Exalted 208 Practical Charm Building
Sometimes Charm-building can be tough. Coming up with a good idea for a Charm can be difficult, making sure another Charm doesn't have the same effect, or even how to balance the Charm properly can be very frustrating. As an effort to help user build better Charms, I'm going to offer the following suggestions for Practical Charm Building as a guide to be used when you build your own Charms. Any discussion on these suggestions should be made on this page's talk page.
This page was written by Bodhisattva.
Before you begin...
There are always important things to consider before you build your Charms. Here are just a few to help you decide on the right Charm to build.
The first point to consider is whether or not there's a need for the Charm you want to propose.
- Can the effects it is supposed to be accomplished be accomplished by another Charm already, or by a combo of Charms? Make sure that you read through all of the Charms in the Charm tree that you're looking at to make sure that you're not duplicating effects. Now, if your Charm is going to have a similar effect to another Charm, but do it in a really neat and flashy way (thinking about theme here), then perhaps your Charm is more for flavor than for functionality. There's nothing wrong with that, and in fact, some of the Charms that can be found in the Core rulebook are rather dull and boring. There's nothing wrong with spicing up the existing Charms a little bit - in fact I personally encourage it. Just make sure that you don't go too far overboard. Making Charm trees into Charm forests can really bog the other players down, especially if you come up with lots of really cool Charms.
The second point to consider is whether or not your Charm's effects can be duplicated with a combo.
- This is another common trap when building your Charms. You try to get one Charm that can do everything. Charms are supposed to be simple effects that are flashy and utilitarian. When you want to get into complicated effects, you're thinking about spellcraft. KISS is always a good rule to follow - Keep it simple, stupid! If you want to create a Charm that can add dice to your Stealth rolls and make you invisible and make it so that your footprints cannot be seen and make it so that you cannot be magically tracked, you're trying to do too much all in one Charm, and most, if not all, of what you're looking to do with your Charm can be duplicated with a combo. Sure, maybe you want your one über-Charm to create all of those effects with a lower Essence cost and perhaps no Willpower cost involved, but you're going to unbalance your game very quickly that way. Pretty soon, you'll have characters that can do anything they want with your user-created Charms and you're having to pit them against ridiculously powered or armed foes just to provide them with a challenge. Carefully consider the scale of what you're trying to accomplish. Don't try to do too much at once.
The third consideration is what you're basing your Charm off of.
- All too often, you can get caught up so much in what your Charm does that you don't consider the skills it would take to build up to that Charm. That's why it's important to consider what Charm you're basing your Charm off of. Is it appropriate to base it off of an Excellency and make it a tier 2 Charm? Is it basic enough that it belongs as a tier 1, since it's not really related to the Excellencies? Is it a higher tier Charm based off of upper-level Charms, or is it even a Charm that you can't really find any good Charms to base it off of? If you're in the last situation, you might want to consider creating some Charms to use as prerequisites for this Charm you'd like to create. Magical abilities don't just come out of nowhere. Your Exalts have to train hard to develop a new magical ability, and prerequisite Charms reflect that. Of course, don't place your Charm too high up the tree if that's not necessary, either. Finding just the right balance of prerequisites can help add to the flavor and usefulness of your "dream Charms".
Charm-Building: A Work in Progress
When you finally find just the right Charm to create, you're ready to begin, but where do you start? It's best to have a clear idea of what you want your Charm to do in mind before you start, so that's already been covered, but what do you do next? Start with the basics, of course.
- There's a lot to think about when you're building a Charm. Here's a sample Charm for you to look at, just to see what you need to be aware of.
Righteous Lion Defense
Cost: -- Mins: Integrity 3, Essence 1; Type: Permanent
Prerequisite Charms: None
This Charm grants special protection to an abstract Intimacy, causing suggestions and commands that would betray or damage that Intimacy as unacceptable orders. The voluntary or logical dissolution of an Intimacy allows the Solar to transfer this Charm's effects to a new Intimacy. This Charm may be learned up to two times.
- The list of basic mechanics to worry about are all the bolded words; Cost, Mins (minimum requirements of the Ability and of Essence), Type, Keywords, Duration and Prerequisite Charms. That's a lot to consider, so we'll break it down a bit.
- Cost: Your Charm is obviously going to cost your character some Essence to fuel it. Probably the best way to determine how much is to compare it to other Charms that accomplish effects that are as powerful as the one you're looking to accomplish. It's important to remember to keep a good balance of power vs. power cost. Tweak your Charms until you've got them just right. Also, remember, for each additional effect your Charm is able to create, there's an added cost in Essence. Once you get into the "two minor effects" range with your Charm, that would also probably involve Willpower to manage to do two things at once. When you're up to three or more, it's a certainty.
- If you're adding dice, in general, it's 1m per die. If you're adding a guaranteed amount of successes, the rule of thumb seems to be 2m per success. So, if you wanted to create a Charm that adds 4 levels of Lethal damage to your attack, the Charm should generally cost 8 motes. Now that's a lot, so guaranteeing success isn't always the best way to go. If your Charm is only adding 4 dice to your raw Lethal damage, however, then the Charm should generally cost 4 motes. This is essentially following the same formula as the First and Second (Ability) Excellencies.
- If you're trying to accomplish a variable effect, such as adding your Essence in lethal damage, it's probably a good general rule to go with ½ of the minimum value that you're requiring for the Charm (in this case, Essence), rounded up, plus 1. So, if your Charm requires Essence 3 and adds your Essence in lethal damage to your strike, that's (Essence 3 divided by 2 = 1½, rounded up = 2, plus 1 = 3) 3 motes of Essence to fuel this Charm. Of course, if your Charm accomplishes the same feat, yet the damage is Aggravated, that would be worth some Willpower there, since you're putting so much physical and magical effort into your blow that it's causing Aggravated damage.
- If you're trying to accomplish a variable effect using the Trait, a good general rule is to go with ½ of the minimum value that you're requiring for the Charm (let's say you're requiring Ride 3), rounded up. So, if your Charm requires Ride 3 and adds your Ride in dice to your Ride action, that's (Ride 3 divided by 2 = 1½, rounded up = 2) 2 motes of Essence to fuel this Charm.
- If you're trying to accomplish a fixed effect, such as adding +4 to your Martial Arts Accuracy, no matter what your Martial Arts or Essence scores are, then a good general rule to go with is to divide the bonus by 2 and add 2 (Bonus of 4 divided by 2 = 2, plus 2 = 4). You're adding 2 instead of 1 as in the previous two suggestions because you're getting a fixed/guaranteed amount of bonus, and it might even be a bonus greater than what you'd be able to get at your Ability level if you were using the previous sample suggestion. So, you might have that +4 bonus to your Martial Arts Accuracy and only require the Charm to have a Martial Arts minimum of 2.
- As an alternative formula, you could take the bonus amount minus the Ability minimum and double it. So if you're getting a +3 bonus and requiring War 2, then your cost would be 2m (Bonus of 3 - minimum of 2 = 1, times 2 = 2). If you're getting a +5 bonus and your minimum is still 2, then it would cost you 6m (Bonus of 5 - minimum of 2 = 3, times 2 = 6). Of course, if the bonus is equal to or smaller than your minimum trait requirement, then you might want to treat it as minimum Ability divided by 2, rounded down (Minimum of 2, divided by 2 = 1, rounded down still = 1), with a minimum cost of 1m. So, if you were requiring the trait minimum to be, for example, Larceny 3, and your Charm is only granting a +1 bonus on Larceny checks, then you'd take (Larceny 3, divided by 2 = 1½, rounded down = 1). You can, of course, try to work out your own formula, but you can use these suggestions as guidelines.
- Willpower... When does one add Willpower to their Charm cost? If you're trying to accomplish two or more effects at the same time, adding in a Willpower cost seems fair (if it's 2 different effects, if it's 3 or more, it should definitely be added into the cost). Also, if your Charm is trying to accomplish a feat that your character would never be able to accomplish without an awesome (3 dice) stunt, if at all, then Willpower should definitely be added. For example, if your Charm allows your character to fly for short distances, your character could never "fly" on her own, even with a stunt, so you would add Willpower into the Charm's cost. Compare to other "official" Charms just to make sure it's properly balanced in terms of cost. Use your best judgment to determine whether or not your Charm's effect(s) are worth Willpower.
- Mins: This reflects the minimum ability required to pull off your Charm. For Essence, compare to other Charms of similar power level or effect, but for Traits, it's probably best to compare to the Abilities section of the Exalted Second Edition Core book, pages 106 to 110 for an idea of what would be appropriate. Also, it is important to check the trait and Essence requirements of any prerequisite Charms. Having your Charm require more of the trait it's based off of or Essence than the prerequisite Charm is a must for one, if not both. How much depends on how much more powerful your Charm is than the preceding Charm in its tree.
- Type: This is one of the trickier ones to pin down. If your Charm could happen instantaneously, it's likely a Reflexive Charm. Thing of it being a reaction to another Charm used against the character using your Charm. Granted, not all actions against your character will be Charms, but for our purposes, it's probably best to keep in mind that you're probably reacting with this Charm type to something your character wouldn't be able to react to without a Charm. If your Charm is making an action you're already taking better in some way or another, it's probably a Supplemental Charm. Extra Action Charms are easy - you're trying to do more than one action at the same time. Simple Charms are probably the trickiest, but you can get away with adding more effects into them. Simple Charms are generally the only action you have at that moment (whether it's on that specific tick, or your action as you're role-playing non-combat situation). Also, in this area, you have to consider where your Charm acts, especially in combat. For combat order, refer to the Order of Attack Events box on page 145 of the Exalted Second Edition Core book. For social combat, refer to page 173 of the Exalted Second Edition Core book, under the heading Attack Steps.
- Keywords: This one should be fairly simple. Refer to the keywords found on page 183 of the Exalted Second Edition Core book. Use all that would apply. If you're looking for a keyword and can't find any that fit, you can make up your own, but be sure to explain somewhere what you mean by your new keyword. Charms that have particularly powerful effects all on their own should be considered for Combo-Basic status over Combo-OK status, if you feel that the Charm should be allowed in a combo at all. Also, if you plan on allowing your Charm to be able to be put into a combo with Charms from other Abilities, be sure to note that in the text of your Charm.
- Duration: How long is your Charm going to last? In some cases, how long your Charm lasts will affect the Cost and Mins of your Charm. If you're creating a Charm that gives you +3 to all Investigation rolls that only works for a moment (an Instant), then there would be no change, but if you're going to have that Charm last for an entire Scene, it would have an increased cost to it, and the minimums required to maintain that effect for an entire scene (the Ability and Essence) would also be increased. Try not to go overboard here. Consider how long you need your Charm to last. If you're looking to make a single roll and be done with things, Instant or One Action would be the way to go. If you're looking for something that lasts a little longer, One Scene or Essence in Actions might be for you - but remember, Charms that last longer cost more.
- Prerequisite Charms: This is the toughest one of all to figure out. How many prerequisite Charms should there be? Which ones? Well, to answer that, look at your Charm tree. What Charms are you basing it off of? What Charms are similar enough in effect to make the reasonable quantum leap from that Charm to yours? If there aren't any and your Charm is a pretty low-powered effect, perhaps making it a tier 1 Charm or based of an Excellency is best. If your Charm is pretty powerful, you may need to create your own prerequisite Charms that either stand alone or tie into other Charms in your tree. Although it's not unheard of, it's generally a bad idea to require prerequisite Charms from other Abilities. It makes them harder to get and usually tries to stretch the boundaries of your Charm trees a little too much. Having a Lore Charm require a Linguistics Charm might not be too much of a stretch, but having an Occult Charm require Sail would probably not be a good idea. In general, it's best to stay within the Ability you're working with.
Writing for your Charm: How to describe it.
- When you describe your Charm, it's important to remember that you want to write about what it looks like as well as what it does. Including some example text isn't necessary, but it doesn't hurt, either. Remember to include everything that you want this Charm to do in the text, and be sure to check with other Charms for wording and mechanics terminology. For example, if you want to design a Charm that makes it more difficult to hit you, you would want to use the terminology of DV (Defense Value), rather than TN (Target Number). This Charm adds the character's Dodge rating to her DV as opposed to The TN to hit the Exalt is increased by her Dodge rating. Be consistent with your terms so that anyone reading through your Charm understands what it is meant to do and doesn't need you to be there to explain it to them. Of course it might take you some time to work out exactly what you want to say, but adding in a few sentences to describe the effect of the Charm really makes it more interesting and entices players to choose your Charm for their character.
- During the First Age, Lawgivers were well known for their ability to walk into danger and escape without a scratch. When activating this Charm, the Solar's hands and feet glow with a soft radiance in the colors of their anima. This Charm adds the character's Dodge rating to her DV. This will, of course, ensure that you have to add the Obvious keyword into the Charm's description, since you describe that a glow can be seen.
- Also, don't be worried about describing Charms and using gender-specific pronouns (he, she, his, hers, etc...). The writers of Exalted were fairly liberal when it came to using the female pronoun as opposed to the male. As long as you're consistent with your use in each Charm, you'll be just fine. That means that you shouldn't be talking about how the Charm makes "her" harder to hit and then in the next sentence say that the Charm raises "his" DV. In general, when I'm designing entire Charm trees, I try to go with an "every other one" philosophy in regard to whether my Charms reference male or female characters, although I have noticed that like the writers of the Exalted books, I tend to use the female pronouns a little bit more.
Final Stage: Playtest!
- You never really know how well your Charm is going to work until you play-test it. When you play-test Charms, remember to try to balance the opponent you're play-testing this Charm against, if applicable. For example, if you've created a Charm that's going to be a 30+L damage adder, pit it against a regular foe first, then perhaps a low-level Exalt, then perhaps a high-level Exalt and see how well it works. Of course, if you've got that Charm that gives you 30+L damage for 2 motes of Essence, you're going to annoy the other people you play with very quickly, if your Storyteller doesn't automatically disallow your Charm anyway. Also, don't be surprised if your Charm is defeated. If you've got a Charm that adds your Essence in bonus dice to raw damage, don't be surprised when your foe uses a perfect dodge or Heavenly Guardian Defense to counter it and takes no damage. Especially with combat Charms, it's important to remember that a perfect defense is going to beat a perfect attack every time. The game is just geared to work that way.
- Also, don't be upset if your Charm can't win every time. Maybe you've got a Charm that does fantastic damage, but you can't seem to hit with it. Charms don't need to do everything, nor should they. That's why the writers of Exalted gave us combos. Just make sure that your Charm is able to be placed into a workable combo. That means that you're going to have to make sure that you get the Charm's type right. Damage adders would almost certainly be Supplemental, while Charms that allow you to cause your foes to tremble in fear could be Simple or Supplemental. Follow the rules for combo creation found on pages 244-247 of the Exalted Second Edition Core book.
- After you've play-tested your Charm, have someone else play-test your Charm as well to make sure that it will work for others. If you can, submit your Charm on this site for peer-review. What works well as a Charm in your game might be unbalanced in someone else's game, either being way to weak or way to powerful. It might cost too much, or might not cost enough. It's always a good idea to have someone check over what you've got and offer a second opinion. We're all here to help each other make the game even more enriching.
- Above all else, remember to have fun!
The Exalted 20X Classes
Exalted 201: Second Edition Combat
Exalted 203: Social Combat
Exalted 205: High Level Showdown
Exalted 207: Strategies for More Effective Gaming
Exalted 209: Spellcraft
Exalted 202: Mass Combat
Exalted 204: Mandate of Heaven
Exalted 206: Artifact Crafting
Exalted 208: Practical Charm Building