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[WiR] Classical Exalted

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  • [WiR] Classical Exalted

    Greetings and welcome, readers!

    For a long time, I have been a lurker on rpg.net. Although I definitely love the forum, my favourites thread there have been the various Let´s Read, specially the ones dedicated to the various Monster Manuals. They have a great collection of critters, and usually give great insight in monster design and the failings of each edition. And when the monster is uninspired, the efforts of the writers and readers to create something cool from trite and cliche concepts can be pretty entertaining.

    In this thread, I will do a Let´s Read of what I call “classic Exalted”. These First Edition books which appeared mostly early in the line, and which greatly helped define Exalted as that pulp-anime-mythological game which I love. They are, at least for the purpose of this thread, Creatures of the Wyld, Games of Divinity, Manacle and Coin, Scavenger Sons and Savage Seas. Caste/Aspect books are cool (I have heard: I´ve never read them) and either Book of the Three Circles or Savant and Sorcerer would be interesting too, but I consider them, right now, secondary to this project, so I will only read them once I finish the “main books”, if I ever reach so far. That´s a handful of books! I will be reading and commenting them, and as a bonus, I will try to convert some of the material from these books to the current Third Edition, the one I¨m playing and the one I enjoy the most.

    This will be a long, arduous project, which I will start with Creatures of the Wyld for some reasons: I like monster books, I´m running a Northern game right now and would be cool to have new ideas (and converted stats!) for new monsters and animals and as the creatures´ entries are not long (most are one or two-pagers) it will be easier to divide in digestible, readable chunks.

    Of course, I won´t be converting material currently on Third Edition: beings like the Lodestar and Mice of the Sun have been covered on Hundreds Devils Night Parade much better than I could. Whatever I do, it would be an inferior version of the official release, and as such, I suggest that you, instead, buy them.

    In this first post we will be start with Creatures of the Wyld, reading its introduction and its first monster: the Artic Demitaur.


    Creatures of the Wyld
    Introduction

    After the initial credits, the books start with a two-pages short introduction. The opening quote is from the Bible, Daniel 7:7, describing an all-devouring, destroying beast. Unfortunately, I lack a Biblical education, and can´t identify anything about it. Is the beast Leviathan, Behemoth or any of these monsters, or is it “just” a dream, as the words “visions in the night” seems to imply, being some metaphor for some future tragedy? Honestly, I have no idea, and if any of my readers is more knowledgeable about this subject, his/her insights would be very useful.

    After this, the following two paragraphs talk about how the Second Age is an Age of Heroes, and also an age full of monsters, with multiple and varied origins: from weapons created in the Primordial War, to wyld-born beasts, to artificial constructs from the First Age. Not all of these are enemies: some are possible allies and familiars and just wondruous beasts. Some thing I find interesting about this passage are things like the mention about how magic is much weaker in our own diminished modern world, and how these beasts have long vanished from modern history: this book was from an era in which they were still pushing the “Exalted is the prelude to the World of Darkness” angle, and as a reader who started with Third Edition, in which thiings like this are just not talked about, I find this kind of passages funny.

    There are other four sections in this introduction, and one sidebar. “Other Creatures” talk about how this is only a small sampling of Creation´s hazards: we should be free to invent or add any creature that we want. Also, this book focus in dangerous creatures, mostly because they are the ones who need detailed stats: beautiful and strange flora and fauna are interesting, but if they aren´t going to be used as enemies or familiars, they don´t need stats. “Fauna of the Blessed Isle” talks about how monsters and beasts from the Blessed Isle aren´t included, mostly because there aren´t many beasts there: thousands of years of civilization have culled monsters in the area, and the few that remain mostly inhabit private hunting reserves and other carefully tended regions.In addition, patrols from the Great Houses regularly hunt beasts, protecting the peasantry, after they have killed enough civilians to terrify the citizens: the Empress started, after the Unbroken Rushes Rebellion in RT 465, a policy of keeping peasants disarmed and a few selected beasts in strategic areas, to avoid banditry and keep the peasants in check, and grateful to their Dragonblooded heroes who constantly save them from the menace of deadly claw striders and wolves. In fact, there are less monsters than peasants believe, but it is an useful myth.”How to use this book” it´s simply an explanation of the contents of this book, and how it is useful for both players and Storytellers. The organization is simple: five chapters, each one detailing monsters from one Firection, and the fifth one detaling the ones from the Scavenger Lands. These are guidelines: some of them can be found in more than one Direction, specially inteligent creatures. As an aside, there was an extra supplement with cut material: instead of reading it after the book is completed, I will read the appropiate section of the cut material after the relevant chapter is finished: so, I will read the cut Northern beasts after reasing the northern chapter, and so. The last section is “Other Books”, and simply says that Savage Seas and Games of Divinity both contain interesting creatures.

    The sidebar, “A word on Power Level”, tells us that there are extreme power differences in the book, and that the game assumes that the player characters are not fully optimized: if running a game for more combat-optimized players, the book suggests to increase the traits of the enemies, treating the stats given here as simple guidelines. This is done because if the book was written with minmaxed characters in mind, it would be hardly useful for the kind of players who don´t optimize their characters.

    The North
    With this, we start the first section of the book: the North. It has a small paragraph, talking about the harsh northern climate, and about how the North is full of both dark and terrible unnatural beasts, and some of the deadliest natural predators in Creation: the North is meant to be a scary, dark place! After this short introduction we start with our first creature, the

    Artic Demitaur

    Artic demitaurs (for they are a race, not a singular creature) are mostly a mix of centaur and minotaur: they have the body of a squat horse (although they only have the hind legs, instead of the four horse legs of traditional centaurs), the torso and arms of a large man, the head of a bull and massive fangs. They are completely covered in white fur, and although omniivorous, they prefer to eat meat. They are as chaotic as the Wyld from where they came, and travel in loose packs through the North, sometimes destroying whole villages, sometimes selecting some specific individual and hunting them, leaving the rest of the tribe alone.

    They are described as mindless, although due to the way in which the stats work, they have Intelligence 1, so they can technically be as inteligent as the Dawn Caste of the group. I´ve always thought that for animals and animal-level monsters, the Storyteller system should have dropped the “1 is the minimum” and allowed them to have Intelligence 0, with Wits representing increasing levels of lower case intelligence for the animal. Or allow the stat to go from 1 to 5, allowing different grades of intelligence for different animals, but making clear that the animal-level intelligence represented by the stat is not the same as human intelligence, and as such, the Intelligence 5 raven is still unable to read. I don´t know, but having everything that is not as intelligent as a human as always Intelligence 1 is... pretty unnuanced. Specially when a human CAN have Intelligence 1. Coming back to the demitaurs, they are known to carry clubs as weapons, although this mostly seems like an accident (picking a random club) instead of something purposeful and intentional.

    Although both male and female demitaurs are equally dangerous, they seem to be patriarchal (I guess male-dominated would be a more correct word? I mean, they are usually described as mindless, and in my humble opinion, you need... Certain levels of sapience, culture and social organization to be able to be a patriarchy). More interesting is the fact that when they are far from human settlements, in their own isolated valleys, they are a peaceful race, grazing with their youngs, and only becoming violent when meeting outsiders. “Roused to murderous frenzy”, the book says. This open some questions. Maybe they are not naturally violent, but instead hate humans with an undying hatred? If so, the why would be interesting.

    The other interesting tidbit is in the last paragraph. Artic Demitaurs are used as scary boogeymen in the North, with parents telling their children to act nice and behave, lest the demitaurs take them away (or even, maybe, turn them into mindless demitaurs). That sounds interesting too. It´s probably a tale (as a longtime Uknown Armies fan, I know the value of baseless rumours, or so separated from their origin that they may as well be baseless!) but could open some questions if they are indeed right. Maybe the transformation is connected with their hatred towards humanity?

    Their stats is what you would expect from a big, dumb minotaur. Pretty buff phisically, a lot stronger than dexterous (6 vs 2), with pretty mediocre social and mental stats, except for their Wits of 3: they are not intelligent, but they are quick-minded. They have Appearance 1, but this was First Edition, where Appearance was “How pretty you are”. In Third Edition I would put them as a higher Appearance with the Hideous merit. Their skill are the same: lot of combat and “I´m a scary minotaur” skills at high levels, with a Intimidation-skill in Presence. One funny thing is their melee of 1, to be able to use the clubs that they sometimes pick! Although with Melee 1 vs Brawl 5, they would be more effective just hitting you without weapons.

    They have a special attack to break enemy weapons: not to disarm them, but to break them. Strangely, the text notes that they don´t seem to aim for weapons.

    What are my opinions on the Artic Demitaur? Heh. The visuals are fine, but a mindless violent monster doesn´t lead to much more than “kill it with Essence”. They have some interesting tidbits (their strange fixation with humanity, their peacefulness when not interacting with us), but if you are meeting an Artic Demitaur it´s basically a straight combat scenario. They can be sorcerously compelled or used as hunting beast by Fae if you focus in their Wyld-connection, or maybe you can search for someone lost in a valley inhabited by Artic Demitaurs, but in these scenarios, the Demitaurs basically fill the niche of big dumb monster, and are pretty interchangeable. Maybe the more interesting thing you can do with them it´s to run with the idea that naughty children in the North may turn into mindless demitaurs. What do you do when you find a child that is turning into a monster? Can you cure him, or is he hopeless? If so, how do you cure him? Do you need to use magic, or is it something more folkloric, like making sure that he corrects his naughty ways and tries to compensate and help the people that he bullyed, either becoming a better person or a mindless monster? Maybe something more from a Golden Sky Stories scenario, than an Exalted one, it´s true, but something that could be pretty interesting to play.

    Artic Demitaur

    Artic demitaurs, a strange mix of centaur and minotaur, travel the North in loose packs, coming down on defenseless villages to taste their favourite meal: human meat. When found in their own territories, they use to be peaceful grazers, although will become strangely aggressive near humans.

    Essence: 1 Willpower: 5 Join Battle: 6
    Health Levels: -0x2/-1x4/-2x4/-4x2/Incap. Artic demitaurs will flee when taking their first -2 level, except if fighting against a human who have suffered lethal damage in this battle, as they become blind by the scent of human blood.
    Actions: Feats of Strenght 7 dice (may attempt Strength 5 feats) Intimidate 7 dice, Tracking: 5 dice (See Bloodlust Merit), Stealth: 6 dice (only when hiding in heavily snowed terrain) Resist Poison/Disease 7 dice, Senses 6 dice (See Bloodlust Merit)
    Resolve 3 Guile 1

    Combat
    Attack (Punch) 8 dice, 15 damage
    Attack (Gore) 6 dice, 17 damage (See Gore Special Attack)
    Attack (Trample) 6 dice, 17 damage (See Weapon-Crushing Hooves)
    Combat Movement: 6 dice
    Soak/Hardness: 10/3

    Special Attack

    Gore: When succesfully hitting an enemy with a gore attack the turn after a succesful rush, it knocks the enemy prone. If the next turn the Artic Demitaur makes a Decisive attack, extra successes in the attack roll turns into extra dice in the damage roll

    Weapon-Crushing Hooves: If the Artic Demitaur would inflict 5+ Initiative with a Trample attack, it may forgo the initiative gain (keeping the Initiative Crash bonus, if any), to automatically disarm an enemy. If the weapon was mundane, it is destroyed if the Demitaur succeeds at a Difficulty 2 Feat of Strenght roll. If it fail the roll, or it is an artifact weapon, it is simply thrown away a range band

    Merits

    Berserker: When making an attack roll, wound penalties are instead turned into bonuses

    Bloodlust When tracking or making a senses roll against a hurt human, wound penalties on the target are added as bonus dice to the roll. If the wound penalty is at least -2, the roll benefits from double 9s.
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