Subject: Exalted: Too Crunchy? MyriadOfShades - 10/19/2003 04:19:31
OK, my comp crashed and denied the inital virtual essay I had written, so just so I don't give myself a frustrated heart attack, this version is shorter.
Exalted's system, the base, core rules as expressed in Chapters 2 and 6 of the core book, are really quite simple. You should always have a vague idea of dice pools before dice are ever rolled, but still, it's a fairly simple system, and even combat, always a monster, is far easier than the virtual scaled map you need to run good D&D combat.
What gets more complex is the setting. If we all played Solar PCs, using nothing more than the corebook and Scavenger Sons, and our adversaries were limited to non-Exalts, and the only 'supplements' we ever dared even reference to were things like the Bo3C and Creatures of the Wyld (even though the latter smacks of the later Exalted feel), we'd be set. The Solar Charms, post-Errata, are all fairly simple, and there's not much agueness or special complex rules situations.
The DBs don't complicate things much. The Realm, while odd, is within our real-world ken, and the DBs are nice and clueless like the Solars. The DB Charms can be a little worse for the rules-- things like (Sense)-Destroying Method and some of the higher-up Immaculate Charms interact with the world in weird ways, but you can still play pretty mindless Hercules or Romance of the Three Kingdoms as you see fit. You do get Exalt-VS-different kind of Exalt combat at this level, but it's handleable, especially since DB Charms don't have too much in the way of weird effects (they're generally as straightforward as the Solar ones, except for the Immaulcates), and anima flux and out-of-element surcharges are easy. You can even use the caste/aspect books and GoD at this level of complexity, and not break your brain.
The real weirdness comes with the other 3 fatsplats. You get lots of complex settings that are beyond our experience (well, Lunar society isn't THAT foreign, but not many of us have had much experience with their Mongol and Apache-type inspiration) with LOTS of rules. Rules on shapechanging, essence respiration and stealing, Arcane Fate, the Wyld, Underworld, and Yu-Shan, Destiny, lots of PCs who are in on the secrets of the world, Exalted-societies you can't just opt out of as a PC, weird Charms with weird effects that interact in weird ways, and a whole bevy of other problems. Lunars and Abyssals make it hard. Sidereals are darned near impossible if you're not already very familiar with the setting. This is the level of complexity we all aspire to, but it's HARD to run a game this way. Sure, your Solar can go save that villiage then get really drunk there and sober up a week later as the son-in-law of the local king with a peasant rebellion to crush brutally before you go save your new wife from those bandits with the outcaste DB leader. But it's more complicated than that. You feel a need to ask if it's all a Sidereal plot. Is a Moonshadow going to convince your wife to put death sap in your tea?
And here's where the 'too crunchy!' allegations begin. Sure, you're having fun, but it takes literal hours of ST preparation and forethought and good, dutiful PCs that keep track of their dice pools and equipment for every session of your little drama not to become a book-checking nightmare. Your character's equipment might be found in 3-4 different books. Your ST might need to refer to Water Manse design so he can tell you what that City Father of his homebrewed port city that connects the coast to the Whitewall trade road has on his walls. He might need to figure out what the exact restrictions on violence on the road are. The exact Endurance rolls for keeping watch all night, so the Fae Noble with the nifty flute doesn't make all the children in the Guild caravan (what are those like inthe north, anyway? What are a Yeddim's stats, again?) sleepwalk off the road. The Resistance roll for the deathsap the Moonshadow (using which Charms, just so the ST knows well the extent of his control) convinced your wife to slip into your drink. Will Surprise Anticipation Method warn you of poison? Does the sense of betrayal incite your particular Great Curse trigger? Those reanimated zombie rations the Deathlord is using to spy-- can those be possessed by the ghosts needed to use them in Creation during the daytime? Does Venthara, who rules Snowguard, have any weird prohibitions on visitors? A policy on Exalted? What are the wild beasts in the north, normal and exotic? The Wyld Hunt's on our tails-- what's that normally consist of? Can that 'Head Immaculate'-'s Lesser Sign of Jupiter see through my Mental Invisibility Technique? What's the exact roll and cost for the perfect version of Wrathful Winds Maneuver? Attunement cost for the Infinite Jade Chakram I ust "acquired"? Crap, the Sidereal escaped while I was fighting off the Immaculates-- how's Arcane Fate work exactly?
Oh, we're almost at Whitewall. Maybe we'll meet Rune. Cool.
The game is CRUNCHY, or rather, it has become so as the setting has become more fleshed out. I personally think each ST needs to decide the focus of his style and choose a few aspects to gloss over-- most of the Bo3C can be tossed aside if need be. Not to say the book's not interesting or excellent, but really, sometimes you don't wanna focus so much on magic and artifacts that you have to roll for Demense mutation and spotting Manses from far away. Sometimes, the gem fields don't need Furnance Rhinos. Sometimes, the Abyssals are just not something you wanna worry about. So, the ST decides his own level of crunchiness.
To simplify the game 10 times over, stay in the Realm or civilized Threshold. And just play with Solars or DBs, and don't worry one about the other too much. That's complex enough.
Playing a fuller game, quite frankly, requires an ST with practically a year's worth of classes of Exalted in his head. They're out there, though. God knows I know the basic structure of every Exalted Charm tree in the game (something like 1000 Charms, right), the exact structure of many of the Solar and DB ones, and have tons of memorized setting knowledge (the base damage of a Realm heavy foot soldier is 10L, Wyld mutations limit maximum Essence, the diff. is 5 to wheel and deal your way into convincing one of the guardian spirits of the golden pathways on the Yu-Shan waterways that you belong there without offcial permission or a bribe, the Temperance roll for Nymph's Blood scent is 2, the problem with Joy in Adversity Stance is that much of the essence used in the Violet Bier of Sorrows Style is committed, Abyssals can't attune to Solar Demenses/Manses without acquiring Resonance). I've been playing since around Dragon-Blooded came out.
I imagine the setting has to be downright terrifying to a beginning player. Or God forbid, ST. I can't even imagine introducing the game to someone who hadn't already heard of it. It was hard enough when all I had was the Solar and DB books, 10 dice, and Scavenger Sons. I felt horrible having to say "here's the corebook. Read chapters 1-3, and skim 4 and 5 and 9. Then we can sit down and start thinking about your character." With the kind of chronicle I wanna run now, what could I do? Even with an experienced Exalted player, for my latest Sidereal idea, I'd still have to assign the Gods chapter of GoD, the thick first two chapters of Sidereals, the first Chapter of the DragonBlooded book (with a brief skim of the second) just for setting purposes. Then there's real crunch -- all the Sidereal rules, and a neccssary passing idea of Dragon- Blooded capability, the MA styles from the various books the PCs would have access to... all things I'd prefer the players to have some idea of because it's relevant to being a Sidereal of the central convention.
Man, this game is great. Hard, but great.
Mm. Exalted Crunch.
First, the game's mechanics are consideribly crunchier than I think many people realize. There's the cover rules, clinches and holds, the rules for bleeding, infection, and general illness, attacking from behind, riding and sailing- there's actual, interacting mechanics for a lot of things that other games treat with either a single generic resolution mechanic, or wholly disparate systems.
Second, the combat mechanics are cruncy. Roll initative, abort to dodge or parry, split your actions, roll attack vs parry/dodge, add successes to damage, subtract soak, roll damage- this roll can't botch but 10s don't double -mark damage one of three ways that each heal seperately...
Third, a lot of people say 'crunchy' and mean 'lots of dice and bookkeeping'. Which Exalted has, in spades. Like you pointed out, LOTS of Charms exist. A player will have to keep at least 10 (as a Solar) in their brain from the start. And Essence has to be tracked in four ways- personal, periphereal, committed, and how-glowy-am-I.
I actually think that's one of Exalted's greatest strengths- it can be an intensely crunchy game for people that want it to be. At the same time, that crunch can mostly fade away to a group's comfortable level. - DariusSolluman
Exalted reminds me of high-level AD&D adventures. Demons with 2 pages filled with special abilities , tons of NPCs , lots of dice rolling in high magic combats (call me save roll) and so many tables! The thing is , I liked AD&D and I like Exalted even more! Hint for Storytellers : Don't respect the setting! Change everything and THEN try to match it with the setting. - SonirAm
I feel much the same way SonirAm. Trying to run Exalted as if you were a computer with the entire setting programmed into you is laborious and no fun at all. I feel that this setting and the game overall are really about making it your own as a storyteller. You should include the things in your game that you feel will make the mood of your game come alive. If players want to make use of things that weren't in your original game plan, let them, but make sure that you've looked into them and know both their benefits and drawbacks, and assume that NPCs have the option of making use of those parts of the setting, whether they be locations, characters, or entire game concepts. - Satanman