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First Age Artifacts and Manses - what can they do? How do I balance them as an ST?

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  • First Age Artifacts and Manses - what can they do? How do I balance them as an ST?

    My players have had a fair bit of experience in the game and for the next "iteration" of our play I'm allowing 5 dot manses and artifacts. We were at one point considering a boat which was also a mobile manse and super powerful. We may wind up with something more stationary - a more traditional manse - but they're Essence 2 and I want them to have a First Age super powerful manse (which I also intend to unlock features of throughout the course of play depending on conditions they fulfill).

    The problem?

    I have no clue what First Age artifacts, much less manses are capable of. Do they produce ultra powerful hearthstones? What CAN they do? Be mobile for one, I assume. What else? I am running 3e and I never got to that power tier in 2e, so I don't even know what was remotely possible in older editions. I would really like an education, conceptual if that's all we can do, but a little mechanics help would be great too, in what First Age Manses and Artifacts are capable of. Please don't say "just about anything" - I do realize my imagination is the ultimate limit but I need realistic boundaries for the sake of balancing the game as the ST.

    Thank you in advance!

  • #2
    Manse? Make it as powerful like, a modern day factory. Or an automated hospital that does things like 'grant all patients within exalted level healing'. Look at Solar Circle Sorcery. You need it to make N/A, which means that's the ballpark of how powerful it is.

    Want a ship? It can fly. It can repair itself. It has essence cannons. And it can run circles around any other ship, including steamships of our time. Comparable to our own naval carriers.


    • #3
      I mean most manses are first age manses, so they won't produce any super hearthstones or anything.


      • #4
        An N/A Manse will be a key element of the plot, so basically think of a cool concept you want your game to revolve around, and make the Manse a dream base-of-operations for that. Focus on what it can do that nothing else can, rather than the nitty gritty mechanical details and numbers.

        Think of it as a Superhero HQ - it's an amazing place where the players can feel at home and gain all sorts of advantages towards whatever they do on a day-to-day basis. But it can't and won't save you from the big bad. And if god-forbid the Manse is targeted for sabotage, infiltration or takeover, then the potential for harm is as great as its potential for good normally is.

        For balancing, I'd suggest going with a theme and balancing along that theme. If your Manse is a fortress of sheer stone, then it might be near indestructible but you might have to walk around everywhere and the comforts might be limited. If you have a flying boat, then you can go anywhere but you're also incredibly easy to track. And so on.
        Last edited by Epitome; 09-09-2019, 09:37 AM.


        • #5
          So right now, we don't exactly have a specific measure of the powers a Manse could have. I know you asked us not to say "Just about anything", so instead try to look at it like you would an Artifact. First Age Manses (that is, manses that would break the setting if they were anywhere near easy to replicate) would, by definition, do things that the Age of Sorrows is not really known for, such as mass replication of Automatons, granting Exalted Healing to people within its confines, or having integrated Essence-fueled weaponry that can devastate a small region at the cost of the Manse breaking down and needing rather harsh Repair Projects to function properly once again. Think about what the Manse was made for, what was the Demesne (the magical place where Creation's Dragon Lines converged strongly) below it or what did it do before its power was harnessed by the Manse, what powers it might have developed due to some change in the geomancy of the surrounding region perhaps. Thinking of it like an Artifact, you might come up with powers to give it through Storyteller fiat until we get actual rules for Manses.


          • #6
            Do you have an aspect for the manse? Solar, Lunar, Fire ect? That might help give some ideas.

            5 dot manses and N/A manses are very different things though. An example of an N/A manse is the Imperial Manse, from which the Scarlett Empress burned the Balorian Crusade from all of Creation. Five dot manses are not that powerful. They produce Greater hearthstones like the ones in the back of the corebook, but nothing much better than that.

            One thing you might want to consider is allowing such large powerful structures to increase the breadth and scope of their power more than their absolute limit. So if it’s a fortress instead of having just stronger and stronger walls, give it something like spirit guardians, a magical infirmary, a subterranean mushroom and lichen garden to provide food during sieges, maybe a room for long range sorcerous communication. It’s a good way of making their super home better and better without giving them so much power that they can bully Ligier around for a laugh. I’d still suggest giving them some awesome stuff though, like entrenched implosion bow redoubts or maybe one big super canon on the top or something. Or if you want to keep it more fantasy feeling enchanted ballista and trebuchet can be really cool looking too.


            • #7
              A mobile manse? You'd have to make a rule that when it is not capping a demense that the heathstone is depowered or something.


              • #8
                I think it would require a mobile demesne.

                Like, maybe there's a weird cloud land that just floated around randomly until it was capped, and the manse basically lets you steer it.


                • #9
                  You've got to define things that are aesthetically or conceptually out of place in the Age of Sorrows, with its general look of epic fantasy in a world of gods, monsters and heroes battling amidst a world of low tech and ruined wonders. First Age Artifice largely lies with the things that break from that baseline in their scale or general utility.

                  I have approximate knowledge of many things.
                  Watch me play Dark Souls III (completed)
         Watch me play Breath of the Wild (updated 12/03)


                  • #10
                    Keeping in mind with what Isator said, you might have large swaths of it be not completely functional because it lacks the infrastructure to support it. Think of how useful a modern day machine shop would be to ancient Egyptians or something. The carbon steel hand tools would be amazing, the battery operated power tools would be good for a bit. If they ever managed to properly power the thing they could do a lot more great stuff, but things like an industrial lathe or milling machine require high quality materials to machine, and replacement parts are hard to come by.


                    • #11
                      Question, Part 2:

                      All right then - thanks, that gives me a good idea. This manse is going to be set up in the north, and you guys have given me some great ideas on what to do with it. I plan to make it a pyramid of sorcerously hardened ice (which will look something like lapis lazuli and be hard as shit) - First Age Solar-Lunar manse, meaning I'd like to incorporate orichalcum and moonsilver into its design. Is that going too far? Is it doable to blend the two?
                      Beyond that though, I plan to do something like this with it:
                      Probably give them sections of it (in the base likely) where food, forests, whatever grows just like a menagerie built in the east. The ground there is soil, heated by sorcerous workings woven into the manse. Each level will have different functions - with one perhaps being for artifact creation (maybe a bonus for crafts there) one for solar level healing like you guys said (so what any mortal brought there heals at the rate solars does?) and other similar stuff on other levels.
                      THIS one will not be mobile, (though maybe I'll have it convert into a flying island along with the demesne it was on later on when more of its features are unlocked? Is this doable?)
                      And on that note, I want it to function as a central story point. The walls will have orichalcum worked into images of armies and shit - it's in the north but also a pyramid so think egypt + skyrim aesthetics - the pyramid is lapis lazuli but orichalcum is woven overtop it and in the orichalcum are metalworked images of people working, fighting, wielding the elements, etc. Each 'tier' of the pyramid will have pictures that make a riddle which when the players solve, will give them the critera for "activating" that tier. Criteria varies by level - one level's criteria may be taking 2 greater hearthstones from other manses and bringing them here. One's criteria may be the blood of Sidereal, or second circle demon or something. Another's may be fitting a warstrider into the socket (the walls would be tall) or into another place in the manse. Basically, it doesn't care how you acquire the required piece, once it has it, it will "realign" the images on its level to give more of a story. The story, in its entirety, will tell the players how to do something related to the main plotline, big bad, or dealing with a big problem that will be central to the campaign.
                      TL;DR - the manse is a giant puzzle box, as the players accomplish "quest like" assignments it unlocks parts of the puzzle and tells a story which will inform them on and provide leads for how to progress their plotline. This won't be the CENTER of the game - more like a secondary element to it that's always happening in the background while they deal with the regular stuff - city management, Realm threats, problems, bad actors (Abyssals, demons, whatever) attacking, so on and so forth. If I do it right I hope to make each 'tier' of the pyramid unlock a more and more sufficient challenge for them as they progress.

                      BUT I also want each new tier of the pyramid to unlock new functions as well. (Lifting up with a chunk of the earth - the surrounding demesne - and becoming a floating island for instance would probably be the final tier). What do you guys think of this? Can you tell me what's bad/good about it?


                      • #12
                        Hmm well in 2e there were artifact N/A airships called Directional Titans that we’re the size of small mountains and housed fleets of airships, armies and had one massive downward facing weapon that could obliterate a city in one shot. Along with reality engines that allowed them to operate in the depths of the Wyld. So stuff like that IS possible in the world of Exalted, but they’re generally so powerful as to be the central focus for the entire campaign.

                        Since what you’re doing isn’t supposed to be that you might want to make it a dual manse. Especially since you want it to be both Solar and Lunar, you could make two demenses situated so close to eachother that the manse capping each one are intertwined or inside one another. Although if you just wanted to make it one I don’t think there’s anything broken about having a dual aspect manse with its own unique hearthstone.

                        The successive unlocking stages seem like a good way to go though. Is there a central theme to the manse powers when it’s complete? Like is it a fortress, a factory, an observatory, ect?

                        Also Exalted healing lets mortals heal as quickly as an exalt and survive massive trauma without scars, although they’re still limited by things like unable to regrow limbs and stuff.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Loving the Gorgon View Post
                          Question, Part 2:

                          All right then - thanks, that gives me a good idea. This manse is going to be set up in the north, and you guys have given me some great ideas on what to do with it. I plan to make it a pyramid of sorcerously hardened ice (which will look something like lapis lazuli and be hard as shit) - First Age Solar-Lunar manse, meaning I'd like to incorporate orichalcum and moonsilver into its design. Is that going too far? Is it doable to blend the two?
                          Yeah, you're not like, bound to using only the associated material. You could build a solar manse out of jade if you wanted.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Loving the Gorgon View Post
                            All right then - thanks, that gives me a good idea.
                            What do you guys think of this? Can you tell me what's bad/good about it?
                            I like it.

                            It's a significant plot element that's not immediately unbalancing but grows as the PCs put the effort in. It's useful right off the bat and easily leveraged into a variety of goals. The fact that the demense(s?) are capped with a weird combination of magical materials helps explain why such an amazing treasure has gone unclaimed (I imagine it takes a Solar and Lunar to unlock it something like this).

                            Your ideas for unlocking new features are excellent.

                            My only criticism is your choice of language: please don't describe this IC as "egypt + skyrim" with "armies and shit". Try to be a bit more evocative. Other than that, it's a brilliant idea.

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


                            • #15
                              Heh, got a sort-of similar idea going in a game I am running, though my players don’t know it yet. If you are reading this, you know who you are and this won’t be a spoiler for very long once you just finish this combat and stop trying to kill each other. Yes it was my bad making your characters meet in-game and yes the bandit-King was Lunar was always going to attack the dynast I see that now.