Why I fell for Exalted

As I prepare for some exciting Vampire-related content, as well as new Raven: Swordsmistress of Chaos, I thought I’d talk about some of my current gaming.

Right now, I’m preparing an Exalted game for three of my players. I’m looking forward to it, since Exalted is a very different kind of fantasy from what I usually run or play, yet shares the pulp fantasy roots I draw from so often.

In going back to the first edition core book, I’m reminded of why I fell in love with the game in the first place. There’s a lot to love in that book, but I remember the first thing that jumped out at me — maybe the first thing I even read.

From page 204:

SPEED THE WHEELS

Through the use of this Charm, a character can cause a bureaucracy to accomplish a task in record time. An Exalted using Speed the Wheels causes the bureaucracy to work (her Essence + 1) times faster for the duration of a particular job. For example, a character with Essence 3 who uses the Speed the Wheels Charm to expedite an appeal tothe ruler of a city to use the naval dry-docks to repair her ship would be able to make the appropriate appointments and cause the proper papers to be read four times faster than normal. Note that this Charm simply speeds the process, it does not increase the character’s chances of success. Characters who wish to improve their chances of success should use Social Charms or Deft Official’s Way.

I was blown away. I had the general idea that Exalted were demigods who practiced a sort of all-powerful, glowing kung fu, but no one had told me that they had literal martial arts for cutting through metaphorical red tape. The whole idea of a secret art for every skill was tremendously cool, and it made me immediately want to play an Eclipse negotiator.

That’s the second thing that made me want to play Exalted. The Eclipse caste. Loosely equivalent to D&D’s bards, they were supernaturally proficient ambassadors, able to seal bargains in the name of the Sun. I’ve long held that the coolest moment in any Star Wars novel was in Heir to the Empire, when Luke discovers that, as a Jedi, people automatically look to him to resolve disputes. That’s what I had here — Solar Exalted were sword and sorcery Jedi, and actually had the powers to back that up.

Just like that, Exalted became the first fantasy game where my first character concept wasn’t a rogue.

Then I flipped back to the beginning and read the traditional White Wolf fiction. And I learned about Chiaroscuro. A city where the living live alongside the hungry dead, the boundary maintained only by lines of precious salt. For me, that evoked Zothique in all the best ways.

A world of incredible marvels alongside an incredible sense of loss and sadness, where titanic heroes were empowered for their potential to make a difference.

That sealed it. I had to play this game.

And that’s how I fell in love with Exalted, and why I’m running it now.

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