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NaBloPoMo post 4, Exalted (the tabletop RPG) — why I love it - The rusty bottle opener of truth

Nov. 5th, 2012

01:02 am - NaBloPoMo post 4, Exalted (the tabletop RPG) — why I love it

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This was going to be a post on why I'm very glad Exalted is getting a third edition, but it turned into one on why I enjoy the game. I may well come back to the third edition thing later

White Wolf has always been the most major company in my gaming experience — I've done a certain amount of D&D 3.5, Pathfinder, and other D20 games, I've done a smatteriing of other things, and I'm currently giving a try to games like Fiasco, and other more narativist games (my rough opinion on the latter being that I like them as an occasional thing, but they're not something I'd want to do every week) — but throughout all of that, I've done a lot of oWoD and a fair amount of Exalted.

I've always liked Exalted for many reasons. It has the Storyteller system, which I'm used to, and I find the Attribute + Ability rolls make sense, provide a wide array of different possible rolls for different situations, and set the base assumed difficulty in the right place; if you have 4 dice (e.g. Strength 2, Athletics 2; the dice are d10s) you've got a pretty good chance of succeeding at a difficulty 1 roll (i.e. roll one 7+ on those dice).

But beyond that, it has a big world, that is noticeably different to the majority of Western fantasy, as they decided to actively avoid the Tolkeinsian style, a world with a lot that's happened in it and a lot that might happen. It's a deep world; whenever I play D&D it feels like the rest of the world is sort-of our there, and it has dragons and heroes and dungeons and treasure in it, but it doesn't really matter, there's not really anything going on there, it's what's happening with you that is what'll change anything in the world. Whereas Exalted has this huge world (about 50% more landmass than Earth, IIRC) with so much information on what's going on where, and so many different schemes, wars, rivalries, tensions and so forth all ready to blow.

It has player characters powerful enough that you're pretty big fish in that world, you can make real changes in what happens by your actions — sure, there are people more powerful than you, but you are a valid threat, a useful ally, not a bug to be played with or squashed at a whim. One of the things I want/enjoy in roleplaying games is that ability to effect change, to see the world different than what it would've been if my character wasn't there (I think it's one of the things that somewhat puts me of Fiasco and similar; they're more about creating an overall story that's interesting, rather than individual character's influence on the story/world), and Exalted gives me that.

Another thing that I like is that it doesn't assume that you're good. Exalts are heroes, but only in the sense that they are very definitely willing to use the power they are given, they want to do things with it — to chage the world, just like what I want out of roleplaying — and this means I can play my default style of character more easily.

Anyone who's played in more than one tabletop RPG with me will probably have noticed that I don't play nice people. I don't play out and out evil, it's usually just amoral. Despite this amorality, I'm generally on the side of the good guys, partly because that means I actually get to play that character in the game, rather than being killed or left behind, but also because, to quote Spike from Buffy, "I like the world" — that which the bad guys are doing to it will likely interfere with whatever I want to do in the world.

I think I enjoy the amorality due to a combination of it allowing a directness of approach I enjoy, and because it lets me just take the limiters off and be blunt, be nasty if needs be, and take the expedient solution rather than the one that society deems best. Exalted allows that; to some extent it even encourages that, whilst still allowing Big Damn Heroes who actually are actively good guys.

The other main thing I like about it is that it has lots of relatively simple and narrow powers, rather than more broader ones, and that those powers are cheap to pick up — when I played more old World of Darkness stuff, it got quite annoying how long it took to save up for the higher level powers, whereas in Exalted you're only ever 2-3 games away from a new power, it's just that those powers build more incrementally to the big combinations.

So yes, that's why I like Exalted. What about you, what's your favourite roleplaying game, and why?

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