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Why doesn’t Exalted have a metaplot?

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  • Why doesn’t Exalted have a metaplot?

    Should it have one?

    I think it would be cool. I like games that are more like interactive novels or TV shows. But I also know that other people’s views may differ.


    “No one holds command over me. No man, no god, no Prince. Call your damn Hunt. We shall see who I drag screaming down to hell with me.” The last Ahrimane says this when Mithras calls a Blood Hunt against her.

  • #2
    Metaplot is always a bad idea, IMO. Especially in such a high-powered game as Exalted.

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    • #3
      Why is it a bad idea? It gives you cool NPCs to interact with and a backdrop of other events that are happening while your characters are doing their thing. Plus like I said you can follow the plot like a novel. Or am I misunderstanding the word metaplot?


      “No one holds command over me. No man, no god, no Prince. Call your damn Hunt. We shall see who I drag screaming down to hell with me.” The last Ahrimane says this when Mithras calls a Blood Hunt against her.

      Comment


      • #4
        I think it makes the world seem more alive, like stuff is happening, not just sitting there static waiting for your PCs to do stuff.


        “No one holds command over me. No man, no god, no Prince. Call your damn Hunt. We shall see who I drag screaming down to hell with me.” The last Ahrimane says this when Mithras calls a Blood Hunt against her.

        Comment


        • #5
          I don't like it because it locks you into things that I as an ST might not want. Like if the metaplot is like "The Locust Crusade is happening now!" or "The Reclamation is tipping off!" then all of a sudden I can't do the things I was wanting to do.

          I mean, I could, I could just tell my players "we're not doing metaplot stuff" but for one, they'll be following it and expecting it, and for another that metaplot material is taking the place of more setting stuff that I could actually be using.

          The closest thing we have right now to a metaplot is Jiara, where the main Solar circle exalted there, then house Mnemon came and drove them into the hinterlands. That's just one satrapy among hundreds, and it doesn't really affect the rest of the world much, except that Mnemon is probably IN Jiara, so already if I want her to show up in the Imperial City or something my players might be like "Yo, isn't she fighting Solars in one of her satrapies? What's she doing here? Did she win?" and I don't want to have to do that for another hundred nations.

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          • #6
            So, first of all, I'd like to define "metaplot" so that we're on the same page. I define it as being a thing where events in the game's fictional history "progress" over the course of the game line: things happen that change the status quo, and later supplements reference the new state of affairs. That established, I think there's a couple problems with doing things that way with Exalted.

            First, the problem that's common to more or less all instances of metaplot: it tends to be offputting to fans who aren't able or willing to buy every book. Imagine that the corebook presented a city (Gem, say) as being a thriving community. Then a sourcebook comes out that has Gem blow up. Sourcebooks published after that then refer to Gem as being a destroyed ruin. If someone hasn't had a chance to purchase the book where Gem was declared destroyed, they can very easily become confused when a reference to it mentions it being a crater. "Wait, I thought it was a major city in the South? What happened?" Or, if the latter books try to explain the metaplot, they end up having to waste a bunch of wordcount doing that. If every book released after Gem gets destroyed has a paragraph saying "Oh BTW Gem was blown up, here's the short version", people who do have the book where it happened are likely to get sick of that, and it's probably still not very clear to people who didn't purchase it.

            Besides being annoying if you haven't read the book where something important happened, it's also likely to annoy people who were planning to use a location or NPC in a different way. If I read the description of Gem in the corebook and thought "hey, that sounds cool, I'm going to set my campaign there!", I'm not likely to be happy when the sourcebook on Gem blows it up, and then all the later books only talk about it in terms of it being destroyed. That basically makes all those books useless to me for my Gem campaign. It's always easier to let GMs change details from what's been presented in the setting, rather than forcing the changes on them.

            The other problem with metaplot is more Exalted-centric. Metaplot, in general, is good for giving a setting a sense of moving forward, of getting the PCs to react to a changing setting. But Exalted is, by design, a setting where the players are expected to be much more pro-active. They're supposed to be going out and changing the world, shaking the pillars of Heaven, etc. Maybe not universally on the scale of the whole world, but at the very least, on their local level. That means that there's much less likely to be a comfortable status quo that the players have gotten used to, and much more likely that they've already made significant changes of their own accord. The changes to the setting that a metaplot implies would almost certainly contradict that, for virtually every campaign. For example, consider probably the most likely metaplot event: the Realm Civil War kicks off. The Civil War is very, very likely to be a central thing for virtually every Dynastic Dragon-Blood chronicle. And it's a thing that is incredibly dependent on initial conditions. Does it kick off because a Mnemon PC insults a scion of Nellens? Does the House Tepet character make a play for restoring her family's prestige? And so on. Having the setting book come in and say "the Civil War starts when House Ragara teams up with Sesus and Peleps, with these specific NPCs behind it" just isn't going to work with most games, and thus the information the books provide will just be less and less useful for practically everyone.


            Just as a final note, I'd point out that the closest thing that Exalted has had to a metaplot was the release of Return of the Scarlet Empress, late in the 2e line. And that is not a book I'd consider as being remembered particularly well in the fandom. I mean, it had problems outside the fact that it was kinda-sorta metaplot. But the "we don't want metaplot" element was definitely, I feel, a significant part of its poor reception.


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            • #7
              Originally posted by DrLoveMonkey View Post
              The closest thing we have right now to a metaplot is Jiara, where the main Solar circle exalted there, then house Mnemon came and drove them into the hinterlands.
              Note that even the idea that it's the signature Solar Circle isn't actually canon - we know there's some Solars there, but the only thing that suggests that it's the signatures is the chapter fiction, and that's not considered canon.


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              • #8
                Originally posted by Kelly Pedersen View Post

                Note that even the idea that it's the signature Solar Circle isn't actually canon - we know there's some Solars there, but the only thing that suggests that it's the signatures is the chapter fiction, and that's not considered canon.
                While that is good, I’m happy to hear it, I think it goes to show how pervasive even an implied and explicitly non-canon metaphor can be.

                Like people used to point out all the time that RotSE isn’t canon and you can just ignore it, but that didn’t stop basically every game post RotSE feeling like it had to deal with it in some way.

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                • #9
                  I will add that an issue with metaplot is also when things move on and old plot points are resolved. I remember a bit of annoyance and frustration when the big bad was supposed to get in good with the local hierarchy in one game courtesy of how the big bad had shown up and annihilated the previous big bad when the players had handled that problem themselves. So in order to incorporate that Big Bad and the plot as the setup is being done means a new existential threat of actually greater threat needs to be imagined as something the big bad took out in order to explain why this being has more clout than the PCs do, and that's not incorporating any mcguffins that are supposed to have been transferred between big bads that the PCs might have acquired, destroyed, etc; or if the PCs had resolved the plot in any way that nullified the previous threat without its destruction that the metaplot can't account for due to it no longer existing.

                  Now granted these are hardly impossible to deal with, but it is annoying and causes chunks of the book to just be utterly useless to you because they're all dealing with the armies and horrors the blind man let loose trying to bring the Primogenitor into the world and how that's screwed up the setting, which is just really not helpful for your group as Insatiables are just flat-out no's for your group that they don't want to deal with for reasons. Then you end up with arguments and debates on how things have to be because of blah blah blah.*

                  *Oh my god so many arguments on how stupid everything was because RotSE meant "well cannonically the Infernals win and not acknowledging that is just stupid."

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Kelly Pedersen View Post
                    Just as a final note, I'd point out that the closest thing that Exalted has had to a metaplot was the release of Return of the Scarlet Empress, late in the 2e line. And that is not a book I'd consider as being remembered particularly well in the fandom. I mean, it had problems outside the fact that it was kinda-sorta metaplot. But the "we don't want metaplot" element was definitely, I feel, a significant part of its poor reception.
                    I agree with everything you said, but just a tiny bit of additional context for this one: RotSE was, as made pretty clearly from it's afterword, at time of writing expected to be the last Exalted book. Which is doubly noteworthy as the "only" metaplot book; it's like the final resolution of any "will they/won't they" plot arc for long time series fans.

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                    • #11
                      Metaplot is Lucy Van Pelt, constantly yanking the football away. Charlie Brown might never learn, but I do. I don't pay one red cent for games contaminated with metaplot.

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                      • #12
                        1e also had the Exalted: the Autochthonians stories. Which were similarly not very canon. ANd also kind of train wrecks.

                        In general, a lot of the maint hings were covered. A big thing ton ote is that RPG settings are not ficiton settings. They shoudl be places that are friendly for players to operate in. And while there is some funin reading about what happens next in a metaplot, they are rarely in service of actually presenting interesting stuff. This is especially ahrd to do well in a game like Exalted, where relaly more aobut hte setting at Time Zero is actually giong to be more useufl since the world is well, big, and finidng out what is there is more important than what happens next.

                        Metaplots also have a bit of a habit of "eating" setting formaiton from above. The Gem thing is good exmaple, but note also this means that to talk more about what happened to Gem is time nto talking about a different place or how Gem is useful somewhere lse. And it also often to be notable has been something "wroth the time of Exalted", whcih also could lead to overvaluing the importance of things.

                        A good example of this is the takes on the Locust Crusade presented between Time of Tumult's "Crusaders of the Machine God" chapter and Exalted: the Autochthonians "The Locust War". They broaldy, cover the ame events, but I think the latter is more "metaplotty." It ties in with more of the setting, tries to bring in key named NPCs into the events like Deathlords, and Great House contenders, and even ends with a big fight of the Kukla and a thousand fourged dragon. The original chapter was by contrast a detail of new locations, new entities, and the end story resulted in the establishmen tof a potential new empire on the map. The later chatper by contrast more or less became an Avengers style existential world thing that invovled everyhone ever named. ANd while htose coudl be fun, the latter is just striaght up less useful to most games, but I think mor eindicative of the storts of storie syou get in metaplots.

                        ANother one is kind of in video games to me. I love the Mass Effect setting as presented in the first game. But due to the story of the game, while good for that trilogy, it kind of just is...done at end there. ANd I think that the stting as ar esult is less useable for future media like more sequels or RPGs, becuase the setting has this overarching fixed metaplot that by it send blows the entire setting up and leaves you with a start of game satus quo and whatever the post-Reaper settin gis. And I think Exalted's attempts of long story campaigns tned to look like that, and are just not something sustainable for a setting as big as it is and wiht the kinds of stories itw ants to tell.


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                        • #13
                          WoD tried it, Exalted flirted with it. Both cases sucked, in no small part because, inherently, metaplots determine the course of the story. Overall an open playground just runs better.


                          Check my Exalted homebrew!

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                          • #14
                            I personally think having a metaplot in a TTRPG is a fool's errand. Especially, as noted, in a game like Exalted. Because you're playing as Exalts, which will likely make waves.

                            Let's take, for instance, the War for the Throne in the Realm. In 2e, it was assumed that the Realm was just about to hit full Civil War, with a lot of families, groups, and players pushing for advantage. This is great, I should mention, because it gives a lot of opportunity to play with or against the situation.

                            However, imagine... At one point a supplement goes "In the aftermath of the Realm Civil War, the one who took the throne was in fact Ledaal Kes. This is how the game will assume history goes going forward"

                            While not a bad result, giving an ironclad statement like that can give a feeling of invalidation to cases where Ledaal Kes did not take the Scarlet Throne, such as if a Dynast game had the PCs back Mnemon, or some people put Ejava on the throne, or something more outlandish. Or for something majorly intense, like the PCs striking while the Realm was weak to destroy the entire empire.

                            No, I think Exalted is best off by establishing:
                            1. Who the major players and what the major events/situations are
                            2. MAYBE allude to intentions and what may happen Soon or Eventually, but NOT write future books with the assumption that they go that way.
                            An example of this done decently is in the manuscript for the Dragonblood Companion (distributed to those who backed the DB book) which talks about a POTENTIAL (it says this very often) future for the Realm as a story SUGGESTION. It mentions things like "If the PCs don't intervene here, then House Peleps will-" and the like. Plus it also gives multiple outcomes as suggestions for the GM to roll with, depending on player action.

                            Going "This is how things stand NOW" suits Exalted better, because many players will read that and will plot on how to interact with that. Some may go "Time to ruin stuff", some may go "Time to help these people", and for things like adventure modules suggested paths and likely outcomes are great, but it shouldn't be assumed that Outcome 4B from the Mnemon's Birthday Bonanza Adventure Module is the canon outcome that will influence the upcoming setting book: 1001 Creation-Shaking Disasters


                            Disclaimer: In favor of fun and enjoyment, but may speak up to warn you that you're gonna step on a metaphorical land mine

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Kyman201 View Post
                              I personally think having a metaplot in a TTRPG is a fool's errand. Especially, as noted, in a game like Exalted. Because you're playing as Exalts, which will likely make waves.

                              Let's take, for instance, the War for the Throne in the Realm. In 2e, it was assumed that the Realm was just about to hit full Civil War, with a lot of families, groups, and players pushing for advantage. This is great, I should mention, because it gives a lot of opportunity to play with or against the situation.

                              However, imagine... At one point a supplement goes "In the aftermath of the Realm Civil War, the one who took the throne was in fact Ledaal Kes. This is how the game will assume history goes going forward"

                              While not a bad result, giving an ironclad statement like that can give a feeling of invalidation to cases where Ledaal Kes did not take the Scarlet Throne, such as if a Dynast game had the PCs back Mnemon, or some people put Ejava on the throne, or something more outlandish. Or for something majorly intense, like the PCs striking while the Realm was weak to destroy the entire empire.

                              No, I think Exalted is best off by establishing:
                              1. Who the major players and what the major events/situations are
                              2. MAYBE allude to intentions and what may happen Soon or Eventually, but NOT write future books with the assumption that they go that way.
                              An example of this done decently is in the manuscript for the Dragonblood Companion (distributed to those who backed the DB book) which talks about a POTENTIAL (it says this very often) future for the Realm as a story SUGGESTION. It mentions things like "If the PCs don't intervene here, then House Peleps will-" and the like. Plus it also gives multiple outcomes as suggestions for the GM to roll with, depending on player action.

                              Going "This is how things stand NOW" suits Exalted better, because many players will read that and will plot on how to interact with that. Some may go "Time to ruin stuff", some may go "Time to help these people", and for things like adventure modules suggested paths and likely outcomes are great, but it shouldn't be assumed that Outcome 4B from the Mnemon's Birthday Bonanza Adventure Module is the canon outcome that will influence the upcoming setting book: 1001 Creation-Shaking Disasters
                              Okay. I see your point. I guess metaplots aren’t that great. I’ve never run an RPG besides D&D and I’ve never even played Exalted (I just think the setting’s pretty cool), so I never really thought of a lot of the points you guys raised.

                              But that still leaves two other questions: how do you advance the time frame? (like what happens when you want to play the children and grandchildren of your original characters several decades in the future and you have no source material to back it up?) and how do you deal with people who actually like buying every product and reading RPG settings as fiction? (I guess by writing actual novels?)

                              What do you guys think?


                              “No one holds command over me. No man, no god, no Prince. Call your damn Hunt. We shall see who I drag screaming down to hell with me.” The last Ahrimane says this when Mithras calls a Blood Hunt against her.

                              Comment

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