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[Exalted 2e] Help me run it well!


Knight of Stumptown
RPGnet Member
Validated User
So, having determined that my group needs a break from d20, us GM types have been branching out into other systems. My first instinct, Spirit of the Century, was snapped up right quick by my buddy and fellow co-GM. Not that I mind, as it means I get to play a great game. So I turned my attention to Shadowrun but have found the ideas are slow to come and that I need more time with the system to really feel confident running.

So I have turned my attention to that perennial favorite, Exalted. I've had the 2e core book and Dragon Blooded book sitting on my shelf for months. And while I've flipped through it and played it a few times I've never thought about running a game. Until now. I'm going to see if my players are interested (I think I can sell it to them) and try running a short chronicle to get my feet wet.

There are just a few little problems. First of all, I haven't actually read the entire book yet (that's changing right now, I will read it through at least twice before I run). While I've played in a few old 1E games, I've never actually played 2e (nor do I have much opportunity). All of my players save my wife are total newbies to Exalted and even the Storyteller system in general.

Add to this that my players and I are not what you'd call big Anime fans. I like the more Americanized anime (Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, FMA) but not a lot else. Half my players haven't even really seen any anime. Fortunately, we are all fans of stuff like the Iliad, the Odyssey, and other such epic tales. We just come at it from a much more western perspective.

Anyway, I want to run it. I have a lot of fun ideas that I'm dying to bring to the table. I'm just not sure if I can do it well. And I don't want my players first foray into this game to be bad. This is where you guys come in. What can I do to enhance my skills and ensure a good game? What mistakes have you made that I can avoid with your advice? What media should I get out for inspiration? Are there any books I should purchase beyond the core that are absolutely mandatory? Do you have any helpful advice for me? Is this simply a fool's errand and should I give this up?

For reference, here are games that I have run well: D&D 3.5e (Eberron almost exclusively for a good 3 years now), Werewolf: the Apocalypse, Changeling: the Dreaming, Mutants and Masterminds, and I'm familiar with Runequest.

School me on Exalted, RPG.net! Show me the coolness that is the glory of the Unconquered Sun! Help me run things like this:

* The conquering Abyssal in his walking bone citadel created from one million tortured souls of his old home town, scouring all of Creation with his need to constantly rebuilding the abominable palace.

* The last stand of a large but isolated village against the petty and blood-thirsty godlings they helped to create.

* The temporarily but tragically doomed alliance with a rogue Dragon-Blooded in his need to recapture the attention of his family. It can end only in bloodshed and betrayal at the long forgotten hidden manse.

* The race against a Wyld Hunt to find the location of a hidden cache of powerful First Age artifacts, artifacts that are both dangerous and sentient...

* A dangerous game of cat and mouse when they discover a village located in a stable pocket of reality just inside the wild. The wyld shifted and engulfed the town when two Fae princes decided to go to war...now the Exalts have to either broker peace or turn one brother against another without destroying the town...

So, care to help me out?


Faceless Handle
Validated User
Use a battlewheel. It makes the tick-based combat work much, much better.

Pregen characters for people. The characters from the Return to the Tomb of Five Corners demo adventure are pretty good for this if you're playing Solars. However, my experience is that when people who are unfamiliar with the system build characters for themselves, it takes like three hours each, and you either end up with a character who's hyperfocused in one area, like combat, such that he can't participate in anything else meaningfully, or characters who are so general they can do everything badly and get overshadowed at every turn. People who have played the system and understand it can avoid these pitfalls, but there's a real temptation when you first pick the game up to go "Wyld Shaping Technique! Awesome! I'll get me some of that!", and then spend every bonus point and charm available to be able to Make Stuff Out Of Chaos. Then your game takes place in Creation and you can't use your high-level superpowers.

Figure out what your main recurring opposition will be. If it's Fae, that gives you different needs than if it's demons or rogue spirits. If you're dueling Abyssals, that's different than leading armies against the Seventh Legion. Experienced exalts can do all of those things, eventually, but starting exalts who focus on dueling can easily be hosed when it's time to break out the armies.

Every character should have combat ability. At least three dots in a fighting ability and an excellency for it; plus dodge if your primary fighting ability isn't Melee or Martial Arts. An exalt with only Dex 3, Melee 3, and the first melee excellency is fairly badass, though not all that exciting. He can go toe-to-toe with small groups of mortals and help against supernatural threats, bleeding motes all the while. A character with less than that will probably spend all his combat time hiding or eating wound penalties, at best.

If you plan to do social combat, tell your players. Make them get relevent social combat abilities. A presence or integrity excellency goes a long way to not being totally useless, but it's really not enough either. I'm regretting this with the character I'm currently playing.


Genderless entity
Validated User
You have enough books and no real need tobuy more. The core and the DB book have all the information you need on world and setting and rules to play even longrunning campaigns. Certain chracter types get a boost from other books (martial artists in Scroll of the Monk, Sorcerers in Black & White Treatise, crafters and thaumaturges in Oadenol's Codex) but the cores are already very information-heavy and the supplements don't add any neccessary information.

As far as running the game is concerned, just keep in mind how different Creation is from Earth - the world is flat, everything has a spirit or a god in it, years are long, harvests are bountiful, the well-off are VERY well-off and the poor are VERY poor, and the Dragon Blooded princes are everywhere - and don't skimp on stunts. Even the barest effort should receive a one-die stunt.


The blurst of times
In lue of a battle wheel our group uses Tick Sheets. They're basically printed out blank spreadsheets that we use to mark down how many ticks a person has before they can go again with a half slash '/' and then go down each tick and cross them with a \. If we get to a tick and the person doesn't have a slash there they get to go. We've run 60+ tick combats in a few minutes with this sysem.

When I put an Exalted story together I like to write up three lists. What I NEED to have happen, what I'd LIKE to have happen, and RESERVE ENCOUNTERS. If things are moving well you should be able to hit all your needs and some of your wants. If it's moving slow you should atleast be able to hit your needs. If you're moving through fast you can always throw in a reserve encounter (Ninja attack, player's belongings eaten by a giant toad, prince of the sewers wants to have a meeting) that helps to flesh out the world and give the players more to do.

One of the big things I can't stress enough is to encourage stunts and to work in the scenery. A battle on a flat ground is boring. A battle on the minute hand of a first age clock tower as it slowly ticks down is epic. Or running along the bones of a beheamoth in a monumental museum. Or on logs on a river floating towards a bottomless waterfall. Your scenery should be just as epic and memorable as your NPCs.

Just remember there is never "too big" or "too over the top" for Exalted.

Aaron Peori

Retired User
In terms of creating the campaign it is best to do this with the players. 2E has a marvelous invention called Motivation. Each player picks and epic goal for your campaign they wish to accomplish.

You take those collected Motivations, decide on an obstacle that prevents everyone of them from taking place and that's your campaign.

For example - lets say your players have the following Motivations: "End Slavery", "Drive the Fair Folk From Creation", "Unify the River Province Under My Hand" and "Become the Greatest Merchant in All Creation"

Looking at these goals the campaign that you put together is fairly obvious:

An evil Fair Folk noble has infiltrated the Guild to increase the number of slaves that it can acquire. It is doing this by making the Guild start up a large number of little wars all across the Scavenger Lands to increase the number of captured slaves and refugees and thus destabilize the entire region. Your players will have to infiltrate the Guild and take it over, use it to unify the Scavenger Lands and end the intercine wars by setting themselves up as benevolent dictators (in the process eliminating slavery) and then use the united force of the River Province reborn to drive all the Fair Folk from the Eastern direction of Creation.

Now it can get more difficult if your players have contradictory Motivations. If so, talk to the players and try and get them to form compromises. But sometimes contradictory Motiuvations are also good, since it can fuel drama for the group. Also things that may seem contradictory at first may not be in the long run.

For instance your players could have the Motivations - "Destroy All Demons" and "Make Peace With the Prisoners of Malfeas and Redeem Them"

At first, these seem contradictory. How can one player redeem the Yozi if the other player is killing them?

The answer is that you can come up with some metaphysicalbabble that say "The only way to reform to Yozi is to change their very nature such that they cease to be Yozi and thus all demons cease to exist."

See, it's fun!


Ivan Sorensen

Amiga fan
Validated User
In no particular order of appearance:

Read some Greek mythology

Read Moorcock's Hawkmoon books

Watch Ninja Scroll

That should settle you right in

The Incredible Bohemian

Social Justice Spy
Validated User
While the art for Ex2 has dialled the Anime up to eleven, I maintain that Exalted isn't that Anime. Greek myth is at least as "Exalted" as any anime, if not moreso. This is worth repeating. Exalted is not an anime game. Anime sells, however, so they made a choice with the 2nd ed. art.

It's a game of heroic myth, and it's up to you precisely what that means.


Knight of Stumptown
RPGnet Member
Validated User
While the art for Ex2 has dialled the Anime up to eleven, I maintain that Exalted isn't that Anime. Greek myth is at least as "Exalted" as any anime, if not moreso. This is worth repeating. Exalted is not an anime game. Anime sells, however, so they made a choice with the 2nd ed. art.

It's a game of heroic myth, and it's up to you precisely what that means.
It's good to hear someone else say this - becuase that's what I was thinking. I kept going "this has a lot more in common with like 300 and the Odyessy than it does with anime."

These are all really good tips folks, thanks a lot for them. Are there any resources out there that I should be taking a look at? Also, I only have my book - none of the other players have one. Is it worth picking up an extra core if I can afford it (probably so)? I don't want to spend the money but if it will really help I'll do it. Plus are there some short "primer" style sheets out there somewhere?


Validated User
Exalted is a slutty kitchen sink setting. People seem to focus overly much on the anime portion. That's just one of many major contributors. My games tend to be a bit closer to sword and sorcery with Greek heroes whose fight choreography happens to be done by someone who usually does kung fu flicks.

So find what's interesting to you and your group and work with that.

Normally, I strongly suggest group char-gen, as it keeps people on the same page. Since you're working with people who've never played, I'm going to change that piece of advice. Instead have group Motivation creation. Everyone can tell you what they want their Motivations to be and a little bit about what they want the characters to be able to do. Then you should design pre-gens for the gaming sessions and a story which matches up with the Motivations.

I'd suggest making relatively balanced characters who all have a little fighting, a little social, and a little of something else. A Dawn with 4 Melee Charms, 2 War Charms, 2 Integrity Charms, and 2 Athletics Charms can do a couple of things; a Dawn with 10 Melee Charms is going to be a bit overly focussed.

Also, don't build sorcerers whose primary combat prowess comes from Sorcery. They tend to be really slow and quite vulnerable to attacks. When the real fighting begins, they should be able to at least defend themselves with something else. Sure, Death of Obsidian Butterflies looks impressive, but it takes you ten ticks of relative helplessness before you can actually do it; people are likely to open up with big flurries and/or their Combo o' Doom while you can only stand there looking silly.

Make sure to write out all commonly calculated dice pools. For example, the accuracy for an attack should not be written as +2 or the like. It should be the total number of dice you're gonna roll, all normal modifiers included. Noting that the accuracy is +2 (10 dice) is a good way to do it. It may not sound like it, but this really speeds up the game. You may only save 2 seconds per dice pool, but those seconds really build up when you might have five players, each of whom needs to know those pools 10 or 15 times a fight.

Charm cards are a huge help. They should include the Charm's name, type, cost, duration, page number, and a brief description of what they do. Since you are pre-making the characters, you can even write out dice pools and limits on them. For example, you can note for something like 1st Melee Excellency that the limit is Dexterity + Melee (8 dice).


Faceless Handle
Validated User
While the art for Ex2 has dialled the Anime up to eleven, I maintain that Exalted isn't that Anime. Greek myth is at least as "Exalted" as any anime, if not moreso. This is worth repeating. Exalted is not an anime game. Anime sells, however, so they made a choice with the 2nd ed. art.

It's a game of heroic myth, and it's up to you precisely what that means.
This is very true. I recently described it to a new player as "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys" in RPG form.
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