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  • What do you do before a chronicle starts?

    Hello all,

    All things going according to plan, I will be starting a new chronicle for Third Edition this Sunday.
    As such, I'm currently trying to figure out all the things I'd like to say/do before the game really starts.
    This Sunday will be character creation and managing the expectations of the players.
    The following are things I want to cover:
    • Rules about what is and isn't allowed at the table (the Social Contract).
    • Also making clear that I expect to be there every session if possible.
    • The location that the players will start.
    • Related to that: will this game feature a lot of travel? If so, how do they get around?
    • What kind of stories do the players want to experience?
      • For example, would they like to fight against an overwhelming foe like the Realm or Deathlords, or would they prefer exploring the mythical aspects of Hell?
      • Looking at the character's abilities to make sure those stories can actually be done, and figure out how to best do that.
    • Establishing some ideas of what the character's Past Lives were like, so I can reference those later.
    • Figuring out why the Characters would be working together.
    • A couple of House rules regarding XP.
    There probably still are things to cover that I'm not thinking about.
    So, I'll ask the forums: are there any things you prefer to talk with your fellow players about before that first session?

  • #2
    This is an excellent list. There's a few things on here that I didn't think to cover with my players and will definitely be going over with them.

    One thing I felt was important to cover when I was preparing for my chronicle was also to ask the players not just what they'd like to see, but also if there was anything they would like to absolutely not see. Maybe you can't cover every eventuality, but it did turn up a few important boundaries that I'll be keeping in mind.


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

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    • #3
      Unless we are playing a one-shot (for which I will have prepared something) or a game based in "Play to see what happens" (You know, the PbtA style of games, which I certainly love) I use to have a "session zero" with the players. Not specifically for Exalted, but for any game. I usually go there with no plans about the campaign, maybe some general ideas about themes I´d like, or something like that, because what I want is to reach a consensus with the group, about what we all want to play.

      We don´t talk about Social Contract, but mostly it is because we have been playing together for... four years, and have been friends even longer, for a decade or more in some cases, and we know the limits, triggers and things that would bother each one (for example, Player A doesn´t care if other character or NPC has strong family issues, marital troubles and related plots, but likes to stay away from them for his character. He like romance plots, but doesn´t want to focus at all on sex. And so on)

      Then, we discuss what we want to play, the central concept of the campaign, and with that, the reason the group is united (or will be soon united). The campaign can grow from that central concept, but it will be the one thing in which most early sessions will be based on, and probably the whole campaign. For example, I´m not running Exalted right now, but my current campaign is a Mage: the Ascension one, whose initial concept is that they were young mages which all had lost their mentors, loved ones or something/one important to them because of the same Technocratic Compact, and they all joined together in search of revenge, a way of fixing what happened, or knowing where their loved ones are. Of course, this has grown from that initial pitch, but it helps the players to build a focused group. In my last Exalted campaign, they were a group of Outcaste Dragonblood in the Dreaming Sea, seeking to conquest a kingdom for themselves.

      Then, we usually talk about setting. The place we play. If I know the setting more than the players, I pitch them some places in the setting where I think the campaign could work, and see what ticks the players, and of course, I am open to suggestions (the location of my current Mage campaign was suggested by a player, for example). Along with this, we decide if this will be a single location campaign, or if we will travel. The main thing is to make sure all the players are excited about the place.

      And then, we create characters, in group, so one player ideas can feed the other ones imaginations, and they can talk with each other and the ST about suggestions, ideas, links, and whatever. It´s vital they have a reason to work with each other, or at least interlinked plots (in my last Vampire chronicle, the characters were divided in two groups, but with interlinked plots and stories).

      Once we have finished with that, we spend the rest of the session (if there is any session left, these things are lenghty!) discussing what we have, things we would like to see in the chronicle, and all these stuffs, until we all leave. Then, I spend the next week making sense of what they said, and taking notes of plot ideas related to their chars (as I like to focus the action on the player characters) and building the place we are playing in (mostly NPC and faction ideas). With that, I usually have enough material to start a whole chronicle.

      I have to say that I have a very improvising style. I really dislike to have pre-plotted outcomes, so I mostly focus in the player actions to build plots, and as such, my ST preparation is mostly focused in making NPCs and Factions, how they relate to each other, and how they would interact with the players. I find that using that style, once the action get rolling, I have to do no prep at all, because the players are doing enough things, and most importantly, things that matter to THEM, that I am never out of plots. Sometimes it is a bit hard to keep the rhythm, but hey, I think it is really worthwhile

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      • #4
        I've never specifically called out Social Contract type issues, but like Clophiroth I've been gaming with the same group of friends since just about forever.

        My players like to do character generation away from table, but I find it's good to review. Exalted has a huge list of things to choose from, and it's daunting to arrange Charms together to be effective in battle. I also suggest an approximate number of combat Charms (5 to 7) that I'd like to start everybody with. That way everybody can be effective, without being left out of other interesting Scenes.

        We also have at least a few sessions where character stats can be changed basically at-will. That tracks very nicely with the learning curve of a new game or edition. Just in our playtesting, we've had a couple of important edits when players discover the utility of soak and Ox-Body.

        I've mentioned playtesting a couple of times in posts, and this is a good chance to mention in this context. Ex3 is a huge book with a lot of new mechanics. My player group is short-handed for a couple of months, while half the group is wrapped up in life-changes to career and living arrangements. So we've been playtesting short, no-XP, no-continuity adventure scenarios so we can have some ready system knowledge when we start for real. It's even spawned a rules hack (Momentum Exalted) which I'm over the moon about - and which is almost ready for a new final-ish update post.

        I do also like to talk with my players about what kind of player flags they'd like to see in the game. In most games I'll encourage the players swap in to run an adventure now and then. In some games I'll more directly co-run, alternating story arcs with a player who's also an enthusiastic Storyteller (and maybe soon published). If we'll be doing that, we'll talk about what areas we want to work in, and set up what we both really need to know to start riffing each other's ideas.

        My favorite Chronicle start so far has been relatively tightly scripted. I got the go-ahead from my players beforehand to lightly railroad them, just long enough to establish the setting basics. They, newcomers to the city in an nWoD game, attended a convocation of the three major supernatural groups in town. In-setting it's an annual event, renewing the intent to preserve the by-now-fragile detente among them. In-story it introduced the three groups in a way that allowed them to meet socially before becoming rivals or enemies.

        That Chronicle also has its own soundtrack. A member of one of the groups is a popular soul music DJ. I kicked off the Chronicle by stepping out of the room as if to get a soda (which I did anyway...) and when I came back in I was right into it, "on the radio" with my best soul-DJ voiceover. The surprised giggles were gone by the time I was a couple of sentences in. When the DJ finished his voiceover, I started the soundtrack on low, went back to regular voice to describe the group on their way to this meeting that they'd been invited to. They got the first batch of basics, knew what the session was going to be about, and then were very ready to jump right in to the rest of the Scenes for the night.

        The soul soundtrack has been the leitmotif whenever they get back home from travel abroad, too.

        Experience discussion is also very important to have. Some games work best with experience leveled among all the characters - especially those games where some players need to miss a lot of sessions for real life events. I personally prefer to award XP at the end of a session during a short recap: whatever number of XP awarded to the group, plus one if you describe something you found out during session. The "today I learned" part isn't super serious, and often is at the level of "today I learned that I need more soak", but it does capture a lot of story points too. I also like to give out an extra XP if a player posts a session writeup, a story, or contributes to our ObsidianPortal wiki.


        Check out Momentum Exalted!

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Simon Darkstep View Post

          We also have at least a few sessions where character stats can be changed basically at-will. That tracks very nicely with the learning curve of a new game or edition. Just in our playtesting, we've had a couple of important edits when players discover the utility of soak and Ox-Body.
          We do the same thing, specially when we are starting with a new system. In the first two-three sessions, you are free to rearrange your sheet.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by wern212 View Post
            So, I'll ask the forums: are there any things you prefer to talk with your fellow players about before that first session?
            I'm coming in as a new ST to Exalted -but familiar with other games - and soon about to start a new campaign with a fresh faced group. My go-to's are:
            • Western Marches style - it's a D&D playstyle that
              (a) accommodates shifting membership,
              (b) encourages players to "return to HQ" by the end of each session,
              (c) nudges players to decide what to explore (instead of the ST dragging them along),
              (d) penalizes them gold for failing to return to HQ.

              For Exalted, I'm planning a Guild Caravan campaign starting with Heroic Mortals. The Guild Caravan
              (a) provides a mobile HQ,
              (b) explains any "gold" penalties (docked pay for being late),
              (c) explains new members (new hires!) or missing players (he was reassigned that night),
              (d) creates a reason for extensive travel, etc.

              One week they're scavenging a ruin - next week they're in a major city selling - the week after they're traveling pass a Shadowland, etc. It's a great format for a relatively low-power group seeking to explore Creation.
            • Dungeon World bonds - it may seem too "basic" for experienced RPGers - but Dungeon World is designed with a "multiple-choice" or "fill-in-the-blank" character sheet (for each class), so new RPers cover all their bases quickly. One step involves "bonds" (aka Intimacies) where the party must assign one to each other character they're with.

              For example, a Wizard might (a) "have sworn an oath to ____'s parents to mentor them", (b) "be convinced to show ____ that religion isn't true wisdom", (c) owes ____ a lifeboon, for when they helped me hide from my pursuers when I was wounded" and (d) "have seen a vision where ____ is important to some epic fate - and I must see them survive to reach that!" - fill in the blank with different player characters and you're good.

              Since I'm aiming for Western Marches & the Guild Caravan - I'd ask for 1 bond/intimacy related to the Caravan itself - so even when new players join, there will be some kind of loyalty to help them out (since you're all co-workers essentially).
            I wait on past-lives & the like since sometimes people need to play their characters within a group before really establishing who they are.

            I only look for glaring problems in concept - for example, "character A is from Thorns and hates all undead" vs "character B grew up in a Shadowland and tries to bargain with the dead". Either find a compromise early on or ask one of them to change their concept (and whoever volunteers to change first I might grant some kind of bonus for being a team-player). Its' slightly more topical in D&D (since clashing alignments are obvious discussion starters) but a quick read of a Background & Intimacies should make it obvious in Exalted.


            Through indiscriminate suffering men know fear and fear is the most divine emotion.
            It is the stones for altars and the beginning of wisdom.
            Half gods are worshipped in wine and flowers. Real gods require blood.
            - Their Eyes Were Watching God

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            • #7
              As I have stopped gaming with the group I have been with for years, as we don't really have a matching gaming style (I would be surprised if even half the group knew the name of their own character), I usually start with a meeting at a café or similar. Well, before that, I have usually been pitching some game, and talked about gaming style, before the meeting. At that first meeting, we talk about expectations, wants, comfort zones, and just generally about rpg stuff to get a feeling of the group chemistry.

              While there is exceptions (like James Bond RPG), I also almost always go with high improvisation. I prepare setting, NPCs, etc. So the next step is to find out what to make it into "one story" and not a bunch of non-related campaigns. This generally means deciding on what keeps the group together (unless it is very obvious, as it would be in a Star Trek game where everyone is part of a crew). However, if I ever finds the time and players for it, it would run a game where it is about a place (like the HBO show Deadwood) but the characters are just different people that is connected to the place. Usually, but not always, it is also decided in rough broad strokes what each character would be.

              Unless it is a setting all of the players already is very familiar with (like the real world or Star Wars), or the character will be as clueless as the player, I want to go over quite a bit about the setting before character creation. This tend to lead to Exalted characters coming from some backwater village or town, not knowing much of the rest of the world; and why I most likely never will get the chance to GM the Swedish RPG Noir.

              Depending on the game, and how we have decided on handling secrets (will character secrets be hidden from the other players, open, or mixed?), character creation can either be done while everyone is in the same place, or just me separately with each player. I want to bounce things back and forth with the player, talking about the characters background, upbringing, and history, so we both have a fairly good grasp on whom the character is.

              When the characters are created, I continue to fill out the setting with NPCs and things that are relevant from the character creation process. I also decide on some starting event for the first session, which can actually be the characters meeting (my currently on Hiatus Exalted game began with one of the Solars exalting, and the two already exalted saw it from a distance and went to check it out).

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              • #8
                What do you like about return-to-HQ, Salagimsim ?


                Check out Momentum Exalted!

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                • #9
                  Link discussing Western Marches campaign style:
                  https://knightssemantic.wordpress.co...-large-groups/

                  Originally posted by Simon Darkstep View Post
                  What do you like about return-to-HQ, Salagimsim ?
                  It solves a bunch of problems! And Guild caravan convoys are perfect for Western Marches as mobile-HQs:
                  • Player needs to miss a night? Fine!

                    OOC: By "returning to HQ", scenes are never left "paused" - and no one feels the need to "wait til next week" because of an absentee. (I have a couple unreliable players who are great when they can attend but terrible at foresight & planning.)

                    IC: Character absence is easily explained as "they were assigned to another task/caravan this week".
                    .
                  • Potential-Player wants to try the game one night? Awesome!

                    Games start and end at their HQ - so the premise for joining is consistent. New characters just need a reason to join the convoy (employment, trade, travel, slave, etc) - and if the "clique" adventures away from the convoy a couple nights, it's as easy as "the Guild assigned ___ to mentor & train the new hire tonight". It eliminates the weird tension of "we just met each other - why should we suddenly be friends?" with the more relatable "ah, we're co-workers" or "you hired us" or "my boss won't let me leave the convoy without a guard, so he assigned you for my safety".

                    If the new player sticks around, awesome!

                    If they don't stick around? They "finished training and were reassigned to another caravan once you return to HQ (the convoy)".

                    If they later return? Your characters all share the "same HQ" (the convoy) so it's easier to rejoin premise-wise.
                    .
                    .
                  • Players have radically different concepts? Cool.

                    An "assassin from the far North", a "medic from the far East" and "priest from the West" could all end up in the "deep South" thanks to the Guild's convoys.

                    If your character is nomadic? (assassins, spies, etc)
                    A mobile-HQ lets you travel and still be viably tracked down.
                    The guild can even provide you with contracts!

                    If your character wants community? (medics, priests, etc)
                    A mobile-HQ gives you people who live, work and thrive together.
                    The guild can also help you connect & help less-mobile "origin" communities.

                    You don't need to get along perfectly.
                    Instead of adventuring together 24/7 (and maybe the medic disapproves of the assassin), you return to the convoy (mobile HQ). The assassin might masquerade as "a Guild enforcer/guard" and can fulfill assignments (murders) discretely. The medic also fulfills assignments. The convoy provides a "neutral middle-ground" where radically different concepts can unite for mutual benefit (without even being aware of each other's full duties).

                    You don't lose motive if someone vanishes.
                    Bonds/Intimacies with other characters are great - but what if the character dies, the player turns absentee, etc? A mobile-HQ serves as a "point of loyalty" that outlives individual members - and can even encompass new hires. A soldier with an Intimacy of "defend the Guild" will be inclusive of (all new members).
                  Celestial Exalts might not need the protection/benefits of a Guild Caravan - but as "an overarching method of forming cohesive groups", I'm really in favor of this format. By focusing on a city, a mobile-HQ, a ship, whatever - your gaming table can survive absentees (one guy vanishing 2 weeks for a job training abroad; another player vanishing for personal reasons, etc).






                  Through indiscriminate suffering men know fear and fear is the most divine emotion.
                  It is the stones for altars and the beginning of wisdom.
                  Half gods are worshipped in wine and flowers. Real gods require blood.
                  - Their Eyes Were Watching God

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Salagimsim View Post
                    It solves a bunch of problems! And Guild caravan convoys are perfect for Western Marches as mobile-HQs:
                    While I in no way disagree with anything said here, I do foresee one problem: what do you do when the PC's get powerful enough to consider simple caravan work beneath them?
                    Which, in most of my exalted campaigns will happen within the first few stories. The Exalted, especially the Solars, in my game tend to be Priest-Kings and Queens.
                    While hardly everyone starts that way, an Exalt gathers influence like a rock gathers moss.

                    That all having been said: I do like the idea of your "central theme" like a city or HQ that the players work with. You've certainly given me food for thought, thank you.
                    In that regard: thank you to everyone who's contributed to this thread!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      The 3rd ed game I ran was based in one particular country (the king was a friend of the PCs), and that worked well. With Exalts' ability to travel far distances quickly, it didn't limit them being based in one particular place. PCs built power bases either there or nearby, and there was always excuses if people missed sessions.

                      I actually run another (non-Exalted) game which has a mobile base, and that... generally works well. Not always, but generally.


                      STing Bronze Age Exalted

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by wern212 View Post
                        what do you do when the PC's get powerful enough to consider simple caravan work beneath them?
                        Which, in most of my exalted campaigns will happen within the first few stories. The Exalted, especially the Solars, in my game tend to be Priest-Kings and Queens.
                        While hardly everyone starts that way, an Exalt gathers influence like a rock gathers moss.

                        That all having been said: I do like the idea of your "central theme" like a city or HQ that the players work with. You've certainly given me food for thought, thank you.
                        In that regard: thank you to everyone who's contributed to this thread!
                        First, I see the caravan as a method of empowerment - not an idle job.
                        • There are no cars, jets, etc - most people live in villages or city-states. If you travel alone, you're vulnerable to animals, bandits, beastmen, undead, etc.
                        • There is no "society" in travel. What good is being a brilliant doctor or occultist - if you don't know how to forage for food? How is your melee-skill going to help you against frostbite? What good is your "super assassin skills" when you can't ride a horse (let alone know how to take care of it)?
                        • On whose backs do you carry all your possessions? And if none, how do you amass wealth and influence?
                        A Guild Caravan is an opportunity to travel and explore the world. A Heroic Mortal wanting to explore beyond their podunk town - a nascent Solar Exalt who had to flee home and has nowhere to go - an Abyssal who risks bringing death to all they love if they stay home. This is how a Twilight scholar obtains guards, how a Lunar shapeshifter gets a translator & merchant-king to sell their tarnished "trash" into the hands of "a collector I've known for decades who loves 3rd century Haltan pottery".


                        I'd never hire PCs to do "simple caravan work". I'd ask their concepts (assassin, warrior, priest, diplomat, scholar, etc) and find ways to work it in.
                        • Warriors might guard the caravan. But they could also be the lover of a merchant-lord, enjoying a position of prominence as a pampered grunt. Or maybe some scavenger lord has been "doing research on a former ruler of old Nexus" and the Dawn Caste realizes the caravan-routes will be visiting different spots where their prior incarnation's regalia is buried.
                        • Assassins might kill goons for the guild. But they could also be on assignment by their Deathlord to kill certain targets, using the Guild as pretext. Or a Lunar kills various Realm lords while traveling - but sticks to the Guild to resell and launder any stolen goods (the Lunar is too busy hunting and fighting to bother with regional markets and figuring out which buyer likes what obscure trash from which irrelevant time-period).
                        • Savants might serve the guild. But they could also pay to travel along. A Twilight might prefer to let the caravan handle cooking, hiring workers and travel so that they can just focus on translating old books, preparing spells and researching locations to scavenge.
                        Etc, etc.

                        Exalts aren't omnipresent - they will want "mortals" who handle the cooking, the washing, the misc duties they don't care to do. A Guild Caravan could be very useful to ride alongside for all these reasons. 300xp spent into combat charms won't help me buy food unless I threaten to mass-murder local shops or rob them (at which point, I fully deserve to be poisoned, stabbed in my sleep or starve on some barren desert where I can't stab the sand for pizza).


                        Edit: I'm totally one of those "really good at backstabbing and magic" types who has zero interest in trade, negotiation, bureaucracy, etc. So I'm 100% more respectful of the Guild (who will fetch me a good price for the things I bring them) instead of wasting my in-game week in the medieval equivalent of retail work. Even a team Eclipse isn't going to want to invest a week doing petty sales jobs.
                        Last edited by Salagimsim; 02-23-2018, 05:59 PM.


                        Through indiscriminate suffering men know fear and fear is the most divine emotion.
                        It is the stones for altars and the beginning of wisdom.
                        Half gods are worshipped in wine and flowers. Real gods require blood.
                        - Their Eyes Were Watching God

                        Comment

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