How do you read 'Special Activation Rules'?

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Flare
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This is a simple question but I want to invite some discussion on it. Here's an example;
Brilliant Reproach
Cost: 5m; Mins: Essence 1
Type: Simple
Keywords: Decisive-only, Resonant
Duration: Instant
Prerequisites: None
Horizon Cleaver’s wielder can unleash its lightning — at great collateral risk. She makes a decisive attack. If it deals damage, its victim loses (Essence) Initiative, which the wielder doesn’t gain, and becomes thunderstruck for the scene, suffering a −2 penalty on physical actions.

If the wielder’s 1s and 2s on her attack roll exceed (lower of her Integrity or Resistance), she loses control of Horizon Cleaver, and the attack is redirected to a random target within range — including the wielder or her allies.

Special activation rules: A Dragon-Blooded Tepet scion who attunes to Horizon Cleaver awakens this Evocation at no cost.

Resonant: If a character resonant with jade has a Principle that reflects her code of honor, she adds its rating to the total number of 1s and 2s she can roll without losing control of the lightning.
How do you read the Special Activation Rule here?

I believe what it means is as follows; if you are a Tepet Scion, you unlock this charm for free. If you are not, you may pay the standard cost of an Evocation to unlock it.

However, a discussion with a friend has revealed she thinks differently; she thinks you can only unlock the charm by meeting the Special Activation Rule.

My reasoning for my observation is that if you can only unlock it by the Special Activation Rule, then a non-Tepet could never use this weapon, as all of it's Evocations have this as a prerequisite. Of course, logically you could say you unlock a mechanically identical but distinct charm, which sidesteps this issue. I can understand that for some effects which are logically quite powerful, there could be a balancing factor in requiring you to undergo particular effects in order to unlock them, however.

However, for some Evocations, it becomes a bit more complicated; let's take two other examples.
Cloud-Gathering Practice
Cost: —; Mins: Essence 3
Type: Permanent
Keywords: Dissonant
Duration: Permanent
Prerequisites: Death in the Mist

Weaving mist has become second nature to the wielder. Upon winning Join Battle, she can reflexively activate
Fog-Raising Gesture at no cost.

Special activation rules: As long as the wielder isn’t dissonant with jade, this Evocation awakens at no cost when she upholds a Major or Defining Intimacy by defeating a non-trivial foe within the mists conjured by the daiklave.
Eternal Moonsilver Champion
Cost: —; Mins: Essence 3
Type: Reflexive
Keywords: Resonant
Duration: One scene
Prerequisites: Flickering Lunar Protector, Moonbeam Razor Flash

Resonant: This Evocation can only be awakened by a wielder resonant with moonsilver.

Once the Exalt is incapacitated, her Essence merges more fully with the blade than ever before. Arise, Moonlight Blade activates for free if not currently active. For the rest of the scene, Flying Silver Dream cannot be crashed — anything that would reduce its Initiative value to 0 or below merely drops it to 1. Its temporary Willpower resets to 10, it gains a full Peripheral Essence pool equal to the wielder’s, and it gains access to all of its wielder’s Charms that could enhance actions the daiklave is capable of taking, other than those wholly inappropriate for a flying sword. If the Exalt dies, the effect lingers for as long as the Storyteller deems dramatically appropriate.

This Evocation can only be used once per story, unless reset by defeating the foe who incapacitated her or making peace with him after forming a positive Major or Defining Tie towards him. The Dawn Caste anima power cannot reset it.

Special activation rules: This Evocation awakens at no cost when the Exalt is incapacitated.
Here we have two Evocations that have somewhat different issues; Cloud-Gathering Practice is a fairly useful and powerful effect, it is beneficial to the Exalt to know it. Can they only learn it when they reach the Special Activation rules, or can they forgo the 'free' charm if they feel it's strong enough to want it now, essentially paying an opportunity cost to learn it now in exchange for some EXP upfront. And particularly, this charm says 'so long as the wielder isn't dissonant with Jade'; if it can only be learned with the special activation clause, that means someone who is Dissonant with Jade could never this Evocation.

Meanwhile, Eternal Moonsilver Champion is a specific, focused Evocation that is unlocked for free when it can be used. Could you learn this by paying Experience- though I don't know why you WOULD-, or is it designed to be a free benefit?

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Maseiken
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On the first point: you're right - your friend is wrong.

Special Activation Rules are exceptions, so it's best to keep them to a strict reading. Unless they Specifically say the Evocation can't be bought with experience, it still can be.

For Cloud-Gathering Practice, yeah you could buy it before the Activation occurred, especially if you're going after Mist-Weaving Mastery. That said, unless you're already Essence 4 you'll proooobably hit the Activation trigger before you raise your Essence.

In the case of Eternal Moonsilver Champion you'd have no reason to buy it with XP.
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Maseiken wrote: Tue Aug 10, 2021 1:04 am On the first point: you're right - your friend is wrong.

Special Activation Rules are exceptions, so it's best to keep them to a strict reading. Unless they Specifically say the Evocation can't be bought with experience, it still can be.

For Cloud-Gathering Practice, yeah you could buy it before the Activation occurred, especially if you're going after Mist-Weaving Mastery. That said, unless you're already Essence 4 you'll proooobably hit the Activation trigger before you raise your Essence.

In the case of Eternal Moonsilver Champion you'd have no reason to buy it with XP.
I concur. The principle is that the special rule takes precedence over the general rule, but if the special rule doesn't apply, the general rule still does. In this case, anyone who can learn the Evocation *may* do so normally, but *if* the special activation rule applies, you can do that instead.

I'd personally be inclined to be generous, and say that if the player spends XP but later trips the special activation rule, the XP is refunded. I'm not aware of anything saying that explicitly, but giving back "obsolete" XP comes up in at least one context (Workings) and I think some others (purchased Merits?) so there is indirect justification.
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Blackwell wrote: Tue Aug 10, 2021 3:05 am
I'd personally be inclined to be generous, and say that if the player spends XP but later trips the special activation rule, the XP is refunded. I'm not aware of anything saying that explicitly, but giving back "obsolete" XP comes up in at least one context (Workings) and I think some others (purchased Merits?) so there is indirect justification.

Interestingly this is the issue I was considering as I plugged around on them and part of why I brought it up.

I know the original devs had an enjoyment of uneven EXP totals, which is something I find no enjoyment of, so there was a thought on my end of the awkwardness of people constantly looking at their sheet and going 'I could have gotten this for free' and feeling frustrated, knowing that I'm a sort of player like that.

I think that makes sense to refund the EXP if they trigger the condition, though it may lead to slightly more book-keeping depending on how players track their EXP.
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I am less convinced. Evocations after all aren't supposed to be just a specific set of powers that a weapon can have and only have. Arms of the Chosen on page 15 even suggests that some weapons aren't ever mastered by some people because they try to use it against its nature. Let's consider some legacy weapon of some family line of Dragonblooded who with pomp and ritual pass it from one parent to child stretching back to before the Great Contagion. Then one day Face Eating Badger, famed and feared Full Moon Lunar, eats the latest heir's face and takes it. The idea that the Lunar is getting the exact same charms from the weapon as the actual scions of the family seems a little weird. Furthermore on page 18 it suggests about ways in which one could build off established charms to develop a new legend and ways in which one couldn't. Artifact powers aren't just the weapon they are the person too.

So I would say I think the intent is that in this case in the example at the start non-Tepet's would not get those charms or at least that is how the settings internal logic and how these things work would play out. It isn't however that you are forever locked away from the power of the weapon but that instead something else is being made from it. Yet that very reasoning is also a justification on why it perhaps can be allowed. Experience counts as you literally putting in the work of harmonising yourself with the weapon. Also some artifacts such as Courante and Galliard flat out have a charm which says you can't awaken it if you are dissonant to the weapons.

Which means my ultimate conclusion is that it is kind of context based. Which is terrible as a hard rule. Both ideas just fit as near as I can tell. So whatever is going to make for a better game at your table? I think both ideas have merit.
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Flare wrote: Tue Aug 10, 2021 4:18 am I think that makes sense to refund the EXP if they trigger the condition, though it may lead to slightly more book-keeping depending on how players track their EXP.

I think that would be entirely fair.
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I don't think anyone would enjoy buying a charm they COULD get for free, but for the GM's whims/random chance.

Personally I'd say that if you buy a charm ahead of time, the activation condition
a) Allows you to refund that XP and
b) waives the charm's essence/WP cost for that single activation.

That way you get a mild incentive to buy the charm normally if it's something you're interested in, but not so much as to override the activation trigger as an option.
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I didn’t consider the special activations to be proscriptive by default, but it seems like an interesting route you could take for a cursed artifact or a legacy item.
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As far as your first point goes you are correct and your friend is incorrect.  The special activation rule here is explicit only so far as it modifies the cost of the evocation.

"Special activation rules: A Dragon-Blooded Tepet scion who attunes to Horizon Cleaver awakens this Evocation at no cost." (emphasis mine)

Exalted is exception based, anytime there's explicit change to a rule you read that rule according to only the situation it applies.  The special activation rule is meant to be a benefit to Dragonblooded of House Tepet, not a requirement.

Consider many of the reflexive martial arts forms charms.  The special activation rules under these chrams explicitly list a condition under which the form charm can be activated reflexively, modifying the base trait of the charm from simple to reflexive when that special activation condition is met.  Under the normal (non-special) activation rules of the charm we review it as per its listed terms, simple actions.

The assumed terms of learning an evocation is that you can if you pay the cost.  The special exception for this artifact is that scions of House Tepet can learn the evocation without cost when they attune it.
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There are plenty of examples of what it looks like when the special activation rules are meant to be exclusive.
Poppet-Knitting Practice (Distaff) wrote: This Evocation can only be awakened by a wielder with Craft (Weaving) 3.
The Silken Army (Distaff) wrote: This Evocation cannot be purchased with experience points. It awakens at no cost when the wielder encounters a crisis that threatens a person, group, or place toward which she holds a positive Major or Defining Intimacy.

Watcher at the Gates of Chaos (Nightmare Shard), Final Blood Sanction (Strife's Crucible), Incandescent Sunfire Ascendency (Sunflash), and others do this too.

Brilliant Reproach, on the other hand, doesn't say that it can't be purchased with experience points, and it doesn't say that ONLY a Tepet scion can unlock it. So, neither restriction applies.
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Oh, also, one last observation. Back to the OP example, if Brilliant Reproach's special activation rule was meant to be exclusive, than the Resonant condition, and that of any subsequent Evocations, would be unecessary. There's no such thing as a "Dragon-blooded scion of House Tepet" who isn't resonant with jade.
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