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Shards of the Exalted Dream
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Adam M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/30/2012 22:19:14
We've been waiting for this for a while. Space Opera Exalted? Modern Setting? COOL!

Of course, that's just half the scenarios we got, and we were left kind of boggling at the other half. But let's go step-by-step.

Gunstar Autochthonia: What if the Exalted _lost_? One of the core assumptions of the setting is overturned, and the fallout makes for a radically different game. The Sun himself has turned on his Chosen, Luna has fled with Gaia into space--yes, outer space--but the original Exalted types (Solar, Lunar, Sidereal, and Terrestrial) have escaped in the world-body of the Great Maker, accompanied by his Alchemical Exalted. One of the writers for the chapter cited Gurren Lagann as an influence, which I can see. Most other people cite Battlestar Galactica (practically given props in the title of the Shard), which I haven't seen and thus can't comment. But if a setting with Terrestrial fighter pilots and Lunar Exalted wearing the skins of interstellar behemoths doing battle with the armies of the Primordials sounds cool? Here you go.

Also, this chapter has a complete Infernal charmset for Theion, the Primordial king. If you wondered what Malfeas was like (or at least COULD have been like; the writers have gone on record that this isn't the definitive Time of Glory version of Malfeas OR Creation) once upon a time, the difference is...drastic.

Heaven's Reach: Our Space Opera. Whereas Gunstar Autochthonia set itself in a single world travelling across star-systems and centuries, the setting of Heaven's Reach is much, much broader. Once again, there is an empire straddling much of the known worlds. But rather than the Terrestrial Exalted ruling, His Divine Lunar Presence instead has taken the throne. A setting full of sufficiently-advanced science (in which the Yozis are planet-sized supercomputers and the Great Celestial Mountain--analogous to the Heavenly city of Yu-Shan--is a sort of intergalactic internet with the capacity for physical entry) makes for an interesting and well-thought-out setting, but out of the three detailed, this was ultimately the one to grab me the least.

Burn Legend: Did I just say three? But aren't there four shards?

Yes there are, but one of them is pretty much an entirely new game with a few trappings thrown in. This isn't to be wholly dismissive of this chapter; I have yet to give Burn Legend a spin, but it looks like a straightforward, simple system to learn. Aside from the most cursory elements, Burn Legend is all mechanics; it's Exalted: the Street Fighter RPG. Character types have trappings and oblique references to the extant Exalt types, but that's about it, and the system is so different from the standard that it has its own character sheet. It's very simple, and it doesn't try to be anything more; barring personal tests I'm inclined to say it succeeds at its goal.

Modern Age: In an alternative timeline, the Incarnae made the world, only to be assaulted by the wicked Yozis. In Creation's defense, the Exalted of the Sun and the Stars took arms against their attackers. Some among the Solar Exalted took on the powers of their enemies, only to turn on their fellows at the last second and claim the world for their own.

Fast forward centuries later. The Lunar Exalted were created, but arrived far too late to do any good, having fallen in servitude to the Infernal Exalted who now rule the world. Said world, despite being a plane floating in the sea of chaos, also has space, stars, planetary bodies, etc. It also has television, cars, planes, and all the accouterments of modern living.

Underneath the surface, though, the world isn't all sunshine and laughter. In some ways the world feels more like the World of Darkness that informed Exalted's development rather than Creation itself. The result is still _interesting_, though--see Ledaal Kes re-imagined as a suave James Bond-esque super-spy, and Panther's origin not as a pit fighter, but as something straight out of the movie Galaxy Quest--and with the Solar Exalted returning, the Terrestrial Exalted being a new development, and the Alchemical Exalted with a wholly new origin...the world is far from doomed.

Ultimately, this is the setting that grabbed my attention the most. It's fun, interesting, and the shout-outs to the standard Creation are scattered throughout.

Appendix: Let's face it. In space-age and modern settings, your characters may need to know how to drive, how to use a gun, and how to use a computer. And all of the above are here. There's also a couple other things: a way to handle Alchemicals in a world where they don't have vats to swap out charms; an alternative system for Abyssal Resonance which omits the elements of slavery and servitude while playing up the nature of the Abyssal as a killer; there's also a system for Sidereal Astrology which is greatly streamlined. It's no longer as powerful, but it's much less convoluted than the standard system.

******

All in all, this was a fun book. It explored several different takes on the game, did so well, and was worth every penny. My only real regret is a lack of art inside the cover, but it sounds like this is something endemic to the PoD format.

I'll deal, for things like this.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shards of the Exalted Dream
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Orpheus
Publisher: White Wolf
by Adam M.
Date Added: 03/06/2005 02:11:28
White Wolf made a name for itself with starytelling games that focused internally. Sure, a vampire could dominate the minds of men and women, move like lightning, and tear holes in walls with their bare hands. But they were still doomed by the rise of the Beast within them. The same pattern was followed in most of their other games, especially within the World of Darkness. Orpheus, although hypothetically set within the World of Darkness, is less about that. More important here is the external horror, for Orpheus is a ghost story about the ghosts. Fans of Wraith will see nods here and there, but even newcomers will find something to like. Orpheus is more about the external horror. Sure, your dark side can rise up and consume you and turn you into a spectre. But there are thousands of monsters outside to worry about, so the one within takes second billing. While I could laud the series for making a six book run that contained a game system, a plot, expansions, and potential to go on (and believe me, it's done very well indeed), for now I'll just harp on that first book: while the plot that the next five take is fun, it may not be everybody's cup of tea. For those people, the core book is wonderfully open-ended, setting a stage but not forcing things along like the later books do.

Read it. Enjoy it. Especially if you like horror movies, this book is wonderful. Whether you like Friday the Thirteenth or the Ring or Silent Hill, the potential will be there to do any number of the great and scary stories. Buy it. And don't look back.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Orpheus
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