So, another volume from White Wolf's Age of Sorrows appeared on the shelves of the local used book store. I loved role playing in this particular world all through grad school and thoughts on the Exalted core rule book can be found here and here. That said, I have a few preliminary thoughts upon beginning Dragon-Blooded.
Dragon-Blooded presents the rules and background necessary for playing one of the Dragon-Blooded, the race of demi-gods that controls much of Creation through the Realm, a sort of mythical Chinese Empire. My wife and I happen to be reading Johnathan D. Spence's God's Chinese Son right now, and studying late Qing China has only increased my appreciation for the depth and detail of The Age of Sorrow's Dragon-Blooded and their Realm (In fact, one of Spence's other works, Treason by the Book, appears as recommended reading in the Eclipse Caste booklet). In fact, I can imagine using Spence's account of the Taiping rebellion with very little tweaking to create an awesome Solar Exalted campaign. Which brings me to an interesting point: the Dragon-Blooded are the "bad guys" of the Exalted core rule book and its Solar-as-normative world. There, we are cautioned that the Dragon-Blooded aren't inherently evil, just that their rule has become corrupt and oppressive and that they were originally meant to serve the Solars, not usurp their place. One can hear echoes here of Chinese dynastic history: "the iniquity of Shang is full; Heaven commands me to destroy it." Dragon-Blooded turns the tables by presenting the good that the Realm has done, acknowledging its present iniquity and decline, and challenging the player to potentially find a solution from within without the need for age-ending devastation. Note, we aren't saying that the "bad guys" are the "good guys," but merely following Tolkien in understanding that in real life "there are orcs on both sides."
Now this leads me to an odd observation. I've played Solar characters and I've run a Dragon-Blooded campaign. I've also watched an Abyssal campaign prepped and talked a bit with its Storyteller while the game was in progress. I've also played alongside a pair of Lunars and seen how their world works and taken a peep into Sidereals. Of all the exalts, I still have to say that my favorite are the Dragon-Blooded. Maybe I'm a tool of the man. I don't think I quite qualify as a reactionary, or is that just because I know a few monarchists and perhaps a "ceasaropapist" or two and happen to be to the left of them. I don't know. Still, somehow I find myself connecting more with the brilliant remnant trying to revive the current order than the the self-serving nihilists, revolutionary reformers, philosophical anarchists, just-keep-your-head-downers, or illuminati. I think I still would have felt that way as a teenager. Existential angst aside, I think this is the real brilliance of White Wolf's Age of Sorrows: that there is a place in the game for just about anybody. Whatever your personality, background, or philosophy, The Age of Sorrows has a way for you to fit in, a race that can serve as an entree into their sub-creation. The idea of multiple point of access into an imagined world is not unique to White Wolf, but I think it is a key to success in this particular line of products and for other companies as well.
That's all I've got for now. New thoughts may arise with continued reading and, if they do, you can be sure I'll be posting them right here at The Platypus of Truth.