Archive for August, 2010

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Exalted Movie Mondays – Princess Mononoke

August 30, 2010

Those of you in the know as regards Exalted probably don’t need me to bring your attention to this movie. The same goes for those of you familiar with anime. But for that small cross-section of the population unfamiliar with either (or both), I ask: how did you get to this blog?

No, seriously, I present: Princess Mononoke.

Princess Mononoke is, like many movies by Hayao Miyazaki, an animated film that uses Japanese legend and myth to tell a tale to the modern world about ecological awareness. In this case, a wandering hero stumbles onto a conflict between iron-mining humans and the local animal spirits. In the end, the true conflict is not whether to side with the humans or animals, but whether there is a “right” or “wrong” side at all. It’s much more complicated than it initially seems, and it makes for an excellent commentary.

Even more relevant to my interests, however, is how Exalted the entire movie actually is. The protagonist, Ashitaka, is almost certainly a Solar Exalted, cursed by the hatred of a dying animal spirit, turned into a demon. The parallels with Abyssals are rampant. The titular princess is a girl raised by wolves, and the finest example of a Lunar I can conveniently recall. Lady Eboshi, who represents the humans, is an arrogant, entitled, self-righteous bitch who really is doing everything she does to make the lives of her lessers better. Dragon-Blooded, anyone? And finally, Jigo, a mysterious monk sent by the Emperor, plays all sides off one another to achieve his own, selfish ends, which is more Sidereal than Chejop Kejak.

The treatment of the spirit world could have come directly from Exalted. If you’re looking for inspiration for forest spirits or for a spirit court, or animal gods, or, really, anything, I can’t recommend this movie enough. Its beautiful vistas, fast-paced conflicts, and visually striking characters all lend themselves perfectly to Exalted. Small wonder… Exalted lists Princess Mononoke as one of its primary influences.

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Custom Behemoth – Meterbuchus

August 27, 2010

First, before anything else, I want to send out a thank you. Frequent readers may have noticed that I have a shiny new header for the blog, something appropriate to the content. I have Devilfish from the White Wolf forums to thank for that. You did a bang-up job mashing together the pictures I sent, and you did it fast! Thank you again, Devilfish!

Second, I’ve whipped together a custom behemoth for your viewing pleasure! Behemoths are unique creatures, some spawned by the Primordials (or Yozis), some created by the Fair Folk, and some just categorized as behemoths because they don’t fit any other designation. The following is a sample… hope you enjoy it!

Meterbuchus, the Unyoked Sorcery

Meterbuchus, the Unyoked Sorcery

Originally crafted by Oramus from his nightmare visions, Meterbuchus was an errant scrap of thaumaturgy that became… something more. The irrational ratio, the constant remainder, Meterbuchus began its existence as nothing more than a constant, a number which never divided out of all Oramus’ rituals. He was always leftover, always without worth, and yet, Oramus saw within him that which could not be shackled. The Dragon beyond the World turned his attention to the nascent behemoth, and a form was conceived.

Oramus was not content letting Meterbuchus grow uninhibited, for even then, there was a hint of the trapped about the Dragon beyond the World. Perhaps it was some echo of his future fate, or perhaps it was simply his nature to fetter others while striving to remain unfettered himself. Regardless, he took the concept of Meterbuchus, and he imprisoned it within a form drawn from Oramus’ own nightmares, a many-eyed head with no mouth or features. A massive, leonine trunk crafted of flawless, faceted ice and scales. Wings formed of purest white feathers, their shadows that of leathery horror. Of these, Oramus created a shell for Meterbuchus, and he blew the flame of the Unyoked Sorcery into this husk, imprisoning it therein.

Meterbuchus has slept since the Primordial War, slumbering deep beneath the Southern sands, for when his maker was shackled, it drew much of the behemoth’s inner fire into Malfeas with him. Still, the land has not been quiescent since, and every ritual, every spell cast feeds Meterbuchus a little more. He nearly woke in the First Age, but he settled back into slumber with the fall of the Deliberative. Now, as the Solar Exalted return, and their sorcery sees Creation once more, he grows fitful.

Motivation: Devour enough Essence to free himself from his shape.

Attributes: Strength 20, Dexterity 15, Stamina 18; Charisma 7, Manipulation 8, Appearance 8; Perception 10, Intelligence 10, Wits 10

Virtues: Compassion 1, Conviction 5, Temperance 5, Valor 3

Abilities: Athletics 6, Awareness 5, Dodge 5, Integrity 7, Linguistics (Native: Old Realm; Others: Flametongue) 1, Lore 10, Martial Arts 8, Occult 10 (Thaumaturgy +3), Presence 5, Resistance 8, Stealth 3, Survival 8 (The South +1), War 8

Backgrounds: Cult 2

Powers:

Consume Sorcery: Meterbuchus can rend spells asunder, functionally emulating the Lunar Charm “Sorcery-Rending Talons.” Should the behemoth attempt to sunder a Necromancy spell, this power automatically fails (though all costs are still paid), and Meterbuchus suffers one level of Aggravated damage per circle of the Necromancy spell. Against Protocols, this power merely fails, though no costs are paid.

Essence Absorption: Meterbuchus feeds on the Essence utilized in spells and rituals, for in each, he is constantly present. He regains 1 mote whenever a thaumaturgy ritual is performed within ten miles of his form. He regains 5 motes and one Willpower from any Terrestrial Circle spell, 10 motes and two Willpower from any Celestial Circle spell, or 15 motes and three Willpower from any Solar Circle spell cast within that same distance. Technically, he regains Essence from every such spell or ritual performed in Creation, but the quantities harvested from anything further cannot be meaningfully measured in anything less than hours. He gains no benefit from Necromancy or Protocols.

Essence Inversion: For a cost of 20 motes, Meterbuchus can breathe a portion of his raging Essence soul out in a torrent of raw, elemental Essence that warps and destroys that which it touches. Anything damaged by this attack (see below) must immediately resist Wyld mutation as though exposed to the Deep Wyld (see The Compass of Celestial Directions, Vol. II – The Wyld, pp. 139-140), with an internal penalty equal to the damage dealt by the attack. Mutations tend to follow a Malfean theme, but since they ultimately touch on the dreams of Oramus, they are not wholly limited.  Mutations may vary from target to target.  However, as this is a Desecration effect, the first mutation thus imposed must be the Creature of Darkness mutation, if the victim is not already.  This is a single attack that is emitted from the very core of Meterbuchus himself, simultaneously affecting everyone within twenty yards. Meterbuchus makes a single attack roll, comparing it to the DVs of all to be affected, but rolls damage separately for each affected target.

Regeneration: Like most behemoths, Meterbuchus cannot be slain simply by straightforward violence. He will never truly die until he is freed from his corporeal chains, and even then he will merely evolve into something new. If reduced to his Incapacitated Health Level, Meterbuchus falls into a deep slumber, and further damage dealt to him is applied to his infinite Dying Health Levels. Meterbuchus does not heal as normal creatures do, instead reinforcing his Essence matrix over time and through force of will. Healing a single level of Bashing damage costs 10 motes, a level of Lethal damage costs 50 motes, and a level of Aggravated damage costs 100 motes.

Sorcery: Meterbuchus does not actually know any Sorcery, but he can emulate any Sorcery spell of the Terrestrial Circle for twice the listed mote cost, following all the same rules for casting spells. He can also serve as an instructor for any of these spells.

Join Battle: 15

Attacks:

Claw – Speed 5, Accuracy 24, Damage 20L, Parry DV 13, Rate 3, Tags N

Essence Inversion – Speed 6, Accuracy 23, Damage 18L, Parry DV -, Range 20, Rate 1, Tags F, P

Soak: 28B/19L (Nightmare Hide 10B/10L, Hardness 10)

Health Levels: -0x10/-1×10/-2×10/-4/Incap

Dodge DV: 9 Willpower: 9

Essence: 3 Essence Pool: 100

Other Notes: Meterbuchus benefits (and suffers) from the effects of the Huge mutation (already factored into his stats above). He enjoys telling stories to others of the rituals and nightmares he has seen, though others rarely seem to enjoy his tales. Anyone who listens to the entirety of one of Meterbuchus’ yarns immediately gains a negative Intimacy toward him as an Emotion effect. It is said that someone who listens to every story Meterbuchus knows might diminish him with each story, until he were freed from his prison of flesh. It is also said that someone who listens to every story becomes another being like Meterbuchus himself. Neither (or both) may be true. Meterbuchus does not actually possess a Cult; his Background represents the accumulation of Essence from thaumaturgy and sorcery used throughout the world. Individuals might seek Meterbuchus out as a tutor for sorcery or thaumaturgy. He is also a source of a wealth of information pertaining to Oramus himself, and so might be sought be those who wish to defeat (or free) the Yozi.

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Dental Spell

August 25, 2010

I don’t know about anyone else, but the idea of the Tooth Fairy always freaked me out. Some sneaky little creature stole into my room and snatched a tooth from under my pillow, spiriting it off to who knows where for some nefarious purpose. I always wondered whether or not the Fairy would decide not to wait for the next one to fall out. The “tooth fairies” in Hellboy 2 didn’t assuage my fears one bit.

The following is a spell inspired by a story idea cooked up by my roommate, Orrin Grey. It’s not terribly powerful, but it is neat. I hope you like it!

Carnassial Guardian Expectoration
Cost: 20 motes
Target: Sorcerer’s tooth

Sorcerers of myth and legend often use themselves as vectors for their guardians, drawing them forth from their own Essence matrices to empower them. This is one such method, using the caster’s own tooth to spawn an amorphous guardian to protect a location.

When the caster completes the spell, he suffers a single level of unsoakable lethal damage as he spits his tooth into some fertile ground, such as a patch of fecund earth or the ashes of a fireplace (for Exalted, the tooth regenerates within twenty-five hours). The tooth grows over the course of a single Miscellaneous Action into a man-sized, roughly humanoid figure. The carnassial guardian exhibits physical characteristics of the ground into which it was spat, often bearing patches of mossy earth or skin like falling ash, but it always incorporates a wide, gaping mouth filled with duplicates of the caster’s teeth somewhere in its shape.

The caster must give the guardian an order, or it remains inert, failing even to defend itself if attacked. The order must involve protecting a place or thing. The guardian will never attack the caster, even if given specific orders to keep the caster from the guarded subject. The order cannot be less restrictive than task-binding a First Circle demon, and the guardian will attempt to protect the subject with its own intelligence (limited as it may be). Should the guardian be destroyed, it crumbles back into its component elements. The caster’s tooth can be sifted unharmed from the elements and functions as an arcane link to the caster.

Carnassial Guardian
Motivation: Protect a person, place, or thing.

Attributes: Strength 6, Dexterity 3, Stamina 5; Charisma 1, Manipulation 1, Appearance 0; Perception 4, Intelligence 2, Wits 2

Virtues: Automaton (Never fails Valor checks, never makes other checks)

Abilities: Athletics 2, Awareness 3, Dodge 3, Integrity 2, Martial Arts 4, Resistance 3, Stealth 1

Join Battle: 5

Attacks:

Clinch: Speed 6, Accuracy 7, Damage 6B, Parry -, Rate 1, Tags C,N,P
Kick: Speed 5, Accuracy 7, Damage 9B, Parry 2, Rate 2, Tags N
Claw: Speed 5, Accuracy 8, Damage 6L, Parry 4, Rate 3, Tags N
Soak: 10B/10L (Elemental Hide +5B/+10L, Hardness 10)

Health Levels: -0/-1/-1/-1/-1/-1/-2/-2/-2/-2/-2/-4/Incap

Dodge DV: 3

Willpower: 10

Essence: 1

Other Notes: The carnassial guardian effectively has a +3 specialty in “While Obeying its Orders” in all its Abilities. It gains all the benefits and drawbacks of automaton physiology. The carnassial guardian can see and interact with dematerialized creatures as though they were material. It regenerates one level of Bashing damage per minute and one level of Lethal damage per hour.

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Exalted Movie Mondays – 300

August 23, 2010

Sometimes, my posts here seem almost irrelevant. Sometimes, a movie doesn’t need me to tell you why it’s Exalted. 300 is one of those movies. I can’t imagine any of my readers is unfamiliar with this film, but I’ll give the basic plot a little going-over, just in case.

300 is the story of the three hundred Spartans who went to battle with Xerxes and his Persian army in the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC. It’s one of the most inspiring true battles I’ve ever heard of, and the story told is no less inspiring. It is a tale of heroism and bravery, of uncompromising morals in the face of utter annihilation, of gods and monsters. The men are warriors, larger-than-life, the villains are beyond comprehension in their obscenity. It is an amazing story, no less amazing for knowing how it ends before it starts.

The thing about 300 that has always struck me, however, is that it didn’t really happen, and I don’t just mean that it’s a fictional movie. The entire narrative of the film is propaganda, being told by the narrator, Dilios, one of the titular Spartans as he rallies the Spartan army. The narrator himself is untrustworthy, the battles are portrayed as terrifying and epic whether they were or not. We never meet any of the characters, except within Dilios’ story. The Persians are described as monsters and monstrous, but we don’t know. The Spartans are described as heroic and shining, but we don’t know. In the end, all we have are the words of a Spartan soldier who can hardly be said to be an unbiased observer, even if he weren’t trying to whip his men into a battle frenzy.

Nevertheless, the heroics and acrobatics presented within that narrative are Exalted, without question. The Spartans’ defiance is nothing short of legendary, and they definitely meet their badass quota. If, somehow, you haven’t seen this movie, I recommend it, especially for fodder for Mass Combat stunts. It’s a thrilling tale with action dialed up to eleven, and perfect for Exalted. Give 300 a ride, let me know what you think!

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Tentacled Vitriol – Social Combat

August 18, 2010

Once upon a time, I talked about how much I liked the Social Combat system in Exalted. I still do, but I have some problems with it, problems I’ve always had but that have been exacerbated by my most recent game with my roommates. I felt it would be an excellent topic to showcase the newest feature here on Octopoid Prevarication: Tentacled Vitriol, where I spit and froth at some aspect of Exalted that pisses me off.

The Social Combat system has two major problems as I see it, both of which combine to make the system vary wildly in its usefulness, from cripplingly unhelpful to idyllicly smooth, depending on one’s Storyteller. The first problem is that the Social Combat Abilities are frustratingly vague, and the second is that there is no established guideline for spending Willpower to resist mental influence.

There are ostensibly four Attributes that govern Social Combat: Investigation, Performance, Presence, and Socialize (Integrity is a special case, and not terribly relevant to this problem). Investigation and Presence are, ostensibly, used to make Social attacks against individuals, while Performance is used on crowds, and Socialize limits the others in Mass Social Combat, much like War does in regular Mass Combat. However, there is no clear delineation between when one uses Investigation or Presence (which is less of a problem, as they are interchangeable), or when one uses a flurry of Presence attacks or uses Performance on a group. Moreover, there is no clear delineation of when Mass Social Combat begins. Finally, Mass Combat is, by its definition, making an attack against a social group of multiple individuals… does that mean only Performance is viable? What happens to the guy who is cornered by three men in an alley? Does he have to make a Performance attack to convince them to back down, since they’re in a group? And why the hell is there a Social attack Charm in the Linguistics tree?

The second isn’t something I have questions about, so much as gripes. There is no set mechanic to determine when NPCs spend Willpower to resist mental influence. This leaves the mechanic entirely in the hands of the ST, who can choose to make NPCs spend Willpower on every single attack, or can choose to make mental influence nigh irresistible. Now, normally I’m happy with options to make individual powers as strong or as weak as the ST needs for his game, but the utter lack of guidelines is… problematic at best. It means players never know if their Social character is going to be amazing, worthless, or in-between.

Aside from those problems, I’m really happy with the Social Combat system, because it’s a unique and insightful way to model Social influence without abstraction (at least, without AS MUCH abstraction as some other systems). However, these two glaring flaws do detract from the enjoyment of the system without significant hand-wavium, an element I prefer to remove from my games as much as possible.

If you have suggestions for how to avoid or repair these flaws, please don’t hesitate to post them! I’m always eager for more feedback!

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Exalted Movie Mondays – Kick-Ass

August 16, 2010

Lest it be said that I only ever give good reviews, today I have a movie that, in spite of some very interesting parallels to Exalted, was not so good. Kick-Ass is a more recent film adaptation of a graphic novel, wherein a young man, obsessed with comic books, decides to become a hero himself, inspiring those around him and embroiling himself in a world he doesn’t fully understand.

The movie itself is… mediocre at best. While the cinematography never really hurt me (The Bourne Supremacy, I’m looking meaningfully in your direction), it never really did much for me, either. Granted, the film was intended to showcase someone without superpowers, so you’re not going to see flashy special effects. I knew that going in… but it didn’t make it any less disappointing when I went looking for an interesting comic book flick and got your basic action movie, visually speaking.

None of the characters managed to grab my attention. The lead character, our titular hero, was mostly annoying when he wasn’t trying to be charmingly inept, and failing to charm. Nicholas Cage is good at being a dork, but his character couldn’t seem to decide if he wanted to be Batman or if he just wanted to want to be Batman. Hit Girl, probably the most enthusiastic of the protagonists, was graphically sociopathic, and the most enjoyment her character brought was imagining her in twenty years, unshackled by moral restraint. In fact, the best character in the whole movie was Marty, Kick-Ass’s nerdy friend, played by the fantastic Clark Duke.

The plot, however, was the part that made me sit up and take notice, because it was the part that was most Exalted. The main character does what he does because no one takes responsibility, no one does what’s right in the face of all odds. He chooses to. That is the choice that makes a mortal into a heroic mortal, in Exalted. It’s not about superpowers, it’s about facing the odds and doing the right thing no matter what. It’s about being heroic, not superheroic. That would make an excellent heroic mortal game, following the adventures of a man who strikes out to solve the problems of the world, with or without an Exaltation.

Now, let it be known that I’ve never read the graphic novel. I came into the movie with no foreknowledge and few expectations. I can’t say I recommend it to people, and my friends who have read the source material have even less flattering things to say. Still, if you’re looking for inspiration for your next heroic mortal, or even for your next Exalt, pre-Exaltation, you could do worse than Kick-Ass.

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Lunar Knacks – Soul Reaver

August 13, 2010

While working with the folks over at the official Exalted forums, I stumbled across a request for Lunar Knacks that would allow the Lunar to become some sort of sentient weapon, like Soul Reaver.  While I’m only a little familiar with Soul Reaver, I immediately leapt into the project, because it sounded neat.  Below, please enjoy the fruits of my labor.

Bloody Steel Dream Incarnation
Mins: Stamina 4, Essence 4

This Knack allows the Lunar to add the shapes of mundane weapons to her Heart’s Blood library by wielding them for a scene of combat or training in lieu of a Sacred Hunt.  She appears as an exact copy of the weapon wielded, though her base statistics are those of a normal quality weapon and she does not produce her own ammunition.  She may allocate a number of bonuses or penalties equal to her Stamina to her weapon characteristics, distributed as per exceptional weapons, though no single trait may be increased or decreased by more than two points.  She may Reflexively reallocate her bonuses or penalties once during each of her wielder’s actions.

In this shape, the Lunar cannot take any actions using Physical or Social Attributes save reallocation of her traits and shapeshifting.  She can take purely Mental actions normally.  If wielded by her Solar Mate, she may add her Solar Bond rating to her Stamina for purposes of bonuses/penalties.  Otherwise, her traits (such as soak, Health Levels, Willpower, Virtues, etc.) are unchanged.


Iron Claw Transfiguration

Mins: Stamina 5, Essence 5
Prerequisite Charms: Bloody Steel Dream Incarnation

This Knack enhances its prerequisite, allowing the Lunar to activate Charms while in the shape of a weapon.  She may only activate those Charms that enhance her natural attacks (in which case they enhance her weapon statistics subject to all normal stacking rules) or Supplemental Charms that enhance attacks appropriate to her weapon type.  In this second case, they enhance any attacks made with her, but count toward her user’s dice caps as normal unless she is being wielded by her Solar Mate.