Archive for November, 2010

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Exalted Movie Mondays – Equilibrium

November 22, 2010
Gun-Fu, Suckas!

Equilibrium

I doubt many of my readers need to be told about Equilibrium, but it deserves its own spotlight here. On the off chance that you haven’t heard of the movie, it’s a small film that got very little publicity back in 2002. However, it is an excellent film, and well worth the watching if you haven’t seen it, yet. Starring Christian Bale, Equilibrium has been called (fairly), “A Brave New Fahrenheit 1984.” It’s The Matrix meets Ray Bradbury, with a touch of poetry and more than a little awesome.

The basic premise of the movie is that, in the future, we have created a drug called Equilibrium, which removes all extremes of emotion. No longer are we plagued by fear, hate, or violence, but neither are we permitted love, imagination, or creativity. Of course, there are those who refuse to take this drug, and they are hunted down by the monomaniacal State. These execution squads are led by the Tetragrammaton Clerics, half priest, half ninja, all emotionless. The story follows one such cleric, as he comes to understand the truth about his order, and must make difficult decisions about his family, his faith, and his world.

The story is not terribly original, but Bale’s performance in the lead role is positively exquisite. Like Neo from the Matrix Trilogy, he seems cold, aloof, and emotionless throughout the performance, even when the climax draws him out of his shell. Unlike Neo, Preston should be emotionless. His whole life, he’s been taking a drug that chemically neuters his emotions. He has a reason to be emotionally stunted. Neo just comes off as whiny, while Preston seems like a sociopath… making him all the more terrifying to the people on the other end of his gun-fu.

(Also, this movie has gun-fu. Why aren’t you watching it yet?)

All in all, the most Exalted things about this film are the stunts, and they will provide you with all manner of fodder for your stunts in-game. The themes of stunted emotion, brutal oppression, and potential redemption could play out well in an Underworld game, with the Abyssals playing the part of Clerics. Mostly, however, you’re just going to enjoy watching it. It’s got some seriously spectacular visuals, and Taye Diggs turns in one of his best roles ever. Especially watch him for the effects of Equilibrium.

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Infernal Charms!

November 19, 2010

Everyone knows I love Infernals. Thanks to some friends of mine, I’ve developed the mechanics for a pair of their Charms, and I couldn’t wait until Wednesday to show them off! Below are a pair of Infernal Charms for some of the Yozis I dearly love but so rarely find mechanics for. Many, many thanks to The Demented One and Kukla from the Exalted forums for their help on getting these primed for action!

Blue-Ringed Venom Garden (Kimbery Charm)
Cost: 25 motes, 2 Willpower; Mins: Essence 3; Type: Simple
Keywords: Combo-OK, Desecration, Obvious, Sea, Shaping
Duration: Instant
Prerequisite Charms: Spiteful Sea Tincture

The Great Mother blesses the life that swims in her with her horrible fecundity. She also blesses it with her spite. When activated, this Charm affects all natural wildlife (defined as nonmagical plants and animals) within a radius of (Essence x 100) yards. Affected wildlife gains the Creature of Darkness, Breed True, and Toxin mutations. The difficulty of rolls made to get along or forage for food in the area are increased by the Infernal’s (Essence). Characters that are immune to poison or that know Mother Sea Mastery roll at the normal difficulty, but cannot do so to provide food for other characters that lack these benefits.

Affected wildlife does not suffer this increased difficulty, as they adapt to devour their poisonous kith, if necessary. In fact, this generally makes them more capable of surviving in the affected area, and, at the ST’s discretion, the area may slowly grow over a number of years. Contiguous affected areas can join, though if the total, continuous surface area of this Charm ever reaches ten square miles, regardless of volume, it becomes a persistent Blasphemy effect as per Holy Land Infliction. Returning the area to normal requires a concentrated pogrom against the affected wildlife, which may take years or may be the result of a single, explosive environmental effect. Some spells, such as Benediction of Archgenesis, can also reverse the effects.

At Essence 4, the Charm automatically upgrades to make such sea life inimical to characters who are not beloved of the Infernal, and actively hostile toward reviled characters. While within the area, such individuals have their long-term movement speeds halved, including when in Second Age conveyances such as ships. Most First Age conveyances were built to repel such antagonistic wildlife, and so are not affected.

One Sphere Among Many (She Who Lives in Her Name Charm)
Cost: None (+1wp); Mins: Essence 5; Type: Permanent
Keywords: Desecration, Shaping, Training
Duration: Permanent
Prerequisite Charms: Will-Crushing Force

The spheres of the Principle of Hierarchy turn slowly and surely, each one identical to her 99,996 others. This Charm is a permanent upgrade to Will-Crushing Force. Whenever the warlock breaks a mortal with Will-Crushing Force, instead of merely replacing them with an automaton of themselves, the Infernal may pay one Willpower to activate this Charm’s effects. The unfortunate mortal dissolves as normal, but what reforms is a humanoid being with a cosmetic appearance dictated by the warlock at the time of activation. During the fiery dissolution and rebirth, the Infernal may reduce the victim’s Attributes to a minimum of 1. The victim receives the appropriate XP for these reductions, which the Infernal must immediately spend to increase the victim’s Attributes until all the XP is spent. Unspendable XP is lost.

Additionally, the victim receives a number of mutation points equal to (the Infernal’s Essence + 10), which the Infernal must spend immediately. The first mutation the target receives is the Creature of Darkness mutation, which grants no bonus mutation points. Finally, all the usual effects of Will-Crushing Force on the victim’s Motivation and Virtues occur as normal.

As a secondary benefit, if Will-Crushing Force is used against a target currently under the effects of Mind Spider Curse, the warlock drains (Essence) Willpower from the target.

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Skaven in Exalted – Wyldstone

November 19, 2010

Since I made Wyldstone a part of the mechanics of Horned Rat Style, it seems rude not to make mechanics for Wyldstone itself. What follows is something not quite an Artifact, but certainly not a Charm. It’s one of those rare things, like the Honey of the Bees of Zarlath, or silksteel. Enjoy!

Wyldstone

Wyldstone is a substance found primarily, as the name suggests, in the Wyld, where the chaotic properties of that realm have soaked into veins of rock and imbued them with protean qualities. However, some of these veins run more-or-less uninterrupted through the foundation of Creation, even stretching deep under the Blessed Isle itself. The veins function like pipelines, funneling pure Wyld in narrow bands into Creation, and while very little Wyld radiates out from this stone, the stone itself contains great potential.

Mined mostly by the Skaven (who do not fear its mutagenic properties), Wyldstone can be a potent ingredient in a number of alchemical and thaumaturgical mixtures as well as an exotic component of some Artifacts, especially those dealing with change. As such, Wyldstone is also mined by the Mountain Folk and some especially enterprising Scavenger Lords. A dose of Wyldstone is a Resources 3 purchase in most Mountain Folk cities, and Resources 4 elsewhere in Creation.

Merely being near Wyldstone is similar to being exposed to the Wyld, though generally less intense. Standing within a yard of a vein of pure Wyldstone (usually only found in the Threshold) is roughly comparable to being in the Deep Wyld. Simply carrying a few doses is similar to being in the Bordermarches.

The Skaven, however, have found another use for Wyldstone. Anyone mad enough to actually consume Wyldstone receives its transformative “gifts” more directly. First, the unfortunate receives five motes of Essence, restored directly to his Peripheral Essence pool. Second, the individual must test for Wyld exposure, with each dose consumed in the same scene cumulatively adding to the level of exposed Wyld (one dose equaling the Bordermarchers, two the Middlemarches, etc.). Finally, the fool must make a (Stamina + Resistance) roll with a difficulty equal to the number of doses consumed in that scene. Failure on this roll inflicts one level of automatic, unsoakable Lethal damage to the ingester.

Should the imbiber actually be unfortunate enough to botch this roll, catastrophic biological meltdown ensues. The victim immediately gains (doses consumed) points of negative mutations, selected by the Storyteller. In addition, he suffers one level of unsoakable Aggravated damage, which heals at half the normal rate.

Furthermore, Wyldstone is as addictive as the Wyld itself. With each dose, the user must roll to resist Wyld Addiction. Each dose consumed past the first in a scene adds a cumulative -1 external penalty to this roll.

These extreme drawbacks do not stop the Skaven from consuming this loathsome substance. Many Skaven bear mutations (some positive, some negative) from constant exposure to Wyldstone, never mind those poor unfortunate slaves forced to mine the Wyldstone directly. On the other hand, those who can endure and control the chaotic changes often rise to positions of power within Skaven society, and most Grey Seers are, in fact, constant users. Of course, they claim they do not suffer from derangement or addiction…

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Jawilae, the Brokers of Ruins

November 17, 2010

One of my fellow players in an online Infernals game has a character based on Star Wars Sith to varying degrees. During a snarky exchange, I suggested that he should have a midget sidekick with glowing eyes who repaired droids. Unperturbed by my mocking tone, he insisted that I design this First Circle demon for him. Blame him, good gentles, for the Jawilae.

Jawilae, the Brokers of Ruins
Demons of the First Circle
Progeny of the Living Tower

In the wastes of Cecelyne, several tribes of First Circle Demons wander, compelled by their natures to sift through the sands of the Endless Desert, seeking treasures from the past that have been swallowed up by the silvery sands of Cecelyne. These are the Jawilae, originally sent by their progenitor to find relics for his own use, but long since forgotten and dismissed as eccentric and useless.

And yet, Creation’s sorcerers have found numerous uses for these diminutive beings, most often as bloodhounds for lost demesnes and ancient ruins. In this, they are excellent tools, though their nature is never to give away that which they have found. Even their summoners find they must bargain with the creature, or else steal the find before the First Circle demons can get it in their clutches.

Jawilae hide their appearance from the world under heavy robes, though their glowing eyes burn from beneath. Living in the desert, they tend to spend most of their time huddled around their herd beasts or packed inside whatever First Age conveyance they have managed to cobble back together.

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Summoning: (Obscurity 1/3) Jawilae are most often summoned to scavenge ruins for truly important baubles of past ages. When a great work of mortal artifice is broken, discarded, or truly lost, a Jawilae may be able to escape Malfeas to reclaim the item.  If a Jawilae is forced to give away an item it has recovered without some manner of recompense, it gains a point of Limit.  It treats orders to give up items without compensation as unacceptable, even if bound by a summoner.

Motivation: Collect and sell the debris of the past

Attributes: Strength 2, Dexterity 5, Stamina 3; Charisma 3, Manipulation 5, Appearance 3; Perception 4, Intelligence 4, Wits 5

Virtues: Compassion 2, Conviction 4, Temperance 3, Valor 2

Abilities: Athletics 1, Awareness 3 (Broken Things +2), Bureaucracy 2 (Haggling +2), Craft 3 (Repair +3), Dodge 2, Integrity 1, Investigation 1, Larceny 2, Linguistics (Native: Old Realm; Other: None) 0, Lore 2 (First Age +2), Occult 1 (First Age +2), Resistance 1 (Environmental +1), Ride 1 (Artifacts +1), Stealth 2, Survival 2 (Deserts +2)

Backgrounds: Backing 1, Resources 3

Charms:

Amethyst Awareness

Benefaction – Craft rolls

Divine Prerogative – Find ruined objects

Essence Plethora (x2)

Materialize – 45 motes

Measure the Wind

Ox-Body Technique (x2)

Reserve of Will (x2)

Sense Domain – Broken objects of historical or cultural significance

Spice of Custodial Delectation – Broken objects of historical or cultural significance

Repairing the Past (4m, 1W) – This unique spirit Charm allows the Jawilae to commit its mote cost to ignore all Craft prerequisites for the purpose of repairing objects.

The Order of Language: Jawilae speak only Old Realm.  However, they have a permanent, unique Charm that allows them to understand any language, and to selectively permit others to understand them at will. 

First Excellency: Bureaucracy, Craft

Join Battle: 8

Attacks:

Clinch – Speed 6, Accuracy 5, Damage 2B, Parry DV -, Rate 1, Tags C, N, P

Kick – Speed 5, Accuracy 5, Damage 5B, Parry DV 2, Rate 2, Tags N

Punch – Speed 5, Accuracy 6, Damage 2B, Parry DV 4, Rate 3, Tags N

Soak: 3B/1L

Health Levels: -0/-1/-1/-1/-1/-1/-1/-2/-2/-2/-2/-2/-2/-4/Incap

Dodge DV: 5                         Willpower: 6 (8 temporary)

Essence: 3                             Essence Pool: 80

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Exalted Movie Mondays – Nomad: The Warrior

November 15, 2010

This movie was recommended to me by none other than Dean Shomshak himself. Due to a small glitch in my planning (i.e. Veteran’s Day and the accompanying lack of mail), I almost didn’t get this film in time to review it today. Fortunately, I managed it, and I’m glad I did. Nomad is an excellent movie, and illustrates a number of excellent Exalted themes.

The basic plot takes place on the plains of Asia, with two peoples, the peaceful Kazakhs and the war-like Jungar, struggling over the land. One man, seeking the heir to Genghis Khan’s legacy, finds a child who is destined to unite the Kazakh tribes. This child and his adopted brother grow together, love together, fight together, and, in the end, must meet their destinies together, whatever those may be. The fate of the Kazakh people rests in the hands of the Ablai Khan.

This struck me as nothing so more than two warring kingdoms set in the Shogunate of Exalted, the time after the Usurpation, but before the Scarlet Empress fought back the Great Contagion and the Balorian Crusade. Oraz, a Sidereal, seeks the fated heir to one nation’s hope, raising and training a pair of Dragon-Blooded to lead the Kazakh people against their war-like neighbors. Mansur and Erali are Dragon-Blooded, sworn brothers, stronger together than either could ever be apart. The remainder of the characters are heroic mortals, caught in the passions of a handful of Exalted and dragged along, some to victorious heights, some to crushing defeat.

There are some issues with the film. Half the characters speak English, while the other half are speaking some Asian dialect, most likely Kazakh (though, since I do not speak Kazakh, I have to presume based on the dubbing options). This makes for some awkward dialogues, where one person is clearly dubbed and the other is speaking natively. It means that, no matter which audio track you use, sometimes people are lip-syncing. Also, the appearance of cannon in the movie is something built up, a major plot point, but in the end, the cannon don’t really make a major difference. The final, climactic battle is… underwhelming.

And yet, despite all that, I thoroughly enjoyed the film. It’s an excellent depiction of a culture that gets entirely too little screen time. While most people make sweeping period pictures about Americans and Europeans (sensible, considering those are usually their target audiences), it was very pleasant to see some of the similarities and differences in Nomad. I have no idea how accurate the piece was, but it was certainly enjoyable.

Despite the movie’s few failings (a wretched waste of Mark Dacascos, for one), I recommend it to anyone who wants more insight into the Shogunate of Exalted, or anyone who likes period movies. It’s an enjoyable historical epic, and both Mansur and Erali are pleasant, likable characters, something seen all too rarely in protagonists these days. It’s not a wuxia flick, but it doesn’t need to be.

Thanks, Dean. I’m glad I watched this.

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Review – The Broken-Winged Crane

November 12, 2010

It’s been several minutes since I last declared my undying love for the Infernals, and White Wolf has produced yet another product to guarantee my love will continue to be undying. The Broken-Winged Crane is the latest PDF-only product disgorged by the Exalted line, and let me assure you, it is the finest five dollars you will ever spend on Exalted material. I purchased it the moment it was available on Wednesday, and I haven’t stopped reading it since.

The book itself is mostly mechanics: the opening chapter has a description of the Broken-Winged Crane, a blasphemous tome of Infernal prophecy within the game world itself, but the majority of the contents are crunch. This is not a bad thing, nor do these delectable tidbits lack in their own fluffy flavor. This product contains more material within its limited pages than I could have ever imagined.

First, we have long-awaited Infernal hearthstones. The Manual of Exalted Power: Infernals promised they would be in The Compass of Celestial Directions: Malfeas, while the Compass promised they would be in the Manual. Needless to say, we’ve been looking forward to these for some time, and they don’t disappoint.

However, in my opinion, the REAL treasure of The Broken-Winged Crane is the Infernal Charms. Each of the five Reclamation Yozis gets a little time in the sun, so to speak. Further, one of the conspirators (Kimbery, the Sea that Marched against the Flame) is finally given a basic charmset, which we are assured will continue to receive expansion as the Ink Monkeys are available to produce them. Given her themes as aquatic monster, smothering mother, and self-made martyr, I have no doubt that her Charms will fit neatly with the rest of the Infernals.

The best part is probably the new Heretical Charms. These Charms use a base of prerequisites from two or more Yozis to form entirely new Charms, Charms the Yozis themselves cannot learn or duplicate. While The Return of the Scarlet Empress gave us the path of Infernal transcendence into a Yozi by duplicating their parent’s Charms, The Broken-Winged Crane gives us an entirely new method of transhumanist evolution, permitting the Infernals to use these Heretical Charms to become something completely unique, neither a Yozi nor a Primordial, but something more. This includes designing new Charms and themes for your own character, rather than being shackled to an existing Yozi’s themes.

All-in-all, this is a fantastic product, and if I could somehow rate it higher than a perfect 10/10, I would. Even the art, though entirely recycled, fits the book perfectly, as it has been given new tints and tinges of color and style that fit the evolving Infernals to a T. If you play Exalted, buy this book. It is a resource that gives tremendous insight into the metaphysics of the Infernal Exalted, and opens entirely new vistas of imagination for their players.

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Review- Glories of the Most High

November 10, 2010

This is kind of a cheating post, but it needs to be made. Glories of the Most High is the latest book release from White Wolf in the Exalted line, and it’s interesting for several reasons, not least of which is the content’s superb quality. I ordered my copy some time ago, received it over the weekend, and have been digesting until now.

First, for those few of you unfamiliar, Glories of the Most High was originally released on DriveThruRPG as a trio of separate PDF-only books, downloadable separately or as a single bundle. When I say “originally,” I mean in June of 2010. Of course, I snapped up the PDFs at the time, and had no complaints about their quality. That was also before my blog, so when I say this is cheating, I mean it’s because I’m using it to get a chance to review the material I’ve owned for months as though it were new.

I am sad to say “as though it were new,” because it isn’t. The hard copy (or “dead tree version”) is identical to the PDFs, save that it’s easier to put on your shelf. The content has not changed by so much as a word. Errata that was released since Glories first came out was not included. The art remains the same. Even the cover is the same as the cover of the PDFs, which was, in turn, a reprint of another book in the Exalted line.

That said, the content itself is fabulous, as it always has been. In addition to containing the write-ups for the Unconquered Sun, Luna, and the Five Maidens of Destiny, the book gives the reader five new martial arts styles, hidden errata for Sidereals, numerous Charms for each Exalt type, and the histories of the Incarnae themselves. This book really is about the Incarnae, and it makes them vivacious and imaginative beings that can easily expand the flavor and enjoyment of any game in which they appear, whether as protagonists, antagonists, or even just supporting cast.

My only complaints about this product lie in what it could have been, which, I suppose, is not all that bad. The only flaws lie in the wasted potential inherent in such a delayed printing. Nevertheless, I recommend it, whether in dead tree form or PDF, to anyone who has even a slight interest in the cosmology of Exalted, even if that interest is only in the Exalted themselves. It’s well worth the price.