Archive for October, 2010

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Just Being Silly

October 29, 2010

If you’re unfamiliar with Lonely Island’s song, I’m on a Boat, I cannot recommend it enough, though it is strongly NSFW. During a thread on the White Wolf forums, someone suggested Malfeas interacting with this video, and I found the concept so entertaining, I had to make a Charm. I hope this makes you laugh.

As Real as it Gets
Cost: 6 motes; Mins: Malfeas 0, Essence 3; Type: Simple (Speed 4, DV -1)
Keywords: Combo-OK, Emotion
Duration: One Scene
Prerequisite Charms: Crowned with Fury

Though Malfeas himself has not been on a boat since well before the Primordial War (for what structure could hope to contain his Empyreal Majesty?), his Slayers have since found that, sometimes, it pays to be on the deck. When the Infernal activates this Charm, he releases a scream of primal fury and rage, usually expressing some vulgarity and/or a statement of the Infernal’s invulnerability. This bellow cows the spirit of any structure in or on which the Infernal stands (usually used on, but not limited to, boats or similar vessels), making it subservient to the Infernal for the Charm’s duration. As long the Charm lasts, the Infernal gains one bonus die to all non-Reflexive actions taken while in or on the structure. This explicitly does not count against dice caps. Furthermore, all who hear the vulgar roar have the memory of the Infernal’s presence burned into their minds, making it impossible to forget that the Infernal was, in fact, in or on the structure. This is an Emotion effect which can be resisted for a cost of one Willpower.
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Some Terrestrial Love

October 27, 2010

I’m carving a pumpkin! Please enjoy these Terrestrial Charms in the meantime!

Wind Permeates All
Cost: 1 mote; Mins: Thrown 4, Essence 2; Type: Supplemental
Keywords: Combo-OK, Obvious
Duration: Instant
Prerequisite Charms: Any Thrown Excellency
The wind bows to the Dragon-Blood’s call, lifting an object and hurling it with a gesture from the Terrestrial. This Charm supplements a Thrown attack made using an improvised weapon. It increases that weapon’s Accuracy to +1, which does not count as dice added from Charms, and adds the Dragon-Blood’s (Thrown + relevant specialty) to the weapon’s Range.

 

Air Dragon’s Hand
Cost: 3 motes per attack; Mins: Thrown 4, Essence 3; Type: Extra Action
Keywords: Combo-OK, Obvious
Duration: Instant
Prerequisite Charms: Wind Permeates All
Air is everywhere, touching everything. Thus, there is no weapon outside its grasp. This Charm is a flurry of Thrown attacks, made as the Dragon-Blood channels the air itself. Unattended weapons lift from the ground or from unattended weapon racks, hurling themselves toward the Exalt’s foe. Each attack requires that there be a weapon available (though improvised weapons are acceptable), and each is made at the Exalt’s full attack pool. If the weapon in question is not intended to be thrown, that weapon imparts at least a -1 internal penalty to the attack roll, more if the weapon is improvised. The DV penalty for this flurry is equal to the highest DV penalty for any single attack. The Exalt cannot make more than (Thrown + relevant specialty) attacks with this Charm. This Charm can only utilize weapons that are unattended or whose bearers willingly permit them to be utilized (including weapons carried by the Charm-user).

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Exalted Movie Mondays – How to Train Your Dragon

October 25, 2010

So, if you’re not familiar with How to Train Your Dragon, I really can’t recommend it enough. It’s a Dreamworks picture, which means you can count on quality, but beyond that it is probably the best Dreamworks picture I have had the pleasure of watching.

The basic plot is not a stunningly new iteration: a young man who is striving to fit in with his culture’s social mores has to decide between blindly following tradition or acting on new knowledge that makes those traditions outdated and dangerous. Hiccup, the protagonist, is raised in Viking culture which prizes slaying dragons. However, when he befriends one of the most dangerous dragons, he has to convince his people that they could work with the beasts rather than kill them.

The portrayal of the dragons is amazing, and the monster designs are adorable. Hiccup’s dragon, Toothless, is clearly the product of Chris Sanders, and if you’re familiar at all with Lilo and Stitch, you’ll recognize his influence. Toothless possesses a number of feline characteristics, and if I could have any one dragon from the movie as a friend/pet, it’d be him. This is not to say the others don’t have their own charm, but in the end, Toothless makes the movie.

Hiccup represents a number of well-known Twilight Caste tropes, being the character who uses his mind instead of his muscle. As you can imagine, this does not endear him to his Viking peoples. On the other hand, his father (voiced by King Leonidas himself) is clearly a practicing Solar Hero Stylist. I have never been so happy to watch a man punch out a dragon before.

In the end, I recommend How to Train Your Dragon because it’s an excellent Exalted resource, especially for stunt fodder and character interaction, but more, I recommend it because you will fall in love with it immediately. It just came out this last week, so grab a copy from NetFlix, Blockbuster, or Redbox, but however you do it, prepare to own a copy. It’s really just that good.

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Wyld Technology Charms

October 22, 2010

There is a Charm Solars have called Wyld-Shaping Technique.  Without going into the specific mechanics here (buy the core book), it shapes the Wyld. Using this Charm, Solars can make damned near anything, and there is an upgrade Charm that lets them do MORE damned near anything. 

However, while going over this Charm, my roommate happened to mention to me that the Charm(s) do not permit Solars to create new species of monster.  Loving monsters as I do, I immediately felt the need to rectify this oversight.  Behold!

Wyld-Mastery Meditation
Cost:
None
Mins: Lore 5, Essence 5
Type: Permanent
Keywords: None
Duration: Permanent
Prerequisite Charms: Wyld Cauldron Technology

This Charm functions as a permanent upgrade to Wyld-Shaping Technique, expanding the types of beings that can be created.  When the Solar uses Wyld-Shaping Technique to create people, he is not limited to mortals.  The Solar must spend one success to make an individual a non-extra before spending additional successes to imbue the creature with the traits as detailed below.  This Charm is incapable of creating Exalted, Exaltations, Half-Castes, or ghosts.  Already extant individuals cannot be made into enlightened individuals through this Charm; it can only be used to create wholly new individuals from the Wyld.

If the Exalt spends one success when creating a non-extra, he can craft a being with the traits of a citizen (see Exalted pp. 278-279) or an animal comparable in utility to a horse.  With two successes, he can create a being with the traits of an elite soldier or small but dangerous combat animal.  Three successes make the new creature comparable to an enlightened mortal or large dangerous animal, such as a claw strider or great cat, but its Essence cannot exceed 2.  Four successes spent can even duplicate God-Blooded, granting the benefits of Essence 3, or a huge beast, such as a tyrant lizard or yeddim.  For each additional success spent, he can grant the being one spirit Charm for which it meets the prerequisites, or ten bonus points to be spent on Attributes, Abilities, Willpower, or Virtues. 

No trait can exceed that of the Charm user, and the Charm cannot create Half-Caste.  The Charm cannot exceed normal limitations on a being’s traits, though as these beings are often behemoths by nature, their normal limitations may vary wildly from Storyteller to Storyteller.

Stirring the Primordial Cauldron
Cost:
None
Mins: Lore 7, Essence 7
Type: Permanent
Keywords: None
Duration: Permanent
Prerequisite Charms: Wyld-Mastery Meditation, Soul-Enlightening Beneficence

This Charm is a permanent upgrade to its prerequisite, allowing the Solar to spend five successes to create gods, elementals, or Primordial races, such as Darkbrood or Dragon Kings.  He may also create Half-Caste appropriate to his Essence (usually limiting the user to Solar Half-Caste), though they come into being without knowledge of Charms and must learn them organically.  All the other restrictions on Wyld-Mastery Meditation apply.

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Richard E. Hughes Speaks!

October 20, 2010

My next interviewee is a little outside my normal boundaries. He’s not a writer for Exalted, he’s not an Exalted artist, and he’s not a producer or developer. In fact, he’s not officially affiliated with White Wolf in any way. And yet, he’s a luminary in the Exalted community, active on the forums and active with the game. More importantly, he’s a fan, and while the writers are the ones that create the game, the players and the Storytellers are the ones who actually make the game. Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to introduce Richard E. Hughes, better known to the forum-going crowd as “Kukla.”

Octopoid: Would you be kind enough to introduce yourself for our audience?

Richard E. Hughes: My name is Richard E. Hughes. I’m a software developer for an energy trading house based in Boston. I’m a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where I picked up a Major in Computer Science, a Minor in Comparative Media Studies, and a deep-set enthusiasm for Exalted as a setting. I joined the ExaltedMUSH after a few abortive games run by friends of mine, where I gradually insinuated my way deeper in to positions of authority with my venomed daggers of sincerity and understanding. I ran the place for about two years before burning out after graduating from college and losing the lion’s share of my free time, but it got me in to the community in an extremely active way.

O: What contributions would YOU claim you have made to Exalted, both as a game and as a community?

REH: I think the best contribution I seriously gave to the game was my tenure as head administrator at the Exalted MUSH. It’s small, but I helped provide a place to wallow in the game for twenty or thirty people who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to participate, and wouldn’t have any reason to buy the books, participate in the forums, and argue on the internet. I moved it from an oWoD, meta-plot oriented framework to a strongly player-driven game, where the ‘feature’ characters who became the iconic faces of the game were not the canonical examples given by White Wolf, but the creations of the players.

This wasn’t a perfect change – there were log-jams of conflicting player intent, and player-versus-player plot conflict is always hard to resolve without hurting feelings – but I feel that I succeeded better than was reasonable to expect, given the nature of the game.

More recently, I like to think I’ve been a useful guide to the fan base in their writing, providing feedback and advice on how to keep things thematically guided and coherent. I use the same design protocols in fan work that I use in designing software – consistency checks are foundational.

O: Do you work on custom material for the game? If so, where could one find this material?

REH: I constantly work on little pet projects, most all of which can be found on the wiki. I like helping others put work together, so if you have any fixer-up projects you need assistance with, toss me a line on the forums.

Early on in my career, I was strongly focused on charms to try and repair what I saw as flaws in the game – but frankly, people more professional than I are involved in that now, so these days I spend my time filling out what I see as interesting artifacts and spells that are more infrastructural than combative. I’m in love with the power of the Exalted to build a better, more beautiful world, but combat and the power to defend that world always gets more attention than the ability to make it in the first place. My work is focused on the products of that better world and the tools that forge it.

O: I understand you are currently running an Exalted game, the Shadow of the Penitent. What can you tell me about that game?

REH: Shadow of the Penitent was sparked by the most mercenary of ambitions. Hatewheel and Holden noted they were interested in joining a play-by-post game, and it had been a while since I’d run a game at all. Being a craven creature eager for the approval and association of those whom I admire, I immediately leapt to action to try and produce a game worthy of them and lure them in to my lair. That’s more or less what happened, but unfortunately I scared Hatewheel off with pacing issues, and Holden was simply too busy with classes and his responsibilities as Hamster Monkey. That said, it’s been a blast.

Shadow of the Penitent is an exploration of the themes of Exalted that I find most satisfying: the dream of creating the beautiful world, and the nightmare of sacrifice and compromise that one endures to create it. It revolves around the thousand-mile trade route through the mountains between the Lap and the city of Gem (which has not been destroyed nor will it) and the half-ruined infrastructure from the first age that make the route through such harsh terrain possible – a ten mile long bridge across a canyon of fire and ash, a five mile tunnel bored through a vast crag, and ancient manses which draw an oasis of water from the underworld in the middle of the desert. The players struggle to reclaim these things and control over them, so that they can leverage those secrets into the tools necessary to build an empire suitable for wresting the world from the hated Realm.

While the Realm has a lot going for it from a lot of perspectives, in this game I’m strongly embracing the original vision of Grabowski, in which the Realm is an uncompromising symbol with which to lambast the structures of Legalism. From the center of the world, the Scarlet Empress has held Creation by the throat for seven hundred years, and the world groaned beneath her yoke. Now her grip has faltered, and the walking revolutions who upset the great chain of being have come around again to put the world to the transforming fire of the people of the sun.

The game began at the aforementioned bridge across the canyon of fire, and from there the characters began dominating the local political structures and infiltrating the native cultures of the aboriginal people who dwell in the area. Presently they’re preparing for a military push north, but after a close scare with Terrestrial investigators, they know that their time is running short, and the Dragon of the empire will begin to turn its gaze to them.

Oh, speaking of mercenary ambitions, Neall Raemonn Price is in my game. Ostensibly. I don’t think he’s moved in, like, months.

O: Were you too fast or too slow for Hatewheel?

REH: I was much too fast. Originally I was trying to do one IC month every OOC week. We didn’t have time to get to know each other. It’s been closer to an IC month every two OOC months, once I stopped artificially accelerating things.

O: The pacing is very different.

REH: Yes, as is the tone. It might have worked at the original pace under other circumstances, with more prep work, but frankly I don’t think I laid enough ground work for it, nor were the players ready for that sort of madness. I was a little disappointed; I’d love to have a game last IC years or decades.

O: What inspirations do you draw on when you run a game? What different methods and styles do you find necessary in an online game vs. a table top game?

REH: I draw on my scanty knowledge of epic myth and wuxia novels, with a touch of crime novels and whatever knowledge I can gather of aboriginal peoples and the ancient world from the internet. (Did you know that Achilles actually uses Mob-Dispersing Rebuke in the Iliad? It’s true. He flares his anima and everything.)

Any roleplaying game is about sustaining the illusion. Roleplaying games are fundamentally distractions, trivialities which we indulge in – they are mirrors, thin as razors, deep as worlds. You must maintain the sense of the presence of the world behind the mirror – be it as a world in which to live, an arena in which to be victorious, or a stage in which to see a wondrous thing – as something that exists, and matters. As long as you can maintain interest and a cohesive vision of what the game is among the players, the game survives. The game doesn’t exist on the internet, it doesn’t exist on the table. It exists in the interest and desire of the players. Provide hooks in to the world, elements of it that fascinate and embroil, and give the players every opportunity to ensnare themselves in in those hooks. Let them ensnare you in turn with their contributions, so that you too are drawn to care.

Roleplaying games are cup shaping combat.

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

REH: First off, I’m a huge fan of the honorable Doctor Jenna Moran, not always necessarily for her work (which, while consistently brilliant, is also frequently encrypted) but for her design philosophy that the game should be designed such that ‘normal play’ by a group of average, not particularly ambitious players should produce exciting and memorable stories. This rejection of elitism – the idea that the great narratives of our game are as much a responsibility of the designer to enable as the players to produce – is the foundation of my design methodology and central to my rejection of what Jon Chung refers to as the Rule Zero Fallacy.

Secondly, the art produced by Kiyo and Melissa Uran is some of the most foundational to my conception of Exalted – Kiyo for producing a world that is beautiful, sordid, sensual, and violent, full of vivid energy and terrible seductive grisliness, Melissa Uran for producing a world of hard edges, old and weathered wounds, sharp and judgemental eyes, gleaming steel, and clattering, sparkling, acrobatic violence.

Thirdly, once an Exalted writer but no longer, Lea Sheppard’s focus on the little things – the small details, the way they fit together, and the mortal’s eye view on life in the fallen Age of Sorrows – is what turns the setting away from mere escaping, and towards the wrenching fantasy realpolitik that I so love, where your power can offer you no easy answers, no casual escape from the burden of your choices.

O: What is your favorite creature in Exalted? Your favorite Exalt type?

REH: This is a bit of a cop-out, but my favorite Exalt type is whomever I’m playing at the time. Who gets to win? I get to win. Me. Meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

As for favorite creature, I’m gonna have to go with the Kukla. I’ve always visualized the Kukla as simultaneously a top-tier a technomagical battleplatform, in may ways the inspiration for much first age tech, and wholly a kaiju. I visualize it bellowing, and every single scale on it’s body detaches, falls away, and then jets out in a roar of essence as a subsidiary attack-elemental. I conceive of it having point defenses of marmorial cannons lining the entirety of it’s spine, and it’s underbelly scales folding back to reveal a limitless forest of GAU-8 heavy gatling cannons. I imagine its eyes, bigger than houses, are as immune to harm as diamonds – I visualize daiklaves skating off it’s pupil without leaving a mark. I see it opening it’s mouth and shadowing a half dozen city blocks with it’s gaping maw. I imagine that the sound of it moving, hundreds of miles away, creates a deep, resonant bass hum that drives animals mad and makes children weep. I imagine it simultaneously deploying an aircraft carrier worth of firepower and subsidiary attack platforms and a single hot plume of fire and a razor sharp fang and claw, like the sky itself coming down honed to a razor’s edge.

The Kukla is a sparkling weapon, fractal in it’s delicacy and solidity, pure and wrathful, the end of the world made manifest and unrelenting. The word ‘apocalypse’ means ‘the unveiling, to reveal’. It is that which pulls back the curtain.

O: My roommate is going to love that description of the Kukla. What message would you most like to give to your fellow Exalted players, especially your forum-going peers?

REH: My interpretation of the Kukla is wildly non-canonical, but it inspires me, and it is a vision that drives me. Find your vision and illustrate it with your work. Where it conflicts with canon, simply note that it does, and be at peace with that. Where it conflicts with good play and fun, destroy it and revise it without mercy. Know well what drives you forward and what holds you back.

Oh. And play Alpha Centauri, that’s fabulous inspiration for Exalted.

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Exalted Movie Mondays – Hellboy

October 18, 2010

When my roommate and I discuss movies we’d watch on a loop, there’s not many that come to mind. Hellboy is one of them. If you’re not familiar with it, the comic is perhaps one of the best comics on the market today, especially considering my love for monsters and folklore. It’s produced a number of spin-offs, most of which are good, but we’re here to discuss the movie.

Like any comic book movie, Hellboy starts with his origin. This is the story of how he came to be the character we all know and love. It starts with his adopted father’s adventures during World War II, and follows all the way up to the modern day, where Hellboy learns of his true nature, and learns that he must choose whether or not he is a destroyer or a savior. It investigates the nature of humanity and heroism, and it does it all while punching neat monsters.

Hellboy is probably THE single best Infernals story ever told, which is probably a part of why I love it so much. In fact, the closing lines of the movie (possible spoiler alert) are: “What makes a man a man? A friend of mine once wondered. Is it his origins? The way he comes to life? I don’t think so. It’s the choices he makes. Not how he starts things, but how he decides to end them.” This is, fundamentally, the entire Infernal “redemption” plot, such as it is. It’s not about becoming something other than what you are, but about embracing what you are and what you choose to do with that. It’s not about how you got your power, but about what you do with that power, the decisions you make.

It doesn’t hurt that Hellboy is obviously using Infernal Monster Style. Hell, the writers have called that “Hellboy Style,” and for obvious reasons. Their inspiration was quite apt. He’s probably a Slayer, considering how much of his life is dedicated to fighting (and how poorly he takes to authority that isn’t himself), but regardless, he’s a heroic Infernal.

Even if you’re not big on the Infernal thing, the supporting cast has some excellent performances to deliver. Abraham Sapien, the fish man, is a Lunar (maybe a beastman Sidereal, considering his psychic tendencies). Elizabeth Sherman, the pyrokinetic, is a Fire Aspect. John T. Meyers is a heroic mortal, and a damned fine one at that. The entire group works well, though the focus is obviously Hellboy.

While the movie makes a number of changes from the comics (for example, in the comics, Abe is not psychic, and Liz is not romantically involved with Hellboy), the changes support this particular telling of the story. I thoroughly recommend it to anyone interested in Exalted, which probably includes you if you’re reading my blog.

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Neall Raemonn Price: An Erotic Life

October 15, 2010

It’s been a while coming, but I have the honor today of presenting an interview with another of White Wolf’s writers, one that has been very influential on Exalted in particular. He inspired the “I Read the ST Section” club solely because of his excellent work on the Manual of Exalted Power: Infernals, and his subsequent work has in no way let the readers down. Ladies and gentlemen, I present an interview with Neall Raemonn Price.  (The title of today’s blog is at Mr. Price’s request, and was, in fact, a requirement for him to consent to an interview.  That may tell you more about him than any interview ever would.)

Octopoid: Would you be kind enough to introduce yourself for our audience?

Neall Raemonn Price: My name is Neall Raemonn Price. Presently I live in Annapolis, working out of Washington D.C. I graduated with a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Maryland, with concentrations in history, government and politics and the Arabic language. Besides the day job, I enjoy reading, roleplaying, cooking and baking, and writing. I’ve supported myself as a freelance reporter and writer at different points during my life and I’m working on a novel.

I’ve been involved with the community more-or-less from the beginning, though I lurked until Sidereals 1e came out. My direct involvement with the line came after the release of Second Edition, when I became friendly with Michael A. Goodwin.

Since then, I’ve done uncredited work on Manual of Exalted Power: The Abyssals, Scroll of Kings, Dreams of the First Age, Thousand Correct Actions of the Upright Soldier, Scroll of Exalts and Return of the Scarlet Empress. My credited works include the Storytelling chapters of Manual of Exalted Power: The Infernals, Scroll of Heroes and Manual of Exalted Power: The Alchemicals and two upcoming books. I contributed additional materials to Glories of the Most High.

I am also occasionally a member of Errata Team Prime – I contributed errata to Dreams of the First Age, the revisions in Thousand Correct Actions and I wrote much of the text of the redemption article for the Abyssal Exalted.

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?

NRP: I actually can’t go into specifics due to the nature of the NDA we’re required to sign. But, essentially, I was assigned Storytelling because that’s what I’m good at. Mechanics were never my strong suit, though I’ve contributed to Charms and errata. I’m improving with practice. I respect my mechanical strengths enough to know that they’re not always on the level of what’s required for a writer on Exalted.

My job is usually twofold – I appoint myself as ombudsman during collaborations (sometimes to the annoyance of other writers) and I’m the go-to guy for Storytelling. I like to believe that I leave other projects in a better state than when I found them, and it’s been my universal experience that collaboration on limited projects leads to vast improvement in the project, even if that collaboration is limited to simple communication between authors.

O: When you’re working on material, from what sources do you tend to draw your inspiration?

NRP: It depends on what I’m writing about. I favor a sort of organic method of writing – I don’t outline, I just write and see what forms. For Storytelling Mortals, I read The Chronicles of the Black Company, by Glen Cook, which is the best source for mortals games I can imagine. Then I started writing, and I found that eventually you’re going to run into a ceiling on the events of the campaign unless you make it a more limited series, and furthermore: isn’t it kind of weird to be playing mortals in a game called Exalted?  This is why there are three or four pages dedicated to why you should be played Exalts in a game called Exalted.

In terms of talking about fictional societies – about which, admittedly, I haven’t done much writing on Exalted – I look at what sort of themes I’d like communicate with that society and look at real world cultures that embody those themes and what I’d like to say about those themes. Then I steal from them and hang a lampshade on it.

I do this [Carmen] Sandiego-esque historical theft for three reasons. One, I’m a pretty lazy guy, but I’m not averse to working hard on thievery. Two, truth is stranger than fiction and there have been some very odd societies out there; copping off them for your work lends it an air of verisimilitude. Three, one of the best and most subtle ways to make a statement about something is to display the disparity of the opposite. You might regard this as a straw man argument, or reduction ad absurdum, but I contend that it’s more complex than that. My favorite example is the Realm – the Scarlet Empire is Grabowski’s very harsh critique of the process of legalism, espoused by ancient Chinese rulers, and why it’s essentially a stupid system designed to put a face over a naked and unfair power system.

Exalted makes a lot of statements about culture and the human condition by embodying the opposites of those statements in the setting and letting the readers make their own conclusion.

There are schools of thought that says we shouldn’t judge the past or other cultures; I don’t agree with that. There’s a degree of judgment that necessarily goes into learning from the past, otherwise we cannot determine the proper course of action in the future. I was a political journalist and there’s a lot of things going on in modern times that have occurred in history. Take the Know-Nothings – I’m not going to comment on them, but I’ll draw parallels between that movement and movements occurring today, and furthermore tell you I’m an Irish Catholic so you should keep that in mind when I talk about them.

Mario Vargas Llosa, this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature winner, said that literature should comment on politics but politics should never inform literature – meaning we shouldn’t have an axe to grind when we write, but that if the tree happens to fall, so be it. While that’s true, I think that there’s a degree of judgment that goes into writing itself. Authors have an enormous power to persuade and a capacity for judgment that journalists or chroniclers often ignore. Writers – and you, the players, as co-authors of your own Exalted chronicles – will find the best stories are told when you’re actually *saying something* rather than just talking about what you’re going to do.

It’s why my journalism degree is gathering dust in a warehouse in Maryland.

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

NRP: Hoo boy. For writers, a short list would be Lucien Soulban, Jenna Moran, Michael Goodwin, Greg Stolze, John Wick. Artists and designers…I get a lot of inspiration from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, because Kiedis has never subscribed to the saying that you should murder your darlings in writing – no matter how odd his lyrics are, he makes them work, non sequitur be damned. 

That kind of all-inclusive behavior, I greatly admire. But he’s not a game designer, and that’s what you meant.

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?

NRP: Something I see a lot, for good or for ill, is that the squeaky wheel gets the grease – but the squeaks actually have to mean something. I got into freelancing because I badmouthed Infernal Exalted on the Exalted forums back in the day and Michael Goodwin IM’d me to argue with me. It turned out we have a lot in common, and I count him among my closest friends, but that’s neither here nor there.

He singled me out because he believed I had things to say about Exalted – and I did. I started helping out with development and writing, and I eventually got a shot at submitting something to John Chambers. He liked it enough that I was given the ST chapter of Infernals, and believe me, the irony isn’t lost.

My advice would be this: do good work, turn that good work in on time and don’t burn bridges. If having a temper about this has taught me anything, it’s that burning bridges never helps anyone, and you might need that bridge later. There’s no need for hero worship in this business, or any other, really – go to the people who you want to work with and ask them how you get to where they are. In this business, that means asking developers for positions or if they’ll accept solicitations. It can be tough, but if you build up even a small portfolio, it will build up quickly.

O: What is your favorite creature from Exalted?

NRP: My favorite Exalted creature is the Kukla, though not for the importance and interest the Kukla generates. It doesn’t really generate any, it’s a big stupid plot-dragon. My fondness for the Kukla stems from respect of the design history behind it and what it says about the writers on Exalted.

In 1e, the Kukla’s stat block infamously declared that Exalted who face the apocalypse dragon should have their character sheets handed to the ST and then torn up in front of them. The purpose to this was to prove a point – that truly excessive amounts of force were incapable of solving every problem that arises in a game Exalted. And it’s a good point. The problem with that is that Exalts were touted as having beaten the creators of the universe, so you’re confronted with them being beaten out-of-hand by something that, however mighty, is decidedly less than a Primordial.

2e’s change was to give the Kukla stats and powers. High ones, powerful yes, but capable of being overcome. There’s a difference in design philosophy evident here, one shown now that we’ve statted an honest-to-goodness Yozi and the Incarnae – you should be able to take on anything in the setting and win.

I’m not certain I entirely agree with that – I enjoy the block of being unable to solve things with violence, but…

There’s an old fable about a man walking down the road with a dragon on a leather leash.  A traveler asks him why he used a leather leash, and not an iron one?  Surely that would hold the dragon more firmly.  The man shook his head and said the dragon was far stronger than he – if he couldn’t hold the dragon with a leather leash, how could he ever hope to control him with an iron one?

My advice to Storytellers, the lesson of the Kukla put more subtly, is to give the players a long leash.  Make their actions have consequences.  If they want to solve all of their problems with violence, by all means, let them be glorious suns blasting the desert with their heat and light.

O: Your favorite Exalted type?

NRP: If you’d asked me this question a few years back, my answer would have been Lunars, but now my favorite type of Exalted, on the same topic as above, is the Dragon-Blooded.  From the first, they interested me.  A weaker but more numerous type of Exalted!  Still powerful, but with their own unique culture and viewpoint, the last bastion of civilization and peace in a Time of Tumult.

A lot has changed since those lines in the First Edition core, where a Solar must fear that the Terrestrial across the bar is the one who ends their incarnation.  Can anyone feel the same way about Terrestrials now?  But still, the Terrestrials are capable of incredible heroic deeds but less than world-changing.

I like the Terrestrials because their power is just shy of warping the world around them rather than shaping it.  A Solar Exalt can reshape a nation and people almost entirely to serve him in a matter of months.  Terrestrials, by contrast, must interact with setting and culture on a more personal level – and they must deal with their own culture on top of that.  The Celestials have their own cultures, true, but not quite as interesting as the Realm or Lookshy…

If a Solar doesn’t like Chaya, they can blaze away nanomachines with their might and go punch out the gods of the region.  If a Terrestrial doesn’t like Chaya, there’s much less they can do about it, and more to struggle with should they choose to change it.

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

NRP: My favorite part is the way the fans react to what you’re doing – or interacting with fans, as it were.  It’s great to see fans giddy about new rules or a new piece of the setting, or even to look at an older part in a new light.

My least favorite…well.  I’ve been known to pop into threads about “How do I storytell Infernals” or, “Can Infernals be sympathetic,” and say something like, “Maybe you should read my chapter before you ask.”

A close second to that would be fighting with other authors behind the scenes.  Some writers – I won’t say whom, but some – build this very intricate model of the universe and cosmology inside their minds, and if you include a detail that violates that model, despite the surface of the setting not changing it a whit, it’s fighting words.

The key to solving this, as the key to the above annoyance, is just to talk it out.  Find out why they dislike that change to the model – and often it’s something unbelievably minor – and work out a compromise.  Talk to the fans who didn’t feel you adequately answered their question, and answer it as best you can in a longer form.  Communication heals.

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

NRP: If you’re happy about how things are going, tell us!  We love it.  If you’re dissatisfied, sit back.  Think about things.  Then reason out why you don’t like it and tell us.  We like that.

And stay tuned – Exalted’s about to change in a few big ways, and in more than a few it’s going back to basics.