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Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Classic Rant: If You Want the RPG Hobby to Be More LGBT-Inclusive...

So we hear a lot these days, some from people who are really just desperately interested in having everyone see how activist they are, and some from those who actually give a fuck, about the question of LGBT-inclusivity in RPGs. Many people have been arguing in favor of LGBT-representation in game settings, and that's fine (within the boundaries of what's credible for a setting, obviously). But some have also pointed out that just having a few mentions of LGBT characters in a game setting is not really any great thing, and is not necessarily something that will make the hobby more welcoming to LGBT people as gamers.

Correct! The question is, what's the solution then? Some have talked about RPG mechanics, and how these should be changed somehow, or new RPGs/storygames made that address these. In one particularly productive G+ conversation I was involved in, one writer suggested the following as mechanical elements that they thought would appeal to LGBT players:

"character non-monogamy, subversive models of character agency, mechanics that interrogate themselves, fluid codification of characters, games without characters."

Now, here's the thing: none of those things appear in D&D, nor will they ever. And not because D&D is homophobic, but because they're just irrelevant to it. Those types of mechanics are as relevant to D&D in both system and style as they would be to baseball.



Other people in that same conversation (or maybe the same person, I forget) were also talking about the importance of panels at cons.

Now, here's the other thing: the types of mechanics described above are all well and good to appear in new games (most likely small-press indie games). Fine. Panels at cons, fine. But both of these amount to preaching to the choir, to people already operating inside the hobby. And note that by "choir" in this case, I do NOT mean LGBT-people, but rather that very tiny subset of the same that are really really interested in LGBT issues in Gaming, and actively participate in things like panels at cons, and play quirky story games.
Most RPG players don't even GO to cons. Most RPG players don't play storygames. And among that classification of "RPG Players", I include most LGBT players.

I will say it right here: I would be willing to bet my finest pipe that, in exactly the same way that the vast majority of RPG players only play D&D, the vast majority of LGBT people who play RPGs only play D&D. And there's no reason to suspect that the vast majority of LGBT people who become tabletop RPG players in the future won't also follow that same trend.

Does this mean that there are no problems with inclusion? No, of course there are problems. What this means is, as long as the ownership of the discussion of what to do to bring more LGBT-people into the hobby and make the hobby a more welcoming and inclusive place belongs to people who like to talk about college-level identity politics theory in panels at cons and play storygames, as long as that particular (dare I say privileged?) group claims ownership over this issue, a huge disservice is likely being done to the majority of LGBT-gamers.

Why? Because as far as I can see, D&D (and its clones) will continue by far to be the largest RPG in the hobby, and the one that will keep successfully bringing in the most new people to the hobby.

So I think if the goal is to create inclusion, you're left with two choices:

a) Go to war with the entire hobby and try to destroy D&D, which is a fools' errand, though certainly some fools are trying.

or

b) talk more productively about those ways that can provide inclusivity within the structure and model that is unlikely to change, nor should it need to change.

"Queering" D&D is like "queering" basketball, or bridge. It either can't be done, or can only be done by making something so radically different from what is presently called 'basketball' or 'bridge' that it would no longer be recognizable as such.

So I would argue that D&D is the elephant in the room of the whole discussion as it currently stands. Are you doing all this to make yourself feel better and to be smug, and create a little pseudo-intellectual ghetto for yourselves while abandoning to the wolves any LGBT gamers who have no interest in spending their time talking about Queer Theory; or are you doing it because you actually want the very core hobby to be more inclusive and to be a place that is more open, welcoming and gives more centrality to LGBT people? 
If the latter, you need to recognize the reality that D&D is the hobby (in terms of what your goals would be), and that therefore it's pointless to talk about 'steps' that don't take D&D into account. There's not much reason to talk about changing things at the rules level (because you couldn't do that with D&D, aside from fluff rules). Instead, what you do need to talk about are the many many other levels in which you can focus yours efforts with D&D to achieve your goals.

No one's saying it's a bad idea to make a game that specifically appeals to the interests or identity of a minority (though I think that can often create either tokenism, or ghettoization, both of which have problems of their own); but the point is that D&D IS the RPG hobby for most gamers! You won't create an overall environment that's positive if you don't address how you can work with D&D. And furthermore, I think that D&D is the RPG hobby for most LGBT gamers! Sure, there are some that will really be hyper-aware of the 'bigger hobby', but it's likely that, just like 90% of all gamers don't play anything other than D&D, 90% of all LGBT gamers don't play anything other than D&D too. So you're doing those people a disservice by ignoring D&D.

I think that 5e D&D has done (and is on course to doing) great stuff with representation. I think that the places where D&D can work better for LGBT involve just about everything that surrounds the system (plus maybe a few secondary elements of system itself), and how they present settings/adventures; but I think its much more important to stop thinking about this in terms of the elements of the game, and start thinking more in terms of the elements of marketing, public relations, organized play, etc. Conventions are important, sure, but they aren't the "ground floor" of the hobby. Instead, you want to be promoting LGBT involvement in play through FLGSes, school clubs, community groups, etc, plus online play (if WotC can ever figure out how to do that last one right). 
The interesting thing is that this are ALSO precisely the areas that WoTC needs to be focusing on if they want to make the hobby grow in general; and they could do this at the same time as they make an effort to making D&D (and thus the biggest part of the hobby) more LGBT-friendly.

Hell, for years now gaming companies have from time to time engaged in or participated in programs to send RPG books to overseas military (which has, by the way, resulted in a disproportionate amount of U.S. RPG players being active or veteran military). Why not do the same to gay-straight alliance clubs in schools, or other kinds of youth groups?

That's the kind of thinking you need to be working on if the goal is really to reach out and welcome LGBT gamers; working from the assumption (no doubt distasteful to some, but a reality) that the vast majority of LGBT gamers are and will be just like all the other gamers and want to play D&D, so the answer to inclusiveness is getting more LGBT people (especially LGBT youth) trying out D&D.

As for the Gay-Straight Alliance Clubs outreach thing, remember, folks: you heard it from the RPGPundit first.

RPGPundit

(originally posted November 19, 2014)

Monday, 24 April 2017

Break Monday: Bad-ass Soldier Edition

In today's Break article, I take a short biographical look through history of four legendary bad-ass fighter-guys, ranging from the 1st century until the 20th.

Why? Just because I dig history, and all four of these guys had interesting stories to tell.

So, check out Four Historical Warriors With Kill-Counts John Wick Could Respect.

And if you liked the article, please share it!


RPGPundit

Currently Smoking: Ben Wade Rhodesian + Image Latakia

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Wild West Campaign:The Hinkley Gang

In this weekend's game, we had a trio of stories.

First, Deputy Jeff Young went off to the countryside to look for Dirty Dave Rudabaugh. He didn't actually know if Dirty Dave had committed any crimes, but assumed he was, and hoped it would be a great opportunity to get himself some more arrests by catching Dirty Dave and his inevitable selling out of his partners.

He found out someone had been robbing stagecoaches out of Hays city, and headed that way to investigate. He learned the name of one of the robbers, and then took a guess as to where they might have headed, hoping he'd find Dirty Dave at the end of it. In the town of Gove he discovered that it was indeed Dirty Dave and his new gang, and after charming a local barmaid, she revealed to him that Dirty Dave was apparently avoiding Cimarron on account that he'd learned in Hays that Clay Allison, one of the most feared gunfighters and gang-leaders of the age, had a beef against certain people in Dodge city (on account of Wyatt Earp having shot dead one of his best men, George Hoyt). And she believed Dave's gang were headed to Elkader instead.

Second, Kid Taylor had run off with Judge Wright's daughter Frances (having secretly gotten full permission to do so by the Judge). He was going to marry her in Elkader. They arrived without incident, but the preacher, suspecting that they'd run off without the girl's father's permission, insisted that they take until the afternoon to think long and hard about the seriousness of marriage. If they were still sure to go through with it, then rather than their living in sin he would marry them after lunchtime.

They planned to go eat at the only dining hall in town, when they heard someone calling for Kid from nearby. It turned out to be Dirty Dave Rudabaugh!



He had been arrested by the town's new hardass sheriff as soon as he'd rode in. Now he was pleading for Kid Taylor to get him out. Kid decided to spring Dave, and as a first step invited both the jailor and sheriff to his wedding.  Then he sat down for lunch with his bride-to-be and she asked him why the hell he was planning to risk their wedding for Dave.  Kid thought about it, and had admit to her that Dave wasn't even that close a friend, just more of an acquaintance, and that it really didn't make any sense, it was just his first outlaw instinct. But for her, he decided, he'd decline to spring Dave.

Unfortunately, as soon as they left the diner, they ran into the Sheriff, who immediately arrested Kid Taylor. He was suspecting that Kid was part of Dave's gang, and when he learned of the name of Kid's betrothed, he realized that she was the daughter of Judge Wright. He assumed that Kid had fled with her, probably defiled her, and was now seeking to marry her without parental permission. It didn't help that Kid had lied to the jailor and claimed (in a bit of 'man talk') that he'd already deflowered her, which wasn't true.

Kid tried to convince the sheriff that in fact he had Judge Wright's full blessing (which was true) and that Wright had his own reasons for them eloping (he didn't want the rest of the Dodge City Gang to know that Kid Taylor was now working for him and the "Better People"), but the story seemed so amazing that the Sheriff assumed it to be a lie. He threw kid into the jail with Dirty Dave (who assumed Kid had been arrested for trying to spring him).  Dave had some hope his real gang would spring him but they never showed, and he soon realized they'd abandoned him and taken all his ill-gotten gains with them.

The next day, Deputy Young came into town after Dave. He found Dave and Kid in the Sheriff's custody, and wanted to get Dave to give his usual confession in exchange for immunity, to hunt down Dave's gang and recover the lost Wells-Fargo money. But the local hardass Sheriff insisted on trying to violently beat Dave to elicit a confession. Young was too inexperience in law to think to defy the Sheriff, but it was actually Rudabaugh (who had gotten quite good at interpreting the law due to his many close-shaves with prison) who pointed out in mid-beating that since his crimes were all done OUTSIDE Elkader, he should be Young's prisoner and not the Sheriff's. The Sheriff was forced very reluctantly to stop savagely assaulting Dave, and release him into Young's custody. Young couldn't really help kid, and disbelieved the story the Sheriff relayed to him about Kid having permission to marry Frances Wright. So he left Kid to stew.
Fortunately for kid, a few hours later the Sheriff got a response to his telegram to Dodge City where he'd informed the Judge that he'd "rescued" Frances from her kidnapper; Judge Wright backed Kid's story and the Sheriff was obliged to free Kid and allow Kid and Frances to marry.

Third: In Dodge itself, in the Palace Saloon, Bill Miller (the security guard) ended up in a confrontation with a drunken rustic named Jed Hinkley, after Jed shot the poker dealer dead (claiming he was being cheated). Bill walked right up to the man exchanging fire, taking a couple of flesh wounds, before pistol whipping him twice into unconsciousness. His astounding (reckless, some would say) display of bravado quickly becomes news throughout the town.

A bit later, news gets out that millionaire brat Spike Kenedy is back in town. A couple of weeks ago he'd tried to assassinate the mayor of Dodge, Dog Kelly, out of jealousy at Kelly being romantically involved with the beautiful singer, Miss Dora Hand (who Spike was infatuated with). Now he'd snuck back into town, and tried to buy another gun, but no one would sell it to him; so he walked up in front of the Alhambra Saloon and challenged the old man to a fist-fight. In spite of being more than two decades older than Spike, "Dog" beats him to a bloody pulp, and Marshall Bassett takes him away for the second time.



Later on, the PCs find out that Jeb Hinkley's mother, "Ma" Hinkley, is actually a well-known gang-leader, and she's come into town with her other two sons, Bull and Zeb. Ma is incensed, not so much that Jeb was arrested as that he let himself be taken alive and was going to be hung for murder, an act that she feels will bring dishonor to the whole family.  It's assumed she's planning to free her son, and maybe kill Bill Miller. Bill and his boss, John Miller (no relation) head over to the Marshall's office to offer their assistance. Just then, the news arrives that Doc Holliday (who had been acting more erratically these last few days) had shot the owner of the Gillie bar in the head!




The Marshall runs off to try to deal with the matter, while the Millers keep watch over the Marshall's office.

They find the Hinkleys sneaking into the alley beside the jail, and realize that one of them is carrying a box of dynamite!  Heading over there quickly, the Hinkleys realize they've been spotted. A firefight begins, but not all goes as expected. While Bull shoots at the Millers, Ma turns her shotgun on her imprisoned son, choosing to kill him rather than let him stay in captivity. Zeb, meanwhile, lights a stick of dynamite, planning to throw it at the Millers. One of the Millers manages to shoot Zeb's hand, causing him to drop the stick right onto the box of dynamite. The Hinkleys try to flee while the Millers dive for cover. The huge explosion that follows injures Bill Miller and kills Ma and Zeb; Bull survives with serious injuries. Half the Marshall's office is blown to bits; but Spike Kennedy (who was inside) survives mostly uninjured.

It turns out that Doc Holliday didn't actually kill the owner of the Gillie bar, he survived his head wound. But Doc and Big Nose Kate THOUGHT the barman was dead, so they fled town.  The lawmen decide it's best not to bother pursuing.

Kid Taylor and his new bride Frances take the scenic route back to Dodge, honeymooning in various small towns.  When Kid gets back, his sister Lily warmly greets her new sister-in-law, but Kid discovers a pair of men's underpants that aren't his, and he realizes that while he was away, his sister had been up to no good with her beau, Jim Masterson.
But the consequences of that will be a story for another session.

RPGPundit

Currently Smoking: Ashton Old Church Rhodesian + C&D's Bayou Evening

Saturday, 22 April 2017

RPGPundit Reviews: The Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate




This is a review of the RPG "The Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate", published by Bedrock Games, written by Brendan Davis, William Butler, and Dan Orcutt. As always, the review is of the print edition, which is a softcover volume of impressive size, quite close to 500 pages.

The cover is full-color and features an impressive comic-style illustration of two wuxia warriors fighting against some eastern-style ogres. The interior is black and white, adequately illustrated with a number of similarly-styled drawings.




I will note for the sake of disclosure that Bedrock are the publishers of my Arrows of Indra RPG. I don't think that will affect my ability to review the product, but I thought I'd explicitly mention it so the reader is aware of the fact.

Ogre Gate sets itself up as a game of "Gravity-defying martial artists inspired by wuxia film and drama series".  Its setting is said to be inspired by Song Dynasty China.  That happens to be my very favorite dynasty; we'll have to see how it measures up.

The book is so large it's a bit intimidating; but a lot of it is about long lists of martial art techniques and qi powers.  Frankly, that's a size that I could expect from a really complete and self-contained wuxia RPG, as there's a lot of ground to cover. The question is more about whether the size is used effectively.  Let's find out!

The book's preface certainly leaves it clear that Davis is well-acquainted with Wuxia classic films and series (something that anyone who follows him on G+ would already be well aware of). It also clarifies that the setting is not a fantasized version of Song China (in the sense that Dark Albion is a fantasized England, for example), but rather that it is a totally different fantasy world whose culture, government and belief systems are inspired by and quite loosely based on Song China. OK then, that's fine as long as it's clear; though the setting better be good.

Here's a brief breakdown of the setting: the world (Qi Xien) was once a kind of paradise created by a benevolent deity, but then something went wrong. An evil sorcerer named Yao-Feng crossed through into the world with an army of ogre demons, took over and became the Demon Emperor. A pair of heroic wuxia learned how to use the Qi power that Yao-Feng had brought with him, and used Kung Fu to take down the Demon Emperor and lock him in a place called the Ogre Gate, sacrificing their lives to seal that gate and guard it. The world would never be at peace again, but things gradually improved.

Eventually there was a great and benign ruler called the Righteous Emperor. When he died (about 100 years ago), his son (who called himself the Glorious Emperor) became tyrannical and plunged the world into oppression. The martial artists of the various schools who had descended from the ancient heroes who once defeated Yao-feng tried to fight him, but the Glorious Emperor used dark magic to turn many of them to his side.

Now, all the provinces but one are under the Glorious Emperor's control. Meanwhile, the rebellious martial artists retreated to a wilderness area called the Banyan region. They continued to resist the Emperor's tyranny, but have also developed bitter feuds between each school of kung-fu and spend much time fighting amongst each other.

The system for Ogre Gate is the "network system" which is a variant of the same system found in Bedrock's Sertorious RPG. In spite of the huge size of the book, the core system itself is very simple.  In the first place, there are no ability scores. There's only skills. Characters make skill rolls of a number of d10, but only keep the highest result; the rolls are based on the ranks they have in a skill, which range from 0-3 (if you have 0 ranks, you roll 2d10 but keep the lower result).  Success happens if you beat a difficulty number (rolling a 10 is a total success, which is sometimes special). Those are the basics, but the rules for mechanics, and especially combat, provide a lot of extra situations, conditions and details.

In combat, characters roll to hit, opposed by the other character's defensive value. These values are purchased the same way as other skills, but they are not rolled; rather added to set values to represent the difficulty number anyone attacking them needs to beat.  The character's level of Qi also contributes to his defensive values.
If they hit, they roll for damage against a character's "hardiness" skill. If they succeed, they do 1 wound (2 wounds if they rolled a 10). Starting characters usually have 3 wounds, so it doesn't take too many hits to be dropped, but of course, there's a lot of other stuff that can factor into the mix aside from the basics (for example, kung-fu techniques that help you defend against attacks).

All characters also have "Martial discipline ranks", which have four types: Wuxia (kung-fu), Qinggong (described as "lightness kung fu"), Neigong (internal kung fu), and Dianxue (pressure points).
They have Qi ranks (1 qi at character creation) and these are related to the "kung fu techniques" characters will have. Starting characters begin with six kung fu techniques. New techniques can be gained later, in play, but cannot be bought just by xp spending; they require the PC roleplay finding teachers or manuals they can learn these from.
One important detail is the "imbalance rating". It's equal to the highest ranking you have in Martial disciplines. So if you put one point in each discipline, your imbalance rating is 1. But if you put 3 points into a single discipline, your imbalance rating is 3.  This rating determines the difficulty for meditation techniques to avoid Qi spirit possession, and it determines the number of "imbalance" points if you use a Kung Fu technique "cathartically".  If you get too many imbalance points, you can end up being possessed by a Qi Spirit.


Skills are selected from "skill groups". There are six skill groups: defenses, combat, specialist, physical, knowledge and mental. Characters will choose two primary and four secondary groups.  Each group has a variety of skills associated with it, and characters get points to buy skills (twice as many for each primary group than for their secondary groups).  Many skills will have sub-skills which may have to be chosen and bought separately.
Also, many skills have various "expertises", which are specializations that, when purchased, give you an extra d10 under certain circumstances of using the skill (for example, the skill 'medium melee weapon' can have an expertise in one individual type of melee weapon).

It is recommended that PCs be human, and there are various cultural groups of humans available for play (wisely, with lists of names for each culture). However, if a GM wants to allow players to play non-humans, there are some to choose from. The Hechi are goat-like humanoids with a single unicorn-style horn; they can detect truths.  The Juren are four-armed giants who aren't very bright.  The Ouyan are people with three eyes who can sense emotions.  And the Kithiri are human-looking but have six different consciousnesses with six separate personalities.

Characters can also take 'flaws' which are disadvantages that in turn grant you an extra skill point.  I don't care for any system where players select disadvantages and get stuff in exchange, because it always tends to create a situation of hedging bets where players will try to get the flaw that they think will bother them the least in exchange for the most return; at least in this case there is a limit to how many you can get at character creation, and the value of the flaws are all uniform, which slightly reduces the min-maxing tendency of buying disadvantages.
I should note that at least the idea of randomly rolling flaws is included as an optional rule; it would be one that I'd obviously recommend.

There's one flaw in particular that stands out, because it doesn't count against your total, and if you take it gives you two skill points rather than one. This is the "Fated" flaw; it means that your character is destined for something; the GM will determine what they're destined for via a random roll, and the player won't know their fate (at least not at the start of the game).  At least, this particular flaw is both interesting and not entirely under the player's control, so it's an interesting touch.  Especially since the concept of "fate" is quite important to the setting.

Combat techniques can be selected at character creation, one of them, and more can be bought later on in the game for xp.  They are special moves, connected to offensive skills. Examples include "fists of steel", "blind swordsman", "drunken fighter", "from the shadows", "hefty crush", etc.

Another interesting detail in character creation is "reputation".  Every character has two descriptive terms for their reputation; the first is how people who admire and respect the PC see them, and the other is how enemies see them. There are situations where almost any reputation quality could be theoretically positive or negative in terms of the impressions it makes on NPCs. A character's repeated actions could end up changing their reputation; so for example a character who had a 'truthful' reputation and proceeds to break their word publicly several times might lose that in place of something like 'untrustworthy'.  There's one particular reputation, "poisoner" that if acquired will supplant both their reputation tags; using poison means friends and foes alike primarily think of you as a poisoner (feared, but highly dishonorable).

The GM section explains more details on Qi and Kung Fu techniques. This includes guidelines for the creation of new techniques. It also explains that Qi level can only be increased by gaining a certain level of experience and also by defeating an opponent of a higher qi level than your own. Characters skilled in Neigong can engage in "Qi duels" of fighting directly with Qi against each other.

XP is gained in the game by fulfilling certain conditions in each game session. If you beat a powerful foe in the session, you gain 1xp. If you advanced your reputation in the session, you gain 1xp. If you perform a great deed that in some way affects the setting, you gain 1xp.
Advancements are purchased through xp; you can get new techniques, new rituals, increase skills, or gain new combat techniques. The costs are variable depending on what you're buying and at what level.  My impression is that advancement is relatively slow, which is good for a long-term campaign.

The GM section also introduces a new mechanic: Karma. In the game, characters gain 'good' Karma from acts of altruism, filial piety, propriety, rite, wisdom and justice (the Confucian virtues, essentially).  The GM tracks PCs' karma, and it affects their relationship to higher beings, as well as their future rebirths.  In higher level "Profound Master and Immortal" play characters start to know their own karma scores because they are now aware of them.

Speaking of the latter, characters are normal heroes until up to Qi level 6. Some GMs may only wish to play up to that level, but beyond that there are the levels of Profound Master (Qi level 7-13) and Immortal (Qi level 13+).  These levels open you up to new super-wuxia techniques and abilities. Immortal level characters stop aging and if killed will quickly be reborn and age into adulthood, and can use celestial weapons.

Other material in the GM's section includes stuff on travel times, encounters, poison and disease (with lots of examples), army-scale battles, and even cricket-fights (for gambling purposes).


The chapter on Kung-fu Techniques is 64 pages long, and has literally hundreds of techniques (I lost count). They encompass pretty much any wuxia stunt or power you could ever imagine in any wuxia movie.
The list includes techniques for the four martial disciplines, plus special techniques, evil techniques, profound techniques and immortal techniques.  Each describes what the technique does, what skill is rolled to use it, what the special effects are when used cathartically, and the minimum Qi rank to use it.
I should clarify there are no "Qi points" or something like that. The Qi Rank tells you the minimum value you must have in Qi to be able to obtain the technique, but once you have it you can use it without having to keep track of any special resource, which I think is a good thing. Using a technique 'cathartically' makes it more powerful, but opens you up to the risk of imbalance and Qi Spirit possession. Some techniques are common, while some are secret and can only be obtained by certain means. The designers even put in a sidebar that notes explicitly that some techniques are more powerful than others of the same level, because this is emulative of the Wuxia genre.
All this does mean that if a player has the book and reads through it he'll find shitloads of ways to min-max and powergame. There's so many techniques that I can't say for sure whether some of them might not be to some extent game-breaking but it does seem that whatever techniques a character has, someone else could theoretically have ones that would be a counter to it.  Regardless, the whole thing puts a big onus on the GM to be careful not to make it too easy for a player to take undue advantage by knowing the mechanics out of character. The fact that you have to go find a way to learn the techniques, and can't just spend xp and declare you  have it, is at least a mitigating force.  If the GM really doesn't want to have a certain technique, he could just make it impossible to be found.  He should also presume that not all techniques would actually be known by the PCs, so he should shoot down players who are clearly acting from OOC knowledge (ie. looking at the rules to judge how good or bad a technique is and then going 'shopping' for it).

Next we have a chapter on rituals. These are divided into two types: rites and magic. Rites are more basic practices of the sort that in the real world you'd see in the Confucian/Taoist concepts. They might be done by everyone (and in some cases, must be performed as a question of duty, for example with Ancestor Worship). While magic rituals are more powerful ceremonies tapping into significant magical forces. These have a bigger result and bigger risks: if a character fails significantly when performing a magic ritual, they can gain a mental affliction. Magic rituals have a wide variety of uses, with many dealing with summoning spirit-beings or creating talismans.  There are also Qi Rituals, which are very powerful but will temporarily lower your Qi Rank when you perform them.

The equipment section has material on coinage, weapons, armor, mounts and transport, food and drink, general goods, everyday items, and alchemical material.
The listing of weapons is quite large and has pretty much every fancy kung-fu weapon you've ever seen in a movie, certainly including some that were probably more mythical than historical (like the "flying guillotine"). There's nice illustration pages that help you visualize them. The other sections are short but fairly complete. Some effort has been made to be accurate to the historical dynasty the setting is meant to be based on, for example in the book's approach to tea.

Next we get into a chapter on the world of the martial heroes, and the "Jianghu" (literally the land of rivers and lakes). I'll mention that this is a real term from Chinese culture, a term that originated from the times that Confucian scholars were sent out into exile from court, to the distant hinterlands of the Empire. It is a term that's significant in ancient Chinese poetry.  But in the context of Wuxia, it refers to the more ephemeral 'borderland world' of martial artists, outlaws, and other marginalized people of dubious stature.
The chapter details the established sects of the setting, which are split into the orthodox (you could say 'respectable') sects, and the unorthodox (less respectable or legitimate) sects. Sects are detailed by their leadership, allies, enemies, general number of members, history, beliefs, reputation, and the techniques they train people in. Illustrations also show the outfits worn by members of different sects. The sects are each quite different from each other, and quite inspired both by history and by martial arts stories. A special section is devoted to 'strange cults and secret sects', which are I guess even more unorthodox than the unorthodox sects.

The next section after that is on the larger world of Qi Xien itself. We get a nice series of maps of the setting in different eras, and sections on the historical eras of the setting. Then we have a section on the religions and cosmology of the setting. These are not precisely like the belief systems of China but each are similar to them: Confucianism, Taoism, the Kuan Yin sect, and Buddhism. We also get an overview of core philosophical/cosmological concepts like the Mandate of Heaven, the different spiritual realms, the "five dragons and five phoenixes" (which are somewhat based on the real-life Chinese concept of the Wuxing, established by the School of Yin and Yang), a list of the important spirits and immortals, and some foreign deities.
We also get a description of some of the core moral values of the culture, cribbed right from traditional Chinese culture; and of the concept of Fate, and the wuxia code. Also a variety of details on customs and traditions. There's lots more: the calendar and zodiac, information on the imperial bureaucracy and military, city life, clans, prostitution, restaurants, agriculture, clothing, architecture, taxes, weddings and funerals, laws, and punishment. In short, just about anything you'd need to make the setting come alive in an authentic-seeming way.
There are some parts that aren't taken right from the Song, but rather are anachronisms of things that either wouldn't be a big part of the culture until later, or that were from earlier periods in Chinese history. But this is basically a historian's nitpicking.

This is followed up by a geographical overview of the world as it exists in the present-day of the setting. This section is accompanied by a modern map of the setting, done in hex-map style (a nice touch!), plus regional maps, city maps, and some floorplan/dungeon-style-plans.



In the course of 56 pages, you get a breakdown of the structure and political powers of the Empire, the other states, key areas, cities, etc.  Also you get a larger breakdown of the Banyan region (the borderland hotbed of the martial artists and their sects), with important areas.  Some temples, secret headquarters, tombs, and such are detailed with floorplans and area descriptions. Some NPCs are detailed with statistics. It's very thorough.
The subsequent NPC section details a large number of the important NPCs of the setting. Likewise, "Threats and monsters" contains a variety of statblocks for different human foes, from ordinary guards to sect masters, wild animals, monsters, and a colorful variety of demons.

The magic items section has a variety of swords, other weapons, secret manuals, talismans, and other objects of power. Each comes with a descriptive detail and mechanical effects. There's a decent selection of 38 objects.


The Gamemaster section goes on to provide guidance to the GM on a variety of topics. For starters, on the nature of Wuxia as a genre. In the text, whoever wrote it (Brendan Davis, I'm presuming) demonstrates a very advanced knowledge of Wuxia and the Chinese concepts that inform it. He's able to correctly assert that a lot of the impressive feats from Wuxia films aren't just invented for cinematic impact, but rather are based on traditional ideas from folk tales and mythology about Qi powers from advanced masters. He gives a good explanation of Qinggong (lightness kung fu) and Neigong (internal kung fu that works with Qi directly). He also gives short but good descriptions of some of the key genre elements of Wuxia stories. The section includes a large bibliography of history books and sources, as well as a huge list of Kung Fu movies and TV shows for inspiration.

Then the section moves to revealing some of the hidden truths of the setting, stuff that the GM should know but the player characters would not know at the beginning. In it, he explains what Ogre Gate is about, why the setting's ultimate deity is female (when in Chinese culture it was always male), how the current (evil) emperor has been alive for so long, and other secrets.  There's also information about gender roles in the setting. Then we get into the section on Fate; this includes a random table for characters who took the "fated" flaw, as well as the fate of a whole PC party.  There's also a section on the importance of Luck, which is just as significant in the setting (and Chinese culture) as Fate, and how these two seemingly contradictory forces interact.
Then it moves on to more pedestrian material, like travel and encounters (including encounter tables), and guidlines to managing play and designing adventures (again, there are some very  helpful random tables for adventure inspiration). There's even a very decent section on how to make a "Wuxia dungeon", that fits the dungeon scheme but adds a Kung-fu movie style to it. Longer-term campaign play is also covered, including random tables for future events, and rules for managing different NPCs and NPC power groups.

The last actual chapter of the book, covering about 20 pages, is an adventure (titled "Ghosts From the Ashes"). Meant for a starting or low-level party, that will be good for introducing new players to the nature of the setting and game, the adventure deals with the PC group being offered a contract by a "Lady Tao" from the "Emerald Security Company" to investigate the death of an engineer and his daughter.  Investigation leads to the revelation that the news of their deaths may just be premature, and leads them to a sect called the Golden Grotto Academy.  I won't go into more detail than that so as not to produce any spoilers. I do think that the adventure as a whole will end up certainly getting the PCs thoroughly familiarized with adventuring in the game.

The appendices include quick reference tables for Kung-fu techniques, a glossary of important titles and offices and list of current rulers of the different regions, a guide to using Kung-fu techniques in the related Sertorius RPG, and a description of the different realms.

The closing pages include character sheets, NPC sheets, and a complete set of worksheets for a lunar calendar to keep track of campaign time.

So what to say about Ogre Gate? It's frankly magnificent. It's easily the most complete and authentic Chinese-setting fantasy RPG I've ever seen, probably rivaled only by Qin, which is more historical but has less variety and detail at the "wuxia genre" level.  You can really tell the spectacular level of knowledge the designers had with both Chinese culture/history and with (especially) Wuxia themed literature and film.
The system, while having a few details that are not my own personal preferences in RPG mechanics, is easy to learn and handle, and (mostly) avoids the pitfalls you sometimes see with things like dice-pool systems or the type of character-generation mechanics you see here.

If you're looking for a martial-arts-action RPG, you pretty much have to pick up Ogre Gate. It takes the genre to a whole other level.

RPGPundit

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Friday, 21 April 2017

Break Friday: Pepe the Frog!

Today on Break, everything you always wanted to know about Pepe the Frog, but were too afraid of being called a racist to ask!




Is Pepe really a White Power racist symbol?

Is he just good fun?

Or is Pepe actually an ancient god re-awakened by the processing power and chaos-magic randomness of the internet? 

Plus, why Pepe helped Donald Trump win the election. 

As always, if you liked the article please share it!

RPGPundit

Currently Smoking: Dunhill Canadian + Image Latakia

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Classic Rant: Pundit-Notes From the Great Forge Reunion Battle of 2015


Wherein Ron Edwards Complained That People Still Remembered "Brain Damage", and Were Still mad at him for it;
and Wherein Ron Edwards Tried to Take Credit for the OSR



Part 1
The Hobby is a Free Market: Why Constraining GMs Through Rules is Stupid and Useless

There is already a clearly-set limit on the GM: the Player controls his Character. That's it. The GM is GOD in every other respect.
That's how you make it work.

Now, that's it, in terms of rules. Obviously, yes, you have the Social Contract; a GM who just does "rocks fall and everyone dies, bwah hah hah hah!" on his players isn't going to be a GM for long, because people will (in the free market this hobby is) move on to some other, better GM. But you can say the same about the GM who fills his world with monosyllabic totally bland NPCs, or the GM who regularly has his players slogging through hexes or 40' corridors without giving any life to them.

These are Bad GMs. Specifically because they're shitty at being God.

But you don't fix that by creating rules that hamstring the GM, that say "the GM can't oppose a player if/when...". You do that, and you only make the situation worse; first and foremost because suddenly the GM is constrained by the rules and will at times be unable to create an emulative environment BECAUSE of those rules. But furthermore, because you will potentially have Primma Donna Players taking abusive advantage of those rules to ruin the fun for everyone else.

A GM who just cares about his own fun and not the other players is being a BAD GM. A player who just cares about his own fun is not being a bad player (he might be a bad person, but not a bad player) because he's SUPPOSED to only care about his character.

But what this means is that if you turn around and give away the power to the players because of the "tyranny" of Bad GMs, you make the problem much worse. Instead of one Dictator, you now have 4-6 Dictators, and whereas the former had a "noblesse oblige" duty to make the game fun for all, none of those 4-6 Little Stalins actually do.

So the answer is never something that's found in actual Rule Design. It can't be, because the GM has to be able to break any rule any time he wants to, and the constraint to that cannot be in the rules but in the right of the player to walk away from the table.

That's why Amber is a million times better than anything the Forge ever produced. It deals with the problem by dedicating most of the book to the greatest GM advice ever put to paper. It recognizes that the only answer to the problem of 'bad GMs' is to try to help people be better GMs.

RPGPundit

(Originally posted January 20, 2015)

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

DCC Campaign Update: "Mein name is... Beinrich"



When we left off, Bill the (snake-headed) Elf was on a barren asteroid with Yarr, having just failed to learn his spell. The rest of the gang were in the city of Lol, having defeated the Guardian Robots but now facing a potential sky-Nazi invasion.

Now:

-"You know, if Bill can't manage to succeed at a Planar Step he might just spend the whole adventure starving to death on an asteroid."
"No I won't, I have rations!"

-Tonut The Blacksmith levels up and becomes Tonut the Cleric.
"I got Holy Sanctuary! Oh wait, it's called Ack'Basha's Holy Sanctuary"
"Actually, it's just called Ack'basha's Sanctuary; there's nothing holy about Ack'basha."

-"I also got Detect Evil."
"How's that going to work?"
"In this campaign, it's like an episode of Oprah: 'look under your chairs, and yes.. EVERYONE is evil!!"
"No. It's 'Detect Evil', not 'Detect Horrible Assholes'. If it was that, then yes, you'd go blind any time you cast it."



-Frustrated about his failing to learn the spell, Bill finally picks up the Time Dinosaur orb; it turns out to be a hologram orb, which shows a Time Dinosaur explaining a very detailed mission breakdown for Bill. Unfortunately, it's all in dinosaur, so Bill doesn't get any of it.

-"Bill, I get the feeling you don't give a shit anymore."
"Hey man, I have a motherfucking snake head now!"

-Failing to cast a powerful enough Planar Step to get himself and Yarr off the floating island, he decides to risk spellburn. Unfortunately, he fails his saving throw and turns into a Sezrekhan zombie!
"All is Sezrekhan!"

-"So I have to play another PC?"
"Yup. Who knows when Bill will regain his free will, after all."
"Can't I talk to Sezrekhan?"
"No. You are a part of Sezrekhan now."
"The question is, what part?"

-"So we're free of Bill? Awesome."
"Well, sort of awesome, he was the highest level of us, by far."
"ohh fuck.. you know what this means, right? Now Morris is your leader!!"



-Lucky for Bill's player, one of his former characters, the psychopath Weaver Wizard, was last seen with the Sky-Nazis. So he takes that character back up for now. He's sent by the Sky-Obergrupenfurher to infiltrate the city of Lol, accompanied by a sky-gestapo agent named Schmidt. They are supposed to find out if the wizard council has been sufficiently weakened for the Sky-Nazis to invade. For infiltration purposes, they are given incredibly silly outfits; in the Weaver's case the most stereotypical wizard outfit imaginable.
"So like, gandalf or something?"
"No, more like Mickey Mouse from Fantasia."



-Also, as backup the two get secondary "tourist" costumes: shorts, sunglasses, and stupid T-shirts. And retractable-lugers.
"Sky-nazis are really bad at infiltration."



-A local streetgang by the name of the 'Lol City Gaylords' are trying to steal Tonut the Cleric's new retractable-hoverbike.
"Seriously?"

-Tonut makes short work of them. Looting them, he gets himself a retractable-club and a retractable-comb.

-Mu is studying his spell in the library, and finds himself attacked by a horrific giant insect with phasing powers, that came out of a dimensional crack in the corner!



-"Hi, my name is Argos, I'm a wizard, and I'm not a sky-nazi!"
"Ya, und I am his bulter, und I am also not a sky-nazi. Mein  name is... Beinrich."
"That's an.. unusual accent."
"Oh yeah.. um.. he's Dutch!"
"Ya, I am Dutch... isn't that..strange?"

-The Weaver Wizard and Schmidt, still in disguise after being let into lol, run into Tonut the Cleric.
"Hi."
"Heil, how are you?"

-"You appear to be of good racial stock, mein friend!"
"ok... I'm going to go now..."
"oh ya.. well, seig you later!"

-The Sky-Nazi agents are suspected, so they're taken to be interviewed by Heidi.
"So, where do you come from?"
"The... Northern Continent"
"Oh yeah?"
"Ya. We are from the city of... Northerncontinentia!"
"Oh really? Well.. I'm also from the Northern Continent and I never heard of that place!"
"Oh ya? Then where are you from?"
"I um.. from the city of Northeasterncontinentia"
"Ok ya."



-"So you're both humans?"
"Ya, this is right. Here are my papers!"
"um.. ok."
"And you're not human?"
"Well, I have green skin and six toes, so no."
"you look good, though."
"Oh.. ya I also agree with my friend, you look good so I feel almost no disgust even being in the same room as you. Very little bile is rising in my throat at this time."

-Heidi, having confirmed they're both humans, uses the Ring of Human Control.
"Who are you really?"
"Ve are sky-nazi agents!"

-"So what would you do if you were in my position?"
"If I was in your position, I would kill myself as a racial degenerate!"

-"So I guess we're prisoners now?"
"Yes."
"Can I just ask... what gave us away?"

-"We'll have to give Morris more time to recover from his deprobing... there were... complications."

-Tonut the cleric tries everything he can to get himself a date with Myla. He finally gets her to agree to a "date" that's actually a strategic meeting between her and Roman.
"So it's a date!"
"It's a meeting."
"Yeah, it's a date!"



-Roman interrogates the Weaver Wizard.
"This might be a bit of a personal question but... do you have a portal inside you?"
"Yes, the Dark Ones put it there. It leads to the Gnomish underworld."
"Well, that's new."

-"If the Dark Ones put a portal inside you, I'm not sure how, but maybe we might be able to alter the portal destination to go elsewhere."
"That will probably involve a lot of probing..."

-"You know Roman, at some point you'll have to come clean about who you really are..."
"Maybe. But probably not to a sky-nazi."

-"So let me get this straight, Tonut. You want me, the Chancellor of the High Council, to go with you to meet Myla, the premier of the Revolutionary government, so you can seduce her?"
"Yes."
"That's my boy!"

-"I have another question for you Tonut: what's a 'gaylord' and why is it printed on the back of your leather jacket?"
"Oh yeah. I should probably have that patch removed."



-Heidi and Tonut are interrogating Schmidt. He wants Schmidt to tell the Obergrupenfuhrer and his sky-nazi fleet that Lol is too well defended to invade.
"He's going to betray us."
"Nein.. I am not going to..."
"You're using the 'I'm going to betray you' voice right now!"

-Heidi caresses the sky-nazi's cheek with his mutant hand.
"you know, there are fates worse than death..."
"Heidi is a pacifist, but he believe in love..."
"Look, Schmidt... I can't control Heidi's unnatural mutant lust. You'd better get on board."



-Mu gets a meeting with Grizlor.
"Can I get Bill's staff? I was his apprentice after all."
"Well, if anyone on the council had it, it would have been John Delapole. He was a great collector of staffs. He was kind of obsessed with it.. perhaps because he was a staff himself."

-Grizlor and his grandson Grezlor determine that the insect-creature that attacked Mu was something called a Dimension Bug.
"There's very little that is known about them. They exist in a different dimensional vibration, and they are mortal enemies of the Time Dinosaurs."
"That explains everything, actually... though not in character."

-"Now go finish studying your spell, Mu, and work hard. If you do, one day, hundreds of years from now, you might get to be where I am today!"
"Oh great. Ok, I'm going.."
"Wait! Here, have a shiny silver piece you young scamp. Spend it on moon-pies and pennywhistles!"

-Faced with inter-species homo-eroticism, Schmidt gives in and agrees to work with the PCs.
"I think you should know one more thing. Mein name is not Beinrich.. it is Heinrich."

-Roman and Tonut have a meeting at the Dancing Harpy tavern with Myla.
"You should relax a little, Myla!"
"Well, it is true that one of the goals of the revolution is to maximize the happiness of the people..."
"I happen to have some ideas about maximizing your happiness..."



-After all that effort, Tonut only gets a tavern dance and a kiss on the cheek for his trouble.

-Roman frees the Weaver Wizard in exchange for a promise of service. Argos almost immediately attacks Roman, getting a natural-20 on Chill Touch, murdering a bunch of people with the effect, but Roman is much much tougher than he looks, and drops the wizard with a knock-out effect from his sonic tool.

-"We all learned a valuable lesson today: never trust a Sky-nazi!"

-"Schmidt was just born a sky-nazi; I was made one!"

-Once the Weaver Wizard Argos is restrained, Roman gets him alone and turns all sinister and ominous. Just before he kills the wizard, Roman whispers into his secret into the wizard's ear.
"So Bill's player knows now, but he's not telling."
"Just imagine it was something like 'hail hydra'".



-Heidi gets visited in the night by one of Jal'udin's assassin-lackeys.  He decides to meet with Jal'udin, again in the Dancing Harpy, and takes Tonut the cleric with him. The locals all greet Tonut warmly, remembering him from his drunken revelry the other night.
"I regret nothing, except the techno-walrus belly-rubbing contest."



-Jal'udin shows up, and thinks the PCs' plan to go to Hell is insane. He wants to try to find some other Ancient complex and hopefully another cryogenically-frozen ancient inside. He also note that the Sezrekhan-zombie phenomenon is not spreading at a universally equal rate; instead, it seems concentrated in areas where bonded agents of Sezrekhan are present.
"I back away a bit from Jal'udin.."

-"Give me two weeks to find an ancient complex."
"You have four days."
"If you must, go on with your plan but I will not go with you to Hell."
"You just told us you have Sezrekhan-AIDS. We don't really want you to come with us!"

-"If you insist on your plan and I have not yet found a promising ancients' complex, I will give you a couple of my men to accompany you."
"Will they be your best men?"
"No. I won't risk my best men on this insane plan. They will be merely competent."
"If they're merely competent, they'll still be way better than us!"

-Mu is attacked by another Dimension Bug! He spellburns to defeat it, but the spellburn leaves him unable to say anything other than his name.
A little later, through the same dimensional crack in the corner of his study area, something else is coming through.
"Mu!"

-It turns out to be a person this time!
"Mu?"
"Where am I? Who are you?"
"Mu!"

-Grezlor the Librarian shows up.
"Who is this?"
"Mu!"
"This wizard seems to have spellburned, he can't say anything other than his name. Can you tell me where we are?"
"You are an intruder in the great library of Lol! And who are you?"
"Me? My name is... Ack'basha."



And on that shocking development, we leave you for today! Stay tuned next session for more DCC excitement!



RPGPundit

Currently Smoking: Masonic Meerschaum + Image Virginia

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Break Tuesday: Lab-Meat Edition

In today's Break article, I take a look at lab-grown meat.

Would you eat it?

Would you eat it if it looked and tasted just like delicious bacon?

What will it take for lab-meat to become a success, and why is it important that it should become a success?

Find out, in Would You Eat Artificial Meat Grown in a Lab?


As always, share if you liked it!


RPGPundit

Currently Smoking: Ben Wade Canadian + Image Latakia

Monday, 17 April 2017

Break Monday: Weird Living Dead Edition

This week we have some 'walking dead' for you, but these are a few that have barely been touched on by TV and movies (well, western TV and Movies, anyways).

So check out some of the creepiest living dead from India, Europe, China and the pre-Columbian Americas in my latest article, Undead Creatures Currently Underused in TV Shows!


RPGPundit

Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Half-Volcano + C&D's Bailey's Front Porch


Sunday, 16 April 2017

The Real Story of the Battle of Berkeley, aka The Violent Totalitarian Bitch Deserved It

So we've seen a lot of this gif lately:



Along with quotes from leftist shit-heads claiming that this was an image of a "white supremacist punching a woman in the face" during "fights between anti-trump and pro-trump protesters in Berkeley".

Both those claims are lies.

Why don't you fucking cunt leftists tell the whole story? Like how:

a) this happened at a peaceful event organized by Free Speech supporters. It was not some melee between two groups of protesters that just happened to run across each other. It was specifically a Patriot Day meeting of free-speech advocates.

b) The "woman" was part of a huge group of Left-Wing violent thugs who went to the protest specifically to physically attack the free speech advocates. As we've seen for the last two years, it has NEVER been the Right that goes to left-wing events to physically attack people. It is always the Left who comes to Right-wing events with the intention of violently attacking people.

c) On her facebook page, this woman stated her goal was to 'bring back 100 nazi scalps'. Her clear intention was violence.

d) The police in Berkeley were ordered to disarm the Right-wing free-speech advocates, which they did, and were then ordered NOT to disarm the left-wing thugs who brought metal sticks, pepper-spray and explosives!

e) the police were explicitly ordered by Berkeley city government to stand down and do NOTHING to do protect the free speech advocates they'd just disarmed from being attacked by the ARMED and violent left-wing thugs whose goal was specifically to commit acts of violence.

f) In spite of this (because you leftists are fucking pussies), the free speech advocates quickly managed to get the upper hand, by finally deciding they'd had enough of just being beaten on and trying to be the 'better person' and not punch back. WE PUNCHED BACK. And we kicked the fucking shit out of you goddamn commie fucks.

g) In the full version this video, filmed just before the fascist leftist scum were driven away from the event, it is obvious that this 'woman' is charging into the man with the intention of assaulting him and she is in fact (however pathetically) trying to punch him in the throat to disable him. HE PUNCHED HER IN SELF DEFENSE.



I have no idea if this guy who punched the violent totalitarian thug (that happened to be a woman) is a 'white supremacist' or not, but if I had to bet I'd assume that's a media lie. After all, the Left have called me and other fellow Latinos 'white supremacist'. They've called Black people and Asian people and American Indian and East Indians 'white supremacists' too. They called a half-Jewish homosexual a 'white supremacist'. Those words don't mean anything anymore which is a fucking shame, and THE LEFT'S FAULT. In fact, this woman who got punched came to the event specifically with the intention of viciously assaulting 'nazis' when it was obvious that 99.9% of the people at the Free Speech event were anything but. She didn't care if this guy she was lunging at was a real honest-to-god Nazi or if he had adopted 12 black babies with his Burmese transgender husband. He had committed the 'hate crime' of disagreeing with her, and so to her he was a 'nazi'.





What option do you really have, when for the 20th time a group of violent thugs come to your picnic to beat on you, when a woman is charging at you trying to give you a disabling punch to the throat because she wants your 'scalp', but to punch the stupid bitch in the goddamn face??

Certainly, almost no woman ever deserves to be hit by a man. But this bitch sure did. Almost no woman deserves to be called a 'stupid bitch' either, but this one certainly was, when she came to a peaceful event looking to physically assault people for daring to have different ideas than hers.

But don't mistake my statement for misogyny though: all the men who came with her were stupid goddamn bitches who deserved to be punched in the face, too.


Like I said, I have no idea if the guy who hit her was a 'white supremacist' or not, but I know that in that moment he, and everyone who fought FOR free speech instead of for leftist totalitarian censorship and terrorism at Berkeley, is A MOTHERFUCKING HERO.

RPGPundit

Currently Smoking: Neerup Bent Billiard + Image Latakia
.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Classic Rant: Exalted Vs. Superheroes


Let's compared Exalted to superheros, shall we?
On the one hand, I could go with the really easy one: Batman. Batman is uber-cool because he's just a normal person, who by the sweat and blood of his brow and determination has become one of the three most badass entities of the DC pantheon of heroes. Everyone is scared of him, even dudes who can blow up planets, but he's just a dude. You could never do that with exalted, and an Exalted, no matter how powerful, could NEVER be as cool as Batman because the Exalted is only "cool" as far as having his unearned powers are concerned, whereas Batman is cool because he does what he does WITHOUT powers.

But like I said, that's the easy one. Let's go for the hard one: Superman.
On the surface, wouldn't Superman be just like the Exalteds? I mean, Superman didn't EARN his powers, did he? No, he was born unto them, come down from heaven like the son of god, with all his mightily might given to him chalk-free from the rays of the yellow son.
So why do I like Superman but hate Exalted?
Because Superman is a God who comes down to the level of human beings. The moral of the story of Superman is "you have all these incredible powers, but in the end don't EVER forget that what makes you who you are is the fact that you were raised a Kansas farmboy, by parents who loved you, and helped you be a good MAN".
Superman isn't about escaping humanity, its about confirming it. In his identity as Clark Kent, in his love for Lois Lane, in his Smallville roots, in the fact that he's willing to die rather than let one single human life be lost if he can help it.

In Exalted, on the other hand, its loser-humans giving up their Humanity to try to pretend that they're above it all, that they're superior to the unwashed masses, and thinking of them only as fodder to be used or crushed like bugs. Human beings simply do not matter, either in the grand scheme of things or to the Exalteds themselves, because the game is made for players who hate the whole idea of "just" being a Kansas farmboy, who hate the mundanity of humanity, who want to imagine that they are, just by virtue of being themselves, superior to everyone else and deserving of special recognition for the mere fact of their existence, and who certainly don't give a fuck about regular humanity; regular humanity to them are the parents that "misunderstand" them, the bullies that picked on them in school, the girls who never wanted to date them, the teachers who didn't like their bad poetry, all of the society that they cannot find a place to belong in because they're not willing to actually work at belonging. So they loathe humanity, because deep down they loathe themselves.
Exalted is the exact opposite of superheroes as a genre.

RPGPundit

Currently Smoking: Dunhill Classic Series Rhodesian + Burlington's Lapis

(Originally Posted May 27, 2007)