Thursday, October 30, 2014

Dungeonscape and the issues with online play.

Let's talk about DungeonScape for a while taking a short break from Exalted.

If you haven't heard, WOTC and Trapdoor have gone splitsville and DungeonScape the online app/tool set for D&D 5E has been put on hiatus if not cancelled outright. Feed back from the beta of the tool was 'less than stellar' and the issue seems to be the same thing that caused issues back in 4E with D&D tool. Lack of utility, clunky interface, etc.

The key problem is this:

Roleplayers are notoriously picky and usually each play group has their 'sweet spot' when it comes to utilizing online or digital resources. A great many just want WOTC to release the 5E books in a pdf format they can ready using their tablet, laptop, PC and then call it a day. Others want a fully graphical interface like roll 20 but with optional 3D or at least robust 2D dungeon building tools. I could list off a dozen examples but it was call caused by the balkanization of the hobby with the advent of 4E.

That's WOTC's biggest weakness here. D&D is a 'for the people' game. And while I think the writing staff gets this with the inclusive nature of  books and support for prior editions, I don't think WOTC's general management and Hasbro have internalized this lesson in how to handle their product. I can understand their fear of OGL, and the desire to monatise online tools for the game...but the genie is out of the bottle. d20 resources can be retooled to handle 5E easily. I've used Roll20, IRC, and Skype to run games. It's all I need. If WOTC want's my money they need to offer me something new.

I think if they could come up with the equivalent of STEAM for RPGs they might have something. A combined easy to use digital distro mixed with a robust online play space, real time communication, forum, and pbp/wiki interface. And the sad thing? There are at least 3 other companies ahead of them in the game. I wouldn't be surprised that Drivethrurpg enters into a partnership with a Roll20 like service and blamo. We have market dominance. Paizo see the writing on the wall and seems to be hammering hard to cook up their own version of this before they run out of time. I don't think WOTC management gets the whole picture.

Personally I find Pathfinder (3E D&D bulky and problematic past level 10.) 5E is a much more punchy and easier to use system mechanically, but if the tools don't get up to date fast enough I may go where the ease of play is. It's the nature of the market and well frankly where the gamers are.

That's the catch, go where the gamers are. WOTC needs to focus on improving their community tools. Their forums are a joke, the RGPA was never inclusive for those that couldn't make conventions, etc. I see glimmers of hope with this...then stuff like the DungeonScape setback happens. Let's hope WOTC gets their head int to the game soon or well, D&D 5E may not matter, no matter how good it is.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Exalted 3E: Lifepathing your character.

Ever play Cyberpunk 2020? It is a very, very 80-90's rpg that was at the time a rival to Shadowrun but without any magic. Give it a look:

Drivethrurpg PDF of Cyberpunk 2020

But what I want you to focus on was perhaps the best feature of the game. Lifepaths. It's why I call my idea for Exalted setting GMing, Storypathing. Lifepaths were a quick and dirty way to roll up a background for your character. It helped put a skeleton to the flesh of your backstory and gave you an idea the kind of person your "Edgerunner" (Cyberpunk 2020 character name) was going to be.

So...why not kitbash up one for Exalted? Ya. Let's do that. Got your d10 ready? (Funny fact, Cyberpunk 2020 used d10's too!)

Please note, if a roll says 'suggest pick up X merit' it is a guideline. The best way to roll up on this table is before you spend any merit/background points. This is to give you ideas on how to spend those points during character gen. If you roll up a rival/enemy/love interest talk it over with your Storyteller so they can think up backgrounds and names with you to those people as well.


Ethnic Origin (Optional, You game may have a desired location/race)

  1. Realm
  2. Northern (Gethamane, Haslanti Leage, Whitewall)
  3. Southern (An-Teng, The Lap, Paragon, Chiaroscuro, Kringhast)
  4. Western (Coral, Wavecrest, Wu Jian)
  5. Eastern (Halta, 100 Kingdoms, Confederation of Rivers)
  6. Southeast (1-5 Dreaming Sea, 6-10 Inland cities)
  7. Southwest (1-5 Cinder Isles, 6-10 The Caul)
  8. Beastman (Consider buying Racial Merits, Roll direction: 1-2 North, 3-4, East "Ixacoatli", 5-6 South, 7-8 West, 9-10 Wyld)
  9. Barbarian (Roll direction: 1-2 North, 3-4, East, 5-6 South, 7-8 West, 9-10 Nomadic/Flying Island)
  10. Shadowland (Roll direction: 1-2 North, 3-4, East "Sijan", 5-6 South, 7-8 West "Skull Stone", 9-10 Unique "Thorns")

Family Ranking/Background (Consider buying Merits like social influence, resources, servants as needed IF you retained them post Exaltation.)

  1. Slave
  2. Farmer
  3. Merchant
  4. Military
  5. Criminal
  6. Servant (Household/Social)
  7. Administrative/Minor Noble(Realm bureaucrat, mayor, guild factor)
  8. Noble (Realm or Threshold)
  9. God Descendant (Yu-Shan, Local Court ties)
  10. Unknown (Family lost, raised in monastery, etc.)

Family Size

  1. Single Child (No close relations)
  2. Small Family (1-2 siblings)
  3. Large Family (3-6 siblings)
  4. Giant Family (10 or more siblings)
  5. Small Extended Household (Cousins and siblings in same household)
  6. Large Extended Household (Aunts/Uncles and cousins, siblings in same household, or at least 2 generations)
  7. Giant Extended Household (Grandparents, Aunt/Uncles and cousins, many siblings in same household, at least 3 generations)
  8. Small Village (Many siblings, extended family, and cousins all living in close proximity.)
  9. Large Village (Many siblings, extended family, many generations, all your cousins, and other families related to yours living in close proximity.)
  10. A family member in every city. (You just have one of those really huge, slightly inbred, but widely spread families. Consider buying merit to reflect this Influence.)

Family Status

1-6 Both Parents are alive and well.
7-10 Roll on Family Drama Table

Family Drama

  1. Betrayed by Old Friend
  2. Lost everything through (1-5 Bad Fortune, 6-10 Mismanagement)
  3. In debt to (1-4 Guild, 5-8 Criminals, 9-10 God)
  4. Murdered (1-4 Father, 5-8 Mother, 9-10 Both)
  5. Fell into Cult (1-3 Yozi, 4-6 Forbidden God, 7-10 Dead/Deathlord)
  6. Under thrall of Fair Folk
  7. Hunted by Immaculate Monks for (1-5 Hersey, 6-10 Unknown)
  8. Blighted by Wyld taint
  9. Upset by recent Exaltation (1-5 Sibling, 6-8 Cousin/Aunt or Uncle, 7-10 Parent)
  10. Suddenly disappeared!

Childhood Events

  1. Uneventful
  2. Studied Abroad (Foreign Language , Social, and Lore skills possible)
  3. Nearly killed by (1-2 Bandits, 3-4 Undead, 5-6 Fair Folk, 7-8 Demon, 9 Exalt, 10 God)
  4. Long childhood illness that had you bedridden for many years
  5. Immaculate Studies (Marital Arts, Lore, and Socialize skills)
  6. Occult Apprenticeship (Occult, Lore, and Language Skills)
  7. Military Academy (Weapon, War, and Language Skills)
  8. Lost in Wilderness for Many Years (Survival, Animal Handling, Archery skills)
  9. Runaway (Survival, Larceny, and other street skills)
  10. Favorite of (1-2 God, 3-4 Exalt, 5-6 Fair Folk, 7-8 Ghosts, 9-10 Demon/with possible merits and skills from this prolonged encounter.)

Adult Career (Very optional, just to give ideas for ability focus)

  1. Slave/Servant
  2. Unemployed/Homeless
  3. Criminal
  4. Merchant
  5. Military
  6. Savant
  7. Local Leader
  8. Monk/Priest/Cultist
  9. Rich Layabout
  10. Hunter/Explorer/Scavenger Lord

Exaltation Trigger (Suggestions only, but might direct what Exaltation or Merits you buy.)

  1. Attempted Murder by (1 Friend, 2 Criminals, 3 Demon, 4 Undead, 5 Fair Folks, 6 Dynast, 7 Rival, 8, Exalt, 9 God, 10 Unknown)
  2. Saved a village from attack
  3. Discovered important Lost Lore
  4. Faced down an angry (1-2 Exalt, 3-4 God, 5-6 Demon, 7-8 Ghost, 9-10 Fair Folk)
  5. Drawn into conflict with Realm over (1-2 Slaves, 3-4 Local sovereignty, 5-6 Local worship, 7-8 Lost artifacts, 9-10 Military attacks)
  6. Faced with otherworldly horror (1-3 Yozi, 4-6 Neverborn, 7-9 Unshaped, 10 Beyond Fate)
  7. Crisis of Faith
  8. Journey into depths of (1-3 Wyld, 4-6 Underworld, 7-9 1st Age Ruins, 10 Yu-Shan!)
  9. Discovery of a Cause
  10. True Love

Exalted As (If you really need this, but might be fun to direct Charm choices)

  1. Dawn Warrior
  2. Dawn Strategist
  3. Zenith Priest
  4. Zenith Monster Hunter
  5. Twilight Sorcerer
  6. Twilight Teacher
  7. Night Assassin
  8. Night Spymaster
  9. Eclipse Diplomat
  10. Eclipse Explorer

Exaltation Fallout (Guidelines to skill/merit pickups)

  1. Hunted by Immaculates (Reputation/Stealth Charms)
  2. Worshiped by local village (Cult or Followers)
  3. Mentored by Sidereal (Martial Arts Charms)
  4. Supported by Deathlord (Artifacts)
  5. Offered alliance by local God (Social Influence)
  6. Drawn by dreams to Lost Manse (Manse)
  7. Bonded to local beast (Familiar/Charms)
  8. Stumbled upon Lunar mate (Ally)
  9. Awakened a deeper understanding of universe (Sorcery)
  10. A secret to everyone (Maintain mortal cover, merits to reflect this.)

As always. These are just suggestions on how to get started. You can roll up a random Exalt and tweek it as you like. I'll update this when the corebook for 3E drops and I have more specific things to add or remove. Have fun!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Exalted 3E: What is wrong with this village?

Welcome back to my Exalted series of posts. This time we are going to work on a small piece of my Storypath idea. When Exalted characters explore the world it is typically Solars (returned kings and queens of Creation). Unless they are in a major city which have layers upon layers of events going on typically they stop over in small villages and hovels out in the wilds of Creation. These places are often ignored but they are ripe for minor one-off plots that are a great way for the players to flex their story muscles.

So what is the basis of the "What is wrong with this village?" Let's list off 10 typical issues from the top of our heads. (10 because Exalted uses d10s.)

  1. Bandits
  2. (1-5.Gods, 6-10. Elementals)
  3. (1-5.Ghosts, 6-10. Demons)
  4. Exalted
  5. Realm
  6. Fair Folk
  7. Feuding
  8. Disease
  9. Lack of: (1-3. Food&Water, 4-5. Protection, 6-8 People, 9-10 Faith)
  10. Minor issues

I always include a minor issues so it's not all doom and gloom. I'll get the Italics in a minute. Heck, even the listed items above are not instant problems. They are however plot elements going on in the town. Now the trick is how many times should you roll on this chart? I'd say you need to eyeball the size of the town you are dealing with...or:

  • 1-3. Small Village - 1 roll
  • 4-5. Large Village - 2 rolls
  • 6-9. Small City - 3 rolls
  • 10. Major Event! - Roll again for size of village (ignoring 10) and roll 4 times!

Again with the d10's! Heh. Alright now that we have the size of the village, the source of the problem it's time to cook up the nature of the issue. Pull out your dice again.

If you rolled 1-6 on the first table the use this one:

  1. Is Under Attack by...
  2. Owes a favor to a local...
  3. Is a base of operation for...
  4. Was destroyed by...
  5. Worship/Supports...
  6. Fears the return of...
  7. Is ruled by...
  8. Is infiltrated by...
  9. Desires the aid of...
  10. Mysteriously won't talk about...

If you rolled a 7-10 on the first table then roll this one:

  1. Is suffering from local...
  2. Is recovering from local...
  3. Has been cursed by...
  4. If fighting back against...
  5. If inflicting upon its neighbors (including another town you can roll up ignore this result)...
  6. Has asked the (1-4. Realm, 5-8. Local Gods, 9. an Exalt, 10 The Yozi!) for help with...
  7. Has a strange story of...
  8. Believes the Characters bring...
  9. Is about to be plagued by...
  10. Mysteriously won't talk about...

Okay. Now you might get some interesting results and a lot of this is open ended but it should help you roll up some random fun for your Exalted players. Now in the full Storypath idea I have I'll instead have each location on the map have 100~ tags that you can roll up a number of for each segment of the plot. But this is a quick and dirty way to get started. Try it out. You might get something like:

Bitter Leaves - Large Village: Owes a favor to a local Demon!, Is inflicting upon it's neighbors a lack of people.

Which tells me there is a Demon cult in the area recruiting or murdering folks from outside farms and smaller villages to bolster their control and numbers. BAMMO! Instant minor plot for the Exalts to explore.

Filling in the Map: Exalted 3E

Welcome back! Going to shift gears here. I'm still going to talk about other RPGs, but I'm going to focus on Exalted 3rd Edition (and prior editions) for a while now. The new edition is close to dropping and I wanted to walk you through some of my prep work and brainstorming. I'll still take time to talk about Swankier topic, other RPG (especially D&D 5E), and such but I'm on a groove now.

I'm currently playing in a Pathfinder setting, and running my first 5E game. So I'm actively thinking in D&D terms...but I need something meatier. So, Exalted.

Let's talk about Exalted's new map and the implications there in. First take a look at this thing:

It's HUGE! I mean crazy big. They took the old Exalted Map and added about 300% more land mass and stuff to explore. Compare it to the older map from 1E and 2E:

 We have areas to explore that didn't exist before. The Dreaming Isles in that new inland see down in the south east? Or the expanded and more detailed north? What about Gloam, wtf is GLOAM?!


That said what good is the map if you can't, or worse don't, use it. That was Exalted big problem before. For the crazy big size of Creation (central island is the size of Asia for reference) the game fixated on cities and other central locations. Most the time the groups I played with we never explored the unknown territories beyond only superficial descriptions. It was like driving through some of the most beautiful territory full of potential adventures but ignoring it via Storm Wind Rider (a travel spell). The windows were rolled up, so to speak, on our mental car ride.

So how do you address that in the new Edition. Part of the wonder is there is so much going on in the map that everything not filled in with cities is quite literally "There be dragons!" and if you are playing an Exalt you want to fight dragons! My new solution is: Hex Grid that sucker!

Oh wait,did I say new? I mean old as dirt, but it works. Now you have options. You can literally photocopy a section of the map and Photoshop in hexes, OR you can use the idea of hex mapping, random event generation and do what I call Storypaths.

Here is the basis of my Storypath idea:

As the Exalted PC's travel I'll mark out the distance in miles using the map key. Each 20 to 50 miles I'll roll up a random event using ideas stolen from 2 books and some I write down on my own. The books I'm farming ideas from are OSR books written by Sine Nomine Publishing aka. Kevin Crawford.

Scarlet Heroes - An Asian themed OSR RPG.

Scarlet Heroes is written from the point of view of more powerful heroic D&D characters. Almost Exalted in it's own right. That said the big thing I'm looking for are Sine Nomine's adventure tags. This is the basis of my Storypath idea. As the players move through the world I fill in the location by adding a setting, npcs, and events. The adventure tags are my randomizer I use to fill in the details.I also pull ideas from another source.

Spears At Dawn

Spears is an African themed rpg closer to the D&D roots but with more local flavor. Adding Scarlet Heroes and Spears together with some Exalted tag ideas allows me to roll up 3 big areas:

Geographical Highlights - Wyld zone, demanse, strange ruins, local village, empty (weird), bandit camp, etc.

Local NPCs - Exalted, mortals, military camps, etc.

Local Events - The last is guided by the first two, but depending on what I roll I try to tie the two together.

This can also work in a city or social event. What I do there is write up minor plot paths for the NPCs or factions in the area. I love the idea of story tags, or social tags as I dub them now, to roll up some random tidbits the Exalted can use their charms to discover when working a room. What's the point of social influence if the influence never comes up eh?

The other thing I do is a it of Plot Pathing from back in Cybergen 2.0 days. If you ever played Cyberpunk 2020 or Cybergen then Life and Plot Path rolls were a thing. You could roll up rivalry, lost of family, etc. It's fun coming up with events of possible lists that minor npcs might have. So when they meet someone I take 2 minutes to 'flesh' them out.

Now, these story tags are in an early state, but once I have my prototype list done I'll cook up a wiki, or use an exciting one, and post my random Exalted Storypath and Plot tables. Then you too can sit down and have fun with it.

It would be awesome if Kevin Crawford ever wrote up a generic story tag system. But when in doubt, steal a similar listing from say Dungeon World who calls them fronts.

More Exalted to come!