Here’s the latest from the Marst playtest group. This session covered both the social influence rules and the combat system. This time they played around with battle groups, and they seem pretty happy with how Exalted 3e handles mass combat. But I’ll let the playtest group’s Storyteller speak for himself:
When we last left our heroes they were about to enter the secluded glen of the nymph who had absconded with a villager’s daughter.
1) Social Influence System – Social Influence remains one of my favorites rules pieces I have seen thus far. The way Intimacies change the strength and power of your arguments and the way you can manipulate certain Intimacies or emotions into being so that they become useful is just awesome. I find it is very much like a warrior and his weapon. A skilled warrior with a sword is deadly, but a warrior with a daiklave is a thing of legend. The same thing goes for a courtier who knows or does not know an intimacy for the target,
As Bending Sky approached the glen, he struck up a tune on his flute. It was a light and happy melody meant to soothe and to remind its listeners of home. His music was so beautiful that it made even the nymph, a creature of beauty herself, stop and admire the minstrel’s skill. The small girl stopped her play-dance and instead grew wistful, her thoughts turning toward home and the family she had forgotten while in the nymph’s care. (The [REDACTED] action here was used to set the stage for further arguments and move the characters emotionally to a place where they were amenable to going home or finding a new home.)
From here, words spilled from Bending’s Sky’s mouth like rain from the clouds. Some of these words were spoken honestly, and others were less then truthful, but no matter their validity, each word was convincing. He presented a scheme that played on both the nymph’s loathing of the Eldest and her love of trickery. He said the great Wood King wished to wed her, for there were none more beautiful in all of his realm. He said that the King would offer her all the spoils of his kingdom, and that she could walk and play among his people to her heart’s desire. Under all this, though, was an undercurrent of slyness that the Nymph picked up on. This would put her in a position to cause him immense grief, while also getting her the things she wanted—and all for the price of a simple yes.
(The body language system was used here. It worked nicely as a way to underline words, and a combination of [REDACTED], [REDACTED] and a sort of [REDACTED] did the rest. The social back and forth was tense as both participants were skilled, and it was only the slightly better rolling by Bending Sky’s player that let him eke this one out. Stunts also played a big part here as the player did several [REDACTED] stunts in a row, which really pushed him over the top and got him back the Willpower that he needed to keep spending. It was nice, as it really made stunts feel like they were helping to define the hero and letting him accomplish difficult tasks, rather then just being a resource battery.)
Karis and White Ink both were transfixed by the nymph’s beauty. It was all they could do to not go to her. The old man in particular could only stare at her on their entire long walk home.
When finally they arrived back in Elder Pine, after many hours of traveling and Bending Sky’s persistent attempts at wooing the nymph, they went to the Eldest’s priest—and finally to the Eldest tree itself—to show what they had accomplished. It was here that Bending Sky made his boldest (and almost his most foolish) move yet. When the Eldest himself came at their call, Bending Sky presented him with the small girl who had been taken, but also with the nymph, saying that she was in awe of his might and wished to be with him for all time. The nymph—now mildly annoyed, but worried about what revealing the lie would cause—kept her mouth shut and her features smooth. Bending Sky, for his part, called upon the Eldest’s hubris to aid him in persuading the mighty Wood King of this bold lie. Thankfully for Bending Sky, the Eldest’s hubris was as large as his tree home, and with clever words and the nymph as a fine gift, Bending Sky managed to pull off his greatest lie yet.
([REDACTED] are awesome and a wonderful way to handle these types of things. I was all ready to have the Wood King laugh off Bending Sky’s attempts to sway him, when all of a sudden he didn’t have any applicable Intimacy to [REDACTED] as he had used it to [REDACTED] already. It was a tense but amazing moment as the future of the PC hung in the balance.)
With their victory achieved, the caravan received the Eldest’s blessing, and off it rolled toward its next destination, with Bending Sky singing the praises of his new friends for their fantastic deeds, which were almost as amazing as his own. A few weeks of uneventful travel later, the caravan pulled up to the city of Shimmering Blossom. Through campfire talk and some rumor-gathering, Karis found out that many of the common folk viewed the city with mistrust, for it was said that the elders of the city built it with the use of wishes and could do whatever they wished inside of it. They said it was because of this that the city needed no walls and seemed almost ethereally beautiful; that it contained many things that simply cannot exist, like trees with flowers of supple and fragrant gemstones. They also said to never wish for anything in the city, lest you become cursed and turn into one of the very blossoms for which the city gains its name.
Brimming with curiosity, though, our brave men and women did indeed go inside, both under their own volition and because they were summoned there one evening to attend a dinner held by the city elders. It seemed Master Telev had spoken highly of them and their deeds, and the elders would love to listen to their stories.
2) Investigation and Larceny Systems – We continue to use both of these subsystems, but have been unable to make them anything but awesome and fun, so nothing new to report here.
3) Combat – I introduced battle groups into the mix tonight. White Ink, Bending Sky and Karis had to fight two [REDACTED] battle groups and two more elite leaders. The combat was fun and brisk, and through Bending Sky we got to try out some Martial Arts Techniques related to Tiger Style.
The fight started out with an elite spearman absolutely crushing his [REDACTED] roll and using that combat momentum to simply murder one of the NPC guards in his path. White Ink and Bending Sky were not far behind, though. White Ink charged the small battle group of men, his greatsword rending the air. He charged because he knew he needed to disband this group as quickly as possible, for they had attacked at night and he, like his friends, was without his armor. This strategy seemed to work great, as the battle group was torn and cut by the old man. Things turned sour when, a few moments later, the battle group—not yet dispersed—counterattacked and, using its numbers to its advantage, did away with almost all of White Ink’s combat momentum in one ferocious blow.
Bending Sky joined Karis on top of a caravan and began to launch arrow after arrow at the huntmaster who was leading a battle group of trained mastiffs. His arrows struck true and the huntsman was forced off-balance, which was fortuitous for Bending Sky as this less-than-sure footing caused the huntsman’s thrown knives to score no more than a glancing blow, from which Bending Sky could easily recover. Karis, for her part, spent the first two rounds hiding her rather hefty amount of illicit monies and goods so that they could not be stolen by these bandits.
The enemy spearman continued to dance through the NPC guards, driving them back or killing them with ease. Sadly, White Ink was finding things much harder then he had expected. This group of men was well-trained, and on their next actions they both [REDACTED] together. (We all adore this mechanic, by the way. It has worked well every time it has come up, and really gives certain moments in the fight a cool feel.) Once again, the result was that the weight of numbers was too much for the old man to overcome, and without his armor to deflect their blows, steel bit deeply into his sides and arms. (“Armor is seriously useless”? LOL. Do not leave home without it, or you will end up like White Ink here—or worse. I personally think this is a cool feature that adds diversity to the game, as an armor guy without his armor should be in bad shape).
Seeing the huntmaster quickly approaching, Bending Sky flipped off the top of the caravan and, in a surprisingly quick motion, drove straight into his opponent, knocking him down and knocking the wind out of him. (Techniques are so cool, and yet again they add another layer to combat, and as will be shown, even this basic knockdown technique truly threw a pretty powerful opponent completely out of tactic and rhythm.)
The huntmaster, now badly out of position and looking like he was a few solid blows away from death, began to run back to his battle group of dogs for protection. As he did so, though, a hail of arrows came out of the darkness, seeming to materialize around him and rush forward toward his beloved hounds. Karis had finally entered the fray, and so well hidden was she while concealing her loot that the great mastiffs stood no chance of evading her, and such was the force of her attack that many hounds were slain on the spot. The rest scattered into the forest, leaving the huntmaster all alone and with Bending Sky bearing down on him.
Meanwhile, the bandit group had laid into White Ink once more and driven the old man to one knee, blood cascading down his sides from several grisly wounds. Things did not look good for the old man, and that’s when Bending Sky changed his mind. Instead of chasing down and slaughtering his huntmaster prey, he leaped over him to land amid the bandit group and, with slicing claw and ferocious rending kicks, he scattered the battle group before they could send White Ink to Lethe.
This left only the spearman and the huntmaster. White Ink, realizing he was in no shape to fight such a skilled master of the spear, grinned at Bending Sky and shot off toward the huntmaster, his typical limp seemingly gone. Aided by several arrows launched by a still-hidden Karis to guide him in certain directions, the huntmaster finally met his end pinned to a tree by White Ink’s greatsword. Bending Sky and the spearman battled back and forth, each trading blows, their place in the fight sliding back and forth several times in the span of a heartbeat. Finally a moment came, one upon which the outcome of the fight would be decided. The great combatants clashed, the spearman twirling and lunging forward, Bending Sky attempting to deflect the blow and slip inside his opponents guard. Sparks flew, heads turned, and silence took center stage for just a brief moment as all around wished to see the outcome of this final clash. When the moment passed, both men stood slightly past one another, tired yet proud. But it was the spearman who fell, his torso badly gutted by the claws of Bending Sky.
(Again, I love [REDACTED], and just the whole thing was fun. Stunts are so much more fun and integral now, as I mentioned before. A brilliant stunt at the end was the difference here, as Bending Sky only won the [REDACTED] by a success or two. I would definitely be able to just play heroic mortals in this game and have a lot of fun.)
However, this game is not just about playing heroic mortals. It is about playing the Exalted, and as such this game will soon have them. Next game, the players will be tasked with tracking down an item that was taken from the caravan during the fight. And at their task’s culmination, if their hearts are brave enough and their spirits strong enough, they will join the ranks of the Exalted.