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17:36, 16th June 2024 (GMT+0)

Advice?!: Fail forward Exalted 2e.

Posted by V_V
member, 1154 posts
For 2024 is the year
of Health and Career
Fri 8 Mar 2024
at 12:01
  • msg #1

Advice?!: Fail forward Exalted 2e.

The subject of this thread would effective read--were it possible to condense it--If a series of events could include in the potential (and not absurdly unlikely) imprisonment of PCs, how would those replying here, approach it as a ST, and and how would those perceive it, layer by layer, as if playing.

As a disclaimer!: Do not read this if you play Exalted 2e with me! I can't stop you, but it will compromise such game(s).

So, the situation is rather unimportant to fully describe in detail, but is relevant to a certain set of events. One track, four degrees, or forks, into the event path, involves a introduction of an antagonist and return of one that, should this "node: be reached, would have defeated the PCs.

So...the first layer of this, and I want people who respond to focus on two aspects, the first, as you read this, to consider layer by layer, and not read it all, to think how you would respond as a player to a character that falls under the PC criteria. That is, I want those who are offering advice to (please?) keep in mind the idea that players won't know the next layer, any more than you will, as each layer is revealed. So for this, think about each layer that has already been read. Secondly, after reading it all, and knowing just this extrapolation, how you might approach: pacing, aggression, volume and intensity of the antagonist's role for the PCs to react to. Ultimately, as ST, I have to give enough information that player can feel informed, and some require rolls, others are volunteered by STCs (like NPCs) while finally some are implied to give impressions. The last of which is what makes the STC more likely to be an antagonist, than a neutral or uninteresting party.

The first layer is that a secret agent is working with a society that is very bureaucratic, yet rife with corruption. If you know exalted 2.5, this is a Vizier (Reckoner--Endings) of independent faction al interest, but with some not a lot of backing in the Bureau of Heaven, yet considerable though not apex, backing in the convention of wood and special convention on Essence Users, and finally sponsor into a very new convention, which is "on the reclaimation" as Warlocks have predated (in this timeline) those like Yurgen Kenako.

If you don't know exalted, then don't worry about it, it can be explained a character that has considerable sway in the "surface world", while respected in the secret society they are nowhere near a the top of the ladder. Finally, they have some special, very rare authority in the bureau, as I might put it, an air force contract that specifically has access to maybe, alien aviation, which basically only three other humans have. Which is with the correlation that aliens are bad. This is all combined to have some nuance how the event will play out.

On this same layer, the first layer, a PC has this STC (the above secret agent) as a lover and employer. They both (PC and STC) have mutual interest, but independent volition and motivations. Thus don't often meet, and when they do its either to "have benefits" or conduct business. Finally, the player had a lot of influence over the basics (being a lover, their employer; asking they be secret agent) and the player chose to invest some their character points into "Securing this" or "affording" them this STC as a support cast. So in essence *wink* the player has something at stake they put into collateral with this STC.

The second layer is the first to occur in game. That is, the first layer is really up to the single PC and their player to divulge, twhile the second layer is more for all the PCs and players to interact with. The second layer is, highly likely to resolve, but I'm not unprepared for the PCs to circumvent its prompt, delay it, or just prevent it. They probably can't, much as it would be like taking an action, without knowing the answer to a question they have no reason to ask. So...this agent, we'll call her Violet, just for clarity. The PCs will also have pseudonyms I'll give them, but would rather detail those critical attitudes and personality and especially power and skill sets more briefly to for this OP. I invite inquiry if you think it's pertinent. Feel free to stop reading, to reply and let me know where you got to (quote just the last sentence you read) and I'll try to fill in the blanks. I'm very sure I DO have blanks. Even if I don't intend to.

So the second layer is that Violet interacts with the allied PC, we'll call her Moxie, and then gives an "order" as in like an order of purchase, not as in command. This order is to track another slightly different secret agent. If you know exalted, this is a Oracle, but this oracle wears power armor that puts them outside fate. The second agent, we'll just call Oracle. Oracle has a suit of armor that, among other things, allows them to avoid the bureaus tracking, basically with impunity, to live an illegal side life that would otherwise prompt treason to the bureau. So Oracle ios both secret agent, and double agent. They aren't ACTUALLY a traitor, but have their own slice of deep values shared by the bureau, but then distinct fissures that Oracle doesn't put stock into.

Oracle happens to NOT be on the "official" department that deals with this "alien" type. Such as I gave the example on. HOWEVER, in their armor they actually do have DIRECT access to such an alien, we'll call her Wishes, that Oracle helps Wishes avoid problems, in return for not just narrow "technology" but entire research of Wishes culture and "type". If you know exalted, I think you know that I mean the Oracle knows a Warlock. The Warlock is Wishes, and Wishes is a PC, and they really are a very good (and I mean that both morally and "well") rendition of a chiefly heroic group of lawgivers and stewards. The nuance is not germane, but the idea is pretty basically the Ebon Dragon playing the victim and the actual "hero" for this fanatically grateful woman. Lilun doesn't exist in my games, as many STCs also homerule. So the process of exaltation is in the (I forget the numeric) soul of the Yozi, in this case its Erembour that "holds" that exaltation, and the Ebon Dragon just does as otherwise stated, only to a more...let's say comfortable host.

So...Oracle and Violet both have connections to each a PC. Violet is much more willing to make personal sacrifice than Moxie knows, but doesn't want to reveal that legitimate care, and instead chooses to act like Oracle. Oracle, however, truly is a business partner who has some respect for Wishes, but whom, would not easily fall prey to laying himself down in Wishes place.

Moxie and Wishes will meet, just by virtue of Oracle knowing he's sought (under his bureau identity) unbeknownst to Violet unaware Oracle is a known colleague that has this double identity. So at this point, it becomes a "filler" and I don;t use that to imply lack of substnace, the opposite in fact! It's is, however, really the PCs and other events that are the content that fill the gap between the next layer.

The third layer, is really the unknown and might be moot, because, as you'll see, it's just a potential that I want answers and material if this layer is exposed, as opposed to another possible layer by unforeseeable PC action. The third layer involves a time interval of in game months and RL probably months too, TBH. Maybe even over a year (I'm slow!). A member of the secret society with more clout in the society itself, whom bundles ALL PCs as the same "Aliens" if you will, despite most of them being human. This third member, I'll name Traitous. Traitous is an antagonist, by at least two fronts, if not more. IF traitous finds out Oracle is a double agent, he'll seek to put the bureau identity to a trail by the bureaus (corrupt!) councilors and judges. This may also involve Traitous knowing Violet "failed" in finding Oracle. It may also involve Traitous framing Violet, and taking the credit for himself. Traitous is covetous and malign and is a power hungry and overall cruel person. Those beneath him are to rise him up above the others, not to rise the water so all ships rise, so to speak. Traitous may find Wishes, he may find Moxie, and this may lead him to Violet or Oracle, or Oracle in process of changing in or out of his armor. At any point, Traitous will seek to bring credit to himself by taking any of these four to the bureau. This may be the last layer, as he may try...but lose! That's great! If that happens, I'm happy I made an antagonist that furthered story, but didn't require it to be about them in their "full" (potential) entirety. This storytelling game, but a game nonetheless. I won't be disappointed, but I'll never see layer four, and thus this is kind of the turning point. If, however, Traitous fights any of the PCs (There are four more! beside Moxzie and Wishes. Total of six PCs)he won't aim to kill, but to incapacitate and take prisoner. More the power to him if he does so to all PCs. Then Violet and potentially Oracle.

NOW! Now, we get to the real core content

On layer four the PCs have been captured, they are in chains, irons basically like manacles of barbaric cruelty. These irons have two main powers, one is that they are basically unbreakable. They have the potential with the precise set of skills, but otherwise they're very much absolute. The second power is it shut off an special "magic" powers that would have otherwise made such a council trial problematic. This doesn't make the PCs, and Oracle anad./or Violet mute nor unable to do ANYTHING, just very VERY weakened. Think maybe Superman partially eexposed to kryptonite (not sure that happens to superman, but let's say it just makes him "humanly" strong and otherwise mortally bound to form)  For those that know Exalted these are manacles of night, the **** version.

So the scene at this point becomes more social, the corrupt council don't all have the same corruption. Some LIKE the "aliens" (Anathema) because all these particular councilors want is the power. Some hate the "aliens," so much that they fear them and want them removed, lest they cripple the bureau. Still others have parallel motivations and if appealed they'll favor the PCs, if not, they'll favor Traitous. One councilor however isn't a small figure, he's a very, if not THE very, pinnacle of the Bureau. We'll call him Tomato, Tomato is a antagonist that probably is only there to say a few words and posion the waters, then leave. For those that use combat systems, Tomato is basically 20th level D&D, or a mid power cosmic threat in supers, or if you knoew exalted, it's Kejak. It's the Bronze Faction leader.

Finally, to set the (potential!) scene, Traitous leads in the chain gang of captives, which may not evne include ALL PCs, some PCs may have escaped! Plotting a rescue of those captured. Tomato is overheard and seen, more importantly, speaking malign words to the council and then Tomato leaves. The social trial is mostly dedicated to the PCs having a light on each to speak to their character, that is PCs (not players) speaking to their in game own defense, or just other words they wish to speak. Then should the players fail to convince the council, and fail to escape, the story will pause, and I'll plan from there as the tone shifts to a more escape and somewhat magically bound to service (but not abiolutely) rather than deny the PCs and thus the players their character's powers. So essentially fail forward is the PCs hhave some "curse" on them that is the terminal failure and the story continuyes in that light, allowing other events to go on, but not killing the game by just locking the PCs and players into monotonous cells or cages and "Roll until you escape" or "How do you get out of this insipid and boring box".

On the other side, if the PCs do convince the council, Traitous isn't on trial, but he will then have exposed his own true nature and become a returning antagonists that the PCs, and probablty Oracle and Violet, now have vendetta against, with more information about Traitous than Traitous has of them. In this case, the degree of the emancipation will be determined both by Rolls of the PCs and STCs, and also their actions. At best they go with some gifts and knowledge and even access to the bureau through a more "half-way" inside access. At worst, if still successful, they're cleared and can;t then jnust be dragged back without some REALLY better reason, based on PC action, so Traitous will have to find another less advantageous approach, which will likely mean if he doesn't approach the PCs, they'll probably find Traitous first.

So? The idea of having your character fight b attle, and potentially lose, then the loss means you have to play in a completely dialogue centric and political encounter that has odds against you...would this turn you off to playing? Would you disengage? Would you be more passive? What about the oppsite. Would this be fiercely engaging? Prompt agression? Provoke that primordial antagonism back?

What if you won the trial? Would Traitous be someone, who (for the of the thread let's say there's some reason) you consider hunting down, or setting a trap for, or just  waiting for him to return?

What if you lose the trial? Would you be interested in the game, despite a long term curse on you? The stories being more in line with gladiator or suicide squad type (only heroic) missions until you find emancipation?

Now as a GM or ST (of Exalted the better!) would you plan farther than this? Would you consider this a future notice to not repeat? Would you make the penalty for "failure" more or less severe?

I hope that if you need more information, you'll ask. I'm veryverbose, and I have tropuble gosh dang it. I have trouble typing a lot, and I already did! lol. Please excuse my typos, even those fixable by a "checker" because I have more control over my keyboard than my mouse, which is what the checkers I have require me to confirm changes. FYI Is have Parkinsonism, not Parkinson's disease, but the former from Haldol. I LIKE to write but most of what I fix isn't ever seen, it's thje other things that get through that you will.

Thank you!
This message was last updated by the user at 13:03, Mon 06 May.
member, 28 posts
Sat 9 Mar 2024
at 10:40
  • msg #2

Advice?!: PCs taken prisoner as an early fail forward.

Putting on a dusty old Exalted ST hat, I'd say NOT to employ the taken prisoner trope.

Given Kejak's cameo I'm guessing you want to put the PC exalts (and others) before a mixed Bronze/Gold Sidereal group for judgement?

Exalts by default have a lot of agency and aren't easily captured.  You'd need to OOCly convince the players to have their PCs captured or be prepared for a lot of combat rolling.  A lot can go wrong.  A PC could die a wasted death.  And if PCs kill the people who try to arrest them (especially a Sidereal), that taints the judging process.

As a PC, I'd feel pretty helpless, railroaded, and disinterested in the super politics.  The suicide squad type missions as a consequence would really feel like a bait & switch move.  And Traitous would probably feel like a pretty meh villain without more interaction with his minions, allies, or plans.

Instead you could modify Layer Four and offer the PCs a chance to appear as witnesses or advocates for whoever Traitous has gotten on trial.  Let the Eclipse(s) have their courtroom moments.  You could even let the PCs do the leg work in trying to secure invitations, Heavenly allies, or finding legal loopholes.  Maybe the PCs will feel more invested in Sidereal things afterwards?

I'd also offer the idea that maybe the trial could take place on Creation, if you wanted to keep Yu-Shan off the table and keep telling smaller scale stories.  Once you pull out super politics, regional problems seem trivial.

Hope that helps!
member, 1155 posts
For 2024 is the year
of Health and Career
Sun 10 Mar 2024
at 09:45
  • msg #3

Advice?!: PCs taken prisoner as an early fail forward.

I need to clean this post up I can't put in private text, and I'm afraid I'll lose it on the Hard Disk...

So maybe I'll strike it through for now and come back better rested and able to consolidate my answers, not so much for you, madkeeper, as to anyone
(including you) who may join the conversation, and my context may color the situation differently.

Combat is already discussed on the board, as it's a high action game. So Traitous, as I said, would NOT aim to kill. The idea is that I hope one Essence 6 Sidereal will be a match but not trump the six PCs, and at least two STCs.

The idea of Traitous is an action oriented focus. The game is action oriented. That said, action is ALL combat, including social combat.

My layer four isn't fixed by your suggestion. Don't get me wrong! I appreciate the advice. I should have admitted this was an action oriented game. PCs are above starting points. They have extra points, more than must dots, but some starting XP too. Our highest essence  PCs (plural [not all]) have 5 essence.

The layer 3 is where the scene is focal. As I said, it's a game, and I want the PCs to succeed. It isn't set up to for them to lose. It's just that three of the six PC have some connection to Yu Shan,'s Traitous that came from the PCs more than just independent in a vacuum.

At the same time, we have two highly social characters. Both of which have enchanting features at the maximum degree. So if Traitous beats each and every PC alone, then this is a way to secure the social backup plan.

I already have a record of killing PCs (in other games) and offered a softcore option...that no player took up. Some in fact stating their wanting actions to have meaning.

So again, it's the transition if Traitous fights them and they lose. Not the fight with Traitous being a railroad.

In the end though, I appreciate the advice. If it comes off as a railroad to you, it might to them too. Hence why I asked. Maybe Traitous has a slightly different charm set to allow him to be more mobile and less tough? Thus he may "lose" earlier and flee. That might be a good marriage of your suggestion and Traitous's motivation.

As to your assumption. No, it's mainly the Censures and just Traitous as tje independent and Kejak as the Bronze Vizier who has membership in EEEEverything.. A few major Allies and Mentors picked by the PCs that they soft-coded have made Kejak less impressive than otherwise. Anys Syn, for one, is a Water Convention team Righteous Tsunami bronze faction member that would rather meet a horrible end than horror without end. Another is the Emissary is MORE powerful than Kejak, and TWO players have him as their mentor. So I didn't just have that dual contribution be moot.

Again, in the end, I'm inviting the biting criticism as long as the replies are like your reply. I want to be clear about the genre and style of the game. You don't know, because I didn't say. I also can't write every nuance here, even if I wanted to! So when I mention exceptions, it's not to argue, it's just so I have full disclosure which may color the review. This game has been in workshopping for nearly...over two years...just in production. Which is slow! Don't get me wrong, but RL was demanding with financial strain and homelessness. Yet I still worked with players off and on, and especially dozens of posts in each of a few weeks over this time.

Anyway, I might rebuild Traitous to have two versions, one more mobile as a possible solution to make the combat more movement oriented, and have him have higher DV, less soak and less ways to prevent damage. A mobile but glass canon, one that does bashing...
This message was last edited by the user at 10:13, Sun 10 Mar.
member, 1169 posts
For 2024 is the year
of Health and Career
Mon 6 May 2024
at 12:58
  • msg #4

Advice?!: PCs taken prisoner as an early fail forward.

So I am abandoning the "plain speak" of the problem and relying on those (if any) to know about the system and to have access to either time to look up, or memory of these keyed traits.

So I rewrote Traitous, and I'd like advice on the improvement, zero-sum, or decline of the previous set up. Just ignore the cross out text for now, unless you can parse it out as kind of tangential.

So Traitous is less "brutal" losing the "overwhelming" of 5 from his Violet Bier of Sorrows, and also less brutal in having the Shield of Destiny. Not to mention he currently has zero SMA, that is the "High" SMA. He's going to keep the Earth and Sky Bargain, so soak and regeneration. I have three Ox Body instead of the Shield of Destiny. Then I gave him two partial styles, and one most complete style. Those being White Veil up to Dragon Dies in Bed; Terrible Ascent Driven Beast up to the Form; and then Art of Victorious Concession to Soothing Words of Wisdom, but also Honey Coat Admonitions. No other charms that aren't prerequisites to those charms as the apex. I added Avoidance Kata and removed almost all of the Awareness charms, most of all the very apex that would have his social attacks far more likely to succeed. The apex of his awareness is currently Wise Choice. I then added Wanting and Fearing Prayer to his Socialize, the ability itself to allow him a better chance to make "unexpected" presence attacks by establishing surprise. He has terrestrial circle sorcery, and two spells; Cirrus Skiff, and Open the Spirit Door. Finally, I added End Debate as his apex of Bureaucracy, but he also has Fate Auspicious Bureaucracy.

I removed almost all of his motivation, both as a trait, and as an agenda. Then started with his contempt of Oracle. Traitous has a distinct place in the Convention on the Reclaimation. Oracle has been very conveniently clean of any traces with the Convention, yet he seems to somehow get more time with Anys Syn; the Chair on the Convention on the Reclaimation. Often this involves dead ends in Nexus, for Traitos. Oracle meets Anys Syn, Traitous is soon after sent away from Nexus; after all, demons are the purview of Ayesha Ura, who is also the chair of the that subconcention, and also the Chair of the Convention of Wood. Anys Syn is "just taking territorial direction from the Head of the Gold Faction". This stinks to Traitous. Which is what prompted him to go rogue, but not Ronin, and learn his Bureaucracy charms over "interim" I talked about in my first post, when he will go looking for Oracle, and just be going where he's so often been shewed away from. Whether he even meets the PCs, or whether he finds Oracle, or whether Oracle finds out Traitous is looking for Oracle under the Fated name that is the Bureau of Destiny; all this is unknown to me. I'll have to see how the PCs act. Traitous is ultimately a caring person, poetically much like Wishes is. Traitous just doesn't want Creation to be a playground for the the kinds of acts the Bronze Faction and Gold Faction both seem to be aiming. Sure, Traitous doesn't know that full sequence; the Cult of Illuminated isn't even in his periphery of knowledge; but the behavior of the exalts, seen in Yu Shan, and seen in the Realm. It disgusts him. Too long, at the point the interim starts, will Traitous have been seeking bring corruption to minimum, and too long has he built up resentment for the honest work he does meaning far less than just cheating to get in power...only by having power can he be able to have voice to then End Debate the corruption. He doesn't mind the secrecy of the Bureau of Destiny, he doesn't mind the Lawgivers in theory, and he certainly has resentment of the Factions, both, for their treatment of the Silver Faction, that is the Stewards. He thinks even more than Kejak, the elders of the Lunars have claim as the rightfully erring. "Moon sickness" is something that Traitous knows the Great Curse as. Kejak has no excuse, in all but the Warlocks and souls of the Yozis' minds. Even Lytek doesn't see it as curse, but more as a crack in such lifespans. Traitous feels equal parts for the Dragonblooded as he does mortals. Some are great, few are good, most are fine, alot are better dead. Only the Stewards, in Traitous's mind, have an alibi for their first age roles. In fact, Traitous abandoned a "seat" in the Silver "faction" only when nearer to his acceptance that it was bailing sinking ship with a wine glass. He feels a certain grass in greener for those that can take faces, but not be bitten by paradox, nor forgotten by the Mask's breaking.

The Warlocks though, these, in his mind, are the anathema. The Emissary must be (though isn't actually) a Warlock. Why else would no power approach Nexus?. Why else would the Scarlet Empress never see a greater foe, a singular foe, even after claiming the Sword of Creation? Why else would the Emissary have zero fate on him, what, who, how he is. To all fate, he's just "the Emissary". Traitous knows Deathknights are in Fate so long as they meet Creation in person. Warlocks, known by Traitous and other mid ranking Convention on the Reclaimation members, aren't in fate. So the Emissary seems this reason, this intersection of the problem. Traitous is no longer trying to play chess traditionally, or even fairly, though. Oracle knows some dirt. Oracle is stationed in Nexus. Traitous can't face such a being as the Emissary, and Traitous knows it. Still, without starting, he'll never get closer to the day he can fight the greatest Warlock (in Traitous's mind). So as the Interim starts, as the PCs become the focus, an "egg timer" is set for Traitous  work on his Bureaucracy and start working to cheat the system of Yu Shan, to be able to stop the corruption. Everywhere. His agenda, however, is directly to get closer to the "Great Fortification", as Traitous hopes to coin and be glorified in, if only have seat from which to lets the filth runs down on those dirtier than him. The Great Fortification is the imprisonment of the Warlocks, not souls in a Jade prison, but in a stasis of the mortal shell. Much more fragile a prison, much more repeatable and many more baskets to secure each "rotten egg". His ideas, if Traitous is able to persist unconfronted, will be toward spells like Mists of Eventide, and Eternal Crystalline Encasement. He may even try to learn Water Spider Bite, after pursuing Throne Shadow partially to obtain the ability to learn such a powerful shaping martial arts attack, within his first century.

Now then...the penalty for losing to Traitous is going to need to be something. This loss is not preordained or intended, it is, however a potential outcome of potential combat, they has the potential to be a physical combat. The penalty for such an event tree, might be death for my "red tag" players. It might be days of being incapacitated by the Dragon Dies in Bed. It might be taken in irons, not Manacles of Night, but strong manacles, to Yu Shan face inquisition, if only to get answers, or curry favor with Kejak to get a leg up on greater need to end the corruption, even if the act is itself through corrupt means. is this? Better, about the same, worse?

Do please also bear at the highest point of this. Traitous may not even be encountered, even after this interim. He may never be an enemy, or may not even be a STC that's appearance is notable for many RL years. ALOT is having a plan for more likely antagonists to be displayed, not forced upon the PCs. Just because I make Traitous to be an antagonist doesn't mean he will be. He may even be defeated through information, or social combat. He may just be ignored while also being ignorant of the PCs and Oracle and Wishes and thus branch off the story and only reappear when there's another appropriate intersection. Most of all, he is an antagonist to BE beaten. One way, or another. My mission is not to tell story by script, but improvise by roles and events. I'd be glad to see him killed. I'd be almost as glad to see him be recruited or discouraged.
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