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  • The Exalted Essence experience

    Since I did my first game yesterday, and that some people are probably gonna start their own game soon, I'm creating a new topic so that people can also share their feedback. The idea is to share your experiences from live tests of the game to give people some ideas about how the game is run, and to ourselves about how we run the game and what we could do differently.

    The basic premise in my game is my players are from a The 5 Pillars Clan in the 100 Kingdoms, some kind of Dojo/Culture that was crushed long ago in a revolution and since then lost their glory. Their leader is a Getimian that comes from a timeline where The 5 Pillars rule over the 100 Kingdoms and maintain peace, but this destiny apparently never happened. He's helped in his task to restore glory of the Dojo by an Alchemical that he found, and a Realm DB that fled familial conflicts to focus on his Martial Arts interests. I won't probably detail more the setting, but it's interesting to note already that the new Exalted types allow for new kinds of perspectives on classical tropes which are refreshing.

    I had some surprises regarding the actual system which is that the Difficulties are way harder than before. I'm prefacing this with 2 things : We don't use Stunt dices (because we always forgot about them in 3e) but in exchange I will be more relaxed regarding failure when the roll is missed by 1 success only (for example I would propose a Hard Bargain for the last success), and the other is that we don't master all the dice tricks of the system yet (Teamwork, circumstancial bonuses, etc ...), so there might be some small differences from other tables, but overall right now going over 5-6 successes way harder (or at least way less consistent), even with Excellencies. Teamwork roll will often give bonuses of only 2-3 dices because that's already a Difficulty 3 roll, if you're going to convince any NPC to do something he has a bit of a reason to not do his Resolve can quickly go up to 5-6, and if the person trying to convince him is not your "Persuasion" expert it's actually quite hard to do in a consistent way.

    Following this, I appreciated the Social system. The NPC's are quicker to do by just choosing 2 virtues and completing Intimacies along the way during play with logical story elements. There is always this particular thing where some rolls don't have consequences "naturally" on fail and so you have to improvise a bit to find some interesting answers when a player just outright fails a "read Intentions" roll. I think it would be great to have some guidelines on the flow of Social scenes, because failed rolls don't really forward the story at the moment if you go "by the book". The rest regarding intimacies and using them etc is the same as before, except for the fact that you don't need a specific intimacy to make someone do something, but if you don't the Difficulty can quickly go high and make it ireally hard to do anyway because the Difficulty becomes a bit high

    Regarding Combat, it's not easy to grasp it right away coming from 3e because while some things seems to have stayed the same, a lot of details have changed. I'm going to cover a simple idea that I like a lot : The Rush action (Movement + attack) makes for a much more mobile combat than in 3e, which is quite good, because players are incentivize to move when they do something. I don't think my fight yesterday was very representative because a First player rolled 13 successes on his first Build Power action with 13 dices, and distributed power to the 2 others. The second then rolled 17 successes on damage for 12 dices and destroyed the Battlegroup. The power seems to go up by increment of 3-5 when everything is going "okay" (balanced attacker and defender). I have the feeling it's way easier to hit that not, and Heavy weapons have something much more interesting that I didn't notice before : They apply damage to Health and not to more Power, so if you hit a Decisive with a Heavy Weapon it can quickly be much more violent, considering starting characters have 6-8 health.

    I'll complete some thoughts tonight probably, but that's overall my thoughts for the day. Ventures are nice, but actually finding a Dramatic Scene that is a middle ground that suits the players for their ventures and the way they envision it and the ST for what he has prepared is harder than I expected
    Last edited by Chausse; 07-02-2021, 03:57 AM.


    My homebrew (Leave comments if you want to help improve) : A quick recap of all the pools and stats for Quick Exalted 3E characters

  • #2
    Thanks for this. We've done chargen so far, but that's it. I'm keen to hear how others are finding the system.

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    • #3
      After some days to think about it I'll add some few more notes :

      Ventures are nice, but they are actually quite long to manage under some circumstances, and so it's useful to do them "during the week between sessions on a chat". The base example is a player wanting to use Deft's Official Way, a simple Embassy Charm to do a second roll Venture. In order to manage this, you need to :

      1) Have setup an Obstacle for the current roll, with possible modifiers (usually no problem since it was discussed when the player succeeded on the last Obstacle)
      2) Have the player roll against the current Obstacle, accounting for his merits and Charms and stuff (no problem either because the player usually had some time to think about since you announced the Obstacle at the last Obstacle)
      3) Manage possible consequences of the current Obstacle if your player failed his roll (starting to be a bit long, but in a normal scenario this closes the Venture moment)
      4) Setup immediately a second Obstacle, and if it's an opposed character for Obstacle prepare his relevant Merits, possible Charms and powers to help him, etc ... (not hard in itself, but not "quick" to do during a real-time game, while other players are waiting for something)
      5) Having the player determine his pool and merits to handle the Obstacle, also taking some time to understand mutually what the Obstacle means and what's happening (it's harder because this time the player didn't have time in advance to think about the Obstacle)
      6) Manage possible consequences of the new Obstacle if the player failed his roll
      7) Possibly also conclude the Venture, with its leftover unintended consequences, etc ...

      As you can see, in normal play without Charm or stuff, there are only steps 1), 2), 3) and 7), and for almost all of them the player and ST had time in advance to think about them. With a Charm like Deft's Official Way, it's possible that in the same scene you have to improvise steps 4), 5) and 6) without any preparation. It's obviously not impossible, but it can take quite a long time to do it organically. We did it through Discord chat with the concerned player the day after the game, so it was okay, but I can easily see how it would have eaten up 20 mns of the session only to manage something oriented towards 1 player on a very mechanical game mode (but with huge narrative consequences, which is a very good thing about this system) which would have not been very fun towards other player I think. Consider this particularly in the case where at least 2-3 of your players can have Ventures going on at the same time

      My other point is more about the general organization of the preview : Having to back and forth constantly between the NPC's stats blocks, the Quality chapter, the Battle group Chapter, and the Quality Chapter again because in the Battlegroup Chapter they reference the Qualities without reminding them, can have some hardships as a ST. It's the kind of quality of life things where you would like all the "Battlegroup" stuff to be put in the same section, instead of having the stat blocks for the Battlegroup, the inherent bonus of the Battlegroups, and the Purchasable bonuses of the Battlegroups (but that are totally core to the functioning of Battlegroups, like the simple action to command them to strike) be at 3 different places
      Last edited by Chausse; 07-02-2021, 09:21 AM.


      My homebrew (Leave comments if you want to help improve) : A quick recap of all the pools and stats for Quick Exalted 3E characters

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      • #4
        I wanted to ask you about Withering attacks, because it seems like a slightly odd situation where you "attack" an enemy and buff yourself without really doing anything to them... But it sounds like that didn't come up.

        I admit I didn't read the venture system in detail because it was surprisingly complex (though obviously simpler than 4 different systems). How complex did you find it? It sounds like your main issue was coming up with challenges on the fly.


        STing Bronze Age Exalted

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        • #5
          I don't really understand what you are saying about failed social rolls?


          STing Bronze Age Exalted

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          • #6
            Originally posted by The Wizard of Oz View Post
            I wanted to ask you about Withering attacks, because it seems like a slightly odd situation where you "attack" an enemy and buff yourself without really doing anything to them... But it sounds like that didn't come up..
            Well, we didn't really question it. It was more descriptions of "People gaining the advantage over the other" on successive withering rolls, culminating on vicious devastating attacks for Decisive rolls, so we didn't find anything weird.

            I admit I didn't read the venture system in detail because it was surprisingly complex (though obviously simpler than 4 different systems). How complex did you find it? It sounds like your main issue was coming up with challenges on the fly
            I'd say the base complexity is not high, and the Advantage/Consequences gives it a nice touch. I think the "hard to master" aspects of it are :

            1) On some cases you need to chain multiple ventures and it can take some time and energy, because each time you need to define the Obstacles, circumstances and consequences. For one Venture roll it's not a problem, but if for some reason you need to do it for 2-3 consecutive Venture rolls it can make the pacing of the game kinda awkward I think.

            2) The idea of Dramatic Scenes is nice because players are not rolling "between scenes", with no context or difficulty (as in 3e, for example). But these Dramatic Scenes are not always so easy to come up with because they must be interesting for everyone, forward the story, and forward the specific Venture the player is trying to advance. It's not hard, but I think it necessitate a bit of work to master it.

            I don't really understand what you are saying about failed social rolls?
            My point is that in general failed social rolls don't forward the story, and the game doesn't give you guidelines to address this (same thing as in 3e honestly). Suppose you try and read the intentions of the Prince you just met because you want to know what he likes in life, and you failed. Then there is no consequences, you just don't learn anything and it's just as your reading intention never happened. Of course with some experience a ST will come up with clever and responsive solutions "the Prince notice the attention you give him and tries to seduce you ..." but it's really up only to ST experience.

            If I may use a technical term used in some other games, the social system is not really fail-forward (it can be, but you don't have guidelines to do it). So ST and players have to find "the flow of social combat" by themselves, when they can influence someone, when they can read someone, let everyone the time to make their social actions, etc ...
            Last edited by Chausse; 07-02-2021, 12:20 PM.


            My homebrew (Leave comments if you want to help improve) : A quick recap of all the pools and stats for Quick Exalted 3E characters

            Comment


            • #7
              As an additional remark, after one session of testing, I'm very unconvinced by Force/Finesse/Fotritude stats. I find them very blend and I'd rather have "all rolls are 4+Abilities" altogether rather than their actual form. My preferred option would be something along the lines of Force => Flashy/Forceful, Finesse => Cautious/Clever, and Fortitude = Enduring from the FATE Accelerated approaches. This way character descriptions would have more personality in regards to the attribute system I think.

              One of my players was like : "Ok I'm investigating the village to find clues for why people have disappeared !"
              "Sure how do you do that ? "
              "Well I spend time looking for clues around the village, trying to find if maybe there are places where people have fought, I don't rush it and try to be exhaustive" (Very valid description to me)
              "Ok sure what's the Attribute ? Force ?"
              "I'd rather say Finesse because I try to connect the different clues I found together"
              "Ok sure"

              I mean, honestly it might a bit more One Attribute than the other, but I truly believe any ST with good faith would let someone roll on any Attribute in this case (or at least 2 of them), while with Fate Accelerated Approaches it would have much more distinction between different approaches (or any other system, I'm not advocating FA to be the only solution here)


              My homebrew (Leave comments if you want to help improve) : A quick recap of all the pools and stats for Quick Exalted 3E characters

              Comment


              • #8
                That sounds like a Fortitude approach to me. But then, I guess that's part of the issue, it's a bit trickier to adjudicate. I think they are cool ideas for stats (honestly why do you need Stamina as well as Resistance, Perception as well as Awareness, etc), but I don't know how they work in practice.

                It sounds like some of these issues sound like they would be okay with a lot of practice but are awkward at first? I guess you don't know until you run it a lot.


                STing Bronze Age Exalted

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by The Wizard of Oz View Post
                  I wanted to ask you about Withering attacks, because it seems like a slightly odd situation where you "attack" an enemy and buff yourself without really doing anything to them... But it sounds like that didn't come up.
                  I tried out the combat system in a oneshot last night, and honestly? That exact property made withering attacks feel... hollow. Weightless.

                  There's no back and forth, no dramatic shifts of fortune that can turn an entire battle. They're not scary on their own, because they don't really connect with your character, only using you as a source of numbers. All the danger is in the decisive followup.

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                  • #10
                    In some ways I guess it doesn't really matter: it's still essentially just a step they must do before their decisive, as with Ex3. But I can see how they will feel like that.
                    I know the writers aimed to simplify things, but I think the removal of Ex3's dynamism re: withering is a pity. (And there's plenty of other things that didn't get simplified but frankly could have. Or even that were made more complex.)


                    STing Bronze Age Exalted

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                    • #11
                      From that brief fight, I feel that popcorn initiative partially makes up for the fluidity of 3e Initiative (though I'll have to play more to really feel it out). What's really missing from the withering attacks is that they don't do anything to your opponent. They have a bunch of extra bells and whistles, be with weapon tags and Charms and whatnot, but they're essentially the same as Build Power actions.

                      Your deadly flurry of blows that drives the opponent back, step by step, doesn't actually do anything different from the Chosen of Battles calmly studying him from the sidelines, or the Fire Aspect shouting words of encouragement at you, or even the Liminal patching herself up. It just feels wrong to me.

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                      • #12
                        There was a lot of speculation that against powerful enemies people would always Build Power, rather than doing Withering. I am interested in how you guys find that, but it probably needs more combats.


                        STing Bronze Age Exalted

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Chausse View Post
                          As an additional remark, after one session of testing, I'm very unconvinced by Force/Finesse/Fotritude stats. I find them very blend and I'd rather have "all rolls are 4+Abilities" altogether rather than their actual form. My preferred option would be something along the lines of Force => Flashy/Forceful, Finesse => Cautious/Clever, and Fortitude = Enduring from the FATE Accelerated approaches. This way character descriptions would have more personality in regards to the attribute system I think.

                          One of my players was like : "Ok I'm investigating the village to find clues for why people have disappeared !"
                          "Sure how do you do that ? "
                          "Well I spend time looking for clues around the village, trying to find if maybe there are places where people have fought, I don't rush it and try to be exhaustive" (Very valid description to me)
                          "Ok sure what's the Attribute ? Force ?"
                          "I'd rather say Finesse because I try to connect the different clues I found together"
                          "Ok sure"

                          I mean, honestly it might a bit more One Attribute than the other, but I truly believe any ST with good faith would let someone roll on any Attribute in this case (or at least 2 of them), while with Fate Accelerated Approaches it would have much more distinction between different approaches (or any other system, I'm not advocating FA to be the only solution here)

                          I'm going to second the statement that that example is more of a Fortitude approach than Finesse (honestly, Cautious/Enduring is a good pair of Fort keywords). One approach that I have seen that might help is that Attributes don't just inform how that task is attempted; they inform what happens if they fail. An example:
                          The Circle is asking around a village, seeking information on a McGuffin, with the goal of reaching it before the enemy. A Force approach uses the sheer weight of the Exalt's charisma to make people like them and want to help. They fail because the villagers take offense to this stranger acting like he's already their very best friend, and he doesn't get much more information. A Fortitude approach would be the aforementioned take your time all everyone method, and failure might result in the enemy getting a head start.
                          Also, to compensate for not using stunts, have you considered just giving every roll the stunt bonus? Essence seems to have taken that into account for it's math.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by The Wizard of Oz View Post
                            There was a lot of speculation that against powerful enemies people would always Build Power, rather than doing Withering. I am interested in how you guys find that, but it probably needs more combats.
                            From what I can tell, the overwhelming property is meant to be the answer to that. Getting up to 4 guaranteed power back on your attack roll regardless of success seems compelling for power generation. I'm not sure that the math really checks out there, though.

                            1) Overwhelming 4 is the absolute limit (hard-capped by the system), and requires an artifact, balanced weapon to achieve. Not difficult, but you have to specifically invest in it.

                            2) Since overwhelming 4 guarantees four power, that means that it's equivalent to scoring 7 successes on a build power roll. That's a pretty average roll for a focused ability + excellency, which for (non solar) exalted requires a point of essence. There are plenty of ways to juice that up, but they aren't free.

                            It's not *difficult* to achieve that level of success from a build power action, but it requires being focused and spending essence. Conversely, Overwhelming 4 requires up front investment, but is generally free after and has 0 risk.

                            More than any of that, though, I think there are some other points that make withering attacks valuable that are more easily missed.

                            3) Withering attacks won't require any investment in another ability score. Someone who plans to use build power actions as their primary means of participating in a fight needs to also invest in a combat ability to be able to deliver decisive attacks or generally resign themselves to only accruing power for other people. Both are fine, and this isn't a massive hurdle (most exalted have several high abilities), but it's worth keeping in mind.

                            4) Only withering attacks will contribute to reducing a powerful enemy's hardness through concentrated attacks. This means that, for the strongest enemies with hardness over 10 (several of the high-tier NPCs have this), you need to launch withering attacks in succession to be able to make a decisive attack at all.

                            All in all, I think this is a good balance. Building power through other skills seems like it'll be viable and very useful, which is an excellent way to make sure that everyone feels engaged during inevitable epic combats, but it can't replace the several uses that combat abilities cover exclusively, whether that's guaranteed power return or the ability to chip away at an enemies hardness, to say nothing of just making the follow-up decisive attacks themselves.
                            Last edited by Whiskey Jack; 07-03-2021, 04:31 PM.

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                            • #15
                              Good point about Hardness.


                              STing Bronze Age Exalted

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