Plot Hooks

I had a conversation with my fiance last night; we were talking about a game of Exalted she had been running for a few friends and I, since a month or so before Christmas.  She’s never been confident in running games, so I tend to push her into trying to GM, as I think she can do it (and quite selfishly, it lets me play in more games…), and we’re now at the conclusion of her Exalted storyline.

I think this is probably the first time she’s had an opportunity to actually finish a game properly.  That isn’t to say we haven’t played entire story arcs in her games before, but this is the first time I think she’s hit that GM-wall of uninspiration (is that a word… spellcheck says no, but I like it) at just the right time to be able to end a game at a satisfying point.  In other games she’s run, we’ve finished a story arc, and they’ve always been fun, but we’ve always tended to lurch straight into another story, and it’s at that point she loses momentum, which is something I think anyone who has GMed a game can understand.  There can be any number of reasons for this situation, but that’s really the subject of another post, but suffice to say it looks like we might get to the end of our Exalted storyline and be able to leave the game there, which is, I feel, always more satisfying as a conclusion than leaving your characters in weird limbo, never knowing what the end of the story was to be.

And, to be honest, I’m quite proud of her for it.  I tend towards the latter fate, with most of my campaigns unceremoniously ending when I run out of ideas, get bored with the setting, or more likely get excited about something new.  So it seems that, with the main plot of her story as she set it out, she has about 1 session or less of material to go through before the story really comes to a close.  We save a town, stole some cool stuff right from under a scary badguy’s nose and killed their chief lieutenant; pretty fun stuff.  The issue that faces her now is that there are a couple of other plot hooks brought up in the campaign, and she’s um’ing and ah’ing about how to close them off.  She doesn’t really want to run any more of this game, but she feels that if we don’t resolve the outstanding issues, the series will go unfinished.

I could see where she was coming from, and I understood her point of view, but when she brought these points up, it very rapidly occured to me that I actually liked the idea of leaving some stuff unresolved.  Sure, I didn’t want to skip this last session and never see our characters conclude their epic adventure, but I also didn’t feel it was necessary for us to wander around the world addressing every last little dilemma or issue that had arisen.  I was happy with the idea that we’d done good, we’d get our rewards and then, in some mystical nonexistant future, our brave heroes would deal with what came next.  It seemed the proper way to end the adventure, knowing that there was always another one around the corner.

And then I concluded that maybe that’s something that I miss from my games.  I tend to try and make sure everything I include is a piece of plot to be used, or something essential to the story, like a Sherlock Holmes plot.  Every single object I describe ends up being some kind of chekov’s gun (yes, I know I’m using that reference slightly wrong, but you get my point).  However, when I consider this last adventure, I feel I very much like the unresolved issues; they give the feeling of a wider world.  Not every problem is for the players to solve, and certainly not right now.

So that’s my advice to take forward; leave some puzzles unsolved, some stories unresolved, some stones unturned.  You might find you like it.

Review: Shards of the Exalted Dream

Shards of the Exalted Dream, or just Shards, as it has come to be known, has been out for a week or so now, and I’ve read enough of it that I think I’m just about able to pass some form of comment on it. For those of you who don’t know, Shards of the Exalted Dream is a new book from White Wolf in their Exalted line, and it presents a number of new and different ways to approach and play Exalted. There are four alternate settings in the book, one of which encloses and entirely separate system, and there are also a lot of new rules in there for doing different things with your Exalted game; it includes rules for guns and driving, with charms and artifact cars, motorbikes and guns to compliment.

As described by Drive Thru RPG

The world of Exalted has been reflected in the minds and stories of players across the world for over a decade. Now the mirror shatters, and White Wolf presents a collection of unique new visions of Exalted, shards of imagination to take your games through alternate realities, twisted histories, new genres, and even to the stars. In addition to re-imaginings of the classic setting, this book also contains a plethora of new rules to support those visions, or for enterprising Storytellers to use to create their own new takes on Exalted. What worlds will you forge from your dreams?

I’ve browsed most of the book, and read pretty thoroughly through most sections, and I have to say I am impressed. Gunstar Autochthonia is the first setting, in which the Exalted lost their war with the Primordials, and as a result they were forced to flee Creation en masse, using Autochthon as a mighty spaceship, which, over the last 10,000 years, they have rebuilt into a mighty warship known as the Gunstar. This setting draws from a number of different sources but the one that struck me as the strongest influence was Battlestar Galactica; the feeling of being constantly pursued across what is a largely unknown void by powerful enemies that, if conflict occurs, you can only really hope to hold off until you can flee really reminds me of the recent series. And I have to say, that’s something I like.

The next setting is Burn Legend (a name I always feel like someone should be yelling in a deep voice as your press the “Start” button on a games loading screen), and is basically the RPG version of a 90s action film or fighting manga. This setting is the one that diverges most from “vanilla” Exalted. It’s set in the real world, or at least the Burn Legend version, where your characters, powerful martial artists running the span from mere heroic mortals who know american wrestling and muai thai, to shapeshifting Okami and demonic Yama Kings who harness supernatural powers in their martial arts. This section is lacking somewhat in exactly what you would do in a game where everyone is a badass martial artist, but it still seems like a lot of fun. The elemental martial arts styles in particular, taking clear influence from Avatar: The Last Airbender/Legend of Korra’s elemental bending (going so far as to call themselves elemental binding…), really draw my eye. I’m not sure a whole campaign of this is in the cards, but I can imagine some memorably one-offs being spawned. It’s a very streamlined system, with 3 main stats, a list of your techniques and then just backgrounds to resolve everything else, and combat comes down to playing cards to activate your martial techniques, some of which auto-defeat other kinds, but others calling for roll-offs. I’m hoping that this will mean the combat plays fast and furious, but I’d be worried that it could get bogged down in mechanics and card-choosing. If you’re interested in taking a look for yourself, see this link for the technique cards free to download from Drive Thru RPG.