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  • Making 3e Easier to Run

    In the past, I've posted a great deal about difficulties running 3e, about the problems I've run into and ideas for solutions. Eight fully successful sessions into a new campaign, I think I've got my changes down, and I wanted to consolidate and share them all in one place.

    1. Players Roll All the Dice
    This is probably the single most helpful change. Rather than handling PCs and NPCs symmetrically, I've shifted all rolling into the players' hands--NPCs just offer a series of static difficulties. Doing so makes combat way smoother because you never need to ask your players for their defense and check for Charm use. Defensive abilities are used when the player rolls and at no other time. Situational modifiers can be handled entirely on your end. It just... it flows so much better, you have no idea.
    • To convert from a NPC's dice pool to a static difficulty, divide by two and round up, just like counting expected successes. 9 dice to attack? Now a parry DC of 5. Each "double X" ability the NPC has roughly translates to +1 DC, as does spending willpower.
    • To convert from a PC's static defense to a die pool, just don't divide by two--instead, roll that many dice. Abilities that would add +1 Evasion or Resolve or whatnot instead add +1 success.
    • Players attacking or attempting to influence NPCs works normally.
    • When an NPC attacks a player, the player rolls their Evasion/Parry/Resolve against the attacker's DC. On a success they dodge; on a failure they're hit, with threshold failures equal to the difference between their result and the DC.
      • Against a withering attack, the player then rolls dice equal to their Soak against the attacker's damage DC, which is increased by 1 for every two threshold failures on the player's defense roll. The player loses one point of initiative per threshold failure on their soak roll, to a minimum of the attacker's overwhelm rating.
      • Against a gambit, the attacker succeeds if their initiative is greater than twice the difficulty.
      • Against a decisive attack... decisive damage is the one thing I have been rolling.
    2. Stripped-Down NPCs
    Exalted has too many moving parts for NPCs to be as complicated as players. Even QCs are a lot to deal with, especially if there's more than one significant enemy on the field-- it's just too much to remember what charms they need to use when and track the half-dozen different resource pools and
    • I don't track motes for NPCs at all. Instead, I either make their charms free or give them a 1-2 point willpower cost, and usually give them an extra point or two of willpower to compensate. Doing so lets me ignore the fiddliest resource pool, and has the side effect of making social attacks and combat actions "stack" a little more efficiently.
    • I ditch as many supplemental and reflexive charms as I can. Generally, stuff is either a simple action or an always-on permanent effect-- my rule of thumb is that if it doesn't have a dramatic and immediate effect that could be observed within the gameworld, it doesn't belong on the sheet.
      • As a consequence of the above two points, I usually boost the dice pools (or, well, DCs) of supernatural foes a bit to simulate the magic they're using in the background. For Exalts, I generally calibrate to about a half-excellency on everything, with "full excellencies" costing a willpower.
    • I don't track health levels very closely. Instead, I divide the track in half, with the first half being -0 health levels and the second half being -2. That turns damage penalties into a binary state (they're either significantly injured or not), making everything much easier to keep track of.
    Taken together, you'd get a foe looking something like this.

    3. Combat Simplifications
    Nothing really fancy here.
    • When you successfully Disengage, you move one range band without using your normal movement for the turn--allowing you to wind up two bands away if you want.
    • When you Rush, you use your action to move a second range band. If someone wants to keep their distance, they can force a (Dex+Athletics) roll and take a reflexive move if they succeed.
    • When you grapple, there's no initiative roll--you hit with the attack, pay the Ini, and skip right to the control roll. (I might expand this to all gambits)
    • Turn order isn't recalculated until the end of the round. I really only started doing this because of the limits of roll20's turn order tracker, but it winds up striking a pretty good balance between the drama of shifting initiative and the hassle of constantly revising who acts when.
    4. More Forgiving Character Creation
    This admittedly doesn't do anything to make my life easier, but it does make things a little more fun for the players and gets rid of some unnecessary restrictions.
    • You don't have to pick half your favored skills from your Caste list, though your Supernal still has to be a caste skill.. You can already pretty much build any caste into any character with the freeform favored skills; this just ditches the remaining pretense.
    • No primary/secondary/tertiary attributes-- you get a total of 18 dots to distribute between the nine attributes however you want, and they all cost 4 bonus points to increase. Makes unconventional concepts a bit easier to build.
    • Lore, Craft, and Martial Arts all handle fields of study the same way. You pick one field/skill/style when you first buy the skill; learning a second costs 1bp/3xp. Particularly relevant to Martial Arts--you run out of style charms way before you'd run out of Archery/Brawl/Melee/Thrown charms, and half the fun is mixing styles anyway. As-is doing so costs way too much.
      • Thus, if I have four dots in Martial Arts (Crane Style), I can spend 3xp to upgrade that to four dots in Martial Arts (Crane Style and Snake Style).
    • Most significantly, you don't have to follow Charm trees, so you're not forced to learn stuff you don't want to get at stuff you do. Skipping around does a lot to help smooth out bloated trees like Craft and Lore. The exact rules are...
      • The first Essence 1 Charm you take for an ability has no prerequisite Charms.
      • After that, you can replace the normal prerequisite Charm with "any X Charms from the same ability," where X is the Charm's essence requirement.
      • Martial Arts trees do have to be followed in order, though. They're short enough that bloat isn't a factor.

  • #2
    Originally posted by Grod_the_giant View Post
    1. Players Roll All the Dice
    I can't really comment on this because I haven't had a problem with it myself and it totally screws with my TTRPG sensibilities, like THAC0, but it looks like it works to me.

    Exalted has too many moving parts for NPCs to be as complicated as players. Even QCs are a lot to deal with, especially if there's more than one significant enemy on the field-- it's just too much to remember what charms they need to use when and track the half-dozen different resource pools and


    Originally posted by Grod_the_giant View Post
    [B]I don't track motes for NPCs at all.
    I think this is just generally good advice even if you're not altering any rules whatsoever. Unless the NPC in question is an Exalt, they will basically never run out of motes. Unless they're in a scene where they get more than three or four actions, they will never run out of willpower. There's no point in taking an enemy with a motepool of 80, who can only spend 10 per round max, and tracking all their mote regen and expenditures.

    Originally posted by Grod_the_giant View Post
    I don't track health levels very closely. Instead, I divide the track in half, with the first half being -0 health levels and the second half being -2. That turns damage penalties into a binary state (they're either significantly injured or not), making everything much easier to keep track of.
    Even if you don't do this, at the very least don't do the enemy health tracking using boxes, for god's sake. Just write down their break points at the top of the sheet and keep track of their health levels. Like for a Dog of the Unbroken Earth do 2/8/14.


    Originally posted by Grod_the_giant View Post
    4. More Forgiving Character Creation
    This though seems....very tempting to abuse very hard.

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    • #3
      For weaker spirits (Blood apes, really anything on part with a 1CD) I never track their motes. Most combats end long before they tap out.

      I just let them spam stuff for 5 turns and call it a day. 2 if they started dematerialized. In my experiences tracking motes, they last roughly this long.

      For ST's that are overwhelmed/lazy, this is definitely a thing to keep in mind.


      Read my shit at my homebrew topic, 2.5e and 3e material!
      Play Alchemical's in 3e now, you're welcome.

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      • #4
        For a lot of things even tracking willpower isn’t important. They usually have like, one simple charm that uses it, so unless you’re spamming it on attacks and defended just assume they have it. Worst case you go over by one or two and, hey, not every example of a creature is the same, some just have more or less willpower.

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        • #5
          Well... I'm happy not to track willpower either, then. Score!

          Originally posted by DrLoveMonkey View Post
          I can't really comment on this because I haven't had a problem with it myself and it totally screws with my TTRPG sensibilities, like THAC0, but it looks like it works to me.
          It's worth trying a players-roll-all-the-dice system sometime, just for the experience-- it's a pretty neat twist. My original system uses the same mechanic.

          Even if you don't do this, at the very least don't do the enemy health tracking using boxes, for god's sake. Just write down their break points at the top of the sheet and keep track of their health levels. Like for a Dog of the Unbroken Earth do 2/8/14.
          Oh, definitely.

          This though seems....very tempting to abuse very hard.
          Skipping around the Charm trees? I'm not sure it's as bad as it sounds; the overall quality of your charms will trend higher, but Charm trees (usually) don't have utterly useless junk-- you can skip over a bunch of dice tricks but then your rolls will be lower; you can avoid sections of the tree you're not interested in but that's just trading one Charm for another.

          Not a rule for a group of experienced munchkins, though, that's certainly true.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Grod_the_giant View Post
            Skipping around the Charm trees? I'm not sure it's as bad as it sounds; the overall quality of your charms will trend higher, but Charm trees (usually) don't have utterly useless junk-- you can skip over a bunch of dice tricks but then your rolls will be lower; you can avoid sections of the tree you're not interested in but that's just trading one Charm for another.

            Not a rule for a group of experienced munchkins, though, that's certainly true.
            Actually I was more thinking about the attribute spread, like taking four fives and the rest ones off the bat, also maxing off one of the three branches right away.

            The skipping charms I think is mostly okay, with some exceptions. Like you can not let anyone just skip to Spirit Shredding Exorcism, or Invincible Fury of the Dawn, for example.

            Comment


            • #7
              Willpower as a mechanic is outdated and only there for legacy. It can be removed with minimal work. I have Motes, I don't need Willpower to forget until I remember one of my Charms needs it every three or four sessions.

              And yeah, Quick Characters kind of fail at all their stated intentions. Their only simpler thing is use of generic dice pools instead of the Attribute and Ability spread. Mote pools? Still there. Willpower? Still there. And the section has no advice on how to assign charms or other powers.

              Scion 2e actually did a lot better for antagonist designs, by going "Here's some general numerical templates, here's some powers and general abilities, most of them are passive or have cooldowns. We advise not giving an antagonist more abilities than you can fairly run." Boom. I finished Scion's antagonist section feeling like I could make an antagonist for my players.

              As for the other points... The "PCs are the only ones who roll dice" rubs me the wrong way but nothing jumps out as mechanically busted. The point about Charm Breakdown does sound like it could get busted easily, as others mentioned.

              Man, Exalted Essence can't come out soon enough


              Disclaimer: In favor of fun and enjoyment, but may speak up to warn you that you're gonna step on a metaphorical land mine

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Kyman201 View Post
                Willpower as a mechanic is outdated and only there for legacy. It can be removed with minimal work. I have Motes, I don't need Willpower to forget until I remember one of my Charms needs it every three or four sessions.
                Really? I find it's often the most precious resource.

                Maybe it depends on your Essence? I feel like it gets more important as Essence grows. (Because you get more motes, and a lot of high-level Charms use Willpower.)

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Kyman201 View Post
                  Willpower as a mechanic is outdated and only there for legacy. It can be removed with minimal work. I have Motes, I don't need Willpower to forget until I remember one of my Charms needs it every three or four sessions.
                  Wait, like for your NPCs who are only there for one scene and then gone forever, or for your PCs? Because the limitations of Willpower are a major balancing factor in this game.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by DrLoveMonkey View Post
                    Actually I was more thinking about the attribute spread, like taking four fives and the rest ones off the bat, also maxing off one of the three branches right away.
                    Yeah, I can see that. Idk, I trust my players not to be assholes about it. Besides, I'm a powergamer at heart and I don't think I'd want to start with straight 5s and 1s and spend all my experience for the first few sessions buying attribute dots, even if it is ultimately cheaper.

                    Originally posted by Kyman201 View Post
                    And yeah, Quick Characters kind of fail at all their stated intentions. Their only simpler thing is use of generic dice pools instead of the Attribute and Ability spread. Mote pools? Still there. Willpower? Still there. And the section has no advice on how to assign charms or other powers.
                    Ugh, tell me about it. Dice pools are the EASY part.

                    Originally posted by DrLoveMonkey View Post
                    Wait, like for your NPCs who are only there for one scene and then gone forever, or for your PCs? Because the limitations of Willpower are a major balancing factor in this game.
                    Depends a lot on how generous the GM is with stunts-- if they hand out a few two-point stunts, it's easy to end an encounter (especially a minor or noncombat one) with more willpower than you started with.
                    Last edited by Grod_the_giant; 08-22-2020, 11:38 AM.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Grod_the_giant View Post
                      Depends a lot on how generous the GM is with stunts-- if they hand out a few two-point stunts, it's easy to end an encounter (especially a minor or noncombat one) with more willpower than you started with.
                      https://www.google.ca/amp/s/ericmint...checklist/amp/

                      Relevant bullet points here;


                      • Stunt standards are different. 2 and 3-point stunts are difficult to get and you won’t see them flying around constantly. House-ruling them back to 1e/2e standards is one of the fastest ways to wreck the balance of 3e, so be careful with that.
                      • Willpower is much harder to get than it used to be, and the system is extensively balanced its scarcity. Again, this is one of the parts of the rules I would advise caution in messing with

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by DrLoveMonkey View Post
                        Wait, like for your NPCs who are only there for one scene and then gone forever, or for your PCs? Because the limitations of Willpower are a major balancing factor in this game.
                        I, as a player, have literally never been in a situation where I went "Oh snap I need more Willpower", and I find it a pain to deal with. I'm pretty sure that it can be removed in a future edition with no major loss.

                        Like, as of now, yeah it may take a bit to remove but i'm pretty certain that if someone had asked "Hey why do we need Willpower?" during the system building and Morke or Holden decided they could remove it, it easily could have been.
                        Last edited by Kyman201; 08-22-2020, 01:12 PM.


                        Disclaimer: In favor of fun and enjoyment, but may speak up to warn you that you're gonna step on a metaphorical land mine

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Kyman201 View Post

                          I, as a player, have literally never been in a situation where I went "Oh snap I need more Willpower", and I find it a pain to deal with. I'm pretty sure that it can be removed in a future edition with no major loss.

                          Like, as of now, yeah it may take a bit to remove but i'm pretty certain that if someone had asked "Hey why do we need Willpower?" during the system building and Morke or Holden decided they could remove it, it easily could have been.
                          I think that Willpower could be removed, but its function can't be.

                          Outside of social influence the main purpose of Willpower is to limit how much of the truly, truly bonkers powers the Exalted have access to. Peony Blossom Attack, Accuracy Without Distance, Thunderbolt Attack Prana, Nine Aeons Thews. These are abilities that are balanced around them being used sparingly.

                          Obviously Willpower isn't the only way to limit powers like that. You could put them on a cooldown, like once per day, which is probably easier to bookkeep, but also means that you can't sacrifice one for the other. Like you can't choose to use Nine Aeons Thews five times in a day, but sacrifice the ability to use Peony Blossom Attack. You could also ditch the willpower cost and just make them cost a ton of motes, which eliminates the extra bookkeeping problem entirely but also means that when you'd drain motes faster for your less awesome stuff.

                          I'm not saying that it has to be the way that it is, just that there are reasons for it to exist in the form that it does now.


                          For social influence though it serves another purpose entirely, which is basically to stop yourself from getting steamrolled. You can use it to no-sell forming an intimacy, losing an intimacy, and if you have another opposing intimacy you can use it to no-sell a persuade attempt. If you're out of Willpower and facing a very socially powerful opponent, you're in very serious trouble. Alternatively, a very powerfully social antagonist can sap your Willpower quick in a social scene, and leave you without your most awesome abilities in the coming fight or test of strength.

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                          • #14
                            From a systemic point of view, I think I'd rather drop motes than Willpower. The size of your pool is smaller, the conceptual meaning is a little clearer, and it represents a common resource across creature and encounter types. To keep the "be careful about revealing your power" aspect, you could replace mote costs with something tied more directly to anima. Say, give each Charm an "Anima Level," and if your anima is lower than that level, using the charm kicks you up-- ie, say that Thunderbolt Attack Prana has an Anima Level of 2 (Burning), so using it instantly takes you to Burning level, while Excellent Strike only has Anima Level 1 (Glowing) and makes your caste mark light up. You'd lose most of the game's attrition, but I feel like that's not a huge thematic loss.

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                            • #15
                              As long as Willpower doesn't come back super quickly or the pool get huge I don't think it's that much of a strategic loss either. Like taking any of the strategy out of it.

                              I'm very against dropping the idea of resources all together though. Solars reach up, grab the creators of the Universe, suplex them, and break them into a million pieces. To me it's important that they can't just do that all day, but can push themselves to that limit. It's the reason why Solars punch UP to fight third circle demons, and aren't just, like, better than them.

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