So one of the biggest problems I have had with GMing an Exalted game is getting the players to actually limit break. Flavor wise, it is one of the biggest flaws of an Exalt, Solars in particular, but I cannot seem to in practice get the players to break even once.

Mechanically, there are a few ways to gain limit (and I'm limiting this to Solars and Lunars, for the time being, playing a good Abyssal gets your resonance building quite nicely), and they are:

  1. Spending a point of Willpower to Suppress a virtue. (If Lunar, I believe it is only your highest virtue).
  2. Spending a point of Willpower to shrug off mental influence (up to a maximum of 1 point of limit per scene). Edit: Another problem with this is perfect social defenses do not add to limit.
  3. Lunars only: Seeing the moon during the couple of nights it is full.
  4. Various charms and effects which cause limit.

I have the biggest problem with the first one. Compassion is the easiest virtue to challenge in the course of game play, by putting them in situations where the players need to be heroic. The child will die if you don't do something, or the enemy you just defeated is now begging for his life and saying that he was forced into it. My main problem with this is that most players will not put more than 2 dots in Compassion, and thus do not have to roll it.

Valor is a lot harder, because typically I find the players spoiling for a fight anyway, and only rarely are outclassed to the point that they will run away (I've even had a player die so he wouldn't need to suppress valor, go him!).

Conviction is also hard, as it typically goes along with Character motivation, and I find it hard to put the players in situations where they are having to go against their primary motivation. I have a recurring Abyssal who is genuinely trying to help them out, but they're way more interested in pummeling her than hearing her out (primarily because she's really good at mind control, and secondarily because they are just vicious. Perfect Soak is nice.)

Temperance is the hardest. You're in a bar! "I don't drink.". Problem avoided.

So, I can see two ways out of this, one is making it so that I continually put them in situations to challenge virtues that are in my mind harder to challenge (ala, The Ebon Dragon shows up and eats you. Roll valor if you want to run!), or increase the frequency in which they have to shrug off mental influence.

What can I do to make this a more defined feature of the game experience? From the lore, First Age Solars would limit break all the time, but I just can't seem to get the players to break even once (and part of that is because they tend to die, but nevermind that.)

  • \$\begingroup\$ Is this something your players have indicated they want? \$\endgroup\$ Apr 25, 2011 at 5:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ It has come up in conversation, yes. Several of them have indicated that they would like to at least see one, before the campaign is over. I think it's a lost cause for this campaign, but I do want to know for future reference. It was a problem in the last game I played in as well. Neither that GM nor I could come up with an elegant solution. You reminded me of something to edit! \$\endgroup\$
    – Cthos
    Apr 25, 2011 at 5:30

4 Answers 4


I've run into this problem personally, and it can be quite difficult to cause limit breaks with any frequency. Challenging PCs to act against their virtues is definitely one way to build up limit, but there is one core source of limit you've skipped in your list:

Each virtue flaw has specific limit condition that, when met, forces the character to roll that virtue and gain limit equal to that amount

For example, if a character has the Deliberate Cruelty conviction flaw, they will be forced to roll conviction and gain successes when they are in particularly dire circumstances. Because this often results in several points of limit I find this to be the most effective way of causing a character to limit break.

Each PC is likely going to have a different flaw, so you'll need to make a list of them and watch out for those circumstances. Try to write stories that cause them to occur and don't be shy about making players roll. You'll have them breaking in no time.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Usually too if one PC limit breaks their actions can cause others to limit break too as they try to contain/deal with the consequences of the first. \$\endgroup\$
    – mirv120
    Apr 25, 2011 at 16:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Brilliant, and that is the key I think, I either wasn't aware of it or wasn't conscious of it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cthos
    Apr 25, 2011 at 17:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Cthos The details are buried under the descriptions of each flaw. Its still somewhat hard to keep track of all of them, but with some notes it is possible. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rain
    Apr 25, 2011 at 17:04

For the first, as Brian mentions, make them have to decide between virtues, particularly their higher ones. However, as I've heard it, at least in exalted, the pairs are compassion/conviction and temperance/valor. In the first, the player must choose between people and their dreams, while in the second they must choose between restraint and fighting. Or to put it another way, start giving them actual ethical dilemmas that the players themselves have to think about.

For the second, have them encounter something like an infernal with Crowned with Fury(from the official wiki) using it on a crowd for something ostensibly good. (A construction project comes to mind, but anything could work, especially something the characters ostensibly support.) They will need to burn motes, burn limit, or join in, and rolling join battle should probably force at least temperance roll.

For the third, besides the full moon, hunting people for their hearts blood also increases limit, and in fact my character purposely hunted nine people during down time purely to get rid of my current limit track.

I should also note that the exalted wiki has a few tips on this as well.

Example of Putting it all together

Lets say you players motivation is to oppose the deathlords, and the first and forsaken lion has begun his march upon creation. If your players care most about some other evil in the setting this is easily changed. While crossing the first and forsaken lion's path, they find an infernal ordering around the construction of a defense of some city. At this point, listing to him for to long will force limit gain. Further, not attacking him might force a valor check, if they care about not being influenced. Worse, attacking him will certainly cause a temperance check, and possibly a conviction check, since he's supporting their motivation. Lastly, if they kill the infernal and leave the village without a guardian, that will force a compassion check.

  • \$\begingroup\$ While I like the example, imagine a solar who only has a single virtue rated higher than 3, take valor. In order to avoid limit, all this character has to do is attack, if they feel strongly about stopping all creatures of darkness (and arguably that's a conviction check, since Valor would be more so avoiding a fight if one has started). If they act in accordance to that one virtue, the rest don't matter since they are rated too low in all the other ones. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cthos
    Apr 25, 2011 at 16:28
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Cthos, at that point, I'd put them in situations that attacking is something the player wouldn't want to do, or at the very least, where there are consequences. I'd also remember that somebody who solves all their problems by attacking isn't a hero and eventually shouldn't be treated as such. \$\endgroup\$
    – sebsmith
    Apr 25, 2011 at 20:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, that brings up another thing about trying to get Exalted characters to be heroic... :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Cthos
    Apr 25, 2011 at 20:07
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Cthos, for that you need to merely give them chances to be heros, and also to remember that they are greek heros, not modern heros. This means that even a fall from grace counts as being heroic. \$\endgroup\$
    – sebsmith
    Apr 25, 2011 at 20:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ That is an excellent point, and something that often gets missed by those who are unfamiliar with the Classics. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cthos
    Apr 26, 2011 at 18:29

Consider Ultima IV. In this classic game, the virtues did not exist in a vacuum. Any given moral choice must, if it is an actual choice, balance between competing virtues.

Do the heroes show compassion or do they show valor? Do they show conviction or temperance?

From a philosophical point of view, those two sets are opposed: compassion is the abrogation of principles for the sake of life. Valor is the perseverance to principles despite fear.

Temperance is, at its core, moderation. In consuming substances, yes, but moderation in all things. Conviction is the abandonment of moderation, pushing through extremes because you know they're right.

When presented with meaningful choices, present them through the prism of the virtues you care about. Note that the paths have costs in the other virtues, then let players resolve their own compromises with themselves. Award limit accordingly (and inform them that you will be doing so.)

  • \$\begingroup\$ The biggest issue I'd have with making them choose one or the other is the tendency to choose the one that they would have to roll if they go against it. Not a huge problem in the group who wants to see a limit break, but more of a systemic problem I see. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cthos
    Apr 25, 2011 at 16:25

Indeed, as has already been mentioned, you have another way: their virtue flaw. (I'm not entirely sure whether that isn't Solar-only, though...) This is the most efficient way to gain limit and a GM I once had had a pretty good way of improving it: don't let them know.

Start off by coming up with a custom virtue flaw. It doesn't have to be incredibly original: most virtue flaws fall into either the virtue-to-extreme or the abandon-that-virtue categories. Make sure that flaw is consistent with the flavour of the character they've built. Do not tell them what it is. Don't tell them when it comes up, don't let them track their own limit. Whenever it comes up, roll their virtue dice and add it to their limit. And, when that fateful day comes, turn to them and go

"Congratulations, you've just limit broken and would really really like to go sulk in your tent for the rest of the day. Would you like to try to control the limit break?"


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