The North rounds up the “Terrestrial Directions” books for Exalted, being (amazingly enough) a description of the North. Some of this material first appeared in the 1st edition Bastions of the North book, some is brand new… and even the old stuff has been revised quite a bit.
After the disappointing Scroll of Heroes, this is a welcome touch of quality. In fact, I’d perhaps rate this as the best of the “terrestrial direction” books; not that the others have been bad in any way, but the writing and ideas here are especially good. In addition, my own game happens to be situated in the North currently so there is a lot here I can use directly, lending to the interest factor (for me, at least).
Like in the 1st edition book, we get descriptions of the Haslanti League, Whitewall, and Gethamane, with 2nd edition stats this time round. No major changes have been made to any of them, though of course the slant of the 2nd edition Lunars book means that some things in Haslanti history have a different emphasis now. Gethamane is as cool and creepy as ever, and Whitewall contains some new detail about daily life etc. Very nice.
The new stuff includes detail on the Bull of the North and his dominions (finally!), along with some discussion on how to use the Bull in games, since he represents a quite unique facet in the game metaplot – an NPC party styled after a PC party, with potential for both alliances and hostilities. Some new regional power blocks are given here, some of them quite interesting. There’s a coastal Realm satrapy running on heavy and total use of slave labor, a small region known for a specialist hospital, a large Northern area aligned with the Lover… lots of cool new stuff. There’s also the normal listing of unique Northern NPCs and creatures, and some general discussion on Northern lifestyles. Like all the books, this one also contains mass combat stats and Mandate of Heaven stats for the various regional powers.
Very good book. Well-written and interesting 2nd edition writeup of a very interesting region in the the Exalted game world. If you’re running a game set in the North, you want this book. No question.
Generally, I’ve been liking the 2nd edition of Exalted a lot. Sure, the rules are a bit weird in places (I’d love a more functional social combat mechanic in the core, for instance), and the “crunch” of the game has more than a few errors and imbalances here and there. Still, we’ve lately gotten quite a bit of good errata on various Exalted stuff from White Wolf, and there are optional mechanics available to patch up (perceived) weaknesses in the core rules. Most importantly, the books for 2nd edition have been reasonably well-written and have contained tons of great game plot ideas etc. Some shoddy proofreading, the bane of White Wolf in general, has unfortunately always been a problem… but I’ve learned to live with that.
Well, every game line needs its clunker. To date, the low points have been Scroll of the Monk (with its ridiculously imbalanced “martial arts” paths) and the Dragon-Blooded book (with lots of charms that were obviously just cut+pasted from 1st ed and not given a proper think-through). And now there is this book, which unfortunately contains much more bad than good.
Scroll of Heroes is (in parts) a 2nd edition version of the 1st edition somewhat misleadingly named Player Guide. It contains rules for playing and running both “heroic mortals” and the offshoots of liaisons between men and gods, fae, demons and ghosts (the God-Blooded, Fae-Blooded, Demon-Blooded and Ghost-Blooded). It also contains Merits and Flaws, which can be used by any Exalted character. Sounds good, as such. But…
Well, let’s start of with the good. The beginning of the book (the “fluff part”) is pretty good. It talks about the game aspects of using mortals instead of Exalts, and how campaigns should differ. There is also some background given about the game world with respect to the various types of “mortals”. So far, so good.
Unfortunately, most of the rest of the book is crap. The Merits and Flaws are stupidly imbalanced; they are either totally useless (making you pay for abilities you had anyway) or are totally overpowered. Using these as-is in a game will seriously break things. And then we get to the rules for the various X-Blooded. Oh boy. Again, the “fluff” there is decent (mostly), but the “crunch” (i.e the actual rules) is horrible. The Charms again range from totally useless to totally overpowered (for a mortal character), and some of the mechanics given don’t even exist in this edition. It’s obviously a bad cut+paste job from 1st edition, by someone who either doesn’t fully understand the rules & setting, or who is under an overly tight deadline.
To add insult to injury, even some of the setting detail is.. off. Demon-Blooded are written to prefer “places of sin”, and to get mechanical benefits from that. Say what? Exalted demons do not work that way! In fact, Exalted demons are very, very different from “demons” in most other fantasy games, which is (imho) a bit plus. Sure, some specific demons might well revel in pain and suffering… but that’s far from being any sort of general trait. Here, the author clearly does not understand the assumptions of the setting. Places of sin, my ass.
Honestly, it might just be less work to write up your own rules for the X-Blooded than to use the mishmash given here. If you do decide to go with this, give the charm set a good read-through and be prepared to do some heavy editing… and really think twice before using the Merits and Flaws listed here.
I don’t say this about very many Exalted books, but: don’t waste your money on this.
As a companion book of sorts to the recent Infernals book, Malfeas details the “hell” of Exalted’s game world. It’s pretty cool. Some is updated versions of bits and pieces from 1st edition, while the majority of the book is new stuff. Like Exalted’s “heaven”, its “hell” is also very… nonstandard. While in many games hell and heaven are extremely abstract concepts, and if detailed at all are mostly populated by stereotypical and (honestly) quite boring inhabitants, Exalted is a game where the PCs can (and sometimes will) go to either and kick some ass – or at least get a chance to state their case and be heard by important entities.
Exalted’s “heaven”, Yu-Shan, is a magnificient bureaucracy gone mad, “led” by gods totally addicted to their Games of Divinity… in other words, actually run by and mostly for a vast army of celestial “civil servants”. Meanwhile, “hell” is actually the body of one of the defeated Primordials (now Yozi), Malfeas. Banished from Creation and forced to become part of the prison for himself and others, his rage is vast and endless, and sometimes he grinds parts of himself together in frustration – killing scores of inhabitants in the process. One of his souls, Ligier, lights everything with a harsh green glow. Another Yozi, Cecelyne (the Endless Desert) surrounds the Demon City of Malfeas in all directions (and dimensions). There is no way out, even for Cecelyne herself… unless someone or something summons from Creation, in which case the summoned entity must walk across the vastness of Cecelyne for 5 days, arriving just in time for the summoning. Time is not quite linear in this realm, and causality laughs at you.
The Ebon Dragon plots the doom of Creation while making plans for his upcoming wedding, while Adorjan, the Silent Wind, whispers across the city bringing silence and killing everything in her path. Hence, there is noise and music everywhere, in an effort to keep her out. Sometimes it even works. Kimbery, the Sea that Marched Against the Flame, laps her acidic waves against Malfeas and whispers to her demonblooded children in Creation, while She Who Lives In Her Name dreams of finally bringing order everywhere. Order of the static and final kind.
It’s not an evil realm as such (just like Yu-Shan is not exactly “good”). What it is is very, very alien. Sure, most of the Yozis would love nothing more than to escape their prison and to bring unending death and destruction to Creation… but they have been imprisoned for millenia. Cabin fever can be a bitch, especially for alien gods.
It’s a good book. It provides fun detail on lots of things, from the Yozi to their lesser souls and servants, to general life in the demon realm. It continues the line of keeping Exalted’s demons more alien than plain “evil”, which I personally like a lot. “Evil” is boring. “Alien” has a lot more story potential.
This is an interesting book. So far, most of 2nd edition Exalted has concerned itself with providing 2nd edition updates of stuff that existed in 1st edition. Sure, there has been a lot of (good) extra material thrown in and lots of nice improvements, but still…
Infernals is the first major addition to the line that has no counterpart in 1st edition (other than by brief mention and hints). As can be guessed, the book describes the “Infernal Exalted”, the Exalt shards given to the Yozis in exchange for some… favors back in the world history (I’m trying to avoid too many spoilers here). There aren’t very many of them, but they are potent and quite delicious opponent material. As with all the Exalted major hardcovers, this book makes the Infernals playable as PCs. However, it’s likely that the major use for this book will be as an antagonist NPC creation toolkit.
Contrasting this book with Abyssals is a fun exercise. While at first glance the Infernals and the Abyssals may seem similiar, they are actually worlds apart in style and motivation. Abyssals serve their masters in trying to destroy the world, to push it over the brink into Oblivion. The Infernals, on the other hand, do not want to destroy the world. They want to ruin it, to make it as much like Hell (Malfeas) as they can. Why? That would be a spoiler. Where Abyssals may relish in pain and torture “just because” and because it reminds them of the comforts of the grave, the Infernals use atrocities as a deliberate tool. Oh, and because they find it “fun”, in many cases – most Infernals aren’t exactly 100% sane, and most are just plain evil at this point. The Infernals go through a nasty process in order to be “born”, and one that is designed to strip away any vestiges of morality they might have had.. The Yozis give “their” Infernals much more leeway than the typical Deathlord gives his/her Deathknights… but the leash does exist, and getting a tug on it is not pleasant.
On the power scale, the Infernals seem more or less on the same level as Solars. In other words, damn strong. They are also not as crippled in Creation as Abyssals are, not to mention the Fair Folk. This makes them extremely dangerous. However, the fact that they typically want to operate “under the radar” (because of Heavenly retribution, among other factors) and the fact that they are simply very few in number make them quite balanced. At least in theory.
An interesting facet of the whole thing is that each “splat” of Infernals serves a specific different Yozi. This gives them a concrete reason for being very different and for having extremely varied operational modes, and it also opens up an avenue for expanding the lineup if the GM wants to. Very nice. Kudos must also be given to the mechanical side of things… since the Infernals are meant to act in typically “villanous” ways, they have been given various mechanical bonuses to encourage such. For example, an Infernal may get a bonus if he/she actually acts like a typical James Bond villian (prepares elaborate deathtraps, gives long speeches describing her Ultimate Evil Masterplan, etc). To be sure, this is not the first time Exalted does this; the idea that game mechanics should try to encourage a certain “style” is an old one and has existed from the get go in the game line (“stunts”, “limit”, etc). Still, I found the mechanics here to be especially fun and suitable for creating a certain type of Evil Bastard for your PCs to face.
I’d say this is a very good addition to the Exalted lineup, and having yet another canonical group of bad guys to throw at your players is never a bad thing. Especially since this group is wonderfully colorful and bizarrely motivated.
And then there is that certain upcoming wedding, which has everyone just shivering with anticip..p…pation…
Fun to read Exalted material that I wasn’t too familiar with before. Sure, 1st edition had the Fair Folk, but that’s one of the (few) 1st ed books I haven’t read – so while I cannot compare this new incarnation with the previous one, it was an interesting read with lots of new info (for me, that is).
So, Graceful Wicked Masques updates the “Fair Folk” (or Raksha, at they call themselves) to Exalted 2nd edition. First off, I love that they used the “Graceful Wicked Masques” title; as far as I understand, it was the working title for the 1st ed book but they decided to scrap it for the more mundane “Fair Folk” at some point. Fans objected, and now it’s the main title of the new book. This is a hardbound “exalt” book in the fashion of the previous books, so while the major use for this book will no doubt be in fleshing out NPCs, creating Fair Folk PCs is quite possible… if not exactly easy, due to the alien nature of the Fair Folk. The implications of this are discussed in the book.
To people coming from other games: the “fair folk” of Exalted are far from “elves”/”fae” in most other games. These are alien creatures who don’t really strictly exist as such; in “pure” form they are just matrices of Essence (energy) with one of more “feeding maws”… which can eat things like memories, feelings, and your will to live. In order to come over to Creation they need to create a physical “shell” for themselves, but that (often beautiful) apparition has nothing much to do with the real creature. Or it does, since most Raksha create shells which embody concepts which they are associated with – and concepts & drama is what the Raksha live on. In a way, they are imaginary, brain-sucking LARPers from hell. They wear their virtues as physical objects, and are absolute lords over their domain in the Wyld. In Creation… they are still dangerous, but more limited. As alien as they are to humanity, they are also alien to their original kin, the “unshaped” Raksha dwelling in the chaos of the Deep Wyld. The Unshaped, now, are again something different and bizarre. More intelligent “locations” (to use the word losely) than single creatures, with shattered multiple souls, they bear some similarity to the Yozis… without the malignant history found there.
Exalted “cosmology” is both surprisingly internally consistent (for a high fantasy game) and complicated. The Fair Folk form part of the more complicated section, simply due to what they are. In case your brain doesn’t start to overload from trying to understand the “base” Fair Folk and how they operate, we also have the Shinma. What they are… is anyone’s guess. Some of them form critical junction points “between” the Wyld and Creation, but other than that… hard to say. One Shinma is a gate through which a Raksha can recreate itself in a form suitable for Creation… but it’s not quite that simple. And it’s not a “gate” in a physical sense.
So, like I said, complicated. I’m not complaining, since the convoluted nature of Exalted metaphysics is one of many the reasons I like the game. I’m given to understand that this 2nd edition is easier to understand than the 1st edition, which is famous for RSB’s typical style of graceful but convoluted descriptive text. My brain is still complaining from trying to understand the Forest Witches from the 1st edition description…
This was an interesting book to read, and gave me lots of ideas on how to (better) use the Fair Folk in Exalted. I’ll have to re-read portions if I ever do anything more complicated with them, though, understanding things like Shaping Combat isn’t totally trivial. Or, to be more exact: I get the idea (I think), but would need serious think time to figure out how to run it in a game.
The reaction to this book has been pretty positive among people who have read the 1st edition version, so apparently this is another successful update book.
With The South, Exalted’s 2nd edition expands detailed coverage towards, well, the South. Before this, we’ve had to make do with the details found in the 1st edition books, where some regions like Ang-Teng and Harborhead received quite good coverage while others (Paragon, Varang, Lap) were left quite sparse. This book fixes a lot of those detail gaps, all major Southern regions and locations (Harborhead, Paragon, Chiarascuro, Varang, The Lap, Gem and Ang-Teng) get nice, long writeups. It’s good stuff too, the new info is largely very interesting. For example, it makes the Perfect of Paragon into a much more complex figure than I had previously supposed. I also liked the detail on how Lap society is organized. The end of the book gives us some 2nd ed stats for various creatures, some from the first edition and some new.
While the cover does show an action shot of Harmonious Jade escaping the destruction of Chiarascuro (by a Thousand Forged Dragon, it looks like), no such calamities are detailed here; this is a setting book, like the other “regional” books. Still, as everyone know the South is extremely unstable, and anything from the almost-inevitable destruction of Gem by one of a dozen antagonists to the aforementioned razing of Chiarascuro is quite easy to imagine. As always, Creation exists as a huge kitchen sink for the PCs to mangle as they will.
No complaints on this book. Solid information (some old reprint, some new), reasonably readable writing, entertaining inbetween comics. Very useful stuff, especially if you intend to run an Exalted game set in the South. Lots of good stuff here even for 1st edition games, since many of the regions detailed here have mostly just been mentioned in passing before.
While it’s a really cool cover by itself – and features an unlikely group of signature characters working together – it’s also a fun and very intentional homage to a certain “classic” rpg book from way back.
If you’re not getting the connection, try this link for a clue.
Scroll of Fallen Races updates two “lesser races” from Exalted 1st edition to the 2nd. These being the Dragon Kings and the Jadeborn (“Mountain Folk”, also known as “the dwarves of Exalted”). I haven’t actually read the 1st edition writeups on these, other than what’s in the Rathess book about Dragon Kings, so I can’t compare much to the previous version here.
Like the Black & White Treatises, this book is in dual flip-over format. Half the book is about one race, and then you flip it over and have the second half with a different cover. It’s a pretty nifty format, no complaints on that. The content feel like (and probably is) a compressed summary of previous information, with a large part of it dedicated to “crunch”; the Jadeborn get “Patterns” and the Dragon Kings get “Paths”, both being special forms of sort-of-charms. Both are much more limited than Exalted Charms, but both have their strengths. There are also rules for creating player characters of either race.
The races themselves aren’t bad. The Dragon Kings are probably the more interesting ones here, but the Jadeborn turned out to be more intresting than I had expected… they both are and aren’t typical fantasy “dwarves”. Yes, they do live underground and (at times) dig for ore… but their reasons for doing so and their society structure are very different from you base fantasy variant. In fact, one of the more interesting bits in here is what these creatures actually are… some possible story elements to be found these. Their endless war against the spawn of the Neverborn is also good stuff (though only limited details are given here).
While it does seem to contain all the required info, the book does seem a bit lightweight at times. There is reference to a pact between the Scarlet Empress and the Jadeborn, but nowhere is it specified what this pact actually says. In addition, the details on their Geas are a bit slim. I do get the impression that I’d need to read the 1st edition to get the full story. This lack of detail is of course a function of the page count, 160 total pages gives only 80 pages pre race, and when the bulk of that goes into charm lists and character creation rules… well.
Not a bad book, but the fact that it details two rare “secondary” races in Exalted does makes it a bit of a fringe one. If you only want to read background on these, I do get the impression that you’ll get more information from the 1st edition books (Player Guide for Dragon Kings, Alchemicals for Jadeborn). Of course, if you want 2nd edition stats for these, and/or want to use these for player characters, you’ll get your money’s worth here.
The East (wielding the full title of The Compass of Terrestrial Directions Volume 3: The East) is the latest “direction book” for Exalted 2nd ed, and one which I’ve been waiting for since my game takes place in the East (well, up North at the moment, but anyway).
It was worth the wait. While some of the info was just (re-statted) repetition of stuff in the 1st editon books, there is a lot of new stuff here – and some of the old bits have been tweaked in very interesting ways. While Halta is still the darling of the North-East, the Linowan have now been given a proper writeup… and one that doesn’t conflict too much with my own version, which is handy. The Bull of the North is only lightly mentioned here, he may be given more screen time in the North book. Or not, we’ll see.
The star of the show is the Chaya writeup. Where before we were given the (interesting as such) peaceful region where people go apeshit bugfuck nuts from time to time, now we’re given the reason why. And it’s good. And very, very creepy. Kudos to whoever wrote that; I think it was StephenLS but not 100% sure. Mount Metagalapa is also statted up in a useful fashion, as is the realm of Raksi, the Queen of Fangs (talk about bugfuck crazy part two…).
All in all, an excellent region book for the game. If you’re running a game set in the East, this book will give you tons of ideas. The only minus goes to the map in the beginning of the book: it’s worse than useless, and whoever did it apparently never read the book itself. Rubylak is set hundreds of miles from the river (while it’s clearly set next to it in the text, as in 1st edition). Raksi’s lair is set in the middle of the eastern rice paddies, instead of the middle of the jungle. And so forth. White Wolf seems to have a general hatred of exact maps, or even semi-exact ones. Maybe their developers think that maps don’t matter in a game like Exalted, but I find it hugely annoying. So skip the map. Read the text, it rocks.
Books of Sorcery, Vol. V - The Roll of Glorious Divinity II is, besides a tongue-twister title, a book of demons and ghosts for Exalted. It updates info about demons from the old Games of Divinity book into 2nd edition stats and adds the Abscissic demon summoning method (also updated) from Savant and Sorcerer. The second half of the book contains new rules and stats for ghosts, including rules for “Heroic” ghosts (though, bizarrely, it omits xp costs for those).
It’s a welcome update; I immediately included the new demon summoning rules into my own game (as of yesterday) – now those damn Blood Apes have to be kept entertained or they go…. apeshit. Or something. The writing is quite clear, though as always this 2nd edition lacks some of the fun flavor from the 1st edition books. Some of this may be due to reduced available word count per subject, which (while helping keep things clear) I feel is also one of the main problems with this book: there’s just too much crammed into here. I would much rather have seen the whole book devoted to the care and feeding of demons, since they are such a cornerstone of Exalted sorcery. Ghosts we’ve already had elsewhere, I would have stuck the text now found in this book somewhere else.
So… a good book, with welcome (and long-overdue) updates of 1st edition material to 2nd edition, but marred a bit by cramming a bit too much into one book and by having most of the book be just a repeat of material from older books. I’m hoping to see some more demon stats in other books down the line, now the book just gives the same list of demons that 1st edition had, with updated stats. Would be good to get some actually new stuff.
One new detail liked a lot: the “obscurity” rules for figuring out if a sorcerer has heard (enough) about a given demon type. Handy.