My new playtest group got together last Thursday to playtest one of the weapons I’ve written up for Arms of the Chosen. For the test, I ran my Elric knock-off, Prince Clovis of Ysyr, who I’d used in our previous Arms playtest. Clovis’ Charms are split evenly between Occult and Sorcery on the one hand, and Melee and sword Evocations on the other. His Dexterity and Melee are strong but not maxed-out. All in all, I’d say he’s about equal in combat ability to an underpowered starting Dawn.
We played out two fights between Clovis and a heroic mortal warrior armed with spear and shield, fluffed as a 300-style Spartan. (What Sparta was doing in the Scavenger Lands was never satisfactorily addressed.) In the first, a fight to the death, things played out much as one might expect in such a matchup. Clovis acted first, dumped a bunch of motes into gaining combat momentum, and soon thereafter landed a near-lethal wound that left the Spartan laden with major penalties. The mortal managed to maneuver out of close combat distance to wing Clovis with a thrown spear—protip: Athletics is important!—and was generally able to prolong the battle with several lucky rolls and lots of Willpower expenditures, but the final outcome was never in doubt.
For the second fight, Clovis faced another Spartan hero in a training exercise amid a ruined temple complex. By the terms of the fight, they fought with sheathed or blunted weapons, with the goal of “tagging” each of their opponent’s limbs. Getting tagged meant not using that limb for the rest of the fight, holding an arm behind one’s back or hopping on one leg as appropriate. While there are no explicit mechanics for such an unusual exercise in the Exalted Third Edition ruleset, the system is flexible enough that the Storyteller was able to quickly and easily generate mechanics for such hits on the fly.
This time around, despite Clovis spending a good chunk of motes to try to get an advantage at the start of the fight, the Spartan tagged his sword-arm right away with an uncannily good roll, leaving the Solar at a penalty for the rest of the encounter. The mortal then dodged away between the pillars to pelt him with spears, all while he was bleeding motes to make up for his ongoing penalties. Things would have gone poorly had the Spartan not made a tactical error; he pulled farther back from the fight because he expected Clovis to try and close to melee. Meanwhile, the Solar was also withdrawing in order to catch his breath and regain motes. By the time they were back in combat range, Clovis had refilled his mote pool and was able to tag all of the Spartan’s limbs in quick succession with a barrage of Charm- and Evocation-laden attacks.
Most of Clovis’ motes were spent on Melee Charms, as I quickly discovered that while my weapon’s mechanics were engaging in the way that I’d hoped, the low-level Evocations I’d bought for Clovis were slightly overcosted, and based too heavily on interactions with high-level Evocations rather than on their own merits. I rewrote them from the ground up for the next playtest, which I’ll discuss in another post.
All in all, this worked out both as I’d expected and hoped. Skilled mortals can challenge the Exalted, but they require some combination of cleverness, luck, and/or situational advantages to win. Meanwhile, the Exalt’s odds vary heavily based on how much of his personal resources he’s willing to commit to the fight. My chances of achieving a quick, clean victory would have improved if I’d spent more motes and Willpower, but in treating these tests as actual encounters rather than white-room simulations, I deemed it important to withhold some of my resources in case the Storyteller had additional threats waiting in the wings.