Steve and Zack at something awful have a review of some kickstarter for a 3rd Edition of Exalted. They seem pretty angry about the direction Exalted has taken. I played Exalted briefly and really liked it, as well as its over-the-top anime-D&D cross-over style. I didn’t realize it was full of rape magic … is this a new thing? Has Exalted changed, or was it always dubious in this way?

I previously reviewed the 2nd edition of Carcosa positively, and my main reason for being accepting of the child rape and sacrifice in that book was that I thought the tone and context made it clear that it was evil, and that the players could take sides on the issue – it was built into the world but not essential to the construction of characters – if anything, people would make characters who would be fighting against the sorcerers who engage this stuff. From reading the Exalted review, it appears that the opposite situation will apply in the new edition of Exalted – that the morality of the succubus is not clearly evil, and it may be hard for players to avoid engaging with magic that really should be NPC-only stuff. Zack in the review was particularly angry about the demon child rape shown in the page of the review, and it certainly seems like the tone and style of depiction there is very different to the calm, cold, matter-of-fact description of sacrifice in Carcosa … it’s more salacious, as if it contains a shred of approval. It’s interesting how context and tone can shape our interpretation of elements of a story that might otherwise superficially appear to be the same. If so, perhaps everyone’s interpretation of context is unique and the 3280 “little idiots” who supported the Exalted kickstarter would have found Carcosa terribly offensive. Do we have some objective barometer for this stuff?

Also, has anyone reading this blog actually ever tried playing an RPG full of sex powers and rape? Given the game scene consists mostly of men, it seems like this would be a very awkward scene. Also, describing combat would be a weird mixture of embarrassing and disturbing, like watching The Human Centipede with your mother. And how would you design adventures? I just can’t see this style of gaming having much appeal to 99.9% of the gaming world. Is it a common feature of White Wolf that its players enjoy getting together and talking really graphically about sex, with dice?

Footnote: the title of this post is taken from the Something Awful review.

I started playing in an Exalted game yesterday. Until yesterday I didn’t really know much about Exalted or the World of Darkness games, which are apparently related to it, and I had heard rumours that it is a little too complex to be played sensibly. However, I like the basic idea for the world, which has the characters playing mortals who have been exalted to semi-godlike status. I also like the world itself, which feels like something between Hyboria and Atlan.

We are playing in the far East, in a city which is built around a huge alabaster bridge over a river and a gigantic waterfall. Our characters consist currently of a mad, shaggy priest/martial artist, a thief called “Dark-eyed Mouser” and me, his barbarian comrade “Ellgan”. The latter two characters are based on Fafrhd and the Grey Mouser, which is fun. We have strange memories from past lives and, being quite new to exaltation, are visiting an ancient ziggurat to see if it can teach us something about our new situation. In game terms we are one Zenith, one Dawn and one Moon caste character (I think).

My character is essentially a destroyer, with few skills except cutting stuff up, which he seems to do very well. Choosing what he can do is a little bit challenging, because he has about 12 different “charms” with which he can break people, and a complex system of assigning points to them, and an even more complex system for combat resolution. The system is cluttered and clumsy, with too many dice (a big problem with dice pool systems, obviously) and lots of things to remember at every stage. However, it seems to be coherent so once one comes to terms with the way it’s done it should be fairly easy to adapt to new situations. There are grumblings that missile weapons are broken, but we’ll see… we are still learning after all.

The one session we played produced very vivid images of the setting and the combat. This may be partly the DM’s fault, with well-prepared descriptions and an interesting setting; but I think it may be the careful attention to detail in the background, the names of every aspect of the character traits and skills (so the character sheet is not just a technical document), and the sense of heroism imbued in the game. Plus it encourages stunts, which we saw in Feng Shui encourages descriptiveness and engagement on the part of the players. So far I’ve been having fun with this game despite its complexities and occasional heavihandedness.