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My Exalted Collection is Finally Complete

Isator Levie

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Interesting.

I see that very thing as an UPSIDE to loosening Exalted's power tiers. It always strikes me as truly bizarre how much ink this game wants to shed on combat stats for things which cannot meaningfully fight against the PC types they are directly contrasted with.
Accounts from people's games seem to vary.

They can always be turned into battle groups.
 

Ghosthead

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Interesting.

I see that very thing as an UPSIDE to loosening Exalted's power tiers. It always strikes me as truly bizarre how much ink this game wants to shed on combat stats for things which cannot meaningfully fight against the PC types they are directly contrasted with.
Well, there's a thing to saying that Exalted still should have mechanics that can fully express characters who are weaker than the PCs - yes, it's not as important compared to having more QCs, and obviously its not high priority (in a game of a huge setting of which comparatively little is articulated in current edition mechanics) but it is still good for feel if possible.

But ultimately I'm coming down on the side of "Don't give the designers an 'out' from compressing the power tiers properly".

That is, it's much better to have Dragonblooded and mortal heroes* and the like who are, by default, reasonable competitive against Solars, and then they sort of stay there for the whole curve of PC growth, rather than get a state where it's like "Well, the core power tiers as they are designed *do* give little meaningful opposition to PCs... but that's OK because we give you permission (but not actual mechanics) to make a whacky super-Dragonblooded or something if you want". If the mechanics are properly built, you shouldn't need to breaking limits and 'tiering' to make effective opposition. I'm not coming from a "stay in your lane" thing, as that if you need characters to be breaking out of their lane to create effective opposition, something is awry.

*to reverse a term which has 2e baggage!
 

SrGrvsaLot

Digital Scribe
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Accounts from people's games seem to vary.

They can always be turned into battle groups.
Battle groups, in my experience, are not that threatening. Their higher stats tend to be cancelled out by the fact that they can be beaten with withering attacks.
 

Isator Levie

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Battle groups, in my experience, are not that threatening. Their higher stats tend to be cancelled out by the fact that they can be beaten with withering attacks.
And other people have cited their experience that the combination of high stats, Initiative that never changes, and the fact that their attacks start applying damage directly to the health tracks of crashed characters makes them exceedingly deadly. There's a diversity of user feedback that makes it difficult to formulate a standard.

By the way, on the subject of how the Immaculate Order chapter fiction describes an interaction between abbot and peasant petitioners, here's Lea's take on it:
The Abbot is mostly dancing through a series of formalities where she makes it clear to the peasants that, since they’re peasants and they’re complaining about the behaviour of their betters, they’re technically in the wrong, before threading a careful etiquette needle to communicate that, yes, she wants to help them.

“Perhaps you can sift through rumors for a truth that will allow us to cure this bandit plague.”

My read of the interaction is that the important term there is “
a
truth”. The Order will need a solid doctrine-compliant reason why it’s right to intervene, and the peasants who know the area and have social connections to the local groups the bandits e.g. get their food from and fence their goods through are best positioned to gather that. Essentially, “I want to help, guys, but you need to give me a better argument than this. Find a way in which the bandits or the people backing them are blaspheming, then come back.”
 

SrGrvsaLot

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And other people have cited their experience that the combination of high stats, Initiative that never changes, and the fact that their attacks start applying damage directly to the health tracks of crashed characters makes them exceedingly deadly. There's a diversity of user feedback that makes it difficult to formulate a standard.
This isn't really an issue that we need to leave up to peoples' subjective experience. I can just tell you, as someone who knows a bit about math, that battle groups don't work. I can see a few builds where they might pose an extraordinary threat - high initiative alpha strikes or perhaps low-defense soak builds, but the way the combat system is set up, it's arguable whether an individual character is more or less deadly than a battle group with the same base stats.

Let's make our hero Moderately Optimized Solar. He's not great at combat, but his character creation avoided all of the trap builds. He's got an Dexterity + Melee of 10, wields a medium artifact weapon and wears medium artifact armor. He's only going to spend 5m per round of combat 1m for excellent strike and 4m to raise parry by 2. Let's say stamina and strength of 3 and initiative pool of 8.

His opponent - The Elite Troop. She's coming hard at him, but basically has no chance. She'll go first, because she rolled a starting initiative of 8, vs MOS's 7, but she's hoping for a lucky roll. She needs 8 successes on 11 dice. Now, for these probabilities, I'm going to cheat a bit and assume that each die has a 50/50 chance of success. That's not entirely accurate, and the real exalted dice pools are more chaotic, but it has the same number of expected successes and I can use Pascal's triangle to do quick probabilities instead of having to work everything out by hand.

So, the chance of 8 successes on 11 dice is 4%. Which we can just smooth out to an expected 25 rounds to land a single hit. Like I said, doomed. On the off chance she does hit, she rolls 12 dice of raw damage against a soak of 11. Let's be generous and say she does an expected 1 point of initiative damage. Assuming MOS did nothing but let her wail on him until he crashed, it would take roughly 175 rounds to do so.

MOS makes a counterattack. He needs 5 or more successes on 10 dice to land a decisive and 5 or more successes on 13 dice to land a withering. Let's assume withering until crash, then decisive. His expected attack result is 8 (I'm fudging a little, assuming Excellent Strike's reroll is enough of a boost that I can round up). But his odds of hitting are roughly 95%. Expected damage is 18 vs 10 soak. Let's say 4 initiative damage. Likely TET is crashed at the end of round 2, hit with a 20 initiative decisive in round 3 (which will have approx 82% chance of hitting).

Expected survival time of individual TET - 3 rounds. Expected damage vs solar 0.

Now, let's say she doesn't come alone, she brings an unreasonable amount of her friends. A size 3 battle group, of average drill. That boosts her accuracy, soak, and raw damage by 3, gives her a bunch of extra health levels in a real fiddly way. And it increases her defense by 1.

This time, the chance to hit 8 successes on 14 dice is approximately 40%. So let's say the battle group hits in rounds 1 and 2 and then misses in 3-5. Their expected damage is 15 vs soak of 11. A big improvement. We don't have to be generous to track that at an expected damage of 2 initiative. Which means . . . not a lot, because MOS is going to hit almost every round and get +1 initiative every time, so we have to figure about 6 hits , or 15 rounds before the Battle group does health level damage.

In fact, let's calculate it. He needs 6 successes on 13 dice. The odds of which are 70%. His expected roll is 8 successes. But it's against a bigger soak. 17 damage vs 13 soak, for an expected 2 initiative damage. That means he routes the first size unit of the battle group after 5 hits. Or 7 rounds. Assuming it reforms, we can shave another round off beating size 2 unit and then 2 rounds off beating the size 1, thanks to shrinking magnitude and bonuses. So 7 + 6 + 5 = 18 rounds. Just about when we're expecting MOS's initiative to run out. (Just as shrinking size makes the unit faster to rout, it also flushes its expected damage down the toilet)

Expected survival time of 100 TETs - 18 rounds. Expected damage vs solar . . . maybe 1 - 2 (if we're being generous)

That's what I mean. The Battle group is technically better than the individual . . . in that it can make the foregone conclusion more tedious, but at size 3, average drill, the benefits from being a battle group just barely cancels out the disadvantage that comes from allowing withering attacks to damage health. Battle groups with Elite Drill and/or size 4-5 are more deadly . . . but remember, we are comparing these fights to single mooks. You know what's infinitely deadlier than a size 3 battle group? 3 of its members ran as individual characters.

Now, I'm sure that there are anecdotal accounts of battle groups wrecking someone's shit, because we are dealing with large dice pools here, and there's a lot of variance. It only takes one improbable roll to put a PC in a real scary place. But when we talk about swinginess in individual vs battlegroup combat, PC Exalts are much more likely to benefit. It would have taken only a slightly-better than average roll to turn MOS's plink attacks into a 1-round rout. And that's assuming his player is absolutely committed to always being mote-neutral. Hitting a battle group with a full excellency on offense completely obliterates their unit bonuses.

(I skipped talking about units with Might bonuses because - ha, ha, ha! yeah right! You only field a battle group with might bonuses if scale has become a complete joke)

Honestly, I didn't even think this was going to be a controversial opinion. Battle group math is . . . not good. It simply doesn't work. Even to the extent that they are technically more threatening to moderately optimized solars (and let's be clear, I've seen fully optimized solars take out size 5 battle groups in 2-3 rounds), they are nowhere close to conveying the difference in feel between facing one lone soldier on leave vs a quarter of a legion deployed on the battlefield.
 

SrGrvsaLot

Digital Scribe
Validated User
Well, there's a thing to saying that Exalted still should have mechanics that can fully express characters who are weaker than the PCs - yes, it's not as important compared to having more QCs, and obviously its not high priority (in a game of a huge setting of which comparatively little is articulated in current edition mechanics) but it is still good for feel if possible.

But ultimately I'm coming down on the side of "Don't give the designers an 'out' from compressing the power tiers properly".

That is, it's much better to have Dragonblooded and mortal heroes* and the like who are, by default, reasonable competitive against Solars, and then they sort of stay there for the whole curve of PC growth, rather than get a state where it's like "Well, the core power tiers as they are designed *do* give little meaningful opposition to PCs... but that's OK because we give you permission (but not actual mechanics) to make a whacky super-Dragonblooded or something if you want". If the mechanics are properly built, you shouldn't need to breaking limits and 'tiering' to make effective opposition. I'm not coming from a "stay in your lane" thing, as that if you need characters to be breaking out of their lane to create effective opposition, something is awry.

*to reverse a term which has 2e baggage!
I'm sorry, I'm finding this argument difficult to parse. If your goal is compressing the power curve, don't you do that by giving the lower tiers more formidable powers. As in, sorcery is a formidable power wielded by mortals so that they become formidable mortals. The reason to make it baroque and unique is kind of the opposite of what you're implying. Not to be able to dismiss overpowered solars by saying "there's always some wacky thing if you want it," but to ensure that the compressed power curve still basically holds by saying that all the stuff that crosses the line is suitably rare. Most mortals don't have anything to say that the Lunar Exalted want to hear, but canon-heresy Aqadar is really weird.
 

Ghosthead

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I'm sorry, I'm finding this argument difficult to parse. If your goal is compressing the power curve, don't you do that by giving the lower tiers more formidable powers.
Yes, but you would make their "powers" *relatively* more formidable and their non-powered capabilities more formidable across the board against capabilities of more powerful groups. Not in the form of occasional, rare "exceptions" with formidable powers.

I'm arguing against more permissiveness for up-powered exceptions, because that tends to normalize "power creep" out of balance where things should be (I hate to use that term due to various implications, but it may help in this case, as its close enough). As up-powered exceptions allow for competitive opponents even if the initial "tiers" are poorly balanced. The more they are disallowed, the more important it becomes that the tiers are properly balanced in the first place, and the more likely the designers are to do that.
 

DeusExBiotica

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Honestly, I didn't even think this was going to be a controversial opinion. Battle group math is . . . not good.
You really have been getting out of the habits of Exalted arguments, Grvs. They're all controversial opinions.

I could write a book on Battle Groups. And perhaps I should do exactly that, because Maidens know that the Devs need to.

I think Battle Groups are far too weak, and have made a solidly beefier version - doubling most bonuses, applying Onslaught penalties to all enemies inside of them, getting 2 attacks per target under many circumstances, the works. However, what really seems to fly under the radar in these discussions (and, I suspect, often the difference between people who have seen BGs as jokes and those who have seen them as credible threats) are the key advantages which make even wussy Corebook BGs an essential element in most challenging Celestial fights.

Here's the thing with Battlegroups: don't use them alone. Throw in some enemies with Excellencies, or a high enough dice pool that the Dawn has to wake up (cough cough Fair Folk). Now, there's a real cost to the combat wombats attacking the BG, because although they're likely to hit, they won't take it out right away and they'll only get 1 Initiative out of it (this also helps with the classic 3e combat problem where weak sidekicks tend to become free "Initiative pinatas"). Meanwhile, the BG attacks all or most of the PCs (some of whom likely have low Defenses and/or lack Artifact armor) each round, and impedes movement. That's all pretty irritating, but unless you've got Might 2 Tiger Warriors or something, probably not much worse than that... until someone takes a Command Action.

Lots of people overlook these. I suspect that's because the brain naturally shuts down when confronted with a new system in which "Rally" and "Rally For Numbers" are fundamentally different things (whyyyyyyyyyyyyy), but it's still a mistake. Orders are where it's at: a Difficulty 1 action which adds its successes to the Battlegroup's dice pools for all actions in a turn. If a reasonable mortal commander with 8-10 dice does this, the BG gets +3-4 to its attack-the-whole-party shtick. The greatest mortal commander plus Elite Drill will get you +7 or so. A gifted DB general might hit +10, and if a Celestial shows up with high-stat troops, 30+ dice from an attack aren't out of the question. And, yes, this rolls straight into murder against anyone who Crashes, complete with attack roll successes adding to damage and Break bonuses for the commander. Nasty stuff.

The Corebook doesn't call any of this out. There's no GM section in which to say "a Battlegroup alone is a paper tiger, but with Command actions to bolster it and even a relatively-modest individual threat to tie up those who could kill it fast, they soak up a disproportionate amount of PC resources to put down. Use them alone to show off how powerful the PCs are, but use them in larger encounters keep the pressure on the group as a whole." Maybe this will get discussed in Crucible of Heroes? Is that the ST guide? It's got a flowery name which could mean anything, but it looks like it's slated for after Exigents, which is more or less where the ST guide was expected to be.

That said, I was kinda surprised to see a detailed discussion of BG maths in this thread. Both because we mostly just skim mechanics whilst focusing on the lore here, and because I misunderstood something...
Accounts from people's games seem to vary.

They can always be turned into battle groups.
...I totally parsed this as Isator saying that there are so many contradictory accounts on people's Exalted experiences, they had to be rolled as a Battlegroup, rather than addressed one on one.

And that, at least, is an opinion which I don't find controversial.
 

Morty

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I agree that battle groups feel way too flimsy and require careful use to be a threat, but they're not actually meant to make their participants more dangerous than if they were tracked individually. Their main goal is expediency and letting heroes cinematically combat a bunch of people at once. You could argue that their size doesn't confer the bonuses it should, I suppose.

As far as sorcery goes, if mortals aren't as much of a threat to Exalts if they should be, giving them sorcery absolutely isn't a solution to that. Mortal sorcerers are just fine between Exalted and normal(ish) mortals in terms of "weight class".
 
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DeusExBiotica

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I agree that battle groups feel way too flimsy and require careful use to be a threat, but they're not actually meant to make their participants more dangerous than if they were tracked individually. Their main goal is expediency and letting heroes cinematically combat a bunch of people at once. You could argue that their size doesn't confer the bonuses it should, I suppose.
The issue is that, on their own, they make their participants less dangerous than when tracked individually. It is almost always more dangerous to fight two of someone than a Size 1 Battlegroup, which represents 3-10 of them.

"Expediency" is a very questionable goal for a subsystem which can require the ST to recalculate enemy stats on the fly repeatedly. Or for anything bolted on to a combat system as complex as Ex3's, for that matter.
 
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