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All About AVR

Well, for starters, my name is Amanda. ("Hi, Amanda!") I'm in my junior year at the much-lauded Williams College, carrying a double major in Biology and Japanese, with a concentration in Neuroscience. (If that sounds like a lot of work, a hassle to schedule, and an ill-advised major selection -- well, it is. I never said I was sensible.) Needless to say, this eats up a whole lot of my free time; the rest I spend either roleplaying or working on the college humor magazine. I try to live up to Williams's spirit of "Work Hard, Play Hard," as preppy as it might be.

I've been roleplaying since ninth grade, when a group of shady and scurrilous sophomores (say that three times fast!) offered me a place in their AD&D group, and I've pretty much been a lost cause ever since. My first Exalted experience was over IRC, in a short-lived campaign run by Ben-San in which he kept it under his hat until the group's Exaltation that we were Anathema. Fun! My first conscious Exalted experience was playing in a year-long tabletop game my freshman year of college. While that campaign had its own problems, it was a good social experience and a fun ride, and it taught me the glory of acting as the party Plot Pinata. ("Khalid, it's your wife." "Oh, shit!")

Right now I'm a player in one tabletop campaign a year into its two-year run; I play a Changing Moon Lunar well weighted down with plot hooks, about which more can be found here. It's been a remarkably enjoyable gaming experience, one which has probably spurred me from a casual Exalted fan to a full-on wonk. My own tabletop game is AntiVehicleRocket/HazyShadeOfWinters -- it's a strange cross between "epic tale of saving Creation" and "buddy comedy about a Midnight ronin necromancer, the Journeys Chosen with a crush on him, and their adopted adolescent Dawn Caste." Big fun in the wings, ayuh.

In the ridiculously small sliver of free time that exists after class and Exalted, I tend to write in my LiveJournal about things that don't matter much. I also enjoy reading e-mail.

My Thoughts on the Exalted Ethos

Yes, yes, I know, everyone has opinions... but my general thought on the matter is that the Exalted universe is one with such a distinctive and powerful ethos that you can't help but have opinions about the material as presented. Besides, what fun is it to roleplay in a world with none of your own spin on events?

In my opinion, the greatest strength of Exalted is its balancing of superheroic power levels with human motivations. The contrast between PCs' awesome cosmic power and all-too-human desires is what makes playing it interesting, and the entire worldsetting has been designed with it in mind, from Yu-Shan down to the Malfeans. Playing someone both fallible and infallible is a challenge, but it's also a lot of fun -- a well-implemented Exalted campaign, in my opinion, is a satisfying mix of remarkably down-to-earth roleplaying and epic hack-n-slash. (I wholeheartedly believe that every roleplayer has a little bit of a hack-n-slasher somewhere deep inside, and I applaud games like Exalted that can satiate that inner hacklust without making us feel guilty and juvenile for wanting some blood and thunder in our roleplaying.)

There's also the fact that it's an immensely flexible system. Depending on who you're playing and why, you can twiddle the knobs on Exalted's "dark epic fantasy" to get any given mixture of "dark" and "epic." Want to play a game about meditation on power and corruption? Exalted can do that. (Heck, Exalted can do it if you want to throw in the towel on this superpower stuff and say "we're playing Wraith." God bless the Abyssals splat.) But if you'd rather stop all of this introspection and just tell a good action story about Ace Trueheart and His Amazing Friends kicking down the gates of Malfeas, Exalted can do that too.

Okay, this is all well and good -- time to get into more controversial setting opinions.

The thing that appeals to me most about the Exalted setting as it stands is all the moral grey areas. Anyone in Exalted can be a great hero or an epic villain. (Okay, so this is a bit of an exaggeration; I doubt we'll be seeing the Fair Folk, Malfeans, or Yozis turn out to be heroic. Nonetheless, a heroic Abyssal, Demon-Blooded, or Fae-Blooded campaign is always a possibility, and I've been considering running a "lesser demons just trying to make it through the day" game ever since I got GoD.) I appreciate the idea that any of the factions could save or destroy the world, which is the primary reason I'm often discouraged by the apparently-official anti-Realm bias. Yes, the Realm is a deeply flawed place and needs change badly. Yes, many Dragon-Blooded do very very bad things, and they probably shouldn't have exclusive power over Creation. I just don't believe that that adds up to what seems to be the increasing official party line -- "no, the Realm really is totally corrupt and unsalvageable even by heroic efforts, the Dragon-Blooded do all deserve to be slaughtered by Anathema of various sorts, and anyone who wants to destroy the Realm is automatically in the right regardless of who they are or why." I don't have a whole lot of sympathy for the "we must destroy the Realm in order to save it" camp.

If I had to choose between Sesus Nagezzar and Yurgen Kaneko as the new ruler of Creation, I'd pick the Slug every time -- no question. At least he has plans for ruling the world, as opposed to most of the would-be Realm-destroyers, whose plans tend to run to "Step 1: Destroy Realm. Step 2: ??? Step 3: Profit!"

Even beyond that, though, what I really don't like it that it makes things a lot more black and white than they need to be. It has a tendency to make the Dragon-Blooded into Designated Villains, people who are always immoral because... uh... that's just the way they are, I guess. (I am often surprised at how little the Dragon-Blooded are allowed to "get away with" in comparison to the more "heroic" splats; I'm not saying that, say, House Cynis are very nice people, but if you're going to decry their slave trading and orgies in one breath and praise Lunars for bestiality and cannibalism in the next, I'm going to start to wonder.) In my mind, this sort of thing should be reserved for only the most horrible villains of the setting, and even then it should be used sparingly. There shouldn't be anything intrinsically immoral about being a Dynast, no more than there should be anything intrisically morally acceptable about it (or about being a barbarian, or about living in Nexus...). Things should be gray -- and Dynasts should be just as likely to be heroes as any given barbarian with a dashing title and a sword bigger than he is.

I will confess to not being a huge fan of the Games of Divinity and the corrupted Celestial Bureaucracy, but at least they add an element of grayness to the setting and emphasize the feeling of stagnation and desolation, the desperate world that Exalted PCs find themselves with the power to change. (They also give something for heroic Sidereals to act against, which I don't mind at all.) I fail to see how making the Realm designated villains (as opposed to being merely troubled) improves any of this, beyond giving Celestials a limitless string of moderately-powerful mooks to unleash the Thousand Tiny, Lightning-Fast Punches Technique and Ludicrous Gibs Prana against without remorse.

My Thoughts on the Wiki

These are much less thought-out than most of what's above, if only because I'm still quite new to the Exalted Wiki and all that it has to offer. (My Wiki thoughts in brief: "hey, this is pretty awesome!") Nonetheless, I'm beginning to develop opinions on wiki layout and design.

I'm all in favor of each UserPage being a hub of that user's content -- a UserPage-centered layout, not entirely a WikiContent-centered one. In my mind, WikiContent is useful as a hub for links, but I'd rather have things kept on a UserPage so I can browse works with a similar feel and ethos. It's easy for individual contributors to get lost in the rush, and that's a shame. I don't agree with BestPractices that "generic" content shouldn't be associated with a UserPage -- even "generic" content in Exalted should have enough of an authorial design ethos that it's worthy of having a subpage on its author's UserPage.

(I understand the idea that UserPage-based organization can get content fairly easily lost, whereas WikiContent ensures that people looking for certain types of content can find it. This is why I support WikiContent as a link hub -- someplace where one can go and find links to the subpages for people's content. Furthermore, non-UserPage-based organization is obviously the only solution for multi-user collaborative pages.)

What makes me particularly leery is the idea of forced standardization. In my opinion, as long as the format isn't actively unpleasant or difficult to read, users should have the right to format their content in any way they prefer. (This may just be because I really strongly dislike the standard character-sheet format.) I don't like the idea of others forcibly moving or reformatting my or others' content not their own unless it's fairly small and sensible (i.e. archiving CrunchRelay history) or absolutely necessary to usability of that content. The Wiki at its heart should be a community of people with their own ideas about Exalted, not an absolutely standardized repository.

Overall, though, I think it's not worth sweating about. If anyone tries to forcibly rearrange my stuff, I will be greatly upset -- but in the meantime, que sera sera. I've got content to work on.

Talk to me?

Hi. I dropped by to tell you that I <3 the Realm, in all its slave-trading orgy-holding backstabbing incestuous peasant-massacring raping pillaging glory. None of that stuff bothers me enough that I can't roleplay it. And I really have problems making Dragon-Blooded villains. I'm running a Lunar game right now that's supposedly "barbarians & Lunars vs. Realm" and so far it's shaping up to be "barbarians & Lunars vs. other Lunars vs. Fair Folk" with the Realm just minding its own business. And I also have problems with Lunar bestiality, for the following reason; apparently every single bleeding person in Creation is bisexual at least. This stretches belief. 300 people who just happen to be willing to get it on with people while in animal form or vice-versa and all of them get Exalted? That is ridiculous. And kind of gross. Also I'd like to add that you seem like a cool person. - Han'ya