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21 April 2015 @ 11:02 am
Exalted: Redistributing martial arts  
I've never really liked the way Exalted handles martial arts styles. In first edition, Brawl and Martial Arts were separate combat abilities, with the former representing untutored street fighting and the latter representing codified fighting styles. In addition to the Orientalism, as the number of styles proliferated, Martial Arts got better and better compared to Brawl. Its breadth expanded, because whatever weapons a style required used the Martial Arts ability instead of Melee or Archery, eventually culminating in styles like Dreaming Pearl Courtesan Style, which has a lot of social utility and involves turning into an incredibly beautiful gazellefish, or Citrine Poxes of Contagion Style, which is about punching diseases either into or out of people.

Second edition got rid of Brawl, collapsing all unarmed combat into Martial Arts, but then it turned the old Brawl Charms into Martial Arts styles and gave them a special designation of "Hero" styles, which could be expanded on by the Exalted type they were innate to. Anyone could learn Terrestrial Hero Style, but only the basic Charms, and Dragon-Blooded could expand on that with extra Charms that only Dragon-Blooded could learn. Unfortunately, that crippled Solar unarmed fighting, because Sidereals having the best martial arts is a setting point and so Solar Hero Style was a Celestial style, with less powerful Charms than most Solar ones.

Third edition--or at least, the version I've seen--separates Brawl and Martial Arts again. Furthermore, it introduces Craft proliferation into Martial Arts. No longer does a character have Martial Arts •••, they have Martial Arts (Tiger Style) •••, and need to relearn it if they want to study another style. It also gets rid of the Terrestrial/Celestial/Sidereal split and just gives styles reduced effect when practiced by Terrestrial-level characters and increased effect when practiced by Solar-level ones, which I'm neutral on. But Martial Arts can still do anything.

That's the background. What I've done in my Dragon-Blooded Charms document is turn Martial Arts styles into a concept rather than tying them to a specific ability, so each style derives from an ability based on its concept. That means that I can spread the ranged styles to Archery and Thrown like they should be so that one ability doesn't let a character punch, shoot, stab, and turn into a gazellefish. It also lets me delve into non-combat abilities. Lightning Hoof Style is clearly a Ride style, and Jade Mountain Style fits into Resistance. Custom styles I've found like Reflections on the Tides Style (Lore) or Rebellious Demon Style (Dodge) fit pretty well into this system too, and it provides another way around the out-of-aspect surcharges and elementally-associated Charms for abilities that the base rules don't give them. Earth-aspected Melee, Fire-aspected Archery, Water-aspected Thrown, Wood-aspected Melee, etc.

I really should just go all in, rename the Martial Arts ability to Brawl again, and turn Terrestrial Hero Style into Brawl Charms. That would get rid of the odd "Water aspects are attuned to every Martial Arts style in the world" rule. I can just add an "house rules in this document" section in the beginning that explains it in case anyone I know wants it.

You know, I think I will do that.
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