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Thoughts on Exalted (2 of 2)

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Here is the first bit, which I figured was actually two completely different commentaries on Exalted. Or at least my opinions on Exalted.

Needly to say, beyond the normal ideals of playing a game according to the published rules or playing based on what I think is fun, there are still aspects of Exalted that I find frustrating. Just like D20, I find most of the mechanics to be ad-hoc instead of based on a consistent system. I'm a bit too grounded into rules and guidelines, that I sometimes rail against things that don't appear to be balanced against each other. For example, the ease that a Solar gets a perfect and how easy it is for the players to frustrate the hell out of me when my villians can't even touch them because they negate everything. This ties into the idea that Exalted is about "being cool and slaughtering your enemies" though I'm lucky to get a good group that doesn't go for the hack and slash approach of things; not that I would run anything like that.

I like consistent rules. The way White Wolf appears to write their books is a rather distributed manner and I never got the impression they have a Mechanics Manager or a dedicated Setting Manager. I could be wrong, but I haven't seen one. Occasionally, they have charms that seem "right" but are fairly abusive, just as they have mechanics that most people wouldn't even consider taking. Sometimes they come up with entire systems that don't fit the "shape" of the rules already there. For example, the Mandate of Heaven rules (which I think are a cool idea), use Attribute bonuses in an entirely different way than the main book, any of the fatsplats, or anything else uses. My Scroll of the Lands approach was to use the same mechanics introduced in the main book instead of making up new ones. That is a case of "mechanical shape." If everything requires you to spend experience to get dots in Attributes, Abilities, and specialties, you should not have a small section of the game that lets you get dots in an Attribute by doing something every 3 months. Now, Scroll of Lands has a high chance of ultimately failing, mainly because I'd have to redo all the dominion stats to reflect the new ones (plus, no one really seems interested beyond myself and some effort on uteck and zenbodhi's part).

Dungeons and Dragons also had this problem, it has gone from the box sets to AD&D even to 3.5, the spells are basically following rules of thumbs and interpretations of other existing rules. Kind of like using precedent to create rules. It's a squishy topic that is very flexible (a major bonus) but harder for me to adapt without worrying its too powerful or too weak.

For these reasons, I like the Hero System. I also like Blood of Heroes but Hero System is much better designed. In basically version 5.5, it is a solid system based on a genre designed for min/maxing and specialization, but everything is based on a common system: character points. Powers are balanced against each other and you could probably do any setting in the system. However, I hate d6's with a passion (I prefer a d12 any day) and the speed system of Hero System is open to too much abuse (much like anything that gives -1 speed in Exalted or partial actions in D20, i.e. Haste). Speed should, universally, be the most expensive attribute in any game.

One time in my life, someone once told me that if I complain about something, the next thing out of my mouth should be how I would do it better. I took that to heart, even to the point of finally voting just to have the right to bitch about my president and congressman. In gaming, if you can't guess, I don't seem to be happy with an entire system, so I tried to create my own.

It was called Balance and I enjoyed it very much. It was fun creating it for nearly three years, playtesting monthly, and I had a ball. However, as the people on rpg-create mention, an object-oriented game system that treats everything as a playable character might be a tad too much for most people. It was the OO, but when I tried to make the game easier, it crumbled. Balance was not designed for simplicity, it was designed to do what I wanted it to. It was also complicated enough and I didn't have the follow-through to properly polish up the game.

So, given the fact I don't seem to like any game system, why do I play Exalted? More importantly, why do I enjoy running Exalted? As White Wolf probably knows, I play for the setting. Yeah, I'm not fond of the mechanics, but it is a really neat concept of a world, a fairly rich history that I find inconsistent but has a great deal of potential, and basically it is fun. I could just as easily run Exalted in Shadowrun, Balance, Hero System, or even Stick Figure RPG. However, to do that, I'd have to migrate the characters and stats over to a new system. That takes time and effort and, given it would take hundreds of hours, if I respect White Wolf's copyright, I couldn't earn really gain anything from it. I couldn't sell it, White Wolf wouldn't hire me to do it (I know there is a GURPS Vampire, but I think SJ Games had something I don't have... games). In that aspect, converting a setting to a different mechanic would take the energy to create something new for that mechanic, such as Itrifore into Hero System. I have some creative control over Itrifore and, frankly, fightertype would probably let me publish it if I did a good job. Yes, Exalted would work in Hero System or Balance, it's just not worth the time and energy. Don't forget the efforts for balancing, playtesting, and basically redesigning the world to fit the mechanics.

Like everything else, it comes down to a balance of desires. On one side, I'd rather have a hard mechanical system, on the other, I want to play in Creation and Exalted. The desire for a good mechanical system isn't as strong as my desire to play Exalted, therefore I use the system as designed. My players don't have to wait for me to finish with the world (why I'm not running Itrifore or Fedora right now) and wait for me to finish the rules (Balance). Instead, I can sit down with a nice published book, alter a few rules and a lot of setting stuff (as zenbodhi will probably attest to) and we got to playing.