Eclipse and Exalted

And it’s another question! In this case it’s about Exalted d20.

I’m curious how you’d go about running an exalted game in Eclipse. I imagine there’d be an ‘exalt package deal’, some odd world laws and building most things (as) stunts and reality editing but it seems to be far enough away from standard d20 and superhero stuff to be confusing.

-Jirachi386

Well, Exalted (1’st, 2’nd, 2.5, and 3.0) has a number of distinguishing features. They aren’t all quite the same for each edition, but in general…

  1. You can buy almost anything you want at character generation. You start as a heroic mortal, get handed a can of cosmic power, and then get to throw in things like artifacts, wealth, power, ownership of magical fortresses, followers, leadership of organizations, or being worshiped by a quarter of the world. Maybe not all at once unless the game master gave you some extra points – but you start at the peak of most mortal ambitions.
  2. The action is usually completely over the top. Even extremely skilled normal people are generally irrelevant (and just have to grin and bear it) and you start off on a par with the mighty powers of the universe. You can build characters who can seriously damage the cosmos right out of the gate. This can be a lot of fun, but doesn’t leave much of anywhere to go – which may explain why most of the Exalted games I’ve seen that actually ran by the Exalted rules didn’t all that long.
  3. The special powers are generally based on your skills or attributes being enhanced beyond all reason while still following general themes set by your character class type of Exaltation. That’s a fun concept, even if you did wind up with lists of near-required powers that everyone of a given type tried to buy as soon as possible and occasionally ran into strict power limits based on your characters type and age.
  4. Describing your action in an over-the-top way to get a bonus on it is a fun idea. Of course, it was the normal way of running role playing games until game designers (perhaps influenced by computer games) started writing stricter rules sets and trying to downplay stuff you couldn’t put on a chart. The implementation in older editions of Exalted was a bit of a kludge and made many fights drag on and on, so the current version relegates the effect to nothing but a few bonus dice and relies on it extensively for excitement in combat.
  5. Effective Exalted characters are extremely complicated, with long lists of charms with evocative but uninformative names that need to be used in (unspecified) combinations with each other to work well. They take hours to build and are impossible, even as individuals, for most game masters to run properly without long study. In substantial groups they are nigh-impossible for one person to run properly. This means that small groups of PC’s, with players who are only running one character each, tend to run roughshod over everything.
  6. The characters all have tragic flaws, They may be grand, and powerful, but they have rules for their flaws that will lead them into disaster. Personally I’ve never seen much need for that – the players have their characters cause plenty of tragic disasters without a need for a mechanism built into the game – but the mechanism was basically “you occasionally go completely out of your mind”. I’d have preferred accumulating more limited flaws as your power level went up beyond the limit of a human minds ability to handle it safely and you saw ever further into the chaos underlying reality – but that’s just me.
  7. Attacks tend to be decisive or near-decisive when they do get through the defenses. If you were hit by that twenty-ton giant maul, you were in trouble. Of course, this turned a contest of grinding your way through hit points into a contest of grinding your way through defensive resources. In 3’rd edition fights tend to be short – but that only works because the PC’s pretty much always win. It wouldn’t really be Exalted if “OK, your characters are dead… make some new ones” was a routine part of the game.
  8. The universe, right down to the paths taken by individual raindrops, is 100% run by intelligent, and mostly not-at-all-powerful beings. If they have cheap “perfect defenses” (very few things do), punching them is fairly useless. If they don’t… then almost any problem can be solved by beating on someone. And when almost every problem can be fixed by kicking the stuffing out of someone, and you can begin the game as a Superman/Batman combo buttkicker (with or without a weapon depending on personal style), it doesn’t leave much of anywhere to go – or much point in learning other ways of dealing with problems.
  9. Organizations, overlords, large-scale resources, and managers all tend to be useless backstabbing bureaucratic nightmares that make you long to disassociate yourself from them. That, of course, is because the characters are supposed to do things THEMSELVES. You aren’t supposed to send in ten thousand men to dig a canal. You are supposed to smite the ground to open up a new canal and then fight the river god and make him consent to filling it.
  10. The game master is always supposed to say “yes you can”, although it might be difficult. For example, the rules made it quite possible for an Exalt hiding under a bush in the royal gardens to decide that he wanted to find a fabulously powerful magical nexus there that everyone else had overlooked for centuries – and if he could roll well enough (which wasn’t all that hard), so he did. Whether or not it had existed before was irrelevant; a player had wanted it and rolled well, so it had always been there. This ensured that much of the plot (if any) was in the hands of the characters, but made it VERY difficult to actually prepare for a session.
  11. The PC’s are always supposed to be the best and greatest. Sadly, since PC’s often come up with dumb ideas, this means that any idea short of “I hammer nails into my eyes!” still has to be better than the NPC’s best plans – so all canon NPC’s are incredibly short sighted and blind to obvious consequences – and their plans pretty much amount to “I set myself on fire and wait for it to start feeling good!”.
  12. You can’t go back in time or raise the dead. No do-overs and some stuff can’t be fixed. Of course, a lot of game systems don’t allow this stuff either. D20 usually allows Raising the Dead – but that’s easy enough to ban.

Now, I suppose that any given point might be argued – but those seem to be the core points where Exalted differs from most games.

Now to adapt that to d20…

  1. The power level implies being at least sixth level to start – the point at which a d20 character graduates to being more than mortal. It also strongly implies a maximum of level ten to twelve for anyone and everyone – the point at which d20 demigodhood really starts and about the last point at which a group of well-coordinated sixth level characters may still be able to win. Finally, of course, it means that normal mortals are usually level one and are limited to level two or so for heroes and elite types – mostly to figure out what they might be able to do on their own, since they’re never going to effectively oppose the Exalted.
  2. This is exactly what the Heroic Scaling rule does, so it is obviously in use.
  3. This implies that most “powers” are actually going to be Skill Stunts or something thematic (such as some Shapeshifting for Lunars or low-grade Elemental abilities for the Dragon-Blooded).
  4. This is the “Cinematic Combat” ability. It’s considerably more flexible than Exalted stunts are, but there’s nothing wrong with that.
    https://ruscumag.wordpress.com/2013/08/14/eclipse-cinematic-combat-at-the-narrative-convenience-store/
  5. This… is a bug, not a feature. Now admittedly, Eclipse can be very complicated too – but it can use all that published d20 stuff, doesn’t obscure what stuff does with needlessly flowery names, and rarely relies on complicated combinations of effects to make effective characters. We don’t need to do anything here.
  6. Tragic Flaws in Eclipse are basically either Disadvantages or Witchcraft Pacts. Personally I’d go with some Witchcraft; it’s a great way to pick up personal boosts at a relatively low cost.
  7. While the “decisive hits” idea can be taken to imply a reliance on high-damage weapons and damage boosters as well as on Blocks and Armor Class. On the other hand, “break through the defenses and try to land a decisive blow” is pretty much the classical first edition definition of hit points – they were “luck, skill, divine protection, evasiveness, and so on, with only the last few actually representing a serious physical wound”. This doesn’t match up well with many of the other game systems – such as “cure” spells – but at this level of abstraction it doesn’t much matter.
  8. When you come right down to it, this implies that there is no physics. Now honestly… I don’t like this. Philosophically it runs into infinite recursive loops, it’s a silly way to try and run a universe, and I kind of think that “hitting things is the ultimate problem-solving technique!” is bad for the game. My advice on this one? Go ahead and stress nature spirits and such if you like, but leave some basic physics in play.
  9. This can, once again, be covered by the Heroic Scaling rule. Mortal organizations simply are not important.
  10. Well, if the characters want to take a little reality editing to bend things to the way that they want them, that’s one thing. Rewriting your setting history to accommodate the players whims is a no-go for most game masters. TORG and a lot of other games have done this much better, usually relying on something like “Whimsy Cards”. Go ahead, use something like our own Runecards for this.
  11. NO. Just no. I don’t even do this when actually RUNNING EXALTED, and I do NOT recommend importing it into any other game system. The players will just have to put in a little thought and come up with decent plans of their own if they want to compete with the more competent NPC plans. Sure, NPC’s will do stupid things on occasion – but not ALL THE TIME.
  12. So no time travel and no resurrections – although reincarnations might work just fine. Banning a couple of relatively rare effects is not too complicated.

So:

World Laws:

  • Starting Level Five.
  • Heroic Scaling.
  • Limited Power Sets (Campaign Sheet Character-Building Restriction).
  • All characters are Human, but there are 6 CP Racial Variants. Exalts lose their old racial variant in favor of 6 CP worth of Innate Enchantment. Lunars get the Minimal Werething package. Solars get personal attribute boosts, Dragon-blooded get minor elemental powers, Sidereals get stealth boosts, disguise boosts, and “natural weapons”. Other third edition types get something appropriate, I’m not familiar enough with them to say what.
  • No time travel or raising the dead.
  • Beyond Fate: give every player one Runecard (or Whimsy Card) at the start of a session. Give them another during the session if they do something really fabulous. The game master gets (Number Of Players / 2, rounded up, +1) for his own use.

The Exalted Template: Cinematic Combat (18 CP), Witchcraft (Either as “thaumaturgic talents” or as some specialized personal boosts) with Two Advanced Abilities and Three Pacts (Personal Flaws) (12 CP). +2 Specific Knowledges (Knowledge from former possessors of the Exaltation, 2 CP). That’s 32 CP or a +1 ECL Template.

And that about does it. Your d20 game will now function a lot like Exalted. Just take Exalted’s Artifacts as Relics, Manses as Wards Major, and there really isn’t a lot more you need to do. Like it or not, most of what makes Exalted distinct lies in the descriptions and setting, not so much in the rules. After all, we had no trouble at all running Exalted with the Baba Yaga rules.

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