Archive for July, 2010

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1.21 Jigamotes?!?!

July 30, 2010

I’m not exactly sure how to follow up John Mørke’s interview (thank you again, John!), so I thought I’d produce something silly.  In Exalted, one of the very few forbidden things is time travel.  However, sometimes, those rules need to broken for a good laugh.  What follows is an Alchemical Charm that explicitly violates the rules of the game, but is humorous nonetheless.  I would never encourage anyone to use this in their game… but if you want to, feel free!

Jigamote Flux Capacitor
Cost:
8m or 1.21 jigamotes [1m]; Mins: Dexterity 4, Essence 3; Type: Reflexive
Keywords: Combo-OK, Obvious
Duration: Six ticks
Prerequisite Charms: Accelerated Response System (Dodge configuration)

This Charm takes the shape of a starmetal box usually implanted on the Alchemical’s Essence reservoir, with a series of blue lights in a “Y” shape.  When activated, it allows the Alchemical to briefly leap forward through time, leaving a trail of fiery footprints behind.  To activate the Charm, the Alchemical must first accelerate to a Dash speed of 44 yards per tick.  When activated, the Alchemical vanishes in a flash of lightning and light, leaving a string of fiery footprints along the path he would have followed, only to reappear in the exact same location (with the same momentum) six ticks later.  For those six ticks, the Alchemical is an invalid target for all effects, and any effects currently afflicting the Alchemical are placed in abeyance until he reappears.  By the same token, the Alchemical cannot act for those six ticks, as he effectively does not exist.  When he reappears, all effects resume normally.  If used as a perfect defense, this Charm’s Dash requirement and action limitations count as a unique Flaw of Invulnerability.  If the Alchemical would reappear in a location that has subsequently become coterminous with another object, he instead appears as close to that location as possible.

It is said that, should the Alchemical be able to spend 1.21 jigamotes on this Charm, it could send the Alchemical into either the past or future as far as desired, though this is a purely theoretical notation.  No Alchemical has been able to successfully test this theory to date.

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John Mørke Speaks!

July 28, 2010

I am deeply honored to be able to present today’s post to the Exalted community. John Mørke, perhaps better known as “hatewheel” from the Exalted forums, has consented to an interview. I know I’m a huge fan of his work, both as an Ink Monkey and as a writer for published products for sale. I’ve also been fortunate enough to have a couple conversations with him on the forums, and I think I managed to keep from squealing in unbecoming glee either time. Without further ado, I give you my interview with John Mørke.

Octopoid: First, for the readers, can you tell us who you are and what you do?

John Mørke: I am John Mørke; student, writer, and freelance writer for White Wolf’s Exalted. I’m also an Ink Monkey.

O: Can you tell us what products, specifically, you’ve worked on?

JM: Glories of the Most High (author), MoEP: Alchemicals (concept design, editing, playtesting), Scroll of Exalts (uncredited writing), Return of the Scarlet Empress (contribution of ideas).

O:Can you describe for us the specifics of being a freelancer for White Wolf? What does your job typically entail? Do you find yourself writing more mechanics, fluff, or something else entirely?

JM: Lately I’ve been writing more mechanics. I started out writing setting material primarily because I am a writer and prose is my foremost strength. Having gotten to work with [Michael] Goodwin and [Holden] Shearer, the most prolific mechanics on the line, I have graduated to the point where I’m handling errata and writing Charms. I took an authoritative lead on the Dreams of the First Age Solar errata and I have engineered Lunar, Sidereal, and Dawn-specific errata, all of which will be forthcoming. I’m also working on the final part of the Daystar, reformatting it a little bit to fine-tune some of my concepts. I don’t like the term fluff, though. It seems derogatory and dismissive.

O: From what sources do you tend to draw your inspiration?

JM: Everything. I have read countless books. Sorry I don’t have a juicy answer. There’s nothing I could point to and say “that’s it, that’s what makes me be.” I don’t tend to hold inspiration in that high regard. I “do” because there is no other choice.

O:
How do you invent new material for Exalted? Is there a specific process you follow to determine what the game needs, or do you rely on inspiration striking to develop your contributions?

JM: I’m a pattern self-starter so there’s usually no moment of inspiration. I simply think about the game. My ideas usually come from imagining story scenarios, setting material, and character dialogue. I would suggest that 100% of my Charm ideas come out of imagining how they would work in a story. I’m different from Nephilpal and Holden in that way. I start with the story—what story does this Charm tell? what does a character look like when using it? then I proceed back to mechanics. Because I have such a different approach, my angle on it has been valuable to giving feedback on Charms written by the other Ink Monkeys, because I often see things they wouldn’t have seen, because I have such a different approach. My analytical style leads to the writing of a lot of Charms they wouldn’t have come up with, because I begin at the conceptual level and they typically do not. Sometimes inspiration does strike, when I’m reading a thread, watching anime, playing a game, reading a book, or even doing research for class. This doesn’t always lead to a Charm, but it might resurrect old or ongoing processes—ideas under construction—with a new spark of life.

O: Who would you say are your favorite authors or writers are in the gaming field?  What about your favorite artists or designers?

JM: I’m not aware of many writers in the gaming field. I admire the works of Jenna Moran. In terms of artists, I fairly enjoy Mel Uran’s work.

O: Can you tell us a bit about how you first got into freelancing?  What advice would you offer to others who might be looking to follow in your footsteps?

JM: It’s not an exciting story. Holden, through a lot of diligence, contribution, and mechanical skill, convinced Neph to get him on in on projects. Holden, having known myself since the mid ’90s, and being more familiar with my writing chops than anyone else, automatically thought to get me involved with Exalted. And myself having played Exalted on and off since around 2003, jumped at the chance to get involved. My advice to those looking to get involved in freelance writing—write Charms. Write them well. Post them on the forums. Comment on the state of the game, form opinions on the mechanics, be vocal. I know of at least two freelancers who are paying attention to the forums, and we do discuss the things people post.

O: What is your favorite material from Exalted?  Your favorite Exalted type?  Why?

JM: Hard to pick. I’ve read so much Exalted material it is hard to summon it all to memory. What stands out, at least on this reading, is the 1e Sidereal Charm set by Borgstrom, and the 1e descriptions of the constellations and their meanings, by Grabowski, both in the original Sidereals hardback. I feel to-date, Sidereals’ original Charm and constellation info more thoroughly explains them as an Exalt type than any other information printed about any other Exalt type. True I do not agree with everything written therein, but I am absolutely impressed by the trend Borgstrom set. I appreciate that her Charms start with meaning and then proceed to effect. It is a mode that speaks to me. I have no favorite Exalt type, though. I’m an advocate of whatever I’m working on. Right now that appears to be Solars; a month ago it was Sidereals; a month before that it was Lunars. It’s coming back around to Sidereals and Lunars again.

O: What would you say is your favorite part of freelance writing?  Your least favorite?

JM: My favorite part of freelance writing is entertaining myself with my ideas. It’s always amazing when I come up with something that’s really clever, wonderful, exciting, and I know I’ve got my hands on a concept that is going to turn heads and drop jaws. I know that whenever I have managed to surprise and delight myself, most of the fanbase is also going to be surprised and delighted. My least favorite part of freelancing is the snowball effect, where we fix or add something, and get demands, either self-imposed or from the fanbase, that we fix or add ten other things. Hard to deal with when you work for free. I guess my real least-favorite thing is the lack of contracts. I hope White Wolf starts moving out new Exalted products, and I hope that they consider me when doing so. I’ve done quite a lot of free work in the name of keeping Exalted going in the long and empty space between publications and I’m not ashamed of my hope that I’ll be recognized for it.

O: Finally, what message would you want most to give to frequent readers or forumites, given your position as both freelancer and frequent forum-goer?

JM: If you like Exalted, keep supporting Ink Monkeys. Even if you don’t agree with everything we do, taking the time to discuss your ideas, state your arguments, etc., contributes to the life of Exalted. Most of all, mail White Wolf and let them know that you like what we’re doing. Be specific as possible and make sure you include our names. Mine, for example, is John Mørke (ALT+0248).

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Exalted Movie Mondays – Dragon Wars

July 26, 2010

So, Dragon Wars or D-War, was a much more entertaining movie than I’d expected.  I was going to say it was a much better movie than I’d expected, but that’s not true.  It’s exactly as bad as I’d imagined.  The special effects are nothing to write home about, and they’re entire worlds better than the plot or the acting.  If you only like good movies, don’t see this one.

And yet, of the movies I watched over the weekend, this one has more Exalted elements than any of the others.  It has armies of an evil dragon fighting against two chosen heroes, it has Celestial Bureaucracy, and it has some of the best examples of a Dragon King army I’ve ever seen.  (It also has lizards with rocket launchers.  Go figure.)

The main plot of the movie is that once every 500 years, a lesser elemental dragon an Imoogi is chosen to become a Celestial dragon.  An evil Imoogi (who reminds me dramatically of the Ebon Dragon) tried to usurp this power, so the Celestial bureaucracy (in their infinite wisdom) hid the power to make this change inside a human.  500 years ago, this evil Imoogi made a play for it, but was thwarted when the human fell in love with her guardian, and they committed Romeo and Juliet to escape him.  The Immogi has been waiting for 500 years for his next shot, and, naturally, that’s where the movie follows.

The main characters aren’t terribly Exalted… they’re heroic mortals at best.  But the leader of the evil Imoogi’s army is some manner of magical being, as is the hero’s supporting mentor (who strikes me as a Sidereal, considering his use of resplendent destinies).  There’s very little martial arts action, but the evil Imoogi’s army does sort of lay siege to Los Angeles.  Dragons fighting helicopters and armored men riding velociraptors sort of seems Exalted to me, at least in tone.

Oh, and don’t miss out on the lizards with rocket launchers… in the year 1500.

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Sample Mass Combat Unit

July 23, 2010

Below is a sample mass combat unit, a supplementary piece for those interested in utilizing the Strider of the Ebon Sarcophagus, or any Deathlord heavy into necrotechnology.  The following are the Nemissary Extra-Corporeality Relocation Ordnance Necrotech, or N.E.C.R.O.N. warriors!  (Yes, these are ported whole cloth from Warhammer 40k.)

N.E.C.R.O.N. Warriors

Commanding Officer: Bleak Whisper

Armor Color: Soulsteel-grey

Motto: “No mercy!”

General Makeup: Ten nemissaries in special N.E.C.R.O.N. armor

Overall Quality: Excellent

Magnitude: 1

Drill: 4

Close Combat Attack: 5           Close Combat Damage: 3

Ranged Attack: 5                          Ranged Damage: 4

Endurance: 11                 Might: 6                      Armor: 3 (-2 Mobility)

Morale: 5

Formation: Relaxed

The N.E.C.R.O.N.s are armed with Small Necrotic Essence Cannons, and usually have no special characters.  Abyssals, of course, would fit in quite well as temporary leaders.

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Overview – Mass Combat

July 21, 2010

One of the system elements of Exalted that I like most (at least in theory) is its Mass Combat system.  Most of the dedicated fantasy enthusiasts out there will, like me, have noticed that in almost every major fantasy story (and in most of the minor ones), there’s a war.  Sometimes it’s one nation fighting another, sometimes it’s racially motivated, and sometimes it’s just plain good vs. evil, but at the end of the story, there’s always a big siege and a fight between two armies.  Most gaming systems reproduce this poorly if at all, normally leaving it to the Storyteller to arrange some dramatic narrative around the normal combat system.

Not so with Exalted.  Exalted has expanded its combat system to allow for a very specific set of rules that deal exclusively with mass combat.  They allow units from one to 10,000 members to engage dynamically on the field, as an expansion and adaptation from the normal combat system.  In essence, the Exalted Mass Combat system can be summed up in a single phrase: you wear your army like pants.

Let me clarify: in Exalted, armies modify the traits of their generals.  Troops provide bonuses to their commander’s Defense Values, attack rolls, damage rolls, and Health Levels, and larger units provide commensurately larger bonuses.  Often, two units of the same size cancel one another out, leaving it essentially a duel between generals… which is fine.  It works more like Dynasty Warriors than anything else. 

There’s a lot of discussion regarding how good the system itself is, as it fails in places to logically extrapolate from normal combat, especially where Charms are concerned, but that’s a minor quibble to me.  I’m thrilled to death that Exalted even offers a Mass Combat system, and it works well enough for my needs… especially when compared to, say, Dungeons and Dragons.

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Exalted Movie Mondays – The Forbidden Kingdom

July 19, 2010

I’m going to try to spotlight a new feature here on Octopoid Prevarication, something to provide a little variety: Exalted Movie Mondays.  Basically, over each weekend, I’m going to see some movie, and I’m going to discuss how its themes, visuals, plot, or characters (or all of the above) relate to Exalted.  It will give newcomers an idea of how to view Exalted (or, at least, how I view Exalted), and it might give them a few examples of movies to watch if they really want to get into the game.  At the same time, I hope it will show more regular players a few new ways to look at movies that sometimes are obviously Exalted, and sometimes less so.

For my initial run, I’m going to toss myself a softball: The Forbidden Kingdom (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0865556/).  This movie, released in 2008, features Jackie Chan, Jet Li, and a kid who really wishes he was Shia Lebouf, but who is much better off as himself, Michael Angarano.  Michael plays a white kid from Earth named Jason who is fascinated with old wuxia movies, and who, through happenstance and an old Chinese shopkeeper, finds himself transported into the Middle Kingdom, which is basically ancient China on mythological crack.  He undertakes a sacred quest to return the staff of Sun Wuokong, the Monkey King, and defeat the Jade Warlord.

It might be a little unfair to say that this movie is totally, completely, and in almost every way Exalted, but this movie is totally, completely, and in almost every way Exalted. The Jade Emperor (Dragon-Blooded) uses elemental magic and lives atop Five Elements Mountain, where he uses the Jade Army to subjugate the threshold nations of the Middle Kingdom.  Jason finds himself befriended by a wandering immortal (Jackie Chan), who is clearly a Solar.  They are joined by Golden Sparrow, who appears thematically Sidereal in every way.  They even eventually fight the Witch Born of Wolves, a woman so Abyssal in visual theme they might as well have just claimed she was undead.  (Also, she’s never given an actual name in the movie, so her title works just like an Abyssal’s title.)  In the end, the Monkey King is such a giggling, iconoclastic Lunar that I’d have put him in that role even if he hadn’t been an animal-man.

Of course, the reason this movie is so similar to Exalted is that both of them draw directly from the same source material.  They use the same legends and the same old wuxia movies to fuel their visual and dramatic themes.  And they both do an excellent job.  Everyone in The Forbidden Kingdom knows kung-fu, except, of course, the protagonist.  It’s a world where everything is kung-fu, where your strength and your potential are measured by your kung-fu.

Of course, like all such movies <Spoiler Warning>, in the end, Jason chooses to return to dreary old Earth rather than remain in the magical land of awesome and wonder.  And, like all such movies, that makes me want to dissolve him in acid.  But, the movie itself is still good, an enjoyable romp with characters that never get too deep but remain compelling, amazing fight choreography, and the most Exalted thematics I’ve ever seen on the silver screen.  I recommend all Exalted enthusiasts check it out… and please, feel free to make comments regarding my review!

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With Apologies to Stan Lee – Part IV

July 16, 2010

The last (for now) of my Marvel-inspired Artifacts comes from that lovable, multi-limbed villain, Otto Octavius, better known as Doctor Octopus, or Doc Ock.  Naturally, this particular character has a special place in my cephalopod heart, and his particular apparatus deserves special mention here on Octopoid Prevarication.  Without further ado, I present: the Octopoid Tentacular Apparatus.

Octopoid Tentacular Apparatus (Artifact 4)

This unique (but by no means induplicable) artifact was designed by a Second Age savant, seeking new and safer methods of handling unstable Wyld energies.  He created a set of telescoping limbs that aided him in the manipulation of such energies, as well as enhancing his own capabilities.  Unsatisfied with a simple tool, he also gave them an Animating Intelligence.

The Octopoid Tentacular Apparatus appears as a girdle of starmetal and orichalcum set with four telescoping tentacles.  Each of these appendages is capped with a moonsilver claw, capable of altering its shape to perform as a tool for the bearer.  The back of the girdle extrudes a soulsteel and jade spine which fuses over the bearer’s own, joining the AI and the user.

When worn and attuned for a cost of ten motes, the Octopoid Tentacular Apparatus grants its bearer a number of abilities.  Primarily, the arms can mimic the traits of any tool or mundane close combat weapon desired by the user, shifting between templates as a Miscellaneous action.  There are four arms, and each may contain a different template.  For purposes of crafting, these arms (if used as tools) are treated as a perfect workshop.  Additionally, the arms have a Strength of 5 for all relevant purposes, and the user can use the arms’ Strength in place of his own (or in place of his Dexterity for the purposes of calculating Move and Dash speeds).  All close combat weapons mimed or utilized by the arms gain the R tag.  While worn and attuned, the Apparatus also functions as an Artifact Breastplate, though due to its composite structure, it gains no Magical Material bonus.

Perhaps the arms’ greatest feature, however, is their ability to manipulate Wyld energies.  While attuned, the user adds six dice to all rolls made in conjunction with Wyld shaping (most often through Wyld-Shaping Technique or Wyld Cauldron Technology).  This does not count as dice added by Charms.  He likewise adds six dice to resist Wyld mutation or addiction, as the AI provides a modest buffer against the effects of rampant chaos energies.

If necessary, the Apparatus can function independently from the user, though in a limited capacity.  If attuned but not worn, the user can send mental commands to the Apparatus, allowing it to move and act on its own.  Its Strength, Dexterity, and Stamina are treated as 5, its Perception, Intelligence, and Wits are 1, and all other Attributes or Abilities are 0.  It can unerringly locate its attuned user, and can follow commands sent telepathically by the user (who has no extrasensory ability to perceive the arms) so long as both remain on the same plane of existence.