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The Exalted/WoD link, and why getting rid of it was ridiculous

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  • The Exalted/WoD link, and why getting rid of it was ridiculous

    From my understanding, Exalted was written as a sort of secret/forgotten history of the World of Darkness. Then, when tons of people whined about it a lot, White Wolf decided it wasn't that anymore, and they were completely separate games (correct me if I'm wrong).

    I think this was ridiculous. For one thing, who cares what the publishing company says is canon or not? It's a game, do what you want. But for another thing, they line up so perfectly that saying there's no connection actually detracts a little.

    At least pre-20th Anniversary, the WoD games referred to ages. Most of the concrete early history started in the third age, the modern era was happening in the 5th age, and the apocalypse happened in the 6th age. There were very loose, mythological details about the first and second ages.

    The events of Exalted happened in the second age. During the first age, Solars ruled the world as some kind of benevolent authoritarians, and then the coup happened.

    I frankly think that's a neat history. A major complaint from fans was that it doesn't jive with the early histories provided in things like The Book of Nod, or early histories of ancient traditions like the Akashic Brotherhood, etc.

    I say, "so what?" Those early histories are already written in obscure, mythological or biblical ways. I wouldn't expect a historical reality to be reflected in them anyway. Further, the forgotten history premise is extremely common in fantasy, anyway - even Lord of the Rings and Star Wars refer to it.

    Going back to things lining up, it just works out too cleanly in too many ways. Beyond the ages, the major groups just have such perfect counterparts - Solars became Hunters, Lunars became Werewolves, Sidereals became Mages, Abyssals became Vampires, Terrestrials became Kuei-Jin, etc.

  • #2
    The public largely didn't even know about early development cycle stuff until about six months before the core dropped, at which point it had already been written into its own continuity (albeit with some artifacts of old development cycles remaining in the text for the first few books). I suppose there could have been an outcry, but no one would have had much to go on besides the ads that stretched back to 1999 or so, and I doubt that it would have factored into the decision. GCG's account of the early development results (as noted in the Making of Exalted Artbook) was that the manuscript was all over the place and lacked direction, telling us that nothing was really as set or decided as a definite plan for a unified WoD "prehistory" would be.

    As for the WoD games themselves, trying to get a single, unified setting out of them is comparable to pulling teeth. If you can't even unify the modern games so that each can have its own thematic space, and is played without a single hint of irony necessary, adding an Earthdawn-esque prequel into the mix isn't going to be any easier, and ran the risk that it might have been retconned into being some kind of pocket world in the Umbra or something if it went too far off the rails. Splitting it off into a vaguely-related Elseworld that looks kind of like some parts of various WoD games is probably the approach that worked the best, since it, like the WoD, a heavy dose of irony is not required as a buy-in. Everyone can enjoy the easter eggs, no one needs to bother wondering if one of the Deathlords or Abyssals is Caine, or how the Incarnae relate to Middle Umbral spirits in the WoD (which have the opposite metaphysical relation to physical objects as the gods of Exalted).

    Even the correspondences aren't quite so perfect. Abyssals are as much about ghosts as they are about drinking blood. Werewolf incorporates some facets of the Dragon Kings in the form of Mokole, and sun spirit patronage is not unknown. Hungry Dead from KotE correspond to a twisted reflection of the Daoist Wu Xing, which is not quite like the elements of Exalted (one major difference being that a xing is not an "element" element), and the lineage of heroes is at odds with the premise of cultivators becoming Xian on their own. Imbued are the fragments of power from Chosen-Blooded of Solar extraction, but they often have some very oddball approaches that Solar magic might not have touched. There is no one to one, there; any attempt to try and chart a course from a type of Exalt to a WoD monster is fraught with the need to fill in gaps with assumptions, guess about what might have happened, and personally distort everything to make for a given build of a continuous world.

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    • #3
      Pretty much what Saur said. "The public outcry" against linking Exalted and the World of Darkness never happened. By the time the connections between the two lines were being unmade by the developers, all the public knew about Exalted was "Before there was an X... Before there was a Y... Before there was a Z... Before there was a World of Darkness, there was... Something Else!" And I think we knew the name of the "Something Else" was Exalted, but nothing else.

      As for the splat-to-splat connections, even those are tenuous at best in 1e Exalted. Solars resembled Hunters in no real way, one being the (arguably?) strongest splats and the other (arguably?) being the weakest, and one hardly about perfection and excellence. Lunars to Changers in general works, but then Changers are all hereditary and Lunars are anything but. Sidereals to Mages have only the most superficial similarities, and when you really get into it they have the least common ground (Sidereals in 1e being more martial artist, Siddie Astrology being kind of a clusterfuck, and Sids are the magical equals to Lunars, and inferior to Solars, making the Mage-equivalent only as Mage-like as the Garou-equivalent?). Abyssals and Vampires have the undead aesthetic going, but one is chosen by necro-Cthulhu and the other is a virulent pathogen. Abyssal feeding is about where the commonalities end. Of course, GCG planned for Alchemicals to be listed in the core, and WoD has no Alchemical-alikes, so that's also problematic.

      Honestly, when I first read the Exalted core (by then having forgotten the promotional materials in the WoD books), I saw the WoD-isms more like Easter Eggs than any hint at a shared history. The closest connection between the two I saw in those early days were with the Siddies' visions of three potential futures, where one of the not-taken options lead to a world much darker and lesser; I.E. an alternate future where Exalted could have become the World of Darkness. Again, Easter Eggs more than shared universe.


      Writing up Clanbook: Aabbt

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Vysha View Post
        Pretty much what Saur said. "The public outcry" against linking Exalted and the World of Darkness never happened. By the time the connections between the two lines were being unmade by the developers, all the public knew about Exalted was "Before there was an X... Before there was a Y... Before there was a Z... Before there was a World of Darkness, there was... Something Else!" And I think we knew the name of the "Something Else" was Exalted, but nothing else.

        As for the splat-to-splat connections, even those are tenuous at best in 1e Exalted. Solars resembled Hunters in no real way, one being the (arguably?) strongest splats and the other (arguably?) being the weakest, and one hardly about perfection and excellence. Lunars to Changers in general works, but then Changers are all hereditary and Lunars are anything but. Sidereals to Mages have only the most superficial similarities, and when you really get into it they have the least common ground (Sidereals in 1e being more martial artist, Siddie Astrology being kind of a clusterfuck, and Sids are the magical equals to Lunars, and inferior to Solars, making the Mage-equivalent only as Mage-like as the Garou-equivalent?). Abyssals and Vampires have the undead aesthetic going, but one is chosen by necro-Cthulhu and the other is a virulent pathogen. Abyssal feeding is about where the commonalities end. Of course, GCG planned for Alchemicals to be listed in the core, and WoD has no Alchemical-alikes, so that's also problematic.

        Honestly, when I first read the Exalted core (by then having forgotten the promotional materials in the WoD books), I saw the WoD-isms more like Easter Eggs than any hint at a shared history. The closest connection between the two I saw in those early days were with the Siddies' visions of three potential futures, where one of the not-taken options lead to a world much darker and lesser; I.E. an alternate future where Exalted could have become the World of Darkness. Again, Easter Eggs more than shared universe.
        All of this. But I will add that Demon and Kindred of the East do provide ways for you to integrate the two via the WoD's 'fractured cosmology' model, if that's your bag. It's not easy, exactly, or neat, but then nothing in the WoD is.

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        • #5
          Honestly I think the way it currently is is the best way to handle it regardless of how public reaction was or wasn't. If people still want to treat it as connected there are ways to do that (you just treat exalted as happening in a different cycle of the wheel than what the 'current' oWoD occupies (a later turning of the wheel.) The idea was evidently even built into the setting, like from the revised Iteration X book in Mage:

          Autocthonia is a god. At least, what’s left of one.

          During the last Cycle of existence, there were many gods, with various purposes and foci, your standard pantheonic organization. As usual, there was the crippled forger of weapons and tools whom the other gods ridiculed and ostracized. The difference is, this time the outsider-god became pissed off enough to do something about it, and gave budding humanity the weapons with which to vanquish the gods themselves. Exeunt Tool God, stage left. The others cast him into the Outer Darkness for his crimes against them. Like any good god cast into the Outer Darkness, he went dormant after a while and remained. The other gods had a much less pleasant fate, by and large.
          Which strikes me as a link to the Autochton Primordial after some fashion (you can always factor in myth and history hazing things over, fractured cosmos/resonance, etc. further muddying the waters to handle any differences. The key point was the refrence to the 'last cycle' which to me suggests that Exlated and oWoD while related didn't occur in the same 'period' of existence.

          Ultimately we know that the game systems were intended to be largely self contrained with only some overlap (so that any attempt to unify them would have 'rough spots' because a single unified whole was difficult) - but at the same time they left plenty of ways one could TRY to connect everything or enable crossovers and maintain as much consistency as possible. Give the scope of the challenge and the length of time the metaplot is spread over (and the challenges in linking it all together - look at George Lucas or Stephen King and see how well THEY did it across similar timescales) it all works out far better than one might expect as long as one is willing to shift one's perspectives.

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          • #6
            In the end, it doesn't even matter if Exalted and WoD are connected in any way, really.

            I think it's safe to say that most WoD players don't even 'know* there *is* (was) a connection - or haven't even tried Exalted before. None of those I know in RL actually have, and they just know Exalted as 'that anime game'. Yeah, first impressions, yadda yadda.

            Even if you are the rare bird that happens to a) Know about it, *and* b) Happen to know Exalted and c) Happen to know the history of Exalted.....well...well, oWoD already struggles to keep full-coverage crossovers between its own gamelines consistent (Which they are not), so adding Exalted as a history backdrop causes even more contradictions than there are already are, in regards to how the splats see the history of the world.

            There is nothing that really changes at all in the vast majority of WoD campaigns depending on wether Exalted is actually the previous age of the oWoD or not. It doesn't matter at all for the shifter's history nor their war against the current corruption of the world, it does not matter for whatever most vampires are going to encounter in their political spiels and fights for territory, it won't matter for Wraiths...

            ...really, ultimately the only difference a connection between Exalted and oWoD will really make is that there will be that one player at the table somewhere getting an 'I know something you don't!' expression on their face when they ever happen to ICly encounter Autochtonia - which already is limited to running a particular kind of Mage campaign - so yes, the best way to treat it all is, really, easter eggs. It won't have an impact beyond that.


            cWoD Dice Probability Chart ||| cWoD Dice Statistics Calculator ||| cWoD Alternative Armor System
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            • #7
              Originally posted by Ambrosia View Post

              ...really, ultimately the only difference a connection between Exalted and oWoD will really make is that there will be that one player at the table somewhere getting an 'I know something you don't!' expression on their face when they ever happen to ICly encounter Autochtonia - which already is limited to running a particular kind of Mage campaign - so yes, the best way to treat it all is, really, easter eggs. It won't have an impact beyond that.
              It's not just for Mage - I could see Ratkin happening upon the slumbering corpse waiting for death to die and... appropriating it for their own use. Think 40K's Emperor of Mankind on the Golden Throne being looted by orks for the direction of such a campaign.

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              • #8
                I suppose that would be better than taking Ratkin in the approach of, say, the Skaven.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Saur Ops Specialist View Post

                  It's not just for Mage - I could see Ratkin happening upon the slumbering corpse waiting for death to die and... appropriating it for their own use. Think 40K's Emperor of Mankind on the Golden Throne being looted by orks for the direction of such a campaign.
                  I would buy this Storyteller's Vault supplement in a heartbeat.



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