From Exalted - Unofficial Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search

the why of it

Appearance is screwed up. Canonically, it's a stat that indicates your character's level of attractiveness. It is never rolled.

Oh, sure, there are examples of Appearance rolls. These occur about as often as the canonical Intelligence + War roll to play Gateway.

A number of people have house-ruled Appearance. These psuedo-house-rules are probably closest to Shataina's rules, but they're somewhat simpler: a shift of perspective, rather than a system overhaul.

and the how

Exalted canonically says that Appearance is how pretty you are. We'll ignore this, because it seems like they never really figured out a good way to turn that interpretation into a mechanic.

In my way of thinking, Appearance is the attribute rolled for primarily visual social stunts.

Take this stunt as an example,

Luce looks up from the ash, takes in their faces.

“We've walked the same road for six, seven months now?” Gently, she meets each of their eyes. “Not long. But we've seen worse days. And just as surely, we've seen better.”

There's truth here. They all can hear it.

“Now isn't the time,” her voice crackles, “For any of this. We fuck up, tear apart—well, then we die. And I aim to survive.”

Nice social stunt, rolled as Charisma + Presence.

Let's look at the same stunt, done differently.

She stares at the earth, kicking at it softly. She looks up, grey flakes of ash rising gently around her. Her eyes glint orange-red against the sky.

She says words, and they are not important. Her eyes speak. They say: You are nothing, to this place. I have seen people die for less, and not all by the swords of others. You will die, if you cross me.

And then she turns, and walks away.

Another nice social stunt. I'd roll it Appearance + Presence. It's entirely possible that the “same thing” happened in both examples. The distinction comes from the fact that in the second case, the player prioritized the visual aspect of the scene. If this seems odd, consider that players can and regularly do decide whether Charisma or Manipulation applies on similar grounds. Players' descriptions are the only difference between, “I smile at him charmingly and say, 'aw, please?'” (Charisma) and “I drive a hard bargain, but in the end, he'll see that I'm offering him a good deal.” (Manipulation).

the leftovers

Or, some common questions I've heard.

So what… is it?

To figure out what “Appearance” means in-game, think about what it means out of game. Players of high-Appearance characters will be motivated to describe more of their social stunts visually. For doing this, they will get more dice. Appearance therefore dictates the degree to which a character's social interactions are dependent on and aided by visuals. This doesn't mean you're hot (necessarily). It doesn't necessarily mean anything about how pretty you are at all. You can call Appearance body language, or dress, or natural attractiveness, or Raksha blessing, or Creation just taking a liking to you, or some combination of the above. It doesn't matter, really. It's on the player's shoulders to explain the nature of their high Appearance, and in the end, it's all stunt fodder.

If you're still skeptical, consider: Creation works on different laws of physics than this world. They're similar, yes, but ultimately, things in Creation work the way they do because the Primordials Wanted It That Way. This is clearly very true for Abilities, and there's no reason to believe it isn't also the case for Attributes. In a setting like Exalted's (now with 200% more Wuxia!), it seems pretty reasonable to have a stat that determines how much of your social effectiveness is visual, even if you aren't “actually” “doing anything.”

How do you represent gorgeous characters, then?

My preferred method is to say that prettiness is orthogonal to the system. If you want to be pretty, you're pretty. If you want to be ugly, fine, you're ugly. If you want a mechanical advantage or disadvantage for being either of these things, either raise or lower your Appearance. While a high Appearance doesn't have to mean that you're pretty, it certainly can, and your visual social stunts can describe your beauty. You can, similarly, take a high Appearance and be utterly hideous—now, your stunts will use your ugliness as fodder.

Alternately, you can use a Merits and Flaws, as in Shataina's rules, or as taken from the new WoD rulebook. I don't particularly love this approach, because it means players don't have any particular reason to describe the manner in which their beauty or distinct lack thereof is helpful / harmful. It's, oh, right! I'm Pretty +2 rather than, My eyes lock with hers; her breath catches, and she tumbles, smiling, into a sea of green flecked with yellow stars.


Added the links encouraged by BestPractices. This reminds me of a lot of stunts I myself have used. I understand why you wouldn't like flaws, etc., and I think this approach is pretty much fine (and perhaps should have been more encouraged by the book) in stunt-heavy games. However, in non-stunt-heavy games, or in games in which the Storyteller tends to force the players to use certain rolls based on their action rather than based on how they're performing their action (and there's nothing necessarily wrong with this -- often it's important balance-wise), there has to be a straightforward systemic solution.
~ Shataina

(Oops! Thanks for the fix. I admittedly skimmed BestPractices and missed the recommended link bits.) Of note, I tend to use “stunt” to mean “action” when talking about Exalted, and that colours the text a bit here. It's possible to invoke these rules when a player says, “I stun him with my beauty,” which would garner stunt dice only under the most lenient and possibly inebriated of Storytellers. I'm not so sure I fully get the distinction between rolling based on a character's action and the player's description of that action—the action the character takes is defined by the player's narration. It's possible for a given narration to be too vague to map to mechanics: if you say, “I convince him to sell it to me for less,” the Storyteller is pretty likely to ask you how—your response there determines if you're rolling Charisma + Socialize or Manipulation + Bureaucracy or Appearance + Presence or whatever. This isn't unique to social situations: “I kill him,” is similarly underspecified. (Entertainingly, “I hit him with my sword,” is also technically underspecified, as it could be rolled with Dexterity + Melee or Dexterity + Martial Arts). ~ VioletCrazyGirl
I get it, and I suspect you and I have pretty much the same idea here -- our groups just use different approaches. My point starts with the premise that there are some actions you just can't use whatever Attribute you want for. For example, saying "I twist snakelike about the portcullis and cleverly flip it up" wouldn't be a good enough reason, in my opinion, to use Dexterity to raise it rather than Strength, because Strength is going to be the important thing for raising a portcullis, no matter how cleverly you describe it. The general idea behind the approach I describe is that the rest of the stats work the same way (arguable, I think -- I certainly consider the idea that you can even split social facility into three categories to be a little bit ridiculous -- but perhaps necessary systemically, if you're trying to balance all of them against each other). So sure, you can describe yourself as "batting your eyelashes and giving the innkeeper a limpid, wide-eyed gaze" in order to get free lunch, but my ST would probably still make you roll Manipulation for it -- not because you're not using your Appearance, but because Manipulation covers, well, feats primarily of manipulation in the same way that Strength covers feats primarily of strength.

So, from this premise, you end at the idea that there's a certain way all rolls should be done based on what they're doing, rather than based on how they're described. This is a good and valid way of gaming the same way your more description-heavy approach is a good and valid way of gaming. The two just have fundamentally different precepts, and I think that your "shift in perspective" will screw up people who try to apply it to the wrong kind of game.

Basically, there's nothing wrong with groups that allow people to stunt actions so they can take them using any statistics they want. This is a perfectly valid approach and, as I said, one that I think ought to have been more encouraged by Exalted 1, because it's about the only way anyone would get any damn mileage out of Appearance (at least, without a system overhaul like mine). I just think it's worth noting that for lots of people -- in a more crunch-heavy game, for example, or one in which one of the players' major concerns is that their characters be well-made and -reflected systemically -- it may cause problems. In other words, your ideas here kinda say, "The system isn't great, so let's not focus on the system," as opposed to, "The system isn't great, so let's try to make the system better." I think this is also reflected in your quicker rules mod, which pretty much eliminates all these tiresome rolls anyway, right? It might help to have a disclaimer here similar to the one you put over there.

Out of curiosity, have you ever tried playing any straight-up diceless games -- that is, games originally designed to be diceless?
~ Shataina
Good point. I think my issue with applying the same “some actions simply require some stats,” is that the social stats, as you say, aren't distinguished in effect. That is, we can say that you roll Strength for any action which has the effect of applying a lot of force to something, Dexterity for any action which has the effect of getting you to move quickly and nimbly, and Stamina for actions which involve you standing there like a rock. Even these descriptions are somewhat vague, but the mechanics get into quite a bit more specificity as to how each stat is used, so in the end, we have a pretty clear effect-based view of what stat deals with what. Social stats aren't like that: the effect is always, “I get them to do what I want,” and the difference between doing it by making them like you (Charisma), playing off their weaknesses and convincing them that it's really in their best interests (Manipulation), or simply looking impressive (Appearance) is just color. If effects were more clearly deliniated, this might not be such an issue. One could imagine a system where Charisma helps you form Intimacies (but doesn't let you advance your point directly), Manipulation lets you advance your point directly, and Appearance is used to lower their DV (I know 2E does this, but I rather want it to take an action, rather than being an unrolled, unnarrated kind of thing). That could be an interesting system, but it's not at all there in 1E; I haven't gotten a chance to really look at social combat in 2E, so this might already be dealt with there. In this regard, I did kindof say, “the system blows, let's ignore it”: I didn't want to build a whole social combat mechanic or a unified conflict resolution system, so I erred on the side of making all social stats equally useful, distinguished only through narration. This strikes me as being, to a first approximation, how the system already runs in terms of social stats—if the character from your example had spent half an hour there, being charming, would your ST really not let them roll Charisma?

I actually think my diceless mod comes from a different angle. It's a smaller system, because one of the goals was fast play, but the system as a whole is an attempt to mechanically tighten all these loose ends. Social conflicts are just as binding as violent ones, for example. I do actually like system—I think it's immensely cool and useful at shaping game. My tendency, though, is to design systems to ask exactly the right questions, and no more.

And, yeah, I've played Nobilis. I liked it a lot, but in some ways it's a pretty vicious game. If you fail, it's because you failed the resource management game, and you don't exactly have any dice to cushion your fall. In a way, I rather like that. (My diceless system is actually worse in one sense: it's very clear what's on the line, and if you lose, well, you've lost. It's better in another, though, in that you can usually win if you're willing to burn Virtues and your opponent isn't or can't.) ~ VioletCrazyGirl
All I can say is that I wish someone like you had designed the 2E social combat system. <smile>
~ Shataina
PS. Not sure what my ST would do in the situation you describe. I think I'd probably still have the player roll Manipulation, though. I use Charisma for loose situations in which characters are trying to gain the general, abstract loyalty and love of others.
Aww, thankee (I think. :-P) I take that to mean that I'll probably be a bit disappointed with the 2E social combat system, which, sadly, is about what I expected. As regards the Charisma v. Manipulation question: at some point, don't you have to figure that either getting others to love you has some concrete mechanical effect (+2 on attempts to persuade people who have Intimacies with you to do things), or just assert that yeah, if you can get the barkeep to really like you, he'll probably give you free stuff? I tend towards the former: I like every point of interface with the system to have a very specific mechanical result. Anything less feels like it's mired in the realm of GM-fiat and shady results. (This is true of GM-me as well as player-me.) ~ VioletCrazyGirl
Incidentally, if you have any other comments on the diceless mod I posted, I'd love to hear them. Even (and, actually, especially) if you reflexively dislike it. The disclaimer there is mostly intended to deflect comments along the lines of how can you live without dice? If it's straight-up not your cuppa tea, though, I understand. ~ VioletCrazyGirl
Now that I think about it, I guess I don't apply the so-called line between Cha. and Man. as much as I "should". But, if I were thinking ideally, I'd probably simply say that Cha. applies in a situation where you have a lot of time with someone and are aiming to establish a certain kind of relationship. Man. would apply when you're trying to get someone to do something for you now. So, sure, if you've had like a month establishing a friendship with Dude A, getting 9 successes on your Charisma roll, and you're like, "Hey Dude A, wanna lend me $500?" then your Manipulation roll would be getting a bonus because he likes and trusts you and thinks of you as a friend. He'll also spontaneously do nice things for you, etc. You don't get to apply Cha. on the bartender you met 10 minutes ago, though.

Diceless systems are definitely not my cup of tea. Diceless roleplaying is awesome, but more of a kinda on-the-fly game for me, and always done without stats entirely. I feel like putting stats in a diceless game is sorta ... silly. Good luck with that, though.
~ Shataina

I like these ideas, and Intend to show them around my player group: S'a good idea, and - no offence, Shaitana - I prefer it over more crunch-heavy approaches. - Molikai

Thankee, I'm glad you find this useful. One cool side effect of a system like this (or a side effect I find cool, at least) is that it encourages players to do things in ways they might otherwise not have. Before I thought, “gee, how can Appearance actually get used?,” I wasn't particularly inclined towards really physical descriptions of social actions. Now, I'm immensely excited to do so, and in fact it seems just right for some characters. ^.^ ~ VioletCrazyGirl
Why would I be offended about your preferences for your games? I'm just offended that you spelled my name "Shaitana". <wink>

This is pretty much the system I've used for a long while, where Appearance is a magnitude, not a vector. Higher Appearance means your movements carry more weight, and that your appearance can be used to greater extent. As you say, it's up to the player to exploit that. The best thing about this description is the references to how it relates (and correlates) to the ever-present ambiguity of Charisma and Manipulation. Since there's already significant precedent to having player description (and whim) determine whether you roll Charisma or Manipulation, it makes sense to extend it to all social rolls. While mechanically, then, players will tend towards their highest stat, this is seen in day-to-day life all the time. People who just always flaunt their looks to get what they want, when just asking would work. People who are just so dang nice that you can't say no to them, etc. I give it a ++. -- GreenLantern

Totally. It's awesome to hear that you've been using something like this effectively, and it hasn't, say, exploded in some unforseen way. I figure stats—especially the somewhat-vague social stats—are indicators of preference and character traits as much as they are of ability. A high Strength means that you're capable smashing through walls and are somewhat more inclined to do so, all else being equal, because you're That Guy Who Smashes Through Walls. A high Appearance means that you're capable of turning people to your side with a glance and are somewhat more inclined to do so, because you're That Girl Who Holds Soul's Fire In Her Hands. It's a great sort of synergy when a side effect of “gaming the system” is better (or more focused) role playing. ~ VioletCrazyGirl