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Defending against exalted assassins

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  • Defending against exalted assassins

    I'm planning a campaign in which one of my players is a night caste assassin focusing on stealth and ebon shadow style. That made me wonder how rulers and other key players would defend themselves against assassination attempts. The most obvious solution seems to be getting loads of awareness charms, or alternatively get a bodyguard with loads of awareness charms. Both options does seem a bit repetitive. No to mention that it will simply be an arms race of stealth vs. awareness. So I'm looking for alternative options. In real life people hire loads of guards because more eyes are usually better than fewer. This seems difficult in Exalted, since most mortals will rarely have the needed dicepools to compete. So how would a solar king defend against a sidereal assassin (if he knew about their existance), or a dragon-blooded defend against a solar assassin? What about mortals? Creation have a lot of mortal rulers, so they must have some way of defending themselves.

  • #2
    An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Your key power players defend themselves best by not catching the attention of Exalted assassins in the first place. (Or really any kind of assassin. It's one of the factors that keeps the wiser rulers in Creation reconsidering strategies that might be too disruptive or likely to cause public outrage.)
    Last edited by TheCountAlucard; 03-20-2017, 08:26 AM.


    • #3
      Without getting into the specifics of charms, here's what I would suggest.

      1. Make yourself impossible to find. This approach is popular with underground power figures, following the line of reasoning that you cannot kill what you cannot see. Conceal your identity, move around a lot, and avoid putting yourself in harm's way.

      Example: Godfather Yan never sleeps under the same roof twice in a year, and wears a magical mask that changes its face every day. Only his closest associates know what he really looks like, and he makes himself known by a series of secret words and code signs. He has half a dozen masked body doubles who act as his messengers and decoys.

      2. Make yourself impossible to catch. Charms, artifacts, or spells that increase mobility to an inhuman degree can help you avoid death if you are attacked.

      Example: Kulun the sage never goes anywhere without her special protective amulet. The amulet is bound with a Working that will protect her from most forms of attack. Whenever she might be struck with something that might kill her, the working activates, teleporting her to her home in the Tower of Glass Knives. Or, if she is already in the tower, it will teleport her to the hinterlands of Zenlil, a place where she spent much time as a child.

      3. Make yourself impossible to kill. Even Solar Stealth and Ebon Shadow cannot penetrate the strongest defenses or deplete extraordinary quantities of health. Regenerative effects help, too.

      Example: The Beast of Grol is not a god, but it acts like it is, and members of its cult can't tell the difference. It willingly, casually tears free hunks of its flesh for its followers to eat, and heals from the injuries within a few hours. It believes that as long as it receives a steady supply of human sacrifices, it can never die. So far, no one has disproved that.
      Last edited by semicasual; 03-20-2017, 09:00 AM.

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      • #4
        Having a few secretive puppeteers is a good idea. Still Creation is full of pretty obvious power players like the Bull of the North which seems to be quite obvious candidates for assassinations.


        • #5
          I didn't say it was the only tactic - just the best.


          • #6
            Alright, when talking about counters to Solars, something has to be said first. The low amount of Solars that actually existed and were exalted into the world and the effectiveness of institutions and practices like the Wyld Hunt means that Solars are a threat the majority of rulers just haven't had to deal with. Sidereals are another matter, due to their whole fate themes. They are rarely acting outside of the Bureau of Fate (due to their relatively easy accessibility and recruitment by the other Sidereals), so its less of defending against an individual Sidereal, but really Heaven. Exalted are excellent, superhuman practitioners of skill, magic and the like, but they're never infallible. They're also not super common in general as well. The most common of them, Terrestrials, have traditionally been at a level where one individually isn't too much of an unstoppable dynamo. Gods, Demons, and the like are effective sources of power for mortal and Exalt alike. Then, the issue also comes to rise, "If you're trying to kill a mortal king, why hire a Solar?" I mean, unless he's got a Liminal bodyguard or some other supernatural and ultra-powerful warding, there's no need to expend the extra resources and risk of getting a Solar when a normal mortal works just as well. Don't get me wrong, it happens, but I don;t think it would happen that often. This is due to the overall low population of Solars as a whole and let's face it, not all your Night or Dawn Castes are gonna be super assassins.

            Assassins are effective, but Awareness is an excellent counter. After all, if you know who;s attacking you, how they're attacking you, and all the other specifics, its rather easy to create a plan to foil it. But, its not the end all be all of defense against assassins and Stealth in general. It's important to remember that though Exalted are Primordial-slaying super humans, they are still at their core, still human. They care about people, power, money, etc. and will do things for the stuff they care about. If you have a good Investigation or a good spy network, you might uncover a plot to assassinate you with a Solar, but you know their identity. If they have a family, you keep them under the metaphorical clampers. Individual big stick diplomacy doesn't work, as well as brute force, though if your stick has enough leverage, than its a different matter. Another method with dealing the sword that is an Exalted is to get your own sword, preferably bigger or more than one. That is, if you have a powerful supernatural being after your hide, it makes sense to get another supernatural being to defend your hide.

            Ultimately, I like to think of Exalted like a nuke. Once its been launched, you can stop it with a specialized system or strike with another missile, but you can also have ties with the nuke-holding country in order to prevent that from ever happening.


            • #7
              Seconding the notion that even supernatural rulers seldom have to deal with supernatural super-assassins. Most assassinations in our world's history have been carried out by relatively unskilled people who either really want someone dead, or are desperate for a quick buck. Sure, Creation is not our world, but it's close enough.

              While I have no doubt that elite ninja-equivalents exist in Creation, you're generally gonna be drastically more expedient (and probably likelier to succeed) by buying poison, finding a servant with gambling debts, and bribing him to put the poison in the target's tea.


              • #8
                All that said, mortal rulers are pretty much going to day if a Night Caste (or indeed any caste) assassin wants to kill them. That's kind of their deal, and they are Exalted, and mortals stand little to no chance in those circumstances. Which is by design really.


                • #9
                  I log on and find three people already beat me to my point.

                  This can be examined from two perspectives. From the point of the ruler and I think SlipSpace2 and TheCountAlucard state the issue very well. There are only 300 Solar and even less Sideral. And of those, a small handful are super-assassins. So you have a dozen or two super-assassins in creation. The odds of any ruler even crossing paths with them are for all practical purposes is zero.

                  On the other hand, you have one of those super-assassins in your game so every ruler, beggar, tea house patron, etc. WILL be crossing their path with such an assassin. That changes things quite a bit. If your player decides to depopulate the ruling class, for the most part, there is not much the ruling class can do. But that is not a bad thing. In general, powerful assassins are nigh unstoppable but then again so are most solar.

                  So you handle it like you would handle any specialist solar... for the most part they have an 'I Win' button. On the other hand, every once in a while they prove that old adage "There is always someone stronger." On occasion, they will come up against a target with all the appropriate counters to a super-assassin (many of which have been discussed). As long as it does not occur too much, an occasional "unfair" encounter will challenge the assassin with the unexpected. This is not much different than when your Solar brawler who likes to pick fights everywhere he goes, crosses path with the old, blind, drunk man and get soundly defeated. Of course anyone attacking an old, blind, drunk man deserves what they get.
                  Last edited by Amdramnar; 03-20-2017, 10:16 AM.

                  while (horse.state == dead)


                  • #10
                    Looking at it from the perspective of creating new and interesting situations, so that each assassination adventure feels new and different, some spontaneous ideas I can come up with are:

                    ! Supernatural Entity - A demon or spirit, of some sort, with any weird powers you can think of (maybe it's invisible, can walk through walls or climb them!) bound to the palace as a means of defence against intruders. Either it could just act as an alarmsystem observing intruders, and carrying that information on to it's master, or maybe it's meant to both notice and dispose of the intruders itself, creating the possibility or a tense chase or cat-and-mouse situation for the assassin, as they try to reach their goal?

                    ! Alarms - Using the rules for Traps/enviormental hazards from the rule book, design different environmental obstacles for the Night to overcome, and get the mto utilize some more of their assassin-y dice pools. Alarms that notify guards or rooms that seal themselves shut, trap doors that open up to who-knows-where, etc.!

                    ! A Maze - Maybe the ruler has created a highly convoluted (and maybe somewhat excentric?) palace and/or environment such that, once inside, one has to rely not [just] on stealth and reflexes, but on intellect and memory (or mental faculties in general) to navigate or find their way through. This could, of course, be used in combination with either (or both) of the other two suggestions!

                    This thread makes me want to add assassination events for my own campaign ^_^
                    Love reading about people brainstorming solutions and thoughts about problems. So inspiring

                    Keep up the good work, everyone


                    • #11
                      Something that maybe Leetsepeak keeps saying comes to mind here: Mind the consequences.

                      If you're a mortal, or a less-experienced Exalt, you have very poor odds when facing a specialized assassin Solar. Your best bet is therefore to making killing you a bad idea.

                      You can do this in any number of ways. You could for example set up some kind of sorcerous contingency that summons a bunch of demons at the time and location of your demise. You could locate the major threats to your life and set up things so that they are motivated to keep you alive. You could engineer things so that your death leads to an empire-shattering succession war.


                      • #12
                        Yeah. Hell, you don't actually have to do any preparation! If your Night Caste decides, apropos of nothing, to murder the Shogun of Port Cailin, set up the reasonable opposition of course, but recognize that there's only so much you can do to prepare for the Night Caste who hops out of your shadow.

                        So the Night Caste murks the Shogun, who has no particular contingencies in place for being murdered by a Solar. Maybe she has plans for being assassinated in general cause the Cailinti are a paranoid bunch.

                        Now make sure to showcase how disruptive this actually is. The abrupt removal of a lodestone in the power politics of a single River Province city-state could have repercussions for the entire region that might be unintended on the part of the Night Caste. The Cailinti themselves might make their city a bloodbath if some conflicts go nuclear overnight without the Shogun to moderate them. Their Cold War with one another goes hot.

                        I'm not suggesting this as the equivalent of some rhetorical slam. You don't need to drop the phone book on a player to make a point. But if you find ways to make it clear that even if said character doesn't think of the potential repercussions through that others are doing so, I think that would make for fun play.

                        Can you assassinate your way to peace and prosperity? Thorny question, that!

                        I am no longer participating in the community. Please do not contact me about my previous work.


                        • #13
                          The question is not necessarily if, but how. Your night caste, even if they're caught, could possibly reestablish stealth, flee battle, then find their target pretty quickly. If I, personally, were a supernaturally informed power player, I would make sure to have a sorcerer who has bound some dematerialized demons to protect me. I would probably figure that if anyone was going to supernaturally attack me, it would be a DB, not a Solar, and would bet on them being competent at noticing things that aren't materialized, regardless of whether or not a Dragon Blooded actually has said abilities. I would still be limited in understanding of Exalted because charms in 3e are no longer really discrete magical tricks and more expressions of power. I can't stress this enough, most people in the setting don't conceptualize things like this. More likely than not, you're just going to have a bunch of mortal guards because you don't trust that weird cackling sorcerer and you don't like the idea of demons watching you sleep. You might not make a clear distinction between a God, a Demon, or a powerful elemental. You trust the things like you. Likewise, the King isn't like "I want people with awareness charms", he wants people who are very good at noticing hidden details. He may not understand that there's a difference between a normal and god-blooded bodyguard when it comes to "charms", just that the latter is a little better than the mortal.

                          I'm going to copy paste something that someone had asked about a previous Night caste that was running around and murdering everything. In this case, the solar circle had a group of mortals they were traveling with.

                          The Influence Merit. Seriously.

                          If people start learning that everyone who opposes the circle ends up dead in their bed as soon as the circle figures it out, a couple of things are going to happen:
                          Their enemies will start using catspaws, they'll attack from multiple locations with multiple different groups (the circle can't be everywhere at once), and they're going to try to be stealthier in general, with a more obscure leadership style. Your night caste won't be killing anyone if they don't know who to kill.

                          The villains will start infiltrating the group of mortals and learning about the circle's abilities and intimacies. They'll learn what pisses them off and what's important to them, and start playing that against them or against each other (*cough* limit break* *cough*). They'll do their best to separate them emotionally and geographically and strike them at once. They'll engage them from afar using bureaucracy to make things hard for them. If they have an organization, they'll attack its assets when they're not there. They'll hamstring them and make them waste time on pointless shit. And they'll useful idiots and each other: when you're faced with solars, the enemy of your enemy is your friend. And there will almost certainly be normal, decent folk for who the solars' plans would not make their lives better off, or might make their lives significantly worse. You don't feel like a big guy when you murder someone who just wants the best for her family.

                          -snip, not relevant to you-

                          And in spite of all of that, your solars will still likely prevail. But now that they're being harried at all levels, they'll have to make choices about what's important and what's not. Who to protect and who to let slide. What sacrifices are worth making and what isn't. Whether or not their friendship can prevail to the end. That's where the drama will come from.

                          Also, if you want to be an ass, Abyssals.
                          Last edited by PraxisCat; 03-20-2017, 11:41 AM.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by barbecube View Post
                            Something that maybe Leetsepeak keeps saying comes to mind here: Mind the consequences.

                            If you're a mortal, or a less-experienced Exalt, you have very poor odds when facing a specialized assassin Solar. Your best bet is therefore to making killing you a bad idea.
                            Seconding this. It can be easy sometimes to fall into the trap of believing that the best/only way to defend against an assassin is to make yourself bulletproof. But most of the time - and especially when you are dealing with someone that has, ah, magic bullets as impressive as a Solar - it's better to just make them think twice about pulling the trigger.

                            I have an NPC villain who has not yet been introduced. He's quite dangerous on his own, but that's sort of beside the point. His favorite means of protecting himself is with a special voodoo-style Working that causes any injuries he suffers to instead be suffered by the target of the Working. The person does not have to be willing (an arcane link is necessary, but he's quite good at acquiring them). They're probably not even aware of it. When he rolls into a town where he plans to set up shop he'll spend a couple of days scoping out the local powers, finds their weak points, and sets up the Working on some poor innocent. If threatened, he'll find an opportunity to demonstrate it. Then he leans hard on them psychologically, letting any enemies know that if they try to kill him they'll wind up killing someone dear to them as well. Of course, once that person dies he's vulnerable, so he can still be killed - you just have to be willing to murder someone else by proxy as part of the bargain. He's also very fond of misdirection and suggestion, making his enemies wonder and doubt who the target might be. Usually it's someone else entirely. In short, he weaponizes the Trolley problem, by tying their loved ones to the tracks.

                            He's basically my answer to the question of how to make a full-blown mustache-twirling villain into a genuine monster. I'm looking forward to it.

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                            • #15
                              Dogs. Many animals get significant bonuses to awareness when dealing with scent and most Solar stealth charms don't really do anything to help you there.