Dragon Blooded Combat Competency

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LefferDP
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There's a lot of digital ink spilled in various places about Solars and what it takes to be competent in combat, but the Dragon-Blooded don't really have as much about them. The Empire expects even otherwise non-combat Dragon Blooded to know a little. So, what are minimal Charm builds for Dragon Blooded to reach competency in combat?

This is an attempt to gather together the possible approaches for a non-primary combatant Dragon Blood. They are likely to also be good starting points for fully combat invested characters. These are mostly builds of 5-8 Charms, with some commentary on how to use the build and where to go from there. Remember, though the builds are limited to what you can use at the start, you don't have to pick them all up a starting charms. Sometimes other stuff will just be more immediately important and that's okay.

Feel free to contribute more builds or discuss the existing ones in the responses.

Build headers are of the format NAME (Charm Investment) - Aspect Used, Armor Used [Mechanical Weight]


Basics

This section is intended to impart some basic information to you as a new Dragon Blood player that you need to consider when making builds. It also includes the extremely stripped down Minimal Investment builds and Helpful Charms which details charms useful for every build, if you can work them in.

Aura and Aspect
Spoiler
Aura can be real pain to deal with. You only enter it when you spend your entire turn using Balanced or the same element of charm and you only get it at the end of your turn. Thus any reflexive or defensive charms you use on others turns can only hurt you. This means that some aspects can only really rely on the Excellencies for defense, which is boring but effective.

If you want to be efficient with builds, it's best to use a mono element approach. There are some more complex builds for full combatants that require shuffling Aura (typically by hitting bonfire to switch Aura) or just ignoring it entirely, but they are rare and not for you here. Because you are forced into your element at Bonfire, it is usually best to have the same character Aspect as your build's Aspect, but if you can find a charm to use with an anima cost you can keep your anima levels at a reasonable state. An example of this is Elemental Bolt: it lets you pump a level of anima into it when you like, so if you are using them as your primary form of combat it tends to be easy to keep yourself at 2a and never hit bonfire. There are others scattered throughout the Dragon Blood charm list that I may eventually get around to documenting.

Minimal Investment (2+) - All, Any Armor [Easiest]
Spoiler
Melee and Brawl
Melee and Brawl provide the best return on investments if you just want defense and offense since you can parry with them. Melee is more flexible once you get out of the initial charms and gives more variety in artifacts. You basically just want the initial 3 investment + a relevant specialty and the excellency. I would strongly suggest some Athletics + Excellency to allow you to reach ranged opponents.
  • Brawl 3 + Specialty, Become the Hammer
  • Melee 3 + Specialty, Stoking Bonfire Style
  • (Recommended) Athletics 3, Effortlessly Rising Flame
Thrown and Archery
Thrown and Archery require Dodge to give you defense, but otherwise your demands are similar. Thrown using weapons such as daggers can use Melee for defense instead if desired, but I think Dodge is usually more generally useful. If you're going Thrown, make sure you use a sling or an artifact weapon that will return to your hand, otherwise you need another Charm.
  • Thrown 3 + Specialty, Seeking Throw Technique
  • Archery 3 + Specialty,  Unobstructed Hunter‘s Aim, (Firewands) Harvest of the Hunter, Boughs of Burning Autumn
  • Dodge 3 + Specialty, Threshold Warding Stance

Helpful Charms
Spoiler
Few of the sample builds include these charms as they're very useful but not mandatory. However I would strongly recommend them as supplemental methods of increasing combat ability.

Resistance Charms
Almost every build will take an Ox-Body. It makes it difficult for enemies to one shot you when they build up a little Initiative. Impervious Skin of Stone is also good, assuming you haven't completely dumped Stamina.
  • Ox-Body Technique
  • (Decent Stamina) Impervious Skin of Stone
Elsewhere Charms
Being able to have your weapons an armor anywhere is very useful. You get to avoid the penalty for flurrying drawing your weapon and just always have these items available. Archers are in a weird position because no equivalent archery charm exists. Resistance requires more expenditure since it's gated behind an extra charm you may not use if you aren't a mixed build or Wood aura.
  • (Melee) Elemental Sheath, (Thrown) Invisibly Hidden Chakram Method
  • (Resistance) Supple Viridian Scales, Elemental Aegis
Join Battle Booster
When you join battle, you'll generally want to start with as much Initiative as possible. Precision Observation Method as the Awareness Excellency can help with that. Characters with the Socialize excellency can instead rely on Wary Yellow Dog Attitude, though that only works if you're not being ambushed and have some time to talk.
  • Precision Observation Method
  • Wary Yellow Dog Attitude


Melee

Melee is probably the most straightforward and rewards a little bit of investment past the minimal stage. Most Melee approaches are benefited by branching into Athletics, but Air is the only one that gains direct martial power from it. 

Basic Training (4+) - Any (Earth / Fire / Water / Wood), Any Armor (Med/Heavy) [Easy+]
Spoiler
Requires: Melee 3+

Melee (4) - Stoking Bonfire Style, Flame-Borne Interception, Blinding Spark Distraction, Elemental Sheath

Use: Melee takes care of both your offensive dice pool and Defense, so it's good for very low investments. Flame-Borne Interception helps if a lot of people beset you and Blinding Spark Distraction lets you contribute to combat by just pumping Parry when you are attacked. Elemental Sheath lets you keep your weapon around at all times since you won't take Quick Draw or any other combat skills. Works really well with a Smashing weapon since Smash attacks just have to connect to provide the prone bonus and you probably have some extra Defense to back it up.

Progression: Consider more universal charms or build out in any elemental direction since all your current charms are Balanced.

Earth (2) - Dragon-Graced Weapon, Rumbling Earth Rebuke. Give your light Disarm weapon the Smashing tag with Dragon-Graced Weapon and smashing Withering attacks on your turn to be hard to ignore. When they do attack, use Rumbling Earth Rebuke to disarm and destroy enemy weapons.

Fire (4) - Flame Warden Stance, Blazing Interception, Burning Fury Wreath, Dragon-Scale Shield. Have an ally that's super focused on offense over defense? This might be for you. Flame Warden Stance lets you reflexively protect someone for a whole scene while Blazing Interception lets them pass you some Initiative for a decisive attack. With the number of low Initiative counter attacks you're using, Burning Fury Wreath is way more useful than it normally would be by lowering enemy Hardness. Since you're blocking for two, the Dragon-Scale Shield (Fire) option means you can siphon away Initiative from enemies on successful blocks (Just don't spend too much of your own in the process).

Water (2) - Graceful Flowing Defense, (Essence 3) Roaring River Slash. This is the total Defense option. You're taking the amazing penalty reducer Graceful Flowing Defense early and then bide your time. At Essence 3 you take Roaring River Slash, probably the best decisive enhancer the DBs have, which lets you double your damage on a decisive attack. Consider taking some of the Resistance tree Water charms if you want even more defensive opportunities.

Wood (4) - Burning Fury Wreath, Crimson Fang Bite, Demon-Crushing Wolf Bite, (Essence 3) Root-and-Hand Merging. Increase your withering damage output by (Stamina) dice with Demon-Crushing Wolf Bite and make parrying even easier with a non-Charm bonus from Root-and-Hand Merging.

Leaping Lightning (8) - Air, Heavy [Medium]
Spoiler
Requires: Melee 4, Athletics 4

Melee (5) - Stoking Bonfire Style, Burning Fury Wreath, Crimson Fang Bite, Oncoming Storm Stance, Unerring Lightning Razor
Athletics (3) - Effortlessly Rising Flame, Soaring Leap Technique, Flying Dagger Leap

Use: Aim, using Oncoming Storm Stance if you are low on motes, then lead at opponents with Flying Dagger Leap and attack with Unerring Lightning Razor. If things get too hairy, jump away with Soaring Leap Technique's disengage option. You can activate Crimson Fang Bite for extra damage when you absolutely need it, but it's very expensive for what you get.

Progression: If you need a bit more defense against groups, Flame-Borne Interception will help. Once you hit Essence 3 you'll want Unerring Lightning Razor's repurchase for quicker damage output against armored foes and Fulminating Thunderclap Surge for a big decisive finisher. If you have the Resistance, consider also purchasing Body-Like-Clouds Meditation for a decent defensive option and Dragon-Graced Raiment's Air aspect for a bit easier time chasing and retreating.


Brawl

If you are using Brawl, you are doing grapples. The rules for grapples are complex for one offs, but not so bad if you use them frequently. Their benefit is largely in their ability to disable an opponent rather than deal out massive damage, which makes it great for a secondary combatant. Note that both of these builds assume you are going to have a high Strength.

Pro Wrestling (8) - Water, Heavy Armor [Heavy]
Spoiler
Requires: Brawl 3, Strength > Dexterity

Brawl (6) - Flotsam-and-Jetsam Approach, Become the Hammer, Water Dragon‘s Coils, Inescapable Whirlpool Hold, Currents Sweep to Sea, Blade-Deflecting Palm.
Resistance (2) - Impervious Skin of Stone, Eternal Tide Endurance

Use: Use Water Dragon's Coils to do a Strength based grapple gambit. Savage opponents by ramming them into improvised weapons to use Flotsam-and-Jetsam Approach for Strength based attacks. You can use Currents Sweep to Sea to grab enemies at medium range; By default it uses Dexterity, but try to integrate Flotsam-and-Jetsam Approach by using your water tentacles to grab stuff to grapple them with. Alternatively, drag them into water and drown them with a Restrain action. When you are attacked, pray for 1s and use Blade-Deflecting Palm + Eternal Tide Endurance to no sell the attack since your Parry won't be great. Consider artifact armor that wants you to get hit for an effect to trigger like Five Edicts Dominion. Themes well with a beefy crafter using their crafting tools as improvised weapons.

Progression: There are a lot of Brawl charms to choose from here, the water grapple options like Pounding Surf Style and Hammering Wave Technique being helpful adders. Also look towards the Water based Resistance charms: Fathomless Depths Replenishment, Earth Bears Witness (Water repurchase), and Ripples-on-Water Defense, though these all require Resistance 5. If you are a crafter, Forge-Hand Prana synergizes well and you probably want all the previous Charms anyway, though it does add some setup time. 

Jiu-Jitsu (8) - Earth, Heavy Armor [Heavy]
Spoiler

Requires: Brawl 3, Strength > Dexterity

Brawl (6) - Become the Hammer, Water Dragon‘s Coils, Inescapable Whirlpool Hold, Crushing Avalanche Grasp , Stone Fist Strike, Rolling Boulder Blow
Resistance (1) - Impervious Skin of Stone​
Athletics (1) - Effortlessly Rising Flame

Use: We'll initiate with Water Dragon's Coils to do a Strength based grapples as before, activating Crushing Avalanche Grasp as we do so to make it difficult to break. Once grappled, we use Stone Fist Strike to knock enemies we have grappled prone with Smash attacks and then it + Rolling Boulder Blow as our finishing blow, preferably via a throw with (Strength) rounds of clinch left. Being both grappled and prone will give our enemy a -4 attack penalty which should keep us relatively safe, though outside attacks will suck. Getting to enemies will a bit more difficult since you're Strength based and lack a good Athletics choice to help with rushes, so you're stuck using Effortlessly Rising Flame to try to make up the difference. 

Progression:  Grab more Earth Resistance charms to survive outside interference. Specifically: Earth Bears Witness to shunt decisive damage and Immovable Mountain Technique to make you even better in grapples. Consider taking Crater-Making Impact in Brawl at Essence 3 to have a hilarious finisher where you yeet your foe over the nearest mountain dealing falling damage in the process.

Wood Dragon Claw Brawl (7/12) - Wood, Heavy Armor [Heavy]
Spoiler

Requires: Brawl 3, Strength > Dexterity, High Stamina (enough to cap your Brawl + Strength)

Brawl (5) - Become the Hammer, Water Dragon‘s Coils, Inescapable Whirlpool Hold, Oaken Thew Exertion, Entangling Roots Embrace
Resistance (1) - Impervious Skin of Stone​
Athletics (1) - Effortlessly Rising Flame
(Optional)
Occult (5) - 4 Occult Charms, Terrestrial Circle Sorcery (Control Spell: Wood Dragon Claw)

Use: Did you want your Dragon Blood sorcerer to use Wood Dragon Claw and have a combat style based around that? Well, Brawl can do it pretty well. You'll be a beefcake of a sorcerer, but that should be fun. The mote and round expenditure between summoning the claws and getting the grapple going are a little on the high side.

You do your typical activation of Water Dragon‘s Coils + Inescapable Whirlpool Hold, but activate Oaken Thew Exertion to get full excellency + 1 non-charm success. (You NEED to have enough Stamina >= Brawl or the cost is prohibitive) Entangling Roots Embrace supplements all your effort into getting a firm grasp by granting you an Initiative at the end of each round you maintain the grapple, helping you win the Initiative race.  

Bramble Hell Torment from the Wood Dragon claws are REALLY EXPENSIVE at lower Essences for the damage output, but is definitely worthwhile once you hit 4+. Living Thorn Transformation gives you some flexibility for weapon tags. Smashing is always a good one to allow you to knock enemies prone, but Reaching to get at mounted combats, Flexible to get around full defense users, and Balanced when you're facing massive soak can be good.

Progression:  You may want to pick up Supple Viridian Scales from Resistance to make movement easier. Body of Deadly Thorns is great, but requires investing in Dexterity as well since it's a Simple action you would take instead of Water Dragon‘s Coils. Hanging Tree Technique is also a pretty nice AoE grapple method, but also has the limitation of being its own Simple action. 


 Thrown 

Thrown is a little weird. You get your best accuracy in close combat, but you don't typically want to really stay there. You need a decent Defense option since unlike Archery you need enemies fairly close to hit. Unlike Archery you CAN just stand and face tank, but I wouldn't recommend this approach when mobility or Smash attacks can put enemies in disadvantageous positions. 

Hopping Fangs (7) - Air, Light Armor [Easy]
Spoiler
Requires: Thrown 5, Dodge 3

Thrown (4) - Seeking Throw, Invisibly Hidden Chakram Method, Mela‘s Twin Fangs, Elusive Zephyr Strike
Dodge (3) - Threshold Warding Stance, Hopping Firecracker Evasion, Light-as-Clouds Method

Use: Mela's Twin Fangs is pretty good for keeping your Initiative higher than your opponent's so spending a little bit to keep them at a distance isn't too bad. Light-as-Clouds Method lets you use Hopping Firecracker Evasion without ever leaving Air Aura. Since you're not the big hitter here, you use Elusive Zephyr Strike to feed to that ally and manage Initiative. Pairs well with Artifacts with Initiative costs.

Progression: You can proceed down the Air Thrown path without too much trouble after this. Maybe take something like Wind-Carried Words Technique to enter Air Aura ahead of combats. Consider picking up Nimble Zephyr Defense in the Defense tree to steal 1 Initiative when you dodge.

Stay Put! (6/8) - Earth, Heavy Armor [Medium]
Spoiler
Requires: Thrown 3, Lore 3

Thrown (4) - Seeking Throw, Armor-Rupturing Fang, Earth-Shattering Strike, Arcing Levinbolt Precision
Lore (2/4) - (2 non-combat charms), Elemental Bolt Attack, Mantle of Elemental Power

Use: Activate Mantle of Elemental power to use your Thrown as Parry. Combine Earth-Shattering Strike + Earth Bolt's Smash Attack to knock melee enemies away in difficult terrain and then walk away. Against more armored foes is where you really shine since you can repeatedly stack Armor-Rupturing Fang on them an exploit the mobility penalty it gives with Arcing Levinbolt Precision. 

Progression: Since you will be in Earth Aura all the time, picking up some Resistance charms like Impervious Skin of Stone and Earth Bears Witness would help. Learning Air Bolt and Mela's Twin Fang in the Thrown tree enables a double attack with Arcing Levinbolt Precision that can ignore 11 soak (3 from Armor-Rupturing Fangs, 5 from the mobility penalty in Arcing Levinbolt Precision, and 3 from Air Bolt) on an attack against someone in heavy armor.

Smoke Ninja (8) - Any (Fire), Light Armor [Medium]
Spoiler
Requires: Thrown 3, Stealth 3

Thrown (4) - Seeking Throw Technique, Blinding Spark Throw, Smoke Burst Eruption, Invisibly Hidden Chakram Method
Stealth (3) - Distracting Breeze Meditation, Vanishing Wind-Body Technique, Flowing Shadow Stance
Dodge (1) - Threshold Warding Stance

Use: Alternate between turns of decisive attacking with Smoke Burst Eruption and then hiding in the cloud it creates with Flowing Shadow Stance to pick up an extra point of Initiative. Benefits greatly from using poisoned darts. 

Progression: Shimmering Heat-Mirage Tactic offers some decent protection. Blood-Chilling Strike and Foe-Blinding Venom are assets to build initiative and make it hard for your enemy to spot you. Mela‘s Twin Fangs are great for building some Initiative as needed. Once you hit Essence 3, pick up Exploding Weapon Technique. If you can hit 12+ Initiative with your Join Battle, it makes a good opener with Shimmering Heat-Mirage Tactic, otherwise you'll need to build up before entering your hide / attack cycle again.

Venom Thorn (5) - Wood, Light Armor [Medium]
Spoiler

Requires: Thrown 4, Dodge 1+, an Artifact Thrown weapon.

Thrown (4) - Seeking Throw, Invisibly Hidden Chakram Method, Elusive Zephyr Strike, Venom Thorn Attack
Dodge (1) - Threshold Warding Stance

Use: Venom Thorn Attack is the star of the show here, letting you apply poisons to otherwise unpoisonable weapons like chakram or skycutters. You're expecting most of your combat power to come from whatever weapon you're using in this setup.

I can't help but feel like this would combo pretty well with White Veil Style, despite that being a melee poison delivery system and this being Thrown. The defensive charms, at least, would work well together, as well as the Signature Charm.

Progression:  You will eventually want Hundred Thorns Blossom if you have a high Guile and Manipulation. It's basically a free decisive, which is pretty fantastic, especially for someone who spams them far too much like you.


Archery

Archery is generally great unless enemies make it to close range with you. To use it effectively, you really need fellow combatants that are capable of keeping enemies in melee at short range. Brawlers and Earth Thrown tend to be very good at this, for instance. Unlike Solar Archery, Dragon Bloods will typically need to sacrifice a turn on aiming to get the most out of their charms.

Stable Firing Base (7) - Wood, Light Armor [Medium]
Spoiler

Requires: Archery 4

Archery (6) - Unobstructed Hunter‘s Aim, Arrow Thorn Technique, Nightshade‘s Deadly Bloom
                       Harvest of the Hunter, Life-Swelling Sap Strike, Arbor Sentinel Technique
Dodge (1) - Threshold Warding Stance

For Firewands Add Boughs of Burning Autumn

Use: Set up a nest with Arbor Sentinel Technique and climb in. Use withering attacks, taking advantage of aim + Arrow Thorn Technique against high soak enemies. Try to build up to Initiative 10. At Initiative 10+ fire off an aimed decisive attack with Nightshade‘s Deadly Bloom + Life-Swelling Sap Strike + Arrow Thorn Technique. If it hits with decent net successes you'll inflict a -4 penalty to all actions and deal 3i/round to your target. Heavy cover should do most of the heavy lifting for Defense, but Threshold Warding Stance is here as a backup

Progression: Sky-Calming Draw is useful for increasing your range and Death From Nowhere pairs well with Arrow Thorn Technique for withering attacks. Once you get to Essence 3 pick up Heartbeats Before Death. There aren't a lot of good defense increasers here for you, maybe taking Impervious Skin of Stone from Resistance, or picking up the Dodge charm Swaying Grass Elusion at Essence 3 since you're not using Wood Aura otherwise as much.

Moving Archery (7) - Air, Light Armor [Easy]
Spoiler

Requires: Archery 4, Decent Perception

Archery (4) - Unobstructed Hunter‘s Aim, Sky-Calming Draw, Death From Nowhere, Drawing Lightning Style
Dodge (3) - Threshold Warding Stance, Hopping Firecracker Evasion, Light-as-Clouds Method

Use: This build focuses on keeping away from your opponent as a mobile archer, but has less support methods for the team other than just damage. Use Death From Nowhere for your withering attacks and then aim and drop a Drawing Lightning Style decisive. Remember that you can't normally move while aiming, but if you get attacked, try to get away using Hopping Firecracker Evasion + Light-as-Clouds Method to keep your distance. ​​​

Progression: Consider picking up Harvest of the Hunter and Arrow Thorn Technique in Archery and Nimble Zephyr Defense in Dodge. This build really comes together at Essence 3 with Rolling Stormcloud Approach since that lets you move and aim simultaneously as well as make disengage rolls as needed. Add to that Drawing Lightning Style's repurchase and Horizon-Spanning Arc for +3 non-Charm successes to attack and damage out to extreme range for a decisive attack after 2 rounds of aiming.


Miscellaneous

These are a smattering of different combat methods not covered by the primary combat abilities above. These will tend to be less effective than the more straightforward approach but offer low cost niches to benefit the team.

Unbearable Dodge Technique (5) - Presence / Dodge - Fire, Light Armor [Easy]
Spoiler
Requirement - Presence 2, Dodge 5, High Charisma (Eventually High Wits for Unassailable Body of Fire)

Presence (2) - Glowing Coal Radiance, Unbearable Taunt Technique, Fearsome Dragon Presence
Dodge (3) - Threshold Warding Stance, Flickering Candle Meditation, Ember-Amid-Smoke Misdirection

Use: Yell at people to fight you with Unbearable Taunt Technique, preferably from cover, then Evade their attacks and sap a little bit of Initiative. If they're engaged with you already, threaten them with ruination via Fearsome Dragon Presence. Not the most effective method but it pulls an attacker away from your allies and is fairly mote efficient. Your Initiative will probably stay pretty static. Remember, you can always use other charms on your turn.

Progression: Consider Fearsome Dragon Presence to make any opposition to you difficult. This method works better once you get access to Unassailable Body of Fire at Essence 3 since it lets you deal out decisive damage while still sapping Initiative. If you find you want a proper attack Terrifying Fire-Dragon Roar can give you one. Eternally Argumentative Flame > Heart-Conquering Prowess gives you Appearance / 2 to attacks, which works on both Unassailable Body of Fire and Terrifying Fire-Dragon Roar.

Three String Samurai (5+)  - Performance / Melee - Wood, Any Armor [Medium]
Spoiler
Requires: Performance 5, High Wits

Performance (4) - Audience-Enthusing Display, Talented Improvisation, Sanxian-Charming Fingers, Vibrating Strings Defense,
Melee (1) - Stoking Bonfire Style

Use: This build assume you're going to mostly going to be using social actions during combat. However you have one neat trick in that you can use Vibrating Strings Defense to clash enemies, enhancing it with a full excellency, double 9s, and rerolling (Essence) non-1 failures. Works great against enemies with high Defense. Melee is there for defense and when you want to make the occasional attack.

Progression: So the base Charms are a little deceptive here. You really need the Essence 3 Charms Three String Sword Prana and Battle Anthem of Ten Thousand Dragons to pull this together. If you activate the Battle Anthem at the start, you're providing an extra withering damage to everything any other allies deals.  Three String Sword Prana is your source of decisive attacks, hopefully giving you a larger dice pool than your dexterity + melee.

Shake N' Bake (8) - Occult / Dodge - Fire (/ Air), Light Armor [Medium]
Spoiler
Requires: Occult 3, High Intelligence, Good Perception

Occult (5) - Hidden Secrets Whisper, Spirit-Detecting Mirror Technique, Spirit-Grounding Shout, Spirit-Chaining Strike,
                     Terrestrial Circle Sorcery (Control Spell: Flight of the Brilliant Raptor)
Dodge (3) - Threshold Warding Stance, Flickering Candle Meditation, Hopping Firecracker Evasion
Merit - (Pact with an Ifrit Lord) The Burning Name

Uses: Your Occult charms help your team deal with spirits. The Burning Name lets you make attacks with (Intelligence + Occult), which is fun. Use Hopping Firecracker Evasion to stay out of range of melee enemies. When you have built up your withering, dump a  Flight of the Brilliant Raptor on them. Consider taking the Merit Suzerain of Endless Flame.

Progression: At Essence 3 you want to pick up Dragon-Sorcerer Puissance to gain 3 sorcerous motes when you shape sorcery for Flight of the Brilliant Raptor. You can always grab additional Fire Charms like Ember-Amid-Smoke Misdirection and Unassailable Body of Fire.

Air (2) - Five Winds Rainment, Light-as-Clouds Method. If you want a bit more Defensive investment here, you can use Light-as-Clouds Method to keep your distance even more. Five Winds Raiment provides a bit more protection when shaping spells Definitely take the Unburnt Majesty merit if you aren't Fire aspected since you can expect it to spread.


Martial Arts

Martial arts can be a great way for a secondary combatant to go. They let you spend your role XP on increasing your combat effectiveness, letting you spend your normal XP on charms for whatever primary goals you have. Dragon Blood specifically tend to benefit from the non Immaculate Martial Arts because they have no effect on their Aura states, potentially letting them worry less about that aspect.

No matter which Martial Art you go into, make sure you take the Brawl excellency Become the Hammer to enable you to boost your attack and Parry. The Athletics Excellency or further charms will also help with rushes for most martial artists. Consider checking out the Helpful Charms section above for other charms that might be useful.

Immaculate Martial Arts (6) - All, All [Light to Medium]
Spoiler
If you are going to go into Martial Arts, you will generally benefit from going into one of the Immaculate Martial Arts first. They tend to be fairly self contained and enable you to expend your Aura to remove the Terrestrial tag from other Martial Arts, which can be extremely useful. You will absolutely want to stay in Aura for the Martial Art you choose during combat because a lot of their power comes from that. You probably want to invest the 5 charms at character creation to reach the form for whatever martial art you pursue.

Air Dragon Style - Despite having Evasion in the form, you can just rely on your Martial Arts Parry for the most part. If you do go into Dodge, you want to eventually go 4 deep for Light-as-Clouds Method. Probably doesn't need Athletics to rush due to having a ranged option.
Earth Dragon Style - Pretty solid overall with lots of Smash opportunities. Pairs well with a companion using the Stay Put! Thrown build due to Stillness-of-Stone Atemi's ability to inflict mobility penalties.
Fire Dragon Style - Probably the weakest style on its own. It mostly focuses on keeping Initiative high and sapping enemy Initiative, which means you probably don't want to use decisive attacks and will have a harder time recovering from your own Initiative loss. Consider taking Melee or other Martial Arts' defensive charms to help out the lack in Fire Dragon.
Water Dragon Style - Usually makes heavy use of Full Defense. Combos weirdly well with  Dragon-Scale Shield if you pick it up from Melee since the Water form triggers extra onslaught when you defend while at Full Defense.
Wood Dragon Style - Mixes well with Archery, but is pretty strong on its own. A decent Perception helps your bread and butter withering attack Charm Eyes of the Wood Dragon deal good damage. 

 
 
Last edited by LefferDP on Thu Aug 11, 2022 6:12 pm, edited 7 times in total.

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andrix
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Is the aspect listed for these the caste or the aura you envisage these working around? I imagine these are generalist minimal builds rather than showing that you can do something more specialised with the same number of charms and out of the box aura picks and stuff.

I ask because I think this is a pretty interesting little exercise so am keen to do more. Your choices here honestly seem really solid. If you had a few more of these an wrote it up as a little basic guide it's actually exactly the sort of thing I envisaged having the articles forum for which is currently nice and empty
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andrix wrote: Thu Apr 29, 2021 8:37 pm Is the aspect listed for these the caste or the aura you envisage these working around? I imagine these are generalist minimal builds rather than showing that you can do something more specialised with the same number of charms and out of the box aura picks and stuff.
They are the aura you need to stay in for the build to work. Theoretically there might be mixed builds that use one aura type for withering and one for decisive or something, but the nature of how the Dragon Blooded Aura works means keeping the same Aura during combat tends to be the more efficient method. You can actually be whatever Aspect you want, for the most part.

Yeah, there are intended as minimalist generalist builds, but if there's a specific low cost specialist niche you could fill with one, I don't think that would be a bad idea to include.
I ask because I think this is a pretty interesting little exercise so am keen to do more. Your choices here honestly seem really solid. If you had a few more of these an wrote it up as a little basic guide it's actually exactly the sort of thing I envisaged having the articles forum for which is currently nice and empty

Yeah, I only really know so much about Thrown because I built a character based around it recently. My hope was I could get some other members to make some suggestions and work with that. Partly too, I want to see what people think of as "competent" because they might have a different idea than I do.

If we can get this worked out, we can collate it into an article?
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LefferDP wrote: Thu Apr 29, 2021 9:20 pm Yeah, I only really know so much about Thrown because I built a character based around it recently. My hope was I could get some other members to make some suggestions and work with that. Partly too, I want to see what people think of as "competent" because they might have a different idea than I do.

If we can get this worked out, we can collate it into an article?

Definitely. Both my DB's have been martial artists so I'm a little less up on some of the other basic trees but I'll make a point of taking a look and seeing where I'd go with things.

This is definitely something @Flare would have thoughts on too
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Brawl

Is there a way to actually use Brawl for something other than Grapple effectively?

Pro Wrestling (8) - Water, Heavy Armor
Spoiler
Requires: Brawl 3, Strength > Dexterity

Brawl (6) - Flotsam-and-Jetsam Approach, Become the Hammer, Water Dragon‘s Coils, Inescapable Whirlpool Hold, Currents Sweep to Sea, Blade-Deflecting Palm.
Resistance (2) - Impervious Skin of Stone, Eternal Tide Endurance

Use: Use Water Dragon's Coils to do a Strength based grapple gambit. Savage opponents by ramming them into improvised weapons to use Flotsam-and-Jetsam Approach for Strength based attacks. You can use Currents Sweep to Sea to grab enemies at medium range; By default it uses Dexterity, but try to integrate Flotsam-and-Jetsam Approach by using your water tentacles to grab stuff to grapple them with. Alternatively, drag them into water and drown them with a Restrain action. When you are attacked, pray for 1s and use Blade-Deflecting Palm + Eternal Tide Endurance to no sell the attack since your Parry won't be great. Consider artifact armor that wants you to get hit for an effect to trigger like Five Edicts Dominion. Themes well with a beefy crafter using their crafting tools as improvised weapons.

Progression: There are a lot of Brawl charms to choose from here, the water grapple options like Pounding Surf Style and Hammering Wave Technique being helpful adders. Also look towards the Water based Resistance charms: Fathomless Depths Replenishment, Earth Bears Witness (Water repurchase), and Ripples-on-Water Defense, though these all require Resistance 5. If you are a crafter, Forge-Hand Prana synergizes well and you probably want all the previous Charms anyway, though it does add some setup time. 


Jiu-Jitsu (8) - Earth, Heavy Armor
Spoiler

Requires: Brawl 3, Strength > Dexterity

Brawl (6) - Become the Hammer, Water Dragon‘s Coils, Inescapable Whirlpool Hold, Crushing Avalanche Grasp , Stone Fist Strike, Rolling Boulder Blow
Resistance (1) - Impervious Skin of Stone​
Athletics (1) - Effortlessly Rising Flame

Use: We'll initiate with Water Dragon's Coils to do a Strength based grapples as before, activating Crushing Avalanche Grasp as we do so to make it difficult to break. Once grappled, we use Stone Fist Strike to knock enemies we have grappled prone with Smash attacks and then it + Rolling Boulder Blow as our finishing blow, preferably via a throw with (Strength) rounds of clinch left. Being both grappled and prone will give our enemy a -4 attack penalty which should keep us relatively safe, though outside attacks will suck. Getting to enemies will a bit more difficult since you're Strength based and lack a good Athletics choice to help with rushes, so you're stuck using Effortlessly Rising Flame to try to make up the difference. 

Progression:  Grab more Earth Resistance charms to survive outside interference. Specifically: Earth Bears Witness to shunt decisive damage and Immovable Mountain Technique to make you even better in grapples. Consider taking Crater-Making Impact in Brawl at Essence 3 to have a hilarious finisher where you yeet your foe over the nearest mountain dealing falling damage in the process.



EDIT: Added a ranged / closer option to both Brawl builds.
Last edited by LefferDP on Sun May 02, 2021 7:21 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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andrix wrote: Thu Apr 29, 2021 10:00 pm
LefferDP wrote: Thu Apr 29, 2021 9:20 pm Yeah, I only really know so much about Thrown because I built a character based around it recently. My hope was I could get some other members to make some suggestions and work with that. Partly too, I want to see what people think of as "competent" because they might have a different idea than I do.

If we can get this worked out, we can collate it into an article?

Definitely. Both my DB's have been martial artists so I'm a little less up on some of the other basic trees but I'll make a point of taking a look and seeing where I'd go with things.

This is definitely something @Flare would have thoughts on too

Martial Arts actually make for good secondary combatants since you can spend role XP on it, but you want to avoid investing too many starter charms without being useless in combat out of the gate. Maybe a writeup that's basically Become the Hammer + solid starter MA charms from the Dragon Styles would be good.
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LefferDP wrote: Thu Apr 29, 2021 10:43 pm Martial Arts actually make for good secondary combatants since you can spend role XP on it, but you want to avoid investing too many starter charms without being useless in combat out of the gate. Maybe a writeup that's basically Become the Hammer + solid starter MA charms from the Dragon Styles would be good.

Yeah, I think martial arts is certainly worth touching on but most of them as so effective at being self contained that you can probably write something universal for all of them as a general guideline to compliment the sort of thing you're doing here. So saying you should have Become the Hammer, plus at least up to your form in any given MA...and then maybe touch on a few things like Impervious Skin of Stone as suggestions to consider in case your defensive options aren't quite there with the MA
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Archery

Stable Firing Base (7) - Wood, Light Armor
Spoiler

Requires: Archery 4

Archery (6) - Unobstructed Hunter‘s Aim, Arrow Thorn Technique, Nightshade‘s Deadly Bloom
                       Harvest of the Hunter, Life-Swelling Sap Strike, Arbor Sentinel Technique
Dodge (1) - Threshold Warding Stance

For Firewands Add Boughs of Burning Autumn

Use: Set up a nest with Arbor Sentinel Technique and climb in. Use withering attacks, taking advantage of aim + Arrow Thorn Technique against high soak enemies. Try to build up to Initiative 10. At Initiative 10+ fire off an aimed decisive attack with Nightshade‘s Deadly Bloom + Life-Swelling Sap Strike + Arrow Thorn Technique. If it hits with decent net successes you'll inflict a -4 penalty to all actions and deal 3i/round to your target. Heavy cover should do most of the heavy lifting for Defense, but Threshold Warding Stance is here as a backup

Progression: Sky-Calming Draw is useful for increasing your range and Death From Nowhere pairs well with Arrow Thorn Technique for withering attacks. Once you get to Essence 3 pick up Heartbeats Before Death. There aren't a lot of good defense increasers here for you, maybe taking Impervious Skin of Stone from Resistance, or picking up the Dodge charm Swaying Grass Elusion at Essence 3 since you're not using Wood Aura otherwise as much.


Moving Archery (7) - Air, Light Armor
Spoiler

Requires: Archery 4, Decent Perception

Archery (4) - Unobstructed Hunter‘s Aim, Sky-Calming Draw, Death From Nowhere, Drawing Lightning Style
Dodge (3) - Threshold Warding Stance, Hopping Firecracker Evasion, Light-as-Clouds Method

Use: This build focuses on keeping away from your opponent as a mobile archer. Use Death From Nowhere for your withering attacks and then aim and drop a Drawing Lightning Style decisive. Remember that you can't normally move while aiming, but if you get attacked, try to get away using Hopping Firecracker Evasion + Light-as-Clouds Method to keep your distance. ​​​

Progression: Consider picking up Harvest of the Hunter and Arrow Thorn Technique in Archery and Nimble Zephyr Defense in Dodge. This build really comes together at Essence 3 with Rolling Stormcloud Approach since that lets you move and aim simultaneously as well as make disengage rolls as needed. Add to that Drawing Lightning Style's repurchase and Horizon-Spanning Arc for +3 non-Charm successes to attack and damage out to extreme range for a decisive attack after 2 rounds of aiming.

 
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No Attack Ability

Unbearable Dodge Technique (5) - Fire, Light Armor
Spoiler
Requirement - Presence 2, Dodge 5, High Charisma (Eventually High Wits for Unassailable Body of Fire)

Presence (2) - Glowing Coal Radiance, Unbearable Taunt Technique, Fearsome Dragon Presence
Dodge (3) - Threshold Warding Stance, Flickering Candle Meditation, Ember-Amid-Smoke Misdirection

Use: Yell at people to fight you with Unbearable Taunt Technique, preferably from cover, then Evade their attacks and sap a little bit of Initiative. If they're engaged with you already, threaten them with ruination via Fearsome Dragon Presence​​​​​​​. Not the most effective method but it pulls an attacker away from your allies and is fairly mote efficient. Your Initiative will probably stay pretty static. Remember, you can always use other charms on your turn.

Progression: Consider Fearsome Dragon Presence to make any opposition to you difficult. This method works better once you get access to Unassailable Body of Fire at Essence 3 since it lets you deal out decisive damage while still sapping Initiative. If you find you want a proper attack Terrifying Fire-Dragon Roar can give you one. Eternally Argumentative Flame > Heart-Conquering Prowess gives you Appearance / 2 to attacks, which works on both Unassailable Body of Fire and Terrifying Fire-Dragon Roar.
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Another Thrown Option focused on Thrown / Stealth now

Smoke Ninja (8) - Any (Fire), Light Armor
Spoiler
Thrown (4) - Seeking Throw Technique, Blinding Spark Throw, Smoke Burst Eruption, Invisibly Hidden Chakram Method
Stealth (3) - Distracting Breeze Meditation, Vanishing Wind-Body Technique, Flowing Shadow Stance
Dodge (1) - Threshold Warding Stance

Use: Alternate between turns of decisive attacking with Smoke Burst Eruption and then hiding in the cloud it creates with Flowing Shadow Stance to pick up an extra point of Initiative. Benefits greatly from using poisoned darts. 

Progression: Shimmering Heat-Mirage Tactic offers some decent protection. Blood-Chilling Strike and Foe-Blinding Venom are assets to build initiative and make it hard for your enemy to spot you. Mela‘s Twin Fangs are great for building some Initiative as needed. Once you hit Essence 3, pick up Exploding Weapon Technique. If you can hit 12+ Initiative with your Join Battle, it makes a good opener with Shimmering Heat-Mirage Tactic, otherwise you'll need to build up before entering your hide / attack cycle again.
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I've had a chance to look through and make some notes on the first few of these now. They actually seem really robust and are a great starting point for builds. You've doing a good job showing why I really like the DB set and how elegantly it uses the Aura mechanics to give meaningful choices not just with build but also how you progress and sequence your charms through a combat.

One general suggestion I'd make is to consider a difficulty rating for some of these. Some appear a touch more advanced than others and while I think all of them give a great platform for a new DB player or someone looking for something new, it could just be worth keeping in mind.


Hopping Fangs - I think this set up is really great. It's easily one of the lowest difficulties here yet there's a lot that an ST could do to make this into a really nice and evocative set to really help a new player have fun grasping the system. I like that you note this isn't for heavy hitters due to the lack of real charms that punch in decisives, but acknowledging that lets a player tool themselves accordingly. I'd maybe note that a direction to take this would be with evocations and a style that gives even more for gambits too. An ST giving this a simple evocation or two in this direction could go a long way to helping the player feel useful but also like they're realising their role as a ranged support fighter

Stay Put - Another really solid entry level set. I'd rate this as sliiightly harder for a total newbie since there's a degree of aura balancing to take into consideration but nothing too taxing. I'd consider recommending Precision Observation Method for all earth aura users since having it for JB as a way to trigger aura is super helpful. I'd also note that the resistance charms should not just be used as a method of defence but also as a trigger to help get you back on aura ready for your own attacks if you need them.

Pro-Wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu - Look great and I'm a fan of the brawl stuff, but I think these are where I would consider notes of difficulty levels to be important, because I certainly wouldn't hand a set like Jiu-Jitsu to a total newbie, and would go as far as to say I'd try and keep them away from grapples etc. as much as possible. Not that these fail at what you want them to be, it's just I'd target them at a slightly different sort of player. I'd also consider a quick note on Elemental Aegis here as a possible future buy, because it's cool and is the sort of thing that might visually/stylistically pull a set like this together for a player
 
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So, I think Aura works a little different than you seem to be suggesting.
To enter an Elemental Aura, the Dragon-Blood must use Charms and/or anima powers of only one element during her combat turn (or a similar narrative interval outside of combat, such as an action in a scene of social influence or a round of naval combat). At the end of her turn, she enters the appropriate Aura. The Elemental Aura lasts until the end of the scene, but ends early if the Dragon-Blood uses a Charm or anima power of another element at any time.
So you can't use Reflexive actions to enter Aura out of turn. Join Battle is not a turn, thus Precision Observation Method cannot put you into Earth Aura (It's Balanced so it doesn't take you out of it, fortunately). Similarly you can't use defensive Charms to put yourself in Aura, only to break it by using charms that are not of that element.
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LefferDP wrote: Sun May 02, 2021 4:17 pm So, I think Aura works a little different than you seem to be suggesting.
To enter an Elemental Aura, the Dragon-Blood must use Charms and/or anima powers of only one element during her combat turn (or a similar narrative interval outside of combat, such as an action in a scene of social influence or a round of naval combat). At the end of her turn, she enters the appropriate Aura. The Elemental Aura lasts until the end of the scene, but ends early if the Dragon-Blood uses a Charm or anima power of another element at any time.
So you can't use Reflexive actions to enter Aura out of turn. Join Battle is not a turn, thus Precision Observation Method cannot put you into Earth Aura (It's Balanced so it doesn't take you out of it, fortunately). Similarly you can't use defensive Charms to put yourself in Aura, only to break it by using charms that are not of that element.

I'd always been a little unclear on JB as regarding Aura and genuinely couldn't remember if this was something that we'd house ruled or not. As for the defensive charms, that's a straight up brain fart on my part. It's worth having the clarification somewhere anyway, even if that's just here in the thread from me being dumb
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andrix wrote: Sun May 02, 2021 3:12 pm One general suggestion I'd make is to consider a difficulty rating for some of these. Some appear a touch more advanced than others and while I think all of them give a great platform for a new DB player or someone looking for something new, it could just be worth keeping in mind.
This is a great idea.
andrix wrote: Sun May 02, 2021 3:12 pm Hopping Fangs - I think this set up is really great. It's easily one of the lowest difficulties here yet there's a lot that an ST could do to make this into a really nice and evocative set to really help a new player have fun grasping the system. I like that you note this isn't for heavy hitters due to the lack of real charms that punch in decisives, but acknowledging that lets a player tool themselves accordingly. I'd maybe note that a direction to take this would be with evocations and a style that gives even more for gambits too. An ST giving this a simple evocation or two in this direction could go a long way to helping the player feel useful but also like they're realising their role as a ranged support fighter
Maybe a Synergy section along with Use and Progression would be good for these?
andrix wrote: Sun May 02, 2021 3:12 pm Stay Put - Another really solid entry level set. I'd rate this as sliiightly harder for a total newbie since there's a degree of aura balancing to take into consideration but nothing too taxing. I'd consider recommending Precision Observation Method for all earth aura users since having it for JB as a way to trigger aura is super helpful. I'd also note that the resistance charms should not just be used as a method of defence but also as a trigger to help get you back on aura ready for your own attacks if you need them.
Precision Observation Method is a Balanced charm so I'd recommend it for just about every character with any Awareness dots. It's kind of like taking Ox-Body in that I think a separate section detailing stuff everyone might want is probably more effective.
andrix wrote: Sun May 02, 2021 3:12 pm Pro-Wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu - Look great and I'm a fan of the brawl stuff, but I think these are where I would consider notes of difficulty levels to be important, because I certainly wouldn't hand a set like Jiu-Jitsu to a total newbie, and would go as far as to say I'd try and keep them away from grapples etc. as much as possible. Not that these fail at what you want them to be, it's just I'd target them at a slightly different sort of player.
I've realized there's no kinds of ranged options / gap closers currently, which is going to be potentially a bad time.
andrix wrote: Sun May 02, 2021 3:12 pm I'd also consider a quick note on Elemental Aegis here as a possible future buy, because it's cool and is the sort of thing that might visually/stylistically pull a set like this together for a player
I don't really see any direct benefit for it as part of the fighting style itself. It seems like one of those things to put on the pre list for useful charms with the other Elsewhere charms.
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Melee

Basic Training (4+) - Any (Earth / Fire / Water / Wood), Any Armor (Med/Heavy)
Spoiler
Requires: Melee 3+

Melee (4) - Stoking Bonfire Style, Flame-Borne Interception, Blinding Spark Distraction, Elemental Sheath

Use: Melee takes care of both your offensive dice pool and Defense, so it's good for very low investments. Flame-Borne Interception helps if a lot of people beset you and Blinding Spark Distraction lets you contribute to combat by just pumping Parry when you are attacked. Elemental Sheath lets you keep your weapon around at all times since you won't take Quick Draw or any other combat skills. Works really well with a Smashing weapon since Smash attacks just have to connect to provide the prone bonus and you probably have some extra Defense to back it up.

Progression: Consider more universal charms or build out in any elemental direction since all your current charms are Balanced.

Earth (2) - Dragon-Graced Weapon, Rumbling Earth Rebuke. Give your light Disarm weapon the Smashing tag with Dragon-Graced Weapon and smashing Withering attacks on your turn to be hard to ignore. When they do attack, use Rumbling Earth Rebuke to disarm and destroy enemy weapons.

Fire (4) - Flame Warden Stance, Blazing Interception, Burning Fury Wreath, Dragon-Scale Shield. Have an ally that's super focused on offense over defense? This might be for you. Flame Warden Stance lets you reflexively protect someone for a whole scene while Blazing Interception lets them pass you some Initiative for a decisive attack. With the number of low Initiative counter attacks you're using, Burning Fury Wreath is way more useful than it normally would be by lowering enemy Hardness. Since you're blocking for two, the Dragon-Scale Shield (Fire) option means you can siphon away Initiative from enemies on successful blocks (Just don't spend too much of your own in the process).

Water (2) - Graceful Flowing Defense, (Essence 3) Roaring River Slash. This is the total Defense option. You're taking the amazing penalty reducer Graceful Flowing Defense early and then bide your time. At Essence 3 you take Roaring River Slash, probably the best decisive enhancer the DBs have, which lets you double your damage on a decisive attack. Consider taking some of the Resistance tree Water charms if you want even more defensive opportunities.

Wood (4) - Burning Fury Wreath, Crimson Fang Bite, Demon-Crushing Wolf Bite, (Essence 3) Root-and-Hand Merging. Increase your withering damage output by (Stamina) dice with Demon-Crushing Wolf Bite and make parrying even easier with a non-Charm bonus from Root-and-Hand Merging.


Leaping Lightning (8) - Air, Heavy
Spoiler
Melee (5) - Stoking Bonfire Style, Burning Fury Wreath, Crimson Fang Bite, Oncoming Storm Stance, Unerring Lightning Razor
Athletics (3) - Effortlessly Rising Flame, Soaring Leap Technique, Flying Dagger Leap

Use: Aim, using Oncoming Storm Stance if you are low on motes, then lead at opponents with Flying Dagger Leap and attack with Unerring Lightning Razor. If things get too hairy, jump away with Soaring Leap Technique's disengage option. You can activate Crimson Fang Bite for extra damage when you absolutely need it, but it's very expensive for what you get.

Progression: If you need a bit more defense against groups, Flame-Borne Interception will help. Once you hit Essence 3 you'll want Unerring Lightning Razor's repurchase for quicker damage output against armored foes and Fulminating Thunderclap Surge for a big decisive finisher. If you have the Resistance, consider also purchasing Body-Like-Clouds Meditation for a decent defensive option and Dragon-Graced Raiment's Air aspect for a bit easier time chasing and retreating.


 
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