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.

The Combat Round

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.)

Combined Actions

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.

Turn Order

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. 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.

Held Actions

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.

Zones

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 needed.

Move

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.

Attacking between Zones

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.

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.

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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.

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.

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.

On Hit

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).

Build Power

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.

Sample Maneuver Effects
Name Difficulty Description
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 at least a round.

Break/Bypass Defense (Varies)

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

Knockback /

Pull /

Block Moves the target up to one Zone.

Hold/

Grapple/

Restrain

Evasion Note the number of Successes rolled. The target must make a roll against that number as a difficulty, or else be unable to move.
This lasts until your next action.

Distract /

Intimidate / Stun

Resolve 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.

Seek Cover/

Destroy Cover

Based on Scenery Attempt to find cover, granting yourself Minor/Moderate Defense Advantage.
You may also destroy other’s cover Advantage.
Defend Other (None)

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.

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

Keep Pace/

Reactionary Move

Evasion When the target takes a Move Action, reflexively move one Zone. This does not cost an action.
This lasts until your next action.

Strike

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.

Without the use of a Power or a Stunt, Striking is restricted to the Physical Attributes (Strength, Dexterity), paired with a Martial Ability—typically Archery, Brawl, Melee, or Thrown.

The Accuracy of the roll is the (Attribute + Ability) dice, plus any bonuses from weapons or powers.

If the roll matches or exceeds the higher value of the two Defenses: Block and Evasion, the attack hits for Full Damage.

If the roll only matches or exceeds one of the two defenses, the attack hits for the lesser Glancing Damage. The target was able to either avoid or take the full brunt of the hit, but not enough to leave without a scratch.

If the roll is less than both defenses, or has 0 successes, the attack misses and no damage is dealt.

The target loses Health equal to the damage, minus any damage reduction they may gain through Powers. If the damage is reduced all the way to 0, the attack is still considered a hit.

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.

  1. Attacker rolls their Accuracy, with all Accuracy-boosting Powers.

  1. Defender responds with their Static Value and any defense-boosting Powers.

  2. The Player(s) may decide to activate their Excellency—either offensively or Defensively.

  3. If the Attack exceeds the final defense value, it hits.

  4. The Attacker declares any supplemental Damage boosting Powers.

  5. The Defender declares any supplemental Damage reducing Powers.

  6. The final damage is calculated, then Health is removed.

Damage Calculation

Damage is based off of the Attribute used in the attack. Full Damage is (Attribute) + (Essence), while Glancing damage is (Attribute)/2, rounded up.

Weapons and powers will often boost damage, and will be written as follows:

+Full / Glancing

So a power that says “+2/1 damage” would add +2 Full Damage, and +1 Glancing Damage.

If, through any combination of powers or bonuses, Glancing Damage ever becomes greater than Full Damage, you may choose to deal Glancing damage during a Full hit. (You should never be punished for rolling too well.)

Third Defense

There are some Powers, Martial Arts, etc. that grant a third defense. This new defense—typically limited in some way—will primarily help avoid Glancing damage, replacing the weaker of Block or Evasion on normal attacks.

Targeted Attacks

Certain Powers will call for a targeted attack, attacking a derived value such as Evasion or Resolve, or calling for a contested roll.

This bypasses the normal defense structure

There are some Powers, Martial Arts, etc. that grant a third defense. This new defense—typically limited in some way—will primarily help avoid Glancing damage, replacing the weaker of Block or Evasion on normal attacks.

Maneuvers and actions that target Block or Evasion, however, remain unaffected.

A Note on Combat

If you run through the math, you will notice that characters are most likely to deal Glancing damage if they attack an equivalent foe—it is not difficult to raise the highest defense a point or two.

This is intentional, and there are two reasons behind it:

1. The game assumes—and encourages—tactical weakening of opponents defenses, as well as gratuitous boosting of their own attacks. Base attacks are unlikely to deal Full damage without said boosts.

2. Attacking consumes an action, while defending does not. Therefore, the chance of completely missing and dealing no damage is far more punishing than being hit for some damage, and has been weighted accordingly.

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Combat End

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.

Fleeing

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.

Defeat

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 gain 1 Limit from the humiliation, regardless of if they are in mortal danger or not.

Healing and Recovery

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.

Cheat Death

A dramatic moment of death is a perfect send-off and ending for one of the members of the Exalted. However, not all defeats are a dramatic moment—sometime it is not time for a character to depart from the story.

The Player is the sole arbiter of the their character’s fate. If it is not the time for their character’s story to end, that death becomes cheated. Somehow, the defy the monumental odds, crawling days through pain and anguish that none other have suffered for help.

But cheating death comes at a cost. The character will be invariably changed from their experience. There will be scars of their encounter—whether it is physical, mental, or social. The Player should work with the Storyteller to come up with a consequence from the implausible survival.

Suggestions are:

  • A dramatic change in Intimacies—such as the addition of (fear) related to the event.

  • A loss of an appropriate merit, such as an Ally who sacrificed themselves to save the character.

  • Physical reminders of the lost battles, such as scars.

  • Recurring nightmares, where the character is forced to relive the moment of their escaped death.

Antagonist Defeat

There will be times when an antagonist—intended to be recurring—is defeated, or otherwise dramatically halted.

These Characters, like Player Characters, have the ability to escape certain defeat if it best suits the plot. However, they should also suffer the same consequences for doing so.

Escaping death should never be cheap, and should not be done too many times. Let your Players have victories.

The Environment

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.

   
Environmental Damage  
Light 3
Medium 5
Heavy 7
Oppressive 9

Minor Characters

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

Equipment

Armor

  • 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.

Armor

Block Modifier

Evasion Modifier

No Armor

+0

+0

Light

+0 +1

Medium

+1

+0

Heavy

+2

-1

Artifact Armor gains +1 to Block or Evasion.

Weapons

Mundane Weapons

Accuracy

Damage

Notes

Unarmed

+0

+0

Close-Range Weapons (Melee)

Light

+3 +0/0

Must use Dexterity when attacking.

Medium

+1

+1/1

Heavy

+0

+2/1

Must use Strength when attacking.

Ranged Weapons (Archery, Thrown)

Light

+1 +0/0

Must use Dexterity when attacking.

Medium

+0

+1/0

Custom Weapons

Custom weapons defy the Light, Medium, and Heavy categories, and are instead built from the ground up (from 0) using Tags.

Mundane weapons have 3 points with which to spend on tags, while Artifacts start with 6 points.

     
Mundane Weapon Tags    
Name Points Description
Accurate 1 Gain +1 Dice.
Damaging 1 Gain +1 Full Damage.
Reliable 1 Gain +1 Glancing Damage.
Range 2 Increase the range by 1 Zone

Special Tags

Special weapons, Powers or Martial Arts will grant specific tags to be used when building a weapon. These may only be purchased with Storyteller approval

     
Special Weapon Tags    
Name Points Description
Natural/Tethered 1 The weapon cannot be disarmed.
Unique Ability 2 Use a specific, non-Martial Attribute/Ability Combo with this weapon. (E.g. Charisma + Performance).

Elsewhere

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.