Past Lives and Future Choices

We had a good question about past lives last session, and here’s how I think they fit with Ex3.

Since the First Age, a lot has been destroyed, forgotten, or weakened. But I don’t want the heroes of the Second Age to be pale shadows of their predecessors or to be obligated to resurrect ancient glories. The First Age went very wrong, so getting back there is not the default best possible way for the Age of Sorrows to end. Aspects of that time, as you imagine them, may be worthy of imitation. Above all though, Solars are not custodians of the old ways, entrusted with turning back the clock. They are instead free to use their excellence and their judgment to create a new world that they believe in. Or to do anything else, really.

In this context, past lives work as a source of memories. If you want to know something because of some connection to a long-dead Solar, cool. Other castes are fair game too. Mechanically speaking you’ve got a good stunt bonus if you connect to that memory in a cool way.

I wouldn’t want to say that your character is some previous Solar though – you feel a connection of some kind, potentially a scary kind, but you don’t realize that you actually are someone else or that your life has been taken over by a ghost. That could be a great story though, but maybe more as a problem to eventually solve.

Maybe this isn’t hugely different from the 2e version of things. Really I just want the emphasis to be your characters and their choices, not the First Age!

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Separately, now that everyone has Exalted, feel free to discover how powerful you are. Exploration will always be rewarded. You’ll have something to do, for one, and you’ll probably be challenged to fight/talk/think your way out of trouble. That may not sound rewarding, but sxp has to come from somewhere. Bonus WP is also a likely result of pursuing whatever seems interesting. Finally, tell me what you think you’ll find when you poke your head into something.

Exaltation and More!

This is a great time to evaluate and change anything that should be different for your character.

Take a look at your intimacies and consider which relationships or views would be interesting to change now. Or think about what might be worth challenging in the near future. Also feel free to change any intimacies that aren’t working for you on whatever basis, narrative or otherwise.

Make sure your dots in stuff and your specialties and so on still make sense and fit what you want. Since the system is new to us all, feel free to shift something that isn’t quite what you thought. If any changes seem extreme to you, run them by me so I can say yes.

I also wouldn’t mind seeing updated character sheets, just to make sure I know the rules we need.

Edit: More thoughts!

Probably you guys will be some place more populated soon, so here’s something to think about: would you like your characters to have romantic entanglements? That last word is most important – complication is fun, but kissy smoochy time is boring.

I read some good ideas about this the other day. First, the player who wants romance should let me know what kind of character or which character seems interesting (most likely an NPC, unless the other player likes your idea). Second, be ready to create some scenes, possibly with help from me or someone else you choose working from some brief notes, and preferably in the third person (e.g. “He tells her that he loves her,” not “I love you.”)

Most important, think about what makes romance interesting in other media. When someone’s love interest is in danger, when love between two people is dangerous or forbidden or doomed from the start, that’s interesting. A useless/helpless love interest is usually a bad idea (why does this hero want to carry an anchor around all day?) but one who gets into trouble a bit and can often (but not always!) get out of it is great. Finally, this also gives you an easy way to act on an intimacy in a way that may be worth sxp!

I’ll assume this is not what anyone wants until I hear otherwise, of course. But let me know if/when you see a good moment for your character to find that special someone.

Session 4: He Once Again Turns His Face to the World

Plot Points

Axel plodded down the worn track, searching for a scheme to rescue Gustav. But an imposing sight tore him away from his ruminations: a force of beast folk warriors were clearing a path for an ancient war machine.

Huilo, the beast folk commander, was familiar to Axel from his expeditions to Treehaven, so Axel approached the fierce, red-furred panther man in a manner that would not seem odd to any watchful eyes. Realizing that Huilo’s fearsome soldiers would make his unknowing adversary all but invincible against his meager squad, Axel made a desperate appeal to the beast man’s love of his people. If Huilo betrayed the Realm, Axel could be far more generous in dividing the lost treasures of the temple. After all, could anyone trust an agent of the Realm to give up more than a few scraps?

Meanwhile, Arza and Akurin each prepared for battle in their own way. Arza set about studying the Wyld contamination carried by the river – how long had it been spreading, and what dangers did it pose? Akurin, concerned for Liana and her child, looked for the ideal spot to keep her safe from the threats on all sides. That’s when the Silverwights caught up to them.

Axel’s men kept some busy, but a crafty pair of the creatures managed to make a break for Liana. One charged straight at Akurin while the other leaped onto Waterfall’s back to steal the child away. Akurin fought selflessly against the desperate creatures, disregarding his safety in order to keep Liana and her newborn safe.

By the time Arza joined the wild melee, the Wyld creatures had gravely wounded Liana, despite Akurin’s success in wounding one and holding the other at bay. Arza managed to rescue the barely conscious mother by means of another Stormwind Rider, but she bobbled the baby right into the hands of the covetous Silverwight. The struggle continued, with the Silverwights unable to escape the agile heroes, but no one able to finish off the nasty little creatures. Finally, after taking a few wounds of his own, Akurin finished off the tiny kidnapper, allowing Arza to grab the child.

“…And a peerless swordsman, too! Since our sorcerer is the equal of theirs, this battle will be over before it starts!” Axel wondered how he would keep his word as he returned to camp. He rushed toward the sounds of battle, shocked to see a horde of vicious monsters surrounding his men. But, spotting Arza airborne and carrying the Wyld creatures quarry, Axel’s plan came into focus.

“That way! Into their camp! Take the child!”

With one mind, the Silverwights chased Arza toward the Realm base. While Akurin mounted his mare and cut down his foes from behind, Axel rallied his worn men and led them straight toward the Realm soldiers.

Akurin closed in on the frenzied Wyld invaders, and as Akurin’s sword flashed from its scabbard in the familiar, perfect movement of the Shining Starfall Execution, a golden light suffused him, and the mark of Dawn erupted from his brow. With each strike, a glowing falcon surged forward, and the little horrors were extinguished before they knew what hit them.

Arza wove a path through the trees, keeping the Silverwights just out of reach. As she came into range of the Realm sentries, they opened fire with their bows. But the winds of her Stormwind Rider became a swirling golden vortex that burned the arrows away. With the power of Twilight, Arza tore away many mysteries and unleashed newfound sorcerous power on the soldiers before her.

Axel and the Black Feather Flag mercenaries charged toward the garrison, perhaps seeming the least threat. But as he and his men rush in, Axel’s vision is transformed, and he sees the battlefield unfolding in perfect clarity. Though he lacks his usual black-feathered cloak, Axel is suddenly shrouded in a huge mantle of golden crow feathers that shed dark copies with every step. His men fight as one, yet with the ferocity of twice their number, cutting down the speechless sentries.

Unhesitating, Huilo decapitates the Realm captain he had greeted moments before, and his men fly into action, spears and machetes brutally surprising their former allies. Prikipa Ledaal, Chosen of the Dragons, Aspect of Water, Immaculate monk, and Emerald Circle sorcerer, takes only a moment to survey the carnage before leaping into the nearby ravine, where she drifts unharmed, standing atop the raging waters before summoning a Cirrus Skiff to carry her away.

Prikipa leaves behind a curious set of six white jade cages, all hanging from a stand of huge, engraved ivory tusks bound together with thin bands of unknown metals. Two are empty, but four are not. They imprison a variety of spirit creatures: a swirling ball of smoky blackness, a sickly green flame, a polished white skull, and Gustav!

“If only you had told me that three of you were Ascended, this would have been much simpler!” laughed Huilo. He directed a rat-folk savant to operate the derelict war machine, and she deftly manipulated the strange crystalline controls. Old and damaged though it was, the ancient machine quickly extended to form a bridge over the chasm.

The circle of Solar Exalted looked down into the chasm, where Prikipa’s sorcery had tunneled into the rock of the opposite side. Several holes the size of a man revealed a shimmering curtain of Wyld energy.

“Go claim your temple!” urged Huilo.

Lingering Questions

What terrible guardians have kept this temple intact for so long?

How much did Prikipa see, and will she know where to send the Wyld Hunt?

What is this House Ledall scavenger mission that Huilo spoke of?

How will everyone handle becoming Anathema?

Character Details

What did you learn or reveal about your character this time, if anything?

Worst Roll

Two sessions in a row for Arza! Fumbles are bad, especially when babies are involved, and especially when the other team recovers the fumble. Even worse when the other team likes to take the baby back to their lair so they can screw with its mind and feed on its dreams forever. But hey, things never got that far.

Rewards

5 xp and 4 Solar xp all around.

Session 3: Le Morte d’Arturia?

Plot Points

Desperate to feast on flesh, the Greenmaw snatches up Arturia with its massive tongue before withdrawing through the jungle to devour its meal. Arza races to cut off its escape while Arturia’s pets frantically pursue. She manages to corner the Greenmaw by the edge of a chasm and choke it with sturdy vines, preventing it from fully swallowing its captive. Arturia’s pets leap, biting and clawing, onto the monster, while a mysterious silvery blade slashes through its neck from the inside. In agony, the Greenmaw tumbles into the rapids below. What will become of Arturia and her loyal companions?

Arza returns, dejected, to see Axel’s troops victorious. Sensing the Silverwights’ desire to push his men back into the woods, he led his men to surround and slaughter them. None too soon – for the last day, a pair of travelers have been trapped in the branches of a tall tree by a larger force of these Wyld creatures. Akurin, a swordsman, had been escorting the newly widowed Liana (obviously an NPC – her name is wrong) to family in Echo Falls. Liana’s early labor drew the attention of the Silverwights, but Akurin’s tireless bravery held them at bay. And in the end Arza’s sorcery served to rescue both from their haven, just as some kind of Wyld energy seeped toward the tree.

Akurin and Arza stood guard over Liana while she delivered her daughter in a traveler’s hut far from the creatures. Their rudimentary skill in medicine was just enough to ensure that nature took the right course, and they once again were spirited away by Arza’s sorcery, this time returning to the scene of the battle. During their absence, Axel had sent his men to search nearby, concluding that the Wyld energy came from something upstream. His instinct was that the ruins they sought were there, and Akurin remembered seeing Realm soldiers pass through his village head the same way. They resolved to find the temple the next day.

As always, Gustav proved invaluable, locating the ruined temple through a combination of his human skills and his avian form. Axel decided to send him in to scout more closely, but when he did not return, Axel was overcome by panic and guilt. He first tried to get the group across the gorge to the temple, but even Arza’s considerable skill was not enough to make their improvised tools into an effective path across.

Determined not to lose his friend again, Axel discarded his armor and weapons to adopt his favorite disguise. He walked toward the Realm encampment alone, tricking the sentries into seeing him as no more than a befuddled traveler. Through considerable will, he stayed calm as they led him around their defensive perimeter and managed to further deceive them into revealing their numbers. He even overheard one whispering about their commander, Mistress Ledaal, before they sent him on his way down an old, overgrown path.

Lingering Questions

Will Arturia miraculously survive falling off a cliff into the rapids while lodged in the throat of a giant carnivorous plant?

Who is Mistress Ledaal, and what does she want here?

What happened to Gustav?

Do I hear a yeddim crying out in loneliness?

Character Details

What did you learn or reveal about your character this time? Feel free to edit this part, you slackers.

  • Axel really is the tactical genius here, not you.
  • Axel is prone to panic when his normally unobtrusive and evasive friend goes missing somehow, robbing him both of his eyes in the sky and an easy escape scenario.
  • Arza is able to keep calm in unusual situations and do more than most people her age, such as almost rescue a companion and deliver a baby.
  • We’ll find out more about how Arza handles the news about Mistress Ledaal next session.

Worst Roll

Not that bad, but Arza’s attempt to improvise some ropes for a daring crossing of the chasm didn’t go well enough to even make a crossing attempt possible. But that could have been a blessing in disguise.

Rewards

5 xp and 4 Solar xp for all.

Session 2: That God Must Be Crazy

Plot Points

As Axel investigates the Razor Dogs’ stash house, Arza takes stock of the refugees freshly arrived at the top of the cliffs. Axel finds, in a small crate from a local tailor, a dozen or so Swift Swords tabards, or at least reasonable copies thereof. He also grabs the box of infusers, the goal of this foray into the Brambles. Arza, meanwhile, notices the delirious mumbling of one of the refugees, Peleps Samara, sister of Arza’s patron.

Gustav had warned Axel of approaching trouble, and at that moment a rival gang closes in, determined to wrest control of the ancient elevators from the Razor Dogs. Arturia’s earnestly persuades the gang soldiers to back off, but the leader, a huge, bald pimp named Ebello, isn’t convinced until Axel makes some threats backed up by Arza’s sorcerous prowess. His men grab a few of the beaten gang members before heading out.

Soldiers, civilians, and feverish refugees make haste to exit the Brambles, and are lucky to reach the east gate when minimally ambitious guards are on duty. Arturia’s straightforwardness again deters the guards from going out of their way to cause trouble, and the party makes haste to the Dragonblooded physician’s complex in the northwest quarter.

Peleps Havara immediately tends to his sister, whom he thought lost when Thorns fell. Axel decides to wait to seek any gain for his actions, and the next morning Havara offers him and his mercenaries a challenging task: venture into the wilderness and retrieve a powerful hearthstone from a lost ruin. The job pays well, so Axel agrees, with Arturia as a wilderness guide and Arza sent along to handle the artifact itself.

Axel takes a moment to interrogate the gang members he took prisoner. They reveal that “a guy” sold them the Swift Swords uniforms to use in whatever acts of deception or violence they could manage. Similarly, “a guy” sold them the infusers along with other stolen cargo from an overland merchant. They pass on descriptions of the guys before Axel decides to cut them loose.

Lacking significant clues, the party decides to consult one of Echo Falls’ oldest denizens: the fallen god Crying Jasper. Arturia’s training in ceremonial dance makes the mercenaries into effective supplicants and quickly draws the attention of Jasper. Alas, his memory is poor and his focus is weak, but some gentle prodding eventually coaxes out a few landmarks from his damaged recollections.

The party sets off into the wilderness, led by Arturia. Progress is good as farms and light vegetation give way to increasingly thick jungle, but a few days in, Arturia walks into a patch of high reeds that conceals an ambush: she and her pets are surrounded by Silverwights, tiny Wyld creatures connected by a hivemind.

Just as the Silverwights are scattered by Arturia’s fierce panther, another predator shows up. A juvenile Greenmaw, ravenous for flesh, eagerly wades into the clearing. Axel rallies his troops, Arturia sends in her pets, and Arza readies her magic. The party gets the upper hand, but suddenly the Greenmaw lashes out with its powerful tail, sending Arturia tumbling into the jungle and breaking the soldiers’ formation!

Lingering Questions

What horrifying ailments did those poor people bring with them from Thorns? And did anyone catch anything?

Does anyone have new enemies in the Brambles? And have the Swift Swords taken note of Axel’s mercenaries escorting people into town?

Will the Greenmaw eat someone?

Is that poor yeddim still down there in the swamp?

Character Details

What did you learn or reveal about your character this time?

  • Axel is very comfortable dealing with familiar things even if they’re unusual to most people, including intimidating unruly mobs, interrogating thugs, and accepting job assignments involving treasured relatives.  He is much more reluctant to attempt unfamiliar things for fear of screwing up when he has no idea where to begin (notably with chatting up Crying Jasper).

Worst Roll

Curious about the refugees, and why his companions have gone to such lengths to save them, Axel studies them carefully. So carefully that he fails to notice a pickpocket making off with his profits.

Most of the ST’s combat rolls are close contenders though. Especially the roll for the Greenmaw’s attempt to eat Axel.

Rewards

5 xp and 2 Solar xp for everyone.

Mechanics notes

1) Assume you have a 1 point stunt (+2 dice or +1 to a static rating) if you describe your action using substantially more than game terms. If you’ve used an asset or two to jazz up the action more and it looks like a 2 or 3 point stunt, say so.

2) Let’s remember social influence more. Point out when you’re trying to get a read on someone by steering the conversation or assessing his or her behavior – Read Intentions is very powerful. Any time you’re surprised by a character’s behavior, you have an opportunity to find out what motivates him or her. I won’t give characters hidden motivations with no signal. If there’s something to find, I will hint that it exists and give you at least a small lead.

Since Read Intentions is powerful, do recall that once you fail at reading someone, you can’t attempt to get a read on that character for the rest of the scene.

Finally, I need to be alert to when someone is attempting to influence you guys. For example, people begging for rescue are making a Persuade attempt, albeit one which will likely fail to have any effect on the typically hard-hearted denizens of the Age of Sorrows. Of course, not everyone is so callous….

3) Contested rolls that end in a tie go to whoever has the best stunt. I’ll let you guys vote on that when it comes up, which it did a surprising number of times the other day.

 

Session 1: One Last Job

Plot Points

Arza has found a home as an apprentice to Peleps Havara, the talented Dragon-Blooded physician. Tasked by Havara’s steward with recovering some stolen heroin infusers (for critically ill patients, not for recreation), Arza has very little to go on: the steward hands her a bloody scrap of cloth, hoping her occult skills can find the man the blood came from.

Alas, she is not so lucky, but she does know Arturia, a capable warrior with a few sharp-nosed pets. Arturia quickly verifies that the scent comes from the Brambles. Neither of them feels confident about dealing with the Brambles’ gangs, so they decide to consult with Axel, captain of the Black Feather Flag mercenaries.

The mercenaries are in the process of striking their tents, discouraged by the lack of work after their strongest competitor was granted a monopoly. Despite the substandard pay, Axel figures that the job will be a milk run, so he sets a plan into motion and heads out with the others. Due to the hint of the Swift Swords’ emblem on the bloody scrap, Axel is cautious, but there are no signs of unusual activity in the Brambles. Before long, Arturia’s wolf has tracked the thieves to their den and Axel has called in the troops.

A member of one of the local gangs, the Razor Dogs, is the clear owner of the spilled blood. Axel decides to showcase his wit and diction rather than his tact, so the confrontation with the Razor Dogs escalates quickly. Just as hostilities break out, desperate cries for help ring out from the swamp far below.

Axel isn’t about to let a job go unfinished: while Axel and his men try to wrangle the Razor Dogs, Arturia and Arza race to the aid of the strangers below. A yeddim stomps through the swamp pulling a wagon full of ragged travelers, and a towering, scythe-wielding, undead monstrosity wreathed in a churning cloud of darkness chases after them, bellowing for blood. Arza gets herself and Arturia safely down the cliffs and into position to confront Lorta, the Liminal Exalted.

With clever tactics, skill, and a little luck, Arza and Arturia hold Lorta at bay long enough for the refugees to reach safety. Wearied, wounded, and frustrated, Lorta infuses his body with inhuman vigor and breaks away from the fight. Meanwhile, Axel’s men subdue the gang leaders and force them to divulge the location of their stash.

“Captain, you’ll want to take a look at this.”

Lingering Questions

Why did the gang member have a Swift Swords uniform?

Who are these refugees, and what made that monster pursue them?

What’s in the stash house?

Edit to add: What about that poor yeddim?

Character Details

What did you learn or reveal about your character this time?

  • Axel subscribes to the Rocket Raccoon school of diplomatic thought.

Worst Roll

After Arturia disarms him, Lorta is backed into a corner and desperately tries to disengage and retrieve his weapon. Alas, Arturia’s botch causes her to trip up both her wolf and Arza, allowing the monstrosity to reclaim its grimscythe.

Best Rescue

When a forgotten rule lead to panic and a sharp decrease in the ST’s mental function, Alejo calmly reminded him how to play Exalted. Thanks!

Rewards

5 xp and 2 Solar (haha) xp for everyone. Everyone acted significantly on intimacies, earning an expression bonus. Now that things are off the ground, greater challenges should give you opportunities for role bonuses as well.

To Do

Give Exalts 5 motes every round, not just the one time I remember.

More rules cheat sheets.

The Timeline Question

So far the connections are:

  • Axel and Arturia (caravan)
  • Axel and Blossom (prior work connection)
  • Arturia and Arza (bandit attack)

The big question is, how do we stitch the start of the story together?  Did Arturia bring Arza to Echo Falls before being offered the job?  Did they meet Arza while on the caravan job?  Or is Arturia meeting Arza on the return trip after the caravan job?  Also, is Blossom to be hired for Arza’s books or for some other prevailing mystery?

I feel like people are being shy on establishing this (politeness maybe)?  Someone pick and start writing it!  😀

The beginning is nigh!

Next week (3/22/15) is session one, so please be ready.

“Ready” in this context means aware of who your character is. I don’t care what Charms you plan to buy a month from now. But please have Intimacies and a story! If you know who your character is, you’ll be able to say what he or she does. Thanks!