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Friday, 6 November 2015

What does Exalted 3e combat system model? Why, real life, of course!

It has been brought to my attention that many people can't get over the conceptual hurdle of Exalted 3e's combat system having two kind of attacks. "Why", they say, "is this attack withering, and this one decisive? They're both, you know, slashes".
The answer is, because the enemy is not static. And the enemy wasn't equally prepared to meet both.

Let's start with basics, and I'm talking about real life here.
There are two major kinds of fights, ambushes (and suckerpunching, and stabbing someone while he's trying to get his sword out of a scabbard, and prison yard rushes where only one side has a shiv, and hunting herbivores that are running in the other direction, and IEDs, and carpet-bombing infantry), and duels (shieldwalls and "monkey dancing" included on equal rights here). These are symmetric and asymmetric combat, and I leave it to you to put any other situation into one of these two. Guideline: if your enemy can retaliate, it's not asymmetric combat...yet.

The thing about ambushes is that they make it safe. You just need to get into position. The trick is getting into this position with a weapon ready to strike. Then the enemy is hurt without getting to strike back. That's why they're "dishonourable": they avoid the hardest part of the duel - you getting around the threat that the enemy represents to your bodily integrity.
The thing about duels is that they're easy to win, but hard to survive. If you don't take away the enemy's options to attack, at least for a split second, he might do the same thing that happens in lots of punch-outs, where the participants are exchanging blows.
You don't want that to happen to you, ever, not if you're assuming weapons are going to be used. That's why duels were notorious for double-kills.

That's also why many combat systems, fencing included, are teaching you to attack when the enemy can't retaliate. To do that, you have to grasp or create such a moment, and be in position with a weapon ready to strike. Sounds familiar?
It should. The essence of surviving a duel is in turning it into an ambush for a split second, or however long it takes you to deliver the injury (with a sword, that's "for an instant", usually). That's the essence of fencing, and grappling, and a few other styles I can name.
It's not "charge and hope for the best". It's like fencing, where you get into a position where the enemy has at least one "window" open, and can't close it in time, then getting your stab through said "window"...you have to just manoeuvre him into opening.
Or for a possibly more familiar example, it's like Gracie Ju-Jutsu: get positional advantage, then apply submission, or just pound away. But you need the positional advantage first, and then it's an ambush until and unless he dislodges you. But you're likely to get at least one attempt for a submission.

Back to Exalted 3e
The above model is what the Exalted 3e system models, in my view. Of if it's not meant to (although I suspect it is), it emulates it so well, that it almost doesn't matter.
Now, if your enemy is an extra: there is no need for withering attacks, just take care of him at once. No, that's not realistic, but since when are "extras" rules realistic?
First, a withering attack puts your enemy on the defensive and gives you first strike next round. Keep in mind: "attack" here is anything that gives you advantage. It might be a defence.
Then, you use the openings you just created, and deliver your best shot.
You better hope that's enough. If it's not, and he isn't well and truly on the defensive, he might use you moment of weakness.
That's something that Withering attacks, Initiative crash and Decisive attacks are modelling very well (coupled with Crash attacks as "attacking in single time).
And there's nothing "meta" about the way it goes (other than the fact that "withering attacks" would be better named as "creating advantage"... But really, they couldn't use "create advantage", or the Fate guys would laugh so hard Internet would stop watching pr0n for a second and turn to see what's going on.
And as we all know, Internet stopping to watch pr0n would have nothing short of disastrous results!)

Is that just me that sees it this way? Well, no. I happened to exchange personal messages with at least one other martial artist that sees Exalted 3e the same way. His nickname and other details would remain undisclosed, but that's less important.
The thing is, when you show Exalted 3e's combat system to people trained a certain way, they often react the same way: "Hey, nice!"
When you show it to people without such training, it's often "I can't visualize it". Some of them tend to "get it" after a demonstration.
Thus, I decided to mention how I'm seeing Exalted 3e. I know that was a problem in my group...until we made a demonstration for those that didn't "get it" immediately.

Hope that helps you, too. If not, hope this post at least made you think - about martial arts, or about Exalted 3e, or about both!

-A

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Exalted 3e: First sessions went on, first impressions are mostly positive!

First, I must admit: despite being a KS backer, I didn't expect the system to be as good as it is.
Still, I decided to give it a honest shot, and pitched a one-shot on Halloween. As of now, three days later, we're waiting for the third session - which should be before the end of the week.
So much for the system delivering a fun game. It works. So far, it works without major flaws.

So, what are the most fun things about it?
First, social combat. Making persuasion depend on what the person being persuaded believes in, is a [B][I]very[/I][/B] big step forward. Well, I think the difference between Minor and Defining intimacy is underrated...but that's a matter of fine-tuning. At least for a change, all of my players will pay attention to what their characters believe in.

Second, physical combat. This time around, it does feel like something that has the back and forth of a real fight with weapons. Fun fact: both players in my group that practice historical fencing thought the system is quite logical and intuitive. The players that don't practice anything had trouble imagining what a Withering attack is, and how it differs from a Decisive attack.
That is, until we explained and demonstrated. "This is a withering attack against an extra from a battlegroup. This is an withering attack against someone who knows not only what end of the sword to grip, but also how to stick the pointy end in you. This is a decisive attack against the same person".
Seems to work.

The themes it encourages, however? Those are great!
We started in Grieve, where people go looking for immortality...with a catch. Of course, we started on the first day of Calibration: can't get closer to Halloween!
First actually interesting thing for the day, finding a soulless body!
Find the sorceress that did it. Release the souls she had gathered by, well, being a Zenith that can see spirits. Then beat on her until she decides she's outmatched...despite being a Dawn caste.
By this time, everything but our Night is flaming iconic...so we run to preserve our identities. On the way, you meet a thousands-years-old ghost...or at least one that claims to be one. They didn't bother to check.
Talking with the Dawn. The lack of empathy was disturbing, and she seems to love Mara. Oh, great!
The Dawn is, however, willing to negotiate, so a Bargain was accepted: she shall not kill people while in Grieve, nor steal their souls. The Zenith didn't like that, at all.
Negotiations concluded, the new Dawn left.
The next day, they find some guy who was kicked into pulp by his own friends. He had fought some chick whose appearance is curiously familiar...and his friends beated him for being a bully. And let's not forget, she didn't kill anybody, so by their deal, she is in the right!
It also helped that he himself believed having assaulted the poor, weak, innocent thing. And they managed to not just nurse him back to health: on this night the word "overheal" was crafted.
(Yes, all of the above was driven by mechanical effects from the book).

Let's see now whether they would be able to help a Dragon-Blooded recover a missing token of one of his late relatives. Namely, it's said relative's leg that was ignobly stolen...and they say the guy who stole it has a very dangerous, protective girlfriend. Maybe they'd get to learn what are these mysterious Sea Children Exalts?
But that's for next session. Don't tell my players yet!

Granted, the BP/XP split is still there, and the rules could be clearer. I houseruled the XP to be linear for anything but Merits, and any not-quite-clear rules work the way that makes sense to me (with possibly changing my mind). Seems to be solving all the issues so far!