Impractical Applications (A Dynamic Disguise)

Most of this week’s topics can be summed up as a response to one of my players doing something crazy again and getting the whole group in on it. It’s to be expected; his character—and more specifically, his character’s sentient hat—is designed to get people into and out of crazy plans. This one, though, took the cake, and not just for plot reasons.

So this is the Exalted game, and the group, having come into a nice windfall of Hearthstones, is periodically running around attuning the Manses from which they come. For various reasons, a good portion of these are in the Underworld, including the one they just hit up. Which, despite the stone itself being all about rapid healing, was full-to-bursting with traps, traps and more traps. When the group found that it was linked to another one, and probably being controlled remotely from there, they decided to investigate, and Sky and his hat decided the best way to investigate would be for him to impersonate a hitherto-unknown Deathlord, all unknowing that the place he was approaching already had one (even if he wasn’t admitting it).

What was particularly interesting about it to me, at least in the prep, wasn’t just what Sky did; it was everyone else’s support roles as they disguised their social dynamics to fit his story. Samar and Corbin, the newest members of the group, pulled together improvised identities and a chain of command—Samar acted subservient to the Sky-Lord, Corbin to Samar. Old-timer Geri basically stuck to his normal attitude with occasional bouts of upward-pointing respect. For the most part, they didn’t need to conceal their identities; this wasn’t a place in which any of them were big names.

And then there was Ruby. Unlike the others, she couldn’t just claim “recruited now”; her history was known, as it was a part of what had cemented her mentor Lirit’s reputation, and that whole thing where the two of them went rogue? Not helping. They could have hidden her identity, but it would likely only have been a temporary fix, so instead, they focused entirely on where she stood relative to the Sky-Lord. This Ruby, instead of being hyper/cheerful/talkative like usual, looked scared; she spoke little, obeyed quickly, and had a tendency to sort of cringe when addressed in anything short of a neutral tone—and when there was an opponent to fight, she fought more viciously and looking more for a quick end than usual. (As it was intended to, this creeped at least one of my players out.) I think we ended up deciding he was probably threatening Lirit, not that it came up while they were acting—and it was technically true that she was “in his territory” and a word from him had a decent chance of ensuring her execution.

It made for a very interesting conversation, let’s put it that way.


  1. Shinali says:

    Ah, yes, that was wild fun!

    A little on why Samar went the complete subservience route (and why she did like Geri did and swearing limited fealty to Sky’s deathlord self via the link): Samar is really bad at manipulation, and culturally she grew up obeying without question whoever was the most powerful thing around. That means that if Sky-lord seemed to be really powerful, she wouldn’t have to deveive or manipulate anyone into thinking that she was subservient – she was used to it (though, with the amount of Presence she has, and her role as healer-shaman, she is probably just as used to being the most powerful thing around and obeyed completely). Swearing via link merely foils truth detection – if she calls him “master,” and has declared him such, it isn’t a lie.

  2. KreenWarrior says:

    Sky’s player here! Ruby’s behavior was very creepy and uncomfortable to see, it was great. I got the impression that it reflected her experiences as a loyalist deathknight (though looking back at what I know of her backstory, I’m not sure that’s accurate; I didn’t get the impression the Icy Hand was that cruel). Still, it was very uncomfortable in an interesting way.

  3. Ravyn says:

    Shinali: Nice!

    KW: Thanks! You’re right, Ruby really doesn’t have the direct experience–at least, as you surmised, not from the Icy Hand. (Heck, I think aside from what happened once the deception unraveled, the closest she’s ever come to one of those sorts of Liege/servant relationships was when she was watching the Shoat and the Dowager a while before you rejoined.) Her head is an odd little place, full of contradictions that she somehow manages to navigate and synergize–I think there are still some places in there that I haven’t realized exist yet, and this is part of one of them.

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