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First Time Storyteller Questions

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  • First Time Storyteller Questions

    Heya! So I've had a big ol' crush on Exalted for a long time, and I recently got the opportunity to run my group through Tomb of Dreams. We're digging into the second half of it tomorrow, and so far the response has been super positive! People seem very interested in making this a regular thing!

    Which is both exciting and scary, since my only experience as a DM is from running some Pathfinder adventure modules years ago. This is my first time working with Exalted - and the first time any of my players are playing Exalted.

    So I could really use any advice y'all more experienced folk might have to offer!

    To the Storytellers out there:
    • What are some things you'd have liked to know when you were starting out?
    • Any hard lessons you'd like to pass on?
    • How did you put together your campaign?
    • Any advice on putting together your own setting? What worked? What didn't?
    To the players out there:
    • What do you like in a Storyteller?
    • What do you dislike in a Storyteller?
    Tomb of Dreams has been a great learning experience so far all around. I've got some specific questions after our first session:

    What is the right way to handle familiars? One of my players made a Night with a cool anime hacker vibe, and wanted a familiar that's a swarm of little ball lightning things. I had them take the Familiar merit at three dots, but aside from the merit text itself, there's no guidelines for familiars that I can find anywhere! Eventually I discovered this sun mouse thing, and did up a stat block heavily based on that. I'd really appreciate any tips or comments!

    How do you handle stealth? The aforementioned Night broke off from the party early and wanted to stealth around the island while part of their familiar tailed the rest of the group into the sea trench, and when we realized the sense-sharing thing had a max range, they decided instead they'd like to stealth behind them. I had them roll Dex+Stealth for the sake of appearances, but I really couldn't think of anything that might or might not happen at the time. They also wanted to steal the weapons that the other characters didn't take, which I put up to a Dexterity+Larceny roll vs Suma's Senses pool. (In hindsight I could have had the Wolf Emanation and its pack hound them relentlessly until they rejoined the party - a missed opportunity, that)

    Any advice of setting up extended actions? When the leviathan stirred, the party decided to run away, so I wanted to experiment with setting it up as an extended action - the party climbing out of the trench while dodging the leviathan's tentacles. Off the top of my head I went with a 1 round interval, no terminus, and a target of 5 successes.

    Our Fire Orchid picked up the very unathletic custom Twilight and slung her over her back (a great moment, 2-point stunt, should probably have been 3 points), then used Strength-Increasing Meditation and a full Excellency to blow through a difficulty 4 Strength+Athletics roll, landing a total of 4 successes towards the goal in one roll.

    Our Faka Kun activated Monkey Leaping Technique, so I counted that as a 2-point stunt because it was awesome, set her difficulty at 1 and made her roll Dexterity+Athletics. She didn't even need Excellency to hit the goal number, leaping up the cliff in a single bound.

    The Night abandoned stealth and ran for it, having attuned to all the remaining artifact weapons to carry them without massive penalties. They did a good job of describing their swarm distracting the tentacles and the roll worked out, so I also set their difficulty at 1 because the tentacles were distracted, gave them a 2-point stunt, and their Stamina+Athletics roll hit the success target in one round.

    It was a good time all around, and a lesson to me to set extended action success goals high. But how high should it have been? How do you handle extended actions?

    The Night also wants throwing knives with electric powers - zapping multiple enemies, maybe arcs of electricity striking out on a miss, etc. I don't even know where to start with that, aside from "Light Artifact Throwing Weapon, I'll think of Evocations later." I'm afraid of ending up accidentally giving them a 5-dot artifact for a 3-dot merit, or vice versa.

    The Twilight is an experienced player and a pleasure to work with - I look forward to coming up with content for her. The Night is less experienced, and I'm having trouble thinking of a way to implement the hacker fantasy they're chasing. The setting I'm putting together was already intended to have a lot of mysterious ancient First Age tech lying around, so I imagine there'll be room for them to shine in a proper campaign, but what the hell do you even roll for hacking, hijacking, or hotwiring stuff?

    Also I joked about Dual Magnus Prana and perfect robot duplicates to the group and now the Night is wondering if making robots is a thing they could actually do - and now I'm wondering too. Is it possible? Would it just be some sort of Craft(Robots)?

    The Truth Machine Chronicle - A first-time Exalted campaign.

  • #2
    Familiar looks pretty good (I’m guessing you’re the same person who was posting on r/exalted about it).

    “Robots” would probably be First Age automata, so building them from scratch is less of a thing in the canonical setting than repairing & reprogramming them. Appropriate Craft specialties would be (First Age), (Artifacts), and probably (Armor) or just straight up (Automata).

    Larceny can cover a lot of “hacking” ground in terms of opening First Age tombs (see Lock-Opening Touch). They’d probably want a combination of Craft, Lore, and/or Occult for controlling First Age wondrous mechanisms.

    For a lightning weapon, there’s an Arms of the Chosen preview for Stormbringer that you could mine for inspiration. Also I’m a big proponent of having the protagonist draft their own evocation (since it’s supposedly a unique magic that only they can draw out of that weapon), and then of course subject to ST approval.

    For a lightning arc between two throwing knives thing, I’d model it like after succeeding at a withering attack (possibly with a damage threshold) against each of two different targets in the same range band, pay 1wp and a gob of motes to launch a reflexive unblockable decisive attack against them both with a single attack roll (maybe with like lower of Essence or 3 threshold successes added to damage).

    Now that’s just off the top, and it sounds pretty blown out in terms of power, so maybe you want like 2-3 evocations building up to that. Look at the Thrown tree and try to find some unexplored design space, because you don’t really want Evocations that just duplicate (or worse, are just better than) Solar charms.
    Last edited by mizzlfoshizzl; 11-11-2017, 02:01 PM.


    • #3
      From the sound of things everyone is having fun, so you've got the main part down. As long as everyone is having fun, you're doing it correctly, even if you're not doing it "right."

      If you have the Core book, there's a stat block for a standard automoton on page 500 that you can use for any kind of First Age "Robots" and things.

      For hacking First Age stuff, I'd suggest either just allowing them to do it with Larceny or having them buy Lore 3 and maybe a Lore or Larceny specialty in First Age Hacking.

      The upcoming book Arms of the Chosen should be out fairly soon and is supposed to have lots of info on building Evocations as well as a bunch of example weapons and things.

      Now, in general, one thing to keep in mind is that you're gonna need to improvise a fair amount. Even more than with other games because Solar Exalted are pretty powerful and capable. You can probably expect them to just wipe the floor with most challenges, so don't be surprised or discouraged when that happens. If they got to be awesome then it's all good. It's ok to give advice on where to go, but if they decide to do something unexpected, roll with it as best you can. If you need a bit of time to figure things out, ask for it.

      Alternately, use the Lore rules. If they wanna know the secret history of this thing you invented five minutes ago, ask them to introduce a fact with Lore and tell you what it is.

      Similarly, don't do too much planning up front. You should make sure that your players are onboard for whatever adventure you're throwing at them, but, even when they are, things are going to go in directions you didn't expect. Doing tons of work might be fun, but if they do something you didn't expect and bypass half of it, you put in a lot more effort than you needed. Plan as much as you need to be ready for your next session and trust yourself that you can come up with something. And, if you can't, have a Tyrant Lizard break down the door and attack them. That should keep things fun for a while and give you time to think.

      When I built my current location area for the Exalted game I'm running, I took a bunch of cues from the writeup for Gem on page 99 of the 3e Core. I have no idea what or where demon haunted Skarth is, but it sounds cool and, if someone wanted to go there, it's enough of a hook that I can probably come up with something later. So, I basically just did that with my region. I came up with a general map of the area and a bunch of location names that sounded cool and that was pretty much it. Maybe I had a few ideas for a couple of places but I certainly didn't know everything about everywhere (and I still don't). I filled in places as they went and as they came up. I also enlisted the player's help. If they create parts of the setting, they'll feel much more invested in everything.

      Some specifically Exalted issues:

      Something else to keep in mind is that, in combat they regain 5m per round, but only 5m per hour outside of combat. If you are planning a scene that isn't technically combat but requires a bunch of rolls in a short period, you might want to allow them to regain 5m per action. For example, if they're traversing a long corridor full of First Age traps, that's not technically combat, but they might run out of motes and die midway through, so it would be good to treat it like combat.



      • #4
        Greetings new person! I will preface this by saying I did make a Storyteller guide here , if you're new to Exalted then I hope it can be useful. Most of your questions are answered there in great detail, but I'll answer some others now.

        How did you put together your campaign?
        I play the vast majority of my games online, so if you're doing something IRL it may differ. I also run Exalted Modern games moreso than Vanilla/Standard Exalted. Regardless my method remains the same.

        First thing is I do up a central document detailing the location the game is taking place in, any changes to make setting hooks, important general information PC's might automatically know about that's not covered in the corebook, etc...

        In the GM document I then begin making notes. Usually I write up one sentence notes on the locales in the area. Towns, countries, cities, rough location compared to each other, etc... An example of which is here for my Exalted Modern game that was set in the East. Don't worry if it doesn't make sense to anyone else but you if you're making them as GM notes.
          • HALLOW - Intermediate area around Nexus, which is east of Lookshy. Noted for high crime rate as they’ve never really recovered from collapse of the Old Order.
            • Nexus: A near lawless land in the UES, made as a meeting point, but since there so few agreements on what laws should be made universal, super lax laws have made it a paradise to businesses. Laws are made at the whim of the current CEO council heads, many whom are very superstitious so odd laws exist within Nexus.
            • Lodros: CAPITAL, East of Nexus
          • DEHELESHEN - In main book, military spot of the UES.
            • Lookshy: CAPITAL. Military power city of the Scavenger Lands, enough to make Meruiva give pause. Access to the latest toys, dragonblooded, and lesser numbers of Alchemical Exalts, some ex-Londo Bell. Very militaristic, like Israel. Walled structure of city remains. Was hammered hard during Londo Bell rebellion, as while forces were intact higher ups were assassinated, creating large power vacuums.
            • Marita: Political hotspot and tourist destination for international places around the world. Customary to bring private barges for negotiation here.
              • Montagne de l'eau - Water manse that supplies power to city. Hearthstone is Stone of Aquatic Prowess
          • MARUKAN - A largely great expanse of flats, known as one of the big breadbaskets and military manufactors of the UES.
            • Thorns: See setting document. A lot will change with Masque Hiver in charge of the location.
            • Jiara: CAPITAL. A city that thrived on it’s exporting or minerals, coal, and oil within the mountains nearby. While the city is beautiful and always growing, it has been known to have massive pollution problems, along with massive problems and rumors with a possible workers revolt.
            • Pyrron: Known as the city that Shimata Headquarters constructed themselves. A city where many defense contractors often construct weapons for Lookshy and the rest of the Scavenger Lands. Was under control of the Londo Bell. (Puyo)
            • Fertility Cove North: Small town north of Thorns, fishing village
        Lastly I save any enemy blocks in a separate document, so in case I need filled enemies I can quickly pull them.

        Any advice on putting together your own setting?
        Do you mean completely original, altering current Exalted setting, or remaining within the current setting?

        Outside of making huge setting documents, keeping good notes. Some people like to make up things as they go alone, but for fantasy I'd have to consider the following at minimum.
        • What is the role of magic and how is it used? Or does magic exist at all?
        • Who are the major power players in the setting? Both mortal and divine. These are the things that would most significantly impact people's lives.
        • What kind of nastiest exist in the setting? Does it have Lich King's who do evil acts for the sake of evil or do supernatural things like that stand on the wayside in order to tell some of humanity's darker stories?

        How do you handle stealth?
        Roll DEX+STEALTH to hide yourself (make sure you have concealment of some sort first!). PC's in the area make an immediate and reflexive Perception + Awareness roll in order to see if they can find the target. If they fail then the stealthed user remains hidden. Don't bother making any more rolls for NPC's if the PC does nothing but stand still (Exception being charms like Stalking Wolf). Any time the Stealth character wishes to move a range brand they make another stealth check but at this time with a -3 penalty and those in the scene make another Perception + Awareness to try and locate them. If characters in the scene are actively aware (EX: Guards on duty and wide awake or in active combat usually) then the person hiding is slapped with a -3 penalty to try and hide.

        Lastly penalties and bonuses for characters are very possible with stealth. A stealth character could take a -3 penalty if in a fairly well lit area (Which could stack with the additional -3 penalty if the guards are aware) but if in a very dark area then those attempting to find her may take a -3 penalty.
        Last edited by Sandact6; 11-12-2017, 01:04 AM.

        Read my shit at my homebrew topic, 2.5e and 3e material!
        Play Alchemical's in 3e now, you're welcome.


        • #5
          Hey everyone! All your advice was a big help! I've been busy with stuff, but long story short, Tomb of Dreams was a success! The group is interested in trying a real campaign!

          Originally posted by Sandact6 View Post
          Greetings new person! I will preface this by saying I did make a Storyteller guide here , if you're new to Exalted then I hope it can be useful. Most of your questions are answered there in great detail, but I'll answer some others now.
          I am going to get so much use out of this oh my gosh.

          The characters are coming along, and the location's been decided, so I'm looking to try and put some sort of story together. I'm extremely weak to anything remotely fae, so I'm tempted to try and see what kind of story I can put together involving the Wyld. I just gotta try and dig up some real info on it, or make up my own, since the 3E core book is p sparse on juicy deets. If I say distance between the Wyld and pockets of the Wyld in Creation can be relative, that solves the "The Wyld is too far away from anywhere interesting" problem. And I'm excited about an idea for an NPC the party could run into - a fae who was told "A trade means you get something you want but you lose something you have" and takes it entirely too far.

          The Location: Chiaroscuro! I had been looking at the South to begin with, and as people figured out what kind of characters they wanted to play I pitched Chiaroscuro as a starting point.

          The Circle:

          Scarlet, an Inner Sea pirate and Twilight Solar. The player's going for a Dread Pirate Roberts deal - Scarlet inherited a whole pirate legend and now buckles all sorts of swash and does Sick Flame Piece Tricks with Righteous Devil style. Her player's interested in airships too, which sounds like the perfect thing for a Twilight pirate. Chiaroscuro, a busy trade port with presumably busy trade lanes, sounded like a good place to put her. From what I can tell Nexus is all river trade, and I feel like setting things in the West would lock us into a wandering type of thing.

          Wandering Day, once a palace kitchen servant girl, now an Eclipse Solar after she turned on some Terrestrials who were using her as bait to lure out a spirit so they could kill it. Her player took the thing about the Tri-Khan sheltering Exalts who would work for him and a few dots in Bureuocracy and figured it'd be neat to start her off working for the Tri-Khan in some sort of secretarial role. Wandering Day escaped the Blessed Isle smuggled aboard Scarlet's ship, and oversaw the transfer of the ship and legend to Scarlet.

          Amigah, a Night Solar with an elemental familiar and artifact throwing knives. Some miscommunication meant Amigah was originally conceived as a present-day character, but we're working on a new backstory for her. Apparently the modern image of a witch came from women who figured out how to brew rad beer in secret, and the player wants to pull some inspiration from that. If anybody has any idea on how Beer Crime works in Exalted, or how to translate it, I'd be very grateful.

          An unnamed Lunar. I wanted to offer a Lunar option so I dug up some homebrews and one of my players took it. We've yet to work out the specifics for that one, other than she's got bear feet and one of the others is her Solar counterpart.

          The plot: ???? What are some cool things in Chiaroscuro? How do you make a cool story involving Fair Folk and the Wyld? How would one fit Sidereals in it, because those are also rad?

          The Truth Machine Chronicle - A first-time Exalted campaign.


          • #6
            I like to describe Chiaroscuro as "The Arabian Nights colonized the ruins of Magitech New York." It has hundred story towers made of glass and crystal that are both harder than diamond and stronger than steel ...many of which have collapsed in wars long ago (and, even if they're still standing, the elevators, air conditioners, and water/waste systems probably don't work any more so there aren't a lot of people living at the top). Because of those same wars, Chiaroscuro has many small Shadowlands (places where the Underworld overlaps Creation) covering its area, which are warded via long grooves cut around the edges of the area and filled with cakes of salt. Stealing salt from these wards will earn you a swift execution if anyone discovers it.

            There is an undercity which can be hard to get to without crossing into these shadowlands and risking getting eaten by ghosts, but it can be worth it since large chunks of glass can fetch high prices and actual artifacts can set someone up for life (assuming they don't die trying to get them or from being double crossed while selling them).

            The Tri-Khan of Chiaroscuro rules the Delzhan people, who are discussed in the core book.

            As for Fae, I could imagine a Wyld Zone in Chiaroscuro that was ringed around by Shadowlands and then warded, so no-one knows about the Fae living in it or searching for it. Alternately, Chiaroscuro is a big trading hub. A Fae that either makes unique items or trades things to others would be welcome there, if they don't eat too many people (I'm pretty sure they have slavery there, so). Some Fae like to feed on the emotions of people who are fighting and the Delzhan nobility are notoriously hot headed, prone to fighting duels at the drop of a hat, so a Fae Lorelei (in the 3e book) who liked to provoke duels could be very, very happy there. A touchy Cataphract who liked fighting duels could work too.

            Ultimately, the Introductory fiction from the First Edition Core book probably helps get across the feel and history of Chiaroscuro much better than I can. Because it's not easy to find, I have it copied in a google doc.



            • #7
              Ignore the stat block but you also have things like Grandmother Bright the City God of Chiaroscuro - https://crimsonsands.obsidianportal....dmother-bright - so you have some ideas there that could be useful. You can have a Fae living in the Plaza for example as long as it follows her rules. Of course you can change anything you like about her as well to suit your needs in the current game that is kind of what RPGs are about sometimes adding your own flair to a story .

              As for wyld zones maybe there's an old solar factory/lab/something else interesting buried under a tower of glass that needs some attention as the containment is leaking, or whatever :P.

              Or one of the cities other residents does something silly.