Sunday, April 5, 2009

Telling the Hero's Story: Exalted

Well, I can't properly call this a review, as I don't own Exalted (yet?).

However, I was doing some surfing and figured I'd head on over to White Wolf's website and see what they have been up to. I really haven't checked out WW since they released Mage, and that was sometime ago.

Some of the developments look pretty predictable (hordes of splats), others are just stupid (a pimp RPG? Really?). One caught my eye, however, "Exalted."

Exalted is WW's attempt to bust into the heroic fantasy market. It is designed to facilitate the telling of heroic, epic stories. It incorporates a lot of the ideas I've been toying with -- characters have archetypes ("natures"), are encouraged for using virtues (but the virtues have a tragic dark side -- not bad), and the game is meant to help tell stories in a mythic age (lots of Elemental flavor, etc).

Now the problems I have with it. First, its saddled with this pseudo-asian mythical anime-ish flavor. Ridicolous names for Charms, art that I probably won't appreciate, and over the top combat stunts. Second, it looks like a bloated version of the storyteller system. I like the NWOD Storyteller system because its fairly rules light. This looks like a pretty heavy version, with lots of complex charms, stunts, etc that violate the rule of 7 left and right. Plus, they haven't patched the "exploits" in Storyteller yet -- for example, everyone knows its better to start with 4 dots in something and then to buy one or two dots in other things than it is to try to buy up to 4 dots. So there is still the choice to suck.

Finally, its saddled with this complex and kind of stupid backstory. Rather than sticking with the real mythic world (like Zenobia -- and the tie to the real world is one of the draws of NWOD) we've got this totally made up pseudo mediterranean place with a complicated backstory. My tolerance for learning new backstories is dropping rapidly. Like most Storyteller games, the setting is vital to the mechanics so I don't think it'd be easy to seperate them.

So, I think I'm preemptively passing on Exalted. It looks tempting, but I don't think it will deliver what I want. It is frustrating because of all the big name RPG companies out there, I trust WW to do a good job with a mythic heroic storytelling game. But, Exalted looks like it went the wrong direction for my tastes.


nanobri said...

I'm playing in an Exalted game now. I've been discussing it on my blog. Check it out if your interested.

Also, there's some awesome reviews of the Exalted books over at Hack Avenue.

nanobri of

Vedron said...


Thanks for the link! I read your blog and found Hack Avenue to be quite interesting.

It does look like Exalted works for some folks. I just don't think its for me. Trying to absorb 300 pages of WW rules, dealing with very large dice pools, decoupling mechanics from setting -- all tasks that don't particularly appeal to me right now.

If there was an "Exalted Lite" or "Exalted: Western Europe" (a la Ars Magica) I'd find it more interesting. And I may still buy the core book in a few months once I return home. But for now I don't think it scratches the particular itch I have.