Mastery of the elements, unfailing precision, economy of Essence and control of the natural world. These are the realms of the magic that belongs to the Terrestrial Exalted. Like all Exalted but for the barbaric Lunars, Dragon-Blooded channel their magic through their practiced and refined abilities. However, unlike their Celestial cousins, the Terrestrial Exalted are primarily concerned with the elemental nature of their magic. Solar and Abyssal Exalted simply extend their mortal talents with magic and the Sidereal Exalted weave their arcane powers from a dreamlike web of associations tied to the mortal skills they have learned in Heaven. The nature of the Dragon-Blooded is too overridingly elemental for such methods, element takes precedence over all else. Terrestrial Charms are expressions of elemental force instead of expanded mortal ability, sometimes stitching the limits of association between the ability used to focus the Charm and the effects of the Charm itself.
The basic patterns of Essence manipulation are learned at the base of the Charm cascades of the Dragon-Blooded, allowing higher level Charms to become increasingly divorced from their mundane roots, expanding further into elemental associations and expressions. When adding new Charms to an existing tree, it is more important to consider the existing Charms and their function then the ability at the root of the tree. When creating a new tree, it is important to consider the aspect of the ability and what Charms will follow after the basic techniques. It is perfectly acceptable to write a few basic techniques simply and solely to ground higher level Charms to an ability. In rare cases, Dragon-Blooded Charms can exist without this grounding, as long as the elemental connection exists and the selected ability is the most appropriate of the five available. It may help some writers to think of the five Aspects as five types of Exalted, each with only five abilities to write Charms from. Virtually any effect can be created from the five abilities open to an Aspect, as long as the effect falls under the purview of the element in question. Even though a Solar would place his illusionary magics into Stealth, a Dragon-Blood can easily place them in Presence if they are based on heat visions and mirages. The aspect association toward Fire overrides the association with the Stealth ability.
Writing Terrestrial Charms
The basic requirement for a Terrestrial Charm is not a system, as it is in Solar Charms, but an elemental effect. A Solar would say “I want a Melee Charm that bypasses soak” and build something from that. A Dragon-Blood says instead “I want a Fire Charm that boils my opponent’s blood” and build from that. This is the most important part of writing good Terrestrial Charms: imagery comes first.
The process for creating Dragon-Blooded Charms is fairly simple. It can be outlined in five basic steps.
Dragon-Blooded Charms are increasingly tied to their elemental aspect as they increase in power. Low-essence Charms are mostly mechanical effects with elemental flavor, whereas high-essence Charms are entirely elemental and almost never have Solar-like mechanical natures. At all levels of Essence, the mechanics exist to express the effect of a Charm, they are not the Charm itself. It is important to remember the nature of Dragon-Blooded charms when tempted to write a high-level Dragon-Blooded dice adder. Such Charms are fine for Solars, but out of theme for a Terrestrial. It can not be stressed enough that Dragon-Blooded do not extend their mortal prowess with Charms, they channel the five elements.
The various levels of Essence follow a generalized set of rules for the sort of effects they general contain. The following rules are simple guidelines for appropriate Charms at the different Essence levels.
Essence one and two Charms are the most Solar of all Terrestrial Charms: dice adders, re-rollers and minor effects that can normally be replicated with stunts. Generally these Charms have only a minor elemental flavor and description. Because of this faint connection they can be pan-elemental, allowing expression in all five elements depending on their wielder. This is the level of most group-adding Charms and other Terrestrial-specific dice mechanics. Elemental influence here is entirely literal, Charms will not represent abstract connections of the element.
Essence three Charms are the middle ground between low-essence mechanical Charms and high-essence abstractions. Typically, these Charms have a heavy elemental influence but straightforward mechanical components. High-powered dice effects and low-powered elemental effects fall into the essence three range. Pan-elemental Charms starts to die off at this level. The elemental influence is too vital to be split between all the elements, one must clearly dominate in the Charm design.
Essence four and five Charms are entirely elemental, having risen beyond the need for focus through an ability. These Charms have only the vaguest relationship with their parent ability, the understanding for their use having come from lesser Charms instead of the ability itself. At this level the elemental expression can either be literal or metaphorical, tending more toward the metaphorical aspects.
Essence six and beyond has lost all connection to ability-focus and relies entirely on previous Charms for direction in placement. These are nearly always metaphorical expressions of the element or massive and over-powering control of the literal element. Effects that summon and control elemental spirits are common at this level. Mechanical Charms such as dice-adders and re-rollers are inappropriate for this level of Essence.
It may seem limiting to shoe-horn the mechanical Charms of the Terrestrials into ratings lower then Essence three, but without such limits the Dragon-Blooded are simply colorful Solars. At higher levels, Dragon-Blooded use elemental effects to simulate Solar dice-play. Where a Solar buys a perfect success in combat, a Terrestrial would melt his opponent’s weapon to prevent being parried or attacked.
Though it has already been discussed how Dragon-Blooded Charms rely on Abilities only at low levels, it is important to determine which ability a Charm cascade best fits and what ability prerequisites a Charm should have. All Dragon-Blooded Charms must have ability requirements even if they are of a sufficient Essence level to have surpassed an actual connection to the ability.
The ability level of a Terrestrial Charm is generally determined by the ‘skill’ involved in a Charm. More sophisticated Charms that have more complicated effects and need control and knowledge to wield have high ability requirements. Essence represents the other side of the scale, raw power and brute force. Solar Exalted often have high imbalances between the Essence and ability requirements of their Charms, representing Charms that are based on either great skill or great power. Terrestrials, being tied more closely to the Essence level of their Charms then the ability level, tend to have fairly close relationships between Essence and ability level. Most often the two requirements are within one or two dots of each other.
Another topic deserving of mention in this section is the method by which Dragon-Blooded Charms are placed into the proper ability. Because elemental effect is the basic ingredient of a Terrestrial Charm, they should be written with an element in mind rather then an ability. The ability can be chosen in three ways.
The easiest way to pick an ability is to find a suitable pre-requisite Charm that is already written and build off that, allowing the older Charm to serve as the reason the newer is suitable for the cascade. Dragon-Blooded are able to use their earlier Charms to teach them how to manipulate Essence instead of focusing through skill in the ability.
If the Charm is sufficiently low or high level that it can not find a good pre-requisite, then the choice of ability is slightly harder. At this point, it is best to look for the basic nature of the Charm. An offensive Charm can fit into the combat ability of the Aspect, since all five Aspects have a combat ability. Defensive Charms can fit into either the combat ability or one of the defensive abilities, if the Aspect provides one. Simply place the Charm into whatever ability most closely matches it purpose.
Should neither of the other methods find the Charm a home, then the least desirable way must be used. Place the Charm into whatever ability needs it the most. The ability with the least Charm diversity as you see it, or the ability that seems to have a gap in its theme that could be remedied by your Charm. Some Charms will be written exactly for this purpose, but otherwise this method should be avoided as it leads to Charms that feel slightly out of place.