Exalted Backstory


The release of the second edition of Exalted brought an expanded fan base, and older players were also lured back by the (ultimately false) promise of sound mechanics. Most of the rhetoric used to explain Exalted to new or interested players focuses only on how "over the top" Exalted is, which is merely a single aspect of what Exalted can offer as an RPG. With the release of a third edition of Exalted on the horizon I would like to give a more holistic explanation of Exalted, its backstory, and its themes.

Alright, so what is Exalted?

Exalted is a roleplaying game released by White Wolf in 2001 on the heels of D&D's third edition. At launch, Exalted was envisioned as the prehistory to White Wolf's World of Darkness line and thus shares some mythology. By 2001 D&D was a very well-established brand name. Exalted was marketed as something special and different from D&D, while competing for the same players. (Later, White Wolf would even run a promotion where you could send them your D&D 3.5e Player's Handbook and they would send you an Exalted 2e Core Rules book.)

Exalted draws its influences from ancient history (especially Greco-Roman and Chinese history and mythology) and studiously avoids medieval European sources. In particular Exalted's eponymous heroes are meant to be able to emulate exploits from literature such as the "Epic of Gilgamesh", "Poetic Eddas", "Mahabharata", or "Romance of the Three Kingdoms". Another notable influence I haven't figured out how to work into a torturously long sentence is Wuxia fiction.