Exalted vs World of Darkness: Powered by the Apocalypse
A Free, unofficial fan project from Holden Shearer
Exalted, as a general concept, is one of my all time favorite games. In fact, it has only recently been dethroned as the number-1 all time favorite by Masks.
And then there’s World of Darkness, of which I started with Werewolf, played a bit of Vampire, and quite a bit of Changeling with my now spouse. I actually read through the Werewolf books before I played in my very first TTRPG.
So needless to say that these two lines hold a special place in my heart. But unfortunately, it’s unlikely that I would seek to play them in their official forms as they stand again. While there was a time when finding creative interpretations of rules as written and crunching numbers to find optimal other numbers was an enjoyable past time for me, that is no longer the case.
These days, I play games as vehicles to tell interesting stories. And while Exalted could deliver creation-shattering tales, the rules often got in the way as much as they helped.
In contrast to this is the mindset encouraged in games running the Powered by the Apocalypse. Here, The rules are there to push the story. Every roll should lead to interesting consequences, whether they be good or bad.
And that’s why I am Super excited by this release of EXvWoD – Apocalypse Edition by Holden Shearer. So in the vein of a live-react, let’s get into it!
Table of Contents
- Standard $2d6 + stat$, where the stats are:
- Martial: Direct action
- Glorious: Sweeping acts of grandeur
- Sagacious: Smarts
- Shadowy: I don’t have to explain this, do I?
- Worldly: Experience with Social systems and how people work.
Basic Moves are the bread and butter of PBTA moves. Reading them helps you understand where the game is. If a game doesn’t have a basic move for “Directly engage a threat”, then going to to someone and trading punches probably isn’t something the game encourages you to do. Looks this this has a bunch of moves! Let’s see what kind of game this is.
- Throw Down
- Basically directly engage.
- The trigger explicitly states that it only works on those capable of meaningfully opposing you. Which for the likes of the Exalted probably means monsters, and not that dude in the alley with a knife.
- On a 10+ you can choose to straight up take out your opponent. 1 move combat resolution. Fits the genre!
- on a 7-9, you might gain limit.
- Discusses edges as a reward. Don’t know what that is yes, but I’ll probably find out in a bit!
- Do Something Reckless
- This is… to the point and broadly applicable to a lot of stuff I do in Exalted
- Trigger once again includes an important threshold fo the Exalted. This move only trigers where there are serious consequences for failure
- Clears a condition on a 10+, which will lead to people doing reckless stuff when the chips are down, which is always a fun thing to enforce.
- Defend the Weak
- Interesting. This is a hold based move. And when you run out of hold, your defenses are overwhelmed. That leads to a… sense of suspense that, say, Masks’s defend move doesn’t have. I like the idea a lot!
- Inspire someone
- Vaguely a mashup of Comfort And Support/Lend a hand.
- On a 7-9, someone gets an edge on you.
- Stand your Ground * Act under Fire! When you need to do a thing, but thungs are hard. * 7-9 gives you limit.
- Rebuke the wicked * Threaten/intimidate. * PCs have to stand their ground if you suceed
- Apply expertise
- Do you need/want to know a thing? This move is for you!
- Fix what’s broken
- Oh that’s interesting. The same move to fix a camry or your buddy’s broken rib.
- Twilight: Dammit Jim, I’m a Doctor not a mechanic… wait… no, apparently I’m a mechanic too. Weird. Who knew that engines work so much like human hearts.
- As a GM though, I would probably ask how/why you are confident in performing open heart surgery if you happened to be an expert silversmith. Still have to qualify for that “Is that a thing you can do?” narrative benchmark. I’d just be pretty loose with the justification.
- Make something useful
- Make a thing!
- 70 bajillion page crafting system distilled to one paragraph. And frankly I’m here for it.
- Pressure Someone
- Hm. Apparently also an intimidation move. But with different options. But this one lets you get what you want from someone, not just get them to stop doing a thing.
- Do SOmething Shady
- pretty standard move for stealing, sneaking, forging.
- Escape from danger
- Nothing to say here.
- Exploit a System
- Bureaucracy the Move. Excapt it works for computer systems as well as people systems.
- Like with Fix what’s broken I’d ask for at least a little narrative positioning on why l33t haxors happens to know which underground shadow lords you need to talk to to get things done. But honestly, with the prevelence of computer systems doing everything, hacking is decent justification for a lot of Bureaucracy moves these days.
- Read the room
- Ah, here’s the “Ask a question, get an answer” move, with specific questions, much like Pierce the Mask and Assess the Situation.
- Broader range of questions that encompass both people and situations.
- Manipulate Someone
- Fast Talk the move.
- Also gains you an edge on a 10+. Looks like that’s a pretty common reward in this system.
As expected for a game that encompasses a broad range of stories, the basic moves cover a lot of ground! Still, I think it might be tight enough to be fun and tell fun stories! At the very least, it is eleventy-bajillion times tighter than Ex3! And that’s a good thing!
Special Rules and Resources
The Great Curse has arrived! Gain 10 limit, and you limit break. Looks like limit break may be discussed with the various type of exalt.
The source of your magic. Max 3. Gain 2 per session. That’s real tight. I wonder what sort of things you can do with it?
Anima Flare! Looks like when essence is tight, you can instead choose to flare your essence instead of spending any. Which is super useful, but comes with the drawback that you probably just attracted the attention of every beastie for miles.
Ah, Finally! Edges are a spendable resource that are specific to the character you hold them on. You can add or subtract 1 to a roll, but more interesting is that you can apply advantage or disadvantage or bypass resistances.
Advantage or Disadvantage
Nebulous narrative… stuff. Basically boils down to You do it Better or You do it, but worse.
- Freeform conditions. Examples include: Happy, enraged, disarmed, frightened, poisoned, exhausted, drunk, distracted, broken leg, blinded, transformed into a pig.
- Instead of applying to specific penalties, penalties (or bonuses) apply to whichever moves that make sense. If you’re trying to jump and you have broken legs, either you can’t do it, or you get a penalty to the roll.
- Players can “tag” a condition for a bonus to their roll. If their opponent is drunk, tag it and you get +1 if you exploit it . So Basically aspects from Fate
Ooo. This is a whole new take on Stunts. Instead of a cool thing you add to every roll to get a bonus, it is a singular application of the rule of cool. Similar to Moments of Truth in Masks. Spend your stunt to have your Midnight awaken every corpose in Chicago. Chop a mountain into conveniently sized chunks. That sort of thing. With the catch that you only get one. (Or 1, plus ones you buy with XP)
Non-numerical harm, which I’ve always been a fan of. Just a caveat that for exalts, it takes 3 serious conditions in order to start worrying about dying. So just being shot isn’t enough. But Shot, drained of blood, and gashes across the chest is bad news. Cool!
Similar to Urban Shadow’s Scars system, when you would otherwise die, you can instead choose to Not die but:
- gain 5 limite.
- spend an essence to avoid it.
- critically injure yourself
- take a permanent condition
- Let the GM do with you as they will. You are guarenteed not to die or be rendered unfun, but there will be some sort of interesting tragedy or setback.
I’ve always been a fan of ways to avoid death like this. And it also means you can be absolutely reckless as with your character as long as you’re willing to take one of these setbacks instead.
As expected from the exalted they heal quickly. One condition every scene without strenuous activity. Imagine someone healing their broken leg while they are having a friendly brunch. neat!
All injuries can be healed after a few days.
- 2 XP a session
- One XP when you choose to botch instead of miss
- 1 XP when you demonstrate an attribute that is chosen by someone else at the table that cannot be your highest. (Similar to Apocalypse World)
Once per session, you can ask the GM to convert a GM into a botch to gain 1 experience. A botch is essentially the worst possible result.
Examples off the top of my head:
- Botching a jump across buildings doesn’t mean miss and end up crashing through a window. You go all the way down.
- Botching some kind of coercion role of a friendly party might mean that they are angered by your suggestion instead of just dismissing it.
Looks like backgrounds have turns into general purpose moves that any playbook can choose, which seems like a good way to take it! A lot of them do narrative things instead of mechanical things, which I approve of. Others give you a permanent condition.
- Allies: +1 when a buddy helps you, but you have to return the favor before they’ll do it again
- Alternate Identity: You have what you need to slip into another identity that will stand up to reasonable scrutiny
- Ancient Sorcery: Throw down with Smarts! Or tag conditions on yourself, others, or on the story itself.
- Arsenal: You have access to an unreasonably large and powerful supply of weapons.
- Connections: permanent condition I know a guy.
- Dragon Nest: You control some kind of magical fount. regain 1 essence for scenes you spend there. Magic is easier here
- Famous: Permanent condition
- Goons: Permanent Condition
- Influence: Permenent COndition Friends in high places
- Library: +1 when using library to be smart
- Mentor: You know someone who knows things. Ask the GM a question, and you will recieve an answer that is 2 of 3 things; honest, accurate, or useful
- Resources: Permanent COnditon Wealth
So it looks like the Playbooks are the different casts of the different splats. That’s a lot of playbooks! Further, each playbook has moves derived from charms that caste favorites. There are a lot of moves! I think I’ll split those off into another post. This one’s plenty long.
The size of the threat in terms of what the players can do to affect or respond to them, and what they might do to the exalted.
- Bystander: run of the mill folks. no one important. Probably can’t hurt an exalted without Advantage
- Significant: People with names and importance to the story, or some sort of intrinsic potential threat. Cops, biker gangs. Can often take an injury before going down.
- Dangerous: High end mortal or low end supernatural threats. SWAT teams, internationally renowned hitmen, young vampires.
- Elite: Roughly in the ball park of the exalted. Hundred-year old vampires, pack of werewolves.
- Overwhelming: Antediluveans, god-like spirits, or entire armies of supernatural beings.