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Why bring back the Tell, again?

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  • Why bring back the Tell, again?

    In my experience with previous editions, the Tell mechanic has always been at best kind of annoying. This one looks poised to repeat that: it's got the same fiddly thing going on where high enough rolls can see through it regardless of shape, until a minor investment then negates it entirely most of the time. In practice, this just makes the Charm to hide an obligatory tax for characters that ever plan to do social infiltration stuff, while others just won't care most of the time. On top of that, the GM will be stuck keeping track of who has or hasn't seen through it for individual PCs whenever recurring NPCs come up.

    Like, what's the reason to even include it? What do the game and its themes actually gain in play from forcing characters to have a distinctive quality that, broadly speaking, either they'll immediately suppress from character creation or they'll never care about enough to interact with mechanically?

  • #2
    One of the most basic things people ever seem to want from Lunars is emulation of shapeshifting narratives in myth and folklore.

    A really common (and in my opinion, compelling) element in shapeshifting narratives in myth and folklore is some innocuous recurring trait that can alternately give the shapeshifter away, or be a moment of dawning horror that is the prelude to the masquerade being dropped in the worst way possible.


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    • #3
      Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post
      One of the most basic things people ever seem to want from Lunars is emulation of shapeshifting narratives in myth and folklore.

      A really common (and in my opinion, compelling) element in shapeshifting narratives in myth and folklore is some innocuous recurring trait that can alternately give the shapeshifter away, or be a moment of dawning horror that is the prelude to the masquerade being dropped in the worst way possible.
      But there's already a mechanic for doing that kind of thing in a way that won't just get ignored at first opportunity by players: Perfected Hybrid Interaction. Why have the recurring cross-form traits that players will actually care about using, and the recurring cross-form traits that players will immediately try to suppress because they promptly make a bunch of social stuff impossible, so that the players and GM have to keep track of both at once?
      Last edited by Roadie; 02-20-2019, 01:28 AM.

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      • #4
        At this point there are only a few times when the tell matters. You hit bonfire or above or you get hit by eye of the unconquered sun or some equivalent detection spell if you purchase one charm. The tell isn't a big deal but it does exist to counterbalance free stealth and was there in the first place due to how myths works with certain famous shapeshifters. But again one charm and pretty much the only thing that detects it is the eye of the unconquered sun..

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Epimetheus View Post
          At this point there are only a few times when the tell matters. You hit bonfire or above or you get hit by eye of the unconquered sun or some equivalent detection spell if you purchase one charm. The tell isn't a big deal but it does exist to counterbalance free stealth and was there in the first place due to how myths works with certain famous shapeshifters. But again one charm and pretty much the only thing that detects it is the eye of the unconquered sun..
          That's part of my complaint. If it's that easy to get and that effective, and with how it overwhelmingly applies to the entire field of social ability in a way more fundamental than even excellencies, the obvious assumption is that any character who cares about it even a little bit will buy it. At that point why even have it, rather than reducing the number of Charms by 1 and combining its effects into the base write-up of the Tell?

          Of course, that's leaving aside how you're spending a Charm on making your character less worse, rather than making the character better, because the chargen mechanics leave you in a hole you have to fill in before you can reliably use your other primary abilities on social interactions.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Roadie View Post

            But there's already a mechanic for doing that kind of thing in a way that won't just get ignored at first opportunity by players: Perfected Hybrid Interaction.
            I don't think Perfected Hybrid Interaction really models the narrative effectively, because the onus on it being present in a scene is entirely on the Lunar.

            Originally posted by Roadie
            Why have the recurring cross-form traits that players will actually care about using
            So you have a version that is actually leveraged for mechanical baggage.

            Originally posted by Roadie
            the recurring cross-form traits that players will immediately try to suppress because they promptly make a bunch of social stuff impossible
            I think you're giving a lot of credit to the characters of the setting to widely afford them Perception + Awareness rolls that can hit difficulty 7.

            Like, even for people who have seen the Lunar flare their anima enough to become familiar with the Tell, the majority of the characters in the setting can't reliably roll four successes. If one is going a few levels deeper into the diegesis, I would presume that Awareness is one of the least commonly cultivated Abilities among normal people.

            Presuming somebody who doesn't have magical enhancement to seeing through disguises, the only way that keeping your Tell under wraps without further magic is impossible is if you're meeting with one of the most observant people in Creation, who has already seen your Tell before in the past, and you're doing a really terrible job of acting like the person you're pretending to be.

            Good Lord, a Lunar who conducts themselves like that deserves to be found out.

            Originally posted by Roadie
            so that the players and GM have to keep track of both at once?
            I kind of feel as though the player who is unveiling a mutation with a Charm has decided to forego discretion.


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            • #7
              Because being able to spot a shapeshifter is an element in folklore and fiction. The Tell rules make it difficult enough but still possible that it's only going to happen with truly epic, plot relevant characters (like other PCs) to get that plot point without kneecapping shapeshifting.


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              • #8
                Originally posted by Roadie View Post
                Of course, that's leaving aside how you're spending a Charm on making your character less worse, rather than making the character better, because the chargen mechanics leave you in a hole you have to fill in before you can reliably use your other primary abilities on social interactions.
                I see a disconnect in priorities here.

                The Tell is meant to be a liability by design. For people that are playing Lunars, it's not meant to be a very large liability, but still one that some considerations need to be made around, which can add an edge of tension and excitement to the subject of shapeshifting and flaring their anima. For people that are not playing Lunars, it's meant to be a liability that can help them with realising that they're looking at a Lunar, so that shapeshifting doesn't let them always act with impunity or get the drop on people.

                It's not the only thing in the game meant to act as a narratively interesting liability. Look at the fact that you're required to give your character a Defining Intimacy. Sure, that one carries a converse benefit, but you still end up with something that can knock a big chunk out of your Resolve and leave you open to being compelled to doing some very extreme things.


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                • #9
                  That being said, having now had the opportunity to see the mechanics of the Tell alongside Subtle Silver Declaration, putting the Charm's benefits into context... it does feel like a liability that is a bit too easy to close off entirely. I had half a mind to raise concern about it being mandatory to close off that liability if you were going into Appearance's subterfuge Charms, but... I suppose if you're dedicating yourself to subterfuge powers, that kind of hole in your disguises ends up being the last thing you want.

                  {checks the Charm again} Sorry, wasn't fully reading the thing. The liability is not completely closed off, people who have seen your Tell before (probably exposed by anima) can still roll to detect it. I would want to find clarification on whether or not they still get the three automatic successes. For the time being, I'm satisfied with that.


                  I have approximate knowledge of many things.
                  Watch me play Dark Souls III (completed)
                  https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLDtbr08HW8RW4jOHN881YA3yRZBV4lpYw Watch me play Breath of the Wild (updated 12/03)

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                  • #10
                    Why? Because it's thematic and cool, and because any plot involving masters of disguise is already going to involve bookkeeping about who has and hasn't made you before (in this or any other disguise). Giving Lunars mechanics to play with that is just an extension of their schtick as shapeshifting tricksters.


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                    • #11
                      Another thing that i think goes unnoticed and unrecognised is that the Lunar tell is intended to be very subtle; we see mechanics for noticing it and go "how can these be that good of shapeshifters with a way to spot them?"

                      Mara changes her shape and no matter what shape she takes, she has goat legs. However a neomah appears, there is always a demonic aspect. But the lack of unique and special mechanics to notice obvious elements like this, I think, paradoxically makes them seem less noticable to players. There's a roll to notice, therefore it's more obvious than the lady with goat legs, who can only hide them by wearing a floor length skirt and hoping you don't notice the clip-clop of hooves.
                      Last edited by Meianno Yuurei; 02-20-2019, 03:09 AM.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Meianno Yuurei View Post
                        Another thing that i think goes unnoticed and unrecognised is that the Lunar tell is intended to be very subtle; we see mechanics for noticing it and go "how can these be that good of shapeshifters with a way to spot them?"

                        Mara changes her shape and no matter what shape she takes, she has goat legs. However a neomah appears, there is always a demonic aspect. But the lack of mechanics to notice obvious elements like this, I think, paradoxically makes them seem less noticable to players. There's a roll to notice, therefore it's more obvious than the lady with goat legs, who can only hide them by wearing a floor length short skirt and hoping you don't notice the clip-clop of hooves.
                        Well, and there's the part where the Lunars are the only part of the game line where there's a set difficulty to notice those kinds of details on a non-quick character. I presume that if Mara wanted to hide her goat legs, she'd be rolling Intelligence + Larceny, just like any other disguise attempt (though probably with a penalty). But as written, no Lunar can even attempt to do better at disguising the Tell than the flat Perception difficulty given for it, regardless of any and all other factors that go into it.
                        Last edited by Roadie; 02-20-2019, 03:16 AM.

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                        • #13
                          It could be kind of a patch for having Lunar protagonists or antagonists? Like the PC version of the Tell is with SSD, where as antagonist Lunars might tend not to have it unless they're particularly adept at it. I forsee a lot of players just considering it a kind of tax, unless they really don't use shapeshifting for stealth at all, and a lot of STs just giving it to every single Lunar and making the Tell kind of pointless for them.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Roadie View Post

                            Well, and there's the part where the Lunars are the only part of the game line where there's a set difficulty to notice those kinds of details.
                            Yes, in most cases, "that person has cat ears" is not the kind of detail that you require any kind of roll to make at all.

                            The set difficulty is an obstacle, not an invitation.

                            Originally posted by Roadie
                            I presume that if Mara wanted to hide her goat legs, she'd be rolling Intelligence + Larceny, just like any other disguise attempt (though probably with a penalty).
                            I suppose so. Mara's deer legs are tragically not gifted with innate magic that will conceal them from all but the most puissant senses.

                            Originally posted by Roadie
                            But as written, no Lunar can even attempt to do better at disguising the Tell than the flat Perception difficulty given for it, regardless of any and all other factors that go into it.
                            I mean, on the one hand... orichalcum rule. I don't think it's a huge stretch to assume that if a Lunar's Tell is their little goat horns, and they spend all of their time wearing a hat, then the Tell doesn't really get an opportunity to present itself. It's not like Second Edition, where the rules are telling you where you can and cannot put the Tell. Depending on circumstances, never taking your hat off might be a bit suspicious, though.

                            I mean, for the sake of its dramatic potential, I see no point in being somebody whose Tell is placed on a part of their body where a roll to perceive it would never make sense. But assuming that it could be noticed sans disguise or other concealment (like staying out of bright lights so nobody sees your weird shadow), I don't think a bit of mundane concealment is out of order, if sometimes inconveniencing.

                            Although I still think that a flaring anima will illustrate its form and presence.

                            On the other hand, you seem to be being really evasive about just how high that difficulty is.


                            I have approximate knowledge of many things.
                            Watch me play Dark Souls III (completed)
                            https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLDtbr08HW8RW4jOHN881YA3yRZBV4lpYw Watch me play Breath of the Wild (updated 12/03)

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                            • #15
                              Let me simplify it even more: the Tell is a thing because the Wyld Hunt needs to stand a chance.

                              With a difficulty of 7, a mortal spotting a Tell, or even an Exalted who has no reason to suspect you spotting it by luck, are virtually impossible. But Exalted characters actively on the look out for a given Lunar need some degree to which they stand a chance to do so.


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