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Paranoia, Lethality and the Wyld Hunt

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  • rj.au
    started a topic Paranoia, Lethality and the Wyld Hunt

    Paranoia, Lethality and the Wyld Hunt

    A claim I've seen in several places in relation to 2E paranoia combat is that the idea that everyone needs paranoia combos comes from a false assumption that storytellers will put player characters into unavoidable fights with overpowered enemies.
    For most role playing games, this assumption would indeed clearly be false - no-one thinks VtM characters should be designed with the risk of being attacked surprise-attacked unprevoked by antediluvians in mind. But the problem in exalted is that, for solars and for most splats, there are in fact (or so it seems to me) rules that place a fairly high minimum on how powerful the enmies the characters are attacked by can be without storytellers (or players in cooperation with storytellers) putting work into coming up with excuses.
    Assuming the players are playing solars, which is presented by the game as the default option, it is established in the rules (some of these things are specific to certain edditions, but for the most part they hold true across editions) that
    a) The Wyld Hunt and the Bronze Faction are trying to kill you.
    b) The Bronze faction are tracking you with methods so effective that the setting's iconic master shapeshifters decided it was safer to flee to the wyld than to try to hide from them in creation.
    c) Unlike said master shapeshifters, you do not even know of the existence of said tracking methods, and so cannot even try to hide from them.
    d) Killing you is one of the Wyld Hunt's top 300 priorities.
    e) Assuming that around half of lost eggs take the razor, and that a decent number of dynasts become monks as well, the Immaculate Order, which sees maintaining the Wyld Hunt as an extremely important sacred duty, has over 2000 Immaculate monks - enough to assign a full sworn brotherhood to every solar-level anathema and still have a quarter of their monks left over for its other duties.
    f) Immaculate monks have access to celestial-level martial arts that make each one of them a serious threat to non-paranoia-combo starting solars, and one of these martial arts has the grand goremall as its sole artefact form weapon.
    g) The only major group interested in protecting you from the Wyld Hunt - the Gold Faction - is only doing so so that they can convince you to joing their cult, which for players whose character concept isn't 'brainwashed cultist' makes them as much of a threat as the Bronze Faction, just ones that use the social system rather than combat.
    h) Also, your character doesn't know the Gold Faction exists, so you without metagaming you can't do anything to avoid them.
    Like, I'm coming at this as a storyteller who wants to be fair to my players and to give them a chance to have their characters do things rather than just get immediately crushed by overwhelmingly powerful enemies, but I actually can't see a way to do this better than just ignoring central elements of the setting that are inconvenient. And the setting seems designed to inescapably screw solars over from the beginning to the extent that I'm worried that I'm doing things wrong and immediately having a character who was supposed to be a powerful hero get crushed by overwhelmingly powerful enemies that you had no opportunity to do anything to avoid is the intended experience of playing Exalted.

  • Lioness
    replied
    Originally posted by TheCountAlucard View Post
    Rune of Singular Hate is a Solar Circle spell. Plus you can only cast it once in your lifetime. Plus it costs the caster a dot of Essence. Plus you've gotta learn the spell somewhere. So, ah, pardon me if I find that scenario improbable.
    I think his point is that killing them achieves about as much as hitting them with Rune of Singular Hate.

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  • armyofwhispers
    replied
    Originally posted by The Wizard of Oz View Post
    I was also thinking about the fact that Wyld Hunts have actually developed over 1500 years to hunt and kill Lunars, not Solars (since until 5 years ago, there were basically no Solars around except the Bull of the North and Samea).

    What weaknesses would that give them against Solars? I'm not really sure, any ideas?

    (If it was the other way round, I'd guess they'd be poor at dealing with unconventional warfare, but Solars are generally more straightforward than Lunars, if also more powerful.)
    Probably the easiest way to approach taht question is actually take a look at how they attempted to deal with the Bull of the North. They wyld hunt alone is simply not able to tackle an army, and solars are possibly the best splat at rapidly building up a ton of followers and training them into a brutal powerhouse.

    If you ignored PCs and major big bads and jumped forward in time another 10 years or so, I'd guess that there would be dozens of Solar city-states and kingdoms springing up where there was nothing but a handful of farmers or bandits previously. Hell, once they get rolling, Solars can literally spin a kingdom out of the wyld (though I doubt the realm would care too much about such a place even if they found out about it. It would take a massive amount of time and resources to make such a thing a threat to the realm). I'd actually expect quite a lot of friction between the established lunar territories and the new solar powers springing up. The Realm might catch a break while they sort things out, though if they keep going the way things are, the Realm would be the logical expansion point for most of everyone.

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  • The Wizard of Oz
    replied
    I was also thinking about the fact that Wyld Hunts have actually developed over 1500 years to hunt and kill Lunars, not Solars (since until 5 years ago, there were basically no Solars around except the Bull of the North and Samea).

    What weaknesses would that give them against Solars? I'm not really sure, any ideas?

    (If it was the other way round, I'd guess they'd be poor at dealing with unconventional warfare, but Solars are generally more straightforward than Lunars, if also more powerful.)

    Leave a comment:


  • The Wizard of Oz
    replied
    Something else to add about the Wyld Hunt.

    Unless a Sidereal's using the Loom of Fate to find someone specific (which, even in 2e, takes days a Sidereal doesn't have, and is difficult and imprecise), finding Solars who never flare or use obvious Solar powers (summoning blades of golden light, walking around in an orichalcum warstrider, etc) is very difficult.

    I mean, they don't change shape. They just look like humans.
    And there's gods, god-blooded, enlightened martial artists, sorcerers, Dragonblood with low breeding, etc, etc, etc. So even if they do use some supernatural powers, people may not realise they're Solars.

    When my PCs were attacked by the Wyld Hunt, they beat them because the Wyld Hunt expected two Solars, and found 6; only 2 had shown signs of being Solar, all the spies reported that they had a few servants and enlightened martial artist goons. No-one knew that some of those martial artists were Solars. I mean, Solars are pretty rare, what's the chance 6 will be hanging out together?

    So a Solar group committed to staying under the radar shouldn't necessarily have much trouble hiding (and they're the kind of people Sidereals aren't going to bother using the Loom of Fate on).

    (Of course, what amuses/exasperates me is how terrible Solar PCs are at keeping things under wraps, even though it's not that hard. I thought Vampire PCs were bad at keeping the Masquerade, but they've got nothing on Solar PCs.)

    Of course, if you're shaking the world's geopolitics, unleashing immense city-shattering sorceries, etc, then yeah, they're going to find you easily. But if you're doing that, I think you're probably not too worried about the Wyld Hunt.

    For example, one PC in the game I play was a Solar sorceress with fire-sorcery, Enhenduanna. She had jet-black skin, viscous magma-like blood, a heart of fire, she could shoot fire, etc. She generally attacked people with Terrestrial Sorcery. The social PC told some NPCs that she was a rogue Dragonblood called Sesus Enhenduanna. That fit what people saw, so for a while everything she did was reported as "A Fire Aspect did X". So no Wyld Hunt.
    When she turned out to be working with an infamous Lunar Anathema, and built a sorcerous kingdom of dragons and golems which clashed with the Realm, then they looked into her more, told everyone she was an Anathema, and 4 sessions ago the Wyld Hunt ambushed her.
    Last edited by The Wizard of Oz; 02-05-2019, 02:00 PM.

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  • The Wizard of Oz
    replied
    Yeah, I agree.
    (I realise I forgot to say "So, yeah, it doesn't seem very likely to me either", which I was going to, but it got lost in pre-editing.)

    Basically, think of them as the control rods in the nuclear reactor that is Solar power.
    So, when I used to play a fair bit of high-level DnD, you had the problem that high-level Wizards had a few high-level spells and lots of medium and low-level spells... but what tended to happen is they'd throw down all their best spells to get through the first few encounters quickly. And either that was all the encounters (and they weren't that hard), or they'd then come to the Big Boss, but by that time they'd used all their cool spells and just had chaff. Which was kind of rubbish.

    So, with Exalted, it's a bit different.
    You have regular medium power. You can use this easily. But it's not that great, you can't use full excellencies all over the place or spam perfects (well, in 2.5. You could in regular 2nd, of course).
    But then when you're in really deep trouble, you dig deep and unleash your True Power (or, in the case of Lunars, your Ultimate Form).

    But of course, unleashing your True Power or Ultimate Form needs to have some kind of limit so you don't just spam it in every fight. And in the case of Exalted, it's a kind of social consequence. If you unleash your True Power, everyone nearby knows where you are, and they know you're an Anathema.

    Which means being an Anathema needs some consequences. It could be that it attracts hunters (like Dragonblood Shikari), or that politicians don't want to work with you (as you might mind-control them), or local tribes think you're cursed.

    This, I think, is one key purpose of the Wyld Hunt within the setting.

    (For Dragonblood, of course, there's not the danger that people will hate you because of your anima. It's just that you might set fire to your house or kill your house, or something.)
    Last edited by The Wizard of Oz; 02-05-2019, 01:53 PM.

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  • TheCountAlucard
    replied
    Originally posted by The Wizard of Oz View Post
    It doesn't cost a dot of Essence.

    It costs one point of every single Attribute, one point of every Ability you have, and one point of all 4 virtues.

    And, of course, all the ability minimums you no longer meet mean charms you can no longer use.

    Basically, your character is a wreck afterwards.
    Right, sorry, it wasn't as bad as I remembered - it was worse.

    ​My point is, no, I don't expect Rune of Singular Hate to be a factor on the Solar or Sidereal side.

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  • Ulthwithian
    replied
    Well, I have a bit of my own advice, some mechanical and some flavor/setting.

    On the mechanical side, something that no one has mentioned yet directly is disrupting the Wyld Hunt's logistics. And one Charm that is quite nice for that is Indolent Official's Charm. It specifically does not require something to exist to be named, so 'the Wyld Hunt's search for me/my Circle' is a valid project to be named. And this can give a lot of breathing room, and possibly lead to a lot of 'you're leaving town as the Wyld Hunt arrives'. Now, it's unclear how much the Sidereals could 'deal with' the Charm, as it seems to be centered on the Solar, and not the bureaucracy he's affecting. Something thatthe Sidereals could deal with, if they knew, but is even more effective is Foul Air of Argument Technique. (I think I got that name right.) If you can get in position to target the Wyld Hunt (be it a local/Direction office or not), this gives even more time/leeway for getting away from them.

    On the flavor side, I tend to make the Wyld Hunt more a looming concern than an antagonist. It is very much the 'glowy control'. Basically, think of them as the control rods in the nuclear reactor that is Solar power. Having said that, I tend to run them rather like a certain character/organization in the Stormlight Archive. Spoilers below. (Note: The Stormlight Archive in general is an excellent series to read for Exalted inspiration, right down to the heroes all being broken leading to nonoptimal decisions.)

    Nale hunts possible Knights Radiant (i.e., setting equivalent of Exalts) because he believes they'll lead to the end of the world. Very much a direct analogue to the Wyld Hunt. And he's very successful... when he deals with non-combat optimized Radiants. If you've read the books, the story of the cobbler is heartwrenching. But when he runs into Radiants that are all skilled in either combat or 'not getting caught', his success rate goes down.


    So basically, like so many forms of power, the Wyld Hunt is more powerful due to the threat of its action than the action itself.

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  • Isator Levi
    replied
    I think a big thing with the Second Edition Wyld Hunt is that, per the writing, it was underfunded and overstretched.

    Even if Sidereal tracking abilities were as good as the original poster was saying, they'd still be hard pressed to coordinate attacks on that many targets even if their resources weren't sharply limited.

    For Third Edition, the Wyld Hunt is more active and committed, but a lot of that dedication has been traditionally pointed at Lunars instead, and even then, the sudden increase in Anathema is something that requires some adaptation.

    I'd say a basic diegetic reason to not concentrate overwhelming force on any given Solar (circle) is a combination of that meaning some other target has the pressure taken off, and overwhelming force is both easier to see coming from far away, and moves a lot slower.

    "The Royal Procession is dead weight. If I want to catch my prey, I must be agile, nimble. I need a small, elite team."

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  • The Wizard of Oz
    replied
    It doesn't cost a dot of Essence.

    It costs one point of every single Attribute, one point of every Ability you have, and one point of all 4 virtues.

    And, of course, all the ability minimums you no longer meet mean charms you can no longer use.

    Basically, your character is a wreck afterwards.

    Several of my PCs cast it in the last session (using the Crucible of Tarim) to take down Walker in Darkness. And that's how I went from running a 560xp 2nd edition game, to a 200xp 3rd edition game.


    Now, of course an Adamant sorcerer who's about to die will probably be willing to cast it if they can, to save their life. But, canonically, how many Solars/Infernals can cast Adamant-Circle spells? I'm pretty sure it's 0.
    The only Solar sorcerer who's been exalted more than 5 years is Samea, and according to her write-up in Compass: North, she's only mastered the Celestial Circle.
    (I might be wrong. Maybe Dukantha can cast Adamant spells. But then, he's in the middle of the Lintha anyway, so the Wyld Hunt isn't up against him.)

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  • TheCountAlucard
    replied
    Rune of Singular Hate is a Solar Circle spell. Plus you can only cast it once in your lifetime. Plus it costs the caster a dot of Essence. Plus you've gotta learn the spell somewhere. So, ah, pardon me if I find that scenario improbable.
    Last edited by TheCountAlucard; 02-05-2019, 10:04 AM.

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  • emeraldstreak
    replied
    Originally posted by rj.au View Post
    Like, I'm coming at this as a storyteller who wants to be fair to my players and to give them a chance to have their characters do things rather than just get immediately crushed by overwhelmingly powerful enemies, but I actually can't see a way to do this better than just ignoring central elements of the setting that are inconvenient. And the setting seems designed to inescapably screw solars over from the beginning to the extent that I'm worried that I'm doing things wrong and immediately having a character who was supposed to be a powerful hero get crushed by overwhelmingly powerful enemies that you had no opportunity to do anything to avoid is the intended experience of playing Exalted.
    I've ran some of the deadliest 2E campaigns. Here's my take:

    - the Bronze Faction doesn't care about 'starting' Solars. Killing them only 'restarts' them now that the Jade Prison is gone. It's better to steer them into futile pursuits. Also I play RAW chargen and RAW sorcery, so from an Elder point of view every starting Solar is a risk to be blasted by RAW Rune of Singular Hate, for the grand gain of...nothing.

    - at the accepted campaign starting date, many Dragon-Blooded are corrupted, incompetent, and cruel; similarly to how they are portrayed in the Exalted novels. The first Wyld Hunts the player characters encounter are composed of such local Dragon-Blooded 'militia' and are appropriately tuned as combat encounters. In time, as Dragon-Blooded lose ground and Solars gain, things change, and first some of the top students of Wyld Hunt Elders, and then even Wyld Hunt Elders themselves may face the PCs, when the PCs are capable to face such threats.

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  • Nabirius
    replied
    So, having run a Solar-level game in a Realm setting there are a few alternatives to point to as well. The first is that the players don't need to start as newly exalted, they may have escaped a hunt before and know to keep a low profile.

    Second, the players don't need to all have paranoia combos unless you know the system well enough to make the attacks dangerous enough that they need anything more than their perfect defense.

    Third, you aren't automatically a known element until the players start attempting to build their own kingdoms or something - or take actions so dramatic it would be hard for the world not to take notice - they can go along being rumors of anathema and trying to evade and misdirect a hunt instead of taking them head on all the time, discretion can be the better part of valor. You can also frame not as them fleeing, but as them avoiding civilian deaths and bringing more trouble upon their head.

    Fourth, there are factions that not inherently allied with them can be brought into their side, for the right price. The Lunars are an obvious example of how the solars might get shelter. They can also make deals with the guild if they are of a more morally dubious bent. The Ragara family of DB are also might be convinced to support and Anathema, so long as they maintain some deniability. The Gold Faction also has a lot of well-meaning members that genuinely want to support the Solars, plus brainwashing takes time the players might be allies until their darker motives are revealed.

    Lastly, there are always bigger fish, the Realm, the Sidereals, etc. They are all looking at the Deathlords, Abyssals, Infernals, Akuma, and loss demons, as well as the distrust they have for each other, they aren't going to drop everything to gun for 1-5 (depending on how many Solars are revealed) that aren't causing much harm - especially considering how dangerous they are. Plus, you can reveal that they were being directed toward abyssal enemies by Sids anyway.

    All that aside The Wizard of Oz is right, consider 3e.

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  • webkilla
    replied
    I do a mix of things

    I generally keep the wyld hunt as a looming threat - my players know that if they misbehave too much and make too much of a menace out of themselves, then... bad things will be coming, and due to an earlier run-in with a realm legion they were stealing magic stuff from, then they're deadly afraid of anything that even smells like an immaculate master.

    In another I ran, where my players were more or less all solars, I used the wyld hunt as more of a political oppertunity - because there was a sidereal in the circle, and I used the arrival of that wyld hunt as more of an example of the gold and bronze faction fighting each other and how the players were getting caught in the crossfire: On one hand the bronze faction had managed to get the very Peleps Deled (the head of the wyld hunt) to lead that hunt, hoping that the players would kill the guy so someone actually competent could replace him.... but equally some well-meaning gold faction sids had thrown a wrench in things by getting Ragara Myrun (or what's his name, the immaculate grandmaster - essence 6 DB with at least 5 mastered CMAs) to tag along, bringing his entourage and his five masters-in-their-own-right "furious five" diciples along... because the gold sids wouldn't mind seeing the grandmaster getting rekt, also they knew that the grandmaster was ketchup carjack's assistant's pet project.

    Basically my players shat all kinds of orichalcum bricks when they realized how much of a force was heading their way - but the whole point was that with some yu-shan political manouvering, revealing carjack's assistant having tried to teach SMAs to the grandmaster via some really careful spywork and manipulation rolls (and surviving long enough to give testimony to that effect at a censor) then they didn't actually have to engage the grandmaster themselves - and once he'd been spirited away, most of his entourage up and left, as did his diciples, leaving Peleps Deled rather vulnerable and with a very puny wyld hunt.

    then my players got their fight - though with the caveat that the gold faction had carefully instructed them NOT to kill Deled... for the exact same reason that the bronze faction wanted him dead.


    So ya - wyld hunts can be used in all kinds of fun ways

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  • Bastet
    replied
    I question how close Novia actually came. The whole point of trying to one-shot someone is that if you nearly manage it then the target should be in no real state to fight back. If the target is breaking your ribs? I think you never had control of the situation.

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