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The Realm

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  • I'll be back to reviewing shortly enough, but for the moment I feel prompted to say something I initially withheld.

    Originally posted by Dex Davican View Post
    Interesting. I'd intended to highlight the entitlement and alienation from the lower classes that players (who are often sympathetic toward underdogs) might need help wrapping their minds around.
    I've seen so many accounts of people who evidently need help wrapping their minds around the opposite. People who seem to think that casually levelling atrocities on bystanders is the default, if not a creative and competitive exercise.

    Then there's shit like this:

    I remember when my 3e game I ran met a mortal artist who painted an equivalent to the Sistine Chapel [except with the Dragons], they decided he had to secretly be a sidereal or some other exalt type, because clearly no mortal would be able to do something that well done. They then decided that this gracious host was clearly trying to kill them, and... murdered an NPC, entirely because they were convinced it had to be an exalt in disguise.

    It was just a mortal. I had a player [the one who decided to join battle and ambush the artist] get very mad at me for 'misleading them' by making a Mortal actually capable of something worthy of awe and wonder. I never once said that anything about the art seemed magical, when the twilight tried to us AESS she saw nothing magical anywhere around them, and they were still so convinced that just because I claimed it was 'some of the most beautiful art you've ever seen' it had to be something non-mortal. More than that, they assumed it was something non-Dragonblooded too.
    Something about reading that now shook me a lot more than the first time...

    I have approximate knowledge of many things.
    Watch me play Dark Souls III (completed) Watch me play Breath of the Wild (updated 12/03)


    • To be fair, I wonder how much of that is the fault of the setting/player expectations and how much is on the ST.

      Many STs, lacking the language skills and experience to speak otherwise, use "the most x you've ever seen" as shorthand for magical.

      If you routinely describe Exalted deeds as "the most x you've ever seen" because you're trying not to say "this is magic yo!" then you can't act shocked when the players suss what you're trying to convey to them.

      And yes, the idea that mortals can't do anything sucks, and it's good that 3E is moving away from that.

      But if a Solar artist is rolling 10+ successes and a mortal artist is rolling

      Hi, I'm JohnDoe244. My posts represent my opinions, not facts.


      • Excited, Realm is now shipping hardcover.
        Unexcited, shipping cost is more than the book cost. Holy crap. If only colour e-readers were a capable thing.


        • Neat, purchased!


          • Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post
            I'll be back to reviewing shortly enough
            Bumping this in hopes of persuading Isator to continue.

            Developer for Exalted.

            Want to write for Exalted? Look at the freelancer submission guidelines.


            • Originally posted by Eric Minton View Post
              Bumping this in hopes of persuading Isator to continue.
              I mean, it's just, ehhhh...

              I should be finished with Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice in the next few days, that should relieve my attention for this again.

              I have approximate knowledge of many things.
              Watch me play Dark Souls III (completed)
     Watch me play Breath of the Wild (updated 12/03)


              • Okay. Okay. Okay.

                My hard copy of What Fire Has Wrought arrived today, and it judges me; I can feel Kingfisher Swift's gaze deconstructing me from that place on the cover where she would be if it wasn't for it being a special edition. It will not do.

                So with that, and... demand from one of the book's developers, which I suppose qualifies as popular...

                Have to get a start now, so that there's a bit of motion to get those cogs going.

                But I'm a bit tired and still kind of lazy, so for now I'm just going to post up something that I wrote two months ago and left because I wanted it to be longer before putting it in. I think I can use it as a springboard.

                Well, my plans to be finished before the end of last week are scuppered. They probably weren’t realistic in any event, what with some of the remaining chapters being filled with new setting information, and being abroad to visit the parents… eh, I had no time. See what I can do from here.

                For now, a new chapter, starting with a repeat of the fine Blessed Isle map, and a fiction whose opening places a lot of emphasis on the sheer age of human habitation of the Blessed Isle, a scope of history that defies even the Exalted character inhabiting the locale. It’s funny, the moment before reading this I just happened to be perusing the Lore Charms, so it’s fitting to get this nice instance of a character feeling his way into the depths of a subject’s history through Essence.

                It's nice to see another Hearth show up, with a very distinct character from the one in What Fire Has Wrought, and a purpose rooted in the development of the civil war. I’m often fond of the idea that some Dragon Blooded might just casually levitate, so I like seeing it here, and how it’s an in-character basis for a character recognising the development of another’s Essence. I was enamoured with their scheming from the start (I often like the premise of characters sending in troops dressed in a deceptive manner to sabotage enemies while leaving limited traces, whether it’s Dune or Blackadder), but what I particularly liked was the dawning comprehension of why these particular Exalts are directing their efforts towards House Nellens, what with Sesus objecting on principle, Ragara disliking their financial independence, and Ledaal having an eye towards shoring up their own holdings by annexing their Nellens neighbours. What Fire Has Wrought focused a lot on alliances at the level of entire Great Houses, but it’s interesting to think that the lead up to civil war might be enhanced and complicated by a number of smaller scale alliances on the level of Kinships taking their own initiative.

                Heh, on a second read, I find the touch of how they’re toasting their own success by drinking wine from Juche to be particularly dickish and enjoyable.

                The scene makes for a nice art piece of the trio sharing their drink while a tapestry of Creation hangs in the background, it’s a good conveyance of the idea that for some Dynasts the Time of Tumult represents an opportunity to start feeding off of a vulnerable Creation (a nice match to the irony of the fiction’s final line). I like the character designs particularly; their clothing really accentuates that thing of Dynast fashions being impeccably made by not too ostentatious (Ragara Daja’s patterned black cloak in particular), they all look appropriately distinctive and mildly eccentric in their colouring (the braided green hair on Ledaal Marek is quite becoming, and it being complemented by his clothing really brings out the golden tint in his eyes), and I especially like how there’s a somewhat older cast to their features, which in context gives me an impression that Dragon Blooded in the prime of life don’t quite look eternally young as comfortably settling into a certain feel of agelessness. The piece has been done in that style prominent in this Edition that tends towards realism, but it’s managed to effectively reconcile that with the more outlandish and stylized qualities that one would expect in Terrestrial Exalted especially; there are a bunch of elements in each character’s design that are understated on their own, but they make one another pop in combination, so you’ve got somebody with a realistically proportioned face with clothing that looks as though it could exist, who still projects a feeling of being a magical anime weirdo. I like it a lot, and these might just supersede the designs of the signature Hearth in being my favourite realisations of Dragon Blooded.

                So then, chapter five, The Blessed Isle. I know that the book’s title addresses the fact that it’s covering the Realm as a whole, including the satrapies in the next chapter, but it still feels a little bit odd to see those words be a chapter title like that. Anyway, that introduction covering the manner in which the Isle constitutes an economic and spiritual heart to the world is nice, particularly the emphasis on how the old magics of the Exalted contribute to the land’s bounty, but it’s the third paragraph there that is the particular standout. The subject of the Blessed Isle’s ethnic makeup, both in terms of the apparent uniformity against its great size and the matter of how its original composition would logically have been a bit cosmopolitan, has felt like an overlooked topic to me for years, so I’m very glad to see it addressed directly. It’s nice to see the predominant ethnic group analogous to Han Chinese finally being given a name, and the explanation of their prominence amounting to “they happen to have been the biggest group following the Contagion” is effectively straightforward. I can read the line on the Wan being alongside other autochthonous groups in two ways; either that, much like reality, having settled in a place so many millenia ago (and under circumstances that might not have entailed displacing a pre-existing people) means that for all intents and purposes they functioned as the various indigenous groups of the Blessed Isle (albeit by now either heavily integrated into the majority or remaining as small pockets), or else that they… literally sprung out of the ground by grace of the Elemental Pole of Earth. Either technically works. In any case, it’s nice to have a few lines by which the appearances and practices of the Isle’s inhabitants might differ outside of the Scarlet Dynasty, and I especially like the added characterisation to the slightly more liberal coastal regions as home to various kinds of immigrant. And I take the last line to mean that the official policy of the Realm as that existing as its citizens effectively supersedes all previous divisions and affiliations, for good and ill (although I would imagine that some groups might experience some local prejudices and discriminations).

                Following that intro description of the spiritual significance of the Isle, I like being given a sidebar going into a bit more detail on the subject of local sorcerous prodigies. That there was magic to be found on the Blessed Isle was never exactly absent from the writing, but I feel as though there might not have been a consistent line on how widely it was to be found, so I think it’s good to provide a basic standard. In the interests of maintaining the image of the Age of Sorrows and keeping the Blessed Isle within it, I’m also glad that the standard amounts to such constructs and sorceries still existing, but largely coming in the form of precious local phenomena while the reigning Exalted lack the means to expand upon them; it adds to the Isle’s diversity, can create points of contention between areas and something to include in fights over prefectural appointments, and can give a lot of prominence to otherwise out of the way locales in a manner that I like (I enjoy fiction in which minor villages have something to them that make them a focus of significant fame and interest while still being limited in the capacity to grow). I also find the matter of how not all of these powers are stable, particularly with the return of the Solars, to effectively add another source of native conflict. Of the examples, the idea of a prefecture possessing immortal orchards seems as though it would have massive economic implications, but the one that stands out to me the most is the deadly dream afflicting Bright Obelisk (if only because I find it reminiscent of a neat bit of obscure magic referenced in Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell).

                Hmm, setting examples in Fangs were pretty long, and there are {glance at the table of contents} about 24 of these. But they’re {quick glimpse ahead} not super long, only a couple of pages each… I think that I can manage a decent number of these at a time, get through this chapter quickly enough.

                Okay, first up is Endless Prefecture, which begins by introducing the point that the highest areas of the Imperial Mountain are not under any prefectural jurisdiction, but a few are located around lower points of the slope, with our highly placed subject being inhabited only by Immaculates and occasionally visited by pilgrims and Dynasts in pursuit of knowledge or fun. I’ve always enjoyed the premise of the Mountain as being a spot for perilous spiritual journeys, so I like the path that might be followed for such being given a name and charming details such as the finely adorned temples and the manner in which they support themselves and those who are travelling upwards; I get a nice image of colourful banners fluttering in the wind of the exposed mountainside. I find it amusing how the uppermost temple is given a name such as Heaven’s End when it’s described as not actually being that far up the mountain, and serving as a threshold against the onset of dangerous beings and powers that might descend from the peaks gives a bit more activity to a spot on the map that might have previously been impressively sized but a bit dull.

                I’m liking the manner in which the topography of the Mountain is conveyed to us through descriptions of the landscapes that surround the pilgrim path; the impression I’m getting is that the Imperial Mountain is a lot more craggy and riddled with depressions more amenable to flora and fauna than my previously imagined enormous cone of sheer rock. The presence of ancient mystical ruins in these places sounds both like an incentive for characters to visit in the first place and providing them with a more immediate return for their efforts. I think this holds up with the sidebar addressing the Mountain directly; I’m not quite sure of the mathematics that would make it visible so from the coasts, but the impression I’m getting is of a mountain that is distinctly big, possibly bigger than any on Earth, but not hundreds of miles big. I like it being made the subject of a lot of myth unverified by the text, and find an interesting tension to the idea that mining from it directly was traditionally forbidden but coming to the verge of being enacted by Dragon Blooded in need of materials. One thing that seems particularly different from prior Editions is the subject of the Mountain’s peak and the city of Meru. As I recall from prior Editions, Meru was said to have been situated along the Mountain’s slopes, while the peak itself was bare and home to things like the Well of Souls and some very powerful Earth demesne. Honestly, Meru covering the sides of the Mountain never quite sat well with me, both in terms of the sheer scale it implied and the awkward question of how visible or accessible the ruins were to the people of the Isle. I prefer if being placed at the peak for a number of reasons; being a lot more out of reach and probably on a much smaller scale is one of them, as is the simple image of having an elite settlement so greatly elevated over the rest of the world (something that particularly goes with the implication that its residence was a much more exclusive matter). Heck, it even provides a salve against the Mountain not being ridiculously high; that was something I liked for the premise that there was a vantage point from which one could see almost all of Creation sprawled out around one, and in this setup that could just be done with the idea that the city of Meru includes a really high and rather narrow tower; somewhere between a feature of Indian mythology and a sky elevator.

                I think the spirit of Grabowski’s statement of the Imperial Mountain constituting a challenge for the Exalted mountaineer is still present, but the presence of deadly magics, unruly spirits and twisted monsters makes approaching such a bit more invested than it just being very high up (even if it retains the difficulties and dangers of low temperatures and limited air).

                Last of all is Pasiap’s Shadow, which is using the premise of the deeper crags and cavities of the Mountain as a means of providing ghosts with a refuge on the otherwise inhospitable Blessed Isle. What I like here is how such inaccessibility is turned against the dead inhabitants in a way that leaves them distinct and interesting, introverted in the extreme. And I find it a particularly good touch that the place is made inaccessible, but not unknown, and I find the incentives given for people (even mortal) to seek it out to be credible, and a good means of not letting these strange ghosts and the nice descriptions of the daunting and perilous caverns that they inhabit go to waste.

                For the moment, I will finish up with Dejis Prefecture, home of my dearly beloved revised House Mnemon.

                (I only got to an ending of Sekiro a few days before the World Science Fiction Convention started, I was out for twelve hours a day for five days straight, I didn't have time!)

                I have approximate knowledge of many things.
                Watch me play Dark Souls III (completed)
       Watch me play Breath of the Wild (updated 12/03)