I run a game of Exalted currently and have become increasingly unhappy with Exalted's mechanical system though I thoroughly enjoy the setting. There are many conversions out there and I have read a few but I think I will probably use Risushttp://www222.pair.com/sjohn/risus.htm and have done a considerable amount of work trying to convert the system to model a lot of the unique parts of Exalted while simplifying everything. Unfortunately, I have no idea if its any good. That's where you all come in. Feel free to criticize, abhore, or even adapt for your own use.
Basic Character Creation:
Character Creation in Creation: All characters start with 10 dice to distribute amongst their cliché’s. No cliché may be raised above 4 dice at character creation. No character may possess more than five clichés ever. All equipment and resources are based on cliché and every cliché has equipment. If you are a warrior, you have weapons and armor and if you are a Sorcerer Engineer you have the proper tools, resources and facilities. Loss of equipment can lower the dice total of a cliché temporarily until replacements are made.
Each character, except mortals, gets one Excellency determined by their type. An Excellency can generally be used once every combat and once every scene*.
Each Exalted has a caste which is chosen at character creation. This caste is considered a mandatory cliché and must have at least one cliché die invested in it. The abilities ascribed to the caste are the general capabilities of the cliché but the limits are, as usual, subject to Storyteller approval. If the caste is described as having a combat ability (this exclude exalt castes with a focus on attributes) then the caste cliché is considered a combat cliché in the manner of the combat abilities allowed in the description.
Exalted also get Anima Powers that appear as described in the exalted setting. An exalt can activate his visual Anima at any time but must wait till the end of a scene or combat to deactivate it. In addition, all exalts gain certain powers when their Animas are flared as described below. An Anima will also flare automatically if a sorcerous spell or two charms are used by an Exalt in a single scene or combat.
All Non-mortal characters get 5 charm uses in a scene or combat. These are magical abilities that are neither as potent as Excellencies nor as broad as Sorcery. They generally follow the level of power for the various exalted but do not add dice, bonuses, extra actions, or perfect effects nor may any charm duplicate the effect of any special power or Anima of another creature. Generally, they should be used to use a Cliché in a magical way. Examples would be a lunar that can smell thoughts with charm, a Solar that can fly by jumping, a Dragon Blood that can make a vicious fight appear to be a street performance etc. No charm is specifically chosen but rather a charm use is declared and described, if the Storyteller agrees that the charm fits the feel and aesthetic of the game it will be made legal and work as described. This does not ever set precedents. If the Storyteller does not feel that a particular charm can be used it is his prerogative to veto the charm even if he allowed it earlier. This should be rare however. To reiterate, no charms are actually learned but rather charm uses allow a player to accomplish tasks via personal magical power in a limited way. These charms can do the work of clichés but generally have a supernatural component as well as being defined by the player’s existing clichés. A story teller must take the character’s cliché when considering a valid charm use.
Ghosts, spirits, gods, elementals, and demons, are all able to materialize or dematerialize for the cost of three charm uses.
*There are exceptions to this but they are rare.
Exalts and other Fauna:
Mortals use a d6 for their dice and receive no Excellencies. In addition, they may practice thaumaturgy to work magical effects. Enlightenment allows a mortal to gain the Immaculate Excellency* which works as it does for dragon bloods except that their dice changes from d6s to d8s. Enlightened Mortals May also learn Terrestrial Martial Arts Clichés.
Dragon Bloods, weak terrestrial gods, 1st circle demons, weak ghosts, and elementals use a d8 for dice. Dragon Blooded may use Terrestrial Sorcery and Martial Arts but these will always be beaten by higher versions. Certain Dragon Blooded may learn Celestial Martial Arts and Dragon Blooded Akuma may learn Celestial Sorcery.
*Dragon Blooded may use the Immaculate Excellency which allows all the dice for one roll to be converted into the next largest die, d10s generally for dragon Blooded. Gods, Demons, and Elementals all use the Celestial Excellency^ of the Celestial Gods, which allows them to reroll the result of a single roll.
Dragon Blooded may use their Anima to attack with the element of their aspect. This will add one die to a melee attack or allow a ranged attack that uses the Dragon Blood’s highest combat cliché and does not require ammunition.
Celestial Exalted (Lunars and Sidereals), Alchemical Exalted, Powerful Terrestrial Gods, Celestial Gods, 2nd Circle Demons, Venerable Dragon Blooded, and Fair Folk use a d10 for dice. All celestial Exalted, Gods, and 2nd Circle Demons may learn up to Celestial Sorcery and Martial Arts and Sidereals may also learn Sidereal Martial Arts. Fair Folk may learn up to Celestial Martial Arts but may not learn Sorcery. Alchemical Exalted may also learn up to Celestial Martial Arts but have a different kind of Sorcery that has two levels that are slightly more powerful than Terrestrial and Celestial Sorcery respectively. Lunar and Sidereal Akuma May Learn Solar Sorcery.
Gods, demons, and strong ghosts gain the Celestial Excellency which allows a reroll on a single roll.
Sidereals gain the Sidereal Excellency which allows them to reroll a single roll and take the new result, the old result or the average result (5.5 per d10), whichever is best.
Sidereals may cause anyone to forget their existence for the price of a charm use or an Anima flare. This is treated as an attack using the highest value cliché from the sidereal and the lowest value cliché from the target. Sidereals may also spend one charm use in order to add a die to a future scene or combat. This charm use is considered expended until the die bonus is used.
Lunar Exalts gain the Ultimate Survivor Excellency which allows them to gain a result on a roll that succeeds if their dice pool would have been capable of succeeding at the target number. If the Target Number was 30 (super human) and their Cliché was 3 (3d10 for Lunar Exalted) then their Excellency would allow them to barely achieve the 30 necessary to reach the target number.
Lunar Exalts also have two very distinguishing features: Full body moonsilver tattoos and an animal tell. The tattoos are gained as described in the Exalted Setting and protect against the harmful effects of the wyld and Fairfolk. Lunars may exist in and near the wyld without fear of Wyld Taint and Raksha always use two less dice when attempting to use their wyld shaping powers against a lunar. The Animal tell is a unique and difficult to disguise animal feature present in all of a Lunars forms. The tattoos and tell may each be hidden with a seperate charm use.
Lunar Exalts may take the form of any animal they are aware of and any human whose heart’s blood he has drunk from. For the cost of one charm use, this form adds one dice to any cliché roll that could logically involve the form. They may instead spend two charm uses to assume a war form that adds two dice to all combat clichés.
Alchemical Exalted gain the Purpose Built Excellency which allows them to designate a single cliché into which they install an Excellency Module. This module allows the application of the Purpose Built Excellency to the cliché once per scene or combat. The Purpose Built Excellency allows the roll to automatically gain the maximum possible result of their dice pool if the dice pool was one die higher. For example, a Soul Steel Cast Alchemical Exalted who is rolling his Soul Steel Caste 3 cliché and has the purpose built module installed, this would allow him to get a 40 (3d10 maximum + maximum one extra d10 so 40).
Alchemical Exalted may spend a charm use to be unaffected by any mental influence as they become one with the machine. They may flare their Anima in order to gain a bonus die to any scene or combat where they serve their god and state directly by participating.
Fair Folk gain the use of a special cliché called Wyld Shaping which allows them to shape reality in the Wyld and work grace magic. These clichés are very broad and similar to sorcery but generally only function in or near the Wyld and often require the use of a charm. Since these are often Story Teller characters it is recommended that the powers adhere generally what is described in the relevant books.
Solar Exalted, Abyssal Exalted, Infernal Exalted, the big Mecha Alchemical things, and very old Lunars and Sidereals (1,000 years+) use d12s for dice. Solars and Infernals may learn up to Celestial Martial Arts (though a Sidereal Sifu can teach them Sidereal Martial Arts) and Solar Level Sorcery. Abyssals can learn up to Celestial Martial Arts (and Sidereal martial arts with a Sifu) and learn Necromancy, which is similar but has more of macabre Aesthetic. Any Celestial Exalted over 1,000 years old may learn up to 10 clichés instead of the normal five.
Solars, Abyssals, and Infernals gain the Princes of the Earth Excellency. The Princes of the Earth Excellency may be used twice per scene and twice per combat. It allows the user to treat the dice pool as two dice larger and gain a Maximum result. For example, a Zenith Using his Street Preacher 3 cliché would get a 60 on his roll (3d12 normally, 5d12 with the Excellency, the maximum result of 5d10 is 60).
Solar, Abyssal, and Infernal Exalts have Great and Terrible Animas. Anytime their Anima is flared, they cause all mortals to regard them with fear and awe, making them unable to harm or contradict the Exalt though they may always run even if commanded by the exalt to stay. In addition, they can spend a charm use while their anima is flared to control the mind of a single opponent whose highest cliché dice pool is lower than the highest cliché dice pool of the character using this anima power mind for a scene or combat. They use their highest cliché to attack their opponent’s lowest cliché. If they fail, the opponent cannot be affected by this power again for another story. If they succeed, they gain complete mental control over the target for a scene and may telepathically command them to do their bidding. The anima power description uses the term mortal but Solars may also use their awe inspiring anima against elementals and terrestrial gods. Abyssals gain the same anima benefit against ghosts and weak undead. Infernals gain the same anima benefit against 1st circle demons.
Primordials, Yozis, Celestial Incarnae, Death Lords, Neverborn, Behemoths, City Sized Alchemicals, Unshaped Fair Folk, Ancient Exalted (3,000 years old), and any other horrifically powerful being you can think of use D20s as dice. They use the Solar Excellency but can use it three times per scene or combat. They always have ten clichés, a few of which are at five or six and none which are lower than four. They also may use the Solar/Abyssa/Infernal Anima powers but do not require an Anima banner, if they lack one, apply the power to celestial gods, 2nd circle demons, powerful ghosts and undead as well as all the other possible targets described by the Solar/Abyssal/Infernal anima description, and do not expend charm uses to do so.
"Leveling up" and advanced Cliches:
A single cliché of a player’s choice can be improved by a die at the creation of New Space. This is determined by the Storyteller and should be a moment in a game where something significant about the story is discovered or made to happen. Particularly triumphant victories, heart-breaking tragedies or moments of clear insight all qualify. No one cliché may be improved twice in a row and a Storyteller may rule that certain clichés are not appropriate to improve at this point. It is generally encouraged that clichés which have been “maxed out” at character creation should be carefully considered before being improved as 5 and 6 on a dice pool is extremely rare and difficult.
New Clichés may be learned at these points at one die. If a teacher is present that has at least four in the same cliché, two dice may be gained instead.
No character may ever learn or start with a cliché that is not approved by the Storyteller and Storytellers should never let unique clichés, such as caste clichés, be learned by incompatable characters.
Clichés will generally be a little narrower than normal (Warrior becomes swordsman, Merchant becomes Spice seller, etc.) but will generally be limited more by the Exalted setting. 2 Clichés are especially altered so much that they do not follow normal rules.
Sorcery is a very broad cliché but must be learned in a different way. No matter the exalt type, only terrestrial sorcery may be known at character creation and whenever the dice pool is improved and a new level of enlightenment (that is a new circle of sorcery) is possible to attain, a special enlightenment roll must be made. The sorcerer rolls a d6, if the result is odd, no new enlightenment is made, if the result is even then a path to enlightenment is made possible. The next time the Sorcerer is able to increase his sorcery dice pool, he may instead utilize his path to enlightenment and attain the next highest circle.
Thaumaturgy (which is bypassed by all exalts who are treated as knowing it in addition to terrestrial sorcery) uses d6s, Terrestrial circle sorcery uses a d8, Celestial circle uses a d10 and Solar Circle uses a d12. Sorcery can achieve a very broad amount of effects but should roughly follow the guidelines set forth in the setting books. In addition, if a higher Circle effect conflicts with a lower circle effect (such as a counterspell), the higher level effect is treated as having the maximum result of a roll and the lower level as having the minimum result on its roll. Such is the power of enlightenment.
Since Sorcery is so broad, there are hard caps on the amount of times it may be used in a scene or combat depending on the Circle of Enlightenment that the Sorcerer or Thaumaturge possesses. Mortals may use Thaumaturgy once per scene or combat. Terrestrial Sorcerers may use thaumaturgy all they wish and Terrestrial Sorcery once per scene or combat. Celestial Sorcerers may use Thaumaturgy at will, Terrestrial Sorcery Twice per scene or combat and Celestial Sorcery once per scene or combat. Solar Sorcerers may use Thaumaturgy at will, Terrestrial Sorcery three times per scene or combat, Celestial Sorcery twice per scene or combat, and Solar Sorcery once per story (Solar Sorcery is game changing in its breadth and power).
Martial Arts are a set of Combat Clichés that work very much like other Combat Clichés (Swordsman, Archer, et.) but have special advantages and disadvantages. A martial arts cliché is based on three levels: Terrestrial, Celestial, and Sidereal. Each level has an associated die: d8 for terrestrial, d10 for Celestial, and d12 for Sidereal. If a practitioner of a higher level of Martial Arts fights an opponent of a lower Martial Arts level, all of the opponents opposing clichés are treated as d6s (mortals are reduced to d4s). This applies also to opponents that have no martial arts clichés at all but this is subject to special limitations: this does not work on any opponent that has a higher natural die than your die in martial arts (if a Dragon Blood with terrestrial martial arts was attacking a Lunar for example). This limitation does not apply to Sidereal Martial Arts (so a sidereal martial artist fighting a Solar swordsman would turn the Solars opposing dice into sixes). However, if the defender with a higher natural die has a lesser die in martial arts than the attacker, the die is still reduced to sixes. For example, an Alchemical only trained in terrestrial martial arts attacked by an Immaculate monk trained in celestial martial arts would still have his dice reduced to d6s.
New Levels of martial arts are obtained in the same way as Sorcery but a character can start play with up to his maximum in martial arts ability (except sidereal martial arts, which must be learned normally, even by sidereals).
Stunts, Prayer, Manses, Artifacts, and anything else I could think of that didn't fit in the above sections:
If an action is particularly well described and aesthetically pleasing, then the Story Teller may award a stunt. A stunt adds the maximum result of an extra die to the dice pool of the action. This die is the same value as the character’s natural die. A mortal using a stunt would add six whereas a Solar would add twelve.
Belief runs the world and it can be channeled directly by those receiving large amounts of it. Depending on how many people are praying to a certain individual, a certain pool of dice becomes available for uses every scene or combat. This pool which ranges from one to six extra dice can be spent on single actions in any amount or order; six dice could all be added to one action, one die to six actions, two dice to three actions or three dice to two actions. Once the pool is expended, it will not refresh until the beginning of a new scene or combat. The size of the die is dependent of who is being prayed to: Celestial Gods receive d10s, ghosts, demons, and terrestrial gods receive d8s, and everyone else gets d6s for prayer dice. The amount of dice depends on approximate amount of mortal (Read: normal humans only, nothing else can generate prayer; no exceptions. ) worshipers; 10 worshipers gives one die, 100 gives two dice, 1,000, gives three dice, 10,000 gives four dice, 100,000 gives five dice, and 1,000,000 or more worshipers gives six dice. All worship must be completely willing and sincere. No unnatural mental influence may produce real worship ever and nothing else other than pure, undoubting, un-cynical, wholehearted belief produces prayer. Most gods never get past three dice, even if their worship spans all of creation. Genuine worship is a precious commodity.
Manses and Demesnes
Manses and Demesnes are geomantic confluences of energy that can be tapped for mystical power. A Demesne is a naturally occurring confluence that allows a being capable of using charms to gain one extra charm uses per day if they attune themselves to the Demesne. A Manse is a Demesne that has been made more efficient by the construction of mystical architecture. A Manse can be attuned in the same way as a Demesne but provides two extra charm uses per day. In addition, the Manse operates as an immobile artifact (see below) that adds dice appropriate to its magical material construction and permits the use of a single, defined charm. This artifact power may only be used by the attuned character and only if he is physically in the manse. The Manse’s Artifact power does not require charm use commitment, however. The Manse also produces a single hearthstone that can be used to power a wonder but as long as the hearthstone is used in this way, the manse no longer grants charm uses or has any powers. Hearthstones may be used by those who are not attuned to a manse. If either the hearthstone or the manse is destroyed, the manse or hearthstone counterpart is also destroyed. No more than any combination of three Manses or Demesnes may be attuned by any single individual.
All artifacts require the commitment of at least one charm use (that is, as long as the character is in the possession of an artifact, they are treated as having less charm uses per scene equal to the amount they must commit to owning the artifact). Some artifacts may add a die to a specific action, such as attacking, and this die will be determined by the quality of the artifact and the magical material it is made of. Other Artifacts will duplicate the use of a single, defined charm but can be used without limit. The last and rarest can do both. Die adding artifacts commit only one charm use; charm duplicating artifacts commit two charm uses and artifacts that do both commit three charm uses. Normal Equipment is considered totemic and grants no bonus, exceptional equipment grants 1d6 to a specific action but requires no charm commitment. Mortals may never use artifacts unless they are enlightened and even then, they may only ever use one. Mortals pay no extra cost to use artifacts as it is powered by their enlightenment.
Jade Artifacts add 1d8 (1d10 if the Jade is of the associated Aspect) to Dragon Blooded actions and 1d6 to anyone else’s actions.
Moonsilver artifacts add 1d10 to Lunar actions and 1d6 to anyone else’s actions.
Starmetal artifacts add 1d10 to Sidereal Actions and 1d6 to anyone else’s actions.
Orichalcum artifacts add 1d12 to Solar actions and 1d6 to anyone else’s actions.
Soulsteel add 1d12 to Abyssal Actions and -1d6 to anyone else’s actions.
Vitriol Artifacts add 1d12 to Infernal Actions and cause anyone else to take a die of damage to a single cliché for a scene or combat for even attempting to use it.
Alchemical Artifacts add 1d10 to anyone’s actions and are made of lasers.
Alternatively, instead of committing charm uses to artifacts, a single, committed prayer die can power up four artifacts in a character’s possession but no other artifacts can be powered by the character, through any means, as long as the prayer die is committed. If the character is no longer receiving enough worship to commit a prayer die, the artifacts will power down immediately.
Artifacts that do not fall into these categories such as Warstriders, genetic super monsters, and Airships are referred to as Wonders and are capable of so many things that they defy systematization. Use your discretion as a storyteller when allowing players to use wonders and treat most uses of a wonder as negotiations for charms use. Allow what sounds appropriate at the time but commit to nothing beyond that.
All wonders require vast power to operate. Four charm uses may be committed to power a single wonder as long as the individual committing charm uses stays in physical contact with the wonder. A hearthstone may also be used to power a wonder but the manse that generated the hearthstone will be nonfunctional as long as the hearthstone is used in this manner. 2 prayer dice may also be committed to power a wonder in the same way as prayer is used to power artifacts but as long as the prayer dice are committed, the individual that committed the prayer dice may not benefit, in any way whatsoever, from any other wonder.
The basic Target Number to repair an artifact is 40, to build an artifact, 60, to repair a Wonder 60, and to build a wonder, at least 80 but generally over 90.
It's a good effort but there are a couple problems. First, Risus makes difficulty variable depending on the nature of the Cliche being used. Do you plan to make are hard and fast difficulty chart?
Second, how do you distinguish supernatural effects presumed by Cliche from those granted by charms? If I took the Wire-fu Cliche, what would I need the Jump Charm for?
Also the Excellency's strike me as a little bland...
Here's a few things that come of using Risus in the first place. I'm not sure they can be fixed.
The massive dice pools in the original system, while a little obnoxious at times, was sort of an important tool the game used to communicate it's concept. That being "dear god, look at all those dice! This thing you're doing is HUGE".
Anama flare and lunar tells are aren't just fluff. They're actually a balance mechanic. A solar can't use to much juice at once or he'll broadcast his location to the legions of dudes who will quickly mobilize to murder off his face. I'm not sure how it implement that in Risus.
Another interesting element lost here, while ultimately born of the need to sell us as many separate core books as possible, is that each type of exalt is effectively playing a completely different game, yet all simultaneously interacting.
I believe there is a difficulty chart in Risus for actions and when I designed the system, I was under the impression that most of the superhuman feats were possible for exalts.
I believe you may be under a misapprehension in regards to charms. You mention deciding between a jump charm and a wire-fu cliche. However, due to the nature of charms, the decision is somewhat different. No one actually gets specific charms but rather what I call charm uses which function as a negotiation mechanic. The process I described begins with the player describing the charm effect, gaining storyteller approval, expending a charm use and then applying the effect of the charm. No dice are rolled in this process. While a wire-fu cliche might be too broad and not described in an exalted way, a player trying to decide wither or not to use a charm or the cliche to achieve the same effect is really deciding whether or not to roll dice or use an expendable resource. I hope that clarifies things somewhat and I will edit the rules some more to add detail to the charm mechanics.
I am all too aware of many things lost in this translation but thank you for pointing out a few that I had not thought of.
In regards to the buckets o' dice that generally feature in exalted games I must candidly say good riddance for the nuisance. In my opinion, its psychological effect is not worth saving.
While I thought a great deal about Anima Banners and the very issue you mention in regards to them I had forgotten Tells. I will edit those in. As for Anima Banners, I actually have tried to encourage their use to make them just that much more of an important decision as the consequences for a visible Anima banner have not changed. I tried to make anima powers more worth it and also not replicated by any other means. I also kept the mechanic where if two much essence is used (in this case 2 charm uses or an sorcery) it flares automatically.
The difference in games was one of the things I set out to eliminate. I'm glad you noticed.
Surely there are more issues. Keep the criticism coming folks!