Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

High-Level Antagonists

Collapse
X
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • #16
    I too like using foes the PCs don't want to kill. It may be unwise to kill an enemy because he knows something valuable, or is single-handedly keeping the city fed through the winter with his sorcery, or has blackmail material that will be delivered to your mother-in-law if he doesn't report to his minions in three days, or is actually your brother being manipulated by a captivating lorelei who has made him forget all loyalties but to her, or is a good and noble person trying to do the right thing who doesn't believe you when you try to explain the situation, or is just a clueless asshole who reminds a PC of themselves before they saw the light. On a macro scale, it doesn't matter if they could roll over the belligerent neighbouring kingdom if they need its armies intact and on their side to take out a bigger foe. Make use of dilemmas or emotional connections, or both.

    One foe-you-don't-want-to-kill I'm proud of is the Lunar mate of one of my Abyssal PCs. They had had overwhelmingly positive experiences with Lunars thus far (it helped that they got in good with an influential one quite early on) so I decided to throw the old crazy-girlfriend-from-a-previous-life trope at them. She's a cunning, intense, emotionally unstable predator from the First Age, who is dangerously obsessed with her mate's reincarnation. She wants to "help" him take his rightful place on the throne she feels he's entitled to, so that she can stay by his side at the height of worldly power and it can be how it should be, how it used to be (Sidenote: no it didn't, they were always complicated and it never really worked out, also the Abyssal reincarnation is a schemer who wants to avoid the spotlight). It doesn't matter who gets hurt or what upheaval she brings in her wake.

    She's stealthy enough to fool any of them and she's pure paranoia fuel. They first met her posing as a newly exalted Lunar, and doing a flawless impression of a modern young woman, complete with attitude, language, habits, and pop-culture references. But when she was outed it became clear that she had only been able to pass because she had eaten the memories of the young woman whose face she stole, and the person they had gotten to know was already dead.

    Her power level is "ancient horror in human form" but they could probably take her as a group... except that she's so damn useful, and willing to do anything to impress her beloved. And he's ambitious, too clever for his own good, and not above using people, so the temptation to string her along is very real. She's a phenomenal espionage and assassination asset, and can absolutely achieve results beyond their other means. But she's a total loose cannon, and has her own ideas about what is best for her mate. They haven't seen her in a few years, so it's probably fine.


    "Measure of Hope is right about everything." - Wise Old Guru

    Currently running an Exalted 2.5 Abyssals game in a homebrew modern shard because I value neither my time or my sanity, and I'm loving almost every minute of it.

    Comment


    • #17
      One way to keep a solid villain alive is to give them a support crew, a sidereal or Lunar or god who can whisk them away if need be.
      This doesn’t just preserve your villain, it also gives the players something to shoot for, and a recourse against their immortality.

      My main piece of advice is that no matter how much you want an antagonist to challenge the PCs, do not delegitimise the players achievements. Especially in exalted.

      Triumph can be hard won or tinged with sorrow or even interrupted by bigger problems, but if the players struggle and win, they win. Most of the time there’ll be other stakes to the struggle than just someone getting killed, so that victory can just be saving That Day and you can keep using the villain if you have a reason they survive.

      But when you undermine the players achievements, they’ll stop caring and get annoyed.

      I know this because one of the longest, most enjoyable games of exalted I ever played saw the mask of winters survive a plan that really really really should have worked.
      Because the ST didn’t intend on the struggle ending there. And that game died almost immediately after that.

      Comment


      • #18
        Originally posted by Maseiken View Post
        One way to keep a solid villain alive is to give them a support crew, a sidereal or Lunar or god who can whisk them away if need be.
        This doesn’t just preserve your villain, it also gives the players something to shoot for, and a recourse against their immortality.
        And of course, they can always flee while their goons are tanking the PCs. It lets the PCs feel they've won, and they've struck a serious blow against the big bad, because they've killed the big bad's support crew.

        My main piece of advice is that no matter how much you want an antagonist to challenge the PCs, do not delegitimise the players achievements. Especially in exalted.

        Triumph can be hard won or tinged with sorrow or even interrupted by bigger problems, but if the players struggle and win, they win. Most of the time there’ll be other stakes to the struggle than just someone getting killed, so that victory can just be saving That Day and you can keep using the villain if you have a reason they survive.
        Yeah, you're not actually trying to make the PCs lose, just to make their win a challenge.
        Which I found quite difficult with Essence 5 PCs, but I'm reasonably happy with the end of the game; no PCs died, but one was blinded, and one lost an arm, so their victory was hard-won.
        But still won.


        My characters:
        Dr Soma Vaidya, viper-totem Lunar and kung-fu doctor
        Brother Alazar, Zenith occultist and last survivor of the Black Monastery of Leng

        Comment


        • #19
          When assigning challenges to your PCs its first important to determine your objectives and figure out what you and your players want out of a combat encounter.
          This might seem self-evident but it’s useful to question your own motives when running a game because "my players want a bigger challenge" is a different problem to "my PCs are being infuriatingly cocky" or "my players are too damn competitive and its making me feel like a failure" even if in practice those could easily overlap.

          One of the easiest ways to make a 3rd edition NPC hit above their weight class is limited reintroduction of 2.5 era charms, because most of them still basically work its just that they lack the 3rd edition keywords to give them a sense of narrative timing drawing no meaningful distinction between stubbornly refusing to capitulate initiative and no-selling a decisive attack in imitative crash to bounce back but that's okay because the Storyteller already controls the narrative, so you should be able to avoid a fight looking like this unless you really want it to.

          This is where it's important to get a handle on player's sentiments though; if you’re reviving elements of 2nd edition’s power disparity for the sake of a challenging encounter it helps to have some idea of what they’ve thought were good boss fights in the past and when a high level opponent's abilities felt utterly arbitrary.


          Onyx Path Forum Moderator
          Please spare a thought for updating the Exalted wiki.

          Comment


          • #20
            Originally posted by The Wizard of Oz View Post
            Yeah, you're not actually trying to make the PCs lose, just to make their win a challenge. Which I found quite difficult with Essence 5 PCs, but I'm reasonably happy with the end of the game; no PCs died, but one was blinded, and one lost an arm, so their victory was hard-won.
            But still won.
            Mine are still at Essence 3 and are pretty regularly just no-selling major geopolitical and economic moves against them (to be fair, my players are wicked smart and a mix of engineers and history/poli sci/eco nerds), so I have to believe Essence 5 Solars get ridonk.

            Comment


            • #21
              I guess that I am an old style ST. I present my players an enemy and, to a large extent, it is up to them if they die. If they know that the Deathlord is protected by 100 Essence 5 Nemissaries, it is up to them to figure out a way to stop the plans of the Deathlord without dying. If they are stupid and decide to charge the castle, well, it is on them if they die. If they are intelligent though, they will have a chance of succeeding.

              Comment


              • #22
                Originally posted by The Fool of Creation View Post
                Another thing to consider is that high level opponents should have minions of comparable power to the PCs. Perhaps the Deathlord is served by a company of one hundred Essence 5 nemissaries who each predate the Great Contagion and who have each mastered a few martial arts styles. At any time, twenty of them are protecting their mistress from harm, half patrolling her manse and half protecting her person, though their appearance suggests that they are only mortal servants.
                I have a variation of this.
                If the PCs are attacking a city or major enemy stronghold remember to split your scenes, the entire army doesn't all rush out the city gate under a singular commander then get defeated in about 10 minutes instead you're fighting district by district or level by level. Battle Groups are smaller but there's more fully fledged NPCs who are going to be fighting dirty because they know they're outmatched. Buildings will be burnt down with you inside them, corrosive liquid thrown from roof tops, dangerous animals unleashed to slow down the invaders, civilians taking up arms and while all this is going on cover will be optimised as hell. Its not a high level antagonist but its gruelling and it'll make them feel like they actually took a city at the end.


                Onyx Path Forum Moderator
                Please spare a thought for updating the Exalted wiki.

                Comment


                • #23
                  Originally posted by The Fool of Creation View Post
                  I guess that I am an old style ST. I present my players an enemy and, to a large extent, it is up to them if they die. If they know that the Deathlord is protected by 100 Essence 5 Nemissaries, it is up to them to figure out a way to stop the plans of the Deathlord without dying. If they are stupid and decide to charge the castle, well, it is on them if they die. If they are intelligent though, they will have a chance of succeeding.
                  Wait, Nephwracks or Nemissaries? Because there's a massive difference in difficulty there.


                  My characters:
                  Dr Soma Vaidya, viper-totem Lunar and kung-fu doctor
                  Brother Alazar, Zenith occultist and last survivor of the Black Monastery of Leng

                  Comment


                  • #24
                    Nemissaries. Nephwrecks are too insane for a Deathlord to reliable control. A nemissary is just a ghost who is capable of riding corpses and, it earlier editions, had access to artifact corpses. I wonder if the dead have evocation for artifact corpses?

                    Comment


                    • #25
                      Oh, sorry, I misread your initial post.

                      Yeah, 100 Nemissary martial artists is fine. That'd be a tough but doable challenge for PCs.


                      My characters:
                      Dr Soma Vaidya, viper-totem Lunar and kung-fu doctor
                      Brother Alazar, Zenith occultist and last survivor of the Black Monastery of Leng

                      Comment


                      • #26
                        Are we talking tough battle groups or individual characters? Because rolling 20+ NPCs into one combat is ...not a good plan.


                        Onyx Path Forum Moderator
                        Please spare a thought for updating the Exalted wiki.

                        Comment


                        • #27
                          Well, the idea would be the break them up into smaller groups. If we assume that twenty of them are deployed on missions and that the remaining eighty are divided into four shifts, that means that twenty of them will be on shift at any time. If ten of them are on patrol in two five-person groups while the remaining ten guard the Deathlord, then it is likely that the first encounter will be five Essence 5 nemissaries against five PCs.

                          Now, bass on previous editions, nemissaries are probably capable of using Martial Arts Charms at a Terrestrial level, so they will likely have each mastered one martial arts style. In addition, they may have novel evocations related to the artifacts of the dead. In any case, the PCs need to make sure that the rest do not become alert to their presence.

                          Comment


                          • #28
                            One way to put more individual NPCs into a combat than you could possibly run at a time is to run the scene as a meatgrinder where new attackers enter the scene as existing ones are removed (probably wise to include a provision where badly wounded attackers who can't really do anything anymore can be declared incapacitated) while the PCs try to complete some objective, like escaping.

                            Our Sidereal Storyteller did this when we tried to get something from a First Age tomb that was suspended high above the treetops and made of knotted branches, while getting in was easy its defences created wood elementals so our Secrets had to crack a safe while the rest of us held off a constantly growing number of attackers. She mentioned she'd considered running our Infernals escaping from the Imperial City (another memorable incident in a different game) in a similar way.




                            Onyx Path Forum Moderator
                            Please spare a thought for updating the Exalted wiki.

                            Comment


                            • #29
                              Originally posted by The Wizard of Oz View Post

                              Wait, Nephwracks or Nemissaries? Because there's a massive difference in difficulty there.
                              I read that as Nephwracks too! Heh, yeah makes a -big- difference. I think the disconnect is in the essence score; how does even one Nemissary get to E5, let alone a hundred?!

                              But, I suppose it's on a level of individually crazy I've done in some scenarios in my game ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


                              Blasphemy? No, it is not blasphemy. If God is as vast as that, he is above blasphemy; if He is as little as that, He is beneath it.
                              - Mark Twain, a Biography

                              Comment


                              • #30
                                Is there any reason a nemissary cant also be a nephwrack? A ghost with the ability to possess bodies gives its mind to the void in exchange for power.

                                Comment

                                Working...
                                X