March 19, 2014
A Look At The Crunch Of Exalted
Exalted is one of those games that I adore, but have been given very little chance to play. I first got into it when it was first published back in 2001, but have not had many opportunities to play it since then. As such, this look at the game will be focused mostly on the first edition of the game, despite a second edition currently being in print and rumors of a third edition of the game being on the horizon.
Exalted is a storytelling game of high fantasy. Using the same – albeit, slightly modified to fit the game – rules as White Wolf’s other Storyteller system games, Exalted is much more focused on action/adventure than games like Vampire or Werewolf. Although a matter more of fluff, it is important to note for the purposes of crunch that characters in the game are playing the roles (normally) of reincarnated gods. Why is that important? Because characters in Exalted are capable of doing impossible, inhuman stunts not often seen anywhere out side of a Japanese Anime.
Exalted uses the same attributes as the classic World of Darkness games, as well as Scion, of Strength, Dexterity, Stamina, Charisma, Manipulation, Appearance, Intelligence, Wits, and Perception. It uses its own list of skills/abilities similar to those found in Scion, but with a more fantasy twist – things like “Lore” instead of “Academics,” “Archery” instead of “Firearms,” and more – and base their powers on these various abilities. You can have impossible, god-like powers of Archery, Sneaking, Martial Arts, or even of things like Socialize, Bureaucracy, and Crafting. The game uses a very unique system for supernatural powers that I personally adore. Each set of powers works somewhat like a grid system, where you must purchase lesser powers to unlock greater ones, but not necessarily in any specific order. They are various branches that characters can learn from, which offer a great deal of personalization to the powers that any one character has.
In addition, these powers are fueled by an energy called Essence, of which Solar Exalts – the type of character you typically play as – have two pools, one significantly larger than the other. Both pools are used the same, but when using them the effects are different. The smaller one is a passive pool. Using Essence from it allows you to use your powers without creating any sort of special display. Drawing energy from the greater pool, on the other hand, causes a character’s aura to flare up and it becomes immediately obvious that they are doing something impossible. This, again, links to fluff as the Solar Exalts are hunted, and thus need to be wary of how they use their abilities. When trying to sneak away from those after you, it does not help you to be glowing like the sun.
In terms of the Solar Exalts, when building a character you are allowed to play as one of the various Solar Castes, which define what sorts of abilities you might have. Those of the Dawn are the warriors and leaders of the Exalts, the Zenith are the priests and spiritualists, Twilight are the scholars and sorcerers of the Exalts, Night caste Solar Exalts are the spies, thieves, and assassins of the Exalts, and lastly, the Eclipse Exalts – my personal favorite – are the ambassadors, diplomats, and all-around talkers of the Exalts.
The game is a lot of fun, and I recommend people looking for a non-Tolkien inspired fantasy to give it a try.
As always, thanks for reading and I wish you all good gaming.
Image Credit: Onyx Path Publishing