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[Ex3] Is 'Heroic Mortal' a taboo phrase now?

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  • Kyman201
    started a topic [Ex3] Is 'Heroic Mortal' a taboo phrase now?

    [Ex3] Is 'Heroic Mortal' a taboo phrase now?

    I was just musing how on a couple of occasions, I saw someone on the forum use the phrase 'Heroic Mortal' to refer to a Mortal PC, and for someone to point out that the core doesn't use the word Heroic Mortal once. As if this somehow means something.

    I mean, for comparison, off the top of my head, the following places aren't mentioned at all in the Ex3 core, to the best of my knowledge:
    • Yozi/Primordials (instead awkwardly replaced every time with 'Enemies of the Gods')
    • Infernals
    • Alchemicals
    • Autochthonia
    • God Bloods
    • A writeup for Paragon (though it IS shown on a section of the map)
    Is the takeaway that those things no longer exist in Ex3? I mean, they weren't mentioned by name once in the core either.

    In addition... So what? Does noting that the core doesn't use "Heroic Mortal" actually mean anything? I don't know about everyone else, but I use 'Heroic Mortal' and 'Mortal PC' interchangeably. Because let's be honest: A mortal PC is not going to be a typical mortal. They're going to be EXCEPTIONAL ones. "Peasant #2 Drinking Away His Awareness Of His Shitty Lot In Life" isn't a mortal PC, neither is "Bystander #7 at the market". It's like saying in D&D that your Adventurer is an exceptional individual compared to their dirt-farming cousin. It's just kind of true.

    Now, Lin Wu the Peasant drinking at the tavern when he decides to get up and DO SOMETHING is an entirely valid PC concept, but at that point he's no longer Some Guy (not to be confused with Martial Arts prodigy Sum Gai, scourge of the Eastern martial arts tournaments).

    If there was a memo about the devs not liking the term 'Heroic Mortal' because I Don't Know Why, I missed it. Is Heroic Mortal as a phrase going the way of the term Magitech?

  • Totentanz
    replied
    Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post

    ​So were character creation mechanics that gave you the option of playing a mortal, or a heroic mortal, in which the former wasn't you playing an Extra.

    For that matter, the Antagonists chapter for the book included numerous templates for mortal character that consisted of comprehensive stats with an additional note at the end saying "are generally extras".

    I agree partially, but I think it would go in the direction of "most people won't approach the game from a perspective that implicitly or explicitly thinks that normal humans are significantly different to actual humans", and they almost definitely won't misread things like the Quick Character rules as being something for living scenery characters.

    Although I'll note, I think not all of us are applying the terminology in exactly the same way here, which... jeez I'm starting to feel like an arse with insistences of minute terminology...

    My point is that the sidebar that elucidates on these terms describes the "living scenery" as non-combatants, and the significance of Trivial Opponents is that they're characters who are worth individual attention, but the expected gulf between them and other characters in a fight is so great that you use the same rules as non-combatants for them.

    So on that note, I think that anybody who is not already biased by familiarity with prior rulesets would read the new core and come away with a functional understanding of what the difference between a non-combatant/extra/living scenery/RWBY shadow people and a Trivial Opponent is as well.
    You can approach it from a design philosophy angle. I'm approaching it from a practical "how to human being think, act, and feel when they sit down and roleplay," angle.

    I'm not sure people who aren't already involved in Exalted will make all those distinctions by themselves, but suitably invested players will make their way just fine. The rules on this point aren't confusing.

    My experience with my noob RP'ers over the last (nearly a year) is they don't perceive problems when they play. It's only after several sessions of doing something that they come back with "Hey, was that thing with the zombies and the monk supposed to happen?"

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  • Isator Levi
    replied
    Originally posted by Totentanz View Post
    Eh, Extra was hard-coded in the rules of the core.
    ​So were character creation mechanics that gave you the option of playing a mortal, or a heroic mortal, in which the former wasn't you playing an Extra.

    For that matter, the Antagonists chapter for the book included numerous templates for mortal character that consisted of comprehensive stats with an additional note at the end saying "are generally extras".

    Charms written by Nephilpal may not have been the only thing that ever acted as though being an Extra was the kind of thing that required the blessings of a demigod rather than a bit of narrative significance to get out of, but I'd say it was among the more influential, and I take issue with it as an aspect of design philosophy.

    Originally posted by Totentanz
    can't copy-paste, stuff about how most players will approach
    I agree partially, but I think it would go in the direction of "most people won't approach the game from a perspective that implicitly or explicitly thinks that normal humans are significantly different to actual humans", and they almost definitely won't misread things like the Quick Character rules as being something for living scenery characters.

    Although I'll note, I think not all of us are applying the terminology in exactly the same way here, which... jeez I'm starting to feel like an arse with insistences of minute terminology...

    My point is that the sidebar that elucidates on these terms describes the "living scenery" as non-combatants, and the significance of Trivial Opponents is that they're characters who are worth individual attention, but the expected gulf between them and other characters in a fight is so great that you use the same rules as non-combatants for them.

    So on that note, I think that anybody who is not already biased by familiarity with prior rulesets would read the new core and come away with a functional understanding of what the difference between a non-combatant/extra/living scenery/RWBY shadow people and a Trivial Opponent is as well.

    Last edited by Isator Levi; 06-16-2016, 01:48 PM.

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  • Lundgren
    replied
    Originally posted by TheCountAlucard View Post
    Characters like Conan* and John McClane in the Die Hard sequels would be Exalts. John McClane in Die Hard would indeed be heroic in 2e.
    From my (2ed) point of view, Conan is a heroic mortal, or possibly a godblood. I might actually pin John McClane as a kick-ass non-heroic mortal in Die Hard I-III and a Heroic in IV and V.

    In my opinion, an Exalted has the potential to be much more than Howard's version of Conan ever became.

    Also, think of all of the impressive people that have walked our real world (not counting any eventual individuals from any religious beliefs). All of those should in my opinion be able to be modeled with just "normal mortal" rules. Regardless of if we are talking about Archimedes, Boudicca , Alexander the Great, Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, or anyone else.

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  • Totentanz
    replied
    Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post

    ​Only in Charms written by Nephilpal.

    <snip>

    The point I'm getting at is to break myself on an attitude that otherwise regards it as a binary, and forgets the capacity of mundane people to become heroes when the moment calls for it.
    Eh, Extra was hard-coded in the rules of the core. And the concept of "normal" mortals becoming heroic at a moment's notice was a keystone of Neph's design philosophy. There are people who let life happen to them, and then there are people who happen to life. That's something about humans I've known for a while, and I see it more and more the older I get. I liked that Exalted in its way made that observation. (Queue the incredulity and outrage over liking 2E.)

    I think for your average gamer, who doesn't frequent forums like these and get bogged down in philosophical/existential naval-gazing, the difference between trivial opponent and Extra is going to be, well...trivial. It's a system widget designed to facilitate play. Extra is more crunchy, trivial less so. I don't think most people will read between the lines and find some deeper truth in it. They just wanna play.

    ====Heroic Mortal====

    If we unpack Heroic Mortal, the utility of the term is pretty clear. We assume heroism in Exalts, and we have had many long threads about what heroism means. We often refer to "Greek-style heroism" when explaining the game to new players, right? In that regard, Heroic Mortal just means a Mortal who is also a hero, and that carries weight in Exalted. Which is useful, because if we examine the way people actually run and play games, most mortals aren't heroic in any fashion.

    When the full Circle travels down the road to Nexus, the farmers they pass aren't heroes. They don't have names ( if they do the ST pulled them out of the internet or her bum), and frankly the players (the people involved in the narrative) think of them as scenery, if they even hear their descriptions as they toil over their character sheets. The bandits that fight the Circle and lose on that same road are a punctuation mark on the book of the Circle's collective legend.

    When they reach Nexus, though, and the Zenith dedicates himself to cleaning up Nighthammer, only to find the local criminal element organized and canny, things change. He can capture and interrogate criminals for months (who don't even get a footnote), trying to find the head of the snake. Eventually, he discovers the old lady running the noodle shop was in charge all along. She's a Heroic Mortal. Whether she dies, converts to serving the Zenith, or escapes, her name will be remembered. The players might refer to that plot arc by her name, since she defined it (even though she was on screen for less than an hour). Maybe it's the Terror of the Noodle House Tong

    Heroic Mortal is still a useful term, because it represents those mortals who impact the narrative with their mechanical aptitude and will. Most of the time those people are created by the ST. Other times, well...

    ====Players Make Heroic Mortals====
    My college RP once decided to go old school and play 2nd Edition DnD. I made Kirkuk, Wizard of the Red Robes.

    In the 3rd combat of that game, we captured a Kobold. I decided to train said Kobold as my "familiar," and the DM was on board. I named him Rat, because Kobolds looked like rodents in 2E DnD. I did a lot of RP "training" Rat, more like I was educating him, really. He rapidly stopped being a familiar and became a character. We used a supplement to give him stats, he got class levels, and I ran him in combat. He fought with twin magical short swords. He had complex feelings of both pity and condescension towards his own kind. Rat was the most memorable part of that entire game, and his name came to mean "NPC we recruit and train to be one of us" in our group.

    Similarly, when I GM a game, it happens frequently that players attach to certain NPCs. Sometimes this is planned on my part, but often the character was a one-off, and then players took a liking to them. They go back to that NPC over and over again to exchange favors and just shoot the shit. They exhort the NPC to join them in their quest/agenda/whatever. I'm a bit of an old hand at this, so when my players grab onto something, I play it to the hilt. You don't have to read many GM war-story threads on rpg.net to find similar stories. It's also easy to find similar subplots in most media, but Dresden Files comes to mind immediately.

    When Kirkuk took Rat under his wing, there was transfer of the PC's narrative impact, in a sense his heroism, to Rat. A "normal" part of the game world, the scenery, became a fully realized character. That happens around game tables pretty often. So, "normal" mortals in Exalted can become Heroic Mortals by player intervention, by a PC reaching out and saying "You are part of my story." Once on the playbill, so to speak, that character interacts with all the other characters, producing plots and interactions nobody planned. To assert the metaphorically faceless farmers on the road (or the literally faceless bandits smashed to pulp) are somehow equivalent to the Heroic Mortal in this case is just absurd. Nobody at the table acts that way, and none of them really feel that way. However, one of those farmers could become a Heroic Mortal with the catalyst of player interest, just as Neph said.

    Incidentally, I've always viewed charms like You Can be More through this lenses. The charm and others like it acknowledge that sometimes characters gain a form of life from the alchemy of the players' collective imagination. The NPC gains their own narrative as a spark from the PCs, like fire spreading across dry grass. Consider the plot growth of Game of Thrones, and how new focus characters come to be. Usually, one of the existing focus characters interacts with them and catalyzes a sub-plot.

    I'm not saying people should or should not like those particular 2E charms. I'm just pointing out those charms are tapping into both the heart of storytelling itself, AND the collective storytelling we call tabletop RPGs. And Heroic Mortal is a useful term for any person who in the eyes of the ST or the PCs who has that narrative weight.

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  • Isator Levi
    replied
    Originally posted by Lundgren View Post
    To my understand of 2ed, the main difference between a "normal mortal" and a "heroic mortal" was that the normal mortal didn't get any stunt bonus at all, while the heroic mortal got a stunt bonus, but it was one tier lower than a stunt from an exalted (so a two dice stunt only gave a one-dice-stunt-bonus).
    ​The lower rating of stunts for mortals is one thing, but I feel as though the question of whether or not a character can engage in stunts is a fairly soft mechanical distinction, considering that it's something that could be conveyed by the simplicity of never actually describing a stunt for a character who is deemed to not really be up for them.

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  • TheCountAlucard
    replied
    Characters like Conan* and John McClane in the Die Hard sequels would be Exalts. John McClane in Die Hard would indeed be heroic in 2e.


    __________
    *Whose accomplishments include (but by no means are limited to!) out-strangling a professional strangler while being strangled by him, surviving a thousand injuries that'd cripple a lesser adventurer for life, routinely delivering sword-swings that split a man's skull to the teeth, braining no less than three men with a beef-bone, surviving a crucifixion (and indeed, immediately making a trek on horseback through a desert afterward), ignoring more filthy lucre than you'll spend in a lifetime, killing countless monsters and giants and sorcerers, navigating a horse through a treacherous mountain pass at breakneck speed in the dead of night, wrestling apes and snakes, sneaking unheard through heavy forest while wearing armor, traveling most of the world, becoming king of Aquilonia, and taking more lovers than an entire posse of thunderbirds!
    Last edited by TheCountAlucard; 06-16-2016, 11:58 AM.

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  • Lundgren
    replied
    To my understand of 2ed, the main difference between a "normal mortal" and a "heroic mortal" was that the normal mortal didn't get any stunt bonus at all, while the heroic mortal got a stunt bonus, but it was one tier lower than a stunt from an exalted (so a two dice stunt only gave a one-dice-stunt-bonus).

    So my interpretation of that was that a peak performance normal human was the peak performance in the the real world, while fictional characters like Conan, Lara Croft, or John McClane would be modeled by the heroic rules. One could say that fate smiles a little bit more at heroics.

    So, from that point of view I would not make the distinction of mortals and heroic mortals in Ex3.

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  • Isator Levi
    replied
    I think the main thing that makes Trivial Opponent quite different from Extra was that Extra was a term for a character who is insignificant to the story, and Trivial Opponent is a term for a character who is insignificant in a fight.

    ​Your Guild hierarch archrival who you've been spending four stories matching wits against from afar while you destroy his empire and work your way towards finally cornering and killing him would be a Trivial Opponent in any final encounter more elaborate than him being entirely alone in a room, because you're one of the Solar Exalted in your prime with an Excellency and a couple of Charms in Brawl, and he's a seventy-year old man with gout.

    He might be mechanically very similar to how one applied the concept of Extras, but it's still really weird to call the antagonist of several stories an Extra just because the Storyteller opted to make that antagonist into somebody who couldn't be expected to fight, well, anybody.

    All of this should also acknowledge that there is nothing actually different in how you build a character who is a Trivial Opponent, nor how they interact with the general system resolution; they just don't give or get Initiative in fights, and don't need decisive attacks to damage their health pools. Hence why you could have a character who is still quite formidable socially or intellectually, but where the system doesn't break immersion by making it take a few rounds to Incapacitate them if it comes to violence.

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  • Erinys
    replied
    It's worth noting that in Ex1 and I think Ex2, ordinary mortals are playable as PCs, without being Heroic. The idea is that they're normal humans, while heroic mortals are the people who have reached the epitome of realistic (or real-world) human achievement, skill, and talent. Character creation rules were different: they had lower Attributes and Abilities. But they were still fully-statted PCs, not Extras, and except for character creation I think the rules for playing all mortals were the same. Presumably, with sufficient XP a normal person could become the same as a mortal PC who started "heroic."

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  • Robert Vance
    replied
    Originally posted by AnubisXy View Post
    Wasn't that functionally how Extras operated from an out of character perspective in 2nd edition? If an NPC wasn't meant to be dangerous you would give them the "Extra Template" which would represent them being a weak and unimportant opponent. But someone who was an Extra in one battle could be a non-Extra in a different battle depending on the difference in strength between him and his opponent. In the same way, in 3rd edition, if an NPC isn't intended to be a difficult fight for someone, you could give them the, "Trivial Opponent" Template. But against a different opponent, they might not warrant that.

    While the mechanics are different, it seems like they fulfill basically the exact same function...
    While the presentation of extras in the Second Edition corebook was largely similar to that of trivial opponents (i.e. a convenient time-saver for the Storyteller), later books in the line eventually drifted more towards treating it as an actual Thing that a character was.

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  • AnubisXy
    replied
    Originally posted by Eric Minton View Post
    Trivial opponents are situational. The Storyteller may rule that a lone soldier is a trivial opponent when pitted against the Circle's enraged Dawn, but not a trivial opponent when that same lone soldier confronts the Circle's bookish Twilight. This does not change the nature of the soldier.
    Wasn't that functionally how Extras operated from an out of character perspective in 2nd edition? If an NPC wasn't meant to be dangerous you would give them the "Extra Template" which would represent them being a weak and unimportant opponent. But someone who was an Extra in one battle could be a non-Extra in a different battle depending on the difference in strength between him and his opponent. In the same way, in 3rd edition, if an NPC isn't intended to be a difficult fight for someone, you could give them the, "Trivial Opponent" Template. But against a different opponent, they might not warrant that.

    While the mechanics are different, it seems like they fulfill basically the exact same function...

    In general, powerful supernatural beings, demons, Exalts, etc, weren't intended to be treated like Extras, and I imagine the same is true in 3rd edition, though I admit, I'm not sure. Assuming your character is strong enough, is it acceptable to treat powerful supernatural beings or Exalted as Trivial Opponents? That would certainly be a big difference between 2nd Edition's Extras and 3rd Edition's Trivial Opponents.

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  • Eric Minton
    replied
    Trivial opponents are situational. The Storyteller may rule that a lone soldier is a trivial opponent when pitted against the Circle's enraged Dawn, but not a trivial opponent when that same lone soldier confronts the Circle's bookish Twilight. This does not change the nature of the soldier.

    Similarly, the distinction between a Quick Character and a fully statted-out character has only a limited relationship with narrative weight. The Storyteller may fully stat out Dynast X to fill a specific role in the story, but when writing up the equally narratively important Dynast Y, she may use QC stats because she's been busy that week and simply doesn't have time to write up a full sheet. And the next week she may fully stat out Dynast Y. And the week after that, she loses Dynast Y's fully statted-out character sheet, and runs her as a QC again. None of this impacts Dynast Y's narrative weight, and she is still the same character no matter which set of stats the Storyteller is using at any given moment.

    Similarly, Raksi may be the central antagonist to a story, but if she does most of her scheming offstage and hardly ever shows up personally, the Storyteller may stick to a QC write-up. Meanwhile, the Eclipse's bodyguard may not be a particularly important part of the story—he's just there—but because he's always around doing a variety of stuff that requires dice rolls, the Storyteller may fully stat him out despite the fact that he's far less important to the story than Raksi.

    And, of course, some Storytellers will never fully stat out any NPC, relying solely on QC stat blocks. That's fine, and says nothing metaphysically about the characters or the setting.

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  • AnubisXy
    replied
    Originally posted by Limited Reagent View Post
    Fully statted vs QC isn't about narrative weight or importance, though, it's about how much work the ST wants to put into making NPCs and how much detail those NPCs have. Sometimes a very narratively important NPC

    True enough. I would tend to guess that the NPCs an ST puts the most time into designing and are probably more important to his campaign than NPC's he only spends a couple of minutes on, but it is definitely something that varies by table. Heck, I knew one ST who would spend hours writing out stats for random monster and spend no time at all writing out stats for important NPCs who were literally called on by the PCs to make different kinds of rolls every session.

    I do think there is a sense among a fair number of people that a "Heroic Mortal" is a mortal with a fair amount of narrative weight in a given story behind him, unlike Trivial mooks whose existence isn't terribly important to an ongoing chronicle. Certainly I'm not the first person to use that term in that way, and I imagine you'll be seeing that sort of usage crop up again.

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  • Limited Reagent
    replied
    I'll grant you that trivial opponents vs everything else is a mechanical representation of narrative weight. Fully-statted vs QC, however, isn't about narrative weight or importance, though. It's just about level of detail and the amount of effort the ST wants to put into making their NPCs.

    I could have a very narratively important NPC that only comes up for one scene of rping and needs very few stats. I'm going to make them a QC. I might also have a less important plot B character who none the less has come up quite a bit in a variety of circumstances, and I might fully stat them up so I can cover those circumstances more easily. With that in mind, "heroic mortal" doesn't really map to anything on the mechanical side with respect to fully-statted vs QC.

    (Honestly, I have yet to ever fully stat up an NPC. Everyone, no matter their narrative importance, has been a QC. Because I'm a lazy ST.)

    (EDIT: I don't even know how part of my text got posted before I was finished typing it.)
    Last edited by Limited Reagent; 06-15-2016, 10:38 PM.

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