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Sorcery is a more sophisticated and demanding form of Essence manipulation than Charms. With Charms, the Exalt focuses Essence through her Abilities, while, with sorcery, she focuses it through sheer will alone. Sorcery features three levels of initiation: Terrestrial Circle, Celestial Circle and Solar Circle. Sorcerers may also practice necromancy, but advancement in one art inhibits development in the other.

Brigid, a Solar Exalted was the first of the Chosen to master Sorcery during the First Age. Rumor has it, that this world changing knowledge was given to her by the Yozis.

Does Sorcery Flare your Anima Banner?

There is a moderate debate as to whether Sorcery flares your anima banner when using personal Essence to cast it. There are, of course, several answers.

In First Edition, Sorcery very obviously flared one's anima as described in the text on p. 216 of the First Edition Core.

Because the character releases the Essence and then shapes it, the result is an  awe-inspiring display of power.
The magic flows and coruscates around the character, displaying sorcerous characters she utters and shaping itself
into  the final magical effect.  For lesser spells, the effect is simply impressive.   For more powerful spells, it
can create a display hundreds of feet high that is  visible for miles.

However, the Second Edition Core makes only minor mention of magic flows around sorcerous characters. "Sorcery is inherently Obvious. Observers might not know what spell the Exalt is casting, but it is obvious that the Exalt is using sorcery unless the spell description states otherwise." (Second Edition Core p. 251) Some believe this refers to an anima banner flare. Another argument against the flare of one's anima in Second Edition is that some spells that rely upon guile or stealth would not be viable, especially those that could be used in situations where stealth or secrecy is necessary (i.e. while avoiding attention from guards and the like).

The text of the spell Droning Suggestion (The White Treatise of Sorcery, p. 44.) seems to indicate that one's anima does normally flare when one uses personal Essence to fuel their spellcasting, as it says the following:

At the moment of casting, the noise rises to a crescendo, the sound of a thousand voices whispering in an unknown
tongue. This is the spell’s only Obvious quality: Unlike other spells, Droning Suggestion does not flare the
sorcerer’s anima if the sorcerer uses only her Personal Essence.

This is, perhaps, the only indicator in Second Edition that one's anima banner flares regardless of the type of Essence used. It is possible that the error occurs in the text of Droning Suggestion and not in the Second Edition Core or in the clarification of rules in The White Treatise of Sorcery on pages 6-7.

Sorcery versus Charms: A Warning to Inexperienced Players

According to the very first Exalted literature available on sorcery (First Edition Core on p. 216.), "to work sorcery is to command the essential forces of the very universe." It is described as being slow, inefficient and expensive (in terms of motes of Essence and points of Willpower expended to cast spells) when compared to Charms. It also goes on to describe those who master sorcery as beings to be feared.

However, the mechanical benefits of sorcery have never lived up to these descriptions of it, which have remained largely consistent throughout the Exalted line. Mid-Essence Terrestrial Charms, such as Dragon Vortex Attack (and by extension, As in the Beginning) have proven to be even mightier and more effective at large-scale destructive effects than spells like Total Annihilation or Rain of Doom. With the ease of negating even the most powerful sorceries via Charms like Magic-Shattering Strike or Spell-Shattering Palm (Li), sorcery's effectiveness is further challenged by both native and non-native Charms as being "more transcendentally difficult and powerful than jumping over mountains and taming societies to the Exalt's will". (Second Edition Core, p. 250.)

Given the ease at which sorcery (and by extension necromancy and protocol weaving) can be defeated by a variety of Charms that cost less in terms of motes of Essence and points of Willpower spent—Charms which are faster to use than spells, build off of low-Tier Charms or are starting Charms (such as Spell-Shattering Palm) and can even give a sorcerer's opponent motes back for countering such magics, it is strongly recommended that players approach the sorcery system with extreme caution with the understanding that Charms currently outstrip sorcery in every single way with a few notable exceptions (those exceptions being summoning—particularly demon summoning—and transportation spells). Direct damage spells, such as Death of Obsidian Butterflies or Flying Guillotine are often defeated by low-Essence, low-tier perfect defenses much cheaper and faster than it takes to cast such spells in the first place and are of limited use in combat due to their speed, expense and ease-of-defeat. Spells that buff the caster's traits, such as Invulnerable Skin of Bronze or Wood Dragon's Claw provide greater benefit to combat sorcerers, but require additional Charm-based support to justify their worth as equally-effective or more effective than native Charms.

Given these basic examples, and other more complex issues that have been debated on various forums that discuss Exalted, it is strongly recommended to players to talk with their Storytellers first before developing character concepts that are dedicated to the use of sorcery, as they may quickly find themselves falling behind in power when compared to other player characters who invest their experience in Charms instead of sorcery. This kind of caution in using one of Exalted's core powers is sometimes referred to as a "bear-trap" or "landmine".


Source: First Edition Core, pp. 215-223.
Source: Second Edition Core, pp. 250-257.
Source: The White and Black Treatises, The White Treatise of Sorcery, pp. 6-7, 44.

See also