Exalted – Condensed Martial Arts

The Exalted Martial Arts are very complicated, scattered over many books – and there seems to be pretty general agreement that many or most of the styles are pretty badly broken. Just as importantly, I prefer more freeform systems anyway. Ergo, here are the five basic charms that – in conjunction with the tweaks to the various Excellencies – can serve to replace the various martial art styles of Exalted.

Why? Because it makes it SO much easier.

  • (Martial Art) Mastery -> Mysteries Of The (Martial Art)
  • Initiate Of The (Martial Art)
  • (Martial Art) Form
  • Challenge Fans The Flames

(Martial Art) Mastery

  • Cost; —, Min; Martial Arts 3, Essence 1,Type: Permanent
  • Keywords; None
  • Duration; Permanent, Stackable
  • Prerequisite Charms: None. Does NOT require an active essence pool.

The user has mastered a martial art, such as Judo. He or she may name five specific maneuvers for that art, such as “Flying Double Kick”, “Wrist Lock”, or “Dragon Sweeps Tail” (leg sweep). Each may be invoked once per game session to provide a +2d bonus to a relevant stunt, which may take the stunt bonus above 3d. A three die stunt may explicitly blind or hold an opponent for a turn, stop an overwhelming attack, or provide any of the other usual scene-editing functions. A stunt rated at four or more dice may provide a perfect defense or attack.

This charm may be taken again, representing a new martial art (or doubling up on an old one), at Martial Arts 4 and 5. Each time the user acquires a new set of daily maneuvers. Sidereal Exalts may master one additional art per point of essence above 2. Solar and Lunar Exalts may master an additional martial art at Essence 3, 5, 7, and 10. Dragon Blooded Exalts may master one additional martial art at essence 3 and 5. Other supernaturals may master one extra martial art at essence 4

Mysteries Of The (Martial Art)

  • Cost; —, Min; Essence 2, Martial Arts 3, Type: Permanent
  • Keywords; Stackable.
  • Duration; Permanent.
  • Prerequisite Charms: (Martial Art) Mastery, an Active Essence Pool.

The user has engaged in many mystic training techniques, developing his or her body and inner energies in ways most people will never manage. He or she acquires three points worth of mutations to represent this training – although any negative effects of those mutations, including overly-exotic appearance, may be ignored. Have you developed callouses like iron on your hands, toughened yourself to withstand blows, and so one? Invest those three points in “Claws” (calloused, toughened, and well-exercised hands), “Fur/Scales” (callouses and conditioning and toughening exercises), and “Large” (incredibly buff due to intensive training). After all, it’s only Wyld Mutations – not “mutations” gained from training, birth, charms, demesnes, or manses – that limit your ability to survive in creation, and with this charm the special effects are pretty much up to you.

Mysteries Of The (Martial Art) Style may be taken again at Essence 3, 6, and 10 (and Martial Arts 4, 7, and 10), but the mutations themselves cannot be stacked beyond the two-point level; you can’t get anything beyond “Poxes” and “Afflictions”. 

Initiate Of The (Martial Art)

  • Cost; —, Min; Essence 2, Martial Arts 4, Type: Permanent
  • Keywords; None
  • Duration; Permanent.
  • Prerequisite Charms: (Martial Art) Mastery, user must have an active essence pool.

The user may employ his or her martial arts maneuvers more often, choosing between either an extra (Essence-2) times per session or one extra use in each fight. In either case this may be used to gain extra uses of any desired maneuver, but the total is a pool of uses, not per-maneuver. Celestial Exalts, and any other creature with Essence 6+ may also opt expend two uses of a maneuver at once to increase the stunt bonus to +4d.

(Martial Art) Form (Sidereals Only):

  • Cost: 6m; Mins: Essence 2, Martial Arts 4, Type: Simple
  • Keywords: Form-Type (under this system a rather redundant keyword), Obvious.
  • Duration: One scene or until another (Martial Art) Form charm is activated.
  • Prerequisite Charms: Martial Arts (Mastery)

Activating a Form Charm creates an obvious iconic display related to the martial arts style used (such as an anima-tiger image for a tiger stylist) and provides +3 Virtue Channels for a chosen virtue (although these may only be used to boost stunts related to the styles theme) as well as the equivalent of either a single 3-dot or two 2-dot custom artifacts with abilities related to the style (their abilities do stack with actual artifacts, albeit not with each other). Sadly, you cannot add channels to a particular virtue more than once per scene and any remaining extra uses are lost once you switch – making switching forms too often counterproductive. This charm may be taken once per martial art, but does not stack with itself. Activating a new Form ends the old one.

While Solar Exalts thus cannot take Sidereal “Form Charms”, they can certainly develop their own suite of inherent “artifact” based abilities to duplicate the effect, as well as their own methods of regaining virtue channels. Once again, they can duplicate the Sidereal Martial Arts if they wish – but they’ll have to work harder on it than a Sidereal will.

Challenge Fans The Flames (Sidereal Only):

  • Cost: —, Mins: Martial Arts 5, Essence 3; Type: Permanent
  • Keywords: None/
  • Duration: One scene.
  • Prerequisite Charms: Martial Arts (Mastery), Martial Art (Form).

The user regains Virtue Channels and points of temporary Will equal to the new level of opposition each time the level of opposition increases. The levels are

  1. Mortals/None
  2. Terrestrials, Jadeborn, Dragon Kings, Minor Gods
  3. Lunars, other Sidereals, Second Circle Demons
  4. Solars, Third Circle Demons
  5. Deathlords, Primordials, etc.

Thus, a Sidereal Martial Artist who is abruptly confronted by an upstart group of mortal mercenaries will get one Virtue Channel and one point of Will to fight them with. If – after that – a Terrestrial leader-type puts in an appearance, the Sidereal will get two virtue channels and two points of will – but the arrival of a few more Terrestrials or a swarm of mortals will yield no further benefits. The arrival of a Deathlord will, however, provide five virtue channels and five points of will to work with – which will probably only delay the inevitable doom a bit, but it’s handy anyway.

And there we are. In conjunction with Unconquered (Martial Arts) Perfection that pretty much boils down the entire martial arts system into excellencies and five basic charms – two available to Mortals, one available to the Dragon-Blooded and other supernatural types that works better for Celestials, and two available to Sidereals. That should be a good deal simpler to play.

Personally, I think that the Martial Arts ability shouldn’t infringe excessively on other abilities; if you want a “martial art” based around teleportation, or channeling storm spirits, or generating mirror-duplicates of opponents… then what you really want is a “martial arts style” based on a more appropriate ability. If you really think that “Martial Arts” should be able to substitute for Occult, Medicine, or Athletics, just allow weird themes and stunts.