Exalted: Second Edition by PurpleXVI
IntroductionOriginal SA post Exalted!
Exalted's hardly obscure by most metrics, almost everyone in the hobby has heard of it. But mostly what people have heard have been horror stories and second-hand tales of the goofy and questionable mechanics and fluff, not to mention the highly visible, highly crazy people who are sometimes part of the fandom. It doesn't help that the mechanics essentially cater to more than a few fetishes.
So I'm here to take a poke at some of it, mostly to illustrate some of the worse fluff decisions and where the mechanics seriously break down. Some miseries will be hard to convey(like the shit-poor organization in every single book), others less so, and when it's relevant I'll point out where the Scroll of Errata fixed something really big.
Welcome to Exalted
Every main book has five or so characters on the front(I think it's five in most cases, but cannot be fucked to check right now) which are the example NPC's for that line. They'll be popping up over and over inside the book in the comics that separate each chapter(and trust me, some of these comics are HILARIOUSLY bad, sometimes in art, sometimes in conception, sometimes both) and occasionally matter to the fluff.
The background, meanwhile, seems to be about ninjas molesting an elf on the left and some generic badguys on the right. An auspicious start.
So as soon as we crack the book open we get some COMIC ACTION. Even before the index. In this case we have these burly adventuring types wandering around, instead of being a member of a party, they're a member of a Circle(which is an adventuring party in Exalted, here for part of the long-standing White Wolf tradition of inventing a new fucking word for everything, if someone wants to, they can try to keep count). What we learn, besides that vocabulary bit, is that there are gods, and that this Circle walks up and kicks one in the face for flooding a village, But it turns out he's only angry because some OTHER GUYS were the real mean people and then the comic ends as the Circle is about to kick them in the face, too.
The art's a bit dubious(especially as anyone in the background tends to turn into a badly drawn sack of skin with a couple of dots for eyes) and the action is pretty anime, but as it is, this is a pretty good idea. It's less tedious than reading paragraphs upon paragraphs of White Wolf prose, it helps set a mood and it gives you an idea of how things work in the setting in more ways than just how the dice are rolled.
We get an index, some credits and copyright and then instantly we're shoved into ANOTHER comic. This one is hilarious less for the art quality, more for the concepts. Look at this shit.
The real enemies of this setting? Fucking awful fashion sense. The comic itself is nothing but an excuse to have a guy with a sword smack up a monster made of bones and then wave his sword at this hideous thing. Her sword also looks goofier than a Final Fantasy protagonist's weapon.
Chapter Zero: Introduction
So, you’ve picked this game up and you’re wondering what makes Exalted different from any other fantasy roleplaying games on the market? First, there are its infl uences. Almost every fantasy game can directly trace itself back to that monolith of 20th-century fantasy, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Exalted, however, draws its inspiration from Western and Eastern sources both older and more recent. The first major influence are the ancient epics of the West and the East: The Ramayana, The Iliad, Journey to the West, The Arabian Nights, et cetera. All feature larger-than-life heroes capable of laying waste to nations and challenging the might of the gods themselves. The second source is pulp fiction. This genre includes the pre-Tolkien fantasy produced by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard and Fritz Leiber, which birthed Tarzan, Conan, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. The final sources of inspiration for Exalted are Asia’s over-the-top manga, anime, video games and wuxia films, which have only recently found a large American following. More than the rest, it is this last source that differentiates Exalted from its competitors.
This quote is very promising but also completely bullshit. 99% of the inspiration is anime and wuxia, the influence from mythology extends largely only to the broadest ideas of the background fluff and I've yet to see anything that resembles the pulp stuff. It's really nothing more than a way to stroke the Exalted fan's ego by reminding him that he's picking up something totally different from D&D , something that's super-intellectual .
The second way Exalted is different from other roleplaying games is in the power levels involved. In most games, a player’s “heroic” character starts out as a complete wuss. He’s lucky if he owns a rusty dagger and a loincloth, and he’s possessed of all the fighting prowess of an asthmatic schoolboy. Exalted is different. Exalted characters begin the game as bad-asses—reborn heroes of old wielding powerful magic and weapons so massive mere mortals can’t even lift them. These heroes are easily capable of challenging armies in combat and prevailing.
This is... slightly less bullshit. Yeah, you have the potential for that, but mis-apply your starting points and XP and you'll effectively be an "asthmatic schoolboy" anyway.
Finally, what truly sets Exalted apart is the strength of its setting. Creation is a fantastic place, a flat plane larger than the whole of our Earth formed by the confluence of elemental forces and the will ancient primordial beings. Once an even larger and more fabulous place, all of Creation was nearly destroyed some 800 years ago by powerful forces arrayed against it. Just beyond the edges of the world, the Fair Folk bide their time, waiting for another opportunity to march forth from the formless Wyld to undo shaped reality. Just beneath the skin of the world, the necrotic lords of the Underworld plot to share the gift of Oblivion with all living things. And imprisoned within the infinite body of the Yozi known as Malfeas, the Demon Princes strive to escape their prison to wreak vengeance on the gods and the gods’ champions. Meanwhile, in the Celestial City of Yu-Shan, even the greatest of the gods cannot tear their attention away from the seductive Games of Divinity although Creation teeters on the brink of apocalypse. That leaves the Chosen of the Gods, the Exalted, as Creation’s only hope.
So this setting is unique because it's flat, big, has fallen from its previous amazing stature and is threatened by various horrific, otherworldly forces. And only the PC's can save it.
Surely, the world has never before seen its like.
Next, the Introduction non-chapter graces us with the standard "what is roleplaying"-paragraph(but keeps it mercifully short), and we're given a fresh vocabulary for Exalted. It wouldn't make much sense recite it all here.
And then we actually get to the first proper chapter... next time!
Next Time: Chapter One, The Setting!
SettingOriginal SA post
I'd agree that if the PC's
Solars, Lunars and other Exalted? Then yes, it would be an awesome pulp setting full of tombs and jungles to explore and weird, crazy shit to fight. As it is, though, it usually consists more of the players wielding a sword the size of a football field, glowing and then cutting a mountain in half.
The setting has the potential for pulp, but it's not what feels encouraged nor what most of the fanbase uses it for.
(and the game doesn't exactly handle low-power players well, we'll get to that)
So, while I can complain a lot about Exalted, the basic setting, background and the broad strokes thereof, I personally kind of like. And that's helpfully what the Setting chapter starts with.
Alright so way back in the AEONS BEFORE RECORDED TIME, everything was a big chaotic shitpit called The Wyld. The Wyld had two "groups," the Raksha/Fair Folk who loved the Wyld, and the Primordials who thought the Wyld was shit and that the Raksha could go get fucked. The Primordials then proceeded to pave over part of the Wyld and stabilize it, turning it into Creation and putting a "NO RAKSHA ALLOWED"-sign out front.
This was 90% an excuse to have a place where they could chill and play the GAMES OF DIVINITY which are defined nowhere in the corebook except that Gods and Primordials dig them.
After creating Creation, the Primordials then wanted more free time, so they created basically all the "mechanics" of the world. The gods and elementals, who were set to the unenviable task of making sure everything functioned while the Primordials banged off to be lazy bastards. The gods did not like this, but the great rules of existence said they weren't allowed to fight their masters. So they created the Exalted, who were bound by no such rules.
Solars, Lunars, Dragonbloods/Terrestrials and Sidereals.
They were on board with this whole thing, and the Primordials got fucked up in a war that did a good bit of damage to Creation, but ultimately nothing that couldn't be fixed. The problems were in fact with the Primordials being beaten. A good chunk of them died, but the great recycling system of the world couldn't handle them, so they just sort of partially clogged it up, resulting in the creation of the Underworld. They never properly died themselves either, as a result, and are now scheming to bring everything down.
Almost all of the rest surrendered, which the Gods and Exalts rewarded by turning their leaded inside out and stuffing the rest of them inside him. The unlucky bastard was Malfeas and his huge corpse is now basically hell. Full of demons and similar nasty bullshit.
Oh and the Primordials did not take losing well either, they basically cursed all the Exalts to go ever so slowly insane.
But hey, who gives a shit? WE WON. YAAAAAY. Everyone celebrates, golden age ensues, cool magitech is everywhere, everyone is happy and awesome, the gods are in their place, the Exalted are doing well and... then the curse starts taking hold. Solars being the most heavily and obviously affected, so the Sidereals take a peek at the LOOM OF FATE to see what they could do. Do nothing? Everything is fucked. Be peaceful? Everything might be fucked. Murder all the Solars and install the Dragonbloods in charge? Looks good!
The Solars get chopped up, but their Sparks make a run for it, looking for new hosts to Exalt. However, the Sidereals planned for this and made a big Spark Vacuum to suck them up. They killed a good bunch of the Lunars, too, but most of them escaped and their Spark Vacuum couldn't catch the Lunar sparks anyway. A few Solar sparks escape, but mostly it's all good. Dragonbloods in charge, Sidereals hack Creation so no one remembers them.
But of course, we wouldn't have a fun setting if that solved all of everyone's problems.
Firstly the Dragonbloods just aren't as great as the Solars at running the place. Secondly some of the dead Solars' spirits have gotten recruited by the Neverborn(dead Primordials) and lastly the Neverborn have unleashed a plague that kills 90% of everyone. Oh and then the Raksha attack. And large chunks of Creation melt away into the Wyld before the Dragonbloods can kick them out again by remembering where the "On" button is for their magical defenses(it's inside the big magical fort smack dab in the center of their everything that only one of them apparently had the balls or brains to brave).
Aside from a few legions going rebel and Creation being a good bit smaller and less populated, things are alright. Well except that the Fair Folk can now go for walks around Creation and that ohhhhhh the Neverborn and Yozi(Hell Primordials) temporarily teamed up to send a great big monster to collect the Sidereals' Solar Spark Prison. And the ones they scored they turned into Abyssals(DEATH SOLARS) and Infernals(HELL SOLARS). The remainder escaped and started Exalting mortals again.
So it's kind of all to shit, Creation's defenses are full of holes(in some places literally as the Underworld starts seeping through), the Abyssals are gearing up to wreck it all, the Infernals are gearing up to conquer it all, the Dragonbloods are rushing to try and murder all the Solars that Exalt(but somewhat stymied since the Great Contagion and internal disorder means they're no longer in charge everywhere), the Lunars are mysterious and often more than a little crazy, all the cool stuff from the Golden Age(also called The First Age we're now in the Second Age) has mostly been lost, the Sidereals can't decide if they want to sponsor the new Solars or make sure they stay killed and the Fair Folk/Raksha literally eat human dreams and hopes for lunch.
Oh and the leader who was keeping the Dragonbloods working together in at least a semi-orderly fashion recently vanished without a trace. Have fun with that resulting chaos.
(this bit is basically a grab-bag of factoids about the setting)
So what's left of Creation is split between the five elemental poles. Air in the North, Wood in the East, Fire in the South, Water in the West and Earth at the center. Climate and terrain predictably varies depending on where you are, east's jungly, south's deserty and so forth.
In some places the natural power of Everything, Essence, seep through, and it's possible to build geomantic structures(from carefully designed terrain to towering fortresses) that suck it up and focus it for a user. Since everything more powerful than a mortal basically uses Essence to do their fancy shit, these things are fought over, while mortals tend to avoid the unfocused locations because they can do stuff like give you a third arm or make your legs fall off if you hang around for too long.
Gods and Elementals
While everyone else is fucking around, the Gods and Elementals are tasked with keeping things functional. Which doesn't stop a lot of them from being useless fuckups who gamble for personal power, too(one of the effects of the Solars being hunted, the Lunars mostly AWOL and the Sidereals busy keeping them that way. The three branches of the Celestial Exalted were supposed to police the Gods and keep them doing their jobs). They hang out in Heaven, or Yu-Shan, a big otherworldly plane that's the heart of their organization. To hang around in Creation and affect stuff requires them to burn through Essence, which means that most of the time they'll be chilling in their Sanctums or Yu-Shan(though only the biggest, coolest gods are allowed to spend time there). Gods also respawn unless someone either travels to Yu-Shan and lawyers them out of existence before the heavenly courts or they're killed with special abilities made for permanently deleting gods.
Considering that there are gods for everything and that they're highly prone to taking bribes if they think they can get away with it, there's a hilarious amount of shenanigans and politics to potentially get involved with there.
Gods You Should Know
The Unconquered Sun: Patron of the Solars and the big guy who first came up with the idea of bumping off the Primordials. Runs around with four arms and looks soldier-ish.
Luna: Gaia's boyfriend/girlfriend(shapeshifter with no set preference) and patron of the Lunars. TUS' hintbook when they were slugging it out with the Primordials.
Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn: Not Sailor Scouts, but in charge of Travel, Happiness, Strategy, Secrets and Death(in large terms). Also very much related to the Sidereals.
Gaia: A couple of Primordials were neither killed or flipped inside out, Gaia is one of these. This is because she has a thing for Luna and decided to side with the Gods and the Exalted back when the big Primordial-killing went down. She's the source of the five elements.
To the lady on the bottom right: That's not what they meant by a chainmail bra
(As a sidenote this is also where we're told about the other Primordial that betrayed his buddies, Autochthon, he basically told everyone where the glowing weakspot was on a Primordial and what sort of weapon you'd need to hit it for extra damage)
Solars: Made to be in charge of everything and keep the world running right. Mostly they're prepared for big leadership roles and to be huge, inspiring dudes and dudettes.
Lunars: Each Lunar is made with a Solar counterpart that they're supposed to work with and aid. At least, that was the original intent. Oh and they're shapeshifters, there's that, that's their special schtick.
Sidereals: The bureaucrats of existence. Their flavours are sorted by the Maidens with planet-related names.
Dragonbloods: Elementally-themed, and their Special Thing is that unlike the others who Exalt mostly by deeds(Sidereals excepted, they get scheduled for Exaltations by Fate itself), the Dragonbloods Exalt based on whether they've got, well, Dragonblooded blood in their bloodline. They're also themed towards cooperation and there are five variants, one for each element, so go ahead and make your own jokes. Since it requires a spark to be set free for any of the others to be created, but not for the Dragonbloods, they're also by far the most numerous(but it's still not guaranteed that a Dragonblood's kid WILL Exalt, it can skip generations, etc. depending on blood purity and other shenanigans).
Abyssals and Infernals: Eeeeeeevil versions of the Solars. Spoooooooky stuff.
A few things are common for all Exalts, though: Firstly you can live for fucking ever unless someone smashes you with a huge sword. Secondly you're immune to all the sorts of stuff that'd bring you to a "boring" end, diseases and etc. unless they're crazy wacky magical shit. Thirdly the Exaltation itself decides that you have to be interesting , they tend to seek out people with the mindset to go do awesome heroic shit, but if they find a borderline case they tend to drive him just crazy enough to go be heroic(or villainous).
So the place that the Dragonbloods have been running ever since they helped the Sidereals murder the Solars and as many Lunars as they could get their hands on, hence ending the First Age, is called The Realm. Very creative.
They used to be in charge of pretty much everything, but since the whole bit with "almost everyone being dead from plague" their power has somewhat diminished. At this point the only thing they're decisively in charge of is the big blob in the middle of the world map, the Blessed Isle. They've got a few governors installed in other places, but not many, though they regularly try to re-assert their power.
They're also the ones in charge of the Wyld Hunt, chasing down and murdering the Solars that pop up, but considering that they can no longer keep an eye on everywhere, and the Solar sparks all got released again instead of the handful that were fluttering around freely prior... yeah that's not going too well for them either.
The Realm is a big pit of paranoia now that their lone dictator has disappeared and has left behind a huge, unwieldy apparatus and a bunch of people that she put at each others' throats before so they wouldn't be at hers. They have, for instance, rules declaring exactly how far the non-Dragonblooded must bow before them and three kinds of secret police.
On the upside, they have pimpin' furniture
Not every Dragonblood is a member of the Realm or its apparatus, though. Most of those born in the Realm are rapidly shuffled to an important position somewhere since they've got fancy abilities that mortals do not, but there are plenty of places beyond the Realm where a Dragonblood once knocked someone up and their hereditary powers ended up getting spread. They're called Outcastes and the Realm is pressed enough that it's quite eager to recruit them when it can, though the ones not schooled in: "ALL SOLARS BAD, HATE SOLARS" by the Realm may as easily end up working with or for the Solars.
Also, straight-up contradicting the "ALL EXALTS MUST BE HEROES OR WILL BECOME THEM"-thing from a sidebar earlier, we're told about how the current regent-in-charge of the Realm(a puppet of the powerful families) is a useless fuckwaffle who literally sits around all day jerking off.
Fokuf proved a poor choice to sit on the most important throne in Creation. He meets with his self-appointed councilors a few minutes every day to sign and seal every decree placed before him. The rest of the time, he hides in his apartments in the Imperial Palace practicing onanism in contemplation of the Immaculate Texts, the holy scriptures of the Immaculate Order. Whether this behavior stems from his already strange nature or from the pressure of being Regent, no one knows.
The Immaculate Texts and the Immaculate Order are essentially a phony religion created to justify the Dragonbloods in charge and the Solars being hunted down, blaming the Solars(not entirely without justification) for the fall of the First Age. It also encourages cooperation and for gods not to get uppity.
A good half or so of the entire Setting chapter is about the Realm and I am intentionally skipping most of the nitpicky stuff about exact demographics, how Realm armies are split up and made up, and Dragonblooded hobbies.
You can have the, probably NSFW, art, though.
While meandering through a bunch of largely pointless details about how much Dragonbloods love to party and fuck, the book eventually comes to the point with how this is likely to affect any PC's in the setting. With the current Regent an incompetent jackass, the Realm isn't faring well, and so there's a fight ongoing to get a decent regent on the throne... and of course everyone wants someone who'll favour them and lead the Realm the way they want it to be.
The listed NPC candidates a couple of forgettable ladies, a chess(sorry, "Gateway")-player who we're told has "strange tastes in bed"(why the fuck would this be relevant to anything?) and there are a couple of other NPC's that have no interesting or horrifying notes attached to them.
Also, keep in mind, as many pages as are given over to the Realm and its politics, it'll 99% never be relevant to a Solar(whom this book are mainly for) because the people involved in said politics want to beat his head in with a magical hammer.
What the Dragonbloods of the Realm call everything else. This section is separated into a section for each of the four cardinal directions. And a fifth that's sort-of-east-ish.
It's icy, it's miserable, it's full of vikings and the Neverborns' agents are already busily setting up shop there. The locals are either assholes, raiders or both. It's got a few noteworthy locations, like the city of Whitewall which has made a peace treaty with the undead and Raksha that mean they're not allowed to enter without permission... and in exchange the locals chuck a couple dozen live sacrifices(criminals or progressives) into the snow every year and listen to them get eaten by their "friends." Then there's Gethamane, which feels like someone tried to channel Lovecraft...
Gethamane consists of hundreds of twisting corridors that connect countless rooms. The only remaining traces of the prior inhabitants are the three strange temples, carved with ancient depictions of flying creatures, and the sunken gardens of mosses and fungi that feed the city. The temples are served by priests who are called in their dreams, answering a message that they cannot refuse. Those who make the attempt go stark mad and flee the city, seeking the snow-bound silences of the mountains instead.
Beneath the city lie endless tunnels that delve into the darkness far below. These delvings riddle the foundations of the city like wormholes, black and slick to the touch. Guards watch the dozens of entrances and bar the way against the things that, occasionally attempt to force entrance. Those who enter Gethamane’s underways to seek long-lost treasures do so at their own risk.
Which seems like it'd be a great fit for a game where the PC's were a bit more... vulnerable, and actually prone to being afraid of scary things in the dark.
The last thing of note in the North is the Haslanti League, a bunch of oddballs who live in the snow and let their dreams guide them.
It's a sea, there are some islands, and mean things that don't like anything live in the water.
About the only noteworthy location here is SKULLSTONE ruled by the Bodhisattva Anointed by Dark Water , a Deathlord with a name that's goofy even by Exalted standards. It's a place where both the living and dead, well, live, or unlive. When you die, you're usually recruited back to the world as a ghost or zombie or something to keep things running. It also has a decent amount of visitors dropping by to commit suicide or die so they can "live forever."
Deserts, mountains and volcanoes. Go far enough south and all there is, is fire.
It is also unspeakably dull and even specifies that pretty much all the interesting stuff there that's been abandoned over the years has been destroyed.
Well, it's got trees , what did you expect? The farther out you travel, the more densely and weirdly wooded it gets, and the more horrifying the creatures become.
It has the advantage of being one of the places you can go exploring without dying of hot, cold or wet, and it eagerly elaborates on all the lost places stuffed away there. This is also where a good bit of the pulp influence is, as it's got, as mentioned, lost cities, dinosaurs, and "Legends tell that the vast metropolis was once ruled by the Dragon Kings, who worshiped the Unconquered Sun with strange and bloody rites."
The Scavenger Lands/Sort Of East
Before the East properly becomes the East and all woodsy and shit, there's a large coastal/river region called the Scavenger Lands, and it's about the most detailed location in the entirety of Creation aside from the Realm. They've got a mafia(The Guild), a bunch of city states and a large chunk of those Dragonbloods who rebelled against the Realm(Lookshy, a huge piece of its military that bailed).
The region, despite being relatively small, is still important/detailed enough to have a supplement of its own.
Apparently related, but I have no fucking clue how
A lot of the places are reasonably interesting, though, and the lack of any sort of ruling nation or overpowering climatic condition means that there's a shitload of varied adventure to be had. It also has places like Denandsor.
The First Age city of Denandsor, also known as the Empty City, lies two weeks journey from Great Forks, near the southern edge of the Scavenger Lands, in the country of Melekin. During the First Age, it was renowned as a center of learning and trade. The city’s merchant kings sponsored trade missions throughout Creation, and the Library of Denandsor attracted savants from the four corners of the world. Today, no merchants ply their wares, no blacksmiths work its foundries, and no children play in its gardens. No one alive knows what catastrophe fell upon the people of Denandsor. Fragmentary records suggest that the city’s Dragon-Blooded governor attempted to use a powerful artifact to protect the city’s inhabitants from the Great Contagion, but no specifi c records have survived. The city is deathly silent and empty.
Whatever caused the city’s fall, none can stand to remain there now for more than a few hours or a day at most. A sense of dread and unease creeps over those who walk Denandsor’s streets, growing stronger the longer a person remains in the city, until it finally becomes unendurable. Those forced to stay longer are either driven into a catatonic state or disappear, never to be seen again. However, because only the strongest-willed can remain in Denandsor for long, large sections of the First Age city remain unplundered, and new treasure-hunting missions
are constantly being fitted up.
In general the place is just covered in ruins, dangerous tombs and other places for PC's to adventure and explore but, again, they'd probably be more interesting and fitting for Dragonbloods or mortals than Solars the other Celestial Exalts.
And that's about it for the geography of Creation. Each of these mentioned "Directions" has a sourcebook for it, which contain some things of interest. The Scavenger Lands book, for instance, adds a lot of interesting stuff to Nexus, one of the main cities of the area, and elaborates on the criminal enterprise in charge of a lot of the region, the Guild.
70 pages in and Character Creation is next!
Character CreationOriginal SA post Exalted!
Chapter 2: Character Creation
The intro comic for this one has the robed lady from the very first comic(the only one who literally did NOTHING but stand in the background all the time), she scams a demon into helping her find a forbidden tome and then does this:
POW, BAM. Also "the original won't be written for years." I'm not sure what's going on there, but as far as I can recall, the only two things that it's 100% canon you can never do in Exalted is time travel or true resurrection(people can get brought back as zombies and stuff, but not living people). Still, the art here is alright, and if you're competent with Photoshop you could probably abuse it to edit in your favourite "profane tome" of RPG knowledge for shredding.
Now, the chapter starts off by informing us that to play an RPG, we need to make a character. Okay, that makes sense. Then it lies to us.
More Lies posted:
Your character grows and changes as you play her, possibly becoming something you never expected. All of this is especially true in Exalted: You are playing an epic hero like Herakles, Beowulf or Samson. Your character might begin as an escaped galley slave or minor bureaucrat , but she can grow to conquer nations or even challenge the Realm itself.
Your character, as created, starts out already having Exalted, and unless you spread your points retardedly thin all over the place(a pretty bad strategy in Exalted), you're never going to have the phase of "OH GOD HOW DO I SURVIVE."
On the bright side, the next section, "storyteller's role in character creation," is actually pretty solid. It provides some decent advice on how to make sure your party coheres, that everyone's got something they can do who'll be relevant to the game(you don't want someone whose skills are all in "sailing" if the game is set in a desert, for instance.).
The Truth posted:
There are no generic games of Exalted. The characters start as epic heroes with the power to change the world.
And here they say the opposite of what they said before but still don't quite get it right. While a recently created character will still be able to paste mortals all over the scenery, they'll be leagues below the local "big bads" in pretty much any part of the setting. So you're not going to be "changing the world" in any sort of noteworthy sense right off the bat. I mean, that's alright , it's important to leave in some space for growth, but it's stupid not to just say it.
Actually making the character
Anyway! With this book we can make Solars and only Solars, but we'll also need this core book as reference if we wanted to make any of the other types of Exalts, since it's the only one that has stats for the various non-magical equipment(and quite a bit of the magical stuff) as well as explaining the skills and half the Backgrounds.
To make a Solar, we first pick a Caste(class), which is like a specialization. It doesn't really prevent us from doing anything, but it makes certain abilities cheaper to buy, and gives us a special ability related to our Caste. There are twenty-five skills, five castes, five skills for each caste to be specialized in and no overlap. Only one Caste gets combat/dodge skills specialized at all, and one gets a hilarious selection of "oops, we had some stuff left over!"
Eclipse Abilities are those useful for organization, communication and keeping society functioning: Bureaucracy, Linguistics, Ride, Sail and Socialize.
I'm sure that sailing and riding come up as often as, say, charisma(Presence) or combat(Archery, Melee, Martial Arts, Thrown, Dodge)!
Also in keeping with the whole sun-theme, the Solar castes have sun-related names. Dawns are the fighty guys, Zeniths have social skills, Twilights have crafting and magic, Nights have all the stealth-related stuff and Eclipses get the aforementioned leftovers. No one gets specialized in any "stats,"(strength, dex, etc. you know the drill) that's left for the Lunars as their special thing(making them generally better at lots of things at once). Finally there are Advantages: Backgrounds(effectively what you start with in the way of social and material things), Charms(special abilities) and Virtues. I'll get to virtues when the book actually elaborates on them, because God do I ever hate Virtues.
is he... blinding those guys with the sun reflecting off his bald head?
Then the chapter tells us how much we have to spend on stuff and... ends. That's right, character creation ends without telling us all the stuff we need to actually make a character. That's another four chapters, actually, with the very last one being at the end of the book after two chapters unrelated to chargen. Traits is a chapter explaining all the stats and skills, Drama & Systems tells us how to actually play the game, Charms is a huge and poorly organized repository for our special abilities and then at the end we reach Panoply which has stats for equipment.
Chapter 3: Traits
The intro comic for this one is dull(read: I can't make fun of it or praise it for anything in particular). A lady without pants does some implausible leaps through the air, lands on some stuff that wasn't there a frame before and then shoots a giant dragonfly being ridden by a robed, undead Goth who screams a lot.
Motivations are supposed to be the core of any character. Some Big Quest that your character has set themselves and which fuels them actually going places and doing stuff. It's also pretty much one of the core issues with Exalted, in that every character starts out with a pre-decided storyline they want to embark on. All of the example motivations are also super-huge, setting-changing stuff, which doesn't jive at all with their statement in the last chapter that we were to start small and grow big. Would an "escaped galley slave" or a "minor bureaucrat" start off dreaming of reshaping the world?
So what if we pick a motivation that doesn't work with the game or ends up not working with the character as we envision them? That's cool, the game tells us, it understands that not everyone gets the game right the first time and if we just pony up some XP, it'll let us change things. Rather than just, y'know, letting us change a personality without tying it to the system.
Intimacies are like mini-motivations, things that characters hate or love enough that it makes a difference in social combat(for instance, if your character has a girlfriend or boyfriend, someone attempting to SOCIAL COMBAT you into stabbing them in the spine probably comes up with a decent penalty).
Alright, in addition to some things being cheaper, as mentioned before, your Caste descides what glowy forehead symbol you get and what special power you get. The default abilities that any Solar gets, despite this is... we can glow, we can glow REALLY brightly or we can tell what time of day it is. As an interesting side-note, each Solar caste doesn't just come with a description of what they are as Solars, but also what horrible stereotype the Realm and its inquisition has of them.
Dawn: Fightyguys. They fight good and that's about their thing, their special ability is glowing so amazingly that it scares people off and gives them a really, really nice boost to defense. Stereotype: No one likes them, the other Exalts even left them to die when the Dragonbloods took over.
Zenith: Social toughguys. They talk good and are good at surviving getting beaten around the face and neck. If they set their Glow Power to 11, they can incinerate the dead, preventing them from returning as undead or ghosts, and gain big boosts to damage against "creatures of darkness." Stereotype: Evil blood-priests.
Twilight: Wizardy, crafters and generally clever. Their special is a ridiculously awesome power to basically point and laugh at the game's minimum damage rules. Stereotype: Demon-worshippers.
Night: Sneakydudes. They're the only ones who have the ability to prevent their aura of glowy from blasting off like fireworks when they're pouring out special abilities. This would be incredibly handy except for the fact that they're probably in parties with characters who do not have that ability, and when pressed enough that they need to flare off their auras... probably all of them are that pressed. Stereotype: The Secret Sun-hating Police.
Eclipse: The leftovers. Their special ability is that if you shake hands with them on any sort of oath, you will get fucked by random chance should you break it, and also demons and raksha can't attack them out of hand if they're on legitimate business with them(but they can make fun of the Eclipse until he attacks and nullifies his own diplomatic immunity). Oh and they get to break the game. Y'see, while generally any kind of Exalt or creature can only learn their own charms, Eclipses can learn ANY charms. They could learn Lunar Charms, Raksha charms, spirit charms, Abyssal charms, anything , provided someone sits down and gets them started with a bit of teaching. Even with the extra XP cost, this means that the game may as well roll over and give up pretending to be balanced once they get started. There's usually some attempt at balancing within a given type of Exalt's own charms, but no one checked to make sure that a Solar packing five Lunar charms wouldn't crack the game like an egg. Stereotype: All lies, all the time.
Quick! Invent a charm to fix your ugly fucking mugs!
This is where we actually start getting to look at the system a bit. We've got nine attributes: Three physical(Strength, Dexterity, Stamina), three social(Charisma, Manipulation, Appearance), three mental(Wits, Perception, Intelligence). For anyone who isn't aware of the Storyteller system, it basically works like this: You add Stat+Skill together, roll that many D10's, and every roll of 7 to 9 is a success, every roll of 10 is two successes. This means that, on average, we probably end up with about half as many successes as we roll dice(also this isn't actually explained for another chapter, so sucks if this is your first chance with the system!).
Also, all attributes are on a 1 to 5 scale(for pretty much everything but huge monsters or super-high-essence characters/NPC's), from "dull and stupid" to "true genius capable of understanding everything," for Intelligence. So there's pretty much no room for "capable but not godlike" in this system.
I think I said it before, but I'll say it again: Fuck virtues. Are you one of the people who hated Alignments in D&D? Felt it was goofy to try and pack all people into nine stereotypes? You're in luck! Here's something new for you to hate! An attempt at summing up personalities in four attributes .
Compassion: Do you like people or think they should fuck off and die? You have to fail at Compassion checks to do mean things! We need to fail a Compassion check to "slay a defeated foe" or "ignore the pleas of the impoverished." Presumably this also kicks in if some other member of the party wants to ignore sadness or actually kill dangerous people.
Conviction: Are you able to stick to a cause, even when it's tough? We have to fuck up a Conviction roll to give up. That's right, we don't get to decide when our characters think something is hopeless, the dice are there for us!
Temperance: Are you able to control yourself in general? We have to fuck up a Temperance roll to have fun. No, I'm not fucking kidding you.
Characters Must Fail a Temperance Roll to: Act dishonestly or show bias in a matter of importance. Overindulge in food or intoxicants . Act on thoughtless impulse. Break a sworn oath.
Valor: DO YOU LIKE TO PUNCH PEOPLE? This one prevents us from acting intelligently if there's a fight going on. We have to screw up a Valor roll to retreat, not pick a fight with anyone who goes "HEY PUSSY, I BET YOU CAN'T PUNCH ME REAL HARD" or even ignore a dare .
Now, in all fairness, these compulsions only kick in if we have 3 or more in a given Virtue... but hey, guess what? We start off with 1 point free in each of the four, and then have five more to distribute(meaning even the most balanced character would have three 2's and one 3), so we're going to have a mental illness no matter whether we like it or not. We can, of course, suppress that with willpower, but every time we do so, we add the number of successes suppressed to our "limit" pool. When it hits 10, we "Limit Break," and no, that doesn't mean we get to Omnislash some bitches up.
Instead, it means we snap, and go: "OH FUCK I'VE BEEN IGNORING MY MENTAL ILLNESS ALL ALONG, TIME TO LET IT BE IN CHARGE FOR A WHILE." Compassion-focused characters go out and make themselves miserable for others(or makes the causes of others' misery miserable). Conviction-characters become super-mean or emotionless. Temperance either becomes a monk, yells at others for not being pure enough, or binges on sex and drugs. And Valor characters will, of course, go off to fight something like the big, hulking idiots they are.
I think I called these skills before, and usually do, because having "attributes" and "abilities" just makes it easy to mix them up. Twenty-five of these, organized by which kind of Solar gets them for cheap, which makes sort-of sense most of the time. The page layout is still kind of a fucking mess, though.
The only real issue here is, again, that some skills are REALLY broad(the combat skills are useful in a shitload of games and situations, as is, say, Presence, the main BEAT PEOPLE UP WITH CHARISMA-skill), while others are easily less useful. Stealth and Larceny, for instance, won't see much use unless the entire campaign is stealth-focused, and if you're travelling with a bunch of high-Valor guys who're doomed by the rules to pick every fucking fight they get, you're not going to have much of a chance to be sneaky. Ride and Sail, likewise, are kind of specialized.
They're also on a 1 to 5 scale like attributes, but as mentioned, are usually a tad more specialized.
Anyone who's played Vampire or something will know these. You've got stuff like Allies, Resources, etc. and this is also where we can break the game in half.
For instance, for ten dots(technically only five, but we also need five dots of Influence, Backing or Resources to actually keep them equipped/fed), we can start with an army of ten-thousand devoted warriors. The only one they thought to cap at chargen was "Cult," which is the one that at 5 means we're a god-king of a quarter of the gameworld. We can start out incredibly rich, with huge armies or ridiculously powerful artifacts at chargen.
The alternative is to, say, have a magic horse.
About the only good thing you can say about the backgrounds is that almost all of them are broken if you pump them high enough.
Essence is our local mana-equivalent. We use it to be able to use artifacts("attuning" to them), it's the batteries for magitech stuff and it fuels literally every special ability in the game(sometimes along with willpower). Mortals and animals have an Essence of 1, and Exalted at chargen have an Essence of 2. It's about the closest thing we get to a "level" indicator in this game, as having a high Essence is usually a prereq for being able to learn powerful charms(and also indicates how many "motes" of essence you have to burn for kicking them off).
We get two pools, Personal and Peripheral, the Personal pool is the one we can burn without any fireworks, the Peripheral one is the one which, if we start using it, we get glowy auras and shit. And usually some of our caste special abilities also kick in by default when our glowy aura gets incandescent enough.
There's no mechanical penalty to this, but in-setting we've got the Wyld Hunt from the Realm looking to re-murder all the Solars as soon as they incarnate, so being too flashy might be a bad idea unless you're confident that you can take down the local Dragonblood governor and his soldiers(or hide from them really well).
Normally we recover Essence with time, but we can also Stunt it back. Stunting is a mechanic that won't be explained for another 20 pages or so, but I'll explain it in short here: If we make a really fancy description of something, we get bonus dice to doing it, and also recover some Essence at the same time(the errata limited how often you could do this, but in the core there was pretty much nothing, except for an angry GM, to prevent you from recovering essence by stunting skipping rocks over a lake for five minutes, or doing handstands with really fancy descriptions, or something similarly inane.).
Our basic Essence rating also provides some static boosts to our defenses and (until the Errata did away with it) also determines how great our minimum damage is when we smack someone.
Willpower has a lot of uses. It's used for fuelling our biggest abilities(along with motes of essence), we can use it to resist mind control charms, buy free successes and auto-resist a few other things(like our virtues trying to decide what we do). Normally it's at a premium and not something we want to be short on, ever, because there are things in the setting that can auto-subdue us if we don't have enough willpower to blow to preserve ourselves. We can also recover it from stunting, if we do a good enough stunt, we can choose to get willpower back instead of essence.
...and then the character creation chapter stops.
For reference, we are now 115 pages in, and we don't actually know how the system works. Unless we've read ahead or know the Storyteller system from elsewhere, we don't even know how to roll the dice, we've just been given some vague advice for nailing together some numbers and what the maximums and minimums are. We don't even know what stats our equipment has(or what those stats would mean in a fight) or anything about charms.
But hey, we know that our character has borderline-irresistible compulsions to either be no fun at all or to do incredibly stupid things on a regular basis.
Next: Chapter 4, "Drama & Systems"
Drama & SystemsOriginal SA post Exalted!
Chapter 4: Drama & Systems
Alright, this is the part where they tell us how to actually play the game. It starts off with "Rule Zero," i.e., "change what doesn't work for you," and boy is it ever warranted for Exalted. Every time I've played it, or looked at someone's house rules, they've almost ended up being longer than the actual game's rules... even if half of the house rules are usually just a list of "these actual rules are goddamn stupid, so we're not using them, we'll wing it."
Granny Asuka wishes she had stayed in NGE
After that, we get an extended pile of vocabulary, consisting of stuff like the local jargon for time units(series, stories, episodes, scenes, downtime, ticks) which all need to be defined, apparently, and recapping what the stats and skills are. Let's also recap what the actual mechanic is:
We roll xd10, every d10 that comes up 7+ is a success(10 is a double success). If we get no successes, but do get 1's, we get a "botch," a critical failure. Otherwise 1's don't matter. Learning from oWoD's fuckups, usually "difficulty" is represented by needing more successes to pass, not from changing what numbers count as successes(but not being TOO bright, they haven't learned completely, and there are still some effects that change it, if I remember right, they're mostly left for Sidereals, yet another reason not to involve them in your game).
This means that the average character is reasonably competent at basic stuff, because you just need 1 success to do normal things, and the remainder is mostly to discern HOW well you succeed. Usually the places we need piles of dice and successes are the actual interesting parts... when in some sort of conflict with NPC's. Sometimes we're trying to pass some threshold of success(for instance if we're trying to pound someone with Dodge DV 4, we need 5 successes or more to succeed and land the hit), in other cases we've got opposed rolls where the highest pool of successes takes it.
Aside from this, about the most important section of "actually doing stuff" is stunts, which we also mentioned before, but which I'll recap again: A verbose description gets you +1 dice(and +2 essence motes), a verbose description that uses the environment(like kicking off a wall to dodge a trap) gives you +2 dice(and +4 essence motes), and finally, if we do the former and do it really well OR combos with our Motivation, it gets us +3 dice(and +6 essence motes). There's also a poorly-thought-out sidenote here: If we use to to enhance a static value(like our Dodge DV), every die we'd normally get, instead increases our static value by 1.
So consider, Bob with 10 dice throws a punch at Dan with 5 DV, both pull off 3-point-stunts. Bob will, on average, get another success per two dice, so he gets +1.5 successes. Dan just adds three to his DV... which it will take three more successes to overcome. I would be really surprised if this bit was not covered by errata.
Pleasantly, they provide examples and specific guides for pretty much every skill. Like guidelines on how huge stuff someone with a given Strength+Athletics should be able to lift, etc., but some of it seems a bit overly crunchy and at odds with the narrative-heavy emphasis otherwise(for instance, jumping rolls apparently provide us with the exact number of yards we manage to cross, rather than leaving it to dramatic appropriateness). Oddly enough there are also somewhat-detailed rules on wound infection... even though no Exalt is actually susceptible to any sort if illness that isn't somehow magical or would melt mortals in minutes.
There are also some notably useless things in there, like designing Manses, which takes years of work, literally. Not just a year, but minimum two, maximum ten. I know some games have periods of downtime, but how often does the adventure just tune out for two years to let players get on with this sort of junk?
the guy with the dreads sees this sort of shit every thursday
But eventually we manage to shoulder our way through the jungles of miscellanea and into the place where crunch becomes dangerous: The combat rules.
The main thing that makes Exalted combat different from combat in other games are the initiative rules, and while they may not be perfect, this is one place where I really appreciated what they did. We roll initiative only at the start of the fight("Join Battle," because we gotta be special!) and that determines who goes first. After that, it's a matter of ticks. Combat advances one tick, everyone on that tick acts, and then depending on what they did, they're shunted further down the order(for instance, say I win initiative, I use my SORD which has a speed of 5. Now 5 ticks will have to pass until I act again. If someone with a HAMMER of speed 6 and someone else with a KNIFE of speed 3 act on the same tick, the KNIFE guy will get two actions for the HAMMER guy's one.).
It can be a bit to keep track of when you first encounter it, but it honestly works very nicely, and makes speed very desirable without making it entirely broken(for instance, there's no single Speed stat you can buy up to get three actions for everyone else's one).
Actually hitting people is simple, we roll our pool of Combat Skill + Dexterity, and try to get more successes than the target's Dodge DV((Dodge+Dexterity+Essence)/2) or Parry DV((Weapon Skill+Dexterity+Weapon Parry Value)/2). This also brings up the point that Dexterity is pretty much the key to being functional in combat at all(because it's the necessary stat for both hitting and not being hit), and in fact it's way more important to be accurate than hard-hitting. Why? Because every excess success we have on whomping someone carries straight over to our pool of damage dice. While if we don't hit someone, all our damage from being big and huge is fucking useless.
If we actually hit someone, we then subtract the appropriate enemy Soak(Bashing, Lethal or Aggravated, in ascending order of "you're fucked") from our pool of damage dice, and roll the remainder. Any successes damage to whoever we're whacking around. In basic Exalted(pre-Errata), actual damage also becomes less important than just hitting , because our Essence is the minimum number of damage dice we can roll. Have someone with a Soak of 500, but our Essence is 5? We'll still roll a minimum of 5 damage dice. The Errata changed this to be a minimum of 1 damage die for everyone , regardless of essence, unless their weapon had any special characteristics which raised it.
This is also where we get into Twilight Solars being broken as balls in the pre-Errata game. Their super-power is that they reduce damage equal to their essence after damage has been rolled , making them borderline immune to this "essence ping," which was otherwise the only guaranteed way of beating up heavily armoured enemies.
The other, and still remaining after the errata, way to be completely immune to damage, is Hardness. It functions like soak, except that if your Hardness is higher than the amount of damage dice(before your soak reduces them), the attack just bounces off you harmlessly.
If you get hit... then you've got health levels to keep you from dying instantly! No matter how big and beefy we are, we've all got the same health levels(unless it's an animal, horrific monster or something... or a mook, in which case they die more easily), some just have a harder time losing them. The one exception is one of the few passive Charms(Ox Body) it's possible to buy, which stacks on more health levels. At base, however, the health levels we have are: -0, -1(x2), -2(x2), -4 and Incapacitated. If we take three health levels of beatdown, for instance, we've lost our -0 and two of our -1's, meaning that we've got a -1 die penalty to pretty much every damn thing(unless we blow Willpower to ignore it or some charm allows us to ignore penalties).
When all our health levels have been dealt with, we die, unless some of it's Bashing damage, in which case we're just KO'd severely. Of course, more bashing, lethal or aggravated damage will then finish us off.
Once you know this, you pretty much know everything you need to know about combat in Exalted, then the only matter is keeping track of the piles of intersecting charms and modifiers that get deployed, penalties that get stacked on, charms and effects that counter those penalties and so forth. Even multiple attacks in an action(flurries) and coordinated attacks are pretty much the same, nothing really has any novel rules. I appreciate this, because fights easily become a mess when you have to deal with five mechanics at once, and also because it's enough of a pain to find specific things in the text without needing to in the middle of GM'ing a heated battle.
(for instance, the speed of healing injuries is under "calculating raw damage," stuffed inside the text, rather than under the headings a few pages later that deal with "injury complication," death, infection and other medical matters.)
Mass Combat is... basically like normal combat, except large units are abstracted into single characters on the battlefield, averaging out their abilities, tallying up their advantages and giving them benefits from their commander. The main difference is that this bit has some much dumber art, and the largest issue is tallying these things up on the run if your PC's suddenly decides to rally a mob of villagers or something similar. But that's really not much different from otherwise having to stat someone up on the fly if the players decide to pick a fight you really hadn't expected.
The 31st Lookshy Flying Idiots
So... social combat. Yeah. See, I'm one of those old guys of roleplaying, I sit on my lawn and wave my cane at THOSE DAMN KIDS with their social rules, because I think all that should be roleplayed out as far as is possible. Take my criticism of this shit with a grain of salt.
Social Combat posted:
Never forget that characters can flee the presence of individuals attempting to engage them in social combat or attack them in an attempt to cut short the conversation. However, part and parcel of the world of Exalted is that there are individuals whose words and truths are so divinely convincing that you dare not have an extended conversation with them lest you become a convert, and Creation in general is prone to heroic gesture and impassioned oratory.
Starting a Social Combat effectively mirrors starting a brawl, right down to rolling for initiative and being able to ambush people. Like Dodge and Parry DV, you've got a Mental DV, you can Guard against incoming arguments, you can make Monologue attacks. This is also about the only place where the Appearance stat has any use whatsoever, literally, if you're prettier than someone? You have an easier time ignoring their arguments, and if you're hideous, they have an easier time convincing you of things. I couldn't make this dumb shit up(EDIT: The exception being if what you're trying to do is intimidate someone, then it's more effective to be a hideous ogre than a shining prettyboy).
Anyway, you roll your die, try to circumvent DV, and if you hit, instead of doing damage, you deliver a verbal smack to their cortex and they do what you want them to. Unless they spend Willpower to ignore you.
Characters who lack the Willpower required to pay the refusal cost accede to the behavior asked of them.
On the bright side, average WP is 5, and we can only drain 2 WP from someone in a given scene before they completely refuse to talk to anyone... unless we have Unnatural Mental Influence stuff, i.e. mind control Charms. Unnatural Mental Influence can also be resisted with Willpower, but there's no limit to how far someone can be drained, and if you resist it, you gain a point of Limit. We can also make social attacks with letters.
But essentially, Social Combat turns social interaction into "roll for mind control" unless someone prefers to throw a punch or run away to being affected.
Stop Playing My Character!
many players resent being told how to play their characters.
Fortunately, the limitations on Willpower drain for natural influence make it very difficult for an entire bazaar of the most honey-tongued merchants to do more than frustrate and exhaust a protagonist, and characters with sufficiently high trait ratings won’t even feel that. Characters wielding sufficient persuasion to crack through this mental resilience should be rare enough to satisfy most players.
"It's okay to do things they hate, as long as you only do it occasionally!" Because simply not doing it would make too much sense for Exalted.
And of course you're probably wondering what sort of MIND CONTROL abilities we get, which means you're in luck! Because the next chapter is all about Charms and other wacky powers we can have as Solars!
Next: Chapter 5: Charms, Combos & Sorcery
Charms, Combos & SorceryOriginal SA post Exalted!
Chapter 5: Charms, Combos & Sorcery
So, Charms. In short, a Charm is a superpower. If your character knows a charm, he pours Essence into it, and it pours a boost into him. Almost all of them are "active," as in, they won't do shit for you unless you're spending Essence on them. There are a rare few Passive charms, but mostly they're upgrades to earlier, Active charms. Unlike the wacky abilities you might have in other games, they don't require any special gestures or materials(unless, say, they're crafting charms, or weapon-related, in which case you usually need some relevant tools to use them with), and no particular training(except for spending XP to learn them), you just want them to go, and they go .
This chapter alone is almost 100 pages of the 400-page corebook.
Before we even get to Charms, though, we get to Combos, one of the most hated rules in the game. Literally no players I've ever met have not house-ruled this. See, normally you can only use one Charm at a time... unless they have the Combo-OK tag, in which case you can use it with other charms! If you spend XP to buy that combo. Like, say I have PUNCH HARD and PUNCH FAST charms, which are both Combo-OK, I would need to buy a specific combo for those two, to use them at once. Oh and it also costs a point of Willpower to use any combo. So, watch out for talkative merchants after tough fights!
(In the Errata they completely scrapped this, much like every set of house rules I ever saw did, now you can combo away to your heart's content without having to buy combos or spend willpower.)
Also remember how the Social Combat rules seemed slightly reasonable before? Now they're modified: We can still come at someone with Social Attacks after they spend two Willpower to ignore us in a scene, as long as we stunt it. There's also finally a bit of exposition on Unnatural Mental Influence here, mostly listing all the ways in which we can get mind-controlled, and informing us that it can eat up to five willpower to shrug off. Keep in mind that five willpower is the base that Exalts start with. Also literally every limit has "unless someone stunts it" added on. "You can only gain one Limit per scene from resisting Unnatural Mental Influence! ...Unless someone stunts it to be otherwise!"
In fact, there's some ten pages of these extra rules that should have probably been in the prior chapter about rules before we actually get to the goddamn Charms. But at least we finally get there, and we're also told what the "theme" for the Solars is. Are you ready? Here goes: "They're really good at stuff." And then we make full contact with the horrendous organization. Now, it's been hard to show off in the rest of the book, but no fucking effort has been made to make it easy to find anything, to neatly section anything off, or anything of that order. No, stuff has just been crammed in to take up as little space as possible.
For instance, look at this fucking page, LOOK AT IT. On the previous page, an ability starts at the end, but only gets to its title before moving on to this one, and someone decided to shove a piece of art in there even though half the page was already taken up with a diagram showing off the pre-requisite tree for a set of Charms. And while we're here, let's look at the Archery Charms, which pretty much show us how it's going to be.
As you can see from the tree up there, we need an Excellence to get started. Excellences are tied to a single skill, and basically allow us to spend motes to pour dice into it(or instant successes, or get rerolls, depending on the flavour of excellency), and they usually start off the various charm trees. Often, a given ability has multiple trees(Archery has another one starting at the bottom of this same page). There are a total of thirteen Solar archery charms, and all but a few follow the same concept: Either they enhance your ability to never run out of ammo or your ability to fire lots of shots at once(something you could already do, but now you get to do it with less penalties). Though admittedly, the more novel ones are pretty cool, as they let us shape our Generic Mana Force(Essence) into weapons to kick ass with, if we either forgot to bring our weapons or someone thought they were going to get the drop on us unarmed.
Now, if you'll look up at the prereq tree above, you'll notice that each has 1 to 5 yellow dots and 1 to 5 red dots. The yellow dots are how much Essence we must have to learn a given charm, and the red ones how many points we must have in the relevant skill. You will almost never see a Charm that doesn't require at least three dots of skill, and often you'll find that outside of the starter Charm for the tree, you need 4 or 5. So if you ever hope to be good at something, you'd better learn to specialize. This game is absolutely not kind to any attempt at being a generalist.
So let's poke on a bit further, past a swathe of Martial Arts and Melee Charms until we get to another slightly goofy bit of the game. "Perfect Defenses." As they say, they completely ignore attacks, a sidebar earlier even explains that Perfect Defenses always take precedence over "cannot miss" or "will always damage"-charms or effects. Now, the downside to Perfect Defenses is that they must always have a "Flaw" tied to one of your virtues. This sounds good, right? Ha ha, no, like anything else involving Virtues they are really poorly thought out.
Perfect Defense Flaws posted:
Valor Flaw : The Exalt must move toward the opponent he considers most dangerous, on every tick where this is possible without magic, until his DV refreshes twice.
Compassion Flaw : The Exalt can only use this Charm when in the presence of someone or something he cares about.
Temperance Flaw : The Exalt cannot take movement actions such as move, dash, flight, teleportation or jumping until his DV refreshes twice.
Conviction Flaw : This Charm does not function when a Solar’s actions are contrary to his Motivation. The Storyteller should assume that a Solar’s actions qualify unless an enemy deliberately arranges for terms of conflict that dispirit and shake the purpose of the Exalt. The player can interpret it more strictly if desired.
So basically... Valor flaws require you to continue fighting. If you've got a Perfect Defense up, then you're probably tanking the biggest asshole on the field anyway.
Compassion flaws... completely fuck you... oh wait, unless, say, your bleeding-heart, cares-about-everyone character cares about the rest of the party .
Temperance flaws... well, okay, if your opponent knows what your flaw is, he could just keep backpedaling while attacking you with ranged weapons. But wait, what's this? What if YOU have a ranged weapon? Then YOU don't need to run around. Whoops!
Conviction flaws... so unless you're going out of your way to pummel people unrelated to your Conviction or get in fights with something you care about, this will never become relevant. It even says that the ST should pretty much always assume you're not stepping on your convictions.
And now, here's the super kicker...
Bad Mechanics posted:
A given Solar may learn any number of these perfect defense Charms (including buying the same Charm twice), but he can only choose a maximum of two different flaws among all the standard perfect defenses.
So you can literally just buy the same Perfect Defense twice, and assign it to two different virtues, so you can always bust it out. Make one Compassion and the other Conviction, for instance, and you're only in trouble if you hate the rest of the party, and are somehow forced to set fire to an orphanage you vowed to defend. Also as far as I can tell, none of these Flaws are required to be your main Virtue or even one of your highest Virtues(though admittedly that could be slightly amusing, a coward who's forced to run towards his enemies to be invincible).
The effort that went into balancing is also what you might call limited. At the same level of prerequisite stats, an Archery-Solar can summon a gleaming golden doombow for an entire fight, one that's equal to, if not actually better than, pretty much any Artifact bow he could have. The Thrown-weapons Solar, on the other hand, gets to make attacks that keep someone from making any noise when hit. Or to make their own weapons out of shadow! Except that these shadow weapons are completely mundane and don't get the Archery Murderbow's boosts.
also if you use thrown weapons your archetype looks fucking stupid
They do make some decent use of sidebars, though. Often the first time a keyword actually pops up in relation to charms, there's a sidebar reminding you what it's all about, so you don't have to keep flipping back to the keyword index at the start of the chapter. It's a nice little thing, even if it doesn't really make up for the rest of their screwups.
If we're willing to abuse RAW, we can also get free stats and skills from the War charm "Tiger Warrior Training Technique." It allows a given Solar to train a "Unit"(as in mass combat) up to his own prowess(or 4, whichever is lower) in Strength, Dexterity, Stamina, Archery, Dodge, Martial Arts or Melee. One of these is picked every week, and at the end of the week, it's boosted by one dot. Then we flip back to the Mass Combat chapter... and we find that it tells us that units can be composed of "younger Celestial exalts" and that there are units down to size 1(Solo) or 2-10(Fang).
Considering that there are no disclaimers, and given enough downtime, a bunch of party members could save their starting stat and skill dots for other things, and a remaining one could train them up to above-average in all those things. Judging by the description, this just happens at no XP cost. It also simply says "a unit," with no real limits. Considering that "A unit" is up to ten-thousand or so, it could be possible to just pump any random village up to badass warrior-tude over the course of a few months. Which is actually reasonably awesome.
Also on re-reading that charm? It just requires five hours of effort in a week. Assuming the party has an afternoon off every week, they could still keep reaping their stat boosts while adventuring. Holy cow someone really didn't think this one through. Oddly enough, the expansion charm, Legendary Warrior Curriculum, does say that it excludes Exalts from benefiting from it... but oh, wait, no, it only says it excludes Exalts from benefiting from its really minor "special fighting techniques," not from its huge selection of stat&skill boosts.
(If they never errata'd this one, I'll be hugely surprised. At the very least there's probably a DOESN'T WORK FOR PC'S or PC'S HAVE TO PAY XP FOR IT ALL note in there.)
Eventually, though, what we get to are the social charms, and while some may have predicted that Unnatural Mental Influence was some top-of-the-charm-tree thing, something we'd need piles of other charms, and excessive amounts of power to leverage... we actually get our first one as something we can start the game with, in the Performance tree, without even being particularly competent at Performance. We also get an AoE Bisexuality Attack.
HUSBAND-SEDUCING DEMON DANCE posted:
This Charm exerts unnatural mental influence on all who witness it. Characters with Mental DV less than the Solar’s successes must spend two Willpower or fall instantly in love either with the Solar or something the Solar represents. This effect does not depend on gender or sexual preference. Targets incapable of sexual attraction to the Solar suffer starry-eyed infatuation or dedication to the Solar’s cause rather than romantic desire.
Yeeeeaaaaaahhh... why do I get the feeling like I just walked in on someone's fetish fiction?
In fact, pretty much every goddamn Social attack charm is Unnatural Social Influence, and often they require multiple points of willpower to resist. While it's kind of cool that you can make a social monster who can rally armies and crowds, scatter demons before you by rebuking them... it still makes me feel uncomfortable that 90% of this stuff is completely viable for use against PC's as well. Admittedly there are some social defense charms as well, like one particularly handy one that lets you replace the willpower cost with essence cost(and lets you dodge the limit accumulation, too), but considering that the game really expects, and wants, you to specialize... it's a bit of a challenge to be both competent at social combat and physical combat at once.
There are also the charms covering things that really should just be covered by dramatics, for instance, there's a charm for putting on your armor really fast. That seems, to me, like something that's more at place in a game with encumbrance tables than MYTHICAL HEROISM WITH HUGE STUFF GOING ON. It's out of place in the same way as calculating the exact number of yards that you jump, in the rules chapter, was out of place. It just seems like a level of nitpicky detail that's not present in other places, nor encouraged anywhere.
WHIRLWIND ARMOR-DONNING PRANA posted:
The Solar Exalted normally use this Charm for a number of successive actions equal to the armor’s mobility penalty in order to complete the armor-donning process. For example, six actions and six invocations allows an Exalt to gird himself in chain swathing. Facing exigent circumstances such as limited Essence or frequent interruptions, he could also spend two minutes’ effort and four invocations of the Charm.
Is it just me? Or does it seem out of place next to a charm that lets you yell at demons to GET THE FUCK OUT or call them fuckheads so hard that your sword burns their flesh to ash where it makes contact?
keep in mind that someone got paid to draw this
There are so many little things that it's hard to notice them all, like when a charm has a requirement of Survival 1, Essence 2... but its only possible prerequisite requires Essence 3. Just all these little fucking goofups. Charms for nitpicky, rarely-used stuff like foraging for food about as expensive to get as being able to take apart any inanimate object with your bare hands(and yes, that includes stuff like city walls). Mind you, Craft is one of the places where almost every charm lets you do new and interesting things, rather than just adding dice or turning your normal social attacks into Unnatural ones. If you buy the entire tree, you can take castles apart, hammer out swords with your bare hands and shore up the world against raksha invasions.
Know The Soul's Price posted:
Even those whom jade coin cannot buy will sell themselves for something—sex, fame, the reclaimed honor of an ancestor or the salvation of the world.
On a success, this Charm forces the target’s player to declare the target’s price. If the Exalt meets that price, this Charm invokes an unnatural Servitude effect—the target becomes loyal to the Exalt and must spend one Willpower per scene to act in a knowingly disloyal fashion. This servitude lasts until the Exalt betrays the bargain—as by reclaiming an object given as the price—or the target has spent a total of 10 Willpower to act disloyally.
Mmmm, charms that basically force you to pick something that will let someone mind control your character indefinitely(or probably at least for a couple of days).
BODY-PURIFYING ADMONITIONS posted:
If the Exalt’s player rolls five or more successes on a Medicine roll for the Solar to treat an ordinarily incurable poison, such as spiritual taint, Yozi impregnation or even spells such as Blood of Boiling Oil, she can spend five motes and banish it from the patient’s system.
You know, I think my usual response to a campaign where someone was knocked up by a demon and didn't want to be, would be to stand up and quit, rather than to check for any charms I could use to encourage a supernatural abortion.
I'd also like to re-state again how "not all charm trees are created equal." The combat trees usually have two or more split trees and a dozen or so charms, but stuff like Awareness and Stealth only have four each.
The supernatural martial arts aren't really worth mentioning, they're just extended combat charm trees with weapon restrictions, and little else. I mean, really, if we want to break the system in half we just have to poke our heads into Sorcery. Now, actually learning Sorcery is troublesome, it requires some IC challenges(Humility, Tutelage, Journey, Fear and Sacrifice), and the GM can(and is encouraged) to screw us over with the challenges and the training times needed to actually learn the various spells. But once we get there, we can effectively permanently arm ourselves with one of the most ridiculous martial arts weapons possible, and all it'll really require is that we wear some gloves when we're in polite company or want to be subtle.
Wood Dragon's Claw posted:
Until the character wishes otherwise and terminates this spell, her hands warp and twist into the shape of huge gnarled claws of oak. These are lesser replicas of the claws of the greater elemental dragons of Wood. The character receives 15 points to allocate to the claws’ Accuracy, Defense, Damage and Rate. The damage inflicted by the claws is lethal. No single rating may exceed (the caster’s Essence + Occult). At the beginning of each action, the character can reflexively reallocate the 15 points however she chooses.
As mentioned before, extra successes on attacks always mean more damage, so there's really no reason to invest in damage. Rate is how many attacks we can make in a round, and defense is how much of a bonus they provide if we decide to parry instead of dodging. If we roll over to the back of the book, to look at the artifacts available, let's see... about the toughest Martial Arts weapon has...
"Accuracy 1, Damage 10B, Defense 5, Rate 4"(If made from Orichalcum)
Starting at Occult 5 is effortless, and we need Essence 3 to learn this sorcery in the first place, so... we can make our bare hands into an Accuracy 8, Damage 4L, Defense 0, Rate 3 weapon(and that'll only increase as our Essence does). And since they're considered unarmed punches , as far as I can tell there's nothing that prevents us from then stacking all the Martial Arts charms and combos we like on top of them to tear people from ass to stern with our bare hands. Our spare dots of Artifact we can then use for some pimp-ass armor or something, or for a Cult of people to applaud us whenever we kill someone mercilessly. In fact, nothing even says we lose any manual dexterity with these things, and despite being "huge," in the one comic where we saw someone use this spell, her hand seemed to retain about the same dimensions.
Oh, and, what if we're overwhelmed by attackers? Funny you should ask...
"At the beginning of each action, the character can reflexively reallocate the 15 points however she chooses."
The answer is "FUCK YOU, I'VE GOT A FUCKING RIDICULOUS PARRY DV AND YOU'RE NEVER GOING TO TOUCH ME." At the very minimum, we'll be able to add 4 to our Parry DV(the 8 we add to defense will get halved, after all), which will require someone hitting us to have 8 more dice to have a shot at it.
What does this cost to do? 10 motes of essence and one willpower. A starting Exalt will be able to pay that cost effortlessly , considering that it doesn't have to be renewed per attack or anything of the sort.
I'm sure that everyone out there has their own favourite "how to break the system"-solutions, but these are just the ones I'm pretty sure anyone skimming the book could find and use without knowing the system in-depth. Someone could probably review how many of the abilities are shit/unbalanced/stupid more in-depth, too, but with 100 goddamn close-packed pages, I feel like I did my best to point out some of the dumber things.
Next: Chapters 6 + 7: Antagonists and Storytelling!
StorytellingOriginal SA post
Sionak: The thing is that you're not rolling-over anything, you're looking for matches, and it very quickly becomes almost impossible not to have any matches when rolling a pool of d10's. Not to mention the addition of Master and Expert dice, which allow you to be completely incapable of failing rolls(as well as staggeringly good at landing murderous headshots in combat).
This sort of shows it off, just look at the probabilities for "1" at any of the numbers of dice, that's the chance of failure.
http://asteroid.divnull.com/2008/01/chance-of-reign/ This'll do it, too, just scroll past the maths to the first table and look at the "chance of no match."
Chapter 6: Storytelling
This is the general "miscellaneous rules and how to run a game"-section, which starts off hilariously . In all games produced since, oh... the late 80's or something, we get the usual Rule Zero schpiel, "change the rules like you want, if it makes the game more fun." And it's not like they can stop us. We get the same story here, except this time it actually comes with an example of houseruling.
I'm not sure if it's just an amazing coincidence or if their playtesters had the same experience as everyone else, but the rule they choose for modifying as an example is the combo rules. The one thing that all house rules I've seen change, and they go through both of the variants I've seen in use(one of which eventually became the official combo rule in the recent errata).
After that it's mostly a rules miscellany, travel time, moving armies, communication over long distances, etc.
But of course it wouldn't be a chapter of Exalted without some poorly-conceived rules. In this case? The fucking training rules. As mentioned before, there are some useless things in the book, like Manse Design, useless because they simply cannot be used without literal years of downtime. Training isn't quite that bad, but, say I want to increase my Essence rating to 4 so I can unlock a new tier of charms! Well, no can do without a pilgrimage and four months of focused meditation(and it's the same for Attributes). A new charm? It takes X days to learn, where X is the minimum ability required for it(so 4 days for a charm that requires Martial Arts 4 to learn), oh, but wait, that's only if it's Favored for my caste. It's also plus the minimum Essence required if it's of another caste.
And we double this if I don't have a trainer who already knows the Charm. Considering that all members of the party are likely to specialize in different ways, fat chance of that. So it's easily a week or two of downtime just so I can learn a new goddamn ability.
he's sad because of his stupid fucking pauldrons I bet
Chapter 7: Antagonists
And here's the "bestiary" for Exalted. It starts out with huge chunks of statblocks for average civilians, bandits, troops, "heroic" mortals and those mortals who think it's a great idea to start chatting up demons. Exalted is also one of those settings, like D&D, where just about any two things that hook up will produce some sort of horrific crossbreed, and so we are introduced to Godbloods. Pretty much everything here, it should be noted, is chumpsville. They're armoured enough to take a blow, but almost every single one of them can't dodge for shit, and in Exalted prior to Errata, getting the fuck out of dodge when swords are being swung is far more vital to survival than being able to take hits.
Also pretty much none of them have a chance in hell of landing a blow on an Exalt.
once again, if you really want to see the drawn tits, click on the link
I'd also like to pause and bitch about this artist. They can literally only draw ONE fucking female face. The same, bland, chubby-cheeked thing. Over and fucking over. It's like they're drawing some sort of creepy baby with tits.
Oh, yeah, and these assholes? Beastmen. Which are like 90% of why Lunars are so fucking creepy. You know how in either oWerewolf or nWerewolf, White Wolf went: "Okay, fucking? It's a bad idea. Let's discourage them from plowing everything in sight." In Exalted, they went: "BONING?! WHAT A GREAT IDEA! LET'S MAKE IT SO THAT LUNARS PRODUCE SUPERHUMAN MUTANTS WHEN THEY FUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" And of course by "superhuman" I mean "strong but undexterous" meaning that they can't fight for shit.
The Beastmen mark the introduction to the Wyld section of the Antagonists section, which also includes rules for travelling in the Wyld. Rules that should, perhaps, have been in the fucking rules section. But never mind! Here we're introduced to the scary Fair Folk/Raksha. So basically their thing is that they walk in from the Chaos outside, assume physical form, and then eat people's minds. They gobble up virtues and willpower for sustenance, then toss the hollow husk aside and prance onwards. Also iron burns them.
They're... pretty fucking dangerous, as they're basically free-form roleplayers in a game with rules. They can whip things up out of the blue and have staggeringly high stats, even compared to Solars, not to mention that they're usually escorted by powerful constructs called Cataphractoi or Hobgoblins.
Beguile does not cloud or dull a victim’s mind. She merely believes whatever the faerie says, against all logic. A beguiled character will not obey requests to commit suicide, but she will willingly put herself in overwhelming danger for the faerie’s sake, such as by fighting her own friends.
You don't roll for whether Beguile affects someone, you only roll for how long it works. If they've got below a certain amount of Willpower+Essence, it holds them for 0 to 26 scenes , and remember that scenes are effectively of arbitrary length.
If someone wants to sit through the overly-verbose masturbation of the Fair Folk book, they can try to explain what Fair Folk are in a more detailed form, but I will be fucked if I could ever parse that shit in an appropriate manner. Also, speaking of the Fair Folk, it's a remarkably bad idea to go into the Wyld, ever, seeing as how without the appropriate charms it's basically like walking around inside of a reactor core while on LSD. If you make it out alive, you'll be covered in a hilarious amount of mutations and nothing you see in there will make any sense, anyway, nor will it be permanent, so interacting with it serves little purpose.
you may end up looking like the Badly Drawn X-Furries
There are also Gods & Spirits, but the main issue here is that 90% of Exalted isn't about base abilities, but about Charms. And there is literally no fucking overlap between any of the goddamn Exalt groups in Charms, about the only thing is that Solars and Dragonbloods use roughly the same kind of ability excellencies. So all you get is a tiny, tiny, tiny fraction of what a given type of opposition/ally can do. So really, this chapter? It's fucking useless except as advertising for the other books.
Really, the main use of this chapter is actually all the setting info , like about the Wyld's mutating effects, that were hidden back here, instead of, oh, say, five fucking chapters ago .
back to front, left to right: Sol Invictus, Luna, Gaia and the five Maidens whom I can never remember. Red one's Mars, though.
Oh, and for their example enemies they sometimes go ahead and give them abilities that are neither explained under their stats nor in the book at all. Like, for instance, one of the Gods has a Celestial-Circle spell that isn't one of the ones in the book. Oh and if anyone's looking for some slightly creepy stuff, the one male God as an example is a somewhat-noble defender of the Imperial city while the one female God as an example is an ugly old crone whose main motivation is killing women who are prettier than herself and eating babies.
hey guys whats perspective?????????
Elementals are kind of neat, being effectively the public service of the divine hierarchy, the ones who make sure all the metaphorical roads and infrastructure are functional. But of course, the two most likely to be antagonists(with their Compassion 1 and penchants for killing/seducing mortals or lying to them) both come packing powerful mind control powers that don't seem to be Unnatural Mental Influence but just "make your save or you do this"-attacks.
I'll skip over Demons, since Infernals is already being reviewed and gives a good general overview of Malfeas except for pointing out that they provided two generic demon types here. #1 is BLOOD APES, who are APES OF BLOOD who fight stuff. The others are Neomah, purple demon prostitutes who take their payment in the flesh of the living and stitch it together into demon children that they light on fire. And then once the child comes alive they leave it behind.
The neomah are not particularly beautiful by most standards, though they are far from ugly, and there is no creature in Creation or anywhere else that is as sexually appealing to as many species of being. With a combination of exquisite skill, a scent that is arousing to all beings and the power to alter her physical form slightly to accommodate any species, a neomah can seduce anyone who has the least interest in copulation. Neomah can alter their bodies to become male, androgynous, hermaphroditic or even some other stranger forms to accommodate rare demon species. These skills and powers are of great use in the demon realm, and many decadent sorcerers find neomah to be the perfect companions.
Interestingly enough they can also take chunks of two people, biologically compatible or not, male or female or not, and weave them together into a functional infant. That's kind of neat in a mad scientist sort of way. But, you know, I don't think I would have given that ability to purple prostitute demons, myself.
Undead came into Creation after the war where the Neverborn were created, and we also got a shadow-version of Creation where they usually hang around, the exception being the Shadowlands where the two sides can meet. Oh yeah and they can also do other things than meeting.
FOR FUCK'S SAKE, EXALTED posted:
Scattered across Creation, except on the Blessed Isle, shadowlands are places where the Underworld and Creation touch. Here, the living and the dead can meet on equal footing and engage in everything from commerce to affairs of passion .
HEY GUYS, YOU CAN FUCK A GHOST HERE!!!!!!
But anyway, during the day, Shadowlands are gloomy as fuck, during the night, Shadowlands literally pass into the Underworld. If you step outside the borders of the Shadowland at this point, you pass into the Underworld proper. This is where the Abyssals usually station themselves, being effectively the border between the two worlds. Oh and of course there's also a paragraph for Ghost-blooded. You know in case it hadn't quite sunk in that you can fuck a ghost. And then get that ghost pregnant.
And... fuck it, you know what? That's it. The remainder of the goddamn book is just listing out a bunch of the iconic characters for each kind of Exalt, and the prior critique about their stats is effectively the same as before: None of it really provides you with what you need to know to use any of their kind as enemies unless you have the relevant book. Though I'd like to point out that one of the Dragonblood examples has charms specifically for making everyone at a party want to fuck. Stay classy, Exalted.
The very last chapter is just a dull treatise on the economy of Creation and stats for equipment and I can't even try to make that interesting. Aside from Infernals, which someone else is handling, I'm also not sure if any Exalted books have the levels of concentrated bad writing and/or concept necessary for a review. So now I can take a break until someone passes me another shitty Chris Field book.