Exalted 2nd Ed Review

I just finished a short-run game run by my friend using the Exalted system, Second Edition, by White Wolf Games. This review will be pretty brief because there isn’t that much I feel like I need to say.

It does what it does pretty well – that is, allowing you to roll huge dice-pools and do amazing things, primarily in combat. I mean, if you want to level a phalanx of hobgoblins, put an arrow through someone’s eye every time you bend your bow, or take a flying leap off of a giant’s back and jam a fiery naginata into Dread Cthulhu (hey, I had to get His attention), this is your game.

It is unlike the other White Wolf games, in general, in that the focus seems to be on action. I’m sure you could run an intrigue game, but I imagine there’s only so deep things will go when you have all of these abilities devoted to obliterating your foes. Gone, also, is the usual kind of internal moral or spiritual conflict that marks many of White Wolf’s games. This game is all about external conflict.

I personally don’t like the change that White Wolf has made in general (in Requiem, Awakening, Forsaken, Exalted, etc.) to a d10 system where the difficulty is always the same. Frankly, that takes away a dimension of the game that I liked a great deal – that successes always mean the same thing, and your capacity (dice-pool) is always placed against the difficulty (target number) of a task. In the new systems, the target number never changes. This just lessens the versatility of the dice mechanic for no good reason whatsoever (IMO).

Overall, I give Exalted 2nd Edition 3.5 out of 5 stars. It does what it does well, but is also limited, and the only meaningful conflicts you’re likely to have are external. It’s definitely fun, and a great way to blow off steam, and to use amounts of d10’s that won’t even fit in two cupped hands, but I’m not sure I’d be interested in a long-term Exalted game.

3 thoughts on “Exalted 2nd Ed Review

  1. I'm with you about not liking the removal of variable difficulty. It doesn't seem to improve anything, not even the speed of resolution and it sacrifices a lot in terms of flexibility. Even worse, in my opinion, it makes it impossible for the player to gauge the significance of individual successes. Is 1 success on 3 dice the same value as each of 15 successes on 22 dice?

    My other complaint with Exalted is that it works against believable danger. Too many mechanics are “All or Nothing” like Ironskin Specialty, which means that the player has no reason to care about what happens to his character because it will either be overwhelmingly bad (and thus out of his control) or completely irrelevant. The same was true of my sorcery it was a case of either nothing at all happened or I obliterated everything. It's like save or die spells in D&D, they're just not fun.

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  2. In all fairness, the game that I ran wasn't anywhere near so internally focused as the system is actually capable of being. But you are correct in that Exalts do tend to deal with external danger more than internal – Exalts do not generally stay in their sanctums preparing long, involved rituals – rather, they stride out and change the world.

    I have seen games of Exalted that are entirely political, though, and run well.

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  3. The game could also look very different if everyone were socially focused rather than combat focused. I see how it could be very political, though it would still tend to the extreme “all or nothing” aspect I didn't care for too much.

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