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Essence 3+ Celestials - what do you do when you have too much power?

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  • Essence 3+ Celestials - what do you do when you have too much power?

    Now I'm aware that a properly optimized Solar can already be a world shaking threat at Essence 1. But Essence 3 is where all pretenses that the Celestials are just slightly stronger heroes fade away. When the entire Circle can summon Octavian or a trio of Legendary Size Ogres as their personal bodyguards, there's really nothing left to challenge them except other Celestials.

    So where do you go from there?

    Is it possible to keep the scope of a game at a human scale when your group can single-handedly slay any god that offends them?

    Should the story stop being about whether the heroes win and become about the consequences of them winning all the time?

    Or should the setting follow the power creep and start sending Deathlords at them and the like?


    How did your Essence 3+ games go, and what do you think is the best way to make games with extremely strong PCs work?

  • #2
    So assuming Essence 3+ is broadly equivalent to the old 5+... yes.

    "Is it possible to keep the scope of a game at a human scale?"

    Yes. You just need the right hooks. Your character's mother is still their mother. They're going to have childhood sweethearts. Hometowns. Even the day to day concerns of running a kingdom are still "human scale".

    You don't have to keep the game here. You can move it to Malfeas or Yu Shen or the Underworld or out into the Wyld. But you can keep the game in Creation.

    "Should the story stop being about whether the heroes win and become about the consequences of them winning all the time?"

    I am of the opinion that the game should always be predominantly about the concequences of winning all the time. Even Essence 1 Dragon-Blooded games.

    Because the concequences of losing generally aren't worth playing. "Ok three of you are dead, the two maimed survivors are going to hold a funeral whilst you lot roll up some new characters."

    "Should the setting follow the power creep?"

    The setting HAS the power levels in already. The Deathlords don't start existing once you hit Essence 3 -- they're there from day 1.

    Your PCs probably don't want to fight the Mask of Winters on day 1. But if you've been running a campaign about uniting the Scavenger Lands and are now walking around with Octavian on a leash then you're probably ready to kick things up a notch.

    Likewise the Wyld Hunt exists from day 1. But they're not coming after you until they've heard of you.

    It's not like the game is suddenly getting more difficult. Random NPCs shouldn't just start targetting the PCs for no reason. But as a concequence of winning they're going to be making enemies and naturally building up to bigger challenges as they progress the story.


    Hi, I'm JohnDoe244. My posts represent my opinions, not facts.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Epitome View Post
      ...the entire Circle can summon Octavian...
      Sure, in the same way that five guys can wear one helmet. There's only one Octavian, so they might have to take turns calling on his services, or pick out a different Second Circle Demon.

      Originally posted by Epitome View Post
      there's really nothing left to challenge them except other Celestials.
      Gonna have to disagree with you here. Dragon-Blooded remained a credible threat in my seafaring game that got to Essence 4, and moreover, so did various Fair Folk, gods like the Ocean Father, and the occasional behemoth; and moreover, "being challenged" doesn't have to be limited to a dice-on-dice confrontation in the PCs' field of expertise.

      Originally posted by Epitome View Post
      Is it possible to keep the scope of a game at a human scale when your group can single-handedly slay any god that offends them?
      It has to be.

      Originally posted by Epitome View Post
      How did your Essence 3+ games go, and what do you think is the best way to make games with extremely strong PCs work?
      I'll talk about my game a little later, I'm prepping for tomorrow's session.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by JohnDoe244 View Post
        "Should the setting follow the power creep?"

        The setting HAS the power levels in already. The Deathlords don't start existing once you hit Essence 3 -- they're there from day 1.
        Poor wording on my part, I guess I should have said the ST instead of the setting.

        Originally posted by TheCountAlucard View Post
        Sure, in the same way that five guys can wear one helmet. There's only one Octavian, so they might have to take turns calling on his services, or pick out a different Second Circle Demon.
        Octavian is just an example. Summoning Princes of the Fallen Tower or simply having multiple 2nd circle demons will have roughly the same effect even if they're not all Octavian.

        Originally posted by TheCountAlucard View Post
        Gonna have to disagree with you here. Dragon-Blooded remained a credible threat in my seafaring game that got to Essence 4, and moreover, so did various Fair Folk, gods like the Ocean Father, and the occasional behemoth; and moreover, "being challenged" doesn't have to be limited to a dice-on-dice confrontation in the PCs' field of expertise.
        I may have been hyperbolic in my OP, I guess what I was really referring to is that there is nothing left in the Core Book after you're done with Ahlat and Octavian, which can both be killed at Essence 3 or less. Extra materials like the Behemoths in the Hundred Devils Night Parade do help.

        Originally posted by TheCountAlucard View Post
        I'll talk about my game a little later, I'm prepping for tomorrow's session.
        Looking forward to it.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Epitome View Post
          I may have been hyperbolic in my OP, I guess what I was really referring to is that there is nothing left in the Core Book after you're done with Ahlat and Octavian, which can both be killed at Essence 3 or less. Extra materials like the Behemoths in the Hundred Devils Night Parade do help.
          Just because you can kill something doesn't mean it can't challenge you, though, which is part of what I was getting at earlier. Being able to thrash something in combat is not the end-all, be-all of play experience.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Epitome View Post
            How did your Essence 3+ games go, and what do you think is the best way to make games with extremely strong PCs work?
            So, my game was a little atypical; for one thing, it started 2.5 and converted to Ex3 after the fact.

            ​The first arc was primarily about stopping a Deathlord from breaking free of his imprisonment; the first story began with the PCs coming together to be privateers and recover a slain Abyssal's ship. The Abyssal turned out to not be as dead as everyone thought, though, culminating in a fantastical battle amidst a sinking ship. They returned to port expecting to be seen as the triumphant heroes, but because the captain's player wasn't half as clever as he thought he was, he got the Wyld Hunt called on him instead. The second story began with the captain deciding to cause even more trouble (beckoning Octavian, making a deal with Makarios) while the others followed a trail of clues related to the Abyssal-Deathlord plot. Eventually the Wyld Hunt caught up with the PCs and there was a series of running battles to get to the island where the Deathlord would be rising. Luckily for the PCs, the Realm was only expecting one Anathema and thus was unprepared for the forces the PCs could bring to bear. The PCs arrived on the island, did a little more sleuthing, and teamed up with the Silver Prince and the Guild to fight some nephwracks.

            The second arc was about driving the Realm out of the Neck; the story began with the PCs raising up a force of pirates undetected in the Cowries while also cutting deals with various spirits. Now that the Realm knew there were a half-dozen Anathema (by their count) operating out of the Neck, they went all-out with dozens of warships, a trio of First Age vessels, and a handful of sorcerers. One of the sorcerers called down demons to patrol the seas, leading to quite a few problems for the PCs. The circle actually tried to employ biological warfare against the Realm, but ultimately came to the conclusion that it just wasn't a good idea; following that, they made some agreements with the Children of the Storm, had some more battles with demons and elementals on the way back to their pirates, then went for a manse where some treasures were rumored to lie. They took shelter during a gredilaka storm, only to see that the Wyld Hunt had surrounded them in the meantime; a fierce battle ensued, and the PCs escaped with one of the First Age ships and some Dragon-Blooded hostages. The Dragon-Blooded strong-armed the Ocean Father at that point, forcing him to cease helping the circle and even help the Realm liberate the imprisoned Dragon-Blooded. Still the PCs reached the island manse, fought some more demons, and then had a climactic battle against the remaining Wyld Hunt, before quietly cutting a deal with the Nellens sorcerer for peace.

            ​The third arc was about securing the Neck from other outside threats; the story began with the PCs coming together again after learning of various threats. They discovered the Abyssal from the first arc was still kicking around, so they went to deal with him. However, some Wyld shenanigans happened and while one of the PCs was resolving that on his own, the Abyssal ended up impersonating one of the other PCs and imprisoning him on his own ship, going from place to place around the Neck and causing trouble in his name before the PC finally freed himself and drove him away. The circle teamed up with the Children of the Storm to face off against a Fair Folk baddie, and forced him to agree to work for the Neck's benefit. Unfortunately after that the game died off due to a lack of free time on the part of one of the players, but the plan was to have the PCs face off against the Frog Queen and the monster she created from a PC's stolen blood, raise temples to the gods of the Ocean Court, and eventually raise the sunken continent out of the sea so as to claim the Crown of Thunders as the grand finale.

            Comment


            • #7
              Ah yes, summoning somebody that is not a Celestial Exalt means that only Celestial Exalted can oppose you.

              You know how it goes, it's a time of the month when you can't summon Octavian yet, you go visiting Ahlat and push him around all "in three weeks we can summon Octavian, so mind your step".

              Then Ahlat is all "I beat Octavian in the playtest, and you can't summon me, so do you want to say that again?"

              And then... something something... battle group of Drill 3 Brides of Ahlat... and the circle came out on top without a single fatality.

              Right?


              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)

              Comment


              • #8
                Given the defensiveness and snark I'm getting, I can only assume my OP was way more critical of the game than I intended, so I apologize for that.

                Reading everyone's input, I'm starting to see where the game I'm in might have gone wrong. We may have been approaching the game with too much of a D&D mentality of "kill monster, get loot".

                TheCountAlucard Thanks for sharing, it's a good example. That game sounds like it must have been a lot of fun.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Epitome View Post
                  Thanks for sharing, it's a good example. That game sounds like it must have been a lot of fun.
                  It definitely had its highlights.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Epitome View Post
                    Given the defensiveness and snark I'm getting, I can only assume my OP was way more critical of the game than I intended, so I apologize for that.

                    Reading everyone's input, I'm starting to see where the game I'm in might have gone wrong. We may have been approaching the game with too much of a D&D mentality of "kill monster, get loot".

                    TheCountAlucard Thanks for sharing, it's a good example. That game sounds like it must have been a lot of fun.
                    Possibly, but honestly it's something worth talking about because challenging high-level Solars is an issue with the game (though much less so than a couple of years ago). I'm running an essence 1 Lunar game and I'm finding it so much easier to run than my previous game that reached essence 5.

                    Though I should say that the 480xp game I play (which used to be the one I run)...

                    a) features two main sets of antagonists; Ahlat and his Celestial god mates, and their exigents, who want to divide up our lands and rule them ; and the Scarlet Dynasty, who want to do that and also kill us: both are a challenge, though I don't think the ST's put enough pressure on us, but that's because they're waiting for the PCs to kill each other, which is annoying but realistic. So it's not just Celestial Exalts that can challenge the PCs. Dragonblood, now they have a book, are a good challenge, and Gods can be too, though most have to be a bit clever rather than just combat challenges. That's where the DnD view will fall down.

                    b) only one of six PCs can summon Octavian. Because only one is a celestial sorcerer.

                    I'll talk more about my game in a bit.
                    Last edited by The Wizard of Oz; 07-14-2019, 02:07 AM.


                    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
                    Shadow of Kings, Twilight barbarian scholar, master of lost First Age crafting techniques. Has a lot of clones. Picture by Jen.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      So, like Alucard, my high-level game was actually a continuation of a 2.5 (well, originally 2e) game. I suspect that's actually kind of normal for a high-level game, as the book have only been out for a few years.

                      In my 2e game, the PCs had reached about 500xp, but I knocked them down to 200xp (with some justifications) for 3e.

                      The main thing to know about my 2nd ed game is a)it got very big and world-shaking, ending with them destroying Walker in Darkness, imprisoning Chejop Kejak's ghost, 99% sealing Yu-Shan and Malfeas (you can only summon demons on Calibration, and it's very, very difficult to get into and out of Heaven), and pissing off the Realm and Fair Folk, and b)it heavily featured Abyssal antagonists.

                      So for 3rd ed, I wanted to bring the scope down (make it more human) and use less Abyssals, and the players wanted me to bring the scope down and use a maximum of 0 Abyssal antagonists.

                      The PCs in that game were: a Casteless Rabbit-Lunar, mostly focused on social stuff; an Elephant-totem Full Moon necromancer; a sword-wielding social Eclipse sorceress, who went more heavily into sorcery through the game; a Zenith preacher; a Twilight doctor/crafter; an Eclipse writer.
                      Later on they were joined by an Eclipse anarchist spymaster and the writer was replaced by a Full Moon tough-guy/general.

                      You can see that for much of the game, the PCs weren't that combat-optimised.

                      The first arc was a couple of new PCs being hired by the Chancellor of I'chan, ghost-king of the Djala (a former PC), to find the old PCs and go on a quest to rescue I'chan, who'd been kidnapped by necromancers.
                      The main challenge here wasn't combat or something, it was following the clues through a few different societies. They had to fight some Dragonblood, a couple of Blood Apes, martial artists, a sorcerer, etc. Fairly easy, but the combats weren't really supposed to be that hard. I thought it worked quite well. It's probably worth bearing in mind no-one was playing a super-detective or something like that. I specifically designed it so they couldn't skip the whole quest and fly to the place I'chan was trapped.

                      Having defeated the mortal sorcerers+Dragonblood necromancer coven (with a Lunar too, who they never bothered investigating) I set up the next arc.

                      At this point, there were no books except the Core. So I couldn't really use more than the occasional Dragonblood, Sidereal, Lunar, etc. I could have used Abyssals, by using Solar rules, but no-one wanted Abyssals again.


                      So I put hints out for two sets of antagonists; the Sons of Shadow, a demon cult worshipping the Sixth Dragon, Shadow of the World (as I had the rules for Mara and Alveua); and the Crimson Masters, a group of Celestials with a barbarian horde.

                      The PCs went for the Crimson Masters, so the next arc was about the PCs and Crimson Masters (mostly Solars, but a couple of Lunars and a Liminal) trying to influence mortal societies of herdsmen, farmers and merchant towns south of I'chan's jungle.

                      The mortal societies had a few Dragonblood running them, but it was mostly mortals (some of whom were pretending to be Dragonblood).

                      At this point, I did start to get a little frustrated with the power level of PCs. You can see that I was trying to do a grounded, human-scale game, and it kind of worked, but I got a little irritated by how easily the PCs just won. They'd turn up, bully everyone, beat up or kill any mortals who opposed them, and take over via puppet rulers.
                      They then went back to the Djala jungle and did the exact same thing.
                      Sometimes they'd face a couple of Dragonblood, and once a Wyld Hunt (who they dropped a Magma Kraken on) and the fights were reasonably fun, but they'd win without really being in danger. Which meant they never really stopped their behaviour of turning up and intimidating/punching people until they were in charge.

                      The only bad guy who got anywhere was Jin the Just, a petty Djala sub-king who sucked up to the Lunar and got the PCs to dispose of some of his enemies for him. But having used them, he wasn't able to dispose of them, and when he eventually (at the end of the game) had the Djala supreme council exile the Full Moon because of the way all these foreign big folk were basically running their country, the Full Moon just murdered him and carried on living in the Djala jungle.

                      Should the story stop being about whether the heroes win and become about the consequences of them winning all the time?
                      John raises an important point that, of course a good ST isn't going to have a game where the PCs lose and die. So there's that. The game isn't ST vs Players, it is about winning and what happens next.

                      But I know some people argue that high-xp exalted shouldn't really be about winning, just about the consequences of winning, and I'll be honest, I found the parts of my game where the PCs found it a struggle to win (but of course, they did) far more fun than the bits where they won easily and effortlessly, and then dealt with the consequences of that.

                      I mean, it was fine the first time, but I did get pretty bored of "PCs turn up > easily seize power > purge opponents > face rebellion > easily put down rebellion > don't bother dealing with the root causes because they can just keep doing it."
                      (The Dawn fought his entire army by himself after all his Dragon riders rebelled. Not just the Dragon riders, he defeated them, but then he fought his own army because they complained about fighting their countryman. And he decimated them. Literally, he killed 10% of the army, hundreds of people, all by himself. So their morale is still awful.)

                      Actually, I got a little bit of criticism from some players who felt that there wasn't enough consequences and mortals weren't rebelling enough against their terrible rulers. The reason, essentially, is I was just bored of PCs buying off or purging grumbling politicians and beating up mortal rebels, especially when the PCs ruled different countries so it would just be one PC.


                      Anyway, the next arc was against the Crimson Masters. After purging the Crimson Masters' proxies and installing their own proxies, killing the Crimson Masters' necromancer (who came back, he was a Liminal) and kicking out their Twilight, the Crimson Masters went off to do something else. But then they sent their Eclipse to make peace with the PCs, and the PCs killed him, so PCs vs Crimson Masters was the next arc.
                      (There was also stuff with the Sons of Shadow, but the PCs didn't bite. Basically I wanted to let the players choose who they wanted to fight, and that worked well I think. They were reasonably invested in fighting the Crimson Masters.)


                      So this arc involved seizing a city in the desert, fortifying it, and fighting huge battles with a rival circle of Solars. I think this worked much better; yes, the PCs won without any injury (they were Essence 5, with Death Ray and a Dawn with every war charm after all), but it felt like a challenge because PCs had to flee when they tried attacking all by themselves, they had to work together, and a lot of their mortal followers died in surprise attacks. It continued on later with the PCs' ballroom being thrown into the Underworld during a party, and an ambush by ghosts.

                      There was also tons of stuff with PCs relationships, putting down rebellions, creating magical and non-magical infrastructure, setting up a bureaucracy, blowing up a demon-infested manse and unleashing demons, holding an inquisition, throwing several petty kings in prison and replacing some with more pliable successors, etc, etc. Also Jin the Just had the PCs' friend the ghost-King I'chan promoted to a god to get him out of the way.
                      Some of that was pretty fun, though again I did just feel a little bad for the mortals because of how they absolutely could not stand up to Solars and Lunars.

                      The final arc had a Sidereal luring one PC to Kirighast where he was seized by the surviving Crimson Masters who were hiding out there as guests of the Leopard Empress, whose court wizard the PCs killed in the first arc (he did deserve it). The other PCs scoped it out, then rushed to save him from being executed. There was a final big battle with their rival circle, and also Ahlat. This was the only fight in the entire game which was actually seriously dangerous for the PCs; the Full Moon's eyes got stabbed out by Ahlat's flaming spear, and the Zenith had his arm chopped off. The PCs finally killed all the Crimson Masters though, and the Leopard Empress.




                      A small note about this game; my friend continued it because some of the players wanted to continue it. As I mentioned, the two main antagonists are Ahlat and friends (who's pissed they killed Harborhead's empress) and the Realm. However, in the 15-20 sessions we've had so far, they haven't pressured us that much (the Wyld Hunt attacked a couple of PCs when they were by themselves, and they had to run away, the sorceress lost one of her second-circle demons). So mostly it's been PCs fighting each other or bickering, to be honest. When you've got a group of arrogant, powerful people who rule very different nations right next to each other, and have very strong ideals that are quite different, it's not very surprising. Two PCs actually went to war. To stop the war before it spread to the rest of us and then we all got invaded and conquered by the Realm, my Night Caste tried assassinating one, failed, tried kidnapping the other, failed, and was executed.





                      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
                      Shadow of Kings, Twilight barbarian scholar, master of lost First Age crafting techniques. Has a lot of clones. Picture by Jen.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        So to address some points:

                        Originally posted by Epitome View Post
                        When the entire Circle can summon Octavian or a trio of Legendary Size Ogres as their personal bodyguards
                        They can't do that, because no-one has a circle where everyone is a Celestial Sorcerer. The 480xp game I play has one Solar sorcerer, one Terrestrial sorcerer, and no other sorcerers.
                        Still, I get your point.

                        there's really nothing left to challenge them except other Celestials.
                        First, Dragonblood can challenge them... probably not to death, but then, that's not your goal.
                        Dragonblood can definitely feel like a serious challenge, but there does need to be plenty of them and they need to be experienced.

                        A few sessions ago the Wyld Hunt ambushed our sorceress with four or five DBs, one in a Warstrider. She had to teleport away, and her familiar and one of her second-circle demons were killed.
                        Now, obviously she was fine. But that's the sort of thing that feels fairly scary, and it did cost her.

                        And in fact, the most dangerous foe the PCs faced at Essence 5 turned out not to be an Exalt, but a god, Ahlat, who would have killed the Full Moon if not for 3e's rule about crippling injuries (so he was blinded instead) and Travel Without Distance.

                        Exalts, behemoths, and high-essence gods/demons/nephwracks can challenge PCs. But you do have to think it through; one Essence 3 Dragonblood is going to die like a chump to PCs. Five of them and a battle group tar-pit is a challenge the PCs will win, but feel stretched.

                        Also, there are plenty of challenges that are not combat-based. I only ran a serious combat (as opposed to the PCs butchering their way through mortal guards) about once every three sessions. Politics, investigation, etc.

                        Is it possible to keep the scope of a game at a human scale when your group can single-handedly slay any god that offends them?
                        I'm going to agree with JohnDoe in the sense of PCs friends and family being human, the people they rule being human, yes.

                        If you mean in the sense of mortal humans opposing them and not being beaten by chumps... no, probably not.

                        Should the story stop being about whether the heroes win and become about the consequences of them winning all the time?
                        John is right in the sense of, yeah, obviously the PCs are going to win, not just die or run away all the time, or the game is frustrating. Same as most role-playing games really.

                        But if you approach the game as "your PCs are definitely going to constantly win, what will you do with your winnings", honestly, it becomes a bit dull.

                        Or should the setting follow the power creep and start sending Deathlords at them and the like?
                        If you want. But tbh, in practice, while high-essence Exalts are really, really powerful, so are... well, other high-essence Exalts, gods, etc.

                        Abyssals, Dragonblood, Lunars, Sidereals, Alchemicals, high-level gods and demons, etc, are all fine challenges to occupy your Essence 4 or 5 PCs. One of my friends had an Essence 3 brawler with the whole Increasing Strength Exercise+6 attacks combo, or whatever. She had her leg ripped off by Octavian.


                        My problem was that a)I felt I'd overused Exalts in my previous game, so I wanted to have less, and b)no splat books were out.
                        Essence 3 Solars were a fine challenge for my Essence 5 PCs. Mortal sorcerers and elementals were not. Neither was 1-2 Dragonblood per kingdom.

                        I'm going to be honest, in that game (which my friend now runs) we're facing invasion by three Realm Legions. That's like 150 Dragonblood officers. And they have a Sidereal sorcerer who's threatened to blow civilian towns up if our Eclipse uses Death Ray to blow them up.
                        We've got, like, 12 Celestials? Most of whom don't like each other that much. Sure, six have Essence 5, but 3 Realm legions probably includes like thirty Essence 4 Dragonblood.
                        And the PCs really cannot get their sh** together, because they're so used to getting their own way, some are obsessed with internal ideological issues, and the Realm's told the Dawn that they won't invade his lands for a year if he lets them invade the lands of the Eclipse (who he hates). They've got a bit better recently, they've been at a theological council and no-one's tried to stab anyone or even shouted at each other all that much, but that's not the same as actual cooperation (especially when the Lunar got her Solar Mate made leader of the religion half the PCs in, and it turns out he's a massive sexist).

                        I honestly expect the Realm to conquer its way through an awful lot of our lands. The only reason I don't expect them to conquer all our lands and kill any of us who don't flee is because it's a game, and I imagine the ST won't want to do that. He might though. We deserve to lose.
                        Last edited by The Wizard of Oz; 07-14-2019, 03:36 AM.


                        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
                        Shadow of Kings, Twilight barbarian scholar, master of lost First Age crafting techniques. Has a lot of clones. Picture by Jen.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I'm going to mention another game I play, which is Essence 4. It's set in the Egypt-expy land of Sukhmet, whose patron god is Sukhmet. There are a number of Dragonblood nobles, but in the last 6-7 years we've fought precisely one, low-xp, Celestial. Mostly our enemies are ghosts, weird monsters, vampires, minor spirits (never seen any second-circle demons, for example), a couple of Dragon Kings, etc.

                          So in that game, we've got:
                          Prince Meek, "brother" and brother-in-law to the Pharoah, Governor of the Perfumed Lands, Governor of Bethmora, Chosen of Sukhmet (~300xp Night).
                          His concubine Lysa, Appearance 8 Fox-Lunar (~300xp Changing Moon)
                          Lord Akhenaten, master of disguise, powerful crime boss, the city's kung-fu champion (~280xp Night).
                          Brother Alazar, monk with almost every Investigation, Tiger Style and Occult charm (~280xp Zenith)
                          Cid Highwind, master craftsman, airship pilot, Haslanti ambassador and a deft hand with his twin orichalcum plasma-tongue repeaters (~280xp Twilight)
                          Penitent Gift, ex-Shikari and master of Air Dragon, Crane and Snake. Also good at Lore and Medicine (~280xp Air Aspect)
                          The Wanderer in Black, favourite of the Pharoah, Appearance 7/Dex 7/Melee 7 swordswman (~280xp Raksha).

                          Our opponents:
                          Some ghostly bois. And their pals, some big worms.

                          Who would win?


                          Our current situation, after about fifteen-ish sessions of battling the ghost cult:
                          Meek - In hiding (from the rest of us, due to trauma).
                          Lysa - Exiled on penalty of death. In hiding from the government.
                          Khalum - Vanished in the Underworld. May be dead. Also sentenced to death by the Pharoah just in case.
                          Brother Alazar - Sentenced to death, fled to the desert. Also he lost his left arm in combat.
                          Cid Highwind - Sentenced to death, fled to the desert.
                          Penitent Gift - Wanted for questioning, fled to the desert.
                          The Wanderer in Black - In hiding with Lysa. Wanted for questioning.

                          The ghostly bois - Ummm... well, we disrupted their drug dealing of zombie opium. But they're still flooding the capital with bits of Hekatonkhire cocoon (and we still don't know why) through multiple small shadowlands, they may still have the mummy of the First Pharoah for some evil purpose, they still have a pre-human monastery full of dark knowledge they stole from me, and all the city's exorcists and the previous pharoah are, you know, still dead.
                          Oh, and now somehow they've broken time. Or we might have done that. Not sure.


                          Now, when we've managed to find them as a whole group, we've beaten them in combat. But when they've ambushed our weaker combatants in ones or twos, we've lost. And mostly they just hide and do everything through proxies, and rely on our poor cooperation and political distractions.


                          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
                          Shadow of Kings, Twilight barbarian scholar, master of lost First Age crafting techniques. Has a lot of clones. Picture by Jen.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Epitome View Post
                            Poor wording on my part, I guess I should have said the ST instead of the setting.
                            No I feel you.

                            One of my best 2E game (as a player) started with us as the Dragon-Blooded defenders of Thorns. Fighting the Mask of Winters. Back when Essence set your minimum damage. We didn't fight the Mask because the ST weighed up our combat abilities and decided to challenge us. We fought him because that's what the story demanded.

                            These threats exist from day 1. If the story demands you confront them, you confront them. Our Dragon-Blooded never fought Octavian, or a Chosen of Battles, or Ahlat. But we fought the Mask once to start the story and a final time to end the story. Because that was the story.

                            If your characters are powerful now, as ST you can absolutely draw on more powerful encounters and the PCs own goals and actions will naturally lead to more powerful adversaries taking notice. But these threats don't spring into being at Essence 3: they exist in the setting from day 1.

                            You fight the Mask of Winters when you march up to him and throw down the gauntlet. That could be Essence 3. It could be Essence 5. It could be Essence 1. But the point of having any adversary is not to line up something for the PCs to kill in a white-room, knock-down fight and loot: it's to provide a foil for the drama.

                            Does that help at all?

                            ****

                            On winning all the time:

                            The main meaningful concequence of winning all the time, is that it makes your next win more challenging -- either in the short or long term.

                            You can easily beat up a wing of mortal soldiers in a tea house. But you have to spend motes and the tea house ends up on fire.
                            You can easily survive the fire. But it means using charms and spending more motes. Now a kitted out Dragon-Blooded steps out the fire.
                            You're now down motes and health levels, and whilst you could totally own the DB in a white room, you're going to be challenged fighting with Wound and Environmental Penalties. But no matter how tense and dramatic the fight is, you are still going to win. Because that's the point of the game. (Not "Solars win" but "PCs win".) However when you win, you can look forward to vengeful relatives raising a Wyld Hunt and the locals running in terror from the demonic Anathema who burned down the tea house. (And if you win because either you or the DB runs away, you might just have yourself a recurring antagonist.)

                            Winning all the time doesn't mean you shouldn't construct encounters to challenge the PCs. It just means that challenging the PCs isn't the point of the drama. If your Dawn Caste utterly stomps the DB in the burning teahouse on round 1 of combat when you'd hoped it'd be a challenging encounter then that's okay. Because the point of the encounter was to burn down his mother's teahouse and make the player deal with the fallout of his childhood sweetheart thinking he's a demon (and the excuse to send out a Wyld Hunt is just gravy). You don't need to have every combat encounter be Ahlat riding on Juggernaut to make the game interesting.

                            And if you construct every encounter to challenge the PCs... then what's the point of playing Exalted? Go play D&D and fight Challenge Rating 3 Bugbears at level 1. Exalted isn't about being challenged, it's about human beings wielding the awesome* powers of the gods.

                            (*AWEsome in every sense of the word. As an aside, I love D&D.)

                            You should challenge yourself by fighting Ahlat, and Elemental Dragons, and powerful Abysals, and so forth. But these fights should arise as part of the story. As epic boss fights at dramatically appropriate moments. It shouldn't be Yozi Of The Week or "whilst travelling from Whitewall to Halta, Ahlat appears as a random encounter... for the forth time".


                            ****

                            Originally posted by Epitome View Post
                            Given the defensiveness and snark I'm getting, I can only assume my OP was way more critical of the game than I intended, so I apologize for that.
                            Don't mind Oscar the Grouch.

                            I was asking myself these sorts of questions ten years ago when the problem was much worse. Since then we've had a decade of rules changes, advice from writers and developers, shared stories and discussions like this one. For those of us who've been here longest, this is a non-issue -- which is why you're getting the snark.

                            But it's a fair question which we've all wrestled with at some point. No need to apologise, this is a good thread and an interesting discussion, and if anyone doesn't want to contribute you're not forcing them.

                            It'd be good to have a proper Storyteller's Guide to address these sorts of questions.

                            ****

                            Originally posted by The Wizard of Oz View Post
                            I'm going to mention another game I play, which is Essence 4. It's set in the Egypt-expy land of Sukhmet, whose patron god is Sukhmet. There are a number of Dragonblood nobles, but in the last 6-7 years we've fought precisely one, low-xp, Celestial. Mostly our enemies are ghosts, weird monsters, vampires, minor spirits (never seen any second-circle demons, for example), a couple of Dragon Kings, etc.
                            Sounds like an awesome game. You must have a great ST.

                            I don't see how it's even remotely possible RAW, but it sounds epic.
                            Last edited by JohnDoe244; 07-14-2019, 06:53 AM.


                            Hi, I'm JohnDoe244. My posts represent my opinions, not facts.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by JohnDoe244 View Post
                              You fight the Mask of Winters when you march up to him and throw down the gauntlet. That could be Essence 3. It could be Essence 5. It could be Essence 1. But the point of having any adversary is not to line up something for the PCs to kill in a white-room, knock-down fight and loot: it's to provide a foil for the drama.
                              Not really your point, but related:
                              In 2nd ed ed, my players fought the Walker in Darkness from about 40xp to about 500xp. But not him himself, of course; first his army, then his Abyssals, then him himself at the end.
                              Actually, they weren't supposed to; they were supposed to be fighting Ma-Ha-Suchi, but they sent messages to the Confederation of Rivers asking for help. The Confederation sent back a message saying "sorry guys, we're busy with this Deathlord called Walker in Darkness invading with an army of zombies, you guys are going to have to deal with Ma-Ha-Suchi."

                              So the PCs (most of whom didn't know the session all that well), said "oh, we'll go beat up this Walker in Darkness guy, then they can help us with Ma-Ha-Suchi." So... they kind of did. And thus the game went in quite a different direction to what I'd expected.



                              The main meaningful concequence of winning all the time, is that it makes your next win more challenging -- either in the short or long term.
                              Because that's the point of the game. (Not "Solars win" but "PCs win"
                              ...
                              Winning all the time doesn't mean you shouldn't construct encounters to challenge the PCs. It just means that challenging the PCs isn't the point of the drama... You don't need to have every combat encounter be Ahlat riding on Juggernaut to make the game interesting....

                              You should challenge yourself by fighting Ahlat, and Elemental Dragons, and powerful Abysals, and so forth. But these fights should arise as part of the story. As epic boss fights at dramatically appropriate moments.
                              Yeah, excellent points.

                              I try to have one big, dramatic fight every 3-4 sessions (so the Dawns and Full Moons don't feel they've wasted their XP). The rest of the time any fights are 2-3 rounds of PCs beating up guards or minor demons or something, they're not really supposed to be challenging.

                              I was asking myself these sorts of questions ten years ago when the problem was much worse. Since then we've had a decade of rules changes, advice from writers and developers, shared stories and discussions like this one.
                              Oh, so much worse.

                              Sounds like an awesome game. You must have a great ST.
                              He is really good. Not great at mechanics (he'll admit that, he just gets players to build any mechanically-complex thing, and sometimes run combats if their PCs aren't there), and I sometimes wish he'd push us more, but he's really good at weird cults, strange ruins, conspiracies, bizarre creatures, drama, that kind of thing.

                              I don't see how it's even remotely possible RAW, but it sounds epic.
                              It helps a lot that we've now actually got rules for DBs and Lunars, which we didn't have for a long time. I may bring back my Lunar that I retired when we started 3rd ed.
                              The Raksha... well, it's a conversion based on 2nd ed Raksha, but the player isn't that fussed about mechanical stuff. He's pretty happy with his enormous stats, they're nice and simple.


                              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
                              Shadow of Kings, Twilight barbarian scholar, master of lost First Age crafting techniques. Has a lot of clones. Picture by Jen.

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