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Friday, 6 November 2015

What does Exalted 3e combat system model? Why, real life, of course!

It has been brought to my attention that many people can't get over the conceptual hurdle of Exalted 3e's combat system having two kind of attacks. "Why", they say, "is this attack withering, and this one decisive? They're both, you know, slashes".
The answer is, because the enemy is not static. And the enemy wasn't equally prepared to meet both.

Let's start with basics, and I'm talking about real life here.
There are two major kinds of fights, ambushes (and suckerpunching, and stabbing someone while he's trying to get his sword out of a scabbard, and prison yard rushes where only one side has a shiv, and hunting herbivores that are running in the other direction, and IEDs, and carpet-bombing infantry), and duels (shieldwalls and "monkey dancing" included on equal rights here). These are symmetric and asymmetric combat, and I leave it to you to put any other situation into one of these two. Guideline: if your enemy can retaliate, it's not asymmetric combat...yet.

The thing about ambushes is that they make it safe. You just need to get into position. The trick is getting into this position with a weapon ready to strike. Then the enemy is hurt without getting to strike back. That's why they're "dishonourable": they avoid the hardest part of the duel - you getting around the threat that the enemy represents to your bodily integrity.
The thing about duels is that they're easy to win, but hard to survive. If you don't take away the enemy's options to attack, at least for a split second, he might do the same thing that happens in lots of punch-outs, where the participants are exchanging blows.
You don't want that to happen to you, ever, not if you're assuming weapons are going to be used. That's why duels were notorious for double-kills.

That's also why many combat systems, fencing included, are teaching you to attack when the enemy can't retaliate. To do that, you have to grasp or create such a moment, and be in position with a weapon ready to strike. Sounds familiar?
It should. The essence of surviving a duel is in turning it into an ambush for a split second, or however long it takes you to deliver the injury (with a sword, that's "for an instant", usually). That's the essence of fencing, and grappling, and a few other styles I can name.
It's not "charge and hope for the best". It's like fencing, where you get into a position where the enemy has at least one "window" open, and can't close it in time, then getting your stab through said "window"...you have to just manoeuvre him into opening.
Or for a possibly more familiar example, it's like Gracie Ju-Jutsu: get positional advantage, then apply submission, or just pound away. But you need the positional advantage first, and then it's an ambush until and unless he dislodges you. But you're likely to get at least one attempt for a submission.

Back to Exalted 3e
The above model is what the Exalted 3e system models, in my view. Of if it's not meant to (although I suspect it is), it emulates it so well, that it almost doesn't matter.
Now, if your enemy is an extra: there is no need for withering attacks, just take care of him at once. No, that's not realistic, but since when are "extras" rules realistic?
First, a withering attack puts your enemy on the defensive and gives you first strike next round. Keep in mind: "attack" here is anything that gives you advantage. It might be a defence.
Then, you use the openings you just created, and deliver your best shot.
You better hope that's enough. If it's not, and he isn't well and truly on the defensive, he might use you moment of weakness.
That's something that Withering attacks, Initiative crash and Decisive attacks are modelling very well (coupled with Crash attacks as "attacking in single time).
And there's nothing "meta" about the way it goes (other than the fact that "withering attacks" would be better named as "creating advantage"... But really, they couldn't use "create advantage", or the Fate guys would laugh so hard Internet would stop watching pr0n for a second and turn to see what's going on.
And as we all know, Internet stopping to watch pr0n would have nothing short of disastrous results!)

Is that just me that sees it this way? Well, no. I happened to exchange personal messages with at least one other martial artist that sees Exalted 3e the same way. His nickname and other details would remain undisclosed, but that's less important.
The thing is, when you show Exalted 3e's combat system to people trained a certain way, they often react the same way: "Hey, nice!"
When you show it to people without such training, it's often "I can't visualize it". Some of them tend to "get it" after a demonstration.
Thus, I decided to mention how I'm seeing Exalted 3e. I know that was a problem in my group...until we made a demonstration for those that didn't "get it" immediately.

Hope that helps you, too. If not, hope this post at least made you think - about martial arts, or about Exalted 3e, or about both!

-A