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What combat builds have you found the most fun?

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  • The MG
    replied
    Originally posted by JohnDoe244 View Post
    Agree to disagree.

    Not taking a 5 locks you out of Charms. Not Essence 5, estoric charms, Essence 1 workhorse charms.

    Of course, this doesn't make you "bad" in an absolute sense: a weak Exalt is still a powerful character. But you're locking yourself out of options... for no reason or benefit. That's relatively bad. In my opinion.
    Of course, if you didn't start at Melee 5, it'll cost as much XP as a Charm to get there from 4 in play. I have more fun with more options from more charms.
    This assumes that you want the tools and options locked behind Ability 5. Sometimes you do, sometimes you don't.

    Though, now I have a question: what do you consider to be an optimized character? We might very well have different definitions.

    Now imagine if you were having that dynamic fight against a foe who actually mattered. Talking down Ahlat, or even The Sun.
    I'm going to have to disagree with your idea what foes matter, because that's ultimately going to be the foes the players and characters are invested in. Ahlat only matters insofar that the players care about fighting him or interacting with him, just as the Sun or the Yozis or Mnemon only matter if they are made to matter; their power does not inherently make them consequential.

    Besides that, you... don't actually know what the enemy I mentioned was, and if it mattered. (It did, directly because of how my character dealt with it. Had she been a better fighter, it would have been a quicker and significantly less meaningful fight.)

    Not every fight should be to the death. Absolutely. But chances are you're playing Anathema being run down by zealots. Losing generally means losing something. Being taken hostage, losing an eye, watching the town you're defending burn... all fun, dramatic, interesting concequences. But they're not great vectors for advancing the story or giving the players agency.
    They absolutely are, though. Better yet, they're vectors for taking the story in new directions and introducing or revealing new aspects of the character you're playing.

    The game is as hard as the ST makes it, and the players advance the plot through their choices and their victories. Losing is always a railroad -- which is still fun if you trust the ST to take you where you want to go. (Losing is also more work for the ST.) And if it's really important that you lose, the ST can always throw optimized opposition at you.
    Losing is only a railroad if the ST is already railroading you.

    EDIT:
    Originally posted by The Wizard of Oz View Post
    Every single time I've made a character because I thought that character would be really good mechanically, or decided to tweak my concept slightly because it makes me way more powerful... that character has been quite boring to play and I wished I'd done it differently.

    [...]

    But absolutely do not go "hmmm, actually my Zenith Brawler could be a Dawn Brawler and they have better anima powers" or "my idea was for a total badass that is also dumb as ****, but it's actually easy to build one who's pretty bright and he'll need it for Join Battle, so actually I should take Wits 5" because then you will find your character is dull as white bread and you don't enjoy it.
    Thank you. This is the perfect example of what comes to mind when I hear "optimization" and, worse, the word "suboptimal:" builds that are for the build itself, and not in service of the character.

    So my overall conclusion has been that the best way to do things is come up with a really cool and interesting and fun concept, and then build that concept in an optimal way. For example, spend freebies to get Brawl 5 (+1 specialty), not Brawl 3 and an extra Brawl charm.
    For me, that one extra Brawl Charm is so much more fun and satisfying to have than just bigger numbers. The numbers say nothing, while the Charm can add a whole new dimension to a character.
    Last edited by The MG; 09-04-2019, 02:15 PM.

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  • The Wizard of Oz
    replied
    Some points:

    a) Having a character who's not that great at the thing they're supposed to be good at is really frustrating.

    b) Exalted is fun because it's big and dramatic and the characters are powerful and influential. But being powerful and influential in the game isn't quite the same as having enormous stats, because it's what happens with the stats that matters. Having 20 melee charms isn't what makes you the greatest swordsman, beating the other swordsmen in combat is.

    c) Having a character who's very powerful... and then realising someone else has a character who's way better at the thing you wanted because they're better at the character creation mini-game is really irritating.

    d) More charms is more options. Options are fun.

    e) Combat is fun because it's risky. If combats are too easy, they're dull (it's fine if the combats are quick, but one thing that was infuriating with 2nd ed was that being amazing at combat didn't really make it quicker, it actually made it slower because of all the multi-attack charms and penalties to work out. 3rd ed isn't quite as bad, but it should be born in mind). Of course, combats can also be frustrating if you can't achieve anything.
    A point was made about the ST scaling up antagonists to fit your abilities. But this isn't always possible because of the plot, or because you're a bloody Solar with Supernal whatever and are literally one of the best at it in the world, so he can challenge you? Also, in my case, I am simply better at optimisation and mechanics than my two STs. I'm not going to say I'm perfect, I frequently make small mistakes when running combats because there's so much going on of course, but when it comes to building characters, yeah I'm better.

    f) Every single time I've made a character because I thought that character would be really good mechanically, or decided to tweak my concept slightly because it makes me way more powerful... that character has been quite boring to play and I wished I'd done it differently.


    So my overall conclusion has been that the best way to do things is come up with a really cool and interesting and fun concept, and then build that concept in an optimal way. For example, spend freebies to get Brawl 5 (+1 specialty), not Brawl 3 and an extra Brawl charm.

    But absolutely do not go "hmmm, actually my Zenith Brawler could be a Dawn Brawler and they have better anima powers" or "my idea was for a total badass that is also dumb as ****, but it's actually easy to build one who's pretty bright and he'll need it for Join Battle, so actually I should take Wits 5" because then you will find your character is dull as white bread and you don't enjoy it.

    I'm Beast's ST, and I can understand why he feels the way he does; his two most interesting Exalted characters were the first one he ever played, before he knew what he was doing, and the one he plays now, who is not very optimised (he's not bad; he has 4 in every physical attribute and Brawl 4. But it would be more optimal to have Dex 5 and Str 3 and buy Str 4 later).
    Whereas the characters he played for most of my 2nd ed game, which he made to be really optimised and powerful, were, to be frank, pretty boring. And samey.

    Of course, some of that is objective. But I am a recovering power-gamer; power-gaming is an addiction that ultimately sucks out the fun from games.



    I will also say, and this is fairly important, that I am reasonably confident in my ability to build an encounter for one really optimised PC and a bunch of less-so ones, but not all STs may be.
    Well, I thought that, until the optimised combat-walrus's player didn't turn up until halfway through the fight, I depowered the combat slightly, but then one PC lost an arm, one was knocked out (he'd have been decapitated but the enemy wanted him alive) and the Changing Moon died. This was a band of 5 Lunars fighting 2 Essence 2 DBs and a battle group. (To be fair, the optimised combat-walrus was also the only Full Moon, but I'm not sure that takes away from the argument).
    So... actually maybe balancing is pretty difficult.

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  • JohnDoe244
    replied
    Originally posted by The MG View Post
    See, it sounds like you're working under the assumption that "suboptimal" means "bad," which just isn't true.
    Agree to disagree.

    Not taking a 5 locks you out of Charms. Not Essence 5, estoric charms, Essence 1 workhorse charms.

    Of course, this doesn't make you "bad" in an absolute sense: a weak Exalt is still a powerful character. But you're locking yourself out of options... for no reason or benefit. That's relatively bad. In my opinion.
    The antagonists in the corebook are generally built with less optimized fighters in mind, and don't become unconquerable colossi just because you didn't start with Melee 5.
    Of course, if you didn't start at Melee 5, it'll cost as much XP as a Charm to get there from 4 in play. I have more fun with more options from more charms.

    Every one of my Exalted characters have been "suboptimal," but the only time I've had a bad time was when the group around me, and the fight, was primed for 5s across the board. Even then, it only got that bad because of some truly unlucky rolls that compounded the issue.
    Play your game. If you're having fun, more power to you.
    Conversely, the most fun and dramatic fight I've experienced was one my character, an Eclipse, could not win by conventional means, forcing her to rely on social influence and the more esoteric Charms in her arsenal to scrape by a victory.
    Now imagine if you were having that dynamic fight against a foe who actually mattered. Talking down Ahlat, or even The Sun.

    She came to terms with death in that fight, and it couldn't have happened if she was built just to win.
    If I want to play Call of Cthulu then I will. I'm glad you had fun.

    This is not to say that an optimized killer can't be fun, but it's not the only way to have fun in Exalted combat.
    Not a case I was ever making. Play the game that appeals to you. Beast of Bitter Oblivion asked if playing optimal characters is fun: I say they are.

    (If you want to be an optimized killer, well I guess that's fun too.)
    Besides, not every fight needs to, or should, be a life-or-death struggle, because that's just... incredibly one-note. A good ST is going to have legitimate consequences for a lost fight whether or not you died in the process.
    Eeeeehhhhh.

    Not every fight should be to the death. Absolutely. But chances are you're playing Anathema being run down by zealots. Losing generally means losing something. Being taken hostage, losing an eye, watching the town you're defending burn... all fun, dramatic, interesting concequences. But they're not great vectors for advancing the story or giving the players agency. The game is as hard as the ST makes it, and the players advance the plot through their choices and their victories. Losing is always a railroad -- which is still fun if you trust the ST to take you where you want to go. (Losing is also more work for the ST.) And if it's really important that you lose, the ST can always throw optimized opposition at you.

    Being optimized means you aren't going to lose a fair fight against XP appropriate stock NPCs one-on-one. It doesn't mean you can't lose.
    Last edited by JohnDoe244; 09-04-2019, 10:40 AM.

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  • The MG
    replied
    Originally posted by JohnDoe244 View Post
    Really fun. Suboptimal builds where PCs get killed by nameless demons and random guard captains aren't fun as the game grinds to a halt to roll up new characters.
    See, it sounds like you're working under the assumption that "suboptimal" means "bad," which just isn't true. The antagonists in the corebook are generally built with less optimized fighters in mind, and don't become unconquerable colossi just because you didn't start with Melee 5.

    Every one of my Exalted characters have been "suboptimal," but the only time I've had a bad time was when the group around me, and the fight, was primed for 5s across the board. Even then, it only got that bad because of some truly unlucky rolls that compounded the issue. Conversely, the most fun and dramatic fight I've experienced was one my character, an Eclipse, could not win by conventional means, forcing her to rely on social influence and the more esoteric Charms in her arsenal to scrape by a victory.

    She came to terms with death in that fight, and it couldn't have happened if she was built just to win.

    This is not to say that an optimized killer can't be fun, but it's not the only way to have fun in Exalted combat. Besides, not every fight needs to, or should, be a life-or-death struggle, because that's just... incredibly one-note. A good ST is going to have legitimate consequences for a lost fight whether or not you died in the process.

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  • prototype00
    replied
    Originally posted by Beast of Bitter Oblivion View Post

    Not meant as a personal dig but a general question: Are optimal builds fun in the long run? Surely when combat is trivial it must get kinda boring no ? No sense of risk and danger when you got an optimised build ? I’m always wary these days of having an optimised character as it might make the fights that are trivial for you hard to balance for non optimised characters in the party unless you are all min maxed etc.
    Yeah, what JohnDoe said. Strong Builds = Strong ability to make meaningful choices. Also:

    1. If you're building a mediocre Exalt, that seems to be missing the point of the game to me? Y'know, puissant demigods and all that? I'm not sure what favours you are doing your Circle playing the equivalent of a Wizard with no damaging spells in D&D 5e.

    2. Exalted has so many buttons to press, levers to pull and pistons to run full tilt, why would you deny yourself the fun (if you find it fun) of tinkering with it until everything purrs like a Bugatti?

    3. Here's a secret lots of folks on the Discord and whatnot never learned but we all mathed out here (Thanks JohnDoe and DrLoveMonkey!) combat vs Exalted, no matter what tier Terrestrial to Celestial, and no matter how many number crunching tricks you pulled IS NEVER TRIVIAL. An inheritor of the power of the gods is always going to be a dicey fight. 3v1 Terrestrials vs Celestials, no matter what bullshit trick you pulled, is almost always (95% of the time, I'm guessing) a death sentence for the Celestial, unless you out Essence them by 2 or 3.

    prototype00
    Last edited by prototype00; 09-04-2019, 08:54 AM.

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  • JohnDoe244
    replied
    Originally posted by Beast of Bitter Oblivion View Post

    Not meant as a personal dig but a general question: Are optimal builds fun in the long run? Surely when combat is trivial it must get kinda boring no ? No sense of risk and danger when you got an optimised build ? I’m always wary these days of having an optimised character as it might make the fights that are trivial for you hard to balance for non optimised characters in the party unless you are all min maxed etc.
    Really fun. Suboptimal builds where PCs get killed by nameless demons and random guard captains aren't fun as the game grinds to a halt to roll up new characters.

    The PCs get to do cool tricks, attempt the brilliant and dramatic and they don't have to compromise what they want to be good at. If you want to play as an armored dinosaur, do you really want to be ineffective and have your armor pieced by any rando with a spear or would you rather be formidable? Would you rather the Circle come to rescue you or for you to rescue NPCs?

    The game progresses on the assumption that you're going to win. You're not fighting for your life, you're fighting to save others. It's not about how powerful you are but what you do with your power. The concequences of your actions.

    "Yeah we destroyed the village but we had no choice because we're so weak" has a lot less dramatic impact than destroying the village because you choose to.

    And lets face it, unless your ST is a sadist who thinks a TPK is an achievement, your suboptimal characters are never really in danger of losing a fight. You just have less epic fights.

    As for encounter design, if you make a combat that's challenging for everyone apart from the optimized character then the subs get a tense dramatic scene and opti gets a chance to reap the benefits of their investment. (And if they don't enjoy the combat, they shouldn't have designed an unkillable character.) If you've got one suboptimal character in an optimized Circle... they're at risk of dying in routine encounters. (And if they don't enjoy constantly being on their -4 when they weren't that badass to start with you slow down play for everyone.)

    Not building characters well is far more disruptive to play than building them well.

    And did you look at those builds? Death Kitty is a Lunar with an Excellency in everything. Optimized doesn't mean "min maxed". Min-maxed is where you sacrifice one area of your character to take another aspect as high as you can. Min-maxed characters can do one thing in one niche. Optimized characters are designed to play well.
    Last edited by JohnDoe244; 09-04-2019, 08:57 AM.

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  • Beast of Bitter Oblivion
    replied
    Originally posted by prototype00 View Post
    I haven’t had a chance to play them yet (small island nation woes) but in no particular order I am most pleased with the following Lunar builds I came up with:

    1. http://forum.theonyxpath.com/forum/main-category/exalted/1293395-ex-3-lunars-glorious-argent-beastiary-a-lunar-s-character-thread?p=1323681#post1323681"]Death Kitty[/URL]- The Black Cat of (Dragonblooded) misfortune! Highest Charmless Resting Accuracy in the game (probably). Also, super easy to access.

    2. http://forum.theonyxpath.com/forum/main-category/exalted/1293395-ex-3-lunars-glorious-argent-beastiary-a-lunar-s-character-thread#post1293395"]Knight of Bone and Ivory[/URL] - Highest Resting Soak in the game (probably), also Predator’s Menace opening gambit is very strong and super easy to access.

    3. http://forum.theonyxpath.com/forum/main-category/exalted/1293395-ex-3-lunars-glorious-argent-beastiary-a-lunar-s-character-thread?p=1321467#post1321467"]Aguile Ofidiano[/URL], Mistress of Creations most powerful Force: Gravity. A Quetzalcoatl Lucha Libre themed build that can just repeatedly slam you into the ground round after round for no-Soak guaranteed damage. Vicious.
    Not meant as a personal dig but a general question: Are optimal builds fun in the long run? Surely when combat is trivial it must get kinda boring no ? No sense of risk and danger when you got an optimised build ? I’m always wary these days of having an optimised character as it might make the fights that are trivial for you hard to balance for non optimised characters in the party unless you are all min maxed etc.
    Last edited by Beast of Bitter Oblivion; 09-04-2019, 07:59 AM.

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  • satoshi
    replied
    I've played with a couple of builds:
    [Solar Twilight] Thrown / Combat sorcery: This one didn't work out too well, even after home-brewing some charms to add withering damage to thrown attacks.

    [Solar Night] Stealth / Ebon Shadow Style / White Reaper Style: This was probably my favorite build, despite it being strictly unarmed, throw in a couple of athletics charms and you can get some pretty vicious damage out of nowhere and with the right stealth charms you can set things up so that you can go off with surprise attacks every other turn or so. Eventually someone will see you and try to kill you...at which point you use thew intro Ebon Shadow charm to fake being dead and do it all over again.

    [Dragon Blooded] Wood Dragon Style & Elemental Bolt: This one is pretty good but can run out of motes real quick if you aren't careful. Use Wood Draon style when you need piercing attacks or against spirits as well as most decisive attacks and use the increased damage of Elemental Bolt for withering attacks. This build may perform differently in other games, the one I'm playing in is a school game so we are all still at essence 1 charms and not many artifacts, so Bolt is a pretty big boost, I'm planning on transitioning more into Wood Dragon (with a few archery charms thrown in) later in the game.

    Builds I have seen played but not piloted myself:
    Melee looks good if somewhat boring.
    Silver Voiced Nightingale looks like fun, chaining threats into attacks and back is useful and allows for some fun stunts.
    Single Point Shining into the Void: Too OP to actually be fun.
    Brawl looks like a ton of fun, but also requires Resistance or Dodge or some other defensive ability.

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  • prototype00
    replied
    I haven’t had a chance to play them yet (small island nation woes) but in no particular order I am most pleased with the following Lunar builds I came up with:

    1. Death Kitty- The Black Cat of (Dragonblooded) misfortune! Highest Charmless Resting Accuracy in the game (probably). Also, super easy to access.

    2. Knight of Bone and Ivory - Highest Resting Soak in the game (probably), also Predator’s Menace opening gambit is very strong and super easy to access.

    3. Aguile Ofidiano, Mistress of Creations most powerful Force: Gravity. A Quetzalcoatl Lucha Libre themed build that can just repeatedly slam you into the ground round after round for no-Soak guaranteed damage. Vicious.
    Last edited by prototype00; 09-03-2019, 09:22 AM.

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  • DrLoveMonkey
    replied
    My most fun combats in Exalted so far have probably been the ones in my mortal campaign, and the one where I was playing a Dawn MA supernal who started the game with 3 dex and 1 Brawl. So, probably nothing to do with combat build exactly. I found in those cases people cared about weapon tags, there was a lot of fun back-and-forth in the fights, and one time as the Dawn I was going to get my ass kicked by a mortal fighter, so I had to use my Solar Athletics to pick up an enormous wooden cart, and set it down on top of him like a cage.

    Taking the pretty obvious part of that out of the equation, some of the most fun I've had has been with brawlers, for the above mentioned fun of just knocking people around. The grapple rolls are somewhat lengthy, but with practice you can get through them fairly smoothly. Just don't do it every round. I've also had lots of fun playing around with Immaculate styles on DBs, Air Dragon does a lot of movement stuff, Water Dragon is kind of fun with its ability to drain essence and choosing to flurry defense with attacks and stuff.

    I've also had some decent fun with Archery, just because at the start of the fight you need to get to distance, or plan for that while you're suspecting a fight and maybe hang back, but who knows if that's not just the worst idea because maybe there's a rear ambush coming or something. Then once there you can kind of play with movement and range bands a lot more, either by aiming at enemy archers, or shooting and retreating to medium range, then next turn jumping back to close and firing again.

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  • BrilliantRain
    replied
    As far as moving around goes, you can reposition yourself within your range band without taking a move action, so you can stunt flipping over someone or bouncing off a wall or taking a couple of steps back before lunging at them without actually “moving.” There are also charms that allow you to disengage for free and attack charms which require you to move from short range to close as part of the attack, so buying those charms might help promote a more acrobatics combat style.

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  • Beast of Bitter Oblivion
    replied
    Originally posted by Elkovash View Post
    My favourite combat to date was a fire and earth aspect duking it out to blow off some steam. My little fire aspect was trying his hardest against the higher essence earth aspect and I ended up only really using three charms. The excellency, the clash charm, and Dragon Graced Weapon to switch out my melee weapon each turn and take advantage of different tags.

    Was it the optimal thing to do? Probably not, but it was hells of fun and a super dynamic fight that was less about killing each other and rather just subduing the raging earth.
    I’m not sure a weapon tag ever came up in our games.

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  • Elkovash
    replied
    My favourite combat to date was a fire and earth aspect duking it out to blow off some steam. My little fire aspect was trying his hardest against the higher essence earth aspect and I ended up only really using three charms. The excellency, the clash charm, and Dragon Graced Weapon to switch out my melee weapon each turn and take advantage of different tags.

    Was it the optimal thing to do? Probably not, but it was hells of fun and a super dynamic fight that was less about killing each other and rather just subduing the raging earth.

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  • Chausse
    replied
    Yeah knocking back people is fun. Also I agree, grapple is too complicated. I might try to think oh a houserule to simplify it a bit

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  • The Wizard of Oz
    replied
    Knocking people around is always nice and cinematic.

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