Monday, October 27, 2014

Filling in the Map: Exalted 3E

Welcome back! Going to shift gears here. I'm still going to talk about other RPGs, but I'm going to focus on Exalted 3rd Edition (and prior editions) for a while now. The new edition is close to dropping and I wanted to walk you through some of my prep work and brainstorming. I'll still take time to talk about Swankier topic, other RPG (especially D&D 5E), and such but I'm on a groove now.

I'm currently playing in a Pathfinder setting, and running my first 5E game. So I'm actively thinking in D&D terms...but I need something meatier. So, Exalted.

Let's talk about Exalted's new map and the implications there in. First take a look at this thing:

It's HUGE! I mean crazy big. They took the old Exalted Map and added about 300% more land mass and stuff to explore. Compare it to the older map from 1E and 2E:

 We have areas to explore that didn't exist before. The Dreaming Isles in that new inland see down in the south east? Or the expanded and more detailed north? What about Gloam, wtf is GLOAM?!


That said what good is the map if you can't, or worse don't, use it. That was Exalted big problem before. For the crazy big size of Creation (central island is the size of Asia for reference) the game fixated on cities and other central locations. Most the time the groups I played with we never explored the unknown territories beyond only superficial descriptions. It was like driving through some of the most beautiful territory full of potential adventures but ignoring it via Storm Wind Rider (a travel spell). The windows were rolled up, so to speak, on our mental car ride.

So how do you address that in the new Edition. Part of the wonder is there is so much going on in the map that everything not filled in with cities is quite literally "There be dragons!" and if you are playing an Exalt you want to fight dragons! My new solution is: Hex Grid that sucker!

Oh wait,did I say new? I mean old as dirt, but it works. Now you have options. You can literally photocopy a section of the map and Photoshop in hexes, OR you can use the idea of hex mapping, random event generation and do what I call Storypaths.

Here is the basis of my Storypath idea:

As the Exalted PC's travel I'll mark out the distance in miles using the map key. Each 20 to 50 miles I'll roll up a random event using ideas stolen from 2 books and some I write down on my own. The books I'm farming ideas from are OSR books written by Sine Nomine Publishing aka. Kevin Crawford.

Scarlet Heroes - An Asian themed OSR RPG.

Scarlet Heroes is written from the point of view of more powerful heroic D&D characters. Almost Exalted in it's own right. That said the big thing I'm looking for are Sine Nomine's adventure tags. This is the basis of my Storypath idea. As the players move through the world I fill in the location by adding a setting, npcs, and events. The adventure tags are my randomizer I use to fill in the details.I also pull ideas from another source.

Spears At Dawn

Spears is an African themed rpg closer to the D&D roots but with more local flavor. Adding Scarlet Heroes and Spears together with some Exalted tag ideas allows me to roll up 3 big areas:

Geographical Highlights - Wyld zone, demanse, strange ruins, local village, empty (weird), bandit camp, etc.

Local NPCs - Exalted, mortals, military camps, etc.

Local Events - The last is guided by the first two, but depending on what I roll I try to tie the two together.

This can also work in a city or social event. What I do there is write up minor plot paths for the NPCs or factions in the area. I love the idea of story tags, or social tags as I dub them now, to roll up some random tidbits the Exalted can use their charms to discover when working a room. What's the point of social influence if the influence never comes up eh?

The other thing I do is a it of Plot Pathing from back in Cybergen 2.0 days. If you ever played Cyberpunk 2020 or Cybergen then Life and Plot Path rolls were a thing. You could roll up rivalry, lost of family, etc. It's fun coming up with events of possible lists that minor npcs might have. So when they meet someone I take 2 minutes to 'flesh' them out.

Now, these story tags are in an early state, but once I have my prototype list done I'll cook up a wiki, or use an exciting one, and post my random Exalted Storypath and Plot tables. Then you too can sit down and have fun with it.

It would be awesome if Kevin Crawford ever wrote up a generic story tag system. But when in doubt, steal a similar listing from say Dungeon World who calls them fronts.

More Exalted to come!