Thief and Fighter learned this lesson some time ago. Barbarian is about to get a crash course in the same principle. But for all the rest of you eager young gamers out there, the moral of this story is simple: It ain’t wise to tempt the GM. What follows is a tale from one of my long-ago Exalted 2e campaigns. One of my players thought he was invincible. Turns out that weren’t the case. Ahem:

So no shit there they were, a bunch of primordial shapeshifting masters of Creation freshly empowered and ready to rumble. They’d just finished kicking the crap out of the Abyssal anti-party, had spent half a session pouring over the source books, and were ready to cash in their XP for a fresh batch of superpowers. After the mandatory training montage, everyone was eager to share their toys.

“Check out these sweet new mutations. My war form is sick!”

“Who’s got two thumbs and Relentless Lunar Fury? This guy.”

“Essence 4, bitches! Finally.”

“I can’t be killed.”

*record scratch. freeze frame.*

My ST ears had definitely perked up at that. I wasn’t the only one either. The rest of the pack wanted the details too.

“OK,” says our full moon. “You know how I haven’t spent much XP yet? I’ve been saving up for this combo.” It was an interesting strategy, I’ll give him that. Dude wanted to toss Might-Bolstering Blow and Halting the Scarlet Flow onto Unstoppable Juggernaut Incarnation. “Basically, as long as I continue fighting, I won’t ever die! It’s pretty much impossible to defeat me in combat.”

Looking back on those charms years later, I’m not sure it works exactly like he hoped. But at the time, the more important detail seemed to be the arrogance. The challenge burning in his eyes. The certainty that he’d broken the game, and that nothing in Creation could touch him. As a mature and completely dispassionate ST, I naturally couldn’t let that stand.

By some crazy random happenstance, the pack’s next combat was against a Sidereal martial artist. His weapon of choice was a page-long monstrosity of a charm called Meditative Battlefield Escalation. Ima quote the first few lines here just to give you a taste.

Creation is a mundane place to do battle and one that does not allow for true expression of a warrior’s soul. This Charm creates a separate realm. Some claim the character forges it in Elsewhere. Others insist that it exists only in the mind. Regardless, the character appears in a battlefield that is completely of his devising. Scale is usually unimaginably enormous. Range after range of mountains might contain dozes of Imperial Mountains each. The roots of a giant tree might separate several warring cites. The interior of a First Age mechanistic god could stand replete with economically competing nations and heroic god-machines. The battlefield might even lie inside an enormous human body that is failing due to disease. Anything is possible.

Concise language isn’t Exalted’s strong suit. But the TLRD is that the martial artist and his opponents all becomes the mountains or the warring cities or the germs in the body. You transform into conceptual incarnations of conflict. Then, rather than fighting with martial arts, you get to nominate which stats replace attack and defense. That’s the fun bit.

In my version, everyone had been incarnated as obscure departments within the Celestial Bureaucracy. That meant they had to do battle with Socialize and Bureaucracy. Announcing that little detail felt a bit like unveiling the secret ingredient in Iron Chef. Instead of a fighting a sweet kung-fu duel, they had to make sure their departments survived an audit.

The social characters in the party were thrilled. The full moon somewhat less so. As it turns out, ‘unstoppable juggernauts’ aren’t so good in an office setting. If you’ve ever put all your PC’s eggs into the “hit stuff harder” basket, you know how rough it can be when the game tilts toward the talky scenes. The effect compounds when your epic martial arts duel becomes an exercise in filing Heaven’s TPS reports.

Question of the day then! Have you ever seen a “perfect strategy” or an “invincible build” fall on its face? What was the gimmick, and what turned out to be its kryptonite? Tell us your tale of overconfidence and bruised egos down in the comments!


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