Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

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Shameless Plug

November 27, 2012

I haven’t been active much on the ‘blog since Exalted 3E was announced (a rant for another time), but I did want to take this opportunity to plug a friend’s game.  It’s being run through Savage Worlds, and is a Roman Empire-based superhero game, which definitely has themes of Exalted running smack through it.  The game is called Exemplar, and (from my conversations with the game’s creator) draws no inspiration from Exalted; the two co-evolved independently of one another.

Examplar is currently in the Kickstarter phase, and I’ll be adding a more permanent link to the side of my page, but for now, I’d ask that you go check it out and see if it’s the sort of thing you’d like to help get off the ground.

You can find the Kickstarter right here.

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Review – Exalted 2.5 (Errata)

March 27, 2012

Recently, a couple of weeks previous, White Wolf’s Errata Team Prime released a massive, sweeping errata to the Exalted game, focusing mainly on combat (and specifically the perfect defensive paradigm) and the Sidereal Charmset. The changes included errata to many, if not most, of the combat Charms of every Exalt type, mote regeneration, Combos, stunting, soak, weapon statistics, and more. In sum, this errata has been colloquially called “Exalted 2.5” by both forumites and freelancers, in parody of D&D 2.5. However, unlike the aforementioned, Exalted 2.5 is a part of the Scroll of Errata, available for free from DriveThruRPG. Now that I’ve had a little time to chew on it, let me share my opinions.

It’s fantastic. As a concept, 2.5 has been a long time coming, and fans have been eagerly awaiting its changes for at least a year. The changes are numerous, far too numerous to list here, but the errata is free, so if you care at all, I’d recommend picking it up. Comprehensively, it breaks down the pre-existing combat paradigm, wherein so-called “paranoia combat” ran rampant. Perfect defenses were employed against almost every attack, incentivizing a low-cost, high-accuracy build that dominated the mote-attrition battles that rapidly equated clever and dynamic attacks with hemorrhaging motes.

In addition, it completely revitalizes Sidereal Exalted, which since their inception in second edition have been plagued by mechanical inconsistencies or even complete functional failure due to their copy-pasted nature from first edition. Many of their Charms did not do what they were intended to, if they worked at all, and those that did were often either trivial to resist or completely indomitable. The errata has combed through the entire Sidereal Charmset, bringing them up to speed with the other Celestial Exalted and making them not only functional, but also, by all appearances, fun to play.

The most important change, to my mind, is the abolition of both experience and Willpower costs for the Combo system. Use of multiple Charms in a single action still requires players to follow a somewhat Byzantine series of arcane rules, but it is no longer accompanied by a tax on resources that could otherwise be spent having fun; a so-called “fun tax.” Combos are produced on the fly and cost nothing, making dynamic and interesting combinations of Charm activations no longer feel like a punishment. One of my friends once commented that, whenever he played Exalted, he felt like an Olympic athlete with both arms and one leg tied behind his back: he had nearly unlimited potential, but could never actually do anything with it. Now, Orrin, you can.

There are a few problems with the new errata. Some of the clarifications about equipment bonuses stacking are… well, anything but clear. There were plenty of Charms that got missed, simply because there are so many Charms. And some of the upgrades and errata to Sidereals leave splats like Abyssals and Lunars feeling… well, a little lackluster. Nevertheless, I feel the progress and the corrections made more than outweigh the problems.

I do recommend the errata to anyone who plays consistently, not only because it is the official edit to the core rules (and most supplements), but also because it actually makes the game more fun. This is a concept that shouldn’t have taken as long as it did for game companies to figure out.

As part of the 2.5 shift, I am going to be going back through my old posts and updating them as best I can to be compatible with the 2.5 rules. I’m no freelancer, so I have no doubt that my Charms will suffer in comparison to canonical material, but I will do my best. I won’t be reposting them to the front page… simply a quiet edit behind the scenes. If you note some of your favorite Charms have changed, that’s most likely why.

This brings me to my only real complaint about 2.5… there are no plans to reprint the core rulebook to incorporate these changes. In fact, there are no plans to reprint any of the numerous sourcebooks that would so desperately benefit from an incorporation of the errata, rather than suffering from having to cross-reference yet another tome (roughly the same size as the core book) to use the rules. Yes, the irony is not lost on me. When D&D 2.5 was released I lambasted it for charging me more money for a reprint of a game I’d already bought, and now I’m bitching that Exalted didn’t do that, and doesn’t plan to. Nevertheless, I feel a reprinted Exalted system would benefit tremendously from incorporated errata, and will continue to campaign for it as best I can.

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Review – Masters of Jade

February 7, 2012

For a very long time, since First Edition, Exalted has lacked a comprehensive, cohesive financial system, abstracting the mechanics of purchases through the Resources background and leaving large portions of the resultant bargaining to GM discretion.  This has been frustrating to some players, especially since Bureaucracy is one of the Abilities on the character sheet.  Without a functional Bureaucracy system, many players found the acquisition of wealth or the domination of mercantile empires to be an unsatisfying endeavor fraught with handwavium.  Moreover, one of the major economic organizations in Creation, the Guild, has had little to no description, leaving it a toothless spectre of a threat, a faceless antagonist without much real punch.

All that has changed with the release of Masters of Jade, the latest release in the Exalted line.  Ostensibly (and functionally) a sourcebook detailing the Guild from the lowest slave to the highest hierarch, it additionally provides a new system for representing organizational interactions.  Produced by the Ink Monkeys we fans have come to know and love, the book is a full and imaginative look at the world of Exalted through the lens of a Creation-spanning organization dedicated to financial domination.

From a personal standpoint, this book is a masterpiece, a shining victory.  Fans have long been clamoring for a system for Bureaucracy that makes the Eclipse caste a useful entity outside their anima power.  Not only does this book deliver in spades, with a new system that interacts well with the existing Solar Bureaucracy Charms, it also uses that system to model large-scale military actions (using War), social actions (finally giving Socialize something to do), and criminal organizations (making Larceny useful outside the immediate, personal arena).  It gives a system for detailing the specifics of a world-spanning organization from top to bottom, including subsidiary organizations, as well as starting businesses and an economic model for competition and assimilation.

All this is in addition to the frankly breathtaking detail given to the Guild and its policies, activities, mindset, and allies.  Long have fans wondered how a mortal organization (and make no mistake, the Guild is predominantly run by mortals who remain free of supernatural influence) can exist in the face of the existence of the Exalted, and Masters of Jade delivers with broad strokes and pinpoint accuracy in equal measure.  It gives an amazing toolbox to the GM to offer competition and challenge to players who wish to compete with the Guild, as well as detailing out the articulate and imposingly Byzantine structure that prevents supernatural beings from simply waltzing in and taking over.  If that weren’t enough, the plot hooks fall like fruit from this book, with nearly every paragraph suggesting some amazing new bit of the world never seen before.  And all of that is in addition to the hints of things to come, including a new type of Exalt.

All in all, this book is a must have for anyone who wishes to utilize some of the more decrepit Abilities on the character sheet.  It is a fantastic read, pleasant from cover to cover, and it fleshes out the mechanics and setting in ways I would never have imagined possible.  Five stars, two thumbs up.

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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.

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Review – Return of the Scarlet Empress

August 6, 2010

Exalted has released a new book, and it makes me giddy. Return of the Scarlet Empress is still listed as “available for pre-order” on Amazon, but my Favorite Local Gaming Store (or FLGS) managed a single copy yesterday. I’ve been reading it pretty much non-stop since, and brother let me tell you, it is worth the read.

Return of the Scarlet Empress deals, as the name suggests, with the Scarlet Empress’ return to Creation, reclaiming the Realm and spreading her influence out to the Threshold nations. The twist here isn’t that she’s returned… you knew that from the title. It’s where she’s been all this time, and why.

Those of us following this particular subplot since First Edition weren’t even a little shocked to discover that the Empress is destined to be the herald of the Yozi Reclamation, signalling the return of the Infernals to Creation in a subtle yet sweeping plot to suborn the entirety of the world into an annex of Hell. This book dispels even the scraps of mystery surrounding her circumstances, and finally gives us concrete information regarding her disappearance, plan, and re-emergence.

The book is a spectacular and pretty thorough description of how the Reclamation would proceed, from events leading up to the Empress’ return all the way through the eventual release of the Ebon Dragon. It details each direction, with three Acts worth of events and plot hooks for nearly every major nation in every direction. At the same time, it leaves enough vague that Storytellers can alter, edit, or even ignore entire sections to customize them for their games. It also provides stats for a fully-fleshed out Scarlet Empress and Ebon Dragon, as well as additional related crunch, including new spells and Charms.

It must be stressed: this book is not a canonical advancement of Exalted’s plot. Exalted has no metaplot, for good or ill. It is wholly a snapshot of a time five years after the disappearance of the Empress. This is merely a possible event, a way to run the Reclamation if you desire. The crunch material is useful even outside the Reclamation, and the events are completely optional plot hooks Storytellers can use or ignore at their whims.

That said, I recommend this book to anyone, even if you’re not planning to run a Reclamation scenario. It has a great deal of useful material, insights into events happening in the background of Creation, and a glimpse at the mindset of every nation in Creation, seeing how they are likely to respond to any crisis, Yozi-originated or otherwise. It is a fine piece of work, and my compliments go out to anyone involved. Thank you, all.