Handling Essence in FATE is proving to be a tougher problem to crack than I had originally thought. When I first looked at it I thought the Hunger mechanics from Dresden* would fit perfectly, with a stress track to represent the character’s Essence pool. If only it were that easy.
Modeling the Anima Banner as consequences is a natural fit, with the anima banner’s intensity scaling very nicely up the ladder of consequences. There’s just one problem, Stress is absorbed in a non-linear fashion in Dresden and SotC**, while Essence is spent in a very linear fashion in Exalted. In Exalted, as you spend Essence your anima banner grows, but in FATE you might check your very last stress box to absorb your first hit, or take a moderate or severe consequence before you take a mild one.
After beating my head against a wall all weekend, plus a bit, I’ve finally switched to using Void Star’s stress track in this case. The Stress tracks work in a more linear fashion in Strands of Fate,which solves the above problems, but I’m not happy about including an entirely different Stress mechanic for Essence alone***.
Below is my first draft at the Essence mechanics. Things may still move around a bit once my group starts play testing, but will probably stick fairly close to this method.
Each character has a special stress track called Essence, which represents their reserves of power. As there is no Essence Skill, the number of boxes is determined by the character’s Exalt type****, though more can be purchased later. The track is divided into a series of consequences representing the character’s Anima Banner.
Essence Spending and Stress
Each time a power is used, roll the associated ability (Melee, Athletics, etc) against the listed difficulty. If you pass, the power activates without trouble. If you fail, the power activates but you also suffer a number of stress equal to the difference of your roll and the power’s cost. Essence stress boxes don’t have a number associated with them, so as you suffer stress simply fill in the first open box, suffering a consequence if necessary. If you already had a consequence, replace the old one with the new one.
A character’s Essence track clears of all stress at the end of the scene. Anima Banner consequences also recovery much faster than regular consequences, with Out of Essence immediately downgrading to Bonfire Aura at the beginning of the next scene. The Anima Banner will continue to downgrade one level per scene(or one level every 20 minutes if the scenes are particularly long) so long as the character isn’t forced to take Essence Stress.
*or the Activation Stress from Strands of Fate. Same mechanic, just turned on its head.
** For an example of what I mean, check pages 201-202 in The Dresden Files: Your Story or pages 65-67 in Spirit of the Century
*** I made this a lot harder than it should have been by trying to stick with Evil Hat’s FATE mechanics for some time before switching to Void Star’s Activation Stress. I’ve not used any of the differing mechanics from Void Star up until this point, and had wanted to avoid doing so. Going this way makes Essence an exception to the normal rules and exceptions usually equal trouble.
**** The example included has a completely arbitrary number of boxes per level. I’ll nail that aspect down as I get the templates for the various Exalt types worked out.