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Author Topic: Scroll of the Monk  (Read 1824 times)

C.W.Richeson

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Scroll of the Monk
« on: February 28, 2007, 02:53:02 pm »


In Short
Scroll of the Monk provides a combination of reprinted martial arts styles from a variety of 1E products, updated for 2E, and some new martial arts styles.  While the styles alone are worth the cost of this book, the discussion of martial arts throughout Creation is well done and provides a host of interesting campaign ideas.  Whether you want more martial arts styles, advice on running a campaign that embraces the world of martial arts, or just a lot of flavorful and inspiring Charms then pick this one up.

The Physical Thing
This 160 page black and white softcover showcases above average production values for its $24.99 price tag.  The editing is good, resulting in a largely error free product.  The writing is well done, the art flavorful and appropriate, and the formatting easy to read.  The art really shines in how closely it mirrors the text.  Most martial arts styles have a good piece of art clearly showcasing one of the styles just described, and that really helps to bring this product to life.

My one big complaint is that there are no Charm trees for the reader to reference.  This makes sense because all of the Charms follow a very simple progression, but I do miss the visual reference.  I also wish the Charm progression was a little more varied, perhaps such that several students of the same style might have more variety in their technique.

The Ideas
Martial arts in the world of Exalted strongly resembles that of a great kung fu movie on the low end, and the awe inspiring power of your favorite anime on the high end.  Heck, the really high end (Sidereal Martial Arts) is truly unique in its reality altering aspect.  Generally speaking, there are three major levels of martial arts.  Terrestrial martial arts can be studied by Dragon Blooded, some gods, and a very few exceptional mortals who have progressed far beyond their birthright.  Celestial martial arts are known to the celestial Exalted (Solars, Abyssals, Lunars), some gods, and a very few exceptional Dragon Blooded.  Sidereal martial arts are known to the Sidereal Exalted, and a very few Celestial Exalted.  As one would expect, each level of martial arts is significantly more powerful than the previous.  Even the greatest Dragon Blooded martial artist in the world has little hope of defeating a wholly average Sidereal.

This product reprints martial arts styles from a variety of 1E products, expands upon the core styles presented in the 2E products so far, and introduces new styles as well.

Under the Cover
This product begins with an Introduction which discusses source material and the book generally.  Know that every chapter begins with an excellent one page comic which inspires the reader with a short story.

Chapter One The Martial Arts World 31 pages.

If you want to run a game that features martial arts tournaments, hidden masters of the arts, warriors with reputations to protect, martial arts schools, or any other similar content then this chapter is certain to have something useful for you.  Who can learn martial arts, different types of teachers (people, spirits, books, drugs), extensive information on martial arts culture, a host of different example martial arts organizations, and information on how the Exalted fit into the whole mix is all provided.

I really enjoyed this chapter for two major reasons.  First, it inspired me to run a martial arts focused campaign reminiscent of my favorite anime.  Going to grand competitions, fighting to save powerful artifacts, hunting down an exotic master who knows just the right technique, and a lot of other good ideas spring to mind.  It’s unlikely the reader will take away wholly new ideas, but as an idea generator this chapter does a great job.

The second thing I really enjoyed was thinking about all the different plots and conspiracies centered around martial arts at all levels of Creation.  Whether it’s Deathlords offering the Black Exaltation to a martial arts master who just won a tournament or an ancient lineage of Lunar warriors who have preserved the knowledge of the ancient arts for the future, the reader is likely to leave the book with some neat ideas.

Chapter Two Terrestrial Martial Arts 42 pages.

This chapter begins by adding six new Charms to the Terrestrial Hero Style from The Manual of Exalted Power: Dragon-Blooded.  These water-based Charms are all focused on close combat, including holds, escapes, and similar maneuvers.

Falling Blossom Style - This is a very well done bodyguard-oriented technique that allows the martial artist to take hits for her charge, deal great damage to those who attack her charge, and to realize a fine afterlife should she die for her charge.  I’m a fan of playing bodyguard characters, and this Charm sequence makes me very happy.  It’s flavorful and mechanically very useful for its intended purpose.  This is an Air/Water-based style

First Pulse Style - This is a brutal martial arts style focused on urban warfare and improvised combat.  It’s focused on speed and taking advantage of every opening your opponent provides.  My favorite Charm here, Fleeting Wings of Dust, involves throwing essence-charged dirt or sand into an enemy’s eyes.  It’s a classic dirty fighting trick, but the essence-charged part just makes it neat.  This is an Air-based style.

Golden Janissary Style - This style involves channeling holy fire and purity to destroy creatures of darkness, especially undead and creatures spawned of the Underworld.  This is a very aggressive style on the whole, focused on damage dealing and hampering the enemy.  This is a Fire/Water-based style.

Ill Lily Style - This Wood-based style uses plant extracts and poisons to harm the enemy.  It’s a well written style with a nice balance of offensive and defensive poisons, though on the whole it seems most useful to those already trafficking in poisons and the like.

Jade Mountain Style - This Earth-based style is focused around close combat, notably grabbing, and has significant capability with staying in one place and taking hits that would drop a lesser warrior.

Night Breeze Style - An Air-based style, Night Breeze involves manipulating air currents to perform both subtle and spectacular attacks on those nearby.  Whether it’s a torrent of needles or the silenced footfalls of a would-be assassin, the style offers a lot of flexibility for the socially minded warrior who can’t always fight with the same gusto as others.

Orgiastic Fugitive School - A style that embraces all the vices Dragon-Blooded (and the rest of us) love, this Wood-based style is something of a combination of drunken boxing, improvised combat, and a sort of mystical empowerment from altering the way one’s mind works.  This is a fantastic style for a courtier or prostitute who always wants to have a powerful defense while still embracing the requirements of his profession.

Seafaring Hero Style - It’s hard to say that this style has any unifying theme other than every Charm is inspired by ships and the sea.  It’s extremely flavorful and clearly paints a picture of a martial artist who never leaves the decks of the ship she protects.  My favorite Charm, Sea Spider Plunge, involves the character swinging down on a rope from the rigging, snatching up a foe, and carrying them above to deal with them one on one.  This is, of course, a Water-based style.

White Veil Style - This is one of my favorite styles in the book, largely because of a piece of art that depicts a woman dressed in finery casually hitting a person sitting next to her.  This style focuses on being completely nonchalant, carrying on conversations, and conducting oneself with the proper grace and civility all the while hurting or killing those nearby.  It’s meant to be an incredibly subtle way of dealing with enemies, and is an extremely good choice for anyone frequently involved in politics.

Crimson Pentacle Blade Style - This fast paced style involves using a spear and combat mobility to constantly move about the battlefield and strike at opponents that were too far away just moments ago.  The style presents a broad variety of Charms, both offensive and defensive in character, but with a focus on movement-oriented Charms.

Even Blade Style - A style that focuses on sword play, many of the Charms present in this style remind me of the quasi-mystical swordplay found in a variety of anime.  Whether she’s focusing so intently on battle that she can not be distracted, attacking unnaturally fast with her sword, or seeming to teleport behind them with incredible speed this martial artist shows true focus on her task at hand.  Several different versions of some Charms are provided to reflect training under different masters, a great touch.

Fivefold Shadow Hand Style - Another extremely well done style, this is meant to be a criminal style focused around assassination and remaining unseen.  Every Elemental Aspect has its own flavor and effects, which really add a lot of spice to the style.  Every style also involves specific hand gestures, which I think is extremely cool (and I’d use them at the gaming table).  These Charms are all focused on infiltration and assassination, and because of that a practitioner likely wields less raw power than someone adept at another style.

Chapter Three Celestial Martial Arts 28 pages.

This chapter begins with an extension of the Solar Hero Style found in Exalted Second Edition.  The new Charms cover a broad variety of abilities.  One of my favorite works off of stunt dice, considering the stunt dice as reflecting the Solar taking advantage of his environment.

Celestial Monkey Style - This style presents a strange mix of meditation and agility that come together in Charms that allow the warrior to dodge, enhance their own capabilities, and gain a combat edge from studying their adversary.  

Dreaming Pearl Courtesan Style - A style focused around war fans and rope like weapons, this style emphasizes ranged attacks at close targets, grace, and fluid motion.  Another favorite, the great thing about this style is how it exudes a narrow flavor while providing robust Charms that give the martial artist a significant edge over many opponents.  Every Charm is expertly conceived, providing logical and just plain cool abilities for weapons made of paper and silk.

Ebon Shadow Style - A style originally found in the Night Caste book, Ebon Shadow is focused on stealth and defense.  While there are several great offensive abilities, this style is ideal for characters who want to keep their enemies on the ropes while others move in to finish them off.  A skilled warrior could hold off the big bad, disable several lieutenants, or even take down an enemy with no serious injury.  With Charms like Image of Death Technique (allows user to enter a death-like state) this is an excellent martial art for any character who wants more stealth, trickery, and disabling techniques in her repertoire.

Laughing Wounds Style - This is a very dark style originally created by a Deathlord and focused around torment.  Practitioners of this style are very difficult to kill, as they have been taught to endure pain and even gain power from it.  In addition to incredible staying power, masters of this style possess several Charms that allow them to easily incapacitate their foes.

Mantis Style - Another style with a focus on close combat, Mantis style has several Charms related to joint attacks, disarming, clinching, and defensive maneuvering.  It’s a good style for characters that value speed and prefer to fight unarmed.

b>Righteous Devil Style[/b] - This is as close to Gun-Fu as Exalted gets and, as you would expect, it’s very cool.  This style uses firewands and essence manipulation to great effect.  Increased range, dual wielding firewands at no penalty, instant reloading, and similar abilities can all be found here.  In many ways this feels less like a martial art and more like a sequence of firewand focused Charms.

Silver-Voiced Nightingale Style - A style that involves singing, Nightingale Style  provides a broad variety of abilities.  Practitioners may enhance the capabilities of their allies, shout sonic attacks at foes, inspire listeners, and even push adversaries to such emotional highs that they have difficulty fighting.  I like this style quite a bit thanks to the sheer variety it presents.

Tiger Style - This very aggressive style emphasizes lethal attacks, movement, and attacking an unaware foe.  An excellent choice for the assassin who doesn’t fool around with poisons or extensively cloaking her presence, Tiger Style is very clear and straight up about what it does.

Chapter Four Sidereal Martial Arts 41 pages.

All of the Sidereal styles are breathtakingly powerful, which isn’t surprising since the Sidereals are both the greatest martial artists in existence.  These styles often incorporate reality twisting of one form or another, and are very fun to read.

Border of Kaleidoscopic Logic Style - This style focuses around altering an enemy’s mind and spirit.  This takes many forms, from shifting their loyalty to fundamentally altering their Virtues.  While that may not sound like a big deal, this is in fact a very cruel style.  Take Kaleidoscopic Disrecognition Atemi for example.  This Charm shatters an enemy’s mind such that their perceptions of other people are constantly shifting.  Their wife may resemble a hated foe one moment, the local tavern keeper the next, and then yet another person.  It will drive the target mad over time.  Duplicating personalities, ripping apart minds, and other similar techniques are all available to this style.

Charcoal March of Spiders Style - Based around imitating pattern spiders, this style provides a variety of creative Charms that do an admirable job of mixing spider qualities with manipulation of fate.  Walking across invisible strands of fate a practicioner can walk along the sky.  At the very high end of this style a martial artist may attack every potential opponent in range twice with a single action or change the loom of fate to fundamentally transform an opponent (perhaps turning them into a breeze or puddle of water).

Citrine Poxes of Contagion Style - This style is focused around attacking Essence directly in order to harm the body.  The warrior learns to purge toxins, disease, and magic with but a touch of his hands.  He also learns to remove an enemy’s organs, melt their flesh, and shatter the Essence currents of the world to rain down shards of Essence on a foe.

Obsidian Shards of Infinity Style - This is another one of my favorites.  This style embraces reality manipulation even more than many of the others, and includes many extremely cool Charms.  Reaching through the Mirror allows the martial artist to attack a person’s reflection to do even more harm to them.  Ripple in the Silvered Glass allows the user to turn a successful attack into whatever botched failure they narrate.  The Charms here are clearly focused on black glass, especially its reflective properties, and are very inventive.

Prismatic Arrangement of Creation Style - This is the easiest Sidereal style to master, and one of the most varied as it embraces a host of different techniques each reflecting on one of the magical materials or Exalted types.  This is a particularly useful style for a Sidereal who needs to deal with other Exalted types in creation but doesn’t want to make use of the other, incredibly powerful styles.

Quicksilver Hand of Dreams Style - No Sidereal remembers inventing this style, and no one knows who teaches it.  As near as anyone can tell the current practitioners learned it in their dreams.  This style is very interesting because the Charms grow more powerful as the practitioner learns more Charms in this style.  They start out at a Waking level, and then progress to Dreaming and Gossamer.  I’d like to see more martial arts styles do this, actually, as it can reflect a student’s continual mastery of even the basic forms.  This style is about manipulating dreams, from crafting weapons and armor out of dream stuff to forcing an opponent into the dream realm.

Scarlet-Patterned Battlefield Style - This style is meant for characters that fight in large scale conflicts, often involving hundreds or thousands of soldiers.  Many of the Charms are focused around defense, such as making it impossible for enemy soldiers to step into a given area or guarding a target to well the Sidereal may teleport to them when they are attacked.  Others allow for more incredibly abilities, such as completely rearranging the battlefield thanks to twists in fate.  On the whole it’s a well done style, but may be of limited use in many campaigns.

Appendix 10 pages.

Two new Backgrounds, Destiny and Face, are introduced here.  Destiny represents how great of an influence the character will one day have over history.  Face represents how respected and well known a character is in the martial arts world.  I find them to be neither great nor poor, they each do the job they’re crafted for but feel very unnecessary for most games.

Four pages of new martial arts weapons and two pages of artifact weapons are also included.

My Take
Scroll of the Monk is a fantastic supplement.  It does exactly what it intends to do, and instead of just being a long list of super powers the book is a lot of fun to read.  No matter what sort of Exalted game you’re running or playing in this book will have content that you’ll want to integrate into your game as soon as possible.  For me, that means it’s a really good product.

My big complaint remains that the Charm trees don’t branch off often enough for my taste.  I wish more of the styles went beyond a linear list of powers, but at least this way it’s easy for a reader to figure out what style comes next in the tree.
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