I started playing in an Exalted game yesterday. Until yesterday I didn’t really know much about Exalted or the World of Darkness games, which are apparently related to it, and I had heard rumours that it is a little too complex to be played sensibly. However, I like the basic idea for the world, which has the characters playing mortals who have been exalted to semi-godlike status. I also like the world itself, which feels like something between Hyboria and Atlan.

We are playing in the far East, in a city which is built around a huge alabaster bridge over a river and a gigantic waterfall. Our characters consist currently of a mad, shaggy priest/martial artist, a thief called “Dark-eyed Mouser” and me, his barbarian comrade “Ellgan”. The latter two characters are based on Fafrhd and the Grey Mouser, which is fun. We have strange memories from past lives and, being quite new to exaltation, are visiting an ancient ziggurat to see if it can teach us something about our new situation. In game terms we are one Zenith, one Dawn and one Moon caste character (I think).

My character is essentially a destroyer, with few skills except cutting stuff up, which he seems to do very well. Choosing what he can do is a little bit challenging, because he has about 12 different “charms” with which he can break people, and a complex system of assigning points to them, and an even more complex system for combat resolution. The system is cluttered and clumsy, with too many dice (a big problem with dice pool systems, obviously) and lots of things to remember at every stage. However, it seems to be coherent so once one comes to terms with the way it’s done it should be fairly easy to adapt to new situations. There are grumblings that missile weapons are broken, but we’ll see… we are still learning after all.

The one session we played produced very vivid images of the setting and the combat. This may be partly the DM’s fault, with well-prepared descriptions and an interesting setting; but I think it may be the careful attention to detail in the background, the names of every aspect of the character traits and skills (so the character sheet is not just a technical document), and the sense of heroism imbued in the game. Plus it encourages stunts, which we saw in Feng Shui encourages descriptiveness and engagement on the part of the players. So far I’ve been having fun with this game despite its complexities and occasional heavihandedness.