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The Compass of Celestial Directions, Vol. VI - Autochthonia $11.99
Publisher: White Wolf
by Elizabeth G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/20/2011 13:37:16

Compass VI is one of the best products in the Exalted line. Like the rest of the Compasses, this book introduces part of the Exalted setting; in this case, it's Autochthonia, a technological world that is also the body of a slumbering god-monster. Unlike the rest, this one is purpose-built to make you and your players want to play a game there.

By default, Autochthonia is isolated from the rest of Creation, and its presentation in First Edition left many Storytellers puzzled--was it relevant to characters from Creation? Were Autochthonians limited to a "Locust Crusade" for resources, or could they interact with Creation in other ways? The Compass answers both of these questions with a resounding 'yes'. It would've been all too easy to write this book as a stand-alone setting, but instead the authors stuffed it full of plot hooks suitable for any Exalted game. It's the perfect complement to Manual of Exalted Power: The Alchemicals, but you don't have to run an Alchemical game to use it.

The book opens with a description of Autochthonia's society and general structure. It's very different from Creation's cultures, but the authors are careful to avoid making judgments about which is "better" or "worse". Of special note is the section on Voidbringers--a broad term encompassing anyone who threatens the stability of Autochthonia, whatever their reasons. It illustrates the complexities of Autochthonian society, rife with opportunities for plot-driving tension and conflict. Compare this chapter with the scenarios presented in Exalted: The Autochthonians, and you will be pleasantly surprised. Autochthonia is no longer a world where hordes of worker-drones toil in endless drudgery, just waiting to swarm into Creation and strip it clean.

And if you had any doubt that this was still the case, it will be erased by the writeups of the Eight Nations. These writeups are not dry summaries of economic, political, and military capabilities--they're detailed snapshots of believable, understandable cultures. Some of them suffered a bit thanks to the limitations of word count, but I was amazed at the amount of detail the authors managed to pack into such a tiny space. They also went to great pains to differentiate the nations from each other. Autochthonia is now home to a proto-capitalist state struggling with its first organized crime bosses, a nation based off Renaissance Italy with Mesoamerican trappings, and a heavily religious state that values love and passion above all else. (And that's just three of them.) The authors also included little writeups of Xexas and Loran, the two fledgling city-states mentioned in Alchemicals. Those lack the cultural details of the larger states, but make up for it with evocative set pieces.

The Reaches chapter has comprehensive rules for Autochthonia's unique environmental hazards, and it also introduces a useful new hazard mechanic. Naturally, it includes a great deal of description of the Reaches themselves, emphasizing that they are not just an endless series of metal tunnels. All of the Elemental Poles have writeups, which include compelling reasons to risk being boiled alive by steam or incinerated by lightning. Blight zones are now even more frightening, featuring visuals that would look right at home in Silent Hill. But the star of this chapter is the section on the unique features of Autochthon's body. Where else would you find a simulated replica of Creation built to imprison an ancient faerie king, or a monument-garden built to honor the Primordials that became the Neverborn?

The final chapter--the one most people skim over--is excellent. It features mechanics for the bizarre mutants of Autochthonia's poles, a whole list of new mutations, and easily-customized stat blocks for spirits. The NPCs section also includes two Exalts, the most badass mortal in Autochthonia, and the Viator of Nullspace--a competently-statted Deathlord-caliber opponent. The quality of the crunch in this section is excellent overall, though two of the NPCs could've been detailed better or differently. Oh, and befitting the first printed work of Robert "The Demented One" Vance, there's Alchemical Charms in there, too. Good ones.

All told, this book is a welcome addition to any Exalted library. The authors put a lot of work and care into this Compass, and it shows through on every page. Get it, you won't regret it.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
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The Compass of Celestial Directions, Vol. VI - Autochthonia
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