Exile is an SF Space Opera RPG by Mark Rein*Hagen. It was written in 1996 as a new game for White Wolf, with the intention that the rights be transferred to a nonprofit, the Null Foundation, so that it would not be ruined by crass commercialism and could be guided by an enlightened community of artists and writers. In a striking demonstration of the wisdom of letting artists and writers run things, Rein*Hagen promptly got into a slap-fight with his colleagues and left the company, taking Exile with him. It was replaced with Aeon/Trinity. Other ill-fated creative endeavors using the same setting include Z-G, GURPS Exile, and an Exile MUD.
Two of the early drafts survived: 1.0, which is a confusing mass of setting information and notes instructing the artists on what to draw, and 1.7, which is shorter and unlike 1.0 contains rules, apparently being intended as a playtest draft. They can be considered separate books rather than different iterations of the same document.
"Exile is the science fiction game I always wanted to play, but no one ever wrote it. I've been working on this setting for over a decade, but it was only a year ago that we finally figured out how to make it work. I love high adventure and dark peril, but I also wanted a realistic, dynamic and complex setting. I love suspense and drama, but I also wanted a touch of horror and a shadow of the strange. I love space opera, but I wanted it to be hard-core and gritty. Exile is all that and more."
"So here's the bottom line, I am in love with this game, it is everything I ever wanted out of science fiction when I used to dream of Lensmen, Martian Chronicles, Jedi Knights and the Future Histories. I hope you will love it as well, because it's going to be the best work I've ever done, and if everyone hates it, it's going to ruin my life."
Unfortunately we never got the chance to ruin his life, as he sulked and left the field long before anyone got to play it.
Exile uses a hybrid percentile/success-counting system. You roll 1d100 and try to roll as high as possible without exceeding your skill. If you roll over your skill, you fail. If you roll under your skill, you count the number on the tens die as your number of successes. Rolling very low is even worse than rolling too high, as you will critically fail if you roll 01, or under your Malaise/Exhaustion score.
Character advancement resembles a combination of Storyteller and Call of Cthulhu, with an experience point granting a variable amount of skill gain depending on whether you manage to roll over your current skill or not when spending it.
Skills are divided into six categories according the the ability they are based on: Coordination, Vigor, Presence, Expression, Reason and Intuition.
One of the first things you do when creating a character is to determine his relationship with Syndics, the factions of the setting. You must be highly regarded by one, a member of another, be disloyal to a third, an enemy of a fourth, and have contacts within a fifth. This system would seem to lend itself to characters tightly entwined within the politics of the setting.
Each such relationship grants you a certain number of points to spend on equipment (indulgences), skills and abilities related to that Syndic. Your Syndics also determine which memes you have (personal beliefs which grant you bonuses in certain situations). You also determine your three drives: Temper, Passion, and Pride, which are used to resist (or fail to resist) seduction, intimidation, fear and other social or emotional effects. Finally a character has logos, which is a form of karma or fate points allowing a degree of narrative control.
Combat takes place upon a hex map. Each character declares an action and rolls the appropriate skill. If they succeed they spend their successes (plus three free successes) on initiative, movement, damage, defense, called shots and so on. If they fail the roll they still get to spend the free successes on movement and defense.
Social conflict consists of making a skill roll to force your target to roll against his or her Drives. They can resist using other drives. For instance, if you try to seduce someone who is far too good for you, you might roll Charm, they would then have to fail a Passion roll to resist your advances. If they do, they might still be able to resist by rolling Pride.
Exile is set in a distant future where the location of earth has been long forgotten after mankind departed it to escape the fury of the 'old gods' - who may be real supernatural entities, or may be a metaphor for the stifling effects of old religions. In either case, these gods did not follow mankind into space.
The players are exiles from the core worlds of the Hegemony, where humans live an Eloi-like utopian existence. Beyond the core worlds lie the lawless worlds of the Grange. Here PCs must fend for themselves on the outskirts of a corrupt and uncaring government, among undersupplied colonies and deadly raiders. In many ways it's very similar to Firefly without the cowboy theme.
The Hegemony is an empire in decline, corrupt and decadent, formed of an association of Syndics. A Syndic is simply any organized group with sufficient political clout - the military, the civil service, the underworld and ethnic blocs all count as Syndics. A list follows:
- Androgyne - Hermaphrodite sex-slaves turned politicians and media stars.
- Sark'Saron - Reptilian supersoldiers.
- The Starborn (Reisir) - Vacuum adapted humans.
- Armada - Officers and navy, very honorable.
- Vanguard - Ground troops & mercenaries, not honorable at all.
- Diplomatic Service (Interior Ministry) - Spies and assholes.
- Consortium - Big business.
- Bak'Sakusa - Weeaboos.
- Common Weal - Conservative mannerly aristos, basically exist to hate the Pax Republica.
- Pax Republica - Revolutionaries in the murderous French mold.
- Zae Zarandt - Obsessive Go players.
- Voidians - Space worshippers.
- The Cartel - Space mafioso.
- Trancers - Basically the Hollow Ones from Mage, only ravers instead of goths.
In a situation reminiscent of the fall of Rome, the Hegemony is locked in constant warfare with the Horde, a catch-all term for the barbarians at the gates. The Horde are extremely savage, probably because anybody out there who wasn't extremely savage has already been killed or conquered by the Hegemony. Other threats include the Cthulhoid Anathema and the rogue nanotech parasite known as the Scourge. Other than the Anathema there are no true aliens in the setting, all life being human or genetically engineered from lower forms.
Humans are served by the Artifex, a networked race of robots who provide everything man needs - save for weapons. The Artifex follow Asimov laws, forcing humans to turn them off before going into battle - a clever way of keeping the focus on the PCs. Artifex can produce new Artifex, but they are similar to the technology of Warhammer 40k in that humans no longer fully understand how they work. The few devices which work without Artifex brains (Lodes) are called Machina. Weapons are the most obvious form of Machina, although others exist.
Exile on /tg/
This very obscure setting has only recently been mentioned on /tg/.