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I'm thinking about running a campaign in Exalted, but I'm not sure that I can handle the multitude of available charms. While players have to know usage tactics only of their own charm sets (which they build gradually), GM has to create powerful characters with a lot of charms from scratch. What is the best way to create tactically good charm sets if I've never played Exalted before?

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up vote 15 down vote accepted

This advice is fairly generic to "How do I stat NPCs in a system I don't know" to a large extent.

  1. Steal I: Look at stats for NPCs in campaign examples, see how they glue together, pick them apart, run them though some dice rolls, work out what you'd be missing if you were a player.

  2. Steal II: Look at the writeups for campaigns on the internet, char sheets if they've got them, use them as seeds for initial characters.

  3. Ask: Put up some questions here about how you'd stat effective exalted characters. Or, if not here, a dedicated exalted site or forum of some kind.

  4. Play: Don't, to start with. If your players are as new to the game as you are, they're going to be finding their feet with effective uses of the stuff they've got too, and you've got the advantage of being able to iterate over builds that don't quite work (if you accidentally build something overpowered, make it stupid. A +52 level sorcerer is much less of a challenge if they can't count to four, after all)

  5. Read: Start from things like this:

Sorry I can't be more specific, though :(

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I thought that was a really good answer. I'd only add that for starting player characters it is also usually possible to use the story to limit the amount of important non-player characters who have charms. So one session you have them face a bunch of dragon blooded, but the next, just one ghost, and the next one lunar cat-burglar, and the next, a pair of dragon blooded specialists, etc. NPCs are always easier to make up since you can give them a power on the fly, if you forgot when making them, or you can make them do something stupid to hurry their defeat if they were too strong. – Sheikh Jahbooty Aug 25 '10 at 23:46

The Exalted Storytellers Companion suggests that NPCs do not have to have fully developed charm trees -- just give them them custom charms to do what they need to do, and skip prerequisites.

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This is probably entirely unhelpful, but... play. I picked up a ridiculous amount of charm knowledge in my first campaign of Exalted simply because I had back and forth discussions of "oh man, I'm so buying this next" with the entire circle.

Using castes to focus around themes (and, I find, focusing around a small number of main skills), should also help you create NPCs that are really good at that one thing they do. I

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Use excelencies a lot and build slowly from there down the more complicated paths.

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