System Comparisons

In my last post I forgot to mention my reactions to the system in general.

Exalted 3rd is definitely what one would call a “high crunch” system. It’s rules-heavy and has a ton of situations that each individual player needs to be watching out for (recharge conditions for charms). Multiple abilities have subsystems just for them, from Craft to Sail to Sorcery to War and others.

It’s generally well-written crunch. I didn’t see anything obviously broken on the first pass. You can generally get a lot of power for a short period of time, but you can’t just go into “god mode” even at higher essence ratings.

I’ve seen some comparisons to video game mechanics, and I think that’s accurate, even past the explicit “we based our combat system on a video game.” There are definitely charms, systems, and locations that feel more like a modern video game than they do like anime, or Tanith Lee’s books, or like Indian or Chinese mythology. Those influences aren’t gone, but they share the spotlight with God of War, Shadow of the Colossus, and superhero fighting games, among others that I’m probably missing.

Creation is large enough to contain many things.

Advertisements

Still Reading

I’m finally through the Charms chapter. God, what a slog. Without the visual aid of the charm trees, it’s really difficult to see how things fit together, and the way that the fluff and rules are interwoven makes it really hard to skim usefully. I kept pushing through, saying “I’m gonna read them all, dammit!” and then, after I finished, there were more charms (Martial Arts), and I just couldn’t bring myself to care about how cool they were. I was just done. I’ll read them another day; I skipped to Sorcery instead, which was much more interesting and nicely done.

My favorite charm set was Stealth; I thought there were some great applications of the concept that I hadn’t seen before. Occult and Lore were fun too. I’ve been submitting corrections where I find them, mostly on the larger level and less on the “you’re missing a space between these words” level because I know other people will find those just fine.

Now I’m working my way through the Antagonists chapter, which I think will be one of the most useful pieces for this particular project. I really like the essence cheat sheets and Excellency limit tables – nice, straightforward, useful information. The detailed charm writeups I could do without, but I’m also used to improvisation and to Exalted in general. Tell me someone can “guide their strikes with their essence” and give me the Excellency rules and I’ll figure it out from there, especially after reading the whole Charms chapter.

I’m hoping to get working on Red Jade Canyon again this weekend.

Halfway Through

I’m about halfway through the new Exalted corebook, chugging my way through the charms. I’m pretty happy with it so far. Some things are going to be tough in play, and others are going to be much easier than before. I can’t wait to get to the sorcery.

I’m also at five characters out of fourteen for Red Jade Canyon, so not quite halfway on that front. I have difficult writing really despicable characters sometimes (like Kellan in the Shores), so the current one is kind of tough… but then I have a brother/sister Dragon-Blood team that will be a lot of fun to write, so I’m looking forward to that. And to the Guild representative who is at least 20% used-wagon-salesman.

End of the Shores

…and that’s the end of our characters for The Shores. I’ve linked them all together so that you can jump between them more easily.

Just yesterday I got the backer PDF for Exalted 3rd Edition, which will let me write up some simple stats for these characters. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I don’t intend to give these characters complete charmsets, or even a full set of attributes. Instead, my goal is to give you the minimum amount of useful information from which to improvise, and try to avoid anything that could be contradicted by rules that come out years from now. Attributes and other ratings will be done in a simplified form. Magical abilities will have rough costs (cheap/moderate/expensive).

All of that will go into the previous posts, but I’ll also post a new notice here when they’re complete.

New character posts will come in about two weeks when I have more time to write up the people and gods of Red Jade Canyon. Yesterday I finished the writeup for Ieska, Goddess of the Ash Storms. If you thought Alambor’s behavior was too goody-two-shoes, Ieska will be an excellent and frightening counterpoint to him.

I’m also working on a PDF collection. This will likely be my first time using Scribus instead of InDesign, so there’s a bit of a learning curve, but we’ll see how it goes. My goal is to have everything edited and laid out, with art complete, so that this is ready for sale on the same day that Exalted 3rd comes out. Depending on how long that takes, I might get both this and Red Jade Canyon ready, but I won’t rush things.

Four Claws Red, Murderous Ghost

Background

Three years ago Tavar Vaspasian came to the Shores in search of a better life. Unfortunately, it was never to be. He was brutally murdered in a shadowlands north of Phaedros, his blood ripped from him by cultists of Serranos. Serranos saw potential in this act, and bade his worshippers conduct ancient rites that desecrated the young man’s soul. His hun rose from the bloodless body, angry and impotent.

Serranos kept this creature nearby, stoking its rage, enhancing its power, feeding it bits of the living and the dead alike. When he had worked his magic on it, the creature that was once Tavar’s higher soul was almost unrecognizable. Four Claws Red was born instead, and it listened to no one but Serranos.

Four Claws Red has been set against Serranos’ enemies in the hill-towns. Village witches that tried to bar Serranos or lay him to rest were torn apart. Guards who saw cults in operation were killed and dragged off into the woods. Four Claws Red is not subtle, so Serranos uses him as a weapon of fear.

In the past year, Four Claws Red has had only one target: Falqa Waspbane. She is often on the move, and while he has fought her three times, each time she has escaped before the fight could reach its conclusion. The first two times she assumed it was merely a hungry ghost; only during their most recent encounter has Falqa realized that she is being stalked by a single creature.

Appearance

Four Claws Red

Four Claws Red is a leering, grinning, wild-eyed ghost with dark skin and eyes. True to his name, his hands end in claws that constantly drip a glowing red. The resemblance between him and Otar is easy to see, though the way they carry themselves could not be more different.

Demeanor

Four Claws Red is one step away from being a hungry ghost. He has three modes of operation: restless waiting, utterly silent stalking, and the loud, vicious devouring of his victims. He speaks only when Serranos’ orders require clarification, or to scream angrily at his current target.

Intimacies: “I obey Serranos” (Defining), “I kill with joy” (Positive), “I will end Falqa Waspbane” (Negative), “I do not fear my end” (Major)

Abilities

Four Claws Red is a vicious hunting beast. He can smell blood at a distance of over a kilometer. He is a fearsome combatant, and every swipe of his claws brings him greater power, drawing essence from the blood that was once siphoned from him. Serranos has given him control over the void, allowing him to bend shadow and douse light, and over ash, allowing him to create choking gusts of ash-filled wind or to decay structures with a touch.

Supporting Characters

  • Alik Ten-thumbs, a victim of Four Claws Red who became a ghost himself. Fragmentary, accusatory, stationary.
  • Yuuken Jenash, who saw Serranos transform Tavar into what he is now. Fearful, stammering, on the run.
  • Ganango Carnelos, Four Claws Red’s handler when Serranos isn’t there. Boastful, daring, terrified.
  • Rika Folded-tongue, a village witch trying to stop Four Claws Red. Daring, cautious, powerful.

Questions

  • How many people know who Four Claws Red used to be?
  • Is there any way to return Four Claws Red to the ghost he used to be, or is it kinder to put him out of his misery?
  • What would Four Claws Red do if Serranos were killed?
  • How will Otar react to his brother’s plight?

Falqa Waspbane, Dead Hero

Background

When Amilar Valna arrived, she brought three score of veteran soldiers – “heroes,” as she touted them – to help clear the Shores of dangerous creatures. Falqa Waspbane was one of these. Like Valna, she does not discuss why she left the Seventh Legion, saying only that she swore an oath to House Amilar and cannot speak of it.

Falqa earned her name on the day she died, saving her queen from an enormous and terrifying wasp-creature. She was buried with the full military honors that Lookshy would have given her. She was not the first ghost to see her own funeral.

Falqa felt that she had dishonored her queen by dying in her service. For nearly a year she wandered the underworld of the Shore, unwilling to show her face. In the hills to the north she ran into a cult that worshipped Serranos, and she realized the truth – her job was yet unfinished. There was more she could do to protect her queen.

Falqa has constantly harassed Serranos’ forces, and come close to ending his existence once before being driven back by his honor guard. He doesn’t know her true identity. At this point, he has set Four Claws Red upon her for the past year and assumes that will be the end of it.

Ilsadoth knows who and what Falqa is, but not who she’s fighting. He just knows that she helps to keep down the hungry ghost population, and he approves of that, though he has encouraged her to move on to reincarnation. She refuses, convinced that she must earn Valna’s approval once again.

Appearance

Falqa Waspbane 500

Falqa has angular eyes, thick eyebrows, and a small but prominent nose. Her black hair is pulled back in a bun. She wears bright, colorful clothing when interacting with other ghosts, and dark hunter’s garb when in the wilderness. In both cases, a shirt of well-made chain is beneath.

Demeanor

Falqa was trained as a soldier in one of Creation’s finest traditions, and it shows. She’s stoic, orderly, and honorable. Stress rolls off her back like water off a duck. She’s a curt and direct commander, but not without sympathy – she knows that overworked soldiers lose battles.

Drawing Falqa our from this persona is difficult. The dead tend to stay who they were, and Falqa’s time as a professional soldier made a long-lasting mark on her. The fact that she does now in death what she did in life only reinforces that.

Intimacies: “I will see my queen safely to her end” (Major), “Duty binds us beyond death” (Defining), “Ilsadoth is an honorable man” (Positive), “I will end Four Claws Red” (Negative)

Abilities

Falqa is a powerful ghost with a firm control over her own essence and years of fighting experience. She is comfortable with a spear, bow, and knife, but primarily uses a long jagged obsidian blade named Frozen Wave, from which she draws deadly power. She’s a well-trained tracker, with sharp senses and quick reflexes. She’s not introspective.

Frozen Wave holds several powerful evocations that Falqa has learned to draw forth. Despite the effort of learning these, she much prefers them to the arcane powers that ghosts more typically employ. Frozen Wave enhances her fighting prowess, allowing her to cut into armor, slice through inanimate objects, send arcs of concussive force through the air, parry elemental or essence-based attacks, and create a devastating shockwave that throws her opponents in all directions. The sword’s power becomes stronger the longer she fights, but at a certain point that wave of power breaks, leaving her weakened until it rebuilds.

Supporting Characters

  • Rona Stonehands, the smith who forged Falqa’s mask and repairs her armor. Businesslike, testy, secretly romantic.
  • Utina Fire-eyes, a blind ally of Falqa’s who knows the secret of appearing in Creation during the day. Coarse, compassionate, frustrated.
  • Sperdan Quickstrider, one of Ilsadoth’s scouts who brings information to and from Falqa. Curious, quick-witted, professional.
  • Mehela Rumino, rival to Falqa, another of Valna’s heroes who ended up a ghost. Coarse, forceful, demanding.

Questions

  • What bonds hold Falqa to the underworld? Why has she not yet passed into reincarnation or oblivion?
  • What happened between Falqa and Rumino that made them contest against one another in the afterlife?

Iselsi Umon, Agent of the Realm

Background

House Iselsi’s fall from grace is well-known across Creation. Their current role is not. Iselsi Umon fits that role to a T. She is a clever, ambitious, gifted daughter of the dragons who, partly through her own actions and partly through circumstance, is on the final mission of her career.

Forty years ago, Umon was an Immaculate monk and a member of the Wyld Hunt. She had been told from a young age that her family was counting on her to restore their honor, and the pressure of that led her to train hard in the martial arts. Her fellow monks felt that she had overcome the stigma of her fallen house, and awarded her efforts with rank and respect. Not quite enough rank to keep her from the front lines of the hunt for Anathema, though – after all, disgrace is disgrace. Still, she managed to gain additional favor through the success of her hunt, and rose to command it.

All of this came crashing down six years ago, when her Hunt found a nest of Lunars. Five of the Realm’s finest and most powerful, plus fifteen trained soldiers, against what should have been two honorless barbarians chosen by the moon. Umon allowed herself to be convinced into the attack by her overeager lieutenants. It should have been safe, or as safe as such things can be. Instead, there were five of the damned moon-children. When the smoke and blood was done, all five of them had escaped, and four of the Realm’s finest were dead on the floor – all of the Wyld Hunt but Umon.

Held in a cell, awaiting execution, she was approached by the All-Seeing Eye, the Realm’s intelligence agency. They gave her the opportunity to restore her rank, in time… if she were willing to do a few favors for them. Their training was swift, intense, and comprehensive, and she showed an unexpected aptitude for it..

Since then, Umon has served the Realm in a new way, reporting on kingdoms in Threshold and occasionally sending certain souls on their way to reincarnation. She comes to the Shores with a mandate to ensure that it could not be a beachhead for the Deathlords. Alimar Valna should ideally make her kindgdom a tributary to the Realm and agree to take steps to close the shadowlands. If not, her reign must end.

Appearance

Iselsi Umon

Iselsi Umon has the dark hair and eyes of the Blessed Isle. She has light skin and stormy blue eyes so dark they are nearly black – the one place that her elemental gift displays itself visibly. She commonly wears clothing that covers her from head to toe, revealing only her beautiful eyes.

Demeanor

As with most spies, few would suspect Umon of being a secret agent. She acts like everything that the Immaculate Order tells people not to become, and lo and behold she is popular. A few simple Charms conceal her true origin, and her role as Kellen‘s “flavor of the month” insures that her beauty is expected rather than surprising.

Umon’s greatest goal in life is the restoration of her honor and her house’s honor. She will do whatever she must to bring House Iselsi respect in the eyes of the other Great Houses. When others speak of the dragon-blooded, she is betrayed not by her expression or her words, but only in that she pays a touch more attention to the conversation.

Intimacies: “I will restore my house’s honor” (Defining), “The Realm is my home” (Major), “I follow the Immaculate philosophy” (Positive), “Those who derelict their duties imperil their souls” (Negative)

Abilities

Iselsi Umon is a skilled spy and martial artist. In addition, her essence flows through her in a dozen different powerful ways.

As a spy, she is a consummate investigator and undercover agent. She can track and shadow even wary individuals. Her memory, excellent since birth, has been sharpened and tuned to collect subtle details. On the rare occasions that she is discovered, she melts away like mist, leaving no trace of her presence. She is also capable of hearing conversations at great distances, and whispering to far-away allies on the winds.

Umon reveals her impressive fighting prowess only in situations where her true role will not be discovered. She is trained in the style of the Water Dragon, which she practices bare-handed. Umon is capable of dodging arrows, hurling opponents with the force of their own momentum, dissipating blows with her anima, escaping bonds and grapples, cancelling charms, stealing essence, and painfully reversing the flow of blood in a body. She is capable of perfect defense, though at painful cost to herself. All of these are still more costly to her now that she serves the Immaculate faith in name rather than in deed, but she has refined her essence for years and has power to spare.

Supporting Characters

  • Iselsi Honta, Umon’s contact within the All-Seeing Eye. Calm, analytical, distant.
  • Viia Cloud-hair, a servant of Kellan’s with whom Umon has made friends. Friendly, exasperated, curious.
  • Aphala Sea-Hair, Umon’s current cover identity. Flighty, demure, intense.

Questions

  • Does Umon know just how many Iselsi are still in places of power in Threshold? Does she understand the full extent of their ruse?
  • Was Umon set on this mission as a final punishment, or does the Realm truly not understand what’s going on here?