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20 October 2013 @ 02:12 pm
Exalted as Sword and Sorcery world  
Exalted is one of my favorite RPGs ever. Back in university, when I was visiting greyselkie in Boston, we went shopping and I happened to notice an RPG bookstore that we passed by, and so I asked if we could go in. Right inside, on a display, was this book:

And inside was this quote:
Before the world was bent but after the Great Contagion, there was a civilization built in the image of the First Age. It sought to emulate the splendor of the bygone Golden Age, but it was in all ways less. It was a time of sorcery and heroism, of fabulous wonders and treacherous betrayals. Ruled by a decadent empire, it slipped inch by inch into barbarism and darkness, until one last cataclysm blotted it out forever. Yet, in its sunset, it was a splended thing, and glorious were the deeds of the Exalted.

Fuck yes.

I ran a game of Exalted for five years. It was the quintessential Exalted game, with a bunch of nobodies all Exalting as Solars and rising from obscurity to shake the foundations of the world. And because of that, I don't want to run that game ever again, and probably wouldn't want to play in it either. I've gotten my fun from it.

One thing I do think Exalted's system would be great for is sword and sorcery. The world is already pretty much a sword and sorcery world, with a bunch of rules for bleeding to death, dying of infected wounds, contracting horrible diseases, and mortals having to sacrifice to capricious gods, serve rapacious Fair Folk lords, and otherwise suffer through all kinds of terrible things that the Exalted can just declare "NO U" to. The thing is, there isnt' that much interesting mechanically about mortals. A lot of the fun (and I won't lie, a lot of the problems) of Exalted come from the interactions of all the hundreds of Charms that the various splats can get. Mortals can't get any of that. They can get thaumaturgy, but that has its own problems and is only tied to a single ability. Want to use Lore and Craft to make a building that properly channels the flow of Essence? Nope, Occult and thaumaturgy. Want to use Survival and Craft to makes potions? Nope, thaumaturgy. That part is tinkerable, but the lack of widgets is harder.

Well, I found this page...

It's for First Edition, but he's done a bunch of work already. There are Edges, which are minor bonuses that are always on: mostly stuff like not being able to botch certain rolls or gaining an extra success if you roll at least one, but there are some other things there too, like more range on archery or getting a bonus to attack if you dodge all the attacks your target makes on you. There are Heroics, which basically what the Adventure! RPG called "dramatic editing"--the kind of stuff that happens to movie heroes like just happening to grab the book with the clue while in the huge library or surviving falling out of the building or showing up in the nick of time to rescue someone. There's also a system of mortal sorcery with lower-power spells than the Three Circles the Exalted use.

The Sorcery system is really where the sword and sorcery influence comes out. See, spells cost Essence, and mortals barely have any, but that page has ways to get more. In addition to classics like blood sacrifice and hours-long rituals and making pacts with supernatural entities, the sorcerer and adopt "Quirks" or "Taboos" that they have to follow, like having to pour out a few drops from any glass they drink from, or not being able to cast spells on redheads, or having to be silent for 24 hours before any spell, or taking damage from otherwise innocuous materials. It's perfect for emulating the kind of weird and unsavory behaviors that sorcerers have in Conan or Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories.

It really makes me want to run a mortals game in a world inspired by Exalted's Creation but not exactly the same--cutting out all the Exalted, reducing the threats, but keeping the elemental directions and the chaos at the edge of the world. Maybe I should haul out that Exalted Second Edition book again and look into getting Scroll of Heroes...

I'd want to adapt it to Second Edition, because while it has a bunch of problems, almost all of them come with the higher power levels of the Exalted and their various Charms. When it's mortals hitting each other with swords and weird sorcerers occasionally casting spells, then the main problem is grappling being an I Win button and drawing your sword being a perfect defense to someone trying to talk you down, but that should be easy enough to deal with when there aren't so many extra moving parts to deal with. I'd just have to write Integrity and War Edges, collapse Endurance and Resistance Edges into one and Brawl and Martial Arts Edges into one, and fiddle with the spells and Edges to adapt them to Second Edition. I'd probably get rid of Heroics, because a lot of them are pretty much just codified Stunts and so they interfere with the Stunt design space. Then I just need to get rid of Heroism and change it to Essence, because I do like that everything in Exalted has the same power stat because it makes things a lot easier when you're trying to get different groups to interact. Just change Heroism to Willpower or Virtue minima, I think. I can keep Artifacts and ditch most artifact weapons, because they probably won't be needed.

I should see if anyone has done anything similar that would save me work. I've got enough else on my plate that the less I have to do for a game I haven't even pitched to anyone, the better. :p
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