Permanent Essence is Exalted is roughly equal to the role the Refresh level plays in The Dresden Files RPG, which is to say a really rough gauge of the character’s power level. The concept can’t be translated directly, but should work well enough.
For the various Exalted (or campaign) power levels I’m borrowing heavily from Strands of Fate. I looked at how Dresden divides up the starting power levels, but Dresden characters don’t tend to be dripping with various powers like they are in Exalted. They way Strands structures the power levels, scaling from normal dude all the way up to Superman, works much better for Exalted.
Balancing refresh, starting skill points and Charm Points between the various power levels is proving to be the toughest challenge. Below is a really quick and dirty first attempt. I’m sure there’s problems in it, but until I’ve got some of the Charms/powers worked up I don’t have any real way of testing the various numbers.
The names for the levels are just working names and will probably get changed before I’m done. At the very least they won’t be 1:1 connections to the various Exalt types. Using terms that connect more to the age of the Exalt might be less confusing/ misleading. Thinking something along the lines of Heroic Mortal -> Second Breath -> Experienced Exalt -> Veteran Exalt -> Elder Exalt. Still needs some work, but that seems like the better way to title the power levels.
I’m also kicking around the idea of dropping the number of Charm Points a bit for each level and allowing players to “cash in” refresh for Charm Points on a 1:2 point exchange. This would reign in some of “over the top” nature and make Fate Points more scarce. I’m not sure how much I want to do either of those things, but I don’t want players to get their full Refresh every session either, because I’m afraid doing so would take some of the teeth out of the Great Curse and make taking advantage of the Sponsor mechanics less of a temptation.
Further noodling is required.