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What Makes a Good Exalted Novel?

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  • What Makes a Good Exalted Novel?

    With the first of the Solar novels coming out this week I kind of wanted to know what the community thought made a good exalted novel. Mostly two things, how much should it bend the rules, and how accessible should it be?

    For the first, for example, should people really familiar with the game try to stick to known charm effects, and in game rules? Or even, as one friend of mine who wrote for Black Library did, actually roll out encounters to see how they should go? The opposite extreme being totally abandoning some of the setting conceits or possible limitations where it suits a good story? I don’t mind doing a bit of the later even in my games but I’m not sure how far I’d like it to go in a novel, more or less.

    For the second point, do you think t would be better to write the novel as a kind of gateway to exalted, where some stuff is subtly explained to people who don’t know the setting very well? Or just make something that uses some parts of the setting but doesn’t really go into explainations past what’s really required, and let imagination fill in the gaps? Or even just totally abandon the idea that anyone is going out of their way to read an exalted novel who isn’t already a fan and just write as though they know most of the setting?

  • #2
    (Quick caveat, I haven't had time to read the novel yet so my answers will be general rather than specific to Circle of Protection.)
    I honestly don't think you're going to get any people purchasing an exalted novel who aren't already a fan.
    And I know nothing brings me out of it personally like major setting confusion/things that make no sense. (True in any books I buy because I'm a fan of the source.)
    But I don't think that means you have to be caught up in details for that.
    For a book, I don't think rolling out encounters is a good idea; every scene should be done with purpose. When you're tabletop gaming, you want that level of random chance because it is a game. But books are about intention, and what makes a tabletop game fun can make a book a slog. No one wants a fight scene that doesn't actually progress the plot, character growth or both. It's a different form of writing altogether.
    That said, I think knowing the rules of the world and the effect of charms is important. You don't want it specified that a character is using Graceful Crane Stance, for example, but describing the effects (and possibly keeping track of a mote pool privately to know when they're at their limit) is fine.
    Otherwise it's really easy to slip into the Ready Player One name drop everything and that's 90% of the story syndrome.

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    • #3
      Always remember that the mechanics are a crude representation of the narrative that add randomness to challenges so the players don't just win everything. I'd be inclined to roll encounters because adding that randomness to the writing seems like a fun challenge, but it'd be unlikely to show in the text.

      The important part, I think, is that the plot should connect the characters to the world around them. The problems they're dealing with should be problems that they are personally and emotionally invested in, but that still touch upon the game's themes of imperialism and exploitation. Keep the scope too small and you're missing out on the potential. Make it to broad and the emotional investment and themes become too diffused.


      [Ex3] Why Gods Need the Exigence - Plot hooks for Exigent characters of various gods.
      [Ex3] Homebrew Solar Charms - I can see the future, and it is glorious.
      [Ex3] The Glass Library - My Exalted Third Edition Blog (Updated 24/04/2016)

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      • #4
        Yeah the encounter rolling was a pretty extreme example, I only brought it up because I actually know a guy who did that. He'd take out the rules for his Dark Eldar archon and roll out the fight against 4 imperial guardsmen for a plot, and then write that combat scene. I think if a miracle occurred and the archon lost the fight he'd re-roll it because yeah that'd make for a bad story.

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        • #5
          Every Exalted novel should include at least one description of the main character reacting to Avoidance Kata.

          Comment


          • #6
            If I'm reading tie in fiction, I want a good story that could legitimately take place in the setting as described in the game books. I don't need you to track motes or game things out or build character sheets or anything (though you may do that if you feel like it helps keep things consistent). I do want you to read over the books and get at least a basic grounding in the game and a decent idea of what the different types of beings are, what they can do, what the power struggles are, etc. I will complain if my knowledge of the setting gets broken, so please do your homework.


            ....

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Sith_Happens View Post
              Every Exalted novel should include at least one description of the main character reacting to Avoidance Kata.

              That reminds me, what's that weird chess game that's never depicted twice the same way?


              ..."But I've bought a big bat, I'm all ready you see. Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me"

              Message me for Japanese translations.

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              • #8
                Okay, quoting myself from one of the Other Moon versions of this thread.

                Originally posted by Lioness View Post
                It's necessary to point out that Black Library went through a lot of crap to get to its current standard. We need more examples of what a good Exalted story is before Onyx Path can hire freelance authors and turn them loose upon Exalted projects with only a general outline but I think to get to that stage we're going to have to get a lot more of what we saw in the Anthology.
                Spooky huh?


                The Freedom Stone is back

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Sorcerous Overlord View Post


                  That reminds me, what's that weird chess game that's never depicted twice the same way?
                  Gateway?

                  Originally posted by Lioness View Post
                  Okay, quoting myself from one of the Other Moon versions of this thread.



                  Spooky huh?
                  What Sidereal sorcery is this! That timeline never happened!

                  And yes, Black Library does a lot of interesting things right. One of the things they tend to do that I’ve seen is they can really bring the story down to a tight focus, and really easily blend the setting in to a story first, it’s something I envy being able to do. Like there’s one book, Baneblade, which could have easily been just a story of how awesome the super-heavy tank was, but actually a story about how the tank’s first officer was struggling with guilt over killing his cousin in a non-lethal duel, and all over an arranged marriage love triangle, and how he felt he had to go to war to atone for that sin. Then that story was woven trough the tale of a huge orc conflict that really felt grounded and showed off other sides of world like different personal superstitions that are separate from the imperial creed and how they interact. Then almost like a form of background radiation there’s the setting pieces that you’d expect like ork stompas and Nobs and such.

                  I’d really like to be able to do that, I think, but I’m not sure if it wouldn’t just play better to do some fan service.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I feel like a story could, and sometimes should, take some liberties with mechanics in service to the story. I'm not going to cry foul if a character uses athletics charms for longer than essence respiration would normally let them. Or if a young exalt uses charms of a higher essence than they should be able to, or whatever.

                    A story should not however, be relatively consistent with the setting as it is presented by official materials. Authors should think really hard before directly contradicting setting material, especially for the first few novels.

                    I'm writing and deleting paragraphs at this point, trying to make a point, but here it is in brief: I love the setting of Exalted. if I buy or read an Exalted book, I want a story that is set in Exalted, not one 'Inspired By', or only pays lip service to it. Those might be good books, but they are not what I want to read when I want to immerse myself in Exalted stuff.

                    Its like, you can contradict or play with the setting if you want, but do it because you have a story you want to tell that requires those changes, not because you are ignorant of the source material.

                    EDIT: To be clear, I have not read the book yet, and I look forward to doing so. I just hope it's a good Exalted book, not just a good fantasy book that reminds me of Exalted.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by DrLoveMonkey View Post
                      With the first of the Solar novels coming out this week
                      Plot twist, the Sidereals were never hiding in the Solars teacups but their novel all along!

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Alpharius View Post

                        Plot twist, the Sidereals were never hiding in the Solars teacups but their novel all along!
                        I was quite shocked myself. I guess it’s because it’s a corebook story technically and not a solar splatbook story?

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Alpharius View Post

                          Plot twist, the Sidereals were never hiding in the Solars teacups but their novel all along!
                          Sidereals hiding in their own book would be the most sidereal thing ever if Exalted didn't already feature a book that went back in time as a copy of itself.


                          ..."But I've bought a big bat, I'm all ready you see. Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me"

                          Message me for Japanese translations.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I've given this thread topic a lot of thought while working on GKB (albeit asking myself what makes a good Exalted webcomic rather than novel), and the conclusion I have come to is that I am ok with altering the mechanics or setting to suit my story, or retconning them to suit my errors (my knowledge of the setting is deep and comprehensive but not perfect). I am fine with trying to create my own moods or themes, and I have no problem creating new and sometimes major setting elements from whole cloth.

                            At the end if the day, a good Exalted story shouldn't just stay true to the setting. It ought to add something to it. It should create something people wanna steal and use in their own games. It should look at existing setting elements from new angles.

                            If it strays too far from the source material without consideration, it won't feel like Exalted, and it will fail. You need to know the baseline assumptions before you can riff on them. But it's a flexible place, Creation. It has room for heaven-shaking giant robot fights and quiet tea ceremony intrigue and cowboys fighting demons and gritty military war-is-hell stories and tragic romances and comedic lunar just-so stories...

                            As long as the author knows and loves the source material, it's probably gonna be fine- that's gonna shine through.


                            So I'm making God-Kicking Boot, an Exalted webcomic, now. Updates on Sundays. Full-color, mediocre but slowly improving art. It's a thing.

                            The absence of a monument can, in its own way, be something of a monument also.
                            -Roger Zelazny

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                            • #15
                              I definitely agree that the mechanics should be treated fairly flexibly. Trying too hard to stick to the systems of the game can honestly make something feel less... Exalted if it gets in the way of the cool stuff happening.

                              I also think a piece of Exalted fiction is good when it makes you go "oh man, I'd love to tackle a similar scenario in-game" and wonder how it'd shake out.


                              Abyssals: Whom Death Has Called, a PEACH-as-heck attempt to make an Abyssal 3E holdover.

                              Where I try to make Artifacts. When I finish them I'll probably post them in the Artifact Workshop thread so people can help me hammer them into shape.

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