Alternate Essence Mechanics: Powering Up

Submitted by Mapache on Wed, 2009-07-29 16:14

One common complaint about Exalted is that it lacks any sort of mechanical incentive to "power up" and use increasingly powerful charm techniques over the course of a fight, unlike much of the martial arts fiction to which it hearkens. (Well, there's putting up your scene-length charms, but that's not quite the same.) Thus, here's an idea for replacing the current mote economy with a system that encourages ramping up usage while still retaining an element of long-term resource conservation.

Let's get rid of mote pools, and replace them with some dice that we'll use to generate a flow of available essence. We'll go with six-siders, each of which has three blank faces, two faces that yield a mote, and one face that yield a mote and locks the die to that face for the rest of the scene. (This may need tweaking, but it conveniently lets you use those cool-looking dice from Burning Wheel with three blanks, two wheels, and a burning wheel.) Your character gets some fixed number of these dice—five times your permanent Essence sounds about right. (Maybe do that for Solars & Abyssals, four times for Lunars & Sidereals, three times for Dragon-Blooded. The numbers probably need some tweaking.)

We'll talk in terms of First Edition rounds here, since it makes things simpler. It can probably be adapted to Second Edition tick-based timing (see the note at the end).

At the beginning of the battle, roll all your essence dice. This turn, you have a number of motes available to spend equal to the number of motes you rolled (so, on average, half your number of dice). If you need more, you can burn additional dice—that is, for each blank die that you remove from your pool for the rest of the scene, you get one more mote this round. (Maybe you can stunt to get back burnt dice, or maybe they're just gone irrevocably, and stunting just gives you a few extra motes to spend right now.)

At the beginning of each subsequent round, reroll each die that is not showing the locked mote face. That is, once you roll a locked mote on any given die, it continues to provide one mote per round for the rest of the scene, with progressively more dice getting locked each round due to the cumulative chance of rolling a locked mote face.

Thus, you have the tension between keeping your dice to reroll them, get them locked, and outlast your opponent due to increasing essence flow, versus the temptation to burn them now for more power but find yourself weaker later on.

Attunement costs and committed motes for ongoing charms can be handled by having them reduce your total number of available dice. One die per mote of rules-as-written attunement is probably too steep—they should likely be reduced somewhat, maybe one die per level of Artifact rating. Hearthstones might grant you extra essence dice, since there's no longer any long-term mote recovery issue.

The number of locked dice you have controls your anima banner. Each locked die counting as one peripheral mote spent probably means characters won't flare enough, while each locked die counting as one level of anima banner probably means they'll flare too much—somewhere in between is good. (Night Caste Solars can probably suppress the flare from one locked die per point of permanent Essence or something like that.) This flaring is the reason you don't spend a few rounds rolling your dice to lock them before you engage the enemy—it'll be completely obvious that you're present and powering up, so they'll do the same. Thus, ambushes start with both parties working up from zero, while face-offs can actually have few rounds of staring at each other and powering up before someone twitches and fighting starts, giving it a sort of iaijutsu / "draw, pardner" feel common in source works.

For Second Edition, we can switch from thinking about rounds to thinking about ticks. Maybe each tick that goes by lets you reroll your permanent Essence in dice or something like that.