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  • Thoughts about improving the quality of mortal opposition

    So, I've been reading my way through "My Problem With Chargen" and enjoying it and it gave me a bunch of thoughts about how part of Exalted's base framework could be reworked to make mortal antagonists, animal as well as human, more mechanically interesting, differentiated, and challenging to younger Exalts.

    Here's the basics:

    Ordinary mortals are the vast majority of characters. Heroic mortals are those mortals with a spark of greatness, able to go beyond the efforts of others. The Exalted are all chosen from among the ranks of Heroic mortals.
    The only resource that ordinary mortals have access to is Willpower and they usually don’t have much of that. Willpower goes from 1 to 5 dots and is used for extreme effort and for combatting social influence.

    Heroic mortals have access to three additional resources: Endurance, Focus, and Passion. A mortal’s Endurance pool equals the sum of her Physical Attributes, her Focus pool is equal to the sum of her Mental Attributes, and her Passion pool is equal to the sum of her Social Attributes. They can also learn Feats, which allow them to spend their resources to enhance their dice rolls and perform extraordinary actions. Terrestrial Circle Sorcery is a Feat, available to mortals, as are various forms of thaumaturgy.

    The Exalted have access to two additional resources: Essence and the Anima Banner. An Exalt’s Essence pool depends upon what type of Exalt she is; A Solar’s Essence pool is equal to her Essence score x10. Essence can be spent in place of Endurance, Focus, or Passion.

    An Exalt’s Anima Banner is both a visual display and a source of power. The Anima Banner has five levels of activity, beginning with simply displaying her Caste Mark and culminating in a beacon of light visible for miles and a display characteristic of her nature. Initially invisible, an Exalt can choose to flare her Anima Banner to the next level once per round. Each round of combat, an Exalt recovers a number of motes of Essence equal to the level of her Anima Banner.

    An Exalt can also learn Charms, which allow the Exalt to achieve supernatural levels of results with her actions. Most Charms cost some amount of Essence in order to activate. Charms can also cost levels from the Exalt’s Anima Banner, though she cannot spend levels of her Anima Banner during any round in which she flares her Anima Banner and vice versa. Some Charms don’t require that the Exalt expend levels of Anima Banner, but do require that the Exalt’s Anima Banner be at or above a particular level in order to function.

    In order to keep dice pools under control, all characters, mortal and Exalt, have a limit to the number of dice they can add to any given roll through Feats and Charms. This limit is called the Exertion Limit and is a ten dice. Additional successes added to a roll count as two dice. The only exception to this limit are dice or successes declared as Effortless.

    Character Creation uses exponential costs for buying Abilities, Attributes, and so on, making it cheaper to specialize only to a limited degree rather than start with 5s in anything you intend to invest heavily in.


    With all that in place, the primary advantage that young Exalts would have over mortals is endurance in a fight, not crushingly high numbers. That band of named and backstoried bounty hunters after the players can all have unique, mechanically-backed fighting styles while that group of soldiers over there can still be mechanically simple and easy to run as a battle group.

    Implementing this, of course, involves rewriting most of the Charms chapter and a good portion of the Traits chapter, which is a daunting prospect. I've done similar things before, but it takes a while. Is this idea something anyone would like to see? Any issues this would cause? Too much complexity in play for not enough gain? Anything I seem to be overlooking?



    Dead But Not Gone: Ghosts
    Ghosts: A Revision (2nd Edition)
    Masters of the Industrial Elements
    Upon the Rock of Tradition: The Memorial Exalted
    ​From The Crucible: Crafting As A Struggle

  • #2
    So you've taken the essence pool down to what a godblooded has in vanilla, but added three more pools to compensate. Might be a bit much to juggle.

    Maybe you could just slam the pools together for exalts? they do have charms to think about after all.

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    • #3
      It seems like it's going to be too mechanically complex for me to use.

      STing a game, I'm not going to be tracking three mote pools for my mortal NPCs plus Willpower.

      But it seems like an interesting hack for mortal PCs, there's a lot you can hang off that.

      ****

      I went the other way. Rolled Willpower and Essence together to make a single stat - Power. Gods, Exalted, Mortals, whatever, just has one Power Pool to spend from. The Exalted have a bigger pool, so their advantage is (like with your proposal) endurance.

      You lose a lot of granularity my way, but it's easier for new players to learn and less book-keeping for an ST to run. YMMV.


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

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      • #4
        So, roughly speaking, everyone gets essence pools, charms, and excellencies, but mortal pools are smaller and their charms weaker than Dragonblooded tier? And Anima becomes a deliberate power-up rather than a consequence of power use?

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        • #5
          It really feels like you're reinventing the wheel here. This seems like a lot of work that's retreading ground already covered, what's the benefit you see this bringing that giving certain mortals a small mote pool and some low-power charms / die-adders wouldn't provide?

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Grod_the_giant View Post
            So, roughly speaking, everyone gets essence pools, charms, and excellencies, but mortal pools are smaller and their charms weaker than Dragonblooded tier? And Anima becomes a deliberate power-up rather than a consequence of power use?
            That's a pretty good summary. I would characterize Feats as being the foundation of Charms for all Exalts, so everyone has the same baseline of competence in all areas and Charms can build off of them.

            Originally posted by Elfive View Post
            So you've taken the essence pool down to what a godblooded has in vanilla, but added three more pools to compensate. Might be a bit much to juggle.

            Maybe you could just slam the pools together for exalts? they do have charms to think about after all.
            I expect that in combat, you'll only really be tracking expenditures from one pool primarily. While some Feats might be spending Focus to negate some penalties for wind or spending Passion to rally troops, the majority of swinging swords better, dodging blows faster, and enduring blows would come from Endurance. If they are extremely focused on social or mental tasks, they might just be incapable of enhancing any of their combat rolls.

            Originally posted by vwllss trnt prncss View Post
            It really feels like you're reinventing the wheel here. This seems like a lot of work that's retreading ground already covered, what's the benefit you see this bringing that giving certain mortals a small mote pool and some low-power charms / die-adders wouldn't provide?
            Common competency across Exalt types, more support and more engaging play for mortal games, setting verisimilitude, a common resource for Storytellers to pull those "low-power Charms" from, and a place for "How is this magical?" effects to go.

            One of the idea fragments that went into this idea was that concept floated during Ex3's development that mortals practicing particular Martial Arts styles would have access to Merits that would allow them to fight differently than each other in mechanically supported ways. This was dropped because it just doesn't work well when the only resources that a mortal has to spend in a fight are Initiative and Willpower.



            Dead But Not Gone: Ghosts
            Ghosts: A Revision (2nd Edition)
            Masters of the Industrial Elements
            Upon the Rock of Tradition: The Memorial Exalted
            ​From The Crucible: Crafting As A Struggle

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            • #7
              It feels to me like your arguement is with the setting rather than the rules? You're proposing one where the Exalted start out parallel to, maybe slight better than, "interesting" mortals, and then grow from there. That's very much not how Creation is presented. At the moment of Exaltation, you instantly become head, shoulders, and half a torso above your mortal former peers.

              Which isn't to say it's a bad or uninteresting idea. But in that context, I feel like you could just build interesting mortals as Essence 1 Solars or Lunars, with more modest stats, no "signature" stuff (anima/shapechanging/etc), and reduced mote pools, and call it a day? The E1 range of Charms are generally supposed to be the "pulp" power level, though in 3e maybe you'd want to go through and explicitly tag Charms with "Mortal-OK" just to be sure.

              Not coincidentally this is kinda-sorta what 2e did with Half-Castes.

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              • #8
                Isn't the general consensus that what 2e did with half castes was a terrible idea though?

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Elfive View Post
                  Isn't the general consensus that what 2e did with half castes was a terrible idea though?
                  Not least of which was using a real world slur as a name.


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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Elfive View Post
                    Isn't the general consensus that what 2e did with half castes was a terrible idea though?
                    Lioness rightfully points out that the name itself is insensitive and problematic. It's something I myself tend to forget (the original slur isn't part of my dialect and Exalted was the first place I saw it), but given this reminder I'm going to endeavor to say "Celestial-blooded" instead.

                    As for the system/setting problems associated with the concept itself... yes, there was a lot to not like, but I wouldn't say all of that is relevant here.

                    On the fluff side, I'm not talking about literal Celestial-blooded, but rather about cribbing some low-level mechanics from the Exalted splats to represent a middle tier of "advanced mortals". Like the renowned mortal doctor whose mundane skill is mechanically Ailment-Rectifying Method, or the famous mortal sea-captain who "knows" Salty Dog Method. Not because they're Solars but because they're the archetypical experts the Solar's powers reference. Master Horseman's Tehchnique's starts with the line "The Exalt has the talent of a veteran equestrian"; the idea here is just to borrow the mechanics to represent an actual veteran equestrian.

                    On the mechanics side... yeah, there's work to applying this idea. I'd start with a blanket statement like "Essence 1 only, increase Ability mins by +2, no excellencies" and then see what problems remain. Like, even the lowest-level Solar Occult Charms are probably too supernatural for a mortal, for example. This type of blanket ruling is what made the Celestial-blooded so problematic, because the Celestial Charm sets weren't balanced with this kind of idea in mind back then either.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Blackwell View Post
                      On the fluff side, I'm not talking about literal Celestial-blooded, but rather about cribbing some low-level mechanics from the Exalted splats to represent a middle tier of "advanced mortals". Like the renowned mortal doctor whose mundane skill is mechanically Ailment-Rectifying Method, or the famous mortal sea-captain who "knows" Salty Dog Method. Not because they're Solars but because they're the archetypical experts the Solar's powers reference. Master Horseman's Tehchnique's starts with the line "The Exalt has the talent of a veteran equestrian"; the idea here is just to borrow the mechanics to represent an actual veteran equestrian.

                      On the mechanics side... yeah, there's work to applying this idea. I'd start with a blanket statement like "Essence 1 only, increase Ability mins by +2, no excellencies" and then see what problems remain. Like, even the lowest-level Solar Occult Charms are probably too supernatural for a mortal, for example. This type of blanket ruling is what made the Celestial-blooded so problematic, because the Celestial Charm sets weren't balanced with this kind of idea in mind back then either.
                      I think this is a good idea.

                      On Solar Occcut: letting a mortal exorcist see dematrialized spirts sounds okay. Spirit-Manifesting Word might even be okay.

                      I don't have a problem with mortals getting one "charm" (as something like a five dot merit, like Terrestrial Circle Sorcery), so long as Solars still get 15 Charms and Excellencies.

                      Yes, your mortal sea-captain knows Salty Dog Method. My Solar has Excellent Sail, knows Salty Dog Method and 14 other Charms.


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

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                      • #12
                        OK, so, I'm confused. This is supposed to be about improving mortal opposition/antagonists, aka NPCs, right?

                        Because these rules feel like they're meant for giving mortal PCs more widgets.

                        While we have zero guidance on taking the concept further, mortal NPCs can have Merits that grant them similar-to-but-worse effects as low level Charms. The Bride of Ahlat QC stats let them perform a pre-battle ritual, spend a WP, and get double 9s for three rolls or as a BG get Might 1 for the whole fight.

                        It doesn't feel like we need the interesting but intense system of the OP for NPCs (though that looks interesting for expanding heroic mortal play), but rather something more like Storypath's NPC building rules where there's a more standardized set of traits you can layer on top of the base QC stats to specialize them a bit from the core templates.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Blackwell View Post
                          It feels to me like your arguement is with the setting rather than the rules? You're proposing one where the Exalted start out parallel to, maybe slight better than, "interesting" mortals, and then grow from there. That's very much not how Creation is presented. At the moment of Exaltation, you instantly become head, shoulders, and half a torso above your mortal former peers.
                          I'm still proposing that the Exalted tower over mortals in terms of accomplishment. The path that young Exalts take to that accomplishment, however, requires them to overcome opposition from mortals, not just ignore mortals.

                          Originally posted by Blackwell View Post
                          On the mechanics side... yeah, there's work to applying this idea. I'd start with a blanket statement like "Essence 1 only, increase Ability mins by +2, no excellencies" and then see what problems remain. Like, even the lowest-level Solar Occult Charms are probably too supernatural for a mortal, for example. This type of blanket ruling is what made the Celestial-blooded so problematic, because the Celestial Charm sets weren't balanced with this kind of idea in mind back then either.
                          Originally posted by JohnDoe244 View Post
                          I don't have a problem with mortals getting one "charm" (as something like a five dot merit, like Terrestrial Circle Sorcery), so long as Solars still get 15 Charms and Excellencies.
                          ​I think you've both missed the point here. Have you read through a couple pages of "My Problem With Chargen"? It's quite the multi-faceted discussion, but one of the points is that 90% of printed antagonists are unable to challenge most characters, partially because it is so easy to obtain resting defense values beyond what most printed antagonists can muster, which is a problem partly due to how costs are structured at character creation and partly because antagonists can't boost their own numbers, and a second point is that non-Exalted humans are bland - no matter how interesting their backstories are, they all are similar bags of numbers with no tricks. I agree with those two points and so "no excellencies" and "only one Charm" both defeat my attempts to address those points.

                          In addition, you both acknowledge that "Essence 1 Charms" still aren't always something that should be within the grasp of mortals. You need to pick and choose, which means you essentially are creating a set of things that highly skilled mortals can accomplish versus a set of things that are outright magical. You are starting to walk the path that leads to something like my proposal, you just haven't taken all the steps yet.



                          Dead But Not Gone: Ghosts
                          Ghosts: A Revision (2nd Edition)
                          Masters of the Industrial Elements
                          Upon the Rock of Tradition: The Memorial Exalted
                          ​From The Crucible: Crafting As A Struggle

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Kyeudo View Post
                            I think you've both missed the point here. Have you read through a couple pages of "My Problem With Chargen"?
                            Uh... yes?

                            My suggestion was you fix the challenge issue by not letting PCs max out seven different abilities at character creation and instead take one, or at most two, stats at 5 that represent the thing central to the character's concept.

                            Then mortals could still challenge you by playing their strengths against your weaknesses.

                            A Dawn can still cut down an elite soldier, but they can't also out-seduce a champion manipulator, and outhink a great philosopher -- at least not without blowing a bunch of motes on using their super-powers.

                            A Twilight might reasonably struggle against an elite soldier.

                            An elite soldier shouldn't, really, really shouldn't, be able to challenge a Dawn in single combat. Exaltation, to me, is a qualitative thing. The Exalted are meant to be more powerful than mortals. That's the point of Exaltation. Starting Exalts should blow mortals away in their area of focus.

                            The Overseer can beat Mr. Glass to pulp. Mr. Glass doesn't need +10 dice in combat. Mr. Glass needs The Overseer to not be Intelligence 5 Wits 5 Integrity 5 in addition to being unbreakable with clairvoyance and super strength.

                            And giving an NPC a cool widget (like the Bride of Ahlat's double-9s or a single Solar Charm) plays into that. The general principle of Solar Charms representing excellence and outstanding mortals having a mechanical widget to represent that is appealling to me. (The general principle of tagging charms Mortal-OK probably needs a bit of work.)

                            As I said in my first reply, your system seems cool -- it looks like a great tool for Mortal PCs. But it's a lot of bookkeeping for NPCs: I'm not tracking Endurance, Focus, Passion, Willpower, Initiative, and Health levels for every NPC in a scene, with Anima and Essence on top for Exalts. I'd love to see it, it sounds like a cool system. But, like, I don't even track a Blood Ape's mote pool. I'm not going to track a Mercenary Leader's Endurance, Focus, and Passsion.

                            I like your idea of Feats -- that excites me, and I think Essence 1 Solar Charms could be a good base for that. I like the idea of anima as a generator. I like your exhertion cap.

                            I'm neutral on your idea of exponential costs as a fix to character creation -- I don't think it won't work, I just don't think it's neccessary and it seems overly punitive for folks who want to play a high-powered "And I'll Form the Head" style game. (Who, perhaps ironically, would be those with the most to gain from hyping up mortals with a psuedo-Excellency.)

                            I really don't think the solution to "the numbers are too big" is to say "well make the other numbers bigger". Your numbers provide a lot more granularity, but in play... how is it different from just adding a static +10 dice to mortal statlines? I'm not convinced that's a solution. But it is a really neat idea.
                            Last edited by JohnDoe244; 02-26-2021, 03:48 AM.


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

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                            • #15
                              The quick and dirty boost I'd consider for More Better Mortals is giving them 3 boosted rolls per scene, where the boost is (+Attribute) dice, in one set Attribute.

                              It's barely more paperwork than willpower, but will make them competitive with Exalts just long enough to not be completely worthless.
                              It wouldn't make them actually rival Exalts, but should at least give low-essence players a moment to go "Oh he's pretty good", which is all I'd want it for.

                              Occasionally I'd give 'em one charm to make things interesting or an artifact with 1-2 Evocations that can be used once.
                              If I want more than that, I'm not talking about a Mortal anymore. If I specifically want a Mortal that can rival Exalts, that is a plot all of its own.

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