Plot Hooks

I had a conversation with my fiance last night; we were talking about a game of Exalted she had been running for a few friends and I, since a month or so before Christmas.  She’s never been confident in running games, so I tend to push her into trying to GM, as I think she can do it (and quite selfishly, it lets me play in more games…), and we’re now at the conclusion of her Exalted storyline.

I think this is probably the first time she’s had an opportunity to actually finish a game properly.  That isn’t to say we haven’t played entire story arcs in her games before, but this is the first time I think she’s hit that GM-wall of uninspiration (is that a word… spellcheck says no, but I like it) at just the right time to be able to end a game at a satisfying point.  In other games she’s run, we’ve finished a story arc, and they’ve always been fun, but we’ve always tended to lurch straight into another story, and it’s at that point she loses momentum, which is something I think anyone who has GMed a game can understand.  There can be any number of reasons for this situation, but that’s really the subject of another post, but suffice to say it looks like we might get to the end of our Exalted storyline and be able to leave the game there, which is, I feel, always more satisfying as a conclusion than leaving your characters in weird limbo, never knowing what the end of the story was to be.

And, to be honest, I’m quite proud of her for it.  I tend towards the latter fate, with most of my campaigns unceremoniously ending when I run out of ideas, get bored with the setting, or more likely get excited about something new.  So it seems that, with the main plot of her story as she set it out, she has about 1 session or less of material to go through before the story really comes to a close.  We save a town, stole some cool stuff right from under a scary badguy’s nose and killed their chief lieutenant; pretty fun stuff.  The issue that faces her now is that there are a couple of other plot hooks brought up in the campaign, and she’s um’ing and ah’ing about how to close them off.  She doesn’t really want to run any more of this game, but she feels that if we don’t resolve the outstanding issues, the series will go unfinished.

I could see where she was coming from, and I understood her point of view, but when she brought these points up, it very rapidly occured to me that I actually liked the idea of leaving some stuff unresolved.  Sure, I didn’t want to skip this last session and never see our characters conclude their epic adventure, but I also didn’t feel it was necessary for us to wander around the world addressing every last little dilemma or issue that had arisen.  I was happy with the idea that we’d done good, we’d get our rewards and then, in some mystical nonexistant future, our brave heroes would deal with what came next.  It seemed the proper way to end the adventure, knowing that there was always another one around the corner.

And then I concluded that maybe that’s something that I miss from my games.  I tend to try and make sure everything I include is a piece of plot to be used, or something essential to the story, like a Sherlock Holmes plot.  Every single object I describe ends up being some kind of chekov’s gun (yes, I know I’m using that reference slightly wrong, but you get my point).  However, when I consider this last adventure, I feel I very much like the unresolved issues; they give the feeling of a wider world.  Not every problem is for the players to solve, and certainly not right now.

So that’s my advice to take forward; leave some puzzles unsolved, some stories unresolved, some stones unturned.  You might find you like it.

Advertisements

Background: Stipend

I’ve always felt it strange that Dragon Blooded use the traditional Resources background, so I created this to take its place among Dynasts.

Dragon Blooded characters have access to the background Stipend. This background is representative of the increased resources available to a Dragon Blooded member of the Scarlet Dynasty or one of Lookshy’s Gens. It provides an effective Resources rating, as described below, but is replenished on a monthly basis; as such a character with a single dot of Stipend could make a Resources 3 purchase, which would reduce their effective Resources to 2, until their next stipend arrives, generally at the start of the next month. This is rated as follows:

x – Your character receives no stipend from his House or Gens; why is this? Have you offended an elder of your family, or disgraced yourself in some manner? Or perhaps you are an outcaste without powerful family.

o – Your family gives you the smallest stipend possible, the bare minimum for a Dynast to survive. This gives you an effective Resources of 3.

oo – Your family considers your a worthy member of its House, but you are yet to do anything of particular moment. You receive a decent stipend, giving your an effective Resources of 4.

ooo – Your family is proud to count you among its ranks, and has increased your stipend respectively. You likely have a reputation, either for some valued craft, or an important deed. Your effective Resources is 5.

oooo – You are an important and powerful member of your House. Likely the head of a minor household or an important member of one of the greater. Consider what worth you bring to your family for them to have elevated you to such a position. Who covets your place, and what do you owe other family members? Regardless, your wealth is almost beyond avarice, granting you an effective Resources of 5, but also allowing you to make a number of Resources 5 purchases a month equal to your permanent Essence rating or Breeding, whichever is higher, as the greatest wealth is afforded to the most powerful of Exalts.

ooooo – You are likely the head of a great household within a dynastic House, likely one of the contenders for leadership of the House, if such a calling interests you. You cannot maintain this level of stipend without having some calling of great importance to your House, and constantly being at the beck and call of conniving and whining relatives. Nevertheless, this level of importance comes with almost unlimited access to the House’s coffers, granting your effective Resources 5, but also allowing you to make a number of Resources 5 purchases equal to your Breeding + permanent Essence rating.

General Exalted House Rules

The general rules I use for my Exalted games, in a quest to fix all the little problems I tend to find in the system whenever I play or run it.

The following also includes the 2.5 Errata changes, as adapted for use in my games

Character Creation

  • Players may raise any of their character’s abilities to five without spending bonus points.
  • Players receive four dots of specialities to distribute amongst their abilities.
  • All characters receive an additional 3 background points.
  • Virtues may be purchased for 1 bonus point each, with Virtues no longer adding to Willpower.
  • Willpower may be purchased for 1 point per dot.
  • Characters may start with Willpower + Compassion Intimacies without spending bonus points.
  • When selecting Charms, players may start with any charms they meet the prerequisites for; they are not required to select a certain amount of caste/favoured charms.
  • All characters gain an additional -4 Health Level per dot of permanent Essence they possess.
  • Charms for all Exalts now cost 4 bonus points, or 3 if they’re from a Caste/Aspect/Favoured ability.
  • Raising Essence at character creation now costs 7 bonus points regardless of Exalt type.
  • All characters receive 18 bonus points at character creation.

Charms, Spells and Martial Arts at Character Creation

  • Dragon Blooded count their default charm purchases as “terrestrial” purchases, and as such they may buy their own charms, Terrestrial Circle Sorcery and Terrestrial Martial Arts on a 1 for 1 basis. If they wish to buy Celestial Martial Arts at character creation, usually by being an Immaculate Monk, they must either buy these at a rate of 2 charms per 3 charm slots used, or pay an additional bonus point per charm they wish to learn. All typical requirements to purchase Celestial Martial Arts still apply.
  • Solar, Abyssal, Infernal, Sidereal and Lunar Exalted count their default charm purchases as “celestial” purchases, meaning they buy their own charms, and Celestial Martial Arts on a 1 for 1 basis, as well as any Celestial Circle Sorcery. If they purchase Terrestrial Martial Arts or Terrestrial Circle Sorcery at character creation, they either learn 3 such charms/spells per 2 slots used, or regain a bonus point for each one bought.

Alchemical Exalted

  • If an Alchemical Exalted starts with the Perfected Lotus Matrix or Man-Machine Weaving Engine charms, he may exchange charm slots on a one-for-one basis with martial arts charms or machine weaving protocols. He still retains the charms that would normally go into these slots, but has no slots to put them into, unless he spends bonus points to obtain additional slots.

Dragon Blooded

  • Dragon Blooded characters receive 18 background points (this includes the 3 additional points from above).
  • Dragon Blooded characters start with 14 charms.
  • Dragon Blooded now use the following formula to generate their essence pools; Personal (Essence x2 + Willpower), Peripheral (Essence x4 + Willpower x2 + Sum of all Virtues)

Lunar Exalted

  • Lunar exalted get 9/7/5 points to divide between their attributes at character creation.
  • Lunar Exalted start with 12 charms/knacks, with a minimum of 4 charms and 4 knacks.

Traits

Dragon Blooded

  • Dragon Blooded characters have access to the background Stipend.

Charms

  • Solar, Lunar, Abyssal, Sidereal Exalted and Dragonblooded no longer need to purchase excellencies. They automatically receive all excellencies for which they meet the prerequisites.
  • Infernal Exalted do not receive excellencies in the same way due to the unique nature of such charms. Infernal Exalted receive all excellencies for which they meet the prerequisites for both their Caste and Favoured Yozi. If they want to purchase the excellencies of other Yozis, then they are required to purchase the First Excellency in the normal manner (Ie. A number of times equal to their essence). This then unlocks all the other excellencies of that Yozi for free, although they must continue to purchase further upgrades of the First Excellency as per the original charm progression.Ie. Dagruda, the Slayer Caste Infernal Exalted who favours Cecylene, has Essence 2 at character creation. He automatically receives First and Second Malfeas and Cecylene Excellencies for free at character creation and need never pay extra XP to purchase them again if he increases his essence. As play progresses, Dagruda expands his potential, wanting to learn some Adorjan charms. Needing to buy at least the First Adorjan Excellency, he needs to purchase this charm a number of times equal to his Essence, so has to purchase it twice. This purchase then unlocks the rest of Adorjan’s excellencies, and so he automatically also learns the Second Adorjan Excellency too. When Dagruda raises his Essence to 3, he will automatically learn, at no experience cost, Malfeas, Cecylene and Adorjan Mythos Exultant and Invincibility Technique. However, he will be required to purchase the First Adorjan Excellency again as a training effect, as per the normal rules for Infernal Excellencies.
  • Alchemical Exalted are regarded as always having the charms First, Second and Third (Attribute) Augmentations for every attribute. This requires no charm slots or installation costs. They also receive (Essence) Augmentation-only slots for each favoured attribute, and one Augmentation-only slot for every other attribute. Augmentation-only slots can only be used for augmentation charms and require no installation costs.

Experience

  • The experience cost of increasing Essence is (7 x current rating) for all characters, regardless of type.
  • The experience cost for purchasing charms is as follows:
  • Terrestrial Charms and spells are 8xp each, or 6xp for Aspect/Favoured charms. This includes Terrestrial Martial Arts.
  • Alchemical charms are 9xp each, or 7xp for a Caste/Favoured charm. This includes Man-Machine Weaving protocols.
  • Celestial Charms and spells are 10xp each, or 8xp for Caste/Favoured charms. This includes Celestial Martial Arts.
  • God-Machine Weaving protocols are 11xp each, or 9xp if Caste/Favoured.
  • Solar Sorcery and Sidereal Martial Arts Charms are 12xp each, or 10xp for a Caste/Favoured charm.
  • The Terrestrial/Celestial/Solar Circle Sorcery charms purchased to enable a character to cast spells of the relevant level are regarded as a charm of the respective tier.

Keyword: Battery

A keyword I drummed up mostly in order to replace the idea of attunement motes from the Exalted 2.5 errata. I felt that attunement motes made a bunch of appropriate Abyssal charms totally useless and just seemed like an awkward and silly mechanic. Hopefully this keyword would work better, allowing characters to regain motes, but only once combat has ended, rather than allowing them to essentially fight indefinitely.

Motes regained from a charm with this keyword do not immediately return to the Abyssal’s pool. They are instead stored in his anima, bloating it to higher levels of activity than denoted by his essence usage, for him to devour at a convenient time. When using this ability, it is important to denote whether the motes stolen will be returned to the Abyssal’s Personal or Peripheral pool. Personal motes stolen are stored invisibly in the character’s anima, while any Peripheral motes are added to the number of motes a character has spent in a scene to determine the level of the character’s anima banner.

The motes the character has stored in her anima banner are not accessible to the Abyssal immediately; at the end of the scene where the charm was used, the motes are emptied into the character’s essence pools. Any excess motes are lost. Personal motes dissipate harmlessly into the environment with no visible effects. Excess Peripheral motes cause the character’s anima banner to briefly flash to the iconic level as they are dissipated.

Review: Shards of the Exalted Dream

Shards of the Exalted Dream, or just Shards, as it has come to be known, has been out for a week or so now, and I’ve read enough of it that I think I’m just about able to pass some form of comment on it. For those of you who don’t know, Shards of the Exalted Dream is a new book from White Wolf in their Exalted line, and it presents a number of new and different ways to approach and play Exalted. There are four alternate settings in the book, one of which encloses and entirely separate system, and there are also a lot of new rules in there for doing different things with your Exalted game; it includes rules for guns and driving, with charms and artifact cars, motorbikes and guns to compliment.

As described by Drive Thru RPG

The world of Exalted has been reflected in the minds and stories of players across the world for over a decade. Now the mirror shatters, and White Wolf presents a collection of unique new visions of Exalted, shards of imagination to take your games through alternate realities, twisted histories, new genres, and even to the stars. In addition to re-imaginings of the classic setting, this book also contains a plethora of new rules to support those visions, or for enterprising Storytellers to use to create their own new takes on Exalted. What worlds will you forge from your dreams?

I’ve browsed most of the book, and read pretty thoroughly through most sections, and I have to say I am impressed. Gunstar Autochthonia is the first setting, in which the Exalted lost their war with the Primordials, and as a result they were forced to flee Creation en masse, using Autochthon as a mighty spaceship, which, over the last 10,000 years, they have rebuilt into a mighty warship known as the Gunstar. This setting draws from a number of different sources but the one that struck me as the strongest influence was Battlestar Galactica; the feeling of being constantly pursued across what is a largely unknown void by powerful enemies that, if conflict occurs, you can only really hope to hold off until you can flee really reminds me of the recent series. And I have to say, that’s something I like.

The next setting is Burn Legend (a name I always feel like someone should be yelling in a deep voice as your press the “Start” button on a games loading screen), and is basically the RPG version of a 90s action film or fighting manga. This setting is the one that diverges most from “vanilla” Exalted. It’s set in the real world, or at least the Burn Legend version, where your characters, powerful martial artists running the span from mere heroic mortals who know american wrestling and muai thai, to shapeshifting Okami and demonic Yama Kings who harness supernatural powers in their martial arts. This section is lacking somewhat in exactly what you would do in a game where everyone is a badass martial artist, but it still seems like a lot of fun. The elemental martial arts styles in particular, taking clear influence from Avatar: The Last Airbender/Legend of Korra’s elemental bending (going so far as to call themselves elemental binding…), really draw my eye. I’m not sure a whole campaign of this is in the cards, but I can imagine some memorably one-offs being spawned. It’s a very streamlined system, with 3 main stats, a list of your techniques and then just backgrounds to resolve everything else, and combat comes down to playing cards to activate your martial techniques, some of which auto-defeat other kinds, but others calling for roll-offs. I’m hoping that this will mean the combat plays fast and furious, but I’d be worried that it could get bogged down in mechanics and card-choosing. If you’re interested in taking a look for yourself, see this link for the technique cards free to download from Drive Thru RPG.