This isn’t so much a game I want to run as an idea I’ve been mulling around. Not sure if I’d want to run a game in such a setting, but I like the potential it has. So think of this more as a creative exercise. If I have enough ideas, I may even start up a Wiki for it.
I really like “prequel” settings for popular game settings. I loved the Earthdawn setting. Hated the rules, but loved the setting. Loved the connections between Earthdawn and Shadowrun. I’ve similarly loved the connections between the Exalted and the old World of Darkness.
The general idea for what I’ve been noodling about is, “What if there was an Exalted-type setting connected to the new World of Darkness?”
There are lots of things I love about Exalted, and a lot of things that drive me nuts. It had lots of great new rules to speed up combat and make it feel more cinematic, then it turned it into a bookkeeping nightmare with all the charms and Essence pools. I’ve gotten better at it, but it’s still a zoo. The sheer volume of books involved in general play is also a nightmare. It didn’t quite sink in for me until the last couple sessions, where we’ve been playing at someone else’s place. When we’re playing, we only really need the main book, Lunars book, and three or four of the books with rules about our characters. But GMing, I had a bunch of reference books I wanted to bring with me. The other fat splats, the setting books. It was a huge pain in the ass.
The other thing is that, as much as I love the setting of Exalted, it’s sorta lackluster in terms of World of Darkness tie ins. I mean, White Wolf had three very strong game lines going for them. Then they put them in the background of Exalted. Who from the World of Darkness gets center stage in Exalted? Johnny-Come-Lately Hunter: The Reckoning. Really? Hunter? And who rules the world after the Solars have been taken out of the picture? Kindred of the East. Lunars (Werewolves) were important once upon a time. Abyssals (Vampire) and Sidereals (Mages) are more behind-the-scenes boogie-men that get dragged out much farther down the line. It’s like that old gag about the Star Wars prequels. “You like Darth Vader? The first movie is about Darth Vader. He’s a little boy who loses his mom and is very sad.”
Part of my desire to explore the ancient history of nWoD came when I was running Bringing Crazy Back. One of the kids in the game gave their character amnesia. Her character could not remember being embraced or any of her mortal life. And her character was insane. I started off with the idea of, “Well, maybe she’s much older than she thinks?” At first I just concocted a background where she’d been worshipped in northern Africa before the pharaohs and had some sort of throwdown with a goddess, won at great cost, went up against her many centuries later and came out of the conflict with amnesia.
But of course such ideas just add other questions. Where did she get her scars? Who was her sire? I could easy have given her some banal background, a childhood in some Mesopotamian village. But where’s the fun behind that? Instead, I made her responsible for the World of Darkness. When I led up to this, I hinted at the truth with the line, “It’s all Cheshire’s fault. Global warming? Cheshire’s fault. Childproof caps? Cheshire’s fault. People who talk in movie theaters? Cheshire’s fault.”
The general shtick was that she was a mage in Atlantis, involved in a love triangle. The feud that erupted over the courtship for her heart was the war that ultimately shattered Earth from the Supernal Realm. The scars are the remnant of an attempt at revenge. Her attempt to reach Atlantis again opened a breach into the Abyss, which turned her and her compatriots into the first vampires. A later attempt to bring a dead husband back to life created a lineage of Prometheans (the Osirans) and their attempt to have a “child” together created the first Pandoran. Though others participated in these events, she was the one branded as the problem. Lilith? Eve? Pandora? All myths pointing the blame at her.
Have I mentioned I have trouble running “small” games?
At one point, the PCs managed to make it to the ruins of Atlantis. As I described the ruins, I realized that much of what I was drawing off of was the art and imagery of Exalted. Especially the images of the First Age. From there my thoughts drifted to what that bygone era might have been like.
The route I took with BCB was pretty much a literal take on the presumed backgrounds of werewolves and mages (not drawing in anything they may have presented in the secondary sourcebooks), with some flourishes to accomodate the PCs. But part of the fun of Exalted was the twists they took with the connections. For many of the connections, it was obvious what linked to what. But they did it in ways that you didn’t necessarily expect.
Mages and Atlantis seem like the easiest way to link all the fat splats. The five Watchtowers dovetail so well with the other big name supernaturals. In theory I could work up alternate visions that center around one of the other supernaturals (kinda like “Time of Judgement” did for the end of the oWoD), but I’m not having any great ideas along those lines.
So, starting with Mage before the fall of Atlantis. No need for Watchtowers, which opens up the option for several other paths. Just mix two paths and see what sort of supernal realm you can concoct from that. Death and time? Death and life? Death and space? Hmmm…
From there comes the question of where the others came from. At first I was tempted to have werewolves come from the Father Wolf mythology, vampires come along later, etc. But that seems a little flat. My latest idea that I’m mulling around is the idea that the mages created the other supernaturals as servitors. Archmages of notable paths (the big ones from Mage) created the vampires, werewolves and others in order to be an enhanced, self-propagating workforce. When Atlantis fell, the servitors became cursed. Perhaps they rose up against their masters and were cursed for their effrontery. Perhaps they were stained by the Abyss when Atlantis fell. The vampires needed to hide from the sun, the created gained disquiet, silver burned the werewolves. Some mages, trapped on the other side of the Abyss and warped by prolonged exposure to the Supernal realm, still touch upon our world. The Changelings know them as the Gentry or Fair Folk. The Sin-Eaters know them as the Geists.
There are some weak spots in this. The only real “infernal” supernatural are the Lucifuge from Hunter: The Vigil, and they don’t really stack up next to the others. Changelings aren’t self-perpetuating the way others are. It sort of marginalizes the new Geist. But I think some work arounds could be managed.
Not entirely sure how to handle system. Some stuff seems easy. It seems like it would work great to steal a page from Exalted and drop the target number on d10s to 7 and make 10s automatically count as two successes. (Of course, that may also make the rules absurdly more lethal.) If I wanted to make it generally higher powered I could up the starting pool of attribute and skill points, maybe start to explore more definitively what rank 6+ means in the assorted settings.
What I absolutely wouldn’t want to do is start importing Charms from Exalted. The bookkeeping on the different dots of powers is a big enough pain already. But replacing it with Charms and Combos from Exalted would be too much. I’ve tried looking at other systems people have done for conversions, and invariably they open it with “I really felt the most important thing to keep would be Charms and Combos, because they really define Exalted.” If I ever actually go forward with this idea, I may poke at Scion to see if there’s some way I could steal from those rules to help out. I like the simplified approach Scion does, but I’ve never actually played it.