My reading through the Exalted core book continued this week bringing me all the way up to "Character Creation." Surely, I thought, the book must bog down once it gets to the rules.
Now, by way of preface, the rules are always my least favorite part of an RPG. I can never seem to master all those numbers and sequences just by looking at them in a book. The only way I ever learned to play Exalted, D&D, Warhammer, or even Munchkin was by playing the game and having an experienced player talk me through the process. I was surprised, then, at what a great job the writers of Exalted did in presenting the rules.
The basic rules are laid out as if were following two characters through and actual scene. As Smith and Koi encounter each new obstacle in their quest to find and translate a coded message we get to see how the various rules would be applied, what would be the result of a hypothetical role, and how player and story-teller would narrate the event. I found the section fun and easy to follow (though some of that probably owes to a good memory). More importantly from an aesthetic standpoint, the way the game mechanics are presented preserves the overall tone of the book. I don't feel as though the "world" of Exalted has been put on hold so that we can run the numbers.
In RPGs, whether pen and paper or computer game, there is always a question of story vs. mechanics. A game with too much story can make the players feel as though they have no real place in the game. Conversely, a game with too many rules and procedures can bog down the story and make the whole thing feel writing a grocery list while playing Yatzee. Looking back through the first edition of Exalted, I think the game designers at White Wolf nailed it. That's not an opinion shared by all as the increase in rules in the second edition testifies. Still, whether it's the golden mean or a nice try, I really do have to take my hat off to the creative team for an amazing piece of work.
N.B. As with all books, games, and films reviewed on this blog, mention and even praise does not mean approval of the entire contents. Exalted does have some mature elements, as the manual itself warns, so use your own two cents if you're thinking about picking it up.