[Let's Read] Exalted First Edition Corebook

Cadwyn

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Yeah. The Realm section takes up way too much space compared to its direct utility. They should have used that many pages to define the Near East instead, so that starting groups would have had a semi-usable mini-setting out of the box.
I think the Scavenger Lands is meant to fill that role, Nexus in particular.

That said, the Kingdom of Harborhead would make an excellent starting location. The mightiest weapon is the spear, armor is that restrictive metal crap worn by oppressive foreigners, and the loincloth wearing jungle natives are the point-of-view characters, rather than the city-dwellers. Evokes a very different image from traditional fantasy in the River Province, and still has all sorts of local threats like clan conflicts, troublesome spirits, a giant shadowland right next door, and most importantly, friggin' dinosaurs!
 
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Cadwyn

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Nope, still working on the next update, just got behind with many other things to deal with.
 

Brightfires

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I'm glad it isn't dead... This has been a fun read.
My crew really fell in love with 1st ed Exalted, and we played the heck out of it. Reading through your thread has brought back a lot of entertaining memories. ^_^
 

Cadwyn

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Time to make our avatar with:

Chapter Three: Character Creation
This chapter's fiction opens with a picture of Harmonious Jade sneaking through a ruin, hiding from two demons guarding a sun-decorated door. It's interesting to note that while the walls are carved rock and covered with ancient-looking runes, the door itself is smooth, with crisp lines and a complex looking sliding lock over the front. This hints a little more that the engineering of the First Age was likely very advanced, without looking explicitly sci-fi. Also we have pants!Jade featured in the pic, though strangely enough she's featured with her breastplate armor which is supposed to be an artifact, even though this is where she retrieves her First Age grave goods. Maybe she got the armor somewhere else?

The fiction describes her sneaking into the tomb of her previous incarnation and recovering his armaments. In particular I like the way her charms are described:

Exalted 1e core said:
She laid her palms against the door, and there was a crack that split the night, as the great stone lock within the doors broke loose after centuries of settling. The mechanism grated and popped while the Exalted focused her magic on it. "Do not hear this!" her magic cried as the doors swung slowly open. "Do not see it!"

...

One [demon] blinked, and she slipped between them in the instant that its eyes were closed. One sneezed, and then the great brass door was unlocked. Days later, one heard a sound from beyond the door. Finding it unlocked, the demons departed in a rush of fetid air. They had failed at their mission of eternal vigilance. It mattered little to Harmonious Jade - she had long ago departed.
It gives an idea of how Solar stealth works; redirecting attention, passing through blindspots, masking every sound in background noise. It reminds me of being a kid, sneaking through the house early morning and trying not to wake the parents, trying to move only when dad snores.

As promised, for this Let's Read I'll be building a character while making my way through this chapter. I'll also be jumping forward to Chapters 4 and 5 as necessary to cover traits and charms we use for him, although I'll save the bulk of commentary on specifics for their respective chapters (still working out how I'm going to do the charms chapter).

I'll be making a relatively campaign-independent character, who could conceivably fit into different groups and locales without much change. This is a big departure from my normal characters who tend to be badass swordswomen. Unfortunately, Invincible Sword Princess requires campaign and group-specific origins and relations, otherwise she's just not very interesting. To keep the experience authentic, I'll be making a character with as little outside aide as possible, with a character sheet printed from the pdf and filled in with pencil. Yes, the original White Wolf character sheet. Be afraid, reader.

There are five steps given in character creation. Going through them, the first is Character Concept. I'll be building a world-traveling explorer with a talent for writing and performing inspiring epics, the accounts of the legends and wonders he bares witness to, and often has first hand participation. I'm looking at the bard archetype for inspiration here. One of the biggest criticisms of the D&D-styled Bard is that they spend their time in battle singing or playing music instead of actually helping the fight. Whereas actual bards were the poets who recorded and recited the deeds of nobles and accounts of great battles. In other words, they didn't inspire heroic acts directly, but bore witness to those legends and, arguably, knew how to find them in the first place.

The origin of an entire archetype sounds like a good starting place for a Solar character. I'm also a big Pathfinder fan, and one concept I always wanted to try was the Pathfinder Chronicler prestige class, sort of a classic bard meets Indiana Jones explorer. So, Pathfinder Chronicler works great as a concept; travels the world seeking the secrets and wonders of the past for their inherent value and intrigue.

One small bit of outside advice I'm using is Mostlyjoe's excellent thread on building and running Solar NPCs, particularly justifying the caste. The advice here works just as well for PCs.

Basically you come up with the basic concept divorced of castes and charms, then try to justify how the character would fit each caste. Let's try it with our chronicler:

Dawn: Born in Arjuf on the Blessed Isle and enamored with epic literature and tales of heroism, he joined the Imperial Navy to travel and see the world. Through several campaigns in the Threshold, his ship met an untimely accident on the reefs of an island in the West, and were set upon by Lintha. He led his comrades to victory and Exalted for his seasoned knowledge. As he aided his nervous comrades in survival, he won many of them over with the tales he told, which are now many of his own memories. While many fled his side upon being rescued, the remainder became his new crew.

Zenith: Raised in a traveling actor troupe who has toured over much of Creation. He Exalted during a performance in which he played the role of a terrifying Anathema battling the heroes. The audience thought it was a marvelous illusion from the troupe's guardian spirit and thought it really enhanced the experience. Afterwards the Sun spoke to him, saying the world is now his stage, and to tell the tale he always dreamed of. He left his adoptive troupe that they may not be harmed by the drama that was to enter his life.

Twilight: A man with a knack for storytelling lived in the abode of a powerful Fair Folk who was said to be immensely beautiful, though none had ever seen her. He spent months crafting a tale of her beauty and grace, and while those who heard it were enamored and inspired, he felt a nuance was missing. Meditating in the garden demesne of her enchanted keep for a fortnight straight, he now realized what was missing. Having heard it whispered in his dreams and on the lines of breath that flowed through the place of power, he penned her True Name, which was the breathless sigh of her absence. Enlightened, he Exalted, and left to seek the secrets of other spirits as written in their legends.

Night: He grew up in Thorns, and explored every inch of the city throughout his youth. When the Mask of Winters attacked he could only hide, but he would not let his city's fall be in vain. He Exalted while sneaking from the internment camps with as many annals as he could carry, determined that Thorns would not be forgotten. He carries its story near and far, courting the nobles and leaders of powerful nations and warning them of the danger posed by the Deathlords.

Eclipse: He was the sun of a Delzahn noble and was groomed from an early age to act as the annalist and poet entertainer of the Tri-Khan. Until a grave event made him wanted for dead, forcing him to flee from Chiaroscuro. His exile turned exodus as he circumnavigated the world. Upon returning he negotiated with Grandmother Bright for amnesty in exchange for the wondrous tales he had to tell, Exalting as Grandmother Bright agreed to vouch for him. His debt settled, he left Chiaroscuro, knowing his true calling was on road and waves.

So we've got working concepts for each caste! Any one of them could stand their ground as a valid character, however for this exercise I'm going with Night Caste, as it's relatively straightforward, and I like the idea of traveling the world to gather opposition and sow support in defense from the Deathlords. Since he's from Thorns, I think a bit about the name and decide a Persian name would fit. Our chronicler is named Fardin of Thorns.

Next we must choose Fardin's Nature. This is a one-word descriptor for your character, representing the sort of approach they take to life and guidelines for regaining Willpower by acting on it. While his status as traveling annalist warning the world of the danger of the Deathlords might mark him as a Critic, I feel at the heart he is still an Explorer by nature, as his sense of discovery is what honed his love of Thorns in the first place.

Next is step two, assigning Attributes. Attributes come in three categories; Physical, Social, and Mental, with 3 stats each. Normally I find stat clusters of 6 or more to be a bit hard to wrap my head around, but here the 3 by 3 makes it much easier to grasp. We choose one category as primary, a second as secondary, leaving the last tertiary. Given his proficiency with befriending important leaders from distant lands I'm definitely choosing Social as primary, however he's quite athletic to boot so Physical becomes secondary, leaving Mental as tertiary. Each stat starts with 1 and we distribute 8, 6, and 4 to each respective category. I immediately fill in 2 in each Social, then decide that Fardin is more an inspirer rather than manipulator at heart, putting the last 2 in Charisma for Charisma 5, Manipulation and Appearance 3. For Physical I put 1 in each, then the last 3 in Dexterity. The description of Dexterity 5 states "You can climb a sheer cliff while blindfolded" which sounds perfect for his Prince of Persia vibe. I don't see him as a frontliner so Strength and Stamina can stay at 2. Finally I put a dot in each Mental, and the last in Perception for a 3 ("You pick up on subtle subtext in books and conversations"). I like the descriptions given for each dot in the Attributes, though the 1, 3, 5 descriptions from 2e are more succinct. At this point I realize that his activity level demands a bit more strength, so I spend 4 bonus points out of my alloted 15 to bump Strength to 3.

Step three is Abilities. As a Solar, Fardin has affinity with the Night Caste Abilities plus 5 more Favored Abilities. I know that I want him to make good use of all his Favored picks, so I choose them carefully. First though, I put 2 dots each into Ride, Sail, and Survival, the 3 Abilities I'd expect a world-traveler to have. I also wanna nail down his combat style early. I still don't see him as the up close type, but I can't see a guy willing to go up against Deathlords relying on Thrown. So 3 dots in Archery too, which leaves 3 in Dodge as his main defense. I also remember he snuck out of a Deathlord's prison camp so that's 3 dots in Stealth.

At this point I've already spent 15 dots so I better mark off Favored Abilities. Thinking about what drove his Exaltation and what he's been accomplishing since, I decide on Lore, Linguistics, Socialize, Performance, and Archery. With at least a dot in each Favored that's 22 out of 25 spent. Now to decide on the remaining 3. I throw in an extra dot each into Performance, Lingusistics, and Socialize, all part of his concept. Before moving on, I spend 3 bonus points to add specialties, for Lore (Thorns x3) and Archery (Rough Conditions, Showing Off x2). Specialties in Exalted are weird, mainly the fact you can take more than one. The book describes it as a way to represent someone with, say, superhuman mastery of swords, but it seems odd when die-adding charms exist.

Moving on for now, step four is Advantages, which actually covers Backgrounds, Charms, and Virtues. Might as well get Backgrounds out of the way first. I pick Contacts 3 (spending 2 bp to bump it to Contacts 4) for his correspondence and friendship with powerful leaders (one for each direction). I'll leave the details of them fuzzy, as that can always be fleshed out for a game. I also take Resources 2, indicating the money he has for traveling and from doing odd entertainer jobs, which are always talk of the town thanks to his 5 Charisma. Finally I pick up Artifact 2 for a nice powerbow. I would have gone for a long powerbow but it's got Strength 4 minimum! I've only got 6 bp left so I'm gonna hold off for now.

Now Charms. Funny that it's in the same step as Backgrounds, as Charm selection is arguably the meat of character creation. The charms section is easily the largest chapter in the book, 74 pages compared to the setting chapter of 66. Each ability has an extensive tree of charms similar to skill trees in games like Diablo. At this point I should mention the My Character Died! sidebar in character creation, which goes into detail about how every character needs a minimum of 3 or 4 defensive charms to survive. A glance at the combat system (more on that later) reveals this to be good advice, as anything more than a one-on-one fight with an equal opponent is suicide for anyone not trying to run away very fast. Exalted does not believe in system empowering the PCs, at least not by default; you need to have the actual powers to survive combat and make it look like action movies where the PCs never seem to take hits while the Red Shirt Army dies in droves. Considering I want Fardin to at least have some swank Archery charms too, let's get his base survival out of the way first, starting with Dodge.

So with Dodge 3 I can pick up Reed In The Wind, Shadow Over Water, and Reflex Sidestep Technique. I can always buy Dodge 5 in game and pick up Seven Shadow Evasion (dodge without a roll), and finally Flow Like Blood (scene-long free dodge roll), which should cover all his defensive needs. I also pick up Easily Overlooked Presence Method in Stealth, because not being seen is its own defense. Still in the Night Caste section I also snag Graceful Crane Stance and never worry about balance checks again (and presumably maintain stealth in precarious positions too). That's 5 charms spent on "defense", because he really can't afford to take a hit.

Now for Archery. I see him as being a romantic with the bow and treasuring the perfect shot, having grown up educated and privledged enough to practice the bow to near mastery. I spend 1 of 6 remaining bp to bump Archery to 4, and buy Wise Arrow, Sight Without eyes, and There Is No Wind. This lets him take advantage of bad conditions, dramatic stunt descriptions (which hits both his Specialties), and with There Is No Wind not suffer the penalties of those conditions while his opponents still would. Accuracy Without Distance Can wait for in-game.

That's 8 charms, with 2 left to go. I feel he needs more means of winning the hearts and minds of those Contacts he starts with, so I pick up Performance's Masterful Performance Exercise (adds successes to Performance rolls), and after a bit of thought, Wise-Eyed Courtier Method from Socialize, which just seems better than Mastery Of Small Manners (which prevents general faux pas behavior, not much of a problem for Charisma 5).

Last is Virtues, the passions and drives of the heroes of Exalted. They start at 1 and rate up to 5, though we can only bring them up to 3 without bp. With 5 dots to distribute amongst 4 Virtues, that means at least one rated 3. It's interesting that while each Virtue is initially a benefit (be brave! be compassionate! be clear-headed!) they are framed in how they hinder (difficult to ignore the pain of others, difficult to back down from danger, etc.) So a Virtue is meant to get you in as much trouble as it helps, meaning having a low Virtue isn't necessarily a character deficiency. This makes it a bit easier to pick Virtues without thinking every character who fights needs Valor 3+ (meaning, you don't need a high Valor to stop yourself from running away). The trick is to ask, how do the Virtues support the character's legacy? Valor doesn't work for Fardin (he fled from Thorns), but he's endured much and is willing to endure more, and he is driven by the danger of the Deathlords for fear that they may do to others what they did to Thorns. That's Compassion and Conviction, so I put 2 dots in each, with the last in Temperance for a total of Compassion 3, Conviction 3, Temperance 2, Valor 1. Finally I mark Compassion as his Defining Virtue, which means I must select a Virtue Flaw that activates upon Limit Break. I pick Compassionate Martyrdom; he deeply regrets abandoning his place of birth and while he sticks to his life mission of discovery and vigilance, he cannot let an innocent suffer lest he take that suffering upon himself as well.

With the longest step over, we move to step five: Finishing Touches. We determine Willpower (highest 2 Virtues) of 6, starting Essence of 2 and Essence Pool (the only math we've had to do up to now, a somewhat obnoxious formula to determine Personal and Peripheral pools of motes) which is 12/29. And with no extra health we get the default 7 Health Levels.

But I still have 5 bonus points left! I spend 1 to buy another dot of Linguistics, and the last 4 on one more dot of Strength. Why? Because I'm moving a dot from Resources over to Artifact because screw it, I wants me a Long Powerbow! (also holy hell, only ranged weapons have Rate in this version? What the hell game?!) Going against the standard explanation, he obtained the Powerbow as a gift from one of his Contacts who is currently arming their country for war (most likely the location the game starts in), and it is explicitly NOT the weapon of Fardin's previous incarnation; he's interested in becoming a part of this weapon's legacy, a different angle from the legendary hero reuniting with their armaments.

And now, here's Fardin's complete writeup:

Name: Fardin of Thorns
Concept: Pathfinder Chronicler
Nature: Explorer
Caste: Night
Anima Banner: Totemic emblem of a scribe's feather
Anima Power: Spend 10 motes to increase difficulty to notice Fardin by +1, double Peripheral Essence cost to prevent display from appearing.

Attributes

Strength 4
Dexterity 5
Stamina 2

Charisma 5
Manipulation 3
Appearance 3

Perception 3
Intelligence 2
Wits 2

Abilities

*Athletics 2
*Archery 4 (Rough Conditions, Showing Off x2)
*Awareness 1
*Dodge 3
*Linguistics 3 (Riverspeak, Foresttongue, Skytongue, Firetongue)
*Lore 1 (Thorns x3)
*Performance 2
Ride 2
Sail 2
*Socialize 2
*Stealth 3
Survival 2

Backgrounds

Artifact 3 (Shining Force, Orichalcum Long Powerbow)
Contacts 4
Resources 1

Charms

Archery
Wise Arrow
Sight Without eyes
There Is No Wind

Athletics
Graceful Crane Stance

Dodge
Reed In The Wind
Shadow Over Water
Reflex Sidestep Technique

Performance
Masterful Performance Exercise

Socialize
Wise-Eyed Courtier Method

Stealth
Easily Overlooked Presence


Virtues and Willpower
Compassion 3
Conviction 3
Temperance 2
Valor 1

Virtue Flaw Compassionate Martyrdom

Willpower 6

Essence and Health
Essence 2
Personal Pool 12
Peripheral Pool 29 (7 commited)
Health Levels -0/-1x2/-2x2/-4/Inc
Soak 4L/6B (Buff Jacket)
Dodge Pool 8 (7 in armor)


So after all is said and done, Fardin of Thorns can speak four major language groups. I forgoe Wavetongue on the premise that he simply hasn't traveled to that area yet (his four Contacts are in the Scavenger Lands, East, North, and South).He can also sneak past elite soldiers, travel anywhere if he works at obtaining transport (an excellent performance would suffice), and know instinctively how to put on a good impression, AND can show off to leaders with his peerless archery skills if they prefer a martial demonstration. So with the exception of being an expert wrestler, I've basically made Odysseus. That's pretty damn awesome. But he's only just begun; he can advance further in so many areas from here; he can become an expert performer who moves a nation to action with a single tale, a master of ancient lore with the power to reshape Creation itself to his imagination, and of course, a legendary archer with the power to fell armies with his shafts.

And to all of you cringing at my spending 8 bonus points on 2 dots of Strength, yeah yeah, not optimal in the slightest, but it gets the job done and he's basically the character I more or less envisioned, while still being able to stand his own in combat. I could have made Physical primary and picked up the bow for "free", but he'd also be hurting in social traits, and Charisma 5 is exemplar of one who "could build an empire", a potential that is really cool. This early in the line, the focus is clearly on the story of the game, with the mechanics being secondary, including optimization. We'll get into what the game offers mechanics-wise later, but the impression I get is that anything more complex than an Attribute + Ability roll for successes is essentially optional. How you feel about that really depends on the type of player you are and the type of games your group prefers.


Next time we'll go into detail with Chapter Four: Traits!
 
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Gareth3

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I'm greatly enjoying this, especially the character creation. That Zenith backstory you thought up seems obvious and funny, but I never thought of it before.
 

Isator Levie

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He spends his days pleasuring himself to the Immaculate Texts, a fact I always found begs the question; what parts are that titillating, and why?
I don't know, if the Immaculate Texts are anything like Christian or Hindu religious scriptures, there's probably some pretty racy stuff in there.

I think the Immaculate Texts are mostly passed off as accounts of the lives of the Immaculate Dragons, so it would probably seem kind of suspicious for those Dragon Blooded to not have a few erotic episodes.
 

Cadwyn

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Let us learn what these stats mean in:

Chapter Four: Traits
The opening fiction stars Swan this time, the accompanying illustration showing him sitting by a campfire surrounded by long decayed skeletons and strewn about treasure, as a giant spider watches. The fiction describes Swan happening upon a campfire in the woods, presumably a trap given the long-decayed corpses surrounding it and the wood spider with no need for a campfire keeping watch overhead. We get a great example of the cunning of adversaries in Exalted; Swan evades the elemental's trap by sneaking in and then reveals himself, so the wood spider immediately switches track to faux hospitality, with Swan playing along but using his magic to see that the spider has used deception with the last party that came through. Knowing the spider's intentions, Swan offers to shake on agreement that he stay the night as the spider's guest.

Exalted 1e core said:
It extended a long front leg and Swan roe to touch it with his hand, willing his anima to sanctify the oath. A sudden wind blew through the grove, and the air around the Exalted and the elemental swirled with the characters of the pledge. Though it lasted only a second, for that moment, the beacon of the vow shone so brightly that the flames of the campfire were invisible.

Then, there was silence, and the spider said, "Greetings, Prince of the Earth. I had not recognized you."

Swan yawned again, this time in honest exhaustion. He murmured, "Sleep well, brother spirit," and drifted into the vale of dreams.

All night long, the spider's hateful resin eyes glared at him as the fire guttered and died.
This is why I love this piece. It's a great demonstration of the Eclipse oath binding power, as well as one of the ways malevolent spirits may be interacted with. With that we have seen fiction pieces demonstrating several avenues of playing Exalted; martial supremacy with Dace, preternatural subtlety with Jade, and now binding social control with Swan. Further evidence that the game offers many kinds of heroes.

Chapter Four details the non-magical stats, and it's here I can go over some of the details I glossed over with Fardin, as well as traits I downplayed or ignored.

First up is Nature, a one-word description of your character's attitude, "the core of his 'soul'". Rather than second edition's player-defined Motivation, 1e has a list of 21 Natures, though players and STs can invent more if they want. They cover a pretty wide range and could fit lots of different character concepts. For example Architect covers more than crafters, encompassing anyone that wants to create something that lasts, be it a work of art or a kingdom. Even ones that don't seem very heroic are given sufficient support by their framing. For instance, Follower represents someone who trades self-initiative for a talent with working with various personalities, and benefits when helping the Circle achieve something by doing their part. Also synergizes well with a fellow PC who's a Leader.

Next is a description of each Caste, including common stereotypes, suggested concepts, and sweet, sweet art. Okay so it's badly scanned line art, but it still remains my favorite portrayals of the original five signatures. Sadly I can't find any good examples online.

First up is the Dawn Caste. One passage in particular stands out:

Exalted 1e core said:
When the Dragon-Blooded betrayed the Solar Exalted and usurped control of the Realm, no member of this caste who escaped the Terrestrial's initial ambush went gently into the darkness of the Underworld. All those bearing the mark of the Dawn fought to the death, falling only to superior forces and treachery, each taking dozens or hundreds into the land of the dead with them.
This marks yet another instance where the Solars are described as having entered the Underworld upon being usurped. At this point there is no mention of indivisible motes of power called Shards carrying exaltations, so it seems that for now, returning Solars can be interpreted as literally reincarnated, their souls passing through the Underworld carrying the potential for power that manifests at exaltation. It could even provide an alternative explanation for the arrival of Abyssals; in their unprecedented journey through the Underworld, some of them came back wrong...

The Dawn anima effect costs 10 motes to appear terrifying and large for a scene, which forces enemies to make Valor checks or take a -2 die bonus for being unable to look at the character. It also forces most natural animals to flee in terror, which is nice when natural animals includes things like saber toothed tigers and dinosaurs. The biggest criticism has always been that this power doesn't work on anyone whose Valor equals or exceeds your Essence rank, but considering the points we had to work with for Virtues, it's implied that high Virtues are exceedingly rare in Creation, with most conscripts having Valor 1 and even seasoned soldiers having Valor 2 or 3. So it works as crowd control, which fits with the Dawn's theme of being masters of the battlefield; if you can cause half the army to flee and a quarter to fight at a penalty, it's no wonder they led the charges.

Each Caste also includes a flavor quote:

Dawn's Quote said:
I am not a wise man,
but I am a strong one,
and I know right from wrong.

Surrender,
and I will see you
are judged fairly.

Resist,
and I will end your
tyranny with your life.
Next is the Zenith Caste, who are apparently among the first of the Solars to have appeared since the Empress's disappearance, and are characterized by their ideals and passions.

Exalted 1e core said:
Exalted of the Zenith Caste are chosen from those who thirst for righteousness and justice, as well as from among those who are natural leaders of what they believe in. All members of this caste have been granted a vision of the Unconquered Sun, and this vision helps fire their passion and faith to new heights. No matter what the Zenith Solar fights for, he fights for it with every fiber of his being, never quitting - no matter what.
"Your fist is the fist that will pierce the heavens!"

Their anima effect, I always thought was one of the niftiest; the ability to burn up a body into ash with a touch, and send the soul on to reincarnation. In a world where hauntings and vengeful hungry ghosts exist, this gesture alone can enamor a character with an entire population who fears the dead. They also have a strange energy blast-type power to do aggravated damage to creatures of darkness, which seems a little out of place so far, and the 2e boost to soak against attacks from creatures of darkness seems more appropriate to the endurance-slant of their abilities. They also get the Dawn's anima effect against creatures of darkness, which is handy as creatures like the undead are immune to the Dawn's fear-based power.

Zenith's Quote said:
The stars and the prophets
have long foretold a day
when the forces of righteousness
would come vanquish
that which is wicked.

I have come in from
the wilderness to tell you -
that time is now at hand.
The Twilight Caste attempt to break the stereotype of physically-deficient wizards by pointing out that their concepts include scavengers and engineers who take a hands-on approach to acquiring knowledge and expertise rather than reading books endlessly.

Exalted 1e core said:
When the Solars were overthrown, many of the Twilight Caste gave their lives in the defense of their brethren. Those who survived the initial betrayal spent their last days seeking to hide their lore and artifacts from the traitorous Dragon-Blooded, that the Solars might come into their power again, in some future Age.
A nice alternative to the tired old "Found my daiklave in a tomb!" backstory, is the hidden stockpile assembled by your old Circle's Twilight!

The Twilight anima effect is a damage reducer once soak has been applied. I could see it working for a sorcerous-engineer whose experiments and spell crafting can cause backlash or unhealthy explosions, if you wanna play Wile E. Coyote in Exalted. Otherwise it just seems out of place and more fitting for the Dawn or Zenith.

Twilight's Quote said:
You would enslave
these people with ignorance
and keep their minds small
and their lives miserable
in order to fatten
your own belly.

I cannot abide such wickedness
and come bearing the light
of learning for all
who wish to see.
Night Caste features pants!Jade again. Harmonious Jade's character design is my favorite out of the original five signatures; I don't even mind her later pantsless design, even if boobplate is a minor pet peeve of mine.

Exalted 1e core said:
Concealing Shadows frequently become the Circle's eyes and ears, gathering information for the good of the group. When a situation calls for unconventional solutions, it is the Night Caste that the Circle often looks to for leadership.
It's kinda odd that given their status as scouts and informants, Nights don't get Investigation. Unless Awareness is supposed to fill that role, but that just creates confusion as to what the difference is between the two...

Their anima effect allows charms to be activated with Peripheral Essence at double cost in order to not flare the Solar's anima. This is quite costly compared to the second edition's +1 cost to non-Obvious charms, but I guess at this early stage constant charm use wasn't seen as being so prevalent as it came to be. They also can increase the difficulty to notice them by 1 for 10 motes a scene, a bit of a costly bonus but if you have to sneak you might as well use what you have. Hope you don't have to spend that from Peripheral though or you'll be out almost your whole pool.

Night's Quote said:
Hide your wickedness
behind closed doors,
skulk beneath the earth,
even conspire in the land
of dead if you wish -

it will avail you not.

You may conceal your evil
from the light of
the Unconquered Sun,
but you cannot evade his eyes.
Last is the Eclipse Caste, one of my favorite castes and I think the most important caste edition to the game. Everyone else fits the typical loner adventurer stereotypes of fighter, cleric, wizard, rogue, but the Eclipse caste's existence makes a strong statement that the game is as much about building connections with the setting. Whereas most games are contented with you making it on your own personal power alone or maybe gaining direction by joining an organization, Exalted expects you to eventually run said organizations, and actually change world relations, trade routes and alliances.

Exalted 1e core said:
When the Solars returned, the world witnessed the first solar eclipse since the Terrestrial Exalted took power. Now, the Eclipse Caste has begun the difficult process of reunifying the world. With diplomacy and trade routes, the Crowned Suns forge links between distant people and places, binding groups together into something greater than the sum of the parts.
I can't get over how phenomenal that is. Imagine if the real world had not seen a solar eclipse since the time of Ancient Greece, and then one occurred just five years ago. Damn near everyone who pays an iota of attention would be freaking out, unable to parse what it could mean. That is genuinely epic in a subtle way, rather than a huge blockbuster anime budget fireworks eclipse involving summoning Bahamut or whatever.

The Eclipse anima effect requires being party or witness to an oath, and flaring the anima as the oath is sanctified, preventing any party from breaking it lest they suffer a horrible curse. I like the handling of it as a series of botched critical rolls, and is a clever way to keep a mythic tone where oaths are held sacred above life and duty.

Eclipse's Quote said:
I negotiate in good faith,
and you respond with treachery.

Sadly for you,
I have learned to anticipate such duplicity.
Even if you survive the wrath of my Circlemates,
you must answer to Heaven as well.

Next is a summary of Attributes, characteristics everyone has to varying degrees like strength, intelligence, charisma, etc. These are the standard Storyteller fare and a pretty good spread, though I've always had trouble telling Perception apart from Wits. I really like how each Attribute gets a summary of each 1-5 dot. Not only does it make it easier to pick dots, it helps imagine what Attributes to use in a dice pool.

Virtues are the main personality trait, and represent both positive ideals and negative obsessions.

Exalted 1e core said:
The world of Exalted is a world of driving passions and dark emotion. Heroes leap into battle with glorious abandon, and lovers dare the very gates of death to be reunited with their beloved. Harsh kings see thousands die of warfare or starvation so that their people may survive, yet weep openly at the death of their favored concubines.
This really sums it up nicely the sort of extreme behavior the Virtues are meant to encourage. We also see here how we might get scenarios like the fiction piece with Dace and Ma-Ha-Suchi, where Dace's Valor compelled him to ride out and meet the Lunar alone that he may settle things, even if the rest of the Circle felt otherwise. When you get right down to it, people in myth often do some extreme things and feel extreme responses.

Like other Traits, Virtues are rated 1-5. Spending Willpower lets you gain bonus dice on a roll by "channeling" the Virtue.

In contrast, any Virtue of 3+ compels behavior in line with it. Should they try to act contrary, the player rolls dice equal to the Virtue, and any successes means they must act on the Virtue, or spend 1 Willpower to suppress compels for the scene. Unlike in 2e, Solars gain 1 Limit from suppressing any Virtue, not just their flawed Virtue.

I like how the system is predicated on acting contrary to the Virtues, not constantly checking if you're capable of acting. They could have had it so you must roll Valor to stand and fight against all odds, or Compassion to save a life at the expense of hiding. Instead, you can do all that with Valor or Compassion 1 no problem. It's NOT acting in accordance with a Virtue you put 3+ dots in that the system comes out of the background, and I think that's as it should be.

The one flaw may be that Virtue 2 doesn't really do anything, other than make it easier to buy that Virtue up later. It seems you're encouraged to
have 1s or 3s more than 2s, yet putting a 2 in a Virtue seems like a missed opportunity for a 3 elsewhere, since descriptions treat a Virtue unworthy of being channeled as a deficiency (see Valor 1's description "Puling coward".) Still, as Virtues are the only major personality trait (and Intimacies weren't until 2e) they serve as a general guideline to a character's strengths and impulses if you treat the Virtues broadly enough.

Related to Virtues is the Great Curse, the curse placed upon the Exalted by the slain Primordials. Earlier in the introduction chapter I commented how the concept of "Irritated Essence" was brought up once and never mentioned again, however one poster had this to say:

This is the IC description of Limit Break, and something that, from my observation of "internet Exalted", is always neglected - the Great Curse being unknown seems for many people to translate into Limit Break being some unknowable imponderable.

Ever since I first read the passage, I've liked that Limit Break is considered a madness caused by over-use of Essence - among other things, it gives a player group interested in a "Ameliorate the Great Curse" a hook on which to start their quest IC...
This is a fantastic idea, and a great way to talk about the Great Curse in anything other than meta voice, which is how it's always discussed in the books. It could lead to interesting superstitions amongst the Exalted about not using Essence unless necessary.

The way the Great Curse works is simple; pick a 3+ Virtue as flawed, pick a Virtue Flaw to go with it. When it's Limit Break condition comes up, roll that Virtue's rating and add successes to Limit track. If you hit 10 Limit, reset it to zero, but the character suffers Limit Break, acting out their Flaw for a scene or longer, and gaining Willpower equal to the Virtue (the only time your Willpower can rise above 10).

The spirit of the Flaw makes sense; there are extremes of behavior that go beyond simply upholding a Virtue and actually turning a character towards ruin. However while you're free to pick the Virtue and condition, the specific timing is somewhat out of the player's hands, and this can be problematic in game. In a way that's the spirit of the rules; Solars will face great triumphs and devastating setbacks, though having said setback randomly inflicted on you may prove frustrating. I'm personally interested in what third edition has in store for the Great Curse. To quote the developers:

Holden said:
The Great Curse is much more flexible, situationally nuanced,, and Storyteller-adjustable than before---- rather than "you will periodically flip out and kill your friends because they were out of Rocky Road at Ben & Jerry's"
One way I'd like to see it is having the option to bleed off Limit by acting up the flaw for a single Virtue compel. This gives the player some control of how high their Limit gets while still giving the flaw a real impact.

Also page 132 has a badass art piece of a boy (maybe a traveler?) punching a slaver who's been whipping a slave on the ground. Very nice, and helps illustrate how Virtues can create interesting situations.

Abilities covers the full list of 25 (well not quite, see Craft later) Abilities and offers example difficulties for each. Strangely here there is a -2 penalty to attempting a roll with a 0 in an Ability, whereas by second edition this rule is completely ignored by Exalted characters.

Some of the difficulties seem to confuse increased difficulty with increased penalties. For example the Legendary Archery difficulty describes shooting an apple off someone's head at 50 yards with a warped arrow, at night. Yet I'd think the deficient arrow and night time would be penalties to the task of shooting an apple. Still, it goes to show how they can be interchangeable I guess.

First Edition's Craft is actually a collection of related Abilities; when you take Craft you define what type of craft it applies to, like blacksmithing or farming or gem-cutting or... yeah I know, sounds like specialties right? Actually this type of Craft was very common in RPGs of this time, even D&D 3e had not only multi-Crafting, but multi-Perform (by instrument), multi-Profession (by job), and multi-Knowledge! Exalted was being revolutionary by having omni-applicable Melee, Performance and Lore by comparison. And at least if you Favor Craft, you favor any that you take.

This is why when 2e rolled around people widely praised that it had "only" 5 broad Crafts, even if the divisions didn't always make sense (why was cooking Water and not Fire?) However for third edition I imagine the new Merit system would handle learning multiple Crafts, perhaps even weapon proficiencies. But that's just speculation.

Linguistics is also kind of odd, as each dot grants you understanding of an additional language group, yet there's no way for a character to know ALL languages as there are more groups than you can get in dots! Also you need a specialty to have poetic mastery of your non-native language, so Fardin is gonna need to pick up specialties if he wishes to be expressive in more than Riverspeak. I have to say I can't think of many other games that take one's eloquence with language seriously.

Finally we have Backgrounds, your connections with the setting essentially. Having allies, mentors, followers, artifacts, etc. It's strange that some Background specify taking them more than once (Backing but NOT Allies) while others do not, implying you can only ever start with 5 dots worth of Artifacts (in that case shouldn't the Background be called Artifacts and not Artifact?[/nitpick]). Also, Followers offers a dinky number (100 at Followers 5) but also doesn't require you take other Backgrounds to babysit them, as they're stated to be skilled and able to take care of themselves. Finally, there is at least one useful barometer for Storytellers to decide when it's appropriate to send the Wyld Hunt; when a character hits Influence 4. This encourages players to start with low Influence and build up their power base before moving whole regions under their banner.

Willpower is your inner drive and emotional stability. Interestingly, Willpower gets a brief description for each dot, 1 to 10 (Fardin is "Confident" by the way). It is sort of like a personality trait, but not really as more is always better. It's spent to add an extra success to rolls, as well as resist instinctive responses and mental powers. Finally, if you run out you face a Compulsion, where you act out your Nature. That makes more sense than acting out a Virtue in my opinion.

Finally there is Essence, motes, recovering motes, and the Anima Banner. I love using the banner in fun ways; it almost always produces a dramatic reaction, as mortals flee in terror or look on in awe as they've likely never seen such a thing in their lives, and the bleached and faded areas left by a bonfire display sometimes become holy sites of worship.



Next time we'll get into the Charms and Sorcery chapter!
 

Yama Dai O

Retired User
First up is the Dawn Caste. One passage in particular stands out:


This marks yet another instance where the Solars are described as having entered the Underworld upon being usurped. At this point there is no mention of indivisible motes of power called Shards carrying exaltations, so it seems that for now, returning Solars can be interpreted as literally reincarnated, their souls passing through the Underworld carrying the potential for power that manifests at exaltation. It could even provide an alternative explanation for the arrival of Abyssals; in their unprecedented journey through the Underworld, some of them came back wrong...
Waah, stop deprotagonising the supercool Deathlord GMPCs! :p

The Dawn anima effect costs 10 motes to appear terrifying and large for a scene, which forces enemies to make Valor checks or take a -2 die bonus for being unable to look at the character. It also forces most natural animals to flee in terror, which is nice when natural animals includes things like saber toothed tigers and dinosaurs. The biggest criticism has always been that this power doesn't work on anyone whose Valor equals or exceeds your Essence rank, but considering the points we had to work with for Virtues, it's implied that high Virtues are exceedingly rare in Creation, with most conscripts having Valor 1 and even seasoned soldiers having Valor 2 or 3. So it works as crowd control, which fits with the Dawn's theme of being masters of the battlefield; if you can cause half the army to flee and a quarter to fight at a penalty, it's no wonder they led the charges.
Don't worry, the Dawn anima power is nerfed by the mass combat system in the Player's Guide published late in the first edition epoch, just when it was about to be useful. Whew!

Each Caste also includes a flavor quote:
The Caste quotes are really, really good, especially compared to the blandish ones in 2e.

Abilities covers the full list of 25 (well not quite, see Craft later) Abilities and offers example difficulties for each. Strangely here there is a -2 penalty to attempting a roll with a 0 in an Ability, whereas by second edition this rule is completely ignored by Exalted characters.

Some of the difficulties seem to confuse increased difficulty with increased penalties. For example the Legendary Archery difficulty describes shooting an apple off someone's head at 50 yards with a warped arrow, at night. Yet I'd think the deficient arrow and night time would be penalties to the task of shooting an apple. Still, it goes to show how they can be interchangeable I guess.
The Traits chapter is traditionally somewhat misleading in WW books, because if the authors of the Traits and Systems chapters ever meet and talk to each other, they will annihilate the universe in an explosion of anti-logic.

Finally we have Backgrounds, your connections with the setting essentially. Having allies, mentors, followers, artifacts, etc. It's strange that some Background specify taking them more than once (Backing but NOT Allies) while others do not, implying you can only ever start with 5 dots worth of Artifacts (in that case shouldn't the Background be called Artifacts and not Artifact?[/nitpick]). Also, Followers offers a dinky number (100 at Followers 5) but also doesn't require you take other Backgrounds to babysit them, as they're stated to be skilled and able to take care of themselves. Finally, there is at least one useful barometer for Storytellers to decide when it's appropriate to send the Wyld Hunt; when a character hits Influence 4. This encourages players to start with low Influence and build up their power base before moving whole regions under their banner.
Yup, the Backgrounds are rather variable in utility and power, the best being Artifacts and Manse (which I won't comment on until you get to the Panoply chapter), the worst one probably being Familiar (take 5 and you get a smart wolf, wooo).
 
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