Combat

The Time of Tumult is one of great conflict, and the Exalted that live through it will invariably find themselves in armed conflict, weilding their great weapons and powers of destruction.

Combat in Exalted focuses on the rythmn of battle, with characters constantly testing each other, looking for openings, and strategizing through Maneuvers, until they have built up enough Impulse to strike with a Decisive Blow.

Combat, Subtlety, and the Reveal of Exalted Nature

Combat Scenes allows greater latitude in what a character can do before their Exalted nature is revealed to the world; the chaos and confusion caused by the scene will often cover for the actions of all combatants.

Generally speaking, only something as extreme as a Burning Anima level, or something overtly magical such as shapeshifting might get people to wonder if the combatants are Exalts.

Setup your expectation with players before a scene starts: if something is likely to tip their hand, warn them. Don’t unexpectedly punish your players for being awesome.

Combat Values

Impulse

Impulse is a measure of the current tactical advantage the character has. The higher the value, the greater the control they have over the battlefield. Impulse is:

  • Gained through Maneuvers—actions that turn the battlefield in the character’s favor.

  • Spent on Decisive Actions—actions that deal great strikes of force upon their enemies.

Being that it is gained and spent exclusively during a combat scene, physical tokens (such as coins or poker chips) are suggested to keep track of Impulse.

Static Values

  • Endurance
    The measure of how energy and action the character has left in them. Once a character’s Endurance pool is exhausted through damage, they have lost the will and/or physical ability to keep fighting and will collapse in exhaustion.

  • Defense Value (DV)
    Reflects the character’s ability to deflect, dodge, or otherwise mitigate an incoming attack. Certain attacks will bypass the DV and target a specific defenses. (i.e. room-filled explosions cannot be dodged, and so must be Soaked.)

  • Evasion
    Represents the ability for characters to quickly move and respond to changes in the battlefield.

  • Soak
    The hardiness of a character, the raw ability to take a hit without it affecting them at all.

  • Accuracy
    The ability to land a hit with an attack. This value is highly dependant on the weapon used—for example, a short bow is a light archery weapon, so would use Dexterity, Archery, and provide an Accuracy Bonus, wheras a Heavy Axe would rely on Strength, Melee, and have an Accuracy Penalty. This is described in more detail in the Weapons section.

  • Base Damage
    When a Decisive Attack lands, the Base Damage is the minimal amount of damage behind the blow—heavier weapons will deal more base damage.

  • Initiative
    How quickly a character can react to the start of battle, determining their turn order as well as the starting Impulse.

The Combat Round

Combat is split into distinct Rounds, where each character has a chance to take one and only one Action, such as Attacking, using a Charm, or a Maneuver. Any powers that take up a full action are denoted as Simple Powers.

In addition to their simple Action, characters can Move and perform other minor actions. These are called Free Actions, and as many Free Actions may be performed on their turn at no consequence. The only limitation is that each Free Action must be unique—you cannot take two Move actions, for example, just one. (Without a Power, that is.)

Free Actions can be taken in an order—before or after the main Action of the turn.

Turn Order

Turn order is determined by the Initiative Roll:

Initiative: 1d10 + (Initiative)

The characters then proceed from highest to lowest, then restarting the round once all characters have gone.

If there is a tie of Initiative between a Player Character and a Non-Player Character, the Player gets to choose who goes first. If there is a tie between Player Characters, simply flip a coin.

Each combatant starts with a number of Impulse equal to their Initiative score.

Starting Impulse: (Initiative)

All combatants are assumed to start combat ready: their weapons are drawn, they have fallen into their Martial Arts, etc.

Balancing Large Groups

Player Characters only get One Action per round. But Non-Player Characters are not beholden to this rule. The Storyteller may choose to let a NPC have up to 3 actions per Round—if they are particularly powerful and dangerous foes.

The Rule of Thumb is to have antagonists acting no less than 1/3 of the Player actions.

Ambush Round

If characters are ambushed—not expecting combat in the least, they must suffer through an Ambush Round.

Ambushed characters:

  • Start with 0 Impulse,

  • May only act after all other characters have acted, regardless of their Turn Order. Once the Ambush Round ends, normal turn order resumes.

Ambushes are premeditated affairs–requiring setup, planning, and coordination between the party. Players cannot suddenly go into combat if things are not going their way and declare it an Ambush.

To prevent being ambushed, Player Characters get a Reflexive (Wits + Awareness) roll against the skill of those setting up the ambush. Typically this would be a contested roll against (Wits + Stealth).

Holding Action

Any character may Hold their Action, or wait to act based on something that happens in the battlefield. To do so, the must spend 2 Impulse and describe what it is they are waiting for: they cannot arbitrarily wait. When the specified event happens, they get a chance to act before or after the event, at their discretion. Any action may be held, be it a Maneuver, Decisive, or even Free Action.

If the event does not happen in the Round, the character regains their spent 2 Impulse, but does not get a chance to act this Round.

Change Initiative

As a Free Action, change your Turn Order. Either spend 1 Impulse per +1 Initiative gained, or drop down any number for free. This takes effect at the start of the next Round.

Maneuvers

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.

The Player describes any action that would grant them tactical advantage, and then rolls the [Att + Abi] dice pool. The Number of Successes rolled is then gained as Impulse.

Remember, Exalted follows the dynamic and cinematic model—heroes should be leaping across narrow banisters, dancing steel in testing feints, and channelling their inner might during combat. Nearly any action, if described well enough, can grant Impulse.

Attack Maneuvers

Maneuvers also include a type of Attacks—but ones that are focused more on putting your foe on edge, rather than dealing a killing blow. These Manuever Attacks that hit (a roll above the DV), would only deal superficial harm to the player: a cut on a cheek to dishearten and surprise, a blow to the chest to knock back down.

Attack Maneuvers do not deal direct damage to any normal foe on the battlefield.

Attacking Lesser Foes

However, Attack Maneuvers can directly harm Lesser Foes. Damage is the number of Successes from the Maneuver, minus the DV of the Lesser Foe(s) targetted. The Player still receives full Impulse from the Maneuver.

  • Lesser Foe Damage: (Maneuver Roll) - DV

Stunting Maneuvers

Stunts in a combat Maneuver not only grant +2 dice, they let the Player choose an effect their Maneuver has on the battlefield (in addition to gaining Impulse.)

These Stunt Maneuvers must make sense in the context of the action, and must exceed the difficulty of the action with the roll to take effect.

Maneuver Stunt Effects

Name

Difficulty

Description

Knockback /

Pull /

Hold

DV

Moves the target one range band, or force the target to stay in their current location.

Keep Pace

Evasion

When the target takes a Move Action away from you, reflexively move one range band toward them. This does not consume a Move Action.

Distract /

Intimidate

Resolve

The target loses 3 Impulse.

Stun

Soak

The target loses 2 dice from their next action.

Smash Scenery

Based on Scenery

Creates Environmental hazards on the field for 3 Rounds.

Seek Cover/

Destroy Cover

Based on Scenery

Attempt to find Cover, or eliminate Cover of a target.

Defend Other

(None)

Protect a character within Short Range for a Round. They may use your DV instead of their own

Disarm

Soak

Knock a weapon out of a hand, which cannot be reclaimed for a Round.

As a reminder: Stunts are special, interesting descriptions of a character’s action. By their very nature, Stunt Effects cannot be repeated over and over—they would cease to be a Stunt.

The Stunt Effects should be treated as examples, not an exhausted list. The one restriction is that a Stunt Effect cannot deal damage.

The Night Caste crashes through the window, barrelling into the Ogre, forcing it to stumble back from the blow.

Here, the Player is stunting a [Dexterity + Athletics] Maneuver with a Knockback effect. They have 10 dice, (+2 from the stunt), and roll 5 Successes.

They immediately gain 5 Impulse for their Maneuver, regardless. Then, (since this is a Knockback), they compare their 5 Successes against the Ogre’s DV (4). The Ogre is knocked back as desired.

Charms, Stunts and Maneuvers

There are some Charms that have the same effects as Maneuver Stunts. If a character chooses the same stunt effect as a charm, the effect can be doubled—whether it be in magnitude of the effect, duration, or other methodology.

Charms and Stunt Maneuvers

There are Charms

Decisive Strike

Once the character has gained enough Impulse, they may expend it in a Decisive Strike, aimed at knocking their enemy off the battlefield.

You must have a minimum of 2 Impulse available to perform a Decisive Strike, which cannot be spent on Powers or other effects until after the Accuracy Roll.

Roll the Accuracy dice pool against the target’s DV. If the roll fails, the attack misses and you lose 2 Impulse.

  • Accuracy Pool: (Attribute + Ability + Weapon Mod)

  • Hit: (Accuracy Roll) >= Target DV.

  • Acc. Threshold Successes: (Accuracy Roll) – (Target DV)

On a success, take the Impulse on the character to form a Damage Dice Pool. The number of successes from this Damage Pool, plus any Base Damage the Exalt has, is how much Endurance the target loses.

The character is required to use all of their Impulse on a Decisive attack

  • Damage Pool: (Impulse gathered)

  • Damage Dealt: (Damage Roll) + Base Damage

Dice Adders and Damage Pool

Unless a Power or mechanic specifically states otherwise, they do not adjust or change a Damage Pool.

Drawbacks may explicitly be taken on a Damage Roll.

Flurry Strikes

The Player may target multiple characters with their decisive strike. To do so, simply make an Accuracy Roll against the target with the highest applicable defense.

Once damage has been calculated, it is spread out among all the targets at the Player’s discretion. e.g. If 5 damage is rolled, they can decide to place 1 on one target and 4 on another.

Positioning

Range Bands

Characters are constantly in motion during combat, running down alleyways and leaping off tree limbs. Rather than rely on absolute positioning, Exalted works off of relative positioning between characters, represented through 4 normal Range Bands. These Range Bands are traversed by taking a Move Action.

  • Melee/Close
    Within arm’s reach, and where close combat abilities such as Melee (its namesake) and Brawl reside. Characters within Melee range are currently engaged in battle, and must take the special Move Action called Disengage to leave.

  • Short
    Within a few yards of each other–a distance able to be crossed within a quick sprint.

  • Medium
    Far enough that conversations would have to be shouted, and where archers and other ranged combat is naturally limited.

  • Long
    Across an entire field, far enough away that visual, rather than verbal, signals would have to be used.

There is one additional Range Band that does not act normally: Extreme. It cannot be reached by any normal means and simply represents anything “outside of the battlefield.”

Anything in the Extreme Range band cannot be directly interacted with during combat without specific Powers. Any reinforcements to the scene will spend one Round in the Extreme Range Band before moving into the conflict.

Maneuvers and Free Actions

Free Actions (namely Movement) can be incorporated into a Maneuver. Vaulting across the battlefield to get closer to the target is a perfectly valid Maneuver.

In these cases the Free Action is combined with the Maneuver, and still follows the same restrictions—namely that another Free Action of the same type cannot be made on the turn.

Attack Ranges

Close Range action, such as those made with Melee or Brawl, may only be made while in Melee/Close Range.

Ranged Decisive Strikes, namely those made with Archery and Thrown, may be made against all targets at Short or Medium range.

Ranged Strikes may be made against targets within Melee range, but suffer (-2) successes to their Accuracy roll—as though the target had Partial Cover.

Range and Maneuvers

By definition, Maneuver and their Stunts are dependent on judgment calls from the Storyteller.

Range only matters on Maneuvers that have contact between combatants—a character slamming into another is considered a Melee Attack, while dropping a chandelier on another would be considered a Ranged Attack.

Maneuvers that don’t have contact—such as analyzing the battlefield—don’t care about Range and can be performed regardless of distance. There may be other restrictions though: Intimidating an opponent by hurling insults can only work if the opponent can hear said insults, for example.

Movement

The following are all considered to be sub-types of the Move Action: Move, Dash, and Disengage. If one is taken during a Round, only that one may be taken. (i.e. no Dashing and then Moving in the same Round).

All Move-type actions are Free Actions.

Move

Move one Range Band closer or further away from a target. You may not Move while in Melee Range of an enemy—instead you must take a Disengage Action.

Dash

A Dash cannot be made engaged in Melee Combat. Spend 2 Impulse, and suffer -1 DV for a round to cross 2 Range Bands instead of 1.

Dash Movements cannot be taken two Rounds in a row.

Movement and Common Sense

Movement towards or away from one character may affect the distance between others, and should be changed according to common sense. If a character is in a group and you move towards them, you also move closer to all characters in the group.

Disengage

In order to move away from Melee Range of an enemy combatant, the character must Disengage. Spend 2 Impulse to attempt to move back to Short Range.

Combatants currently in Melee Range may attempt to halt Disengagement. Those that roll (Dex + Athletics) above your Evasion remain in Melee Range—immediately joining you in your new position.

If an opponent that was successfully disengaged from tries to close into Melee Range on the next round, reflexively move back to Short Range from them. (This reflexive action does not count as a Move action.)

Situational Defenses

There are two levels of Situational Defenses:

  • Partial – Provides +2 DV. This represents significant, but not impenetrable protection from attackers. Such as hiding behind pillars, standing in uneven terrain, or being surrounded by gale winds.

  • Full – Cannot be attacked while the defense is active. They are standing behind a full wall, across a giant chasm, or have become Immaterial.

Full Situational Defenses must be countered before the character can be attacked. Some times it may be a simple mundane action, such as bursting in the room behind the wall. But often certain charms, stunts or powers will be required to counter or decrease the Defense by a level: Full to Partial, or Partial to None.

Cover

Cover is one of the most widely available Situational Defenses, as it can be gained simply by ducking into the terrain of the scene.

Cover is considered Partial when at least half a character’s body is blocked by a material that can withstand weapon blows–such as a chest-high wall of broken stone rubble.

Cover is considered Full when the character’s entire body is blocked, such as behind a wall.

Typically, cover works both ways: a character in Full Defense from attacks is also blocked from attacking others for the same reason.

Alternate Rules:
Battlemaps and Absolute Positioning

Sometimes a particular battle, or even the Player Group will prefer the tactical feel of minatures on a battlemap. This is perfectly fine, and it is simple enough to convert to Absolute Positioning with the following changes:

  • A typical battlemap will use hexagonal spaces (hexes), each representing 5 meters.

  • Characters have a Speed value: 3 + (Dex+Athletics)/2

    • A character can Move Speed Hexes (Speed x5 meters)

    • Dash is Speed x2 hexes (Speed x10 meters)

  • A character may move away from Melee/Close Range without Disengaging, but only at Half Speed.

  • A character that successfully contests a disengage action reflexively moves halfway towards the new location.

  • References to “Range Band” as a generic distance is 5 Hexes (25 meters)

The definition for Specific Range bands are:

  • Melee/Close: 0-1 hex (0-5 m.)

  • Short: 2-5 hex (6-25 m.)

  • Medium: 6-15 hex (26-75 m.)

  • Long: 61-30 hex (76-150 m.)

  • Extreme: 31+ hex (151+ m.)

Lesser Foes

Lesser Foes are those that are below the power level of the main players on the field.

Instead of attacking or defending, they will do special maneuvers to slow down or harass combatants, or they will do Maneuvers to grant their Greater Foe Ally Impulse.

Lesser Foes tend to group up into packs. “Individual targets” for this purpose of Charms, Flurries, etc. refer to the group size magnitude, not individuals numbers.

<<TODO>>

Environmental Effects

<<TODO>>

Environmental Effects

Effect Type

Lesser

Greater

Damaging Any who end their turn in the area lose 2 Endurance Any who end their turn in the area or pass through it lose 4 Endurance.
Impassable Must make a (Dex + Athletics) check vs 3 to get across. Cannot move across the zone.
<Reserved>
<Reserved>
<Reserved>
<Reserved>
<Reserved>

Endurance

Endurance is a value measuring how much fight a character has left in them. Once a character’s Endurance Pool has been exhausted, either through pain, disheartening, or whatever means are employed, the character is considered out of the battle.

Regaining Endurance

A full day of rest—without dangerous interruption—will allow an Exalt to regain their Endurance.

However, an Exalt’s life is dangerous, and they may not have the luxury of a full day’s rest. In this case, they regain (Essence) Endurance every hour since the last combat scene.

Defeat

Characters who are knocked out of battle are typically not dead—they are simply at the mercy of the opposing characters.

Non-recurring antagonistic characters’ fates should be left to the players. Depending on the narrative type of damage (slashing, stabbing, etc.) these minor characters may perish without aid.

Player Character Defeat

Any character that falls during battle gains 1 Limit. Death is only at the choice of the Player, but if the entire party falls the Storyteller may impose a grand Complication onto their story.

Death and Dying

The death of any central characters to the story should be pivotal and moving to the story. Player Characters will only die on defeat if it is something the Player wishes for their character.

A dramatic moment of death is a perfect send-off and ending for one of the members of the Exalted.

Recurring Antagonist Defeat

If they are intended to be a recurring antagonist, they should always manage to get away, though suffering a major blow to their own plans—they will often be forced to retreat and lick their wounds.

If you force a retreat on these Antagonists, you must bribe your players each with a Strife Point as compensation.

Remember, though, that recurring antagonists can only be used so many times—eventually you will have to move to the Final Confrontation, where the fate of these antagonists should be placed into the Players’ hands.

Armor and Weapons

All combat equipment in Exalted is divided into four categories Light, Medium, Heavy, and of course Unarmed/No Armor.

Armor

The Category of Armor provides modifiers to the Soak or Evasion defenses (and ultimately to DV).

Armor

Soak Modifier

Evasion Modifier

No Armor

+0

+0

Light

-1 +1

Medium

+1

-1

Heavy

+2

-2

  • 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 Soak 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

Weapons

The category of Weapon provides accuracy and base damage bonuses—the heavier the weapon, the more damage it does, but at the cost of accuracy.

Weapons also determine which Attribute is used during an Accuracy roll—whether it be focused more on Dexterity or Strength.

Weapons

Attribute

Accuracy

Base Damage

Unarmed

Dexterity or

Strength

+1

+0

Light

Dexterity

+2

+0

Medium

Dexterity or

Strength

+1

+1

Heavy

Strength

+0

+2

  • Unarmed and Medium weapons can be effectively used by those who favor Dexterity or Strength.

  • Light weapons rely only on fine, precise movements to find their targets, and so rely soley on Dexterity.

  • Heavy weapons rely primarily on stable, graceful moves with a pendulous weight. Strength alone controls where the weapon goes.

Weapon Attributes

<<TODO>>

Weapons are associated with abilities, and a speciality of them. Swords is a speciality of Melee. Weapons can cross specialities and even abilities: a claymore can double as a Sword or Club. A Spear as a sword or a thrown weapon.

Artifacts

<<TODO>>

Artifacts combat equipment can get one of the following:

  • +1 Soak or Evasion (no more than +2 total)

  • +1 Accuracy

  • +1 Damage.

  • Use of non-standard Attribute or Ability