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How good is Exalted at exploring the consequences of success?

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  • How good is Exalted at exploring the consequences of success?

    It's something I've heard various times, though I don't remember where.

    "Other RPGs are stories about whether or not you can succeed, but Exalted is an RPG where you're pretty much guaranteed to succeed and the story is instead about being careful what you wish for."

    Creation is definitely more internally consistent than the original DnD settings we hear about, where magical never-emptying canteens of water are unworthy of a second glance despite how they could change the very fabric of life in the hands of a desert-dwelling people, and where Adventurers roam the land like murder-hobo demigods without changing the local politics.

    Creation's internal consistency, and its lore of how it has handled the actions of rampaging demigods in the past, certainly help inspire the imagination to think of the consequences. But is there anything more?


    Consider this: Between a pair of human beings, you might find three separate philosophies of life and reality. If both entirely agree on everything, then one of them isn't thinking.

    And some people are just... wrong.


    Right now, there are those who believe that you can change how people think and feel through violence and the threat of violence; those who assume you will surrender without resentment, and simply accept their way of looking at the world without respect for your intelligence or free will. They do not imagine you have any right or even capacity to strike back, especially if you must give the appearance of surrender in the short-term and bide your time for an opportunity.

    Those people assume that they can silence all voices who disagree with them, and that in being silenced these opponents will simply... disappear. Those silencers might say "riots are the language of the unheard!" but not give one moment's thought to how others will behave when they are forced to go unheard.

    Storytellers and players who believe these things will have a very particular idea of consequences that others do not share.


    Of course, it's not Exalted's job to police the space between table and chair. No game can do that, and those that try will only alienate potential customers. It's up to storytellers and players to decide who they are willing to play with.

    Likewise, Exalted cannot be all things to all people. The setting itself is designed with a certain philosophy already; it cannot appease everyone's idea of the afterlife or the worth of a human being. It's up to players whether they're willing to play in a world that they might be horrified to live within.


    Formerly Inugami, formerly Tornado Wolf.

    My RWBY Blog on Tumblr: Semblances, Kingdoms, Grimm, and more!

  • #2
    Sorry, what's the question?

    Exalted sets up a game world for the PCs to bulldoze. It's a detailed game world, and it gives you plenty of reasons not to bulldoze it and plenty of concequences for bulldozing it. There's a great deal of vermilistude.

    And beyond the ordinary, there's a great deal of extra-ordinary which can not only meaningfully oppose, but reliable foil the PCs (not least of which being other Exalted).

    That said, sure, Creation is utterly terrifying. People don't want to live in the Hunger Games, no matter how much they enjoy the franchise. Same for Exalted.

    You absolutely can use RPGs as a political vehicle. But chances are, you're playing with your friends and you want to relax. My advice is to just enjoy it.
    Last edited by JohnDoe244; 07-15-2020, 03:10 PM.


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

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    • #3
      Well, the game starts with you winning the cosmic lottery by both doing something worthy of exaltation and doing it when there is currently an exaltation available to give you. Then your reward for succeeding is to have the largest empire in the world declare you a demon wearing a skinsuit made out of the person who was the 'real' you and sends murder squads to kill you if you aren't careful about where you display your power. Most of the other splats come with similar strings attached that mean your phenomenal cosmic power is also going to cause a never ending parade of pains in your ass just by having earned an exaltation. So it seems to be pretty good at telling the players that even if they 'win' there are still usually going to be some sort of repercussions for victory that will complicate your life at some point.


      Exalted Whose Name is Carved in Leaves of Jade

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      • #4
        It all depends on your ST and on your players.

        I've thrown my players several curve balls to show them the repercussions of their actions - and in return they've probably become a tad too cautious and afraid of engaging in any kind of open conflict. I will of course try to force them into the open some more, already am, but right now I'm having fun seeing them trying to bend over backwards to avoid making making too many enemies (they've already pissed off the falaffel, but that's not difficult to do to begin with)


        Malfeas F'Tagn - go check out my epic MLP/Exalted crossover "The Scroll of Exalted ponies" @ Fimfiction

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        • #5
          It's coming more to the forefront this edition.

          Previously the implementation of elders Exalted and especially the Deathlords, could trample the game's notions of empowerment and make your character feel like a low level adventurer who'll get stomped if they step out of line. With 3rd edition it's not just that these characters are generally weaker they're also more connected to the world around them, you're not forced to explore what happens to Malahanka if you kill Raksi but you're more likely to care if it's a thriving city at the heart of her empire than if it's just the ruins of Sperimin.
          Last edited by Lioness; 07-16-2020, 03:59 AM. Reason: added more detail now that I'm no longer falling asleep


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          • #6
            I think the system, and in certain ways the setting, and even developers, could really do a better job of showing that power doesn't mean no consequences, and that you can't just keep using that power to fix every problem through direct application.

            A lot of people who get sold on Exalted get sold a version of it that's basically no rules, you can do anything. Which leads to people playing the game like Hellsing's Alucard except without that pesky loyalty to Sir Integra, or any time he has to make a choice based on the limitations of his admittedly incredible powers. Or like Saitama from One Punch Man, except without being dense enough to think that hitching a ride on a bicycle when you can run at relativistic speeds is a good idea, or without his complete ineptitude when it comes to the media, or really social interaction in general.

            Which is double funny because like, two incredibly key parts of the setting history revolved around the most powerful rulers of the world being killed and overthrown.

            Of course I don't think that's really how it's supposed to work, and if we had more published adventures or Crucible of Legends or something like that it would help a whole hell of a lot. The "consequences of success" is a nice pithy way of putting it, but to actually explain how it works you might want to say something more like "You will always win the battle, but if you're not careful about the battles you choose to fight, you might lose everyone and everything else." or something. Basically expect that you will never lose, but realize that winning doesn't mean you get everything you want


            Even that's a bit misleading. There are absolutely battles you can lose in Exalted. The PCs are epic, but they inhabit an epic world.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by DrLoveMonkey View Post
              I think the system, and in certain ways the setting, and even developers, could really do a better job of showing that power doesn't mean no consequences, and that you can't just keep using that power to fix every problem through direct application.
              I agree with this. But I can't for the life of me give an example of a system that does it better.


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

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              • #8
                Originally posted by JohnDoe244 View Post
                I agree with this. But I can't for the life of me give an example of a system that does it better.
                Powered By the Apocalypse: Godsend does for sure. That entire game is based around actions and their consequences, it's completely diceless and the PCs have nearly limitless power, but super key is they don't have limitless finesse. So if you were playing Godsend in Creation it might go something like this. Or at least this is a simplified version.


                Sarah: "I don't like the Realm. I will annihilate it."
                ST: "Okay, fire rains from the sky, great pillars of iron erupt from the earth everywhere the Realm holds influence, and it is destroyed, leaving an arcane wasteland."
                Jake: "I don't really like that, I'll use my power to remake the wasteland into a verdant garden land full of life."
                ST: "Alright, the ground explodes across the former Realm with trees, grass, flowers, fruit. Life returns along with animals, some massive and monsterous."
                Sarah: "I think I'm cool with the Blessed Isle being full of monsters."
                ST: "Over the next several decades the monsters begin to raid across the inner sea, they're attacking the people who you made. One of the high priests is begging for your aid."


                They do have some finesse, depending on your stats you can choose certain calamities that won't happen, like you can choose that the Realm won't become a wasteland, but it's very difficult to avoid them all every time, and that's on top of adversaries making moves against you if they wish. The game has nothing that limits really what your character can do at any time, and it's all about "okay that happens, now what?" Which is the game that Exalted gets sold as a lot of the time, but until you read Godsend you don't realize how untrue that really is.


                EDIT:

                For example, this is an action in Godsend.

                Unleash the Fury of War

                When you engage in battle against a powerful opponent, like an army or another god avatar, you achieve your objective. Choose additional benefits equal to your Valor
                • You fully defeat your enemy, they can not recover, they can not regroup, they can not flee. You will never have to Unleash the Fury of War against them again.
                • People see your divinity and begin to worship you even more
                • You learn something about one of your greatest enemeies

                Also choose a number of calamities equal to your Will that will not happen
                • You are fatally wounded in the process
                • Something or someone you care about suffers unfortunate consequences
                • The battlefield becomes ruined for the remainder of this Age, and for all the next Age to come.
                Last edited by DrLoveMonkey; 07-16-2020, 03:01 PM.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by JohnDoe244 View Post
                  I agree with this. But I can't for the life of me give an example of a system that does it better.
                  Many modern roleplaying games (Apocalypse World 2e, SCUP, Masks: A New Generation, Monsterhearts 2e, even Godbound) have GMing (or 'Master of Ceremonies') chapters which stress the importance of letting the world be changed by the actions of the player characters, and making those changes matter. One way that the actions of player characters matter is their consequences. Apocalypse World 2e uses a series of Principles to serve as guidelines for MCs (pg 82), several of which are specifically about extrapolating from characters' actions to determine consequences.

                  Frankly, I struggle to find many RPGs that deal with the consequences of player characters' actions worse than Exalted 3e, given that the corebook offers paltry advice to GMs (the sidebar on page 137, 'Storytelling the Great Curse,' comes to mind). Something > basically nothing.


                  Also, Sunder the Gold, that middle bit of your post is kind of a non sequitur. How do the actions of opressed people in real life striking back at an unjust and dehumanizing system which silences them under threat of violence. have anything to do with Exalted Third Edition the Role Playing Game by Onyx Path's ability to provide helpful ways for Storytellers to adjudicate the consequences of the player character's in-game actions?

                  What are you trying to say?

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by KymmetheSeventh View Post
                    Frankly, I struggle to find many RPGs that deal with the consequences of player characters' actions worse than Exalted 3e, given that the corebook offers paltry advice to GMs (the sidebar on page 137, 'Storytelling the Great Curse,' comes to mind). Something > basically nothing.
                    It isn't so much that Ex3 is great at it, but rather that the game forces you on that path eventually by exhausting every other avenue.

                    If you're playing with the assumptions of other RPGs you eventually find that nothing can stop you and that's that, which becomes a really boring game if there isn't at least some consequences to what you do. So you change your game to be about that.

                    Originally posted by KymmetheSeventh View Post
                    Also, Sunder the Gold, that middle bit of your post is kind of a non sequitur. How do the actions of opressed people in real life striking back at an unjust and dehumanizing system which silences them under threat of violence. have anything to do with Exalted Third Edition the Role Playing Game by Onyx Path's ability to provide helpful ways for Storytellers to adjudicate the consequences of the player character's in-game actions?

                    What are you trying to say?
                    I took this as OP saying that "the consequences of victory" will woosh right over players/DMs' heads if their worldview is one where there should be none.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Epitome View Post
                      It isn't so much that Ex3 is great at it, but rather that the game forces you on that path eventually by exhausting every other avenue.

                      If you're playing with the assumptions of other RPGs you eventually find that nothing can stop you and that's that, which becomes a really boring game if there isn't at least some consequences to what you do. So you change your game to be about that.
                      Definitely agree with this.

                      I also contest that games where success is not guaranteed don’t deal with the consequences of success. I’ve been in a level 6 DnD campaign where we decided the fate of several nations and how how willing we were to trigger a war that we knew we could win. In fact I think it even enhances it in some ways.

                      Godsend is great because it just tells you that there is no such thing as losing, the whole game is about the consequences, and it doesn’t let you skip having consequences. Which does let you skip all the other stuff and can be fun on its own. The game also moves at a lightning pace because of it. On the other hand, the stakes are kind of lower. If I were in an exalted game where our southern city had its magical first age water-making crystal break, and the whole city was dying of thirst, so we go on a perilous journey to seek out another replacement, only to find a beastman civilization already using it, that’s interesting. Do we kill them and take it? It took us so long to get here, we already sacrificed so much, and there’s no guarantee that we’ll be able to find another crystal in time. We can kill all these beastmen that’s no issue, but do we really want to? Do they have allies who will get mad? Will this five is a reputation? Do we want to deal with the consequences of that success?

                      But that whole thing is also completely undermined if the Twilight can just make a new crystal from sand and string with her bare hands in an afternoon, or if finding the replacement crystal took the survival Zenith like twenty minutes and a survival charm, and he can rustle up a dozen or more by next week.


                      Where Exalted really drops the ball is that it gets way too hyped on itself to even suggest that your PC can’t do something, and doesn’t follow through on the idea that a character who can nearly perfectly succeed on specific actions in exchange for resources is not anything like Thanos with all five infinity stones. Also bad chargen guidelines and incentives. What you end up with is a system that models combat down to individual punches and kicks, and models infiltration down to the point of charms opening one lock on a door that may have several...but then ends up being played in a way where none of that is at all interesting or matters in the slightest so it’s just a colossal waste of everyone’s time.

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                      • #12
                        I think that a big part of how Exalted has historically approached consequences is through the setting, rather than the mechanics. Cities and cultures aren't presented as pinatas full of loot and/or bad guys, but as complex interlocking systems that players reasonably might care about (or hate) for human reasons, and which are easier to break than they are to fix, even for demigods.

                        During my long-running Exalted 2E campaign, I had one player who was and is a big shonen anime fan, and his first instinct was always the big, dramatic gesture leading to overwhelming victory. He'd occasionally become frustrated because Exalted--as I ran it--wasn't a straightforward power fantasy. He and I worked together to help him get his fill of victory, while also finding a depth of story and consequence that he--solution-focused by nature--wouldn't ever seek out on his own.

                        Edit: I actually address this topic some in my section in Crucible of Legend.

                        Originally posted by Epitome View Post
                        I took this as OP saying that "the consequences of victory" will woosh right over players/DMs' heads if their worldview is one where there should be none.
                        This is a much more charitable interpretation than my own reading. I hope you're right, because I was pretty disappointed by my reading.
                        Last edited by Dex Davican; 07-17-2020, 05:12 PM.


                        Hey, check out my first original RPG, Post-Mortem, here: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/307131/PostMortem

                        Or read my Exalted novella The Silence of Our Ancestors here: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product...looded-Novella

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                        • #13
                          Yes, I don't know how embedded in the game it is, but there's certainly a strand of developer commentary (or at the very least a strand of fan interpretation!) that... orients around the idea that a game of heroes powerful enough to do anything, that then *doesn't* present them with unintended consequences, either as an obstacle at least or epic tragedy at most, is missing an opportunity at best, or is compromised at best.

                          There may (or absolutely there may not!) be more people around today that believe that unintended consequences are mostly unproblematic and rare, and that changing the world for the better is simply a matter of amassing sufficient power and dragging the world there, kicking and screaming, whatever you have to do to get there. That positive change is simply a matter of will and doing what is obvious, and heroes are those who stand up in society and who are willing to do so. This is very obviously a pretty different strand of idea.

                          (Again there absolutely may not be anyone more who believes such a thing as there was, though I'd guess that an event like sheer hubristic invasion and regime change *may* have made unintended consequences a little more immediate to grasp, back in the zeitgeist?).

                          I don't really have a lot more thoughts on this, other than to reaffirm the sort of traditional Exalted-y fanbase-ish view that people will probably get more from playing out scenarios where they're checked by *something* that is at partially sympathetic, and understandable, whether its an opponent with equal power and a compellingly sympathetic case, or your own well-intended or understandable actions. Stories where players fight only enemies and challenges that are badly intentioned and wrong and where fundamentally their defeat is a fait accompli, seem unlikely to be interesting.

                          As to actually how to achieve this and make it satisfying, I can only really echo the actual useful advice in the thread and engage people in wanting to explore unintended consequences in an open way without seeing it simply as a defeat or frustration (and yes, some of it is going to be that you can lead a horse but you cannot force it to drink and get much good out of it)

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                          • #14
                            One thing that was important for me as an ST was that I didn't often have "unintended" consequences. Instead, I tried to communicate the consequences up-front whenever possible, even when they were general (e.g. "you'll create a power vacuum," "you'll gain an enemy," etc.). I'd often use mortal NPC companions/followers to express that stuff, and even debate the best ways to approach a bad situation. That occasionally created some indecision, but honestly, Virtues helped encourage my players to act decisively, even if it would be painful or come with negative consequences.
                            Last edited by Dex Davican; 07-17-2020, 06:47 PM.


                            Hey, check out my first original RPG, Post-Mortem, here: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/307131/PostMortem

                            Or read my Exalted novella The Silence of Our Ancestors here: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product...looded-Novella

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Epitome View Post
                              It isn't so much that Ex3 is great at it, but rather that the game forces you on that path eventually by exhausting every other avenue.

                              If you're playing with the assumptions of other RPGs you eventually find that nothing can stop you and that's that, which becomes a really boring game if there isn't at least some consequences to what you do. So you change your game to be about that.
                              I think the depth of the setting has its role to play in why people advocate for it.
                              I’ve never needed a GM section to tell me that my players killing the people in charge could create a power vacuum resulting in a civil war. I’m much more appreciative of an official write-up that provides me with some ideas for how the society could break apart.
                              Like if we take Gem as an example, the obvious pulp fantasy answer is a slave rebellion.
                              If you want infighting among its noble houses 5 of them are defined in Scavenger Sons and fleshed out more in Compass: South.
                              The Ex3 core name drops a bunch of kingdoms that Gem has imposed its influence upon who may wish to break free of it.

                              Granted it’s not universal… as a counterpoint Paragon as-written is pretty bad, since in my experience Exalted PCs are way more likely to want to kill the Perfect than the Despot and there's so little support for what comes next beyond “Scarlet Whisper takes over… I guess?” as she’s the only other fleshed out NPC here, but in the grand scheme of the writing there's more gems than turds.
                              Last edited by Lioness; 07-19-2020, 07:31 PM.


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