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What if... there were no Excellencies?

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  • What if... there were no Excellencies?

    It waters down the power and supremacy of Solars, sure... but I think it might be good for the game.

    Excellencies are not, ultimately, interesting abilities. They're number inflation, plain and simple. While it's certainly fun to roll 20 dice, the ability of Solars to drown foes in dice pools makes strains everything, starting with the benchmarks. 5 successes are enough to read a letter by feeling the imprint of the ink, or to swan-dive five hundred feet unharmed--what do 10 successes mean? Or 15? Any kind of opposition becomes basically meaningless--it doesn't matter what kind of cool powers a demon has, it'll just get blown away by bigger numbers.

    On the other hand, what happens if they're gone? Not more expensive, not turned into 2e style Charms to learn, just gone?
    • All emphasis gets placed on Charms, which are inherently more interesting than "1m per die." The difference between a skilled mortal swordsman and a Dawn isn't that the Solar has twice as many dice, it's that they've got magic tricks and powers.
    • Boring dice/success adding Charms like Excellent Strike or Impassioned Discourse Method become interesting again, as do dice tricks-- they're actually expanding your capabilities, not just serving as a marginally-better-in-some-situations Excellency.
    • Charms like Flawless Diagnostic Technique can feel pointless, because they're not letting you do anything you couldn't already with a sufficiently large die pool. Now they are.
    • Enemy design gets easier, because there's no longer a need to inflate dice pools to match the Solars-- we can focus on creating Charms with active effects, not just new variations of dice tricks so that the Dragonblooded scion has a faint prayer of landing a hit.
    • The difference between Celestial and Terrestrial Exalts becomes a question of Charm capabilities. Ie, "what kinds of cool stuff cane we do," rather than "who can roll more dice?"
    • Solars get weaker, encounter design gets easier, and there's more incentive to spread your Charms across multiple abilities.

  • #2
    We had that in 1e. The result was that we had dozens of charms that did nothing but "Add +2 to defense when using a shield" or "Add +3 dice to attack". I'd rather rip out dice tricks than rip out excellencies.

    I feel the issue of excellencies is lessened in 3e anyways. Infinite Mastery doesn't exist anymore, meaning other dice adders actually matter again and you don't become a non-entity for not knowing it. Excellencies are powerful yes, but if you're not careful they'll eat your motepool alive in a very quick order. Besides one of the points about excellencies is that an Exalt with it could easily be on par with a legendary mortal general in terms of raw dice when the Exalt merely dabbled in an ability, only going up from there.

    Can't say I'm a fan of the idea.


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    • #3
      It would certainly change the way I designed things, and make some stuff easier. Right now I often put in scenes just for a fun little adventure thing and treat it pretty much like a mote toll. Like a difficulty 4 Dex-Dodge hazard with 5L damage, I expect everyone is going to pass that, but the guy with 5 Dex, 2 dodge will spend motes to do it. So without excellencies a lot more people will end up paying in health levels than motes. On the other hand that means when they do get to use their charms they’ll probably end up with a lot more motes to spend. Adventures would have to be a lot shorter and less dangerous. It would also make a lot more merits and things attractive. Like now you can’t just spend a mote or two and plough through your wound penalty, so maybe pain tolerance looks better.

      You’d also have to change some systems a bit, Feats of Strength and craft and a few others basically require the excellency dice to meet the higher difficulties, even with dice tricks.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Grod_the_giant View Post
        Boring dice/success adding Charms like Excellent Strike or Impassioned Discourse Method become interesting again, as do dice tricks-- they're actually expanding your capabilities, not just serving as a marginally-better-in-some-situations Excellency.
        This basically undercuts the whole argument to get rid of Excellencies. Dice/success adding Charms don't get more interesting, just more necessary to perform at maximum ability. Spreading how you get to +10 dice over three Charms instead of one makes pretty much every issue with the bigger numbers nature of Exalted worse, not better.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Sandact6 View Post
          We had that in 1e. The result was that we had dozens of charms that did nothing but "Add +2 to defense when using a shield" or "Add +3 dice to attack". I'd rather rip out dice tricks than rip out excellencies.
          Yes, but also no.

          1E had Excellent Strike in Melee... which worked exactly the same as the Melee Excellency works now... except you could only use it to attack and Golden Essence Block that only worked for Parry/Block. And Corebook Melee doesn't have that many other dice tricks.


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          • #6
            Originally posted by Heavy Arms View Post

            This basically undercuts the whole argument to get rid of Excellencies. Dice/success adding Charms don't get more interesting, just more necessary to perform at maximum ability. Spreading how you get to +10 dice over three Charms instead of one makes pretty much every issue with the bigger numbers nature of Exalted worse, not better.
            Investing more Charms into an area will always make you better at it than someone who doesn't--that's the point. There aren't D&D style "you need to be able to hit this AC by this level" benchmarks you have to worry about hitting, so I'm not entirely sure what the issue is.

            And dice tricks like "turn your opponent's 1s into bonuses to Parry" or "retroactive +1 Evasion if you're at a higher Ini" will always be more interesting than Excellencies, because they interact with the game in more complicated ways.

            You also get a 5e D&D style shift in how bonus dice feel. With Excellencies, it's like you're playing 3.5--there are bonuses everywhere, and everyone's stacking them really high, so small and/or situational things aren't very useful or exciting. Without Excellencies, it's more like 5e-- there's a fairly strict power scale (0-10 dots), and anything that lets you break it is worthy of attention.

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            • #7
              So we're just talking about getting rid of Solar excellencies? Nothing on the DB excellencies that do stuff aside from dice adders or the AotR Sid excellency that functions by lower TN?

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              • #8
                Originally posted by nalak42 View Post
                So we're just talking about getting rid of Solar excellencies? Nothing on the DB excellencies that do stuff aside from dice adders or the AotR Sid excellency that functions by lower TN?
                No, those would be gone too. Whatever the splat's version of the "motes for numbers" ability is.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Grod_the_giant View Post
                  Investing more Charms into an area will always make you better at it than someone who doesn't--that's the point.
                  You haven't established why removing Excellencies actually changes this as a point. Having an Excellency makes you better in that area than someone that doesn't, as Charms they serve this purpose.

                  There aren't D&D style "you need to be able to hit this AC by this level" benchmarks you have to worry about hitting, so I'm not entirely sure what the issue is.
                  I didn't mention D&D or benchmarks at all in my post, so I have no idea where your confusion lies.

                  My critique was simple: removing Excellencies doesn't actually remove anything in the big picture. Solars are going to be tossing 10+ dice at things if they feel like using motes to magically brute force a problem. Since that's the case, having a single Charm for this (Excellencies) is better than lots of little Charms. More low level dice adder Charms are just more things to track, and less Charms doing interesting things that aren't adding dice or drowning you in dice tricks.

                  You compare D&D 3.X and 5e, but as I see it you'd get the exact opposite of what you're asserting: Excellencies set the baseline of throwing motes at a problem on a simple basis of making your normal rolling better with big numbers, so well done Charms are going to be ones that break that mold; making the current state of things closer to 5e. If you cut out Excellencies and turn low level Charms into a dice adder stacking game, you're in 3.X territory where you're juggling lots of bonuses to try to get the best you can.

                  And dice tricks like "turn your opponent's 1s into bonuses to Parry" or "retroactive +1 Evasion if you're at a higher Ini" will always be more interesting than Excellencies, because they interact with the game in more complicated ways.
                  Great, so more DB-like Excellencies with built in dice-tricks seems the simple solution here.

                  Of course, one person's "interesting" is another person's "too many little things to track for too little pay off." A lot of people are not going to agree that tracking how many 1s and 6s they rolled, and how many 1s their opponent rolled, all to get an end result that's statistically the same as tossing the same number of motes at adding a few dice is actually fun to play. Complex interactions that are difficult to track and don't have a satisfactory pay off aren't things you're going to find a lot of people want.

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                  • #10
                    If you wanted to reduce general dice inflation while keeping around some of the flexibility of Excellencies, could always just dump a lower cap on the Excellency itself, and on Solars as a whole? It does seem like it could work out as Heavy Arms suggests if caps are where they are and it takes lots of separate Charms to reach them? Seems like either way you can only really playtest these things out and see if they work.

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                    • #11
                      You'd have to remake the game and all thr numbers from scratch, I think. Getting a resting parry of 7 means that its nigh impossible to hit on 11 dice, and even though charms help its going to make whiffing a lot more common.


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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Sorcerous Overlord View Post
                        You'd have to remake the game and all thr numbers from scratch, I think. Getting a resting parry of 7 means that its nigh impossible to hit on 11 dice, and even though charms help its going to make whiffing a lot more common.
                        Well, 11 dice hits parry 7 at 31% of the time. It's not quite impossible.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Heavy Arms View Post
                          You haven't established why removing Excellencies actually changes this as a point. Having an Excellency makes you better in that area than someone that doesn't, as Charms they serve this purpose.
                          I'm not Grod, but I think I get his point.

                          Basically excellencies, especially Solar ones, are pretty much good enough to do almost anything anyway, so the charms past it don't feel like they matter as much. Like Lock Opening Touch for example, it's 5m to open any mundane lock for one of its effects. With 5m into an excellency and max stats with a stunt you're rolling 18 dice anyway, more than enough to open anything. Even the other effect of getting (Essence) auto-successes and double 9s doesn't really matter that much form a pure power standpoint when you could just throw 23 dice at the problem anyway. it's not like there's any locks out there with a Difficulty of 14 to get past or anything.

                          With difficulties capping out at basically 5, including things like enemy Resolve values and Defense stats, your excellency bulldozes through it all. Now, the effect of Lock Opening Touch being only 1m makes it good, but only if you're in a big long adventuring day where you're going to miss those 6 motes you could have spent just destroying the difficulty with your excellency. It means that you really only see the value of those deep investment charms if you're under a lot of time pressure with a multitude of challenges, which not everyone likes.


                          The other thing it can do is double up the disparity between party members, or between different parties, and just inflate things in general. So a difficulty 3 roll to resist a poison hazard, if somebody has Stamina 3 Resistance 3, even if they stunt, they still have a 25% chance of failing that. A Solar excellency drops that to almost 2%. So the difference between having that excellency and not having it is massive, and basically brings your game into a different band of credible difficulties. Assuming you're of the opinion that rolling things with a 2% chance of failure isn't worth your time.

                          If you got rid of the excellencies and just kept the rest of the charms then that difficulty 3 hazzard would be pretty credible to almost anyone who didn't grab Poison-Resisting Meditation. You don't just blow through 95% of resistance based challenges because of your free excellency that came bundled with Ox-Body Technique, you actually need to specialize in resisting poison to be that good at resisting it.

                          I'm not saying it's better, but I do think that's the crux of the argument.

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                          • #14
                            31% is pretty low for "you get punished for missing with losing some of your decisive damage source and leaving yourself exposed to lose more if the guy hits you with a withering. And he might pass you in initiative for a double whammy too"


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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Synapse View Post
                              31% is pretty low for "you get punished for missing with losing some of your decisive damage source and leaving yourself exposed to lose more if the guy hits you with a withering. And he might pass you in initiative for a double whammy too"
                              Yeah....but you're also rocking a 7 parry against his max 11 die attack too, and only if there's no other factors like penalties in play that subtract directly from your defense. Like for example swapping initiative by smacking them with a high accuracy withering attack, then using your own onslaught penalty to drop them to 6 Parry, which you now hit on a 50% chance. Or do what, in my experience, has been 95%+ of fights in Exalted and involve a group where somebody else uses onslaught, or a smashing attack to get them prone or both.

                              You know, tactics, strategy, cooperation. Things that games tend to be about.


                              EDIT: Or, alternatively, since we're not talking about getting rid of all charms, hit with an attack, activate One Weapon Two Blows, then Peony Blossom Attack, then Invincible Fury of the Dawn, chain into Peony Blossom Attack, Chain into Invincible Fury of the Dawn, make 14 attacks, 7 of which will be against defense 0, and destroy the foe. Or Excellent Strike.
                              Last edited by DrLoveMonkey; 11-11-2020, 07:12 PM.

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