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'Is it Cool?'

That's the core, guiding principle I've frequently heard invoked when discussing Exalted Storytelling. Much like Nobilis' MonardaLaw, Is It Cool serves to remind both Storytellers and players that the point of Exalted isn't to have a strictly sensible world of physics and strong casuality; but rather, a world where Stunts and wire fu and wu xia and John Woo techniques not only exist, but are the rule of the day.

But it leaves the question- what is cool?

First, let us begin with what is not cool. Victory without challenge is not cool. (What about victory without sacrafice? Is it neccesary the sacrafice be recognized to be cool?) Defeat without chance at victory is not cool. (What about prophecies, and struggles against fate- struggles that may be geniunely futile?) Purely reactionary characters are not cool. (Okay, that one's just my personal opinion ;)) Characters defined by what they do and what they have rather than who they are is not cool. (But how else do we define who someone is except by what they do and have? In college, we sterotype by major; in life, we sterotype by profession; in all areas of life, we shade nuance with hobbies and habits and material resources. Those are all doing and having things. However, we also define people by social relationships, which is a dimension typically lacking in roleplaying games, Exalted inclusive.)

Now, it still leaves- what is cool? Do the rules and presentation of Exalted encourage coolness, as a rule? Should they, or should that be purely in the purview of the Storyteller?

This whole line of thought was started with the question of should specialities be counted broad (Sword speciality applies to Daiklaive) or narrow (Sword specialty does not apply to Daiklaives). But there was also an earlier comment, about how my own expanded difficulty scale was more limiting to Exalted coolness (paraphrase) than sticking with the core book's. Which baffled my mind- as the core book posits 5 successes as being success on an epic, functionally Exalted-only territory. I like that territory, but simply more firmly marked it as Exalt-only. By increasing the scale of difficulty and adding finer grades, it makes those extreme successes cooler and more meaningful than the cheaper-by-the-dozen miracles.

So, at least a part of coolness is answered, to me. Coolness is a scarse property. Things are cooler slightly understated. One Sidereal is cooler than five. Getting twelve successes to build the Manse overnight is cooler than needing only five for the same feat, as getting five successes from someone who could get twelve is probablly trivally easy. (This segues back to the Victory Without Challenge).

Um. Stuff. Carry on thinking, I'm going to bed, quiz, and Leibinz.  :) Back latah! DS

Cool is what you decide it is. Granted, there are constraints on what a group will agree is 'cool'; this is probably a much more complicated topic than we really want to deal with. Regardless, cool is governed as much by social contract as it is by variables we do not control (see baggy pants, trenchcoat vampires, and codpieces for examples of 'social contract cool'.) - willows

But what else is there underpinning our discussions about Exalted? I wouldn't post something I thought was uncool, but I can't articulate what that means. I'm not talking about decrying some forms of gaming as 'wrong hurting fun', or having a yardstick to measure people by. But rather, a collection of viewpoints as to what is cool- what makes something cool, and good, and awesome, and so on?

Com'on, you could tell me what OBT is without blinking twice, but you can't give a real definition of cool? And that doesn't seem off?  :)

Oh, and I thought of another example of uncool- Power Creep. 'So, in the latest WW supplement, Solars can spend 1 xp to raise a new type of Essence, called Ninja. Ninja adds bonus successes to everything you do, all the time.' Related to either challengeless victory or certain defeat (depending on who creeps) DS

I don't think challenge is necessary for coolness, or indeed, even for fun. When I'm watching some random kung-fu movie, it's just as "cool" to watch Jackie Chan effortlessly dispatch 20 bumbling assailants with his Drunken Fist as it is to watch him battle the final boss guy. The obsession with challenging characters is one of the things that really cheeses me out about D&D. However, I whole-heartedly endorse the idea that challenging players often leads directly to fun and / or coolness. I'm talking more about challenging them to explore their character's motivations, or test their ability to imaginatively describe actions, than I am about setting up puzzles for them to solve (although that's certainly valid, too, for certain RP philosophies). "Challenging" too often seems like a codeword which means "your character stands a good chance of dying." And character death is usually uncool.\\ _Ikselam

Mm. I'm not sure about that. A story without dramatic tension is rarely all that engaging to me, personally. Further, a part of why many people (my poor benighted self included) roleplay is to explore the system itself, to use Forgey terms. Exalted can most certainly be a tremendously Gamist game, with the intricies of Exalt-level combat, Charm use and concepts like Combos to investigate and test; the means of testing are the challenge. A game with no challenge, no dramatic tension, would be dull.

Now, the tension need not come from a death threat. Maybe it's a mystery. Maybe it's a rival for romance. However, it's undeniable that a vast amount of Exalted focuses on fighting; life and death will almost certainly become significant events in the lives of the characters at some point.

On the other hand, I've rarely found that a system is either needed, or particuarly helps enhance pure character exploration where there is no dramatic tension apart from the choices the player makes. Indeed, I don't personally classify that as roleplaying- it's more akin to amature theater or fanficing (depending on your mood and style). Not a bad thing, but not what I'm looking for.

What I am looking for is what is cool. What common traits do cool Charms, Artifacts, Hearthstones, systems, setting elements and so on all possess? The visuals certainly play into it, and so do aspects of character like the Virtues which do help to explore the character and lead to interesting dramatic options. But they aren't all of it; indeed, they aren't the greater part, I don't believe.

I guess I'm looking for something akin to the Ms. Borgstrom's MA creation guidelines- but more general. When crafting content for Exalted, it should be X. This may be a futile search, but it may kick over an interesting rock :) DS

And yet you cold-heartedly deny me a Warstrider. ;_; -Dim

I skew heavily Narrativist, probably due to the fact that a disproportionate segment of my (fairly brief, compared to some of the stalwarts here and on the WW forums) role-playing career has consisted of LARPing (and the fact that I, and a fair number of my gaming buddies, were also theatre types in highschool). So I certainly dispute the idea that abandoning mechanical systems somehow makes role-playing games stop being role-playing games. I also don't mean to suggest that lack of dramatic tension is a good thing; you need more dramatic tension if you cut out a lot of the OMG-I-hope-the-random-number-generator-doesn't-shaft-me-this-time tension -- a type of tension I have a pretty low opinion of, since it takes no effort to implement and is largely OOC, anyway. If I wanted to play a game about rolling dice, I'd play Yahtzee. ~_^

My opinion is that "coolness" often means "originality." New things are cooler than old ones, unless you're being purposefully retro (in the case of Exalted, this would translate into referencing outside sources). At the same time, you don't want to be too outrageous, or you'll cross the line from audacious coolness into stupidity. You need a good visual. Sometimes a quirky system helps, too, as long as it's quirky but simple.

I don't think you're going to be able to generate a formula for cool. You're aware that advertisers hire people whose only job is to figure out what "cool" means today, right?\\ _Ikselam

Yes, but I consider the odds of them finding it about on par with a politician's quest for virtue- they start from the wrong position and with the wrong ideas. ;) And I'm not looking for a formula, although identifying egregiously uncool things in the planning stage would be cool. I think :)

Mm. Coolness as originality. I'll have to think on that for a bit. It seems to conflict with the Ninja Criteria of coolness. (The Ninja Criteria: Ninjas are cool.) Ninjas are rarely original, but Crimson Banner Executioner is the fucking man.

Maybe original exploration of the setting? At least for me, a lot of my favorite supplemental material, both canon and fan, has been stuff that explored a chunk of Exalted not yet well seen. My own stuff skews in this direction- I don't try and add stuff; things like the revised difficulty scale and the mass combat system are the two things I'm most proud of, and think of as the coolest stuff I've personally done. Neither adds anything to Exalted- but they do explore how aspect of the game could work, to enhance other coolness.

Mm. Maybe that's a good way to look for coolness. What's the coolest stuff on the Wiki? My personal list would include the Lexion (despite my slackness), the Taxonomy of Madness, Willow's Infernals, and a subset of the artifacts, hearthstones and Charms that get posted (not detailing particulars here). Mm... All of those things both explore a chunk of the game, and are mostly usable in actual play... DS

Wow, such high praise! Thanks! I really like WBM, the Lexicon (plug plug) and a subset of the martial arts styles that have found their way here, and the discussions that have ended in useful system material. - willows

Cool? To me, cool is something that I wouldn't have thought of but wish I had. Or it's something that when you look at it, just makes you think it's a work of art rather than some random comment or scribblings. Well, that's my £0.014, anyway. --Requiem

From the dictionary Cool(slang): Excellent; first-rate; acceptable; satisfactory. In terms of Exalted I think they are refering to something that is new, origional, unexpected, etc. If a player has their character backed agasinst a wall with no way out, and they are able to come up with some unusual way out, it ought to be worth a cool point. Dramatic situations and descriptions may also count. -Miles