefits.
Ultimately, what matters is simply agreement on a system, so that each Player’s turn can be quick and responsive—the exact method can be altered based on personal preferences, or even in response to a specific scene.
Here are a few alternates:
1. Static: At the beginning of combat, all characters roll (1d10) and add (Athletics). Each round, characters go from highest number to lowest.
2. Popcorn: Each character takes their action, and then the controlling Player designates the next character to act until all have acted in the Round.
3. Nominated Team: The side with the highest total number of successes among all characters goes first. Each round, the team nominates which character will act for their turn.
A character may use up one of their actions to wait for a specific event, where they can use their other action to either act before or after the event, at their discretion. This must be a specific, non-arbitrary event such as “when someone comes through this door.” Players must tell the Storyteller what the event is—they cannot arbitrarily wait.
A character may hold their action until it is their Turn again in the next Round. If by this point the event has not happened, the held action is simply lost and the character must take their new Turn as normal.
Characters are constantly in motion in the battlefield—performing acrobatics, running across the walls, and rushing from point to point. Even the least mobile among the exalted do not simply stand in a single spot waiting to be hit.
For this reason, rather than lock characters down with a required movement action, the battlefield is split into distinct Zones, which characters can freely move within and attack each other without limitation.
When entering combat, the Storyteller should designate the battlefield into distinct Zones that have logical boundaries related to scene, such as “inside the inn” or “on top of the rooftops.” Zones should be split up logically based on the terrain, though if the Storyteller may choose to chop up a zone into smaller categories if they feel they are too large (i.e. a north and south side of a long path.)
There is no set size for a zone—they can be as large or small as is narratively required.
Take an action to relocate between Zones. By default, this does not require a roll. However, if there are situations such as rough terrain, environmental effects, or if another character is restraining or otherwise blockading a path, a roll will be called for.
Ranged weapons, such as bows, have the option to attack cross zone lines as though they were in the same zone. However, zone boundaries often are marked by some sort of barrier, such as walls, which would still impede an attack.
Attacks crossing a Zone boundary suffer a -2 dice penalty, but may be negated by taking an Aim Maneuver. Each Zone boundary adds its own dice penalty, and must be negated by its own individual Aim Maneuver. For example, striking across 3 Zone boundaries would impose a -6 dice penalty, and would require 3 Aim Maneuvers to fully counter.
Aiming is an action that must be declared against the target you intend to hit. You cannot simply take a general aim action.
Zone of Control
Occasionally, a Zone might be focused around a character—typically some giant monster that dominates the battlefield, and often extends just as long as the creature’s reach. This is considered a “Zone within a Zone”
Aside from being mobile, this Zone follows most of the same rules—characters must be in that Zone to make melee attacks (including the creature itself). But there are a couple special considerations:
1. The creature can move within and between Static Zones as normal.
2. The creature can force a target character into its Zone of Control by approaching them. This may be done once freely a turn, targeting a single character within the same Static Zone. (Common Sense may bring other characters in too—such as if a group is describe as huddling together.)
3. Characters must always use a roll when attempting to leave the Zone of Control.
A Maneuver is any action the character performs to gain advantage over the scene—be it to test the stance of their enemies, analyze the battlefield for strategic advantage, or to intimidate your foes through physical prowess.
Simple Charms, Powers, and other effects that do not deal damage are considered to be a Maneuver.
The Player describes any action that would grant them tactical advantage, and then rolls the appropriate [Att + Abi] dice pool if one is called for. If there is a Difficulty of None on the Maneuver, they simply declare they are taking that action, and move on—no roll needed.
Remember, Exalted follows the dynamic and cinematic model—heroes should be leaping across narrow banisters, dancing steel in testing feints, and channeling their inner might during combat. Nearly any action, if described well enough, can grant a bonus to combat.
The one hard and fast rule of a Maneuver is that it cannot deal damage—that is a Strike. Knocking back a character through a wall, shattering the wall is a Maneuver. Knocking back a character into a wall, shattering their bones, is a Strike. (Knocking them back into the wall, breaking it and shattering their bones would be a Maneuver and Strike actions, which would narratively be combined together.
Many combat powers will call for something to happen “on hit”. If not specifically calling out a Strike, this can also include Maneuvers that target the specified Difficulty involving physical contact between the two characters/their weapons. For example, knocking back a character with a kick.(or specified difficulty, such as Block and Evasion).
The Action “Build Power” is considered a Maneuver in combat. Typically it will focus on gaining the tactical edge over the scene—studying movements of the foes, centering yourself, or making feinting moves.
What can’t I do?
Maneuvers are simply normal actions taken in combat, and so follow the same rule: “Does this make sense?” There are few hard limits imposed, rather relying on the judgment of the Storyteller and fellow players for the tone of the setting.
Can you knock back an enemy on a wave of sound by performing an epic ballad on your essence guitar? (Charisma + Performance) Whether or not this is something you want in your game is your choice.
During combat, Physical Attributes and Martial Abilities can do the most, rarely needing an explanation or stunt to justify their actions.
|Aim||None||Take an Action and Aim, negating the penalty from firing across a Zone boundary. Must specifically declare a target.|
|Move||None (Varies)||Cross a Zone boundary. Typically has no difficulty, but may require a roll if restrained, or if the terrain is difficult.|
Select a character in the same Zone as you. Attacks that target them must instead target you.
You must remain in the same Zone as your charge.
|Change Stance||None||Swap Fighting Style.|
|Weaken Defense||(3 / 5 / 8)||
Decrease a single target’s defense. (-1) for a (3+), (-2) for (5+), or (-3) for (8+). Cannot be stacked.
This lasts until the target recovers.
If a weakness exists, as detailed by the Storyteller, it can break or bypass a defense—effectively setting it to 1.
Tearing armor off, or trapping a beast in a cage are examples. The difficulty is determined based on the narrative.
|Block||Moves the target up to one Zone.|
|Restrain||Evasion||Roll (Dexterity + Brawl) against a target’s Evasion. If successful, the target cannot move Zones for one Roundl,.
This lasts until your next action.
Intimidate / Stun
|MDV||You apply a -2 dice disadvantage on another character. If you exceed their Resolve by +3, this becomes a -4 dice Disadvantage.|
|Recover||(3 / 5)||
Remove imposed dice penalties.
Purge (-2) or lower for 3, and (-4) and lower for 5.
|Smash Scenery||Based on Scenery||Change the scenery, such as by collapsing a pillar.|
|Based on Scenery||Attempt to find cover, granting yourself Minor/Moderate Defense Advantage.
You may also destroy other’s cover Advantage.
|Evasion||When the target takes a Move Action, reflexively move one Zone. This does not cost an action.
This lasts until your next action.
Hit: (Accuracy) >= DV
Damage: (Accuracy) + Base Damage – DV - Soak
If you truly wish to kill your opponent, you may do so by striking at them with a dangerous attack. These can be performed against any character within range that is not specifically protected by some sort of narrative defense—such as a wall or a giant chasm. If a character attempts to attack an ineligible target, remind them and ask them to take another action instead.
By default, a Strike must use use either Strength or Dexterity, paired with Brawl, Melee, or Marksmanship. Attacking with any other Attribute/Ability requires either a Stunt, Storyteller permission, or a dedicated Power.
The dice pool to attack is called Accuracy, which should be recorded on the character sheet for quick reference. It is the (Attribute + Ability) referenced above, with any bonuses added from your fighting style, and any Powers and Advantages you might have.
After declaring an attack, roll the Accuracy pool. If the number of successes is less than the target’s DV, the attack misses. If it is greater or equal to, it hits.
On a hit, subtract the DV from the number of successes on the Accuracy roll—this is called your Threshold Successes. Add that to your Base Damage, and the total amount is the damage the target takes.
If the target has Soak, they absorb that much damage, but the rest is taken from their Health Pool.
Strike Order Resolution.
A Strike consists of two parts—the Accuracy roll, and the Damage resolution. Each time, the order favors the defender over the attacker.
Supplemental Powers that enhance damage do not need to be declared until after the Accuracy roll is determined—if the attack misses, don’t waste motes on a failed attack.
Use the flow of the table to determine your order, primarily. What is important is fun, not fiddly timing rules. This is just here to resolve disagreements.
Certain Powers will call for a targeted attack, attacking a derived value such as Evasion or Resolve, or calling for a contested roll. These bypasses the normal defense structure.
Instead of DV, you will use whatever defense is declared on the Power. For example, you may directly target Block against a highly Evasive enemy, both increasing your chances of hitting and gaining more damage in the process.
Combat ends when the outcome of the scene has been determined—you don’t need to grind out all the health from opponents to know they are defeated.
Once the direction of the Scene is determined, the Storyteller may drop out of Combat and into a Narrative scene, letting the players resolve combat as they see fit—or try to recuperate from its losses.
The Exalted are also known to stop combat through strange ways—such as breaking the will of combatants so they no longer are their enemies. Moments like this should be encouraged, and there is no special reason that characters will keep attacking past reason.
It is not unreasonable that one side or another will, instead of waiting to be slaughtered, or outright surrender, they will instead try to flee for their lives.
There are two methods to contest this. (Simply allowing one side or the other to flee is also an option.)
One, is to transfer into an Encounter, where chasing or fleeing is the goal of the encounter, and the Key Issues are impediments to trapping or routing the fleeing characters.
The other is to attempt to keep the fleeing characters in combat. In this case, all fleeing characters need to leave and external-facing Zones through a contested Athletics roll on their turn.
Characters who are knocked out of battle are typically not dead—they are simply at the mercy of the opposing characters. Though, the Storyteller should rightfully note the effects of various types of damages used, such as slashing or piercing, and indicate that minor characters may perish without active action.
Characters rarely fight to the death—or even to the point of being knocked. Surrender, escape, or other options will become the pressing concern of any NPC who gets at or below 5 Health. They gain an Intimacy of “survival” at this point.
Player characters who are defeated and in mortal danger must Cheat Death in order to avoid their fate, explaining their (implausible) escape/return. If they are not in mortal danger, they still gain 1 Limit from the humiliation of defeat. (Friendly sparring matches and competitions are excluded.)
Health lost in combat is regained much in the same way motes are: through rest and relaxation. 15 Points of Health are regained after a full night’s rest, or 2 points per hour if it is interrupted.
The Environment itself can be a “character” involved in combat, as a way to simulate things ranging from earthquakes to the turning of the night, to things such as the advancement of a firestorm raging through a city.
The Environment is generally impervious to any attacks thrown at it (You may throw water at a fire to repel its advances, but typically not pierce it with arrows), and does not have a mind of its own to coordinate.
If an Environmental “attack” is all encompassing in a Zone and predictable, such as rumbling earth, a landslide, falling a great distance, or a burning flame, there is no need to make an Attack roll. It is assumed to hit and deal damage.
Minor Characters, especially those that cannot alone damage their foes will naturally fall into Battle Groups.
Groups act as a single character, but gain the following bonus based on their Group Magnitude:
Add 5 Health for every Magnitude Scale increment.
Add 1 Damage, 1 Accuracy, and +1 Dice on an action for every Magnitude Scale increment
A character’s Fighting Style is a combination of the Weapon Type and the Weapon Style with which ist is weilded. These two aspects are completely linked, and cannot be changed once created. For example, taking the Weapon Type: Melee, and the Fighting Style: Two-Handed describes a two-handed greatsword. It cannot simply be changed to a One-Handed style due to its intrinsic nature.
A character can have up to two Fighting Styles at a time, which can be switched to and from using a Maneuver Action. (The base ‘style,’ Unarmed, or no style, does not count on this limit.) This represents the time it takes for the character to swap their weapons out. Specific Fighting Styles are often called out as a requirement for a Martial Arts.
Note that a Fighting Style cannot increase Block or Evasion past 5.
Can my Weapon Pull Double Duty?
The default assumption is that each Fighting Style has an individual weapon associated with it: you fight with a firepiece in one stance, and a sword in another.
If you wanted to combine the two into one weapon, creating a gunblade, that is perfectly fine. It provides no mechanical benefit, but it is cooler.
The weapon type is defined by what Ability it uses, and gains a few benefits along the way:
**+1 Accuracy, 3 Base Damage
Typical weapons: None, tiger claws, natural weapons, brass knuckles, spiked boots.
**Grants 4 Base Damage
Typical weapons: Sword, spear, club, mace, whip.
**+1 Accuracy. 2 Base Damage, May attack at all ranges.
Typical weapons: Bow, flamepiece, crossbow, throwing spear.
Exotic abilities, those that are not of the list above, can be used with the coordination and approval of the Storyteller. For example, Craft could be paired with Reach/Thrown to represent throwing explosives as an attack.
Exotic Types offer no other benefit, save for 2 Base Damage. By default (without a custom style), they still require Strength/Dexterity as the paired Attribute.
+1 Evasion (max 5)
You may Grapple opponents, occupying them in close hand-to-hand combat in a way that they cannot escape. As a Maneuver, roll (Dexterity + Brawl) against their Evasion. If successful, you Restrain them for a Round, plus additional Rounds for every 2 extra Successes on the roll.
When Restrained, you have an extra +2 dice to attack the target. As well, you may prematurely end the grapple as a maneuver, throwing or slamming the target against physical material, immediately dealing 5 damage to them (which may be soaked.)
+1 Block (max 5)
Often represented as having a shield in the off-hand.
Choose a target at the start of combat. You may reflexively defend them as long as you are in their Zone. As well, you may reflexively move one Zone to meet your protectorate, though it consumes your next Maneuver.
+1 Accuracy, +1 Damage
A balanced style, allowing great flexibility and general bonuses.
You can call a Strike, taking a Maneuver to specify the target and how you are performing the called shot. (e.g. a specific body part, trying to use psychology against them, etc.) All Strikes against this character gain +2 Acc. for the remainder of the Scene, or else until you switch targets.
Focused on overwhelming power over all else.
You may brazenly attack. Perform a Maneuver, calling out a specific target. Lower your DV by 1 until your next Round in order to target Evasion instead of DV on your next Strike against the target.
+1 Accuracy, +1 Damage
A surprise attack from the off-hand weapon will catch most opponents off-guard.
Once per battle, you may immediately Reroll a Strike should it fail. Afterwards you may spend 2 Anima to re-use this ability. Only one reroll per Strike is allowed.
Allows attacking at range, but only across one Zone Boundary.
Note: you do not lose access to your weapon after throwing it. Either it returns (like a boomerang), you have a chain to pull it back, or you have multiple copies.
At the beginning of combat, call out an enemy—you do not suffer Ranged Penalties for attacking them. You may switch targets as a Maneuver.
You are by no means restricted to these listed styles, and may work with your Storyteller to craft your own.
You are granted 2 base points to spend on a style:
0 points (flavor restrictions)
Restricting to Strength or Dexterity
Restricting to or excluding a Weapon Type
The following each cost 1 point.
1 dice of accuracy (max 3)
1 damage (max 3)
+2 Dice on a specific action
Allows the use of an Exotic Attribute.
Minor consistent benefit
Moderate situational benefit
The following each cost 2 points
Moderate consistent benefit
Major situational benefit
1 Block/Evasion (max 1)
1 Soak (max 1)
You may gain points if you take a penalty, which are inverse of the above—for example gaining a point if you have a 1 dice penalty to accuracy. You cannot gain more than 3 points total from this method.
Once the points have been granted, you should give the Style a Power that enhances the style—some sort of Maneuver that gives the style its flavor. This should be equivalent to a Lesser Power in strength.
Light armors are those that have been tailor made to aid in flexible movement—above and beyond what normal clothes will do. Typically, light armors will consisted of padded gloves, tightly wound fabrics, and other cushions to assist in acrobatic movements.
Medium and Heavy armors provide increasing Block protection, but at the cost of more limited mobility. Most traditional armors, such as breastplates, chain shirts, and articulated plate fit into the Medium or Heavy Category.
Note that Mundane Armor cannot increase Block or Evasion past 5. Any Block or Evasion above this limit becomes Soak, which is only active when that defense is used. E.g. if you have a Block of 6, it becomes DV 5, +1 Soak for normal attacks. But attacks that bypass Evasion will also bypass the Soak.
Artifact Armor gains +1 Soak to all categories, in addition to their specific bonuses. This will be reiterated with the artifact stat block.
The mechanisms of reality are flawed. Items, particularly those not paid attention to, have a tendency to reappear and move to alternate locations. Mortals will often attribute this forgetfulness, or not recognize the incongruity at all, when in reality it is the tireless motions of the Loom taking shortcuts.
Exalts, long ago, learned how to quietly and easily exploit this—simply though sleight of hand, they can store their physical items in places and not feel the weight nor brunt of the equipment. It is not unusual for an Exalt to suddenly pull out a large daiklaive from little more than a handbag’s opening.
Sidereals have labeled this flaw as “Elsewhere,” since the items are neither here nor there, but simply somewhere…else. Certainly it is something that needs to be fixed. Eventually. Preferably by someone else.
Elsewhere is not all-powerful. The Exalt must reasonably be able to carry the items in the first place, and it must not be something that has a particularly close and important tie to reality. For example: living creatures cannot be kept in Elsewhere, as their mind and soul has far too great of self-awareness to be forgotten by reality.
As well, while time does not affect items inside of Elsewhere, the moment it is pulled out reality will quickly reassert itself. Food would rot within seconds, and we iron rust within a blink of an eye.
Items stored in Elsewhere of a dead Exalt will eventually reassert themselves into reality—often by finding themselves in nearby containers that may not have existed until needed for this precise purpose.