This topic surfaces from time to time. Exalted 3E is being worked on, and whilst the design notes seem promising, the track record of Exalted games leave me dubious. Burning wheels focus on meaningful interactions and engaging political play makes it a exceptional fit for exalted.
THIS IS NOT A COMPLETE GAME. This is a sketched outline of how Exalted could work in Burning Wheel. Additionally I assume prior knowledge and access to Exalted game material. I do not believe it is practical to rewrite all lifepaths, skills, equipment and whatnot. Preferring instead to gloss over any problem areas with colour.
Mechanically this is a work in progress. Once I get my hands on my copy of Burning Empires, I would like to see if a CharmBurner can be derived from the TechBurner somehow. For now, the woefully arbitrary version is a adequate stand in. More to the point, getting these thoughts out there, may allow others to seek inspiration, or find something to work with.
My interpretation of the Exalted setting tends towards a considerably more conservative conception than the current 2E version. I lean closer to Greek tragedy than I do mecha-superpower-adventures, and have always run creation as being about the size of the classic world. The setting and theme I am aiming for is that of a newly exalted Solar. Newly reborn in an age of sorrows. Confused but harbouring terrifying potency. My conceptualization starts with a lifepath:
In Outcaste Setting
Reborn Solar, 3yrs, 5res, -, any
Skills: 5pts: Inconspicious, Appropriate Weapon, Enemies of the realm-wise
Traits: 2pts: Solar Essence(Dt), The Wyld Hunt(Dt), Nightmares(Char), Legendary artifact(Dt)
Solar Essence (Dice Trait)
A Solar carries a piece of the Unconquered Sun within. This minute shard of essence, this mote of power, grants the lawgiver tremendous power and potency.
- Add the Solar Essence emotional attribute and select a Solar Caste.
- Greyshift both Will and Power
- Wire-Fu; Increase stride to 9. Innately Solars can balance on the merest blade of grass, bounce across lakes, and parry missiles with their bare hands.
The Wyld Hunt (Dice Trait)
This character has had a nasty encounter with the Wyld Hunt and is a known anathema. This trait confers a -2D Infamous reputation with the Wyld Hunt, and ensures that the characters name is known to the bureaucracy of the Realm.
Legendary Artifact (Dice Trait)
The promise of the first age still live on. This character carries an ancient artifact constructed of one of the magical materials. Work with the game master to determine its exact properties and functionality. In most civilized states, ownership of particularly deadly weapons is restricted.
- Choose a Caste
- Determine starting Essence
- Usage: a) Stunts, b) Charms, c) Attune Artefacts
- Example Charms
What is Essence?
Essence is a measurement of divine potency. I have chosen to base Solar Essence heavily on Faith as presented in BWG, pg 522. Aside from slightly tweaked modes of use, it is safe to assume the same rules and guidelines apply to Solar Essence as they do Faith.
When essence is rolled it is open-ended. Only successes count for advancement. In addition tests may be earned by killing particularly potent essence users or rediscovering and recovering artifacts and memories from the past. For now, I leave these to game master arbitration.
Essence roll failures are governed by the Faith guidelines. Appropriate consequences may be vivid dreams from the first age, aspects of the mysterious great curse, or a display of the overwhelming and destructive potential of solar power.
As an exalted draws upon essence, caste mark and anima banner will flare into existence. The reaction of mortals will depend on their allegiance and training.
1. Choose a caste
There are five Solar castes, briefly outlined here. Please refer to the rulebook or other setting material for further detail.
Dawn caste: Generals and champion warriors.
Effect: 2 Aptitude to learn any skill of war. Including any Appropriate weapons, command, tactics, strategy, etc.
Zenith caste: Priests and and wandering prophets.
Effect: Gain the ‘Zealot’ Dice trait. Add purification and consecration to Solar Essence stunts.
Twilight caste: Sorcerer-Engineers and essence scientists.
Effect: All wises are considered open ended.
Night caste: Spies, thieves, and killers.
Effect: By working carefully a Night caste exalted does not display his anima banner when calling upon essence stunts.
Eclipse caste: Emissaries and silver-tongued ambassadors.
Effect: By investing a persona an eclipse caste may sanctify and oath between two consenting subjects in heaven. Should either of the parties break their promise, the heavens will move, and cursed calamity shall be upon them.
2. Determine Starting Essence
Base starting Essence is B3. Players answer a series of questions relating to the background. Each answer modifies their starting Essence.
- Has the character been in denial or afraid of his new found powers? If so reduce Essence by one.
- Has the character grown up amongst other exalted or surrounded by tales of their exploits? Raise Essence by one.
- Has the character had access to an essence wielding mentor, such as a lesser god or Sidereal? If so raise Essence by one.
- Has the character killed another essence user? Raise Essence by one.
- has the character lived as a slave? Reduce essence by one.
- If the character is Gifted or equivalent, raise Essence by one.
- If the Will stat is exponent is 5 or higher, raise Essence by one.
3. Solar Essence in use
There are three categories of use: Innate stunts, techniques and stances, and attuning artifacts.
a) Essence Stunts
At its most basic level Solar Essence is activated through innate and improvised Stunts. The rules mirror the lower levels of divine intervention found in BWG, page 524. Available powers are Boon, Ob 2; Blessing, Ob 3; Aid, Ob 4; and Minor Miracle, Ob 5. These should be narratively recoloured to fit the idiom and style of Exalted. Minor Miracles account for perfect defenses.
As noted elsewhere Zenith caste Solars may add Purification, Ob 5, and Consecration, Ob 6, to their stunt options.
The timing of such a use is the same as in Faith. It is very appropriate to shout out the names of these temporary moves, to further hone them into proper techniques later!
b) Solar Charms
A more sophisticated application of Solar Essence is in developing refined charms called Techniques and Stances. Charms are similar to stunts, but more powerful. All charms are miraculous at their heart; charms are a manifestation of divine solar power.
Creating a charm means the character withdraws from normal life to study, meditate, and experiment.
The procedure of creating a new charm starts with a name(1). It need not be an existing charm, however the exalted rulebook contains a wealth of inspirational material. Next its type must be decided, is it a stance or a technique(2). Which leads us to determining the actual game effects of the charm(3). Finally it the procedure ends with the character making an Essence dice roll, with modifiers added by the game master(4).
Techniques are hard hitting and overt. The exalt charges his essence into a body part or equipment, then unleashes it for tremendous effect. In game terms a technique takes around 3 actions to complete; in fight an unrolled Physical Action(2) followed by its release(1). Techniques last only a single instant.
Stances are a different expression of power. Only one stance may be active at a time, but slipping between stances requires only a single action. The Exalt must remain concious for a stance to remain in effect.
The effect of charms may be divided into three broad categories: minor miracles, summoning tools, and displays of heroic potency.
Minor miracles are similar to their stunt form, except refined and specialized to handle specific situations. Obstacle 4.
Summon tools. The exalted may construct equipment, weapons, and armour-- even horses and ships at higher levels-- out of the very fabric of creation. At no increase in cost, such tools are always of superior quality. The Obstacle of creating such a charm is simply equal to its resource cost.
Heroic Potency are charms aimed at adding solar potency to specific skill rolls. Heroic potency represents more than simply adding dice, it is tweaking the effect or altering otherwise static variables. Obstacle 3 and up.
Making the roll + Time
The player makes an Open-Ended Essence roll to create the charm. Boxing, Meditation, Sorcery, and Symbolism may be linked to the roll. The game master is encouraged to tweak the obstacle if the charm has an utility–mainly colour–component, if the charm has been introduced via a stunt earlier, or is part of a series of linked charm upgrades.
To fully manifest a charm a period of two weeks per Obstacle is spent researching and experimenting. As usually extra successes may be allocated to working quickly to reduce the time spent.
4. Example Charms
Call the blade
The solar shares a holy bond with his weapon and can call it to his hand by reaching out to it.
Stance, minor miracle, utility. Essence Obstacle 3
Hungry tiger technique
A savage attacking, craving blood of ones enemies.
Technique, Potency, reduce the add of a weapon to 1. Essence Obstacle 5
Cascade of Cutting Terror
A single thrown dagger is multiplied to become a razor storm of metal.
Technique, Potency, +2 Obstacle to defend against. Essence Obstacle 4
A solar can shrug off fantastic punishment.
Technique, +2 Dice to ‘Shrug it off’ or ‘Gritting your teeth’. Activation counts as the action itself. Essence Obstacle 3
Iron Skin Concentration
The solar reinforces his skin to the strength of metal. (as plate mail)
Stance, Summoning. Essence Obstacle 6
Monkey Leap technique
Gravity has little hold over the lords of creation. The solar focuses his essence, and leaps for the sky.
Technique, Potency, Jump up to 10 paces per essence exponent. Essence Obstacle 4[/INDENT]
On Traits and Lifepaths
As should be expected the default lifepaths of Burning Wheel do not mesh perfectly with the Exalted setting. This is hardly a problem. Instead lifepaths should be chosen and modified with an eye towards preserving the narrative. Simple colour changes to a title can greatly alter the feel of an otherwise identical profession.
Two special considerations:
1, Gifted, those with the gifted trait are essence wielders. How they came about that ability is left open. The core spells of Burning Wheel mesh pretty well with Terrestrial level sorcery. One can leave the latter Celestial and Solar level sorcery for when that time is necessary.
2, Mark of Privilege, can be freely exchanged with a Dynast-background trait. They are functionally identical, save that the Dynast background refers to the Dragonblooded dynasty whilst the other is significantly more local.
The simplest translation is to assume that all Superior Quality gear are in fact lesser artifacts made from one of the magical materials. Indistructible and eternal, they are in high demand amongst Grey Powered Solars, whose mundane weapons are very liable to break! While this does remove mortal mastworks like ‘Hattori Hanzo’ swords from the game, the game IS about the Exalted and their magical materials and artifice-- a small price to pay.
True Grey level artifacts should be as rare.