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  • to allow characters to spend time off doing things, without brutally screwing people who have less to do immediately

For each two months of downtime, a character gets Background * to spend. This can be accumulated, and spent on anything that a justification can be found for. For Exalts, this might very well include conquering cities.

todo, list all backgrounds and discuss examples.


The campaign to date has covered a Circle of Solars conquering Rathess and setting themselves up as local rulers. After a bunch of sessions, the Solars have cleared it out, populated it with loyal citizens, and pacified the gods. The GM decides, downtime! and says 'okay, six months pass, what do you do?'

Player one narrates how his character clears the crystal labs beneath the city, collects many of the shattered artifacts, and makes a breakthrough in reconstructing the lost treasures, and takes Artifact 3.

Player two narrates how his char wanders the southern jungles, defeats a tyrant lizard by wrestling it into a lava pit, and cuts open its stomach to find a long-lost orichalcum crown, also taking Artifact 3.

Player three is getting dinner, so his char just travels back to the threshold and consolidates his merchant empire, taking Resources 3.

Player four's char disappears for the period, touring and boozing, and takes Contacts 2 and Followers 1.

Player five's char teaches the citizens the worship of the UCS and trains up a loyal priesthood of heart-cutting fanatics. Cult 1, Followers 2.

So now we've got a whole lot of backstory for continued play, covered in 30 minutes of game time. Playing this stuff out in detail would take another ten sessions.


Woah nelly, that strikes me as INSANELY power-boosting. Shouldn't stuff like CONQUERING CITIES be played out? I can't imagine its a dull, mundane affair. Downtime is best used for studying and training imho (a humble opinion backed by the Almighty Will of Canon). Yeah, the listed times in the corebook seem like a lot, but Celestial Exalted live for thousands of years. What's two months of intense training gonna seem like in that span? Indeed, an Exalted can conquer a city in two months, but to just make it a background boost is going to ultimately be wholly unsatisfying to ST and player alike.

"Man, I dunno how Golden Metal of the Tenth Copper Faith is going to handle this situation, ST. He needs more men!"
"He conquered those City-States during the downtime, remember?"
"Oh yeah! Shweeet! Let's go ahead and conquer Sijan."


The main idea behind this mechanic is to allow everyone to narrate their character's own sideadventures and give them benefits from them without having to go through them in detail. It's for the in-between-book part of the story, if you get me. So, I wouldn't let the players sit down midgame and say 'okay, we take time off, we want background points' - at that point we're paying attention to the characters in detail. But with this, you finish a chunk of plot, you know there'll be X months before you need detail again, and you can give the players freedom to have their chars go off, have cool adventures, and come back and tell each other about them. And as a GM you get a stack of hooks free, plus a good chance for your players to demonstrate what they're interested in doing next. --Xyphoid

I wouldn't give them a background point per 2 months personally. I would make them tell you exactly what they are doing and reward them appropriately. Realistically how difficult is that one fight with the tyrant lizard for the character? the Dawn in our campain with his uber combo's of death can drop one of those rhino beasts (with the 5mm horns) from near Gem in a single combat round. A tyrant lizard would probably last may be into round 2. Is it a challenge worth 9 exp? Now if he were to go into great detail about how he survived in the wilderness, catching his own food, tracking the lizard for days on end waiting for his oportunity. Describing the battle, how it went down, how long it took, how injured he was by the lizard, how he survived being dropped into that lava pit with the lizard why he decided to cut open the lizards stomache in the first place and how he resisted the effects of the lava whilst doing so..... then I might consider giving him the reward. He would have to work for it though. Eldmar

I think this is a better way to go, Xyphoid. One character's gotta spend the crazy-long-time boosting his Essence. The rest should go their separate ways. Let 'em write individual fictions and e-mail 'em to you, reward them accordingly. OR, maybe they could choose to train in something they can't actually afford yet... take note of it somewhere, and then when they have the XP to buy it, all their previous training clicks into place and they have an epiphany, getting that point instantly (or in a much shorter time.) Your original system could work with much common sense and judging, but then the same could be said for a completely unErrata'd corebook. --UncleChu

I've actually got a bigger problem with this technique, from a story-telling perspective. As the guy who often plays the bureaucracy, presence, performance, and craft favoring savant leader, after I start banking some XP, my deeds can be legendary - on a long term scale. In a month of downtime, I really can just steamroll a town, convince every able-bodied man to become a trained tiger-warrior, lead in the forging of an arsenal (perhaps including Ashigaru or Gunzosha-type equipment), and pretty much convince the Realm that I'm the worst thing ever. Then there's my Dawn-caste buddy, who favors (exclusively) every Dawn ability, Dodge, Resistance, Endurance, Athletics, etc. What does he do in down-time? Attempt to make waves? Sit at the bar? Sure, claiming he goes off into the wilderness is nice and all, but seriously, unless he's got some good inside information, how the heck will he know to kill that particular Tyrant Lizard? What are the odds he's going to find a cache of first-age weaponry without having a clue where to start? Exactly how can he convince men to follow him based only on his weak and grating personality? The issue I see is one that certain characters are built for downtime, and others for the more active 'combat' time. Take your main action heroes, be they "XXX", James Bond, or Jubei. These are guys that the second the action stops, also stop. They dont' grow significantly between stories, and seem to enjoy the downtime. Thus, you can easily have two (or more) types of character - those that flourish in the often combat-focused part of the game, and those that flourish outside of it. Should you really 'penalize' the character with all of the out-of-game charms by giving him the same number of background points as the kill-schmuck? Do you really want the character with Lore 5 Investigation 5 to find the same quality of artifact as the mindless idiot who just happened to kill a Tyrant Lizard? Other backgrounds are just as bad - with Socialize 5, Presence 5, Performance 5, you can pick up followers pretty easily - why should dumb-schmuck get them just as easily with his zeroes in the relevant abilities? And the Bureaucracy 5 guy? Why is he getting the same resources increase as the sword-schmuck? And so on. Don't let the sword-schmuck off so easily. Don't allow him to build a purely 'in-game' character and reap the 'out-of-game' benefits. If you're going to do out-of-game advancement, there's something to be said for some characters getting more than others. That (to me) is the reason you don't buy backgrounds with XP - they're not something that's 'fair', they're something that's earned, and character-specific. My $0.02.
-- GregLink

  • I have no probs with characters using xp to buy backgrounds up, however the key point is that they have to work for it and justify it as I said in my post. The example with the lizard is unrealistic you are right greg, but I might just let a player off with that the one time (never a second though!). It all depends on the game focus, if your game is largely combat based and you opt for the non combat character then you are making it harder for yourself, my last character was a twighlight, lore 5, occult 5, craft 5, medicine 5, celestial sorcery and part shares in the groups first age workshop/lvl 5 manse. Our storyteller after much grumbling from me changed the focus of the game, which was initially entirely combat oriented into a more level game with time for my char to research and build artifacts and new spells, in fact we went on a massive quest just to get the components needed for one of my artifacts. But we also had many sesions in which fighting was a major part - the other characters were 2 dawn cast warriors and a zenith killer monk. Taking over a town is definately not 'down time' stuff in our game, it should be roll played out. Just exactly how did you do it without the Sidereals/wyld hunt/local DB's noticing? I would have no probs allowing your char to up his contacts or followers background, the dawn you mentioned with zero social skill would not stand a chance of getting them, but he could go out and hire out his sword as a merc for a while and up his resources - say pay and a bonus for capturing a bandit group or something. But yes justification is nesecary for every background increase. If you can't realistically explain why it would go up then you simply don't get the increase. Eldmar
    • Eldmar, I'm not saying you're wrong. I'm just pointing out that 'unfairness' can, in fact, be fair. As for game-feel, and such, well of course you're right as well. If you're going to play a purely non-combat character in a combat game, well, yeah, you get what you paid for. As for how I avoided the Wyld Hunt? Well, I didn't. That was the next part of the plot line - what happens when "The Seven Bounties King" (to steal a name from elsewhere in the Wikiworld) takes over a large portion of the West and North and starts pulling the new Democratic line of "There's a better way!". In short, it results in a giant war between the Realm and the Seven Bounties King, with hundreds of thousands involved in both sides. However, all their magic mumbo-jumbo aside, with particularly brutally efficent high-Essence (custom) bureaucracy charms, it's amazing how much better your army works, your industries work, how happy your people are, etc. The war becomes one not of winning territory, but of converting as you go. I mean, why wouldn't you want to live in the Kingdom of Seven Bounties? They're all happy, well-fed, and not conscripted! -- GregLink