Combat 301
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By Mengtzu

Dice Pools and Difficulty

Tsune had heard of cities where climbing a gate to look at the other side did not entail at least a twenty metre climb and the risk of death due to spontaneous opening; frightfully boring places, to be sure.

But not for the first time, she prayed to nameless gods to make her a better climber.

To take an action in Exalted where the outcome is in doubt, her player assembles a dice pool based on her traits and attempts to roll a number of successes equal to or higher than the difficulty of the action. A dice pool is always based on an Attribute and an Ability, sometimes with bonuses from other traits or equipment.

Tsune is attempting to climb a gigantic gate, so she will use her Dexterity of 2 and her Athletics of 3 to assemble her pool, giving her 5 dice.

The gate is dauntingly tall, but the intricate reliefs carved into its metal surface and the chains that bind it shut give plenty of handholds. The Storyteller thinks this is a difficult task for a normal person, so it’s difficulty 1. If there was any particular duress to Tsune’s climb (such as the gate opening), she’d raise that to 2. If the task wasn’t difficult for an ordinary person, she wouldn’t ask Tsune’s player to roll at all; Exalted is a heroic game and no dice are thrown for trivial matters.

Tsune’s player rolls five ten sided dice, getting 2, 3, 6, 9 and 10. Any dice showing 7 or higher is a success, and a 10 counts as two successes. Tsune gets one success for her 9 and two for her 10, for 3 total. That exceeds the difficulty, so she climbs the gate!

Opposed Actions, Penalties, Specialties and Willpower

The stalls and wagons filling the Meander Bridge were abandoned; with south and under gates closed no through traffic came from the north. Should the south open you would not be able to move here for people, but for now there was only Hikari, white hair catching the first of the dawn, eating an apple she hadn’t paid for.

Tsune attempted a very poor imitation of anger.

"You took the best route! How was I supposed to get up here in time with only ancient noses to support my feet?"

"Follow me rather than making every last thing a race?" Hikari tossed another apple, hoping the prospect of breakfast would quell Tsune’s haste. It was caught, and did indeed tempt, until the bridge rumbled with the north gate’s closing.

"That’s a race."


The girls need (or at least want) to dash across the bridge and through the north gate before it closes. That is also a Dexterity and Athletics roll, and this time the Storyteller decides the obstacles of carts and stalls and the rapidly closing gate would raise the difficulty to 2.

However, what the girls (or more precisely Tsune) really care about is who gets through first, so this is an Opposed Action. Instead of setting a difficulty, a roll is made for both characters and the one with the most successes wins.

When the difficulty is already set, or based on another’s character’s roll, complicating circumstances become a dice penalty rather than raising the difficulty. The Storyteller decides the two factors she already considered are worth a die penalty each, so Tsune and Hikari will each take two dice from their pools before rolling.

Hikari’s Dexterity is 5 and her Athletics is 5. She also has a Specialty in Athletics of “Running”, which gives a bonus die here because…she’s running. You can never apply more than one Specialty to a roll. Hikari has 11 dice, minus 2 for the penalty and rolls a total of 9:

1, 1, 1, 6, 7, 8, 8, 9, 9

That’s 5 successes!

Tsune’s player knows her modest pool is unlikely to beat Hikari, so she spends a point of Willpower, giving her a bonus success. Her Willpower rating is 5, so she starts with 5 points, and will be going down to 4 points. You cannot spend willpower for successes on a roll multiple times, otherwise Tsune’s player would probably spend all of it to suit her character’s sheer bloody-mindedness.

With Dexterity 2, Athletics 3 and no applicable specialty, Tsune has 5 dice as before, minus 2 for the penalties, for a total of 3:

2, 4, 4

She has no successes, plus one for spending willpower, for a total of 1. Yet again, Tsune is trounced by her swift companion.

Extended Actions and Stunts

Hikari spun on her heel as she cleared the gate, extending a hand and willing Tsune to be faster. She seized the slower girl’s fingers the second they were in reach, and pulled her into an embrace as the metal doors thundered shut.

"My apple was still whole, yours was eaten! With such a handicap, how could I not lose?"

"I still carry that apple in my stomach, it no more vanished once swallowed than last night’s roast. Perhaps next time a few less servings, and less risking your life for bootless pride?"

Tsune smiled rather than give a false promise or start another argument. Hikari released her body, but not her hand.

Contrary to the expectations of the Scavenger Quarter children that so idolised them, escapades were not romantic. Holding hands on a rooftop chase would slow both, kissing during a heist meant no-one was watching for soldiers, and an embrace during a fight would be ill-advised for those who preferred their ribs un-sworded. Hikari took the moments she could.

"We should keep moving, love. The soldiers will…" Tsune started, looking around the square. A few merchants were looking at the gate in disgust, no doubt wondering when the city would condescend to let them use Meander Bridge. A few workers took breakfast on their balconies, as if considering a route to their labours or a valid excuse for tardiness. But the watchposts were empty; none stood beside the dragon bells. "…fail to exist. Come on, we can use their lift to get up the Denandsor!"

Hikari pouted a little at the long ropes dangling in front of the ever-shut gate at the far end of the square, and the pulleys far, far above. "As ever when you fail at speed you find an excuse to turn to strength. I regret both apples."

The girls want to use a curiously abandoned military lift to reach yet further heights. This uses a lever/crank system that relies on raw muscle power rather than agility, so the pool will be Strength and Athletics, much to Tsune’s player’s delight.

The Storyteller calls for an extended roll, allowing the characters to progress towards their goal over multiple rolls (and ruling that allows them both to contribute to the shared task). They will clearly get to the top eventually, but she decides she’ll give them a bonus if they can do it within four rolls - that’s the action’s terminus, if they can’t succeed within that limit they are considered to fail. She decides they need 12 successes total, which is called the action’s goal number. Finally she declares each roll takes two minutes of time in the game world - this is the action’s interval - which isn’t terribly important in a low stress situation like this, but helps the players have a sense of scale for their action.

Like normal actions, extended actions have a difficulty. Successes meeting or exceeding the difficulty count towards the goal number. The Storyteller thinks that the girls’ lack of experience using this equipment raises the difficulty to 2, so only their second and subsequent successes on each roll will count towards the total.

Both players decide to Stunt. Stunting just means describing your character’s action in a way that isn’t repetitive and is more interesting than a basic declaration of intent while still being short and snappy. This gives bonuses to your roll and sometimes restores willpower points, essentially rewarding you for contributing to the game by hitting a low but fun roleplaying target. You can stunt any and all actions; in a normal game the roleplaying that would have created our story in italicised text would have included stunting for the earlier actions.

Tsune’s player says: "Tsune pumps at her side of the lever with all her might, but every time Hikari seems to have the weight of the thing she takes a hasty and messy bite of apple."

Hikari’s player says: "Hikari isn’t nearly so strong, but it’s easy for her to maintain a smooth motion so she applies what strength she has well. She gets a little lost watching Tsune’s muscles, but that just helps the pumping trance."

The Storyteller figures they’re both one point stunts, which means both characters roll two extra dice. Two and three point stunts exist but are rarer rewards usually reserved for more dramatic moments. She also rules that the stunts cover all rolls in the extended action, as the fictional situation won’t change during the action and there’s no point asking the players to keep coming up with new ways to describe continuing to pump a lever.

Tsune’s Strength is 5 and her Athletics is 3, plus two for the stunt for a total of 10 dice. Her first roll is:

2, 2, 3, 4, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, 10

That’s 6 successes (remember 10s count twice)! With difficulty 2, that means 5 count towards the goal. Nearly halfway there already thanks to her powerful muscles.

Hikari’s Strength is 3 and her Athletics is 5, plus to the for stunt to also total 10 dice. Her first roll is:

3, 3, 4, 5, 5, 6, 7, 7, 8, 8

4 successes! With difficulty 2 that adds another 3, so the girls’ total is 8.

Tsune’s player rolls again:

2, 4, 4, 5, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 10

An amazing 7 successes, adding 6 to the total. That brings them up to 14, exceeding the goal number and thus beating the terminus handily. With three rolls, that’s three intervals elapsed for six minutes of game time. The Storyteller gives the players some extra information when they reach the top: the banners on the ships they are about to see will still be visible.

Far above the square, the city was revealed as an island, a maze of gates amidst a flat blue sea. Even such intrepid climbers rarely saw above the walls; to behold the dawn over the water made their young hearts sing.

"Tsune…not all your ideas are entirely bad."

"I know, I’m brilliant! Feel the breeze! Ocean to the east and west, ocean to the south, north…uh, boats. Is that…all the boats?"

"Ships, dear."

"Fine, they’re big enough to see at this distance, so ships. Heading…away?"

"Peleps. Mnemon. Ragara. The dragons have left?"

"With every last one of their soldiers. There’ll be looters over everything like flies when the news is out."italic text

Hikari took the bigger girl’s arms, taking her gaze from the horizon to herself. "This begins poorly and will end worse. We need to get everyone away, and there are not enough ships for a city’s worth of refugees."

"Truth. But we will do even worse to wash up on someone’s shore as beggars. If there is to be looting, let us loot fastest and be gone. Let us loot bolder." Tsune turned to the one part of the city yet higher than their lofty perch, where great flagpoles stood stripped of their dragon banners. "The Forbidden Quarter."

"Not one bloody dragon left in my city? That smells of opportunity ahead of some delightfully horrid crisis." The captain’s pristine mirror belied the squalor of her mansion, as surely as her careful braiding of her hair belied her sartorial eccentricities.

"Cathak banners still fly, ma’am. Mari says she saw a V’neef flag."

"What of it? Those two together couldn’t muster enough force to roust the drunks from a tavern in this town. Speaking of which, get every damn woman out of her bed, sore heads or no. Work is afoot, and I want them knifing any what don’t work for me."

Sugira’s head hurt worse than any bandit’s, for all the comfort of silken sheets and down pillows. She felt hands on her shoulders, shaking her, but even the discipline of a soldier and Dragon Blooded did not allow her to rouse as quickly as she was accustomed.

"Sugira! Hesiesh’s mercy, wake up!"

"I’m…awake…technically. What did that damn Mnemon vixen put in my drink last night? I haven’t been hungover since I was twelve."

V’neef Anisa slowly resolved into view as Sugira reluctantly cracked her eyes open. The Wood Aspect’s green hair, if nothing else, was unmistakeable through even the blurriest eyes.

"Treachery and a triple dose of whatever sedative got the rest of us. They’re gone, Sugira. Mnemon, Peleps, everyone. Every Dragon Blood, every soldier, every ship. They’ve abandoned us here to Mela knows what."

Cathak Sugira grasped her friend’s shoulders and pulled herself upright, her eyes upon the reassuring might of her armour and daiklave. At least they had not the gall to leave her defenceless.

"I suppose the wedding is off then." She remembered her duty. "It does not matter. It cannot matter. We hold this city."

Join Battle

Tsune skidded around the corner of a narrow wooden house built against an imperishable stone wall, driving towards the Arjuf gate in the hopes it had chosen to open. Hikari followed watchfully, leaping across the rooftops of dwellings old before the girls were born but far younger than the city’s bones. With no soldiers to sneak past they relied entirely on speed.

Not swift enough - the Arjuf was open, the Forbidden Quarter revealed, but blood already ran across the stone before it. Three fresh corpses bled upon silks and silver the Dragons had not bothered to take with them, while two laughing bandits cleaned their blades with the rags their victims had worn. Both women wore armour dressed up with motley, rough tattoos telling the tale of their trade.

"You little girls come to try your luck too? Terrible day for it, we’re in no humour to tolerate competition."

Tsune did not want for bravado, shifting from a run to a swagger as she drew closer. "There’ll be more there than any of us can carry, let us through and we’ll keep clear of your targets. We can all be rich women."

"Ah but sweetheart, everything is our target. Especially fools without the sense to stay out of knife’s reach."

"Then we will come through you." Hikari landed in a crouch, hand on sword hilt, eyes impassive. "You lack the numbers to trouble us."

"Poor little slum girl can’t count I see?" The bandit’s laugh revealed poor dental hygiene; Tsune wondered if it was wrong to feel the imminent violence justified on that account. "Two grown women against two teenagers with one sword between them?”

"You’d need at least twenty." Tsune pulled on a weighted glove over a rude gesture, as Hikari’s blade leapt into a ready stance as if of its own accord. "And she only has that pigsticker because she can’t hit as hard as I can"

Like many games, Exalted begins combat with a roll to establish the order in which combatants take their turn. This is the Join Battle roll, using Wits and Awareness for the pool. A character’s Initiative is their successes on this roll, plus three.

Tsune has Wits 2, Awareness 3, plus a one point stunt for 7 dice. She rolls

3, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10

For four successes, plus three, for an initiative total of 7.

Hikari has Wits 5, Awareness 5 and a specialty of Join Battle, for 11 dice, plus a one point stunt for 13 dice. She rolls

2, 3, 4, 5, 5, 5, 5, 6, 7, 8, 8, 10

For five successes, plus three, for an Initiative total of 8.

Each of the bandits has Wits 2, Awareness 2 for a total of 4 dice. They roll

2, 3, 3, 10 and 1, 3, 8, 8

For two successes each, plus three, and are hence on 5 Initiative.

Hikari acts first, followed by Tsune and then both bandits.

Withering Attacks and Defence

Hikari only allowed the bandit to see the first instant of her movement, before throwing a bloody bolt of silk dropped by one of the unfortunate looters over the enemy’s face. She swept out her sword to sever the so entangled head…

A withering attack is the most common combat action in Exalted. Mechanically it is an attempt to gain the upper hand in combat, stealing Initiative from an enemy and adding it to your character’s total. This is why we add three to everyone’s Join Battle roll - it’s not just establishing turn order, it’s the seed capital for the economy of “winning”.

In the fiction of the game, a withering attack may be a deliberate feint, an earnest attack that the character expects the enemy to avoid at the cost of their position, or a committed attempt to kill. We know that a withering attack will not hurt the target, but to the characters an attack is an attack, they do not understand the mechanical distinction.

They do understand the various factors that Initiative is an abstraction of - who has the upper hand, who is in a good position relative to who, what blocking an attack might cost in momentum and advantage. Watch any cinematic combat, and see the many, many attacks presumably intended by the characters to kill that do not connect but nevertheless materially affect the drama of the fight - those are withering attacks.

For example, see this Fate Stay/Night video

Both Saber and Lancer launch many, many brutal attacks clearly intended to destroy their opponent. Not a single one of them hits. But it is a dramatic scene in which the advantage passes back and forth between the two combatants. Most tabletop games have no way to represent this, but in Exalted withering attacks capture this sort of drama.

This gives us a lot of flexibility for our stunts. In our case, Hikari would understand throwing the silk as giving her advantage, but her actual attack to be the decapitating strike. We know that the bandit won’t die, but can see the stunt matching Hikari gaining the upper hand and leaving the enemy exposed - if her attack succeeds.

A character can only take one action per combat turn, usually a single attack. A withering attack is a Dexterity + relevant ability check against a difficulty set by the opponent’s defensive abilities. Weapons have an Accuracy stat, which contributes bonus dice to withering attacks.

Hikari is using a sword, so she will form a pool with her Melee ability. Her Dexterity is 5, her Melee is 5, she has a specialty of “Swords” and her sword’s Accuracy is 2, plus two dice for a one point stunt for a total of 15 dice (Hikari’s player already has this total written on her character sheet, it’s not intended you do the math each time).

The bandit’s Defence is based on her ability to parry - her Parry is her Dexterity + Melee (she’s wielding a sword), divided by two and rounded up. Here that’s 3 Dexterity + 2 Melee, for 2.5 rounded up to 3. She gets a further +1 for her sword’s Defence stat, for a total of 4. Hikari rolls against that Defence as her difficulty:

1, 2, 5, 5, 6, 6, 7, 7, 7, 8, 8, 9, 9, 9, 10

That’s 10 successes, well in excess of the difficulty. Hikari’s attack is successful.

Soak, Initiative Damage, Initiative Crash, Initiative Break

The bandit hurled herself backwards, rolling and scrabbling to disentangle herself from the silk. She rose without dignity, but with a head, the better end of a trade she had not been prepared to make. She wondered how she could have been so blind as to miss the ice in this girl’s eyes; young she might be, but she had killed before.

Yet not so many as the captain. Better a risky fight than disobedience, today.

Hikari advanced, sword floating back to a ready position, breathing perfectly even. The bandit felt her feet disobey her, giving ground unnecessarily until her back found the great hinge of the Arjuf. She made to mock for bravado’s sake, but could not find her voice.

You gain a point of Initiative simply for hitting with a withering attack. Hikari’s Initiative increases from 8 to 9.

A withering attack’s “damage” moves Initiative from the defender to the attacker. To calculate how much, we assemble a dice pool for the attack’s damage, subtract the defender’s soak value, and count successes.

Damage is Strength + the weapon’s Damage stat + extra successes on the attack roll. Hikari’s Strength is 3, her sword’s Damage is 9 and she achieved 6 successes more than the 4 she needed to hit. 3 + 9 + 6 is 18 dice. While a dice pool, damage isn’t an action and isn’t affected by the normal bonuses and penalties - Hikari’s stunt doesn’t apply, she can’t spend willpower for a success etc.

Soak is Stamina + the Soak stat of the defender’s armour. The bandit has Stamina 2 and her light armour has Soak 3, for a total of 5.

18 - 5 is 13 total damage dice.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 6, 7, 7, 8, 8, 8, 10

7 successes. Hikari gains that much Initiative, going to 16. The bandit loses the same amount, going from 5 to -2. There are no bounds on Initiative; it can go as deeply negative or as high as it needs to.

When a character drops to 0 Initiative or below, they are considered to be in Initiative Crash until they are positive again. The attacker that forced them into this state gains an Initiative Break bonus of 5 Initiative. Hikari’s Initiative increases to 21.

The bandit is completely unharmed, but Hikari’s slight edge of 8 Initiative to 3 increasing to 21 to -2 represents her immediately establishing a firm control over the fight. The bandit is in deep trouble; while she’ll be able to attack Hikari freely on her turn, it will be very difficult for her to close that big gap even if she hits.

Weapon Tags and Prone

Tsune did not launch into battle with Hikari’s quicksilver speed, but when she did her opponent no longer saw a brash girl about to learn a fatal lesson, but an earthquake in human form.

She leapt, rocketing a left jab towards the bandit’s face; when that was hastily blocked the true attack came, a right down onto the forehead with all of Tsune’s weight and momentum. All breath left the bandit as she slammed into the stone amidst the corpses of her recent victims.

Tsune is making a withering attack with a cestus, which uses the Brawl ability. As a light weapon, it actually has identical stats to her unarmed attack, but it has the Smashing tag, allowing her to make a special attack called a smash. A Smash costs 2 Initiative to attempt, dropping Tsune to 5, and lowers her Defence by one until her next turn, but if it hits can knock the enemy down or away.

Tsune’s attack pool is her Dexterity (2) + Brawl (4) + Speciality (Punching) + weapon Accuracy (4) + stunt (2 dice) for a total of 13. Her opponent is identical to Hikari’s and has 4 defence.

1, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 5, 6, 8, 8, 10, 10, 10

8 successes, a solid hit. Her damage pool is her Strength (5) + weapon Damage (7) + extra successes (4), for a total of 16. The bandit has Soak 5, just like her friend, and thus the final damage is 16 - 5 or 11 dice.

1, 1, 1, 1, 3, 4, 5, 5, 7, 7, 10

4 successes - Tsune is unlucky to narrowly miss Crashing her opponent. She gains 1 Initiative for hitting, plus 4 from her successes, going from 5 to 10. Her target loses 4 Inititative, going from 5 to 1.

Because this was a smashing attack that succeeded, Tsune can knock the opponent back or down. Since everyone here is a hand-to-hand fighter and happy to mix it up, Tsune’s player doesn’t want to knock her opponent away, and thus puts her on the ground. The bandit is in the Prone state - she has -1 to her Parry, -2 to her Evasion (Defence score based on dodging rather than parrying) and -3 to attacks until she gets up, and the only movement she can make is attempting to get up. That’s a bad place to be when a surprisingly heroic young woman is pummeling you.

Flurries, Rising from Prone and stunting Defence

Though her head was ringing and her lungs playing desperate catch-up, the bandit was not so gripped by fear as her companion. But she was very much convinced that she no longer wished to be on the ground, and she did not want that excessively strong urchin punching her again.

She spun up from the stones in an explosion of motion that while not so graceful as she envisioned was effective; Tsune took two quick steps back from the alarming flailing of the bandit’s chopping blade, holding the back of her fist out to keep the cestus’ metal reinforcement between the edge and her flesh.

“You know, staying down would have dramatically reduced your chances of being stabbed by my girlfriend. Just another poor life choice for you, yes?”

The bandit Tsune hit is on 1 Initiative, and thus takes her turn before her poor friend on -2.

Normally a character only takes one combat action a turn. Rising from Prone is a combat action, so the bandit will not be able to attack Tsune if she does so.

A Flurry allows you to take two combat actions. Certain combat actions can’t be used in a flurry, and you cannot take the same action twice, but it’s useful in a circumstance like this to attack and do something else. Both actions take a 3 dice penalty, and the character’s Defence is reduced by one until her next turn.

Rising from Prone usually doesn’t take a roll, but when an enemy is engaged (in this case Tsune standing over her) it’s a difficulty 2 Dexterity + Dodge roll. The bandit’s Dexterity is 3 and her Dodge is 2 for five dice, but with the -3 dice for a flurry that’s only 2 dice. She spends one of her meagre willpower points for one success, and rolls

3, 7

One success plus one from willpower is 2, just enough to meet the difficulty. She gets up!

Her second action in the flurry is a withering attack directed at Tsune. Her dice pool for the attack is her Dexterity (3) + her Melee (2) + her weapon’s Accuracy (2), minus 3 for the flurry: 4 dice.

Tsune’s Defence is her parry: Dexterity (2) + Brawl (4) + Speciality divided by 2: 3.5, rounded up to 4. Her smashing attack reduced that by one to 3, but the Storyteller counts her quip and description of using her cestus defensively as a stunt. Stunts can’t grant dice to an unrolled total, so they raise it by one point per point of stunt. Tsune’s one point stunt grants her one point of Defence, taking her back up to 4. Her weapon has a Defence bonus of 0, so the final difficulty of the attack is 4.

1, 7, 7, 8

A superlative roll under the circumstances but not good enough (she probably should have spent another willpower). Tsune’s stunt has saved her from being hit.

Originally Posted by Stunting and NPCs
By the rules, every action can be stunted regardless of who takes it.

In previous editions of Exalted, certain characters might receive lesser benefits from stunting or not be able to stunt at all. Hikari and Tsune, as unusually skilled young women but still human, would be considered “Heroic Mortals” and receive less rewards from stunting than an Exalted character. Their nameless bandit opponents would not be considered heroic and would not be able to stunt.

Stunts are an incentive mechanic for players to add a small but constant amount of novel detail to the game’s fiction, riffing off each other to build an awesome scene piece by piece. A Storyteller is not linked to any one character the way a player is, and furthermore is the judge of stunt quality; there’s a lot of tension in her use of the mechanic, which different groups would resolve in different ways. The first edition Storytelling chapter advises the ST only stunt for her most important NPCs and either have the players judge her stunts or be as uncharitable as possible with herself.

In this third edition of the game, many powers interact with stunts, and stunts have become more powerful and require more subjective judgement from the ST, so this tension has increased. The distinctions between who may stunt and what they receive for doing so are gone. It’s clear some antagonists must stunt, but it’s arguably gauche for the ST to be giving her NPCs two point or higher stunts.

This tutorial adopts the convention of only awarding stunts to the most important NPCs - those who would be fully statted out rather than using Quick Character templates. They will only ever receive one point stunts.

Onslaught Penalty

Hikari’s opponent decided her essential problem was being Hikari’s opponent; she did not like it, it did not favour her, it would end poorly. She dived past the young swordswoman, crushed a golden goblet into the blood as she rolled over it, and launched herself at a startled Tsune.

The brawler blocked the bandit’s swing, but its desperate force drove her back another awkward step and opened her stance.

While the fight started with two pairs of opponents squaring off against each other, there’s nothing in the rules that requires things to be resolved in neat little duels. Tsune hits hard, but her Defence is not as good as Hikari’s and is currently diminished by her smash attack, so she looks like a better target, and the second bandit chooses to launch a withering attack against her.

In some games it’s difficult or dangerous to move away from an opponent engaging you in melee. That’s actually true in Exalted as well, but the game only tracks distance in large relative range bands, so the bandit’s little roll and dash is just a narrative flourish - everyone here is still close enough to strike each other.

Whenever a character is attacked, she takes a cumulative one point penalty to her Defence against the next attack she suffers before her next turn - this is the Onslaught penalty. Because Hikari and Tsune attacked separate bandits, they both inflicted one point Onslaught penalties on their targets but there was no-one to benefit from them by making a subsequent attack. Because Tsune has been attacked by both bandits, she suffers a one point penalty to Defence on this second attack. If a third bandit existed and attacked her, she’d suffer a two point penalty to that attack, and so on.

The bandit’s dice pool is 7, as her friend’s would have been without the flurry penalty. Tsune’s defence is 4, reduced to 3 by the one point Onslaught penalty.

2, 3, 4, 4, 9, 8, 10

4 successes against 3 Defence is a hit with one extra success. The bandit has Strength 2 and her sword is Damage 9 plus one success is 12 raw damage. Tsune is not wearing armour but still has Soak equal to her Stamina of 4, resulting in 8 total damage.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10

3 successes - the bandit gains 1 Initiative from hitting plus 3 for her successes, taking her from -2 to 1 Initiative. She is no longer considered Crashed as she is above 0. Tsune loses 3 Initiative from the successes, taking her down from 10 to 7.

The round ends with the bandits having clawed back a little ground but not having established an advantage against Tsune, while Hikari has decisive control of the fight.

Originally Posted by Letting stunts ride
You can stunt every action, and you can stunt your defence. Hence if a character attacks once in a turn and is attacked many times, the incentive is for her player to come out with lots and lots of stunts, talking more and taking up more table time than her fellow players.

Traditionally different tables have had different conventions for handling this gracefully. This tutorial assumes the convention of having a player stunt once for attack and once for defence, and then enjoy the bonus on everything relevant for the turn (much as the girls’ stunts for pumping the lift lever benefited their entire extended action). In this case Tsune is benefiting from the defence bonus she stunted when she was first attacked, even though we’re not hearing much from her in the italic text here.

Decisive Attacks, Health Damage and Death

In a duel, Hikari was serene and graceful. When defending Tsune, she was a wind made of blades.

The bandit had no sensation of moving from where she had attacked Tsune, but she did feel her face being ground against the mighty chains of the opposite door of the Arjuf gate. Perhaps she felt the first prick of Hikari’s sword sliding through her spine and into her heart, but then all feeling was gone…

To actually hurt someone, you spend your banked Initiative in making a Decisive attack. You may only make a decisive attack if you are not in Crash (ie you have 1 or more Initiative).

A decisive attack does not use your weapon’s stats in any way. It may seem like a rusty spoon should have no chance of hurting a fully armoured Dragon Blooded warrior, but that difficulty is encapsulated in how hard it is to get much Initiative out of her with withering attacks; given you actually establish enough control of the fight to have a good Initiative total your decisive attack represents sticking that rusty spoon through the eye slot of her helmet. Likewise if you are wielding Cloud Divider, Thrice-Blessed Spear of the First Titanslayer, you don’t automatically get to hurt opponents badly with decisive attacks, but your withering attacks will be so powerful that you’ll almost certainly have the Initiative to do so.

Hikari has the highest Initiative and goes first. She chooses to make a Decisive attack against the bandit she originally attacked and who just hit Tsune.

She doesn’t benefit from weapon Accuracy so her pool is Dex 5 + Melee 5 + Speciality 1 + Stunt 2 for 13 dice. The bandit’s Defence is 4.

2, 2, 5, 5, 5, 7, 7, 7, 8, 8, 8, 9

8 successes for an easy hit. However excess successes are not counted. Damage is exactly equal to Hikari’s Initiative, so she will roll 21 dice.

1, 2, 2, 3, 4, 5, 5, 5, 6, 7, 7, 8, 8, 8, 9, 9, 9, 10, 10, 10, 10

An extremely good roll, but 10s on decisive damage rolls do not count twice for successes. That still leaves Hikari with 12 successes. Each success is applied as a wound to the target’s health track.

Like most humans, the bandit has seven spaces on her health track. A weapon does dictate the type of damage inflicted by a decisive attack - swords have the Lethal tag so they inflict lethal damage, which is marked on the track with an X. The Storyteller marks all seven slots with an X. That leaves five levels of damage, but that doesn’t matter as when a character’s final health box is filled with lethal damage, she is dead (or dying, at the Storyteller’s option).

Having no particular plans for or attachment to this nameless bandit, the Storyteller is happy to declare her dead.

After a successful decisive attack, the character’s Initiative resets to 3. Hikari cannot launch two such lethal strikes in succession, she must reassert her control with further withering attacks if she wants to be safe from Crash or do much damage with her next decisive attack.

If you miss a decisive attack, your Initiative does not reset but does suffer a small penalty. If your Initiative is 11 or more, you lose 3 Initiative. If it is less, you lose 2 (it is possible to Crash yourself making a decisive attack at 1 or 2 Initative). Hikari having 21 Initiative would have dropped to 18 if she missed.


Tsune for all her tender years was a veteran of a most dangerous city; she fought beside Hikari countless times and seen friends and foe alike bleed and die. But the execution of Hikari’s opponent snuffed out her fire; in that moment it seemed her sweet girlfriend had become one with the sword in the truest sense, an instrument suited only for killing.

She reached out with her cestus and seized her surviving opponent’s sword, tossing it aside like a toy.


Tsune on 7 Initiative is next. Her player is inclined to mercy given how badly the heroes outclass the remaining, and decides to take a chance on disarming.

A disarm is resolved with a gambit, a special kind of decisive attack that provides a catch-all resolution mechanic for special combat actions anyone should be able to attempt without special powers, but don’t fit an ordinary withering or decisive attack. The default gambits are disarm, unhorse, distract and grapple.

Tsune rolls the same decisive attack pool she normally would - Dexterity (2) + Brawl (4) + Speciality (it’s a punching disarm I guess) + stunt (2) for 9 dice. The bandit’s Defence is 4 as normal.

2, 2, 3, 4, 8, 8, 9, 9, 9

That’s a hit with 5 successes versus 4 Defence. As with a normal decisive attack we don’t care about extra successes, just that the attack met the difficulty.

Gambits also use the attacker’s Initiative total as their dice pool, but rather than inflicting damage this roll is trying to meet the difficulty of the gambit - for disarm, that’s 3. 10s do not count for two successes. Tsune’s Initiative is 7, so she rolls that many dice:

1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 10, 10

Three successes, just meeting the difficulty. Her opponent is disarmed and Tsune may toss the weapon one range band away.

Gambits do not reset Initiative but do have an Initiative cost of their difficulty +1, whether the Initiative roll succeeds or fails. For a disarm that’s 4, so Tsune drops from 7 to 3 Initiative.
If a character misses the decisive attack to attempt the gambit, she does not pay the Initiative cost but does lose Initiative exactly like a normal missed decisive attack. Since Tsune has less than 11 Initiative, she would have lost 2 if she had missed and dropped from 7 to 5.

Initiative Changes and Taking Your Turn

Initiative sets turn order but also dramatically changes during the round. Hikari and Tsune started the round with 21 and 7 Initiative respectively, and have since dropped to 3 each.

That doesn’t mean they get another turn on 3 before the surviving bandit has hers on 2. The short version is you get exactly one turn per round regardless of Initiative shenanigans. If your Initiative is dropped before you take your turn, you take at the position your new Initiative indicates but don’t lose it. If it’s raised to the point where you should have had a turn earlier but haven’t, you take it on the next tick (eg Hikari uses the Distract gambit on Initiative tick 6 to raise Tsune’s Initiative from 4 to 8. Tsune takes her turn on tick 5).

So the next character to act is the surviving bandit, on tick 2.

Disengage and Crashing Yourself

The bandit didn’t see her friend die - hearing it was enough. When her weapon was torn from her grasp, she likewise lost the ability to consider her fear of her distant captain as relevant against the present threat of these lethal young women.

Her legs began pumping towards the far side of the square, away from the Forbidden Quarter and the promise of death. Her thoughts turned to the docks and the hope of slipping across the waves in the chaos. Yet in her peripheral vision was white hair billowing and the gleaming arc of a raised blade…

So far in this example everyone has been content to stay in close range - the band at which hand-to-hand combatants can easily attack each other. That is no longer a happy place for our last bandit, so she wants to go to short range, the next range band and the distance at which she cannot be stabbed.

Because she is at short range with hostile targets who want to stop her (in this case Hikari; Tsune is happy to let her go), she needs to take the Disengage combat action to make this happen. She could flurry this as she did with rising from prone and an attack before, but it’s the only thing she wants to do and she has no interest in taking the flurry penalty.

Disengage costs 2 Initiative to attempt. After paying that, the bandit has 0 Initiative, and is thus in Initiative Crash. When you Crash yourself, you suffer a further 5 Initiative penalty, putting her on -5. Furthermore, the Storyteller may award the Initiative Break bonus to the character she believes most responsible for provoking you into it. In this case she decides that while Tsune’s disarm effectively ended the fight for this bandit, Hikari’s opposition is what makes this a Disengage rather than the end of the scene, and grants 5 Initiative to Hikari. She rises to 8.

Disengage is a Dexterity + Dodge opposed roll against the Dexterity + Athletics roll of anyone attempting to prevent the disengage. The bandit’s Dexterity is 3 and Dodge is 2 for five dice:

5, 7, 7, 9, 10

Five successes! There’s hope! But Hikari’s Dexterity (5) + Athletics (5) + Specialty (Running, applicable for closing and preventing escape) + Stunt (2) is 13 dice…

2, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 5, 5, 7, 7, 8, 9, 10

Six successes. The bandit’s dream of escape is dead.

Had she succeeded, she would have moved to short range relative to the girls. Furthermore, if Hikari had moved towards her to re-close the gap on next turn, she would have reflexively moved again, keeping the relative distance at short.

She didn’t, so everyone stays at close range.

ST Mercy Rule

The sword fell; a head followed it.

“Why…I let her go! Hikari, she was running, unarmed, no threat to anyone! Why would you kill her?”

The white-haired sword maiden seemed to snap out of her killing trance, startled at the anger and disappointment in Tsune’s voice.

“She…she would have found more. You said she’d need twenty? She’d have found twenty!” a few swift tears were wiped away; the ice returned. “We have awoken to a bloody and merciless day. Look - there is the fate the looters are inflicting on each other, there will be few survivors among those whose thoughts turn to profit before escape. I will do anything to ensure you are one of them.”

“We’re not like them, Hikari, we’re…”

“We’re just like them. How could anyone tell we only want enough to keep refugee kids alive and fed? Who’s to say these ones wanted any differently?” The bandits’ three victims didn’t look rough; they might have been merchants or officials on any other day. “There’s enough here. A bit of blood on the silk, the cup is crushed, but that’s weeks of food. Let’s take it and get our wards to the docks.”

Tsune looked down towards the water. Who knew about the situation in the city would depend on the whims of the gates, but the docks…they’d know at the docks. The dragons, their soldiers and bureaucrats, their concubines and slaves, everyone must have seen that procession. By now boats would already be leaving, they couldn’t possibly get an early one. No chance of arriving anywhere ahead of other refugees. No chance of a safe voyage. The only advantage to be seized was wealth; the rich could buy anything even in utmost chaos.

“No. We need better value to weight. We need the best of what the dragons left behind.”

“I understand. I will follow you anywhere.” Hikari touched Tsune’s cheek with all her normal tenderness, though the ice remained in her eyes. “But do not chide me for the fate of those you deliver to my sword.”

On the next round, Hikari is first on 8 initiative. That’s only likely to do 3-4 levels of damage on a decisive attack, not enough to kill.

But the Storyteller may declare that a Crashed opponent who she considers no longer a threat to the PCs will be dispatched on the next successful withering attack made against them. Normally this is used to stop the players from simply farming Initiative by driving their weakest Crashed opponent into ridiculous negatives, but is also useful when the mechanics of building up Initiative and then making Decisive attacks don’t match the no-longer-cinematic process of dispatching a clearly defeated foe.

In this case the Storyteller decides the last bandit is clearly mince meat against Hikari and thinks the drama of Hikari’s murderousness versus Tsune’s mercy will be more fun now than after a couple of rolls with predictable results. She invokes the rule and tells Hikari’s player to not even bother with the withering attack.

Movement, Aim, Taking Cover and Ranged Attacks

The Forbidden Quarter had a surplus of palaces, which were impractical for the Dragon-Blooded to steal away by ship. Those palaces were filled with precious things likewise too large, too fragile or too well secured to be removed safely.

Luckily, the captain’s girls had crow bars and no sentimental attachment to other people’s furniture.

Vases sailed out of windows, some even landing on the bedding heaped up to catch them. An ironwood desk lay in pieces, its gold hinges easily torn off the unbreakable wood. Bandits cavorted in dresses once worn by Winglords and Sorcerers, and an appreciable fraction the looted liquor was making its way onto carts.

The captain was reasonably happy with this sordid mess given the material she had to hand; her band controlled this street entirely, with only one gate currently open to be guarded. She anticipated losing stragglers to other looters or angry Cathaks, but this lot seemed likely to get at least some valuables to her ships or ships that would shortly be hers. But no sense going soft on them.

“Aoi, get your lot of sorry drunkards to finish stripping these empty dragon nests and get going. Someone’s going to come through this neighbourhood and kill everyone they find at some point, and if I come back to see any more of my crew making baths of wine barrels in the street, it’ll be me.”

“Right you are ma’am. Everything going well?”

“Swimmingly. I’ve seen plenty of corpses, not many are ours. Whatever soldier girls are left here are spread thinner than us and I ain’t seen a dragon.”

“We’ll be gone in half an hour, nevermind Hanako in her…” Aoi spontaneously sprouted an arrow in her throat, fatally interrupting her complaint about Hanako and the captain’s train of thought.italic text

The captain idly poked the shaft as her henchwoman died, and looked back along its path. A black gate to the north, somehow overlooked despite its size, that had opened in perfect silence - surely not some ancient architect's deranged metaphor. Two archers in Cathak colours, one knocking her second arrow while the other aimed at the captain herself.

“You don’t know who I am. You had a bead on Splendid Avarice herself and you shot Aoi? Now you’re going to die because you didn’t have the damn sense to put an arrow in your death when she wasn’t looking.” Avarice began to lope towards her attackers, shuriken appearing between her fingers. “You lot keep working, I’ll kill these ones.”

Avarice broke into an erratic sprint, her enemies struggling to aim at the janking bandit as she considered how sophisticated a strategy she could have her band execute without Aoi.

“But kill anyone else you see!” They’d handle that. She leapt over one of the wine-soaked carts and hurled a shower of shuriken as the soldiers scattered and ducked behind the black gate’s doors.

Aoi’s death by ambush was cinematic, signalling Splendid Avarice’s need to roll Join Battle rather than being handled mechanically itself. Normally the Storyteller should hesitate to kill off the NPC associates of player characters without giving them a chance to do something about it, but neither Avarice or her player care very much for the lives of her underlings.

Avarice’s Join Battle roll is Wits (4) + Awareness (4) + Stunt 2 for 10 dice.

1, 2, 5, 6, 6, 7, 7, 10, 10, 10

8 successes, plus the usual 3 starting Initiative gives her a total Initiative of 11.

Both soldiers have a Join Battle of 5 (Wits 2 + Awareness 3).

1, 1, 2, 8, 9
2, 4, 5, 6, 8

Two successes and one success respectively gives them starting Initiative of 5 and 4 respectively.

The battle begins at long range. Both sides are using ranged weapons, so unlike Hikari and Tsune they don’t need to be at close range to make attacks. However ranged weapons have a maximum range, and while the soldier’s composite bows can shoot to long range, Avarice’s shuriken are useless beyond short range. She must close the distance.

The range bands are:

Extreme (rarely used, as combat is not practical at this distance)

On her turn, a character may take the Move reflexive action in addition to her combat action in order to move one range band towards or away from something. All range bands are relative; technically a character could change range to one opponent without changing range to another. But most combat situations are reasonably intuitive - Avarice is at long range to the soldiers and wants to be short.

She has the first turn on Initiative tick 11, and uses Move to go to medium range. She doesn’t have a useful combat action to take (she might choose to use an Influence action using her excellent social traits on either her followers or opponents, but that’s outside the scope of this tutorial).

On Initiative tick 5, the first soldier acts, and she has a problem. While her bow can shoot to medium range, making an attack at medium or long range requires an Aim action to be performed before the attack. Aim cannot be flurried and you cannot move in the same turn. Aim normally grants a 3 dice bonus to the following attack, but the Aim to qualify for making a medium or long range attack does not grant this bonus.

She can’t attack Avarice this turn because she hasn’t taken the prerequisite Aim action. If she does take that Aim, she knows Avarice will simply close to short range on her next turn, making it unnecessary. If she moves away from Avarice to maintain distance, she still won’t be able to attack until she stops moving for a turn to Aim, during which time the bandit will simply close.

She could move towards Avarice and attack this round, but getting closer to the murderous brigands doesn’t sound like a good idea. Instead she uses the Take Cover combat action, which is a Dexterity + Dodge check against a difficulty set by the Storyteller. Since the archers were standing right at the gate, the Storyteller rules that putting part of the open door between one’s body and shuriken is only difficulty 1. The soldier’s pool is Dex (3) + Dodge (3) for 6 dice.

1, 3, 3, 6, 8, 10

3 successes - she takes advantage of the cover. The ST rules this is light cover, which grants +1 Defence.

The second archer follows suit on the next Initiative tick:

1, 1, 4, 5, 7, 8

She too succeeds and will enjoy a +1 bonus to defence.

With no Initiative change during that round, Avarice again goes first on tick 11 of the next. She closes to short range with Move, and then uses her combat action to make a withering attack on the archer with higher Initiative.

As with a hand-to-hand withering attack, the pool is Dexterity (4) + combat ability (Thrown in this case, 4) + Specialty (Shuriken) + stunt (2) + weapon Accuracy. However ranged weapon Accuracy is not constant but based on range. At short range, a thrown weapon has an Accuracy of +3, so Avarice’s total pool is 14.

The soldier’s Defence is based on her Evasion, which is her Dexterity (3) + Dodge (3) divided by two and rounded up, for a total of 3. Normally a character uses her best defence out of Evasion and Parry (Hikari, Tsune and their opponents all used Parry simply because it was better), but as ranged weapons cannot parry, ranged combatants will generally only use Evasion. In this case she gains an extra +1 for her cover for a total of 4 Defence.

1, 2, 2, 3, 4, 4, 6, 6, 6, 7, 7, 8, 9, 9

5 successes is a little on the low side for that big a pool, but it is a hit, with 1 extra success. Damage is calculated normally - Strength (2) + weapon Damage (7 for a light thrown weapon) + extra successes (1), for 10 damage. The soldier has a Soak of 6 from Stamina (3) + light armour Soak (3), leaving 4 damage to be rolled.

1, 8, 9, 10

Four successes means Avarice gains 5 Initiative, rising to 16, while the archer loses 4, dropping to 1. Not quite a Crash!

Aim (again), Cover at Close Range and Wound Penalties

Shuriken skittered off the gate from one hand and between the archers from the other, trapping Avarice’s target in cover. A hastily shot arrow obliged the bandit to jank sideways and break her run, but no second arrow came - the second archer was aiming with utmost care.

Avarice rushed in, ignoring the splendour of the temple grounds behind the gate, a spinning kick to the head and another handful of shuriken driving the soldier who had dared to shoot her into the meagre gap between open gate and wall, the shuriken ricocheting off imperishable stone and black metal alike.

She had run down archers before, and at this point the game was usually up. A bow was difficult to use at the point-blank range optimal for her little thrown razors, and few had the discipline to aim with a whirling, cursing bandit filling their view.

“Ye should have run with the rest of your cur friends! Without the dragons, this city is a deathtrap for…” An arrow tore a long strip through her thigh, introducing far more pain and blood into her routine than the plan called for. “I was going to let you off with a light killing, but now you get today’s special.”

On Initiative tick 4, the second bandit takes the Aim action. Her next attack against Avarice will be at +3 dice.

On tick 1, her companion finally has her turn and makes a withering attack targeting Avarice. Like thrown weapons, the Accuracy of archery weapons is based on current range, and short range is optimal for them - +4. Dex 3 + Archery 3 + Accuracy 4 is 10 dice. Avarice’s Evasion (she can’t parry with shuriken) is (Dex 4 + Dodge 4 + Specialty (vs ranged) / 2) + 1 for her stunt for a total of 6.

2, 3, 4, 5, 5, 7, 9, 9, 9, 10

6 successes just hits. Strength (3) + weapon damage (medium archery weapon +11) + extra successes (+0) is 14 damage. Avarice’s soak is 6 (stam 3, light armour 3), for 8 total damage.

2, 2, 4, 4, 4, 4, 7, 10

3 successes gives the soldier 4 Initiative, taking her back up to 5. Avarice loses 4, going down to 12.

Next round, Avarice still has the highest Initiative total and acts first. Her Move closes the distance to close range, where her thrown weapon has an Accuracy of +4 while the soldiers’ bows have -2. If she can keep the engagement at this range she’ll be able to rely on hitting with withering attacks and being missed in turn.

She takes advantage of this by making her own withering attack against the same soldier as last time, hoping to get that Crash she was robbed of in the previous round. Her pool is one better thanks to her improved Accuracy - 15, and the soldier’s Defence is still 4.

1, 1, 3, 3, 3, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 8, 9, 10, 10

8 successes gives her 4 extra successes, taking her base damage of 9 (Str 2 + weapon 7) up to 13. That’s 7 dice after the soldier’s 6 soak.

2, 5, 6, 8, 8, 8, 10

5 successes, giving her 6 initiative for a total of 18, while her target loses 5 to go to 0 Initiative. It's a Crash, granting Avarice Initiative Break and taking her to 23.

The other solder seeks revenge on tick 4 by making a decisive attack against the bandit. At only 4 Initiative, it has no chance of killing Avarice but being a decisive attack it doesn’t use weapon Accuracy, an advantage when Accuracy is negative. Her pool is Dexterity (3) + Archery (3) + Aim (3) for 9 dice. She spends a willpower point, taking her down to 2.

Avarice’s Defence is still 6, but if your target is at short range cover benefits both parties. Rather than trying to shoot around the gate at someone so close and contend with Defence 7, the soldier simply breaks cover (she moves a metre or two in the fiction, not changing range or otherwise interacting with movement mechanics).

1, 1, 4, 5, 6, 8, 8, 8, 10

5 successes + 1 from willpower meets the defence and thus hits. Damage is equal to Initiative, in this case 4.

2, 3, 7, 7

Two lethal levels of damage are inflicted. Avarice’s player marks X in her two leftmost health boxes. Health boxes have wound penalties associated with them, and the highest penalty with a filled box applies. Nearly all humans have seven health boxes like so: -0, -1, -1, -2, -2, -4, Incapacitated. So Avarice’s -0 and first -1 box are filled, causing her to take a -1 penalty to all rolls and to static totals (like Defence).

While she’s taken lethal damage and thus we describe blood in the fiction, Avarice doesn’t need to worry about mechanical bleeding unless she takes at least her Stamina in health levels in a single injury. Since her Stamina is 3, this 2 level wound won’t cause her to start bleeding out.

The archer’s Initiative resets from 4 to 3. She didn’t do much damage, but it cost her very little other than her combat action and dragged down Avarice’s superior dice pools a bit. Building up a massive store of Initiative for a one-hit kill is not always the best tactic - it’s useful to think about what your current Initiative total can achieve no matter what it is.

Disengage (again), Rush and Tied Rolls

As Splendid Avarice clutched at her thigh, the archer she had been harrying simply bolted past her, scrabbling over low walls and prayer wheels as she headed for the temple doors.

“That was undignified for both of us! Didn’t your Cathak Lizardlord or whatever she’s called teach you to have a pretty fight?”

Eyes locked on her fleeing quarry, Avarice idly tossed a shuriken behind her and into the other soldier’s lung before dashing off into pursuit. She didn’t think of herself as an evil woman, but she took a certain satisfaction in the wet coughing behind her.

Even when she’s sporting a wound penalty, staying in short range with Avarice is a losing proposition for the soldiers. They use their best advantage - they can split up, allowing at least one of them to be at a better range.

On Initiative tick 0, the other soldier takes her turn. Since she’s at close range to Avarice, who has no intention of letting her go, she must use Disengage to get away. She could flurry this with an attack, but against a more skilled opponent the dice pool and Defence penalty would be a terrible idea. Her dice pool is Dexterity (3) + Dodge (3) for 6, and she spends a willpower for a bonus success, taking her down to 2 points.

1, 5, 6, 8, 8, 10

4 successes + 1 for willpower, totalling 5.

Avarice’s pool is Dexterity (4) + Athletics (4) + Stunt (2) - wound penalty (1) for 9.

1, 4, 5, 5, 5, 7, 7, 9, 9

Only 4 successes, so the soldier’s disengage succeeds! She moves to short range, and if Avarice moves towards her next turn, she will reflexively move another band away, staying at short. On the downside, attempting a Disengage costs 2 Initiative, and the soldier goes to -2.

That ends the round, and at 23 Avarice is well ahead of either opponent and takes her turn.

Even with her wound penalty she likes her chances for a flurry. She intends to make a decisive attack against the soldier that wounded her, user her normal move towards the fleeing one, and then take a Rush action. Her decisive pool is Dex (4) + Thrown (4) + Speciality + Stunt (2) - wound penalty (1) - flurry penalty (-3) for a total of 7. The soldier left cover to shoot, so is now at Defence 3. Avarice spends a willpower for a bonus success; her rating is 7 so this takes her to 6 points.

3, 5, 8, 8, 9, 10, 10

7 successes, plus 1 for willpower for a total of 8. That’s 5 extra successes, which are irrelevant on a decisive attack. Avarice could have saved her willpower, but you must spend it before making the roll, and her player can’t predict her luck! Initiative is 23

1, 1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 4, 5, 5, 5, 6, 6, 6, 6, 7, 8, 8, 9, 10

Luck turns again, only 5 successes (10s don’t count twice for decisive damage). That’s still a devastating blow, filling the first five health boxes of the soldier with lethal damage and thus inflicting a -2 wound penalty. Since her Stamina is 3, she begins to bleed out whenever she takes a wound of 3 or more lethal levels, of which this certainly counts. This is generally not relevant in combat time, but causes her to take an additional lethal level every minute. She will be dead within two minutes unless she gets medical attention, which is unlikely given the nearest candidates for giving first aid are questionably sober bandits.

Avarice’s Initiative resets to 3. She moves to close range relative to the fleeing soldier, putting her at short range to the wounded one (who has no intention of stopping her and thus does not require a Disengage). This causes the fleeing soldier to use the reflexive move granted by her successful Disengage, so Avarice is now at short range from both in opposite directions.

Rush is a combat action that can only be used on a target at short range. It is an opposed Dexterity + Athletics roll that if successful grants an effect similar to Disengage - if the opponent moves away on their next turn, the character reflexively moves towards them, keeping the distance constant.

Avarice’s pool is Dexterity (4) + Athletics (4) + Stunt (2) - wound penalty (1) - flurry penalty (3) for a total of 6. She spends another willpower, taking her to 5 points (you may not spend willpower multiple times on a single roll, but it’s fine to do so on multiple rolls in one turn).

The soldier’s pool is Dexterity (3) + Athletics (3), also for a total of 6. She really wants to stay away, so she also spends a point of willpower, taking her down to 1. NPCs generally shouldn’t spend willpower freely (they’re usually not on-screen enough to manage it as a long-term resource like player characters), but this is clearly life and death for these soldiers. The Storyteller has given them small pools with the expectation they’ll be spent to balance these concerns.

Avarice rolls 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10. The soldier rolls 2, 4, 6, 7, 7, 10.

Both have 4 successes + 1 for willpower, totalling 5. It’s a tie.

Ties on opposed rolls are broken by the ST judging who has the better stunt. With her convention that unimportant NPCs don’t stunt, that doesn’t leave her much room here - given Avarice has any stunt at all, she wins.

Initiative Shift

The bandit captain’s bold dash was rendered slightly awkward by the temple’s aesthetic and spiritual arrangements, exacerbated by a stumble as her wounded leg landed in an exquisite rock garden. But luck was with her as an arrow from behind passed through where her head would have been to strike a prayer bell as if in martial worship.

“If you could bleed faster, I’d be right obliged.” She wasn’t strictly sure the wounded archer could hear her over the ringing, but it was the object of her pursuit she wanted to intimidate anyway. The fleeing archer retreated into the main temple building, and skidding under a rack of lanterns Avarice followed her.

She could not help but pause for a second on crossing the threshold, for the temple was far from abandoned. Rows and rows of monks, cross legged, serene and quite dead. Each wore a string of onyx beads such as Avarice had never seen on a holy woman, with a white lily in her lap.

“Well that ain’t terrifyingly eerie, is it? Is this what your bosses’ cousins were running away from? Creepy monk murder, suicide, something…” Avarice was answered only by an arrow, the soldier unsportingly preferring not to banter while in desperate fear of her life. The distracted bandit was forced to hurl herself into the rows of monks, scattering corpses and flowers in a shameful display. Worse, she was obliged to use one of the serene dead as a shield against a rapidly fired follow-up arrow; morally neutral but ugly.

On Initiative tick 3, Avarice has already acted but the soldier who wounded her the previous round has not. With the bandit at short range, she’s in perfect position to make a withering attack (apart from her sucking chest wound). Dexterity (3) + Archery (3) + Accuracy (4) - wound penalty (2) for 8 dice. Avarice’s Defence is her normal 6, less 1 for her wound penalty and 1 for her flurry penalty, for a total of 4.

1, 4, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 8

3 successes, a miss.

On Initiative tick 0 the other soldier moves one band away from Avarice to medium range. Having Rushed successfully, Avarice moves towards her reflexively, keeping at short range. Since they were moving away from the wounded archer, that now means she is at medium range to Avarice. The retreating soldier hasn’t improved her relative position but has drawn the bandit into a position where she can’t easily attack her wounded opponent.

For her combat action, the soldier makes a withering attack. She’s at short range so her pool is 10, as before. As this is the second attack made against her since her last turn, Avarice is suffering a 1 point Onslaught penalty, taking her Defence all the way down to 3.

1, 1, 3, 4, 4, 7, 8, 8, 9, 10

6 successes, so 3 extra successes. Damage is Str (3) + weapon damage (+11) + extra successes (3) for 17, down to 11 for Avarice's soak of 6.

2, 3, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 7, 7, 8, 9

5 successes! The soldier gains 6 Initiative and goes to 6. Avarice loses 5, dropping from 3 to -2 and is Crashed. That gains the soldier a further 5, to 11.

But if you Crash the opponent who Crashed you while you are still Crashed yourself, you gain a special bonus called an Initiative Shift. This raises your Initiative to 3 if it is still lower (at 16, the soldier does not benefit from this), allows you to to roll Join Battle again for extra Initiative, and then take another turn. Any attack on this second turn must target the character you Shifted against.

The soldier’s Join Battle roll is 4, 5, 7, 8, 8 - 3 successes, plus 3 as usual, for 6 extra Initiative. Her total is now 17, and she makes a decisive attack with a pool of 6 (her normal Dexterity + Archery). Avarice still hasn’t had a turn since the last two attacks, so her Defence is dragged down another point by Onslaught to 2. She spends yet another willpower to boost it back to 3, going down to 4 points.

4, 5, 6, 6, 6, 6

While the Storyteller wasn’t actually hoping to kill Avarice, she can’t help but be disappointed at rolling no successes. A miss with two would have been acceptable, but those four 6s are especially galling.

Having misses a decisive attack with 11+ Initiative, the soldier loses 3 Initiative and drops to 14.

Two Point Stunts

It was going poorly. Avarice was confident of her skills against the archers, but the temple had badly unnerved her; she hadn’t allowed herself to think too deeply about what the Dragon Blooded and all their forces might be running away from, but it was clearly a terror beyond the hope of mortals to withstand. And, grudgingly, she had to admit her own mortality.

Best to share that surreal sense of horror with the enemy.

Avarice bounded up from the corpses, swung off the great incense brazier hanging from the roof and into the armoured lap of the quite-dead Immaculate Abbess. She planted a long kiss on the warmish lips of the Dragon-Blooded corpse, before shrugging at the archer.

“Only chance I’ll ever get, eh?”

The next shot went wild.

Avarice is in deep trouble. At the bottom of the Initiative order, in this round she’ll be attacked at least once before her Onslaught penalty resets on her turn, and that attack will be a 14 point decisive attack.

Indeed, on Initiative tick 14, the soldier declares just such an attack. Her pool is still only 6, but with an Onslaught penalty of 3, wound penalty of 1 and flurry penalty of 1 Avarice’s mighty Defence of 5 falls all the way to 0. She spends a willpower to boost that to 1 (taking her down to 3 points), but needs a better stunt bonus than her normal one - so her player pulls out something special.

The Storyteller is a bit nonplussed.

“You’re kissing the dead Immaculate? Really?”

“I’m trying to shock my opponent, and honestly I think it says something about my character. Maybe not something good, but it’s a thing! Can I have a two point stunt, please?”

“OK, but let’s not escalate our stunts in this direction.”

Two point stunts are intended to be rare, with the assumption a player might get two or three in a session of play. They’re awarded if the ST thinks the stunt is exceptional and serves as a highlight of the scene, and well, nobody at the table is going to forget Avarice’s corpse-kissing.

A two point stunt awards the normal 2 dice, plus a bonus success. When used on a static rating, it boosts it by two points instead of one. Furthermore, it grants a willpower point, taking Avarice back up to 4 points. After all that her defence is still only 3, but in her position every point counts.

4, 5, 5, 5, 6, 10

2 successes. The ST probably should have spent the soldier’s last willpower point - but for the moment, Avarice survives. Having missed, the soldier loses another 3 Initiative, going to 11.

On Initiative tick 3, the archer at medium range Aims, as she must do if she wants to attack Avarice next turn. While she’s now obliged to shoot into the temple, the ST rules that the running from the gate has mostly been in a straight line, and the far archer still has line of sight to both other combatants.

On Initiative tick -2, Avarice’s next turn finally comes around, wiping her Onslaught and flurry penalties. She still has her wound penalty to contend with and is Crashed, but has survived a very rough spot.

Initiative Break Immunity, Withdraw and Extreme Range Bands

Avarice pulled the onyx beads off the Dragon Blooded but left the lily. Sliding across the tatami floor, she kicked the archer’s knee, taking advantage of the subsequent stumble to wrap the beads around her enemy’s throat. The soldier pushed her away with a burst of strength, but flipping back Avarice unleashed another hail of shuriken. She twisted midair, catching the answering arrow and hurling it quivering into the tatami.

From across the grounds the second archer took her shot, but succeeded only in skewering an antique prayer scroll. Her heart quavered. The moment of triumph was lost.

The bandit rushed her victim, knocking off her helmet and yanking her by the hair into the middle of the chamber. As the soldier reeled away, she was forced to dance around the seemingly endless shuriken, no longer in control of her own movements.

The Cathak soldiers were disciplined and courageous, but only mortal. The bandit captain was no god or Exalt, but such a furnace of heedless violence could only be called a hero. Their duty did not call for them to adorn her growing legend with their blood; their morale broke.

Avarice pounced on her foe, hauling her to where the arrow stuck out of the tatami. Smiling in somewhat horrified bemusement at her own deed, she brought the soldier’s head down upon it, through the eyesocket.

“Sorry to make a hash of your mausoleum!” Her apology to the assembled corpses was vaguely sincere; for all her misdeeds she’d never had much trouble with monks. She hefted the obsidian beads, wondering if trading in obvious funerary goods would change that. “But obsidian and lilies doesn’t feel like your idiom anyway, does it?”

Her theatrics done, Avarice loped out of the temple and back towards her remaining enemy. Yet all she found was a trail of blood…

The ST likes Avarice’s stunt enough to rule that the bonuses from her two point defence stunt apply to her attack too, though she doesn’t actually award a two point stunt a second time as that source of willpower is intended to be scarce.

Avarice moves to close range on the unwounded soldier. While her stunts have had her ping-ponging all over the place, the ST is still considering this to be mechanically a straight line fight, and rules this now makes her long range from the wounded archer. Avarice then launches a withering attack, with a pool of Dex (4) + Thrown (4) + Speciality + Accuracy (4) + Stunt (2) - wound penalty (1) for 14 with a bonus success from the two point stunt. The soldier’s defence is still 3.

1, 2, 3, 4, 4, 5, 7, 7, 7, 8, 8, 8, 9, 10

9 successes plus 1 for a total of 10, 7 extra successes above the defence. Damage is her normal base of 9 plus extra successes for 16, minus the soldier’s soak of 6 for 10.

1, 2, 4, 4, 8, 8, 8, 9, 10, 10

8 successes, so Avarice gains 9 Initiative and goes all the way back up to 7. She’s no longer Crashed! The soldier loses 8 and falls to 3 Initiative. No Crash so Avarice won’t be getting an Initiative Shift.

The round is over, and on the next Avarice is back on top for Initiative! She goes for a withering attack, this time with a fresh one point stunt. Her pool is still 14, just no bonus success, her enemy’s Defence is 2 with her Onslaught penalty (arguably the far target is a better choice at Defence 1 after wound penalties, but shuriken are limited to short range).

2, 3, 3, 5, 5, 6, 6, 8, 8, 9, 9, 9, 9, 10

8 successes for 6 extra damage onto her base of 9 for 15, 9 after subtracting the enemy’s soak of 6.

1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 10

6 successes, so her Initiative rises by 7 to 14, while the soldier’s drops by 6 to -3. You do not grant Initiative Break if Crashed the round you recover from Crash or the following round, but this soldier is on the second round since her recovery. Avarice gains Initiative Break and goes to 19.

On tick 3, the far archer acts. The Aim she took last round to shoot at medium range still counts to qualify her for shooting at long. At long range the Accuracy of her weapon is +0, so her decisive and withering pools are identical. She chooses to go for withering; with her wound penalty she doesn’t expect to hit much and would risk Crash from multiple failed decisives. Her pool is 6, Avarice’s Defence is 5.

3, 3, 5, 7, 8, 10

4 successes, not quite there.

On tick -3, the soldier who had so briefly been in control of the fight somehow finds herself acting last. She makes a vain stab at a withering attack; while she has little hope of Crashing Avarice (and in any case since the bandit only recovered from Crash last round, no Initiative Break is available), she can't make a Decisive attack with no Initiative. With the negative Accuracy of her bow at this range, her pool is only 4, against a Defence of 4 (with Onslaught penalty). Those are long odds so the ST spends the soldier’s last willpower point.

2, 2, 3, 5, 8, 9

2 successes plus 1 against 4 is still a miss.

On the next round, Avarice is far and away first with 19 Initiative. She makes a decisive attack, with the arrow-impaling stunt described above. Feeling a bit bad about rewarding the most disturbing things the bandit captain does, the ST gives that a two point stunt. Avarice’s pool is thus Dex (4) + Thrown (4) + Speciality + Stunt (2) - wound penalty 1 for 10 with a bonus success. The soldier’s Defence is still 3.

4, 4, 5, 6, 6, 6, 8, 9, 10, 10

6 successes is a hit, allowing Avarice to roll her 19 damage dice.

1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 3, 5, 6, 7, 7, 8, 9, 9, 10, 10, 10

8 successes almost fills the soldier’s wound track handily. She is indisputably dead. Avarice’s Initiative resets to 3.

The Storyteller can see where this is going. On Initiative tick 3 she declares the far soldier will take the Withdraw action. This is a combat action that is an extended Dexterity + Athletics roll with a difficulty of 1, goal number 10 and an interval of one round. Each turn on which you take the action costs 10 Initiative and moves you one range band away from all enemies. It can only be taken if at medium or further range from all opponents.

On taking the action, the soldier moves to extreme range and drops by 10 Initiative to -7. The Storyteller grants an Initiative Break to Avarice, taking her to 8. The soldier then rolls her pool: Dexterity (3) + Athletics (3) - wound penalty (2), for 4 dice.

1, 2, 6, 10

2 successes, so she requires 8 more to complete the action.

The Storyteller points out that Avarice has no way to close the gap - she can close from extreme to long range each turn, but the soldier will open that back up to two extreme bands and keep accumulating successes on each of her turns. When the soldier finally accumulates 10 successes, she will automatically escape the battle if at extreme range, or move a bonus range band if still at long or closer range. Avarice’s player concurs and is happy to declare the battle over, relieved at her narrow escape after the initiative shift and a little worried at her own stunting habits.

Ammunition Check and Scavenging Ammunition

There was only so much mischief that soldier could cause in the couple of minutes before she bled out. Avarice was in no hurry to find her, and started scooping up shuriken on her way, having once again thrown truly excessive amounts of the damn things.

But the soldier probably was lurching in the direction of more Cathak. The bandit captain was in no hurry to add to her wound collection, and absolutely did not want to encounter any remaining Dragon Blooded or whatever might be hunting them. Knowing where they were though…

Avarice tasted some of the blood, idly hummed one of her little thinking tunes, and came to exactly the wrong decision. She loped off to follow the blood into danger.

Keeping track of exactly how many shuriken Avarice hurled during that long combat would have been annoying for everyone, but she certainly did throw a lot. The ST asks her player to make an ammunition check, a Dexterity + appropriate Ability roll against difficulty 1 to still have ammo.

Avarice’s pool is Dexterity (4) + Thrown (4) + Speciality + Stunt (2) - wound penalty (1) for 10 dice. More skilled characters waste less ammo, but a wounded or otherwise inconvenienced character might waste more; hence all the normal bonuses and penalties apply.

1, 1, 1, 2, 4, 4, 5, 7, 10, 10

5 successes, an easy pass.

However every time you’re asked to make an ammunition check, you take a cumulative one die penalty to the roll. Avarice anticipates more razor-chucking today, so her player asks to make an ammunition scavenging roll to reset that. This is a Wits + (Awareness, Survival or War) roll with a difficulty from 1 to 3 depending on how much ammo is lying around. Avarice isn’t great at Survival or War so she’ll roll Awareness; the ST rules the difficulty is 1 since she did leave shuriken all over the damn place. Wits (4) + Awareness (4) + Stunt (2) - wound penalty (1) is 9 dice.

1, 5, 5, 6, 7, 7, 8, 8, 8

5 successes, another easily met difficulty. Skilled characters can expect to very, very rarely run out of ammunition. STs may choose to simply not bother calling for rolls unless the characters are forced to do a great deal of sustained fighting with no chance to scavenge.

“You have done well, the best your House could ask for. Go to your next life with pride.”

The voice in Cathak Valeri’s ear was so sweet, the hand on her cheek so gentle, the face next to hers so beautiful. She didn’t understand. The dawn had come from the south. Her mighty battle charms had been insufficient, her lightning anima too weak, the imperishable weight of her blue jade armour somehow too fragile. Nothing had made sense this cursed day, and she would never know why.

“Anathe…” Valeri slid off the golden razor and into the water, an Exalted hero slain in service to the Realm.


Tsune rushed ahead again, heedless that of all the changeable streets of this city of gates, only the Forbidden Quarter was a mystery to her. Stables - no, whatever the Dragon Blooded and Dynasts of the Realm didn’t want to take on a ship would be too much trouble for anyone. An insurer’s office - no, she wouldn’t know which documents held the value, neither of them could read High Realm. A…well, that house was probably a brothel, empty of its courtesans now but everything there would be slightly lower class than the best of the dragon’s finery. Maybe on the way back.

Hikari kept pace, dragged along by the gravity of Tsune’s noble avarice, though her moodiness was like unto an anchor. She was wary, but perhaps only wanted a fight to take her back to the serene certainty of killing. Tsune missed the sweet and fun girl that had greeted the dawn with her, but this Hikari had a chilling beauty that belied her youth. The bigger girl wondered if she was insisting on this mad quest only to see Hikari fight again; no - wealth was truly the key to survival in the coming weeks. There would be fighting enough as refugees in any case.

“There - palaces! Homes of the Dragon Blooded, Hikari! Even the rubbish they thought weren’t worth the trouble of taking would buy a mansion in Yane.”

“You’ve never been to Yane, you can’t make assertions about its real estate market.”

“It was an example! Look, if we hit a few places like that we can go, I promise.”

“I’ll take that deal, but it looks like more of our motley-clad friends are ahead of us. Gods, they’re like locusts.” Hikari chewed her lip thoughtfully. “Only two sentries, and distracted by something. But more than twenty total.”

“Yessss…” Tsune counted roughly, though without much motivation to be precise. “But not, you know, enough more than twenty.”

“Very well.” The white haired girl shook her head but drew her sword. “Two palaces, no more. What do you think normal girls do on dates, Tsune?”

A few heartbeats later, Tsune tangled a sentry’s head in the binding chains of the gate she guarded and snapped her neck. Across the way the other fell to the stone in three pieces. But it was too far to roll into the next group of bandits - many were clustered around an inert body with an arrow in her throat, others were industriously loading carts. It looked very much like a party that had turned deadly serious just before the girls arrived, and as the bandits noticed their charge and surged forward with knives and chopping swords, it was clear they were in no mood. No mood at all.

So far in this tutorial the heroes have only fought groups of two identical minor opponents. That’s deliberate - something special happens when you have three or more identical characters that aren’t individually important to the story: they become a battlegroup. This is a single mechanical entity representing a large number of combatants, and they interact with the combat system quite differently to individuals.

(Powerful supernaturals such as Exalted could technically end up in a battlegroup, but it’s exceedingly unlikely as they tend to both be individually important to the narrative and mechanically diverse from each other. A battlegroup of fae or demons would be more likely to fill your “terrifying supernatural army” quota.)

Battlegroups have the same statistics as one of their constituent members, with the following special traits:

Size represents a loose measure of the number of members, from 1 (a dozen or so) to 5 (over a thousand). Size is added to attack rolls, damage, soak and Magnitude.

Drill measures the unit’s training and cohesion, and offers bonuses to Defence and various rolls involved in commanding a battlegroup. Most battlegroups are Average drill and gain +1 to Defence.

Might is the supernatural power of the unit. In this tutorial, Might is always 0 (representing mortal troops), so we’ll ignore it.

Magnitude replaces a unit’s health track, and represents casualties from death, injury or morale. It’s equal to the health levels of an individual soldier in the unit, plus the unit’s Size. When a battlegroup loses all magnitude, it must check to see if it routs. If not, it loses a point of Size and then refills its magnitude.

This group of Avarice’s bandits has the same stats as the two Hikari and Tsune fought earlier. It has a few dozen members (Size 2), Average Drill (+1 Defence) and magnitude 9 (7 health levels + 2 size).

The ST lets Hikari and Tsune kill the sentries as part of their stunt, but asks them to roll Join Battle to fight the actual battlegroup. Everyone’s Join Battle pools are the same as before - 13 Hikari, 7 Tsune, 4 bandits. None of the battlegroup traits help Join Battle!

2, 4, 5, 5, 6, 6, 6, 7, 7, 7, 7, 9, 10

7 successes for Hikari, for 10 Initiative.

1, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 10

5 successes for Tsune, for 8 Initiative.

1, 2, 7, 10

3 successes for the bandits, for 6 Initiative.

Hikari goes first!

Attacking Battlegroups - Withering

Hikari raced into the thick of the bandits, hoping to draw their attacks to her and away from Tsune. She skipped up over a wagon to land over Aoi’s still form, swiftly cutting down three more brigands to give her company in the underworld.

The Storyteller is happy to consider the battle to start at close range, as everyone is happy to mix it up hand-to-hand. Hikari goes first and makes a withering attack. Her pool is as before - 15 dice. The bandits have their normal Defence of 4, plus 1 for Drill, totalling 5.

1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 4, 5, 5, 8, 9, 9, 9, 10, 10, 10

10 successes, for 5 extra. Hikari’s base damage is still 12 (Strength 3 + weapon 9), for 17 total. The bandit’s Soak is their previous 5 + 2 for Size, totalling 7. 10 damage dice remain.

2, 4, 5, 5, 7, 7, 7, 9, 9, 10

7 successes. However, Hikari gains only 1 Initiative (for hitting with a withering attack, as normal. This takes her to 11) and and the bandits lose none.

Battlegroup Initiative is inert. Under normal circumstances they don’t gain or lose Initiative from attacks, and make no use of it other than for turn order. When hit by a withering attack, they take the damage successes directly to their magnitude. Hikari just stripped 7 of their 9 magnitude, not enough to force a rout but absolutely a devastating attack.

So what happened? We could narrate it as her killing a dozen or more opponents, but the usual assumption would be she killed a few, wounded more and demoralised many. The unit hasn’t lost effective fighting strength in real terms, but they’re perilously close and might disband and flee if subject to such a shocking attack again.

(in general, it is far easier to fight a battlegroup than an equivalent number of individual characters would be, should that be possible under the rules. What Hikari just did would take multiple decisive attacks using Initiative built up over many rounds, during which time she’d be subject to a blizzard of attacks that would bury her under Onslaught penalties. Instead she’s swiftly slaughtering them. This is partly genre convention, partly a sign that a lone battlegroup isn’t the intended tactical problem - they have a unique and dangerous role in a mixed force)

Tsune aims to deliver just that attack.

Rout and Magnitude Loss

Tsune seized the heads of two taller women and cracked them together with terrible force. She tossed them at their compatriots and jogged over to an open wine barrel that still had a few dresses floating in it, as if had been used as a bath. Straining under the weight of the thing, she hurled it at a squad of bandits racing out of the nearest palace, knocking them flying and staining them decidedly purple.

The bandit rush slowed. Who were these lunatics?

There are rules for feats of strength and improvised weapons; Tsune’s not bothering with them, just stunting her withering attack. Her pool is 13 as before. Battlegroups still suffer Onslaught penalties, so their Defence is 4 against this attack.

1, 3, 4, 5, 5, 5, 6, 6, 7, 8, 8, 9, 10

6 successes, so 2 extra successes. This is a hit, so she gains a point of Initiative and is now on 8. Tsune’s base damage is 12, so 14 total, less 7 soak for 7 dice.

1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 10

4 successes, so the battlegroup loses 4 points of magnitude. It only has two currently, so after they’re inflicted we resolve a number of effects that happen when a unit hits 0:

  • Tsune gains 5 Initiative, as if she’d gained an Initiative Break, taking her to 13
  • The unit makes a rout check. This is a difficulty 1 Willpower roll, which if failed causes the unit to dissolve. The bandits roll 1, 3, 9 and pass.
  • The unit loses a point of size. This takes the bandits down to 1.
  • Its magnitude refills based on its new size. That’s now 7 health levels + 1 size, for 8 magnitude.

The unit still exists (it didn’t rout or become size 0), so it now takes the remaining 2 damage, going to 6 magnitude remaining. They are unlikely to survive another attack from either girl; such is the might of heroes upon the battlefield.

Battlegroup Attacks

Something gave them courage - the wine in their bellies, the building desire for vengeance, terror of Avarice - and they held. Howling and surging, they pressed in on the girls, chopping with their crude blades and hurling their spoils.

Hikari deftly turned aside their swords, taking a few hands for their troubles, drawing the vortex of their attacks into a circle she would soon fill with steel.

Tsune was harder pressed, pushed away from her lover towards a palace and a black gate as she skidded back over furniture, chests and crockery, catching each earnest blow with her cestus but losing ground at each attack.

On Initiative tick 6, the bandits take their turn. Battlegroups only make withering attacks, but they direct those attacks at all targets in contact with them (if hand to hand) or all targets in close range of their primary target (if ranged).

Their pool is 7 as with the previous bandits, plus 1 for their size. Note that despite their terrible losses, they do not take wound penalties (only the reduced bonus for losing size). They roll their pool once and apply the result to all relevant Defence totals. Hikari’s Defence is ((Dexterity 5 + Melee 5 + Speciality) /2 ) + weapon Defence (1) + stunt (1) for a total of 8. Tsune’s is ((Dexterity 2 + Brawl 4 + Specialty) /2) + stunt (1) for 5.

2, 4, 4, 9, 9, 9, 10, 10

7 successes, missing Hikari but hitting Tsune with 2 extra successes. Their base damage is 11 as before (Strength 2 + weapon 9) plus 1 for size, for 14 with successes. Tsune’s soak is 4, leaving 10 damage dice.

1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 9, 10, 10

Bad, but thankfully 10s do not count twice for battlegroup damage rolls (as with decisive attacks). That means only 6 successes, causing Tsune to lose that much Initiative and drop to 7.

Destroying Battle Groups

A soldier surrounded by foes was doomed. Hikari stood above the silent Aoi, hemmed in by a dozen swords, footing made treacherous by the corpses of the bandit’s sisters the white haired girl had sent after her on her way.

But she was not a soldier. She just needed enough necks in reach.

The bandits pressing on Tsune heard the shouts of their comrades cut short. They saw the fountaining blood and cold blue eyes. They turned back to the other girl with frightened looks; she shrugged and they took the cue to bolt.

On the next round, Hikari is at 11 Initiative and gets first turn again despite Tsune briefly threatening to take it from her. She makes a withering attack, just as before, 15 dice against 5 defence.

1, 1, 2, 4, 4, 4, 5, 5, 6, 8, 8, 8, 10, 10, 10

9 successes, for 4 extra successes (and a hit, giving 1 point of Initiative and taking her to 12). That’s 16 damage with Hikari’s base 12, but the bandits’ soak is now only 6 as they’ve lost a point of size. She rolls 10 damage dice.

1, 1, 3, 4, 7, 8, 8, 9, 9, 9

6 successes, removing all remaining points of magnitude. The battlegroup does not test for rout as this reduces its size to 0 - they are destroyed. Hikari gains 5 Initiative, as Tsune did before, taking her to 17.

Joining a Battle in Progress, Giving Orders and Delaying

“That was bracing!” Tsune forced a smile, ignoring the bleeding corpses in a ring around Hikari, hoping to distract them both from just how much death had happened in a few seconds. “If you want to try that odd-looking place with the demon statues there, I’ll raid this nice teahouse setup and we can be on our…”

“Looters. Draw and fire!”

Hikari pulled Tsune down behind a cart, which promptly bristled with arrows. A large number of Cathak troops stood where the girls had slain the gate sentries, knocking their second lot of arrows. Their leader looked bold and well-armoured, though thankfully she was clad in steel and not the jade of a Dragon Blooded.

“They must have followed the trail of looting and dead to here. I told you they’d see us no different to the bandits. Go on, get what you can, I’ll hold them off.”

Tsune gave her the look. “Yes, I’m going to let my girlfriend get herself killed while I scavenge baubles. We’re doing this together, just like the bandits.”

The Storyteller announces that a size 2, Average Drill unit of Cathak troops (with identical stats to those fought by Avarice before) lead by an officer appear at medium range and enter the fight on tick 9.

She strenuously denies this is because Hikari and Tsune murdered the bandits quicker than she’d planned.

New combatants roll Join Battle and then take their turns as normal.

The officer’s Join Battle pool is 7

2, 5, 6, 6, 7, 10, 10

5 successes plus 3 is 8 Initiative.

The soldiers roll 5 dice, as before

1, 7, 8, 8, 10

Also 5 successes for 8 Initiative.

If either had rolled 10 or more Initiative, they would have acted on tick 9. Remember Initiative shenanigans can never cause you to lose your turn, so you simply act at the first opportunity.

When two characters act on the same tick, their actions are usually simultaneous. If the order matters, the players agree on which is considered to have been first. In this case on tick 8 the Storyteller agrees with herself that the leader goes first, and takes a Give Orders combat action targeting the battlegroup. She orders it to attack.

This is a difficulty 1 (Intelligence, Charisma or Appearance) + War roll targeting a friendly battlegroup. Success causes the battlegroup to take the action ordered on their next turn, and adds successes on the roll as a dice bonus to that action.

The leader has Charisma 4 and War 3, and rolls 7 dice. She spends a willpower from her pool of 5, going to 4.

1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10

4 successes plus 1 from willpower is 5, so the battlegroup will add 5 dice to their attack.

Delaying and Mobility Penalties

Before Hikari had the presence of mind to stop her, Tsune launched herself from behind the cart and into a dead run. Archers were slow, but staying far from them was very, very bad. Her eyes locked on the officer, sensing she was the real danger; with her present the soldiers would be focused and not easily scattered.

She stood on a few groaning and bleeding bandits on the way, regretting the cruelty but hoping it might demonstrate she wasn’t allied with them, and in fact partially responsible for their fate.

It didn’t help. When the wave of arrows washed towards her, she was obliged to through a hedge fence, suffering bruises and scrapes along with the indignity. Lying on exquisitely trimmed grass, she found herself staring at the corpse of a groundskeeper, murdered by the bandits; probably for her boots. An arrow pierced the dead hand, and Tsune continued to regret so many things about the course of today.

The battlegroup has a problem though - the girls are at medium range, so they need to Aim before they can attack. However the Storyteller is pretty sure Tsune will move towards them and into short range on her turn, so she has the battlegroup delay their turn.

Delaying your turn allows you to take the turn on any later initiative tick you please during the round, at a cost of 2 Initiative. This drops the battlegroup to 6 Initiative.

Tsune takes the bait. On tick 7 she moves to short range of the Cathak troops and then performs a Rush on their leader. Her pool is Dex (2) + Athletics (3) + Stunt (2) for 7 dice. The leader has Dexterity 3 and Athletics 3 but suffers her medium armour causes her to take a -1 dice mobility penalty. This penalty applies to rolls related to running, chasing, dodging and Evasion.

Tsune’s 1, 2, 2, 4, 6, 10, 10 opposes the leader’s 1, 2, 3, 3, 9

With 4 successes to 1, Tsune wins and can guarantee closing with the leader on her next turn. Her player insists that the Storyteller give the leader a rank or a name so that the group can sensibly talk about her; the ST is a bit fuzzy on ranks for mortals in House armies and gives her a name of Jiaying.

The battlegroup chooses to take their action on tick 6 (their current Initiative of 5 doesn’t stop them taking their delayed action whenever they please). They make a withering attack on Tsune, which resolves simultaneously with her Rush (and can’t change its result so no problems there). Their pool is Dex (3) + Archery (3) + Accuracy (4) + Size (2) + Jiaying’s bonus (5) for a total of 17. Tsune’s defence is 5 as usual.

1, 1, 2, 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 5, 6, 7, 7, 7, 8, 9, 9 10

8 successes, for 3 extra successes. Damage is Strength (3) + weapon damage (9) + Size (2) + successes (3) - soak (4) for a total of 13 dice.

1, 1, 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 7, 8, 8, 9, 10, 10

7 successes (remembering 10s do not count twice for battlegroup damage). Tsune loses 7 Initiative and drops to 0, in Crash. Nobody gets the Initiative Break bonus, and the battlegroup’s Initiative does not change.

Full Defence and Battlegroups Attacking Crashed Targets

Hikari knew exactly one Old Realm word, one a minor sword god that had chanced upon the girls practicing with sticks in their younger days assured her was a curse to make demons blush.

She shouted it at the top of her voice when Tsune took off and raced after her. When the other girl made her undignified jaunt into the hedge she considered following, but calmed herself and let her sword float of its own accord, cutting arrows from the air as she relentlessly drove towards the enemy.

Jiaying saw these two were not common bandits, and despite their youth exceptionally dangerous. They may indeed have cut down the bandit corpses strewn through the looted treasures. All the more reason to have them dead, for Lady Sugira’s peace of mind. “Hold…hold…”

Tsune shrugged at the poor groundskeeper, rolled back out of the hedge and tore out a branch as a makeshift shield.


Hikari defined a space in which arrows could not exist. A shaft that entered it would be cut, the archer’s heart pricked with despair that they dared to challenge the sword.

Tsune collected several shafts by swatting them with her branch…but her charge crashed to a halt as she collected one in the shoulder. The “shield” dropped as her left arm substituted pain for obedience to her desires, and blood ran down through her fingers.

“Tsune!” Hikari made to run for her, but stopped after a heartbeat. “Go. Go now! I can’t protect you and kill them at the same time.”

“Protecting is something…we do for each other. It’s not just you…” Tsune trailed off, staring at the arrow protruding from the shoulder that was now only agony.

Then the archers raised their bows once more. Tsune knew how this ended. Wounded, she could not block all the arrows. The next would kill her. Hikari would murder every Cathak guard she could find, then die at the hands of a Dragon Blooded. Not one urchin that was waiting for them would get off the island.

The black gates caught her eye. She ran, fighting tears as she wished to be fighting archers.

On the next round, Hikari takes her turn on tick 17. She closes to short range on the enemy, and judging that they’d all rather keep shooting than escape, forgoes a Rush, choosing instead to use the Full Defence combat action. This action costs 1 Initiative (dropping her to 16) and increases her Defence by 2 until her next turn. It cannot be flurried.

On tick 8, Jiaying makes another attack order, spending willpower again (taking her to 3 points). She rolls the same pool as before

1, 2, 4, 7, 8, 9, 10

5 successes, plus 1 for willpower, means 6 extra dice for the archers’ attack.

On tick 6, the archers make another withering attack, targeting Tsune as their primary target. The Storyteller rules that Hikari is in close range and thus is also a target. Their pool is now 18 (Dex + Archery 6, Accuracy 4, Size 2, Jiaying 6). That’s not too bad for Hikari, whose 8 Defence is raised to 10 by Full Defence. Tsune however is suffering a 1 point Onslaught penalty. She spends a willpower point (taking her to 3 points) to offset this, leaving her at 5 Defence.

1, 2, 2, 3, 4, 4, 4, 4, 5, 5, 6, 6, 7, 8, 8, 8, 9, 10

7 successes, missing Hikari and hitting Tsune with 2 extra. Damage is Strength (3) + weapon damage (9) + Size (2) + successes (2) - soak (4) for a total of 12 dice.

1, 2, 2, 2, 3, 4, 4, 4, 8, 10, 10, 10

4 successes. Tsune does not lose any Initiative - battlegroup attacks against Crashed targets inflict damage directly to the health track. Tsune’s -0, both -1 and her first -2 health levels are filled with lethal damage. She is now taking a -2 wound penalty, and since the 4 health levels of this wound equal her Stamina of 4, she is bleeding and will lose one health level per minute until the bleeding is stanched or she dies.

On tick 0, Tsune’s player pouts at Hikari’s and then declares she moves away to Medium range. She asks the Storyteller if she should use a Withdraw action for that, and is informed not to bother - it’s unlikely the troops will get past Hikari before she can get to extreme range.

While battlegroups do make it easy for heroes to slaughter large numbers of mooks, their very high dice pools when competently lead and their ability to generate health level damage without playing the withering/decisive game makes them very dangerous if left unkilled.

Originally Posted by Exalted veteran: Shouldn’t Hikari have used Defend Other?

Yeah, she really should have.

Hikari’s been making the Dex 5 build look great as usual in this tutorial, but alternate builds like Tsune’s Strength 5 are a lot better in the new edition. However, this works best in a context where those with lower Defence are effectively protected by their friends.

Hikari has a good build, but that doesn’t imply she’s showing off the best tactics.

Harder Rout Checks

Hikari quelled her rage. Tsune was badly hurt, but alive. The bows were turning to the swordswoman as she approached, and away from her lover. For a few precious moments she could forget Tsune’s pain and blood, and enter a clean world of sharp vectors and elegant curves.

Jiaying was a skilled with the blade herself, and blocked Hikari’s first overhand blow as she streaked into melee. Just as expected. The white haired girl pushed, and somehow all her momentum flowed into the older woman, sending her flying back through her own troops and into the chains where the bandit sentry whose neck Tsune snapped still hung. Ignoring the arrows now wildly ricocheting through the gates, she leapt and spun, landing on Jiyaying’s shoulders and driving the blade through a living and dead throat to shatter against the silvery metal. She dropped forward, seizing the Imperial Officer’s sword as it fell, and set to collecting heads.

She had no more than ten by the time fear ruined the unit; she took only five more as they scattered.

On tick 16 of the next round, Hikari takes her turn, reaches close range and makes a withering attack against Jiaying. Hikari’s pool is 15 as usual, and she spends a willpower point, taking her to 5 points (her rating is 6). Jiaying’s parry is 5.

2, 3, 3, 4, 5, 5, 6, 6, 7, 8, 8, 8, 10, 10, 10

10 successes, plus 1 for willpower is 11, or 6 extra successes. That’s 18 damage when added to her base of 12, minus 8 for Jiaying’s soak (Stamina 3, medium armour 5) for 10 dice remaining.

1, 2, 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 8, 8, 10

6 successes. Hikari gains 7 Initiative and goes to 23. Jiaying loses 6 and goes to 1, mercifully not Crashed.

The battlegroup delays again, dropping to 4 Initiative and choosing to act simultaneously with Jiaying on tick 1.

Jiaying orders again, spending yet another willpower:

1, 4, 7, 7, 7, 8, 10

6 successes, for 7 bonus dice!

The soldiers attack, however their accuracy at close range is -2. Their pool is now Dex (3) + Archery (3) + Size (2) + Jiaying (7) + Accuracy (-2) for 15. Hikari’s Defence is 8, but she really wants to protect that Initiative and buys one more point with willpower (dropping to 4 points).

2, 2, 3, 4, 5, 5, 5, 5, 7, 7, 7, 8, 8, 9, 10

8 successes versus 9 defence, a very narrow miss.

The round changes again, and Hikari declares a decisive attack against Jiaying. Her pool is 13 as normal but the Storyteller really likes her sword-shattering stunt and grants a two pointer for one extra success, versus Defence 5.

2, 2, 4, 4, 6, 7, 7, 8, 8, 9, 9, 9, 9

8 successes plus one for a stunt, a hit, allowing her to roll her 21 Initiative as damage.

1, 1, 2, 3, 3, 4, 4, 5, 5, 5, 6, 6, 6, 6, 7, 7, 9, 9, 9, 10, 10

7 successes. The mortal officers of the Cathak House Legions are mighty, but even they have only seven health levels, and Jiaying is dead. Hikari regains one willpower for her stunt, and is on 5 points. Her Initiative resets to 3.

This is bad for the archers. With no order boosting their roll, their attack on tick 4 is made at Dex (3) + Archery (3) + Size (2) + Accuracy (-2) dice for 6 against a Defence of 9 (the ST allows Hikari’s stunt to ride on defence).

2, 3, 7, 7, 8, 8

4 successes doesn’t cut it. Tsune’s player pouts; if only she’d got into close range unwounded she could have enjoyed pummeling them in the safety of hand-to-hand range.

On the following round, both sides are at Initiative 3. Since Hikari might take a point of Size off them and thus affect their attack, the ST gives her the first turn out of consideration of being a player character.

Only a one point stunt this round, but that’s still a healthy pool of 15, versus a Defence of 4 (the Defence 3 the archers had before, +1 for Drill).

1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 4, 4, 7, 7, 7, 8, 8, 8, 10, 10

10 successes, for 6 extra. With her base damage of 12 that’s 18, less 8 soak (Stam 3 + light armour 3 + size 2) for 10 dice remaining.

1, 2, 6, 7, 7, 8, 9, 9, 10, 10

A very lucky 9 successes wipes out the unit’s Magnitude check and forces a rout check. A number of factors can increase the rout check’s difficulty by 1: each point of Size damage the unit has taken previously, one or more allied leaders or heroes slain, an allied battle group has been destroyed, or the check being provoked by a devastating supernatural power. This group has seen Jiaying destroyed, and the ST rules that while the slaughtered bandits were not allies, the dreadful implication of their fate causes it to count too. That raises the difficulty to 3, and the unit rolls their willpower rating:

2, 8, 9

2 successes, not good enough. Their morale breaks and the Cathak troops throw down their bows and scatter, the survivors no longer considered combatants.

Originally Posted by I've read the Exalted 3 rules, shouldn't that be a clash?

We'll cover Clash attacks later, but in the case of Battlegroups they only apply if it makes sense to the ST that they do. In this case she preferred to have Hikari resolve her attack first.

Crash Recovery and Stemming Bleeding

There were arrows and shuriken everywhere. Blood patches and trails among them, but no bodies…

…except in that temple over there. Tsune had a moment of total panic when she recognised the thick plates encasing a seated figure as jade armour, but when the Dragon Blooded failed to move she released a long breath and calmed down. What was she doing again?

Oh, yes, dying.

She didn’t have much choice for a bandage, ripping off the bottom of her shirt in a fashion that screamed “yes, stab me here”. Removing the arrow was agonising, and brought out yet more blood, but let her wrap and compress the wound in a way that would keep the remaining red stuff in her. Tsune didn’t fancy herself a doctor, but it wasn’t the first time she or Hikari had bled on an escapade, and she dearly hoped it wasn’t the last.

She must have been concentrating very hard on doctoring her wound, because when she looked up again the black gates had closed. Well, Hikari would catch her easily enough, and she didn’t fancy climbing over the damn wall with her shoulder like that. Staying near a place a Dragon Blooded had died would be easily the worst idea she’d had in a day of right shockers, and so she paced off along the blood trail.

Whoever laid that down was in worse shape than Tsune, so there was a limit to how bad that path could get.

Tsune has survived three rounds Crashed while Hikari busily murdered Cathak troops. After three rounds of Crash, you are restored to 3 Initiative at the start of your following turn.

She isn’t really in the combat any more, and it’s basically over, but it makes her player happy to cross the 0 off her scrap paper and replace it with a 3.

Of course that means bleeding will become a problem. Stanching bleeding is an Intelligence + Medicine roll at a difficulty equal to the character’s current wound penalty, which for Tsune is 2. Treating yourself adds an extra difficulty, raising it to 3. She’s actually not bad at first aid, with an Intelligence of 3 and a Medicine of 2. Her one point stunt offsets the two dice wound penalty, leaving her with 5 dice. She spends a willpower for a success, taking her to 2 points.

3, 7, 9, 9, 10

5 successes plus 1 versus difficulty 3 means no more bleeding! Tsune lives!

Sadly the wounds themselves are not so easily treated. Mortals take a long time to heal wounds; Tsune is looking at four weeks of bed rest before she’s in top condition again.

Cathak Talevu filled the air around her with water, drowning all motion but her own and lending her arms the infinite strength of the tide. She called the secret name of her khatars, unleashing the dragon power that waited within. She held her stance perfected, and began yet again to strike with her ancient temple arts.

Yet she seemed to see all the world’s stars pass underneath her chin in a shimmering blur. She heard the click of a slender daiklave returned to its sheath, and then the world tumbled though she felt no movement of her body.

There was a moment of beautiful silence; the young woman drank in its elegance with the silent satisfaction of one who had completed a chore to perfection. She dragged the heavy body in all its jade into a pretty garden that had somehow remained untouched in the terrible battle, set its head back as neatly as she might, and placed a white lily in Cathak Talevu’s lap.

Ambush and Surprise Attacks

The blood trail went surprisingly far; the victim must have been a disciplined crawler in her last minutes. Tsune felt she must be drawing near the centre of the Forbidden Quarter - fabulous towers, forges with abandoned jade tools, a coffee house replete with telescopes and a great observatory for taking in the stars. Even the wealth gathered near the Nexus Gate could not compare.

Ahead she could see a truly gigantic gate, resplendent in what seemed be glowing gold. It stood open, revealing a hexagonal courtyard with four more golden gates, tightly shut with their chains taught, and great open wooden doors to a breathtaking palace. Gardens filled the courtyard, and a great fountain gushed happily in the center.

The bloodtrail lead there. And indeed a corpse in Cathak colors rested against the edge of the fountain, surrounded by concerned and angry sisters-in-arms. Tsune clutched at her shoulder and felt her own anger rising. This time she could get close. She still had her right arm…

Her squawk was stifled as she passed the gates and was pulled abruptly into the garden. She was much stronger than the woman who grappled her and simply shrugged her off, but had the presence of mind to duck down into the foliage and no attract Imperial attention.

The woman was dressed in motley over armour, but each colour was a strip of cloth that had once been exquisite finery. Her long red hair fell in braids, shuriken seemed to be tucked into every fold in the armour that would take them, and something about her expression made Tsune’s good hand ball into a fist. None other than Splendid Avarice herself.

“You! Your bloody bandits have been trying to kill us all morning.”

“Oh, that’s just because they’re too stupid to distinguish targets. Uh…Tuna isn’t it? The one with the pretty girlfriend.”

“TSUNE. And she’s the one with the pretty girlfriend, I’m the one with the beautiful girlfriend.”

“Oh, I was just about to offer you work, but I think it might not be able to resist strangling you.”

“Work for you? We just killed half your bandits!”

“Why do you think I’m hiring? Look, if you’re here you’re looting, there’s no other sane reason to be here. Do you want a crack at that palace or not?”

“Fine.” Tsune took a deep breath, looked at the fabulous lobby beyond the doors, and compromised her ethics. “I’ll start on them, just remember if you hit me with those shuriken Hikari will take your head.”

“Can’t trust much about me, sweetheart, but you can trust my aim. Just wait for me to take the first shot, then blindside ‘em when they’re reacting.” Avarice grinned, a murderous light in her eyes that was the opposite of Hikari’s ice but just as deadly. “Idiots should have had the sense not to be born in the Realm!”

Two fistfuls of shuriken lanced into the Cathak troops, finding faces, wrists and throats. Streams of blood ran into the fountain, drawn into its deep workings to be pumped crimson into the air. Avarice waved cheerily from the bushes, then dived noisily through the foliage as hefted spears and drawn swords were turned her way. The soldiers hacked at trees and statues, but found no bandit.

Tsune had to admit she provided an excellent distraction. It must have killed her to wait still in the bushes to spring her trap, so full was she of flourish and nervous energy. The brawler was feeling a little that way herself.

Leaping out, she slammed an open palm into a soldier’s face, lifting her by raw strength and flinging her through her friends to splash into the fountain. As troops rushed in at Tsune, she let her left arm dangle uselessly and lashed out with kicks, crushing right fists and bruising backhands, until an extremely satisfying amount of Cathak-armoured women lay groaning at her feet.

Stealth is a Dexterity + Stealth against Perception + Awareness opposed check. Earlier, Avarice made such a roll to hide herself from the Cathak troops attending her fallen foe. Her pool was Dexterity (4) + Stealth (4) + Speciality (Urban) + Stunt 2 - wound penalty (1) for a total of 10 dice

2, 3, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 10

6 successes! The soldiers’ pool is Perception (3) + Awareness (3) for 6 dice.

1, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9

Technically when Avarice pulled Tsune into the bushes the Storyteller could have called for more Stealth rolls from both of them, but she liked their banter and just let Avarice’s roll ride.

When the players decide they want to attack, everyone rolls Join Battle.

Avarice’s pool is 9 dice - her earlier 10 minus 1 for her wound penalty.

2, 3, 3, 6, 8, 9, 10, 10, 10

8 successes, plus 3 for 11 Initiative.

Tsune’s pool is her earlier 7, minus 2 for her wound penalty.

1, 2, 3, 5, 8

1 success for 4 Initiative.

The soldiers have a pool of 6 (like all the other Cathak soldiers so far).

3, 4, 4, 6, 9, 10

3 successes for 6 Initiative.

Avarice takes the first turn. When you attack a target who is not aware that they are in combat, it is considered an ambush. That target’s Defence is considered to be 0 against your attack. These Cathak troops are a size 2 battlegroup largely identical to the archers Tsune and Hikari fought earlier, but have medium armour and medium melee weapons, giving them a Parry of 4. But Avarice will be rolling her pool of 14 against Defence 0.

1, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 5, 6, 6, 7, 9, 10, 10, 10

8 successes, which is 8 extra successes, cancelling the soldier’s soak of 8. Avarice rolls all of her base damage of 9

2, 2, 3, 4, 4, 7, 8, 9, 10

5 successes, taking over half of their 9 magnitude. Not bad for shuriken against heavy armour! As usual with a successful withering attack she gains 1 Initiative and goes to 12.

On Initiative tick 6, the soldiers act. They make an attack targeting Avarice; they know they’re in combat but they’re not yet aware of Tsune and cannot include her in their attack, despite the ST running the whole fight at close range.

Their pool is 10 dice - Dexterity (3) + Melee (3) + Size (2) + weapon Accuracy (2). Avarice’s Defence is still 5.

2, 3, 3, 4, 5, 5, 8, 9, 9, 9

4 successes doesn’t get them over the line.

Finally on tick 4 Tsune acts, and makes a withering attack against the soldiers. Because they do realise they are in combat but are being attacked from hiding, they suffer a penalty of 2 to their Defence. This takes their Defence of 4 down to 2. Tsune’s pool is her normal 13, minus 2 for her wound penalty for a final 11.

1, 2, 2, 4, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 10

6 successes for 4 extra successes. Her base damage is 12, taking her to 16, then down to 8 dice after the soldier’s soak

1, 4, 4, 5, 5, 8, 9, 10

4 successes, taking the remaining 4 points of their magnitude. Tsune gains Initiative Break and rises to 10 Initiative (including 1 for her successful withering attack). The soldiers make a rout check with their willpower rating of 3

1, 4, 9

1 success is enough to keep them on the field. They then fall to 1 size and 8 magnitude.

Reestablishing Surprise

“Where did she go?” hissed the remaining soldiers, backing up to the fountain with wary eyes on both Tsune and the gardens.

“Excellent question.” Tsune abruptly found herself the only viable target for the soldiers, who expected the bandit to ambush them again but saw no reason not to kill the brawler in the meantime. As she met their charge by breaking arms and shattering spears, she grew increasingly irritable at the lack of flying shuriken. “Don’t forget our deal, you overdressed freak!”

When at last she was surrounded, holding her own but growing concerned she would not win before taking another wound, Tsune saw red braids and shining steel rising up from the greenery and reflexively shielded her face. When she looked again, naught but bodies surrounded her.

“Trust my aim, darling.”

Reestablishing surprise is a combat action that cannot be flurried, so when Avarice chooses to do so on tick 12 it’s all she’ll be doing for the round. It’s a Dexterity + Stealth vs Perception + Awareness roll like any other stealth check.

As before, Avarice’s pool is 10 dice

1, 3, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 9, 10

6 successes! The soldiers oppose with 6 dice as before, which aren’t good odds.

6, 6, 7, 7, 8, 9

4 successes is not enough to keep track of the wily bandit; she is now once again hidden from them. They cannot attack her and when she attacks again it will be a surprise attack.

On tick 10 Tsune attacks again, once more with a pool of 11, but benefiting from the Onslaught penalty she inflicted herself to go against Defence 3.

2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 9, 9, 10, 10

9 successes, for 6 extra; the hit takes her to 11 Initiative. Base 12 damage for 18 against 7 (1 lower than last time due to loss of size) soak, for a final 11 dice.

1, 4, 5, 5, 6, 6, 6, 7, 8, 10, 10bold text

6 successes removes that much magnitude, leaving the soldiers with a measly 2.

On tick 6, they act themselves, rallying for one last push against Tsune. Their pool is now only 9 with their size bonus reduced, but Tsune’s wound penalty drags her normal Defence of 5 down to 3.

1, 1, 2, 3, 3, 5, 7, 8, 9

3 successes is just a hit. Damage is Strength (3) + weapon Damage (9) + Size (1) + extra successes (0) - soak (4) totalling 9 dice.

2, 2, 4, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10, 10

4 successes (no double 10s for battlegroup damage), taking Tsune from 11 to 7 Initiative.

Finally the round changes over once again, and on tick 12 Avarice finally makes her attack. 14 dice against Defence 4 reduced to 2 by the surprise attack.

1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 2, 5, 6, 6, 7, 8, 8, 9, 10

5 successes for 3 extra. Base 9 damage + 3 successes - 7 soak is 5 dice damage.

3, 3, 7, 8, 10

4 successes is plenty to knock off the last 2 points of magnitude. The battlegroup falls to 0 size, Avarice gains 5 Initiative plus 1 for the hit and climbs to 18; the way to the satrap’s palace is clear.

…but the Storyteller isn’t putting down her dice.

Exalted and Excellencies

A meteor struck the fountain, and it exploded in steam. Tsune blinked, her jaw going slacker than her useless left arm.

A heartbeat later, when Cathak Sugira surged out of the clouds wreathed in flame, her red jade daiklave twice the size of the stunned girl, Tsune saw the meteor was a woman. But not a human. Exalted. Warrior of the Dragon Blooded Host. Elemental bodhisattva. Absolute destruction clad in impenetrable jade plate.

Sugira is using the Young Dynast Quick Character template from page 541 of the corebook. The stats of this template are not actually impressive, but as we will see the arms and power of the Exalted more than make up the difference.

As an Exalt, Sugira has a number of additional traits - her Essence rating of 1 is not actually higher than most beings, but she is able to tap into its power, granting her mote pools of 12 Personal (10 attuned to her wargear) and 27 Peripheral to fuel her Charms.

Charms are the special abilities of the Exalted, the supernatural might that elevates them above mortal heroes like Avarice, Hikari and Tsune. The simplest of these is the Excellency, a separate Charm for each Ability that allows the Exalt to purchase additional dice for a roll or static total with motes. Sugira’s Dragon Blooded Excellencies allow her to spend 1 willpower to reroll a failed die from a roll so enhanced.

Her Join Battle pool is 6, but she can buy an additional 2 dice for 2 motes with her Awareness Excellency. She does so, going to 8 dice and paying the 2 motes out of her remaining personal motes, going to 0.

3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

Sugira spends a willpower point (dropping to 4) to reroll the 3. The result is a 7, so she has 6 successes total and 9 Initiative.

Yet again Tsune is trumped by combatants joining the battle mid-round. At least this time she can blame dragon magic.

Supplemental Charms, Peripheral Motes and Anima Banner

Tsune tried to launch back and open some space, but the Dragon Blooded charged with terrifying speed, sweeping her daiklave around in a massive swing around her body. For a moment the brawler thought it would just hit the stone of the courtyard - which it did, and slid through it as if it was butter. She managed to somehow twist to avoid its eversharp edge, but the impact threw her back into the garden and through a tree. Her body was singed, the splinters of the tree smouldering.

Though it was not yet a bonfire, the air around Cathak Sugira burned.

“You parasites drain us of the noble soldiers upon whom this city’s safety depends. Die quickly that at least you do not waste my time along with the city’s lifeblood.”

On tick 9, Sugira takes her turn.

Charms have different types. Permanent Charms are always in effect, Reflexive Charms can be activated whenever they’re appropriate, and Supplemental Charms enhance a character’s dice actions. Excellencies behave as Reflexive or Supplemental as needed. Charms generally must be activated before making a roll that they enhance.

Sugira has a Supplemental Charm named Stoking Bonfire Style that she may activate when making an attack at a cost of 2 motes. It adds 4 raw damage to a withering attack, or 1 die to a decisive (2 at 11+ Initiative). She declares a withering attack against Tsune and activates both her Melee Excellency to add 4 dice for 4 motes, and Stoking Bonfire Style for 4 motes. Her base pool is 9 +4 (Excellency) for 13 dice. Tsune’s Defence is 3, dropping to 2 from her Onslaught penalty.

1, 1, 4, 4, 5, 5, 6, 6, 7, 8, 10, 10, 10

8 successes, for 6 extra. Her base damage is 15 (a daiklave has a damage rating of +12, being essentially a sharpened bulldozer blade), + Stoking Bonfire Style (4) + successes (6) - soak (4) for 21 dice of damage.

1, 1, 2, 2, 2, 2, 4, 4, 4, 6, 6, 6, 7, 7, 7, 8, 9, 10, 10, 10

11 successes. Sugira gains 12 Initiative, going to 21. Tsune drops by 11 to -4, Crashing and granting Initiative Break. Sugira’s final Initiative is 26.

Sugira spent her 6 motes out of her Peripheral pool, going to 21. Spending 5 or more motes from this pool in an instant advances an Exalt’s anima by one level - a visible display of her Essence that ranges from a dim glow to a bonfire of energy visible from great distances. The Dragon Blooded’s anima is now at the Glowing level. She wants to advance it to the Bonfire level, at which point she can reflexively burn her enemies.

Mote Drip, Overwhelming and Anima Flux

Hikari will be here soon.

Tsune dragged herself up, made a fist of her right hand, and made one last defiant charge.

She’s not invincible. Three of us will be enough. Has to be. I’ve already seen one dead Dragon Blood today.

Slamming her fist into a jade plate hurt even more than she imagined, but she shifted the Exalt back a step. Not invincible. Very tough. Tsune met her eyes, and saw something like a human - mourning lost comrades, betrayed by her allies, bound by duty - but with an impossible fury. She remembered Hikari’s words - “We’re just like them” - and saw herself in Cathak Sugira’s eyes. A bandit. A scavenger. A parasite. Not the hero.

“Ah.” she said, before her crumpled body hit a great golden gate like a peal of thunder, and so many of her bones disintegrated.

Tsune did not get up again.

Avarice found the shuriken in her hands in spite of herself, found them flying towards the Dragon Blooded before she could think. But they were like unto a gentle rain, serving only to turn the Cathak her way.

And then the fire came. The daiklave ripped the dancing bandit from the air and smashed her into the stone. She coughed out her breath and only the flames of the Dragon Blooded’s anima found her lungs. She scattered shuriken as she tried to roll, but found herself smashed to the threshold of the palace she had meant to loot.

Avarice’s motley burned away and her flesh cooked as Cathak Sugira stood above her.

“Thus end the thieves. May I at last prepare to defend this city against its true foes?”

And the burning daiklave punched through Splendid Avarice’s ribs and deep into the stone below.

On tick -4, Tsune attempts a Withering attack. Her pool is still 11. Sugira’s Defence is 4, which she raises to 6 with her Melee Excellency at a cost of 4 motes Peripheral (dropping to 17).

1, 1, 3, 3, 4, 4, 7, 8, 8, 9, 10

6 successes, hitting with 0 extra successes. Her base damage is 12, against Sugira’s soak of 11 (artifact medium armour contributing 8), leaving 1 die of damage.


Tsune gains 2 Initiative, going to -2. Cathak Sugira loses 1, going to 25.

At the end of the round, each Exalted regains up to 5 spent motes. She cannot regain motes committed to effects or powers (such as the 10 motes committed to Sugira’s wargear). Our Cathak friend chooses to refill 5 of the 6 Peripheral motes she's spent, going to 22.

On the next round at tick 25, she makes a decisive attack against Tsune. Her pool is 6, but she buys another 4 dice with her Melee Excellency and activates Stoking Bonfire Style again for a total of 6 motes (going to 16). Tsune’s Defence is 3, and she spends a willpower to raise it to 4, taking her to her last willpower point.

(her player is slightly salty that she hasn’t received any two point stunts, obviously due to lack of corpse kissing)

1, 1, 1, 3, 3, 3, 6, 9, 10, 10

5 successes is a hit. Sugira rolls 25 damage dice, plus 2 from Stoking Bonfire Style.

2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 5, 6, 7, 7, 7, 7, 8, 8, 8, 8, 9, 9, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10

16 lethal health levels of damage. Tsune’s health track is filled almost three times.

“She’s dead in the prologue?” Hikari’s player says incredulously.

“I get to decide if someone recovers from Incapacitated. Or, well, triple Incapacitated” the ST replies.

“Tsune doesn’t have bones anymore. Or blood. You need blood.”

Sugira spent 5+ peripheral motes again, and her anima advances to the Burning level, sending smoke and flaming essence rolling off her body. Her Initiative resets to 3.

On tick 18, Avarice makes a withering attack. Her pool is still 14, and the Dragon Blooded once again spends 4 motes to raise her Defence to 6, going to 12 peripheral motes.

1, 3, 4, 4, 4, 5, 6, 6, 6, 7, 8, 9, 9, 10

6 successes hits with 0 extra successes. Avarice’s base damage is 9, minus soak of 11 is…-2.

All weapons have a trait called Overwhelming. This is the minimum damage it can roll on a withering attack after soak. Avarice’s shuriken have Overwhelming 1 (like most mortal weapons), so she rolls 1 die.


With no successes, Avarice gains 1 Initiative for hitting, and goes to 16. Sugira loses no Initiative.

The round changes over; the Cathak regains 5 peripheral motes, putting her on 13. On tick 16, Avarice attempts a decisive attack, hoping to get this somewhat under control by inflicting a wound penalty, and then maybe running away screaming. Her pool is 10 dice, and Sugira again boosts her Defence with her Excellency, ending on 8 peripheral motes with a Defence of 5 after Onslaught. A willpower point takes that 6 Defence (dropping her to 2 points of willpower).

1, 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9, 9, 10

5 successes is a narrow miss, and Avarice loses 3 Initiative to go to 15.

On tick 3, Sugira spends 6 peripheral motes making yet another Excellency/Stoking Bonfire Style withering attack, ending on 7. Her pool is 13, Avarice’s Defence is 5.

1, 2, 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 4, 7, 10, 10, 10

7 successes, for 2 extra. Base damage (15) + Stoking Bonfire Style (4) + successes (2) - soak (6) is 15 dice of damage.

1, 1, 3, 3, 3, 4, 6, 7, 7, 8, 8, 9, 9, 9, 10

9 successes. Sugira gains 10 Initiative and rises to 13. Avarice loses 9 and drops to 6.

For insult to injury, the Cathak’s Anima advances one more stage to Bonfire. She inflicts one withering damage on all non-Dragon Blooded at close range each turn.


1 success. Sugira goes to 14 Initiative, Avarice to 5. The round ends, and the Cathak gains 5 motes to to go to 12 peripheral, still wreathed in the bonfire flames of her anima.

On tick 14 of the new round, the Dragon Blooded takes her turn. One more withering damage.


Sugira goes to 15 Initiative, Avarice to 4.

The Dragon-Blooded makes yet another relentless withering attack with Melee Excellency and Stoking Bonfire Style, spending to 6 peripheral (though her anima advances no further, Bonfire is as far as it goes). Her pool is unchanged at 13, but Avarice suffers Onslaught and drops to 4 Defence. She spends willpower to buy back up to 5, leaving her on 3 points.

(her player begins thinking about how shameful it is to die with willpower unspent)

1, 1, 1, 2, 3, 4, 4, 6, 7, 9, 9, 10, 10

7 successes for 2 extra. This gives her 15 dice of damage, exactly like last time.

1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 4, 4, 4, 5, 5, 7, 8, 8, 9, 9

A terrible roll, but 5 successes is enough to Crash the bandit. Sugira gains 6 Initiative and goes to 21. Avarice loses 5 and goes to -1. The Cathak gains Initiative Break and is thus on 26.

On tick -2, Avarice makes a defiant last withering attack. Her pool is 14, and she spends willpower for a success. Sugira’s Defence is 4, and for now she’d prefer to conserve her resources, confident in her soak.

1, 1, 1, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 5, 8, 8, 8, 10, 10

7 successes, for 3 extra. Added to her base of 9 that’s 12 damage, minus 11 soak is 1 die.


With 0 successes, Avarice gains only 1 Initiative and climbs back up to 0, but is still Crashed. Sugira loses 1, to 25.

The round is over. Sugira regains 5 motes, going to 11 peripheral. The hammer falls.

On tick 25 the bonfire anima burns Avarice; Crashed targets take Lethal damage from Dragon Blooded Anima Flux, rather than losing further Initiative.


Avarice fills in her second -1 Health Level. The Dragon Blooded makes the fatal decisive attack, boosting her pool to 10 with Melee Excellency (ending on 7 peripheral) and spending a willpower for a success (1 point remaining). Avarice’s Defence is still 5, and she spends her last willpower to take it to 6.

1, 1, 2, 3, 3, 7, 7, 7, 8, 8

5 successes plus 1 for willpower gives 6, a hit. Sugira rolls 24 damage dice.

1, 2, 2, 2, 3, 4, 4, 4, 4, 6, 6, 6, 7, 7, 7, 7, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 9, 9, 10

12 successes. Avarice’s remaining health levels are comprehensively filled. Sugira’s initiative is reset to 3.

Cherry blossoms swirled gently around the docks. Sweet but mournful music haunted the air, and poems were born unbidden in the hearts of the confused onlookers.

A single delicate foot in a simple but beautiful sandal touched the island.

Every gate flew open with the force of thunder.

The Solar Exalted

Hikari flinched as the enormous golden gates in front of her burst open, reverberating with some ancient power.

She saw a fountain, crimson ribbons shooting merrily into the sky through a cloud of steam.

She saw a corpse in motley, blood streaming across the palace threshold like profane wings.

She saw a mighty Dragon Blooded warrior, wreathed in flame with red liquid boiling off her incandescent daiklave, her face marked with sad triumph. She saw two more through the opposite gate, in green and white jade, troops marching behind.

She saw her beautiful Tsune, shattered, tossed aside like a baby bird hit by a wagon, sightless eyes staring at the sun.

She saw the sun had crested the great walls, but still burned bedecked by the colours of the dawn. And as the rage of grief welled in her, as the ice of murderous intent welled in her heart, she heard His voice, and His holy fire ignited her soul.

“Too long I have turned my face from this fallen world. The corrupted glory that so offended me is gone; in its place are a people suffering for ancient sins and crying out for salvation.

To them I give a hero invincible, a sword to cleave all darkness.

To a world in thrall to petty aristocracies I give a true princess.

To you, best beloved daughter, I give only victory.”

“Strengthen my sword arm, Lord Sun.” Hikari erupted into a furnace of purifying light, bleaching stone and gate alike with the reborn power of an earlier age. “And I will take victory for myself”.

Hikari has Exalted as a Chosen of the Unconquered Sun, wedding untold power to her peerless skill at the time she needs it most. The Solar Exalted are the mightiest of the Exalted Host, and the default playable character type of Exalted. Hikari is of the Dawn Caste, especially gifted in the arts of battle, befitting her brief but notable career as a mortal hero.

Her Essence remains 1, but she gains a personal mote pool of 13 and a Peripheral mote pool of 33.

She gains five purchases of the Charm Ox-Body Technique, granting her a total of 5 additional -1 health levels and 10 additional -2 health levels.

She gains the Athletics Charms Monkey Leap Technique, Increasing Strength Exercise and Thunderbolt Attack Prana (the latter a powerful offensive Charm).

She gains the Melee Charms Excellent Strike, Fire and Stones Strike, Rising Sun Slash, Foe-Cleaving Focus, Hungry Tiger Technique, Dipping Swallow Defence, Perfect Strike Discipline.

She gains a number of Excellencies, most notably for our purposes Athletics, Awareness and Melee.

Hikari rolls Join Battle, and activates the Awareness Excellency for more dice. The Solar Excellency can grant up to Attribute + Ability dice at the cost of 1 mote each, which in Hikari’s case is 10. She buys all 10 dice with peripheral motes, going to 23 motes and advancing her Anima banner to Glowing. Her normal Join Battle pool of 13 becomes 23.

1, 1, 1, 1, 2, 4, 4, 5, 5, 5, 5, 7, 7, 7, 8, 8, 9, 9, 10, 10, 10, 10

15 successes, plus 3 is 18 Initiative. She starts the battle at short range from Cathak Sugira.

Originally Posted by Exalted Veterans: Ox Body Technique? Really? Five times?


In previous editions, the corebooks advised players to take Ox-Body Technique to help keep their characters alive. This was something of a newbie trap, particularly for characters not focused on combat; non-trivial opposition tended to be very good at generating damage. Not only did Ox-Body not help very much against damage per se, the opportunity cost of taking it instead of say Dipping Swallow Defence or Seven Shadow Evasion could be fatal.

Ox-Body hasn’t changed much but the context of combat has. Generating damage is no longer cheap, you have to get the Initiative from somewhere. In this tutorial ~21 Initiative has usually proved enough to kill someone; with her Ox-Body you would expect to need about ~66 Initiative or the equivalent in damage enhancing Charms to kill Hikari. While that’s not out of the question for the Exalted, it puts a lot of distance between Hikari and being dead, distance she can use to fight or escape. Ox-Body finally works as advertised.

Combining (many) Charms

Hikari waited the few heartbeats for the Cathak to see her. She did not want the Dragon Blooded to go into the dark without knowing how and why death had come, that it was the bright sword of the new day that cut through that red jade.

She waited for the word she knew would come, the one she had heard only from the lips of mortal monks, that she would hear now for the first time in anger.


“No.” She echoed some ancient part of her soul. “Dawn”.

Cathak Sugira’s world went white. She felt all the weight of the sky crash into her at the end of the Anathema’s blazing, arcing leap. She felt the fountain at her back. A flash of sunlight, and her duty was at an end.

Hikari looked at the mortal sword in her hand, the one taken from Jiaying’s dead hands. This simple steel had cleaved stone fountain, jade plates and Dragon Blooded flesh unharmed. The shockwave of the blow had shattered statues, bleached the colour from leaves, and sent the Dragon Blooded reeling to see their sister slain. This was what it was to awake the true heart of a sword.

It would not deliver Tsune back to her, but it was the first of many necessary cuts.

On tick 18, Hikari targets Cathak Sugira with a decisive attack. She does not move before this; while normally a hand-to-hand attack from short range is not possible, she activates Thunderbolt Attack Prana at a cost of 4 motes and 1 willpower, going to 19 peripheral and 3 points respectively. TAP allows a short range decisive attack and doubles damage after it is rolled.

Generally all Supplemental Charms affecting a roll will be from the same Ability (such as Sugira’s Melee Excellency and the Melee Charm Stoking Bonfire Style). However Charms from other Abilities that explicitly supplement the given roll may be used, and combined with any other applicable Charms. In this case, Hikari has activated an Athletics Charm that is expressly permitted to supplement a Melee roll, and activates multiple Melee Charms to go with it.

Excellent Strike for 3 motes grants an automatic success and rerolls any 1s on her attack roll until there are no 1s.

Fire and Stones Strike allows her to spend up to 3 motes to add extra successes on the attack roll to damage. She spends 3.

Perfect Strike Discipline costs 1 willpower and grants a full free use of Melee Excellency. For Hikari, that would be 10 dice, but the automatic success from Excellent Strike counts as 2 dice and brings that down to 8. Once used, this Charm can’t be used again until the Exalt Incapacitates an enemy with Melee.

Total cost of Melee Charms: 6 motes, 1 willpower, taking her to 13 peripheral and 2 points. Her anima is at Blazing.

The ST is liking the Exaltation stunts and grants a two point stunt, adding an extra success to the roll and taking Hikari back up to 3 willpower points. Her normal decisive attack pool of 13 is raised to 21 by Perfect Strike Discipline, and she will gain two bonus successes total.

Sugira’s Defence is still 4. She spends 4 motes (going to 7 peripheral) and her last willpower point to raise that to 7.

1, 1, 1, 1, 3, 4, 4, 4, 5, 5, 5, 7, 7, 7, 8, 8, 9, 10, 10, 10

12 successes, plus 2 bonus for 14. She activates Rising Sun Slash for 1 mote (going to 17 peripheral), which requires a 7, 8, 9, 10 set in the results and grants 1 success and 1 bonus die to roll. She then rolls that bonus die along with all 1s thanks to Excellent Strike.

3, 4, 8, 9, 10

4 more successes, for a grand total of 19 successes. Foe-Cleaving Focus activates itself, refunding a mote for each 10 rolled on a roll with Rising Sun Slash, taking her back to 17 peripheral. 19 successes easily hits 7 Defence with enough extra successes for Fire and Stones Strike to add three damage. She thus rolls 21 dice.

2, 2, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 5, 5, 6, 6, 6, 6, 7, 7, 8, 9, 10, 10, 10, 10

8 successes, doubled by Thunderbolt Attack Prana to 16 health levels of damage. Oddly the “Young Dynast” Quick Character template has no purchases of the Dragon Blooded version of Ox Body Technique and thus only has 7 health levels, but that hardly matters as she would have needed at least 9 extra levels to not be instantly killed.

This kind of gratuitous overkill with heavily layered Charms is not normal even for the Solar Exalted. It is not necessarily tactically wise. It is however possible, and for Hikari’s player immensely satisfying.

Hikari’s Initiative resets to 3. Perfect Strike Discipline resets, as she Incapacitated a foe with Melee. The round ends and all living Exalted in the combat gain 5 motes; as Sugira has tracked her last mote, that's just Hikari going to 22 peripheral.

Miscellaneous Actions, Martial Arts, Defend Other

Yuuko inscribed a prayer strip for the hundredth time, chanted the words and burned a few talismans for good measure. Nothing.

Naomi laid a gentle hand on her shoulder, startling her from her trance. “Tsune and Hikari will be back soon. If the gods aren’t cooperating, just let it go, you can help me get the girls ready to leave.”

“They always cooperate with me, but they’re not there. It’s like they’ve all run away.” Yuuko took a very deep breath, thinking of Tsune and her determination. “It’s fine, I just need to find a bigger god. Is Peony back?”

“Yeah, she didn’t find her sister or Tsune but she did find a remarkable amount of good stuff that fell off the back of a cart. Also the cart, so I guess she loaded it all back on before driving it here. So we have supplies if we’re not too picky about where they came from.”

Yuuko nodded, clearly in no mood to quibble about Peony’s loose definition of property, and went back to her chanting. She was dressed as plainly as the other girls, but with that long black hair looked entirely the part of the priestess. If there was a god to listen, Yuuko would find her.

That left Naomi at a loss; there wasn’t actually much more evacuation preparation that needed doing, and she was running out of busywork for the girls. They were calmer than she had expected, trusting in Hikari and Tsune. And in the absence of the two heroes, she felt their eyes on Yuuko and her, the next oldest at all of fourteen. It hadn’t been long since Naomi had absconded from her ship and thrown her lot in with these orphans; she felt like an in-law asked to take over the family business.

The doors were open, everyone hoping to catch the first glimpse of the young women returning to lead them to safety. Naomi stared out, trying to take on a thoughtful expression like a ship’s captain plotting a course, willing herself not to chew on a lock of her golden hair, a habit Yuuko didn’t like at the best of times. With her dark skin and tales of a hundred ports she must have seen an exotic adventurer to these girls trusting in her, but in truth she probably hadn’t seen half the trouble Tsune had at the same age without having left the city.

She did know danger when she saw it though. Two women walking just a bit too quickly while trying to maintain a swagger of bravado - one in the motley of Avarice’s gang, one in the armour of the Cathak house guards. The soldier wore her armour easily, she was no bandit that had looted better gear; an unlikely pair unless…deserters. Things must have taken a very bad turn in the city.

“Girls, you need to all go out the back, now.” They could tell she was serious, but they were all so brave. Six year olds, twelve year olds, they all thought they should help with whatever it was; the danger of growing up around ridiculous heroes. Naomi needed her best Captain’s voice. “Now!”

They were all gone by the time the deserters cleared the threshold, which was better than she had hoped. She picked up her wind-fire wheels and put herself between the chanting priestess and the doors, wishing not for the first time that she’d just grow a little taller and look less ridiculous with the damn things. The deserters had swords out already, and while they’d be nothing to Hikari, Naomi didn’t quite fancy herself in the invincible warrior stakes.

“We’re here for the witch.” The bandit waved languidly at the blonde martial artist; whatever fear had driven her to flee Avarice’s operation didn’t transfer to a gangly fourteen year-old. “Nobody needs to get hurt, but she is coming to sing the winds for us.”

“You’re wasting your time, she can’t find any gods today. Why don’t you hurry to your ship, it must be getting crazy at the harbours, and I’d hate to see any misunderstandings when our protectors return.”

“Your protectors.” The soldier sneered, fear and anger leaking out from under her Cathak-instilled discipline. “Your protectors are at this moment very busy murdering people for the riches of the Forbidden Quarter, I’m quite sure we won’t be seeing them any time soon. Hand over your shaman or whatever she is, now. You’re not wrong about the harbour, we’re not wasting time negotiating.”

“Even if you intimidate a stubborn mule like Naomi, I’m not going anywhere.” Yuuko’s voice was clear and hard; a priestess did not let the gods hear her fear, much less mortals. “Begone or I will call the city mother herself on you.” She began to chant even louder, gathering all her talismans and prayer strips in great sweeping motions of her hands. Naomi had no idea whether it was a grand ritual or empty theatre.

“Well that tears it.” The bandit drove forward, stabbing at Yuuko, but Naomi controlled the space between them. She locked the blade in one of her wheels, pulling it into the dirt floor. But as she reached out to block the second sword, she simply couldn’t match the soldier’s strength; though she hooked her wheel around the blade, it dragged her off balance and lanced straight into Yuuko’s back.

The chanting became a scream. Bright red blood stained the prayers.

Naomi and Yuuko are player characters, but unlike Hikari, Tsune and Avarice do not have heroic statistics in this prologue session. There numbers are a little better than you’d probably expect for fourteen year olds, but not the magnificent traits they’ll have as adults.

Assuming they’ll survive. This Storyteller, she’s ruthless!

The deserters are using the same stats as their friends that died in such numbers earlier in the example.

Yuuko’s Join Battle pool is Wits (2) + Awareness (4) + Stunt (2) for 8 dice:

1, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 10

7 successes, for 10 Initiative.

Naomi’s pool is Wits (3) + Awareness (3) + Stunt (2) for 8 dice:

1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 7, 9, 10

5 successes, for 8 Initiative.

The bandit has 4 dice in her pool:

1, 6, 10, 10

4 successes, for 7 Initiative.

The soldier has 6 dice in her pool:

1, 4, 5, 7, 9, 9

3 successes, for 6 Initiative.

Yuuko is first, and wishes to perform a prayer - not a quick few words but a professional ritual with implements and chanting. Performing this sort of time-consuming non-combat action during combat is a kind of combat action called a Miscellaneous Action. It reduces your Defence by 1 until the following turn.

Yuuko’s Evasion is 2 ((Dexterity 3 + Dodge 1) / 2). It is reduced to 1 until her next turn.

The ST asks for a Charisma + Performance roll at difficulty 4 to reach a god more potent than those she normally deals with in a hurry. It’s a daunting task even for a hero (difficulty 3), which she is performing under duress (taking it to 4). Yuuko’s pool is Charisma (3) + Performance (3) + Stunt (2) for 8 dice, and she spends a willpower point for a success, taking her to 4 points remaining.

4, 4, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 10

5 successes plus 1 for willpower is 6 successes. Some powerful god definitely heard her prayer; what that actually means is up to the Storyteller, but such a heroic feat should do the players some good. Hopefully in time.

Next is Naomi, who takes the Defend Other combat action. This targets an ally in close range; until her next turn the character may apply her Parry rating to any attack against that ally. There are a couple of complications to that, which we’ll see as the deserters make their attacks. Naomi’s Parry is 4 (Dexterity 3 + Martial Arts (Crane Style) 3 + Specialty (Crane Style) / 2, rounded up). Martial Arts is an ability that requires the purchase of a special trait called a Merit to unlock, after which you buy up a separate Martial Arts ability for each style you wish to know. As a mortal, Naomi doesn’t gain much from her study of Crane Style other than the ability to use her wind-fire wheels with the same ability that she uses for unarmed attacks, but if she ever Exalts she will gain access to Charms from that style.

On tick 7 the bandit makes a decisive attack on Yuuko. Naomi is still at close range to Yuuko, so her Parry applies. The bandit’s pool is 4, and she spends a willpower point for a success, taking her to 2 points remaining.

1, 4, 7, 8

2 successes plus 1 from willpower is 3, not enough against Naomi’s Parry of 4. She takes the Onslaught penalty from the attack; Yuuko doesn’t since the attack never reached her. Since the bandit failed a decisive attack she loses 2 Initiative and drops to 5 points.

On tick 6 the soldier makes a decisive attack on Yuuko. Naomi’s Parry applies again, though this time it is only 3 thanks to the Onslaught penalty. The soldier’s pool is 6, and she spends a willpower point for a success, taking her to 2 points remaining.

3, 4, 5, 9, 10, 10

5 successes plus 1 for willpower is 6 successes, or 3 extra successes once Naomi’s Parry is applied. The soldier now has a choice - she can either allow the attack to hit Naomi as if she were the original target, or she can apply her extra successes to Yuuko’s defence in order to hit the priestess despite Naomi’s efforts. Since the soldier’s 3 extra successes equal or exceed Yuuko’s Evasion of 1, that will be a hit and she chooses to do so.

But in the case of a decisive attack, carrying through to your original target like this costs 1 point of Initiative from your damage roll per 2 full points of Defence of the protector. Naomi had 3 Parry, so she applies that once, taking the soldier’s damage roll from 6 dice to 5.

4, 7, 9, 9, 10

An exceptionally lucky 4 successes. Yuuko fills in her -0, both -1 and first -2 health levels with lethal damage. Since her Stamina is 3, taking 4 health levels of damage in a single blow causes her to begin bleeding. Both girls applied their Defence to this attack, so both take Onslaught penalty.


Unnoticed by the combatants, sunlight played across the bloodied prayer strips, and they sunk into the dirt floor as if eaten by the earth itself.

A gauntlet like the hand of some giant marble statue closed upon the soldier’s head. The largest woman Naomi had ever seen had stormed in like an avalanche, clad in such a quantity of gold-trimmed white jade as to be halfway to being a mountain, her red hair shining like long strands of ruby. A truly titanic maul was strapped to her back, but she had not bothered to produce it for such trifling foes.

“You will regret doing that.” She hauled the soldier up to her eye level, ignoring her futile attempts to pry the stone fingers from her head. “Briefly”.

The Dragon-Blooded hero rolled her wrist, flicking her captive through one of the building’s support beams. The walls groaned and sawdust billowed as the body continued through a window to land outside, grotesquely limp.

Meiling Thrice-Elegant is an experienced and powerful Earth Aspected Dragon Blooded. She is an NPC, but as the Retainer Merit of one of the player characters is being controlled by a player in this scene.

Her Join Battle total is Wits (3) + Awareness (5) + Specialty (1) + Stunt (2) and she uses her Awareness Excellency to add another 6, taking her to 17 dice. She’s not particularly interested in crushing a bunch of teenage girls in her Anima Flux, so she spends that from her personal mote pool, dropping from 16 to 10.

4, 4, 4, 5, 6, 6, 7, 7, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 9, 10, 10

13 successes, for 16 Initiative. Meiling could use her excellency to reroll some of the failed dice but chooses not to since her Initiative should be perfectly adequate.

She acts on tick 5, the next available, and launches a Grapple gambit against the soldier. Like all gambits, this is initiated with a decisive attack against the target. The soldier’s Parry is 4, Meiling’s pool is Dex (4) + Martial Arts (5) + Specialty (Grapple) + Stunt (2) for 12. She doesn’t bother with Charms for the initiating roll.

1, 2, 3, 4, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 9, 10, 10

6 successes, easily enough to hit. She then makes her Initiative check against the difficulty of the gambit (2):

1, 2, 2, 4, 4, 4, 5, 5, 5, 6, 7, 7, 7, 7, 10, 10

8 successes, easily meeting the difficulty. As usual the gambit costs Initiative equal to the difficulty + 1, in this case 3, dropping her to 13.

When you initiate a grapple, you make an immediate control roll, which is an opposed Strength + (Brawl or Martial Arts) roll. Meiling’s pool is Strength (5) + Martial Arts (5) + Specialty (1) + Stunt (2) for 13.

1, 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 8, 8, 9, 10

8 successes.

The soldier’s pool is Strength (3) + Brawl (1) for 4.

1, 3, 7, 9

2 successes. Meiling wins by 6, giving her 6 rounds of control over the grapple following this round. The soldier automatically escapes the grapple when those rounds elapse, or if Meiling suffers Initiative Crash. Meiling loses a round of control any time she is attacked or otherwise suffers damage, and can spend rounds for various effects.

While in grapple, both Meiling and the soldier suffer a 2 point Defence penalty and cannot perform flurries. Furthermore the soldier cannot take movement actions and suffers a 1 die penalty to all attacks (3 dice if she uses a two handed weapon).

On any turn in which you control a grapple, including the turn on which you initiated it, you may choose one of four effects to apply to your grappled target - savage (an attack), throw/slam (an attack that ends the grapple), restrain/drag or release.

Meiling chooses to make a decisive throw/slam. A withering savage or throw/slam is made as an attack against Defence 0, while a decisive simply rolls for Initiative damage as if it automatically hit. A throw/slam gives up all remaining rounds of control for bonus damage (2 per round spent for withering, 1 per round for decisive), up to a maximum of Strength rounds. Meiling must give up all 6 rounds, but only receives bonus damage equal to her Strength (5) for a total of 18 damage dice. She also activates Force of the Mountain, a Charm allowing her double 9s and 10s on up to 5 dice, at a cost of 4 personal motes, taking her to 6 motes personal.

1, 1, 1, 1, 3, 5, 5, 5, 6, 6, 6, 8, 8, 8, 10, 10, 10, 10

All four 10s are doubled, for a total of 11 levels of damage. Throw/slam damage is usually bashing, but when the impact point is sufficiently dangerous it is upgraded to lethal. The Storyteller feels the stunt is sufficiently brutal to count, and the soldier’s health levels are all filled with lethal damage; she’s quite dead. Meiling’s Initiative resets to 3.

The round ends and Meiling regains 5 motes, going to 9 personal.

Originally Posted by That’s a lot of mountain!

The ST is working off the Earth Immaculate Quick Character in the corebook, rather than having the full Earth Dragon Style that Meiling used in the group’s Exalted 2.5 campaign. She’s ruling that the number of dice that can be doubled is equal is Essence, but doesn’t know that for sure as the Dragon Blooded book has yet to be published.

Originally Posted by More grappling

The grapple rules are quite involved, and ideally this example would show an extended wrestling match with savages, rounds of control being stripped, restrains etc (rather than an utterly overpowered Dragon Blood tossing a mortal like a ragdoll). Anyone intending to use a specialist grappler would be well advised to carefully read the rules on pg 200 and then look for other examples online.

Clash Attacks, Identical Weapons

Shock silenced Yuuko’s screams as she beheld the terrible power of the Exalted. Naomi had the presence of mind to watch the bandit, making ready for any last desperate moves.

She never understood what madness drove the motley-clad deserter to attack her, rather than simply run. Perhaps it was Meiling’s domination of the space around her, or the hope that on the far side of Naomi lay some kind of safety. But it did not end well for the bandit.

Naomi threaded a wind-fire wheel over the blade to the wrist as it struck at her and then twisted. Pulled painfully off balance, her enemy tumbled back as the second wheel thudded into her armour…back into the clenched fist of the Earth Dragon, bursting her head like over-ripe fruit.

On tick 10, Yuuko delays her action, not having much to do with her poor combat pools and a hefty wound penalty. Her Initiative drops to 8.

On tick 8, Naomi follows suit, intending to react to the remaining enemy. Her Initiative drops to 6.

On tick 5, the ST decides the bandit is unlikely to succeed in a Disengage check and may soon be Crashed, so makes a withering attack against Naomi. The young Crane stylist responds by using her delayed action to make a withering attack of her own against the bandit!

When two characters attack each other on the same Initiative tick, it’s resolved as a Clash. Rather than comparing attacks to Defence, they are made as an opposed roll. Characters dual-wielding identical weapons, as Naomi with her wind-fire wheels, gain a 2 bonus dice to their roll.

Naomi’s pool is Dexterity (3) + Martial Arts (3) + Specialty (1) + Stunt (2) + Dual Wield Clash bonus (2) + Light Weapon (4) for 15 dice - not bad for a 14 year old. She really wants to win and spends a willpower point, dropping her to 4 points.

2, 3, 4, 5, 5, 6, 6, 7, 8, 8, 9, 10, 10, 10, 10

12 successes, plus 1 for willpower is an amazing 13!

The bandit’s pool is 6:

2, 6, 6, 7, 9, 9

3 successes. Naomi wins by 10 successes, which are added to her withering damage pool as extra successes as normal. Her damage pool is Strength (1) + Light Weapon (7) + Successes (10) for 18.

1, 1, 2, 3, 3, 5, 5, 5, 6, 6, 7, 8, 9, 9, 9, 10, 10, 10

11 Initiative damage, plus a successful withering clash attack adds 3 extra automatic Initiative damage, for a total of 14 (a decisive attack would have added 1 health damage). Naomi gains 14 Initiative plus 1 for hitting and goes up to a total of 21. The bandit loses 14, going to -9 and is Crashed, giving Naomi Initiative Break and taking her to 26.

Adding insult to injury, the loser of a clash has -2 Defence until her next turn, giving the bandit a mere 1 against Meiling after onslaught penalty.

The Storyteller asks if the players wish to continue the combat given their overwhelming advantage. They don’t, and Naomi’s player graciously allows Meiling’s player to describe the gruesome end.

“My prayer…you…” Yuuko extended a disbelieving hand towards the Dragon Blooded as both Meiling and Naomi rushed to her side.

“I’m not a Cathak anymore, but I’m still not in the business of accepting prayers. I’m here because my Lady told me to look for anyone needing rescue.” The gigantic woman hovered an armoured palm over the young priestess’ wound, and in a flare of white essence the blood flow clotted instantly. It didn’t look much better, but at least it wasn’t bleeding. “You kids seem to qualify. I saw a lot of young ones skittering out back, how many exactly are you caring for?”

“About thirty.” Naomi cradled Yuuko’s head, not sure what to do about the injury in the wake of the Exalt’s magic. “You have our thanks, but we can’t go anywhere until Hikari and Tsune are back from the Forbidden Quarter.”

“That’s where my Lady was headed. I promise if they’re there she’ll bring them back. You can leave a note if you like, but either way I think they’ll end up back at the ship. Let me take you all there, I promise you’ll be safe.”

“If you’ve left a ship in the harbour” Yuuko struggled upright, leaning on Naomi. “It’ll be gone by now.”

“Oh I don’t think so; for all that my Lady is the worst sailor I’ve ever seen, nobody else can sail it.”

“I can sail anything.” Naomi’s look was fierce, fighting back her fear and awe to…show off in front of Yuuko? She wasn’t thinking straight.

“You’re good kids!” The elemental titan’s laugh rumbled through the creaking house, and it seemed as if the earth shook a little with it. “You can call me Misha.”

Experienced Exalts, Multiple Attacks

The hour come at last, the gates flung open, forces bright and terrible raced for the heart of the city. The time of mortal heroes was done for this day. The Forbidden Quarter had become a battlefield of the Exalted.

Hikari burned with the light of the new day, even as Sugira’s flames guttered and died. But a green haired woman raised a dread bow glowing with venom. Another with skin veined like granite smashed together her stone fists with a force Tsune could never have matched, making ready to charge. Their troops would fall like wheat before her power, but could she afford to strike mortals with Dragon Blooded foes upon the field?

She was not afeared; her power coursed through her, she had not expended even a third of it in her vengeance. But she was concerned. From the Unconquered Sun’s power she had forged herself into a blade of irresistible force, but defensive techniques did not answer the call of her soul as swiftly as destructive. She was not yet invincible.

An arrow streaked towards her, sprouting its own companions as it flew. The shot became a volley, then a swarm, each shaft bristling with malicious thorns. Not impossible to avoid…but very difficult.

Streaks of gold like a blossoming flower of razor ribbons burst through the swarm, shredding it to splinters, and she was there. A head taller than Hikari, flowing hair like black silk, armour of red cloth and gold rope, a slender daiklave of heartbreaking beauty. The mark of the Dawn, twin to Hikari’s, burned on her brow, and her smile was indeed the sun coming up.

“I am with you. Today trust to me, sister, tomorrow I shall teach you to parry.” The Solar turned back to the Dragon Blooded, her left hand palm up in a gesture of peace, but the air around her humming with the power of her Charms. “Noble scions of House Cathak and House V’neef, I am Sakuya Thrice-Virtuous. I have come here today to turn you away from this vicious mire of vengeance, for I tell you that these games of who-killed-who have never had righteous end. And my enemies historically don’t survive them.”

Hikari felt even more powerfully akin with this Solar warrior; she too was awful at talking people down. Meanwhile the V’neef quivered in rage, as rent at heart to see Sugira cleaved in half as Hikari was the broken form of Tsune.

“Our duty is to extinguish the anathema. You demons have taken the souls of that woman and girl whose bodies you puppet. That we may have vengeance when we cast you down in the dragons’ name only adds sweetness to our obligation.”

“Duty? What of Mnemon’s duty, Peleps’, Ragara’s? Where are they? Did they flee the emergence of one Dawn and the arrival of another? No. They literally sold you out, sold the city. The buyer is here and we must ALL flee before her.”

Note: "Combat 301" is currently incomplete. Further updates should eventually appear in this forum thread.

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