So here are the Three Laws (plus one) of the Elements:
- When you invoke or tag an aspect that's associated with your declared Element, it gives you an additional +1 bonus (i.e., a +3).
- When you invoke or tag an aspect against which your declared Element is weak, the bonus it gives you is reduced by one (i.e., a +1).
- When you invoke or tag an aspect against which your declared Element is neither strong nor weak, it gives you a +2 bonus, as usual.
- Your Wu Wei aspect has no Element. It always yields a +2 bonus when invoked or tagged.
The relationship between your invoked aspect's Element and your opponent's declared Element remains.
To recap: At the beginning of every conflict, you declare an Element, the associated Virtue of which indicates your motivation for the scene. That goes on an index card (or something similar/more interesting), face-down on the table. All participants flip over their card simultaneously, and it's on.
There's a little more to this than normal SotC conflict, of course. If you're invoking an aspect, it's skill + roll + 2 (the default aspect bonus) +/- 0-1 (the declared Element vs. invoked/tagged aspect bonus or penalty) +/- 0-1 (the invoked aspect vs. opponent's declared Element bonus or penalty). The character sheet (there's a character sheet) makes clear the strong/weak relationships between the Elements, so there's nothing to memorize, really.
Worst-case scenario: You declare an Element (e.g., Wood), then invoke an aspect with an Element that's opposed to your declared Element (e.g., Earth) which is also weak against your opponent's declared Element (e.g., Wood), resulting in a total bonus of (2 - 1 - 1) zero. But that's just bad tactics. If you and your opponent have declared the same Element, invoking an aspect with an Element that's weak against that declared Element is a bad idea. (Man, I've gotta come up with some better terminology for this stuff -- it's just way too wordy.)
Best-case scenario: Declared Element, aspect with same Element, opponent's aspect weak against that Element, resulting in a total bonus of (2 + 1 + 1) +4.
Is that too many steps to go through? I'd like to think it isn't. Obviously, it'll require playtesting. Have to sucker some of the usual gang of idiots into that sometime.
A slightly more complicated (but potentially more satisfying -- that's always the trade-off, isn't it?) version of this starts things out with an Alertness contest before Element declaration. Whoever rolls lowest has to declare his Element first. Declaration then follows in ascending order. This way, an especially alert character has a chance to gain a bit of insight into the opposition before the action begins.
BTW, "SotS" is not forgotten or anything. I still have my to-do list, and I'm to-doing it.