Welcome back, dice fondlers! We’ve had a little hiatus and are back with a vengeance this week. I mean, not specifically vengeance. Actually, we’re back with Attributes, Abilities, and Advantages. No, you don’t need to call AAA, and no, you aren’t getting any discount on this article. This is the next step of Exalted character creation. Let’s go.
So, where do we start? Exalted 2nd Edition uses a variant on the Storyteller system, which means that for basic actions, we pair Attributes (innate qualities that can be improved) with Abilities (skills or higher learning) in order to perform an action. For example, kicking down a gate would be Strength + Athletics. The Attribute Strength is the raw power we physically have while the Ability Athletics is how physically fit we are. Each of the pretty little dots on the character sheet represents an individual d10 that we roll in order to accomplish a task, with 8s or higher being a success.
Got it? Great!
Attributes: Physical, Social, Mental
Let’s start with Attributes. We have nine Attributes divided into three groups of three: Physical, Social, and Mental. Our Physical Attributes are Strength, Dexterity, and Stamina. Our Social Attributes are Charisma, Manipulation, and Appearance. Finally, our Mental Attributes are Perception, Intelligence, and Wits.
As we make our characters, we get one free dot in each of these Attributes first and foremost. Next, we get to allocate pools of points. We have an 8, 6, and 4-point group, respectively, to assign to our Attribute types. For example, we may choose Mental first, then Physical, then Social. This would give us 8 more dots to place as we want across our Mental Attributes, 6 dots in Physical, 4 in Social. Keep in mind that in the world of Exalted, a single dot in an Attribute is considered to be “average human” in quality. With this in mind, you’ll start to see how far beyond humanity the Exalted really are.
Abilities & Rules
Moving on, next we tackle choosing Abilities. With Abilities, we get one lump sum of 28 dots to spend on any Ability we choose. There are rules, however.
First, we choose 5 Abilities, not including our Caste Abilities (you remember those from last week, right?), and designate these as our Favored Abilities. In-game, Favored and Caste Abilities take less XP to advance than any others. We have to spend at least 10 of our dots on Favored and Caste Abilities combined — Favored Abilities MUST have at least one dot in each of them.
The other rule behind placing these dots is that we can’t exceed three dots in any one Ability. If we want our character to be that proficient, we’ll have to use the bonus points they give us at the end of character creation.
Advantages: Backgrounds & Virtues
Seems pretty simple right? Well, here’s where we start really digging into the juicy parts of our character. These are our Advantages. There are three kinds of Advantages in Exalted: Backgrounds, Charms, and Virtues. We’re going to cover Backgrounds and Virtues this time and talk about Charms in our next installment. Why? Well, the Charm system is where the real meat and potatoes of crazy god-like power shows up in Exalted. Trust me, it’ll take some time to really explore the way it deserves. For now, let’s start with Backgrounds.
In the core Exalted book, we have eleven Backgrounds: Allies, Artifact, Backing, Contacts, Cult, Familiar, Followers, Influence, Manse, Mentor, and Resources. Each of these tells the story of our characters and gives them significant aid in their endeavors. For example, having Followers with 5 dots means our character has access to 10,000+ trained soldiers. Similarly, if an Exalted has a Cult rating of 5 dots, they’re worshipped as a major deity through a full quarter of Creation. Another example is that of the Mentor background; this Background grants your character direct mentorship of a powerful being like an established elder Exalted, a Fair Folk prince, or even a Demon of some kind. The more dots in Mentor, the more powerful the mentor is, but also, the more likely you are to be targeted by their enemies. Now, we have 7 dots to distribute here as we see fit, but no single Background can be over 3 dots. As much as I would love to go further into detail here, a quick summary doesn’t do these concepts justice. Backgrounds lend characters exceptional resources at their disposal and deserve significant thought.
Finally, for this installment at least, let’s discuss Virtues. In the world of Exalted, there are four Virtues: Compassion, Conviction, Temperance, and Valor. Each of these Virtues has up to a 5 dot rating as well. Each Virtue begins with a single dot, and we have 5 dots to distribute among them. We can’t raise a Virtue above 4 dots at this point (that requires bonus points at the very end of character creation). Now, what do Virtues do for us? Well, we can spend a point of temporary Willpower to give ourselves a number of bonus dice equal to our Virtue rating. So, if we have a Compassion 3, we could burn a point of Willpower to give ourselves three more dice for rolls to help the wounded, defend the weak, or argue against the cruelty of the Celestial Bureaucracy. However, if we had a Valor 1, we would only get a single die for rolls concerning bravery and courage. This all comes at a cost, though.
The passions of the Exalted run hot — any Virtues that your character has that are rated 3 or higher prove nearly impossible for your character to resist. Having a high Valor makes it difficult to ignore your honor being slighted without challenging someone to a duel. Having a high Compassion makes it a torturous to avoid conflict with the town guards harassing the nearby beggar woman. If such an occasion arises and your GM calls out the situation, you have to burn a temporary Willpower to suppress the urge to act on your Virtues. This also fills a bar called your Limit.
Yes, you have Limit Breaks. No, you don’t Omnislash. Instead, when your Limit maxes out, the similarity between the Exalted and the myth of Heracles comes full circle — you go mad. A possible Virtue Flaw of Compassionate is The Red Rage of Compassion. You fly into a violent rage, seeking any sources of suffering and attacking them without restraint. You give zero thought to the damage you do, to the risk to yourself, or to the consequences. If it causes pain, it must be destroyed. Likewise, a sample Conviction Flaw is Heart of Flint; for a full day, your character eschews all emotion, embracing only cold logic and efficiency. They suffer penalties to any Social rolls as they sever ties with others, seeking only the most direct and uncaring solutions to their problems.
We will break here in our character creation, but our demigods are starting to come into focus and their power is beginning to really shine. Next week, we’ll tackle the Charm system and take a look at how their powers all come together. But, next week is next week, and for now my friends, just remember to…