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  • [3e PEACH]Extended travel rules

    So, my players acquired an airship a few sessions ago in my campaign, and traveling around in it felt... insubstantial. (The airship since died in a Death Ray, but that's another story.)

    There wasn't really a sense of the passage of time, and it was making Creation feel kind of small and uninhabited. So I was mulling over ways to fix that when, browsing the 1e Abyssals book, I found a section detailing rules for navigating the Labyrinth which I really liked. I wrote this up as an adaptation of those rules; since it was written for the ship, it references Sail, but we used it with e.g. Survival for journeys on foot, Ride for journeys on demon-back, etc.

    The problem we encountered is that, as it stands, they're too easy: the Circle, with relatively minimal challenge, completing a Desperate journey using no Survival Charms other than the Excellency and succeeding by large thresholds on most checks. The fact that each roll represents potentially several days, and certainly several hours, of travel time implies that Solars should get back a lot of motes between rolls, but a full Excellency on every roll, even for a character without Wits 5 and Survival 5, is just too good in the system as it stands.

    So, I'd really appreciate any suggestions folks have on how to maintain the sense that time is passing -- and thus motes are returning -- while getting the balance somewhat more in line. (If necessary, I can always just rule that they don't get motes back during the trip and handwave it as 'you're spending them to deal with problems offscreen', but that doesn't feel satisfying in terms of verisimilitude, and getting no Essence back at all feels kinda harsh.)

    Navigating Creation

    We've been using the Exalted travel times map (here) to estimate travel times, but it makes the crucial assumption that you're traveling smoothly, without incident and as the crow flies, which -- in a world as vast and busy as Creation -- is almost never true. These extended travel rules are intended to fix that problem, and to make navigating the ship mechanically reflect the difficulty and depth of the task.

    Getting there from here...

    Navigating to a given destination is an extended Wits + Sail + Maneuverability roll.

    The goal number (number of successes required) depends on distance:
    • 100 miles requires 10 successes
    • 250 miles requires 15 successes
    • 500 miles requires 20 successes
    • 1000 miles requires 25 successes
    • 1500 miles requires 30 successes
    • 2000 miles requires 35 successes
    • 2500 miles requires 45 successes
    • 3000 miles requires 60 successes
    • 3500 miles requires 80 successes
    Journeys in excess of 2000 miles are significantly more challenging; unless broken up by (significant) stops within the 2000 mile range, the number of successes added continues to increase by 5 at each step (e.g., 4000 miles would require 105 successes).

    The base travel time is as shown on the map, modified by the pace:
    • A leisurely journey doubles the travel time; base difficulty 2.
    • A regular journey uses the normal travel time; base difficulty 3.
    • A fast journey takes 80% normal time; base difficulty 4.
    • A punishing journey takes 60% normal time; base difficulty 5.
    • A desperate journey takes 40% normal time; base difficulty 6.
    ...and what you see along the way
    Note: None of the below rules are 100% binding; as much as I love me some hexcrawls, I'm not going to reduce traveling in Creation to a random encounter check if I have better ideas.

    Progress on the journey depends on the outcome of each Sail check:
    • Succeed by 5 or more: A significant breakthrough! The first time this result occurs, the journey's pace is increased one step without any increase in difficulty. The second time, the next roll is treated as one step more successful. Any subsequent times grant a +3 on the next navigation check. This may result in the Circle making a significant find or having significant good luck -- stumbling across potentially-profitable ruins, discovering valuable intelligence from their aerial vantage, etc.
    • Succeed by 4: A landmark; the next Sail check enjoys a +2 bonus, and the Circle may make a minor discovery or have a minor stroke of luck, such as finding a convenient place to renew supplies or encountering air spirits that might be persuaded to aid the journey.
    • Succeed by 1-3: Well done, you.
    • Fail by 1: Lost bearings; the next Sail check suffers a -2 penalty.
    • Fail by 2: A setback; the next Sail check suffers a -2 penalty, and the Circle may encounter an obstacle or hazard that will require their attention to resolve, or a potential distraction from their journey.
    • Fail by 3: A significant setback; the next Sail check suffers a -2 penalty, and the Circle encounters an obstacle or hazard that will require effort to resolve, or a complex situation that cannot be resolved without diverting significant time from the journey.
    • Fail by 4: Disaster strikes; the next Sail check is treated as being one step less successful, the next check after that suffers a -2 penalty, and the Circle encounters something genuinely dangerous.
    • Botch: ...ouch.
    Tools of the trade
    • Maps and pre-planned routes: A map can either be purchased or created with an Intelligence + Craft roll at a difficulty equal to the number of steps along the distance table; this requires one day of work per point of difficulty. Interpreting the map requires the navigator or captain to make an Intelligence + [Sail or Survival] check at a difficulty equal to half the base difficulty for the journey; each extra success grants a die to be added to one Wits + Sail check whenever the captain wants to use them.
    • Writs of safe passage and letters of marque: Within the sphere of influence of whatever government or power issued the documents, the writ is equivalent to a Major intimacy in social influence attempts aimed at establishing your right to be here or pass through this area. Forging these documents is certainly possible, but don't botch your influence attempt...
    Last edited by Kerredai; 03-15-2017, 03:26 PM.

  • #2
    I really like this idea, because while I think airships are really cool I also think that traveling great distances as an adventure is cool. Making the world tiny and empty has always been my problem with airships, or sorcerers who summon a bunch of agatas or magic travel clouds for that matter.

    I can see how this system would still trivialize travel for a group of solars who aren't even particularly good at sailing, though. I feel like the best way to handle it would be to think of proper in-setting and narratively appropriate problems to deal with.. but coming up with new and genuinely interesting complications can get extremely tiring after one or two trips. There's also the 2e style prohibitively time-consuming and costly maintenance, but that can be just as much work to keep interesting - you can only go on so many quests for a rare material or forgotten knowledge before the ST runs out of ideas.

    Come to think of it.. are there any good sailing focused RPGs that might have interesting systems or advice specifically for keeping ship travel interesting?

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Andrew D View Post
      Come to think of it.. are there any good sailing focused RPGs that might have interesting systems or advice specifically for keeping ship travel interesting?
      One of my players commands an army of hundreds of tiger warriors, so the question of "how much cargo and how many passengers can your ship carry" became pretty important; I hacked something together based on Stars Without Number. In terms of sailing specifically, 7th Sea must have something, right?

      Coming up with in-setting complications that are both interesting and sufficient to add that sense of size and lived-in-ness for every journey they take would be ideal if it were achievable, but I'm not really confident in my ability to do that -- and, by providing some structure and prompting, this system was supposed to help in that regard: for example, a failure by 2 indicates some kind of setback -- perhaps, given that they're in the North, this takes the form of a brief scene of the ship being forced to land as a stormfront rolls through, or perhaps it indicates the glow of a town below them, burning as bandits raid it, and the Dawn caste insists they stop to save people.

      On the Survival-based land journey they took, I felt like having the prompts from the table -- they botched so something terrible just happened, they succeeded by five so something is going *really* well -- helped out a lot in terms of avoiding the blank-page problem, but they kept running up such high numbers (after the statistically-improbable botch on the very first roll, anyway) that they basically just kept stacking up bonuses and ended up making the journey in 20% of the predicted time.

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      • #4
        When my players cross long distances, I ask them to come up with a number of details on their own. Like, who did you encounter along the way? What town did you stop in for provisions? I found that it helps guide me towards the kinds of things they find interesting, provides a few nice hooks, and gets them thinking about the world beyond their character.

        I accept things like, "I fly above the clouds interacting with exactly ZERO people and places." as that is its own choice. The sorcerer might start wondering why people have heard of his friends though, and are more willing to interact with them.


        My Homebrew: Architect of the Regal Puppet Style (WIP) || Monkey Style || Radiant Halo of Incandescent Might || Pale Driver, Ruination of the Edifice of Tyranny || Sublime Percussion, Just a Whole lot of Fun || Idris, The Graceful Heart of Purpose

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        • #5
          Should the base difficulty really be 2?

          I wonder if accumulating successes is really the best way to go about this. Perhaps it should rather be pass/fail at each segment, where failing the roll simply means you make less progress than expected? Then there wouldn't really be a huge advantage from slamming excellencies, just a reduced chance of failure. Or perhaps a more narrative system?

          I wonder if trying to use the same system for wildly divergent methods of travel is the best way to go about it. How do you account for the Eclipse who bought three Ride charms and considers a horse a 300mph land cruiser?

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          • #6
            So, your complaint is that Solars are good at doing a thing? I can't help but feel that's putting the cart before the horse; of course Solars are going to rock Sail and Survival rolls. Rather than tossing yet another elaborate system onto the game, I would address this at the story level.

            First, the airship itself needs some complications (needs to be docked on land for repairs regularly, draws essence from the sun and can't fly during the night, etc). If this requires a retcon, so be it.

            Second, make the story bigger than the airship. There needs to be people/places they care about that can't all be packed aboard safely. Maybe they have a base of operations that's necessary for maintenance, so they can't risk losing it. Maybe they find or build some Manses. Once they are tied in some fashion to different places in Creation, you can make the world feel big because they can't be in two places at once.

            Third, and finally, put other things up in the air with them that present a challenge. Maybe a small fleet of sky pirates from the Haslanti League wants their ship. Maybe they meet People of the Air and become embroiled in the politics of their various city-states.

            Throwing in an occasional sail roll for handling weather and such isn't a bad idea, but don't expect it to generate much drama. The player who invested in Sail wants to be good at it, so use the rolls as an opportunity to make him/her shine.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Totentanz View Post
              So, your complaint is that Solars are good at doing a thing? I can't help but feel that's putting the cart before the horse; of course Solars are going to rock Sail and Survival rolls. Rather than tossing yet another elaborate system onto the game, I would address this at the story level.

              First, the airship itself needs some complications (needs to be docked on land for repairs regularly, draws essence from the sun and can't fly during the night, etc). If this requires a retcon, so be it.

              Second, make the story bigger than the airship. There needs to be people/places they care about that can't all be packed aboard safely. Maybe they have a base of operations that's necessary for maintenance, so they can't risk losing it. Maybe they find or build some Manses. Once they are tied in some fashion to different places in Creation, you can make the world feel big because they can't be in two places at once.

              Third, and finally, put other things up in the air with them that present a challenge. Maybe a small fleet of sky pirates from the Haslanti League wants their ship. Maybe they meet People of the Air and become embroiled in the politics of their various city-states.

              Throwing in an occasional sail roll for handling weather and such isn't a bad idea, but don't expect it to generate much drama. The player who invested in Sail wants to be good at it, so use the rolls as an opportunity to make him/her shine.

              My complaint is that Solars are too good at a thing for no investment beyond just the Excellency, and are able to accomplish what was supposed to be a fitting challenge for someone who *did* invest in Survival, to give them that chance to shine. Like, a previous PC who had to bow out was Sail-supernal, and it'd cheapen that if the guy with one Charm could hit the top difficulties just as easily. So clearly the difficulty is not calibrated correctly.

              Obviously a Solar who actually *invests* in a skill is going to be good at it, my War-supernal Dawn player kicked the Wyld Hunt's ass five ways to Sunday when they showed up, *as well he should*.

              (And the fact that there was a system there, that he got to be making Engage actions and rolling for Strategic warfare and rolling *huge* fistfuls of damage dice for his army, made the whole thing both more satisfying and more immersive than "roll a quick War check to kick their butts" would have been -- I fundamentally disagree with your apparent premise that system and story are necessarily at odds, and that addressing something via rules is an attempt to cop out on the story.)

              My other complaint -- and the reason I systematized this in the first place -- is that traveling in Creation without incident felt insubstantial and made the world feel small and uninhabited, but trying to invent an interesting journey-narrative de novo every single time is kind of a tall order and I'm pre-med and short on prep time, and I felt that having some additional structure would help address that. Obviously, "populate the world with cool stuff and make every journey an interesting story, every time" would be the ideal solution, but since I don't control when or where they decide to travel -- "Let's go see Whitewall!" "...okay, I'll need a bit to dig through my notes..." -- I figured having some guidance would *help* in that regard. Kind of like how "Tell me a story *about Whitewall* in the next two minutes" is a much easier prompt to address than "Tell me *a story* in the next two minutes". As I say, I don't agree that system and story exist in opposition.

              (Jenna Moran wrote a really interesting article about story and structure in roleplaying games that addresses the relationship between structure, both in terms of pre-written fluff and rules, and the play experience.)

              The airship did have complications (past tense there because they picked a fight they weren't ready for and it didn't survive), and the story was much bigger than the ship -- they do in fact have a base of operations, the ghost-haunted ruins of the crashed Manse occupied by their First Age incarnations, and additionally several of them care strongly about their homelands in the North, a fact I fully exploit for drama. Believe me, "we can't be in too places at once" is a constant source of interesting decisions for them. Also, previous travel complications include wyld-tainted storms, a plague town, and a fleet of Fair Folk sky-pirates riding fogsharks. All of which certainly went a good way towards making journeys interesting, which is precisely the reason I loved the Labyrinth navigation rules I based the above on so much: it provides prompts and structure to help make those story moments happen in a way that feels organic, provides some help to avoid blank-page paralysis, and lets the ST be surprised too!

              All of that said -- for all that I disagree on a pretty fundamental level with the (apparent) premise of your post and have already been doing the things you suggest doing instead, and (obviously) still felt the need to do this -- I'm grateful for the feedback. Reading over the above, I'm realizing it might come off as combative or defensive -- tone and the Internet, after all -- so, with explicit sincerity: thank you!

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              • #8
                EDIT: the above got posted twice for some reason, and I can't find the delete button. I suck at forums, apparently.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Kerredai View Post

                  My complaint is that Solars are too good at a thing for no investment beyond just the Excellency, and are able to accomplish what was supposed to be a fitting challenge for someone who *did* invest in Survival, to give them that chance to shine. Like, a previous PC who had to bow out was Sail-supernal, and it'd cheapen that if the guy with one Charm could hit the top difficulties just as easily. So clearly the difficulty is not calibrated correctly.

                  Obviously a Solar who actually *invests* in a skill is going to be good at it, my War-supernal Dawn player kicked the Wyld Hunt's ass five ways to Sunday when they showed up, *as well he should*.
                  It's fairly clear we disagree on the premise of the situation, so I'm going to focus on this, because it's fairly important to Exalted as a whole.

                  Ex3 is written such that even difficulty 1 challenges are significant when a hero does them.
                  Originally posted by Ex3, page 185
                  As great heroes, Exalted characters are assumed to possess abundant confidence and competence. Tasks which run-of-the-mill the-mill individuals in Creation would consider challenging (such as picking a lock or removing a patient’s appendix without killing him) are ordinary fare for heroes. Such tasks are appropriate for difficulty 1.
                  Emphasis is mine. The game tells us right out that when an Exalt rolls, it's not a normal day at the office.

                  Difficulty 5 is the limit, and these are impossible for a normal person to accomplish. And then Exalted hands Solars the power to blow those difficulties out of the water at character generation. Heck, even a reasonably-invested Dragon-Blood will routinely score 5+ successes on their areas of specialty, particularly if they are willing to burn willpower.
                  Near-impossible feats, even by heroic standards, are appropriate for difficulty 5. Examples might include reading a letter in pitch blackness by feeling the texture of ink on the paper, leaping over the rail of a sorcerer’s flying chariot to land safely in a hay cart hundreds of feet below, or running for three consecutive days and nights without succumbing to exhaustion.
                  The end result is a game where "amazing feats" are pretty darned easy. If my Dawn has Dexterity 5 and Melee 5, with a specialty in spears, he's already one of the best freaking spear fighters in all of Creation. Even before he spends Essence, he can slay minor Demons and Fae. Classifying this as "no investment" runs counter to the intent and tenor of the game. The Chosen are mighty heroes. They are going to smash mundane obstacles, even at character generation. You think of an Excellency as nothing, but an Excellency is magic more mighty than the entire charm set of some spirits. That's simply the game working as intended.

                  A Storm of the Century situation is not going to phase the Sail character, and how many of those can you plausibly throw at the PC before the game doesn't make sense?

                  So, I think the only way you can "challenge" your players with a simple roll is if you are willing to decouple the roll's difficulty from the game engine. Exalted is a challenging game to run for precisely this reason. In DnD, I can use things like hurricanes, marauding bandits, and extreme temperatures to challenge my PCs. That toolkit won't work in Exalted.

                  The most plausible challenges for the Exalted are spirits and other Exalted. You gave them a way to ignore most of those complications with the airship. Travel spells were significantly better in Ex2 than Ex3. The devs' stated reason for pulling those spells back was they made Creation feel too small, and allowed players to avoid most of the challenges in the game.

                  If you want to patch the situation by simply dumping obscene difficulties on it, cool. But you're taking a 21st century game about changing the world and cramming it into a 1980's hex crawl format. Don't be surprised when it doesn't fit, and try not to blame the game for being what it is.

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                  • #10
                    This looks like exactly the kind of thing I need for my hexcrawl mortals game, so thank you for writing it! Especially once the PCs leave the area they have well-mapped out and strike off into the unknown.


                    Before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment: Glorious Tree-Felling Prana and All-Encompassing Liquid-Carrying Methodology.

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                    • #11
                      Ive some professional training in land navigation I'll come by later when i have more time with some points about navigation that will allow for Exalts to accomplish crazy things and still make the system reasonable for mortals to use.

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                      • #12
                        Unless that airship is really damn, then I don't see the problem. Add dicerolls if you want - no solar games I've helmed has ever gotten off the ground without the circle getting a yeddim to rocket around in.

                        One group weaponized their yeddim - outfitted it with heavily padded armor plates and a ramming spike. It was wonderful


                        Malfeas F'Tagn - go check out my epic MLP/Exalted crossover "The Scroll of Exalted ponies" @ Fimfiction

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Totentanz View Post
                          The most plausible challenges for the Exalted are spirits and other Exalted. You gave them a way to ignore most of those complications with the airship. Travel spells were significantly better in Ex2 than Ex3. The devs' stated reason for pulling those spells back was they made Creation feel too small, and allowed players to avoid most of the challenges in the game.

                          If you want to patch the situation by simply dumping obscene difficulties on it, cool. But you're taking a 21st century game about changing the world and cramming it into a 1980's hex crawl format. Don't be surprised when it doesn't fit, and try not to blame the game for being what it is.
                          Again, the airship is gone -- the test case that led to this thread was a set of Survival rolls representing an overland journey by foot.

                          I think we may be approaching this from opposite angles -- you're looking at Difficulty 5 and saying "Exalts are *supposed* to hit that with the Excellency pretty easily, that's how this works". Which is quite correct! I understand that "just the Excellency" represents a low level of investment compared to a specialist Solar but is still, you know, demi-god levels of awesome.

                          What I'm saying is not "I'm salty that a Solar with an Excellency can hit Diff 5 rolls", because of course they can, it's "I wanted this system to be able to scale up to the point where the guy crushing it with ease is the Sail/Survival/Ride guy, not the one who just bought the Excellency. However, a full Excellency on every roll completely borks that, exactly because a Solar with the Excellency is gonna whomp difficulties that would terrify a mortal. So I'm trying to reconcile some way of limiting full Excellency and a will on every single roll with the notion that this represents an extended journey, and they get back motes per hour and WP every night, or to recalibrate the system to handle it."

                          (That latter 'recalibration' thing is likely to be a problem, since -- as you point out! -- the only way to really make flat dice rolls challenging for Solars in full dicewhomp mode is to entirely throw out the engine's assumptions on how difficulty works, which would be cop-out STing and mess with the [pretentious face]ludonarrative consonance of the ruleset[/pretentious face].)

                          This is where I think I start running into problems with the 1e Labyrinth rules I cribbed from: it was a pain in the butt to get back Essence in the Underworld in previous editions, so I don't think the system was originally calibrated to handle Exalts with full mote pools on every roll.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Dorchadas View Post
                            This looks like exactly the kind of thing I need for my hexcrawl mortals game, so thank you for writing it! Especially once the PCs leave the area they have well-mapped out and strike off into the unknown.

                            You're very welcome, and I hope it helps, but I should point out that this is mostly a straight port of some rules from the Exalted First Edition Abyssals book; I pretty much just adapted them a bit for 3e.

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                            • #15
                              I think the problem you are having here is simple and obvious.

                              You have the whole adversity-skill thing backwards.

                              What I mean by that it, in your system, adversity occurs when character skill fails. Effectively, for skilled characters, you're abstracting out the occasions where they overcome their troubles, which flattens out their experience and makes the world seem empty and dull—because all those Ability rolls you're doing are shoving the adversity offscreen.

                              What I recommend you do instead is this:

                              Replace the "What you see along the way" system you have above with one that is, in fact, not contingent on character skill. Maybe there are still ways to modify the pool to favor or disfavor the characters based on the situation and how well they're prepared, for example, but I think the base dice pool should derive from "how difficult is it to travel in this region?" rather than "how good am I, personally, at traveling?"

                              Add a system that allows you to avoid or mitigate obstacles at a high level with your travel Ability; if you fail to avoid/mitigate with this system, you drop into dramatic time and have to face it head-on. This is the place where you can interface with complex Charms to make a specialist shine brighter than just a dude with an Excellency.

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