From Exalted - Unofficial Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search

Savant and Sorcerer

$23.99. Published July 21, 2004; 160 pages. Softcover.

Writers: R(ebecca) Sean Borgstrom, Adam Tinworth, and Scott Taylor

Note: this is essentially a revised version of "The Book of Three Circles".

Review total: 1

Review by Shataina

I wasn't completely thrilled with "The Book of Three Circles", but I was pretty close. Thus, when this book came out, I was excited. "Savant and Sorcerer" comes close to living up to its promise, but doesn't quite -- except for Rebecca Borgstrom's incredible demon-summoning section, which I'll get to in a minute.

Most of this book is just exactly like "The Book of Three Circles". The writers, apparently realizing that the in-game techniques / schools / etc for learning sorcery were sort of half-assed in "Three Circles", made a half-hearted attempt to expand on them in this book, but didn't do a good enough job. So, unfortunately, this leaves us with sorcerous schools that feel flavourless and unnecessary. They did do an excellent job on rebalancing and rewriting the spells themselves (thank goodness, since we've had what, two years of playtesting since then?), but nothing particularly interesting was added to that section either.

There are only two really new things in this book. One is the new Artifact creation rules, which are pretty good (if even more badly edited than usual -- I found at least one sentence that directly contradicts itself twice). I have a couple of issues with these, not least of which is the fact that an Artifact that was made using an exotic component is apparently lower level not only for the purposes of construction but also for the purposes of character generation (so when you're giving your character a Daiklave of Conquest, you can up and say, "Hey, my Daiklave of Conquest required the dying breaths of seventy god-kings in its construction, so it's lower than level 5!"). These, however, can be fixed with a little common sense. I was disappointed in this section because the writers chose to basically ignore Manses (aside from some notes on how to reshape Demesnes and rules on building Manses themselves -- more revamped "Three Circles" fare); however, this, too, was easily fixable, [shameless plug] this time by my own ingenious Manse creation system, which you should comment on. [/shameless plug]

The best part of this book by far was the new section on demon-summoning. Typical Rebecca Borgstrom work, it's extremely well written and really quite incredible in conception, even if some of the flavour text reminds me of something written by Hunter S. Thompson. It not only gives new details on the process of demon-summoning itself, but it explains something of the nature of the process and, most importantly, makes demon-summoning into rather more than just a summoning / binding roll. It goes into detail on why, exactly, it's dangerous to have demons around even if they're perfectly bound, and why you have to make some concessions to a demon's nature when forcing it to perform tasks. This section went a ways towards fixing demon-summoning for me. Previously, I was always vaguely irritated with demon-summoning in "Exalted", but couldn't put my finger on why; now I know that it's because it just wasn't dangerous, interesting or just plain mystical enough.

In short, if the above things -- revamped spells, expanded Artifact creation rules, and demon-summoning that's actually cool -- are something you want in your chronicle, you should look into "Savant and Sorcerer". However, if you've been playing this game for a long time, chances are you already fixed the spells you had a problem with and made your own houserules to deal with Artifact creation (if you needed them). Furthermore, you can get a good enough impression of the new demon-summoning rules by flipping through this book at Borders to use them in play. So, particularly if you already own the "Book of Three Circles" and have read the Errata and everything, I'm really not sure this book is worth $24. But it's a close enough call that you should check it out and judge for yourself.

Oh, and if you somehow managed to miss "The Book of Three Circles" completely, then you should absolutely buy this book. I wouldn't go so far as to say it's indispensable, but if you want to do anything remotely comprehensive with sorcery or artifacts, you should read it at least once.

Comments on Shataina's Review

Honestly, I disagree about the demon-summoning. In my experience, players have a natural unwillingness to summon demons no matter what, because they've been exposed to game after game where summoning a demon will automatically turn on you, mark you as a villain, and guarantee a death which you obviously deserve for summoning a demon in the first place. I like the moral ambiguity of it. I found the idea in Exalted that summoning demons is commonplace and fairly safe and acceptable (compared to elemental summoning) refreshing. The demon-summoning rules run the risk of turning it back into a guaranteed Storyteller hosejob, and I probably wouldn't use them, or would make it less dangerous while trying to keep the same creepy psychodrama Borgstrom's rules suggest without the inevitable ruin. I haven't tried them in play yet, so I could really be misreading the rules. Just a humble opinion. That said, though, they are very well written and interesting. --TedPro

I can understand being sort of tired of the "evil summoner gets his just desserts" syndrome, but I feel like Ms. Borgstrom put enough of a new twist on it to keep it awesome. And I really do think that the demons in Exalted are too powerful and too interesting to reduce to a "I win the Essence + Willpower roll!" I'm tired of people being like, "I have 10 Erymanthoi guarding me at all times and I make them stay immaterial and I run no risks whatsoever." And I hate it when a being as awesomely powerful, majestic, dangerous, etc as, say, Octavian can be reduced to, not only a dice roll, but an object to be taken for granted. "I call my pet Octavian and have him pick me some daisies ..." No. There should be a way to force Exalted sorcerers to face the fact that, in reality, they are dealing with beings far more ancient and in many cases more powerful than they are; they should never be allowed to forget that, and if they do it should have really awful consequences. Furthermore, demon-summoning is too powerful without Ms. Borgstrom's limitations; there isn't really any reason to take any other spells when you can just summon a demon for every occasion. And there should be a reason to summon certain demons for certain tasks other than certain demons being better at them; it should be a terrible idea to summon Octavian and force him to pick daisies for eternity for more reasons than just "Octavian isn't very good at picking daisies". All this said (and I guess I sort of repeated myself ... sorry), though, I do respect your opinion. I just like demons and I don't like stupid players who think they can get away with disrespecting power.  :)
~ Shataina
Thank you, and I really do respect your opinion, too. Yay intelligent discussion with those of different opinions! I guess a lot of comes down to what happens in play. Have you run with the S&S rules before? I haven't, so I should probably try them before judging. How quick are they resolved? How easily do the Limit Breaks happen? It seems like the rules could boil down to "Okay, you summon the demon. it does Task X for you Are you keeping it around and risking bad craziness, or sending it back before things go south?" That seems like a good way to put it - quick demons summoned for a particular task can probably skip the rules, while extended demon servants become major NPCs who need to be managed and handled. -TedPro
I havn't played with the rules (mainly because none of my players ever play sorcerers, except poor Cruithne who then dropped out due to living in a timezone just a little too off, plus work) but I -have- looked them over quite a bit... Certainly, short tasks usually you wouldn't bother... but even some long ones you don't risk much if you take the safer paths... The Slave template, for example, is perfect if you want a mindless slave... they only roll for limit whenever someone MAKES them, I don't think they -can- roll on their own. Even so, there are some nice obvious signs about demonic limit, and most of them have ways you can get rid of the points with... It's certainly not an instant thing, much like solar limits take at least 3 or 4 separate events. In addition, most of the limit-breaks aren't -that- harmful to the sorcerer... mostly, they're harmful to the environment and people the sorcerer is associating with. There are, of course, exceptions...
-- Darloth
I think the only way to resolve this question in my head would be to start a new Exalted game and get someone to play a Sorcerer who summons demons. Which, hey, I should do anyway. --TedPro
Bwaha! Shouldn't we all? I haven't actually played with the "Savant and Sorcerer" rules, at least not with PCs (I've toyed with them with NPCs, which doesn't count because then I just decide what happens). But I've only ever had one player with Celestial Circle Sorcery, and he doesn't have demon-summoning anyway. Le sigh. I'll just have to screw him some other way.
One thing I forgot to mention before: I think the important difference between Ms. Borgstrom's Limit Break rules and the traditional demon-summoning ideal is that with demon-summoning in most other systems, you get the smackdown laid on you just because you were evil enough to summon a demon. In contrast, here, you only get the smackdown laid on you if you're not careful and smart about it. If you summon Octavian to kill people, nothing's going to happen to his Limit Break as long as he has things to kill (and why would you summon Octavian if there weren't an awful lot of things that needed killing, anyway?) Or, say, if you summon Makarios, he only freaks out as long as he's not allowed to bargain for dreams. I like these particularly because they reinforce the fact that demons have very strong domain-ish purposes, a lot like gods -- their nature is so strong that you can't force them to go against it, at least not for long. So this prevents demons from become "generic demon I summoned", emphasizing their character, as well as doing the other stuff I noted.
~ Shataina who later decided that she still wasn't satisfied and made demon-summoning nastier

Discussion of cover art moved to Discussions/SavantAndSorcererCoverArt 'cause it's getting too long for this page