The last two pieces have been relatively easy for the group to get, and I want the last two to be a challenge. So, the group's headed off to the West, and have had to enter a Shadowland to get their hands on the second-last part. I just got the Abyssal book, and had wanted them to face an insanely tough challenge and recurring villain -- someone who can help flesh out an existing campaign arc involving the nemesis of one of the PCs.
I made an Essence 7 Abyssal. Gave him Celestial Battle Armour. Dropped a whole slow of Charms on him, and set up the scenario for the group. I described the razed town in the distance, had a lone person, nearly dead, stumble to the group, and was ready for the big throw-down. The only thing I didn't do is give the guy any perfect defences. He used Throw Charms, and wasn't the sort to dodge attacks (Lethal Soak 21, Bashing Soak 23). I didn't give him the 'ignore damage' Soak Charm, because I figured I wanted the guy to be at least partially vulnerable.
The group encountered the guy, and set their three biggest hitters against him, while the two scouts rushed past to look for the McGuffin. Join Battle was rolled, and the bad guy, on 17 dice, rolled a measly five or so successes, ensuring he acts on Tick 6. The Lunar (made to rend people to shreds, and that's about it), wails on the Abyssal time and again, trying for the knock down to get off his combo (and failing), but succeeds in tearing through half the guy's Health. The war strider tries blasting him with an Essence Cannon, and misses completely, and the Twilight treasure hunter knicks and pings him just a bit.
The Lunar's a big problem, so I have the Abyssal charge up to go force lightning on the group. The Charm's damn nice, and his Combo will ensure the group takes serious damage before they get too far. Except for the Lunar, everything is going fine, and I've got plans for that Lunar.
Suddenly, the party leader, an Eclipse who stayed back and out of the fight, uses the Distracting Finger Gesture Attack -- making the Abyssal's 3-Tick action suddenly bump off to 9 Ticks and slowing him down considerably. Then the Twilight leaps in again, doing ping-damage -- and scoring 11 wounds, enough to drop the Abyssal to Incapacitated and taking him out of the fight.
Crud. I'm looking at the big-bad, and I'm slightly annoyed he's been dropped, but that's fine. They kill him, steal his stuff, and he comes back later. Half the group's all for wiping him out right now, before he causes problems, not knowing this is what I want.
The leader says 'nope'. She decides he'll be dragged off to Yu-Shan, and handed to the Shogun of Exaltation for study. Lytek had admitted he didn't know much about Abyssals, so she's handing him wrapped up in a bow for the Shogun to study. The Shogun won't kill him, which means the recurring bad guy's suddenly not recurring.
The PCs completely and utterly shut down the entire arc -- in less than 10 seconds game time.
I'm somewhere between frustrated and highly amused. Told my roomie, who also runs Exalted, and he laughed. So, I'm sitting back and running through some scenarios for the Abyssal in the back of my head, and I rewarded the PCs some bonus XP for their ingenuity. :)
Told one of the players on the phone about what my plan had been, congratulated him on a job well done. My wife had been paranoid 'it can't be that easy -- there's more, right', and I mentioned, 'nope'.
Oh well, there's always the last piece, in Thorns.
Here's the leader's take on it.