Dreams of a Fallen Crown:GM Discussion

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My Style for Exalted[edit]

To help clarify where I stand on a few things as GM, I'll use a thread from RPG.net for an example. The italicized text is my comments.

As posted by riotgearepsilon in this thread:

Anyone who's hung out on RPG.net and the White Wolf exalted boards for any significant length of time has probably noticed that different people play Exalted in pretty dramatically different ways, and the system, for the most part, supports this.

Gonzo vs. Gravitas
Perhaps the most important question is one of tone. It's hard to pin down precisely what the difference is here, but one worthwhile rubric is how the PC's react when confronted with a Beast of Resplendent Liquids. If they begin wondering, perhaps, how they can slay this beast to undermine the Guild's drug running, or transform it to produce medicine instead of heroin, or simply capture it for their own private debauchery-gardens, that has a certain mythic gravitas. If their first impulse is to attach lasers to it's frikkin' head, that's gonzo. On the one extreme, characters tend to act with a sort of rarefied nobility and myth drawn from epic poetry, even at their silliest. On the other extreme, Gem can abruptly be revealed as a warstrider that leaps in to king-sized kung-fu battle back to back with the Last Penitent to beat up a thinly disguised Five Jade Voltron invading from the Realm.
I'm mostly in the Gravitas camp, though I do like a bit of Gonzo now and then. I think the drama of the scene is more important than the pure 'wow' factor.

The relevance of Artifacts
Some players really enjoy the role artifacts play in the game and the setting, that of ancient treasures to unearth, of great arsenals to command and wield to inspire dread in your enemies. Others, however, feel their existence undermines the tone of the game; why are your foes dreading your weapons and not you, they ask? Are you not Exalted, above such petty concerns as your equipment? On one extreme, characters are more concerned about collecting ancient artifacts than they are about improving their own skills; their own powers are almost meaningless compared to the potential of reviving the wonders of the First Age. On the other extreme, characters care nothing for paltry magical treasures; tools are limited, but the Exalted have no limits.
I'm very much a 'You > Your Stuff' sort of GM. I think the characters are where the meaning lies, and therefore the emphasis should be on their capabilities, rather than the oomph of their kewl lootz. This is really a reaction to my D&D days.

The character of Artifacts, or the Magitech factor
Among those who enjoy the presence of meaningful artifacts, there yet remains the question of the character of those artifacts. In many of the supplemental books, magical equipment takes on a technological aesthetic; forging great works requires not only magical acumen but great technical insight, refined tools, and the cooperation of many, and the final product often has something of a technical air, such as clockwork limbs or a suitcase that unfolds in to a butler. In contrast, the opposing aesthetic tends towards more abstract rituals, less dealing with mortal staff and more dealing with spirits and alien forces, culminating in the efforts of a single supernally talented smithwright, leading to less technical artifacts with more rarefied powers; for example, rather than a pair of 'essence radios', an artificer might produce a silver messenger pigeon that delivers messages before they are sent, such that they are read at the same time they are written.
I like a lot of magitech, over 'wierd spirit stuff'.

Mortal relevance, or the Four Willows factor
Some storytellers view Solars as men first and Exalts second; they make fairly liberal use of heroic mortals in the setting, and if Achilles dies at the hand of Conan - or, for that matter, Random Soldier #3 - well, these things happen. Others, such as Four Willows, view mortals and the less-than-supernatural as one step above scenery, if that. The extent to which mere mortals have the potential to affect events and be heroic is what defines this variable.
I'm highly in the Four Willows camp. If you're not an utter noobie, then your Exalt should walk right over mortals.

The relevance of Lunars
There's no elaborate definition here. Some campaigns feature lunars and their conspiracies and machinations to overthrow nations and undermine the Realm and civilization and otherwise rampage uncouthly; others shuffle em' under the rug and worry not about the furry freaks.
I'm not much of a Lunar fan, other than a single NPC or two here and there.

The relevance of Sidereals
This one is important because the presence or absence of sidereals, canonically, can really change the shape of the setting, because they have one or two stone-cold elder exalts like Demon Killer White, who have may have little better to do with their time than abruptly kill an entire circle of fledgling solars who got past the Wyld Hunt. This is how important the machinations of the Sidereals and Fate are to the game.
I like the Sids, but I think their viewpoint tends to take over the game when they're used to any great extent. I prefer more focus on the down-to-earth activities of the Solars, rather than going all cosmic. Of course, this changes in the late game, where the Solars start operating on that level too.