How to Capture Creation's Scale?

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Aramithius
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I've had an itch in my head for a while since Eric answered in this thread I started a while ago, and I think I've realised what my issue is. One of scale.

Eric's point was this:

Eric Minton wrote: Tue Jun 01, 2021 1:17 am The Bronze Tide came from the Gray-Eye Peninsula, at the very eastern edge of the Cinder Isles. Lathe is hundreds of miles away, with various naval powers in between.

On the 3E map, it looks like this (apologies for the arrows, they have no bearing on the point. I'm being cheap and borrowing someone else's image:

Image

From this, it doesn't look like there's a whole heap of stuff between Lathe and, say, Redmoon or the Bay of Kings. However, there's over 400 miles, further to the other parts of the Cinder Isles. This is quite a bit of space for things to exist in.

This gives me two things to think about:

1) On the one hand, given the way the books are written, I was immediately struck with "the Bronze Tide are close to Lathe" because of the way the map is. Am I misreading the books, or is there some missing impression of things in between the two?

2) How do you handle this as an ST? If you've got a travelling party, and it's meant to have multiple powers detailed within that space, how do you conjure up that variety if (say) your party is travelling from Goldenseal to Dajaz, without spending your entire existence homebrewing small Southwestern kingdoms/nations, while still giving them the weight to leave that impression on the players?
Last edited by Aramithius on Thu Sep 16, 2021 9:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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KymmetheSeventh
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Aramithius wrote: Sun Sep 12, 2021 5:07 pm1) On the one hand, given the way the books are written, I was immediately struck with "the Bronze Tide are close to Lathe" because of the way the map is. Am I misreading the books, or is there some missing impression of things in between the two?

I think that it's a perfectly understandable bit of confusion on your part. The space between those two locales is not elaborated upon, and the fact that only a few locations in the Cinder Coast are named on the map can easily give one the impression that they're the most important and biggest locations. I think that map leads to a lot of confusion and frustration. I've heard some arguments for throwing out the standard 3e map entirely, though I don't completely agree. I think that, were I making a big world map for Exalted, I'd fill as much of the empty space as I could with the names of hundreds and hundreds of locales and just not elaborate on them. If you look at the map and see like ten evocative names along the Yellow River between Lookshy and Great Forks, I think that gives you a much better sense of the space involved than just empty space and a distance measure telling you that the cities are eight hundred miles apart.

Aramithius wrote: Sun Sep 12, 2021 5:07 pm2) How do you handle this as an ST? If you've got a travelling party, and it's meant to have multiple powers detailed within that space, how do you conjure up that variety if (say) your party is travelling from Goldenseal to Dajaz, without either spending your entire existence homebrewing small Southwestern kingdoms/nations, while still giving them the weight to leave that impression on the players?

This is an excellent question! In short, I skip it. When characters in my most recent game, Paths of the Maker, travel vast distances across Creation I gloss over the journey, maybe pointing out some particularly interesting places they pass through on their way, and then afterwards I give them a Lore Topic with some pithy name like "Our River Adventures" or "The Sea-Route Between Ironfall and Sijan" or "The Wastes of the South." Until the next time the player characters go traveling, they can use that Lore Topic to make Introduce Fact rolls about neat stuff that happened to them or that they learned about during their travels, to back-fill the setting with interesting locales whenever my players think of them. The vastness of Creation isn't something the GM has to build on their lonesome - the players can help too!

As an aside, I've also used the Lore Topic approach when my players come across some vast hoard of treasures or something like that, so that they can make Introduce Fact rolls to reveal things they found in the aforementioned treasure hoard whenever it is useful to them.
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I struggle with this myself, and the way I handle it has changed over the years.  At the moment, my approach is that large city states are fairly rare.  I'll generally try to come up with several new locales for each published city state, if I'm going to be spending time in an area.  So if I was going to base a campaign around Gem, I might start with 2-4 other major city states in the surrounding regions between Gem and the Lap, for example.  They each dominate a small region, no more than a few days travel (if that), with some towns and villages that provide them with resources in exchange for protection.  That lets me fill in some of the blank spaces in the map with my own ideas, but I don't feel like I need to come up with dozens of full city states all along the southern coast.  

The majority of the blank areas of the map then are made of up of countless villages, small towns, and many large nomadic clan territories, interspersed among true wilderness.  Any settlements are all functionally independent and have to be largely self-sufficient while relying on some local trade with their closest neighbors and the occasional guild caravan coming through once or twice a year.  Culturally they can be similar to their bigger neighbors in the published or custom city states, with a few simple twists to add some flavor, but they don't owe fealty to those neighbors.  The scattered villages in a region might consider themselves part of some shared clan, but there are probably rival clans/settlements in the area too; they are not homogeneous or unified, and there isn't any central government.  Scattered throughout the wilderness areas are remnants of of older settlements that didn't make it for whatever reason; some very old, but many newer.  
  
So if the PCs are travelling around 400 miles, or maybe a few weeks by land, and I don't want to just handwave that travel with a montage, then I might put one sizable city state somewhere in there with an encounter or two to make it interesting and highlight its presence.  The rest of the trip would vary.  If they are following a road, they can probably stay at a village most nights, but while going cross-country that might happen only every few days with most of the trip spent crossing large tracts of semi-wild areas claimed by nomadic peoples (which they might or might not actually encounter depending on my story needs), and true wilderness.  

I don't know how accurate that is compared to antiquity on Earth, but its an approach I can wrap my head around and manage fairly easily by taking the rough cultural info from the closest local published site(s), with a few twists for flavor, and placing them in mostly isolated villages and clans.
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The way that it normally gets handled in the groups I am in is someone has a fast travel spell of some sort. Or two people. The point is that distances are compacted I suppose allowing for you to focus on one or maybe two important stops on a trip.
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I agree this is one of the difficulties Exalted has. On the one hand I love how huge the setting is, it's intended to add to the epic factor, gives STs plenty of space to define and is intended to allow you to convey a sense of scale and ruined/lost civilization.

On the other hand the tone of the game is one that's fairly high powered and groups are coming for the power fantasy rather than to be held back by painstakingly covering supplies and the difficulties of travel. This in my experience means that most games quite rightly don't get too hung up on travel time and distance but something can be lost this way tonally from what the setting maybe hopes to be.

It honestly comes down to the ST and the game and with my own I try and keep the scope of locations visited within a constrained area and limit too much information or communication from outside. This sense of fog of war and information delay rather than travel times is as far as I've found the best way to convey things, so my group in the East has at best a pretty fuzzy idea of what's going on on the Isle and beyond
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