For a very long time, since First Edition, Exalted has lacked a comprehensive, cohesive financial system, abstracting the mechanics of purchases through the Resources background and leaving large portions of the resultant bargaining to GM discretion. This has been frustrating to some players, especially since Bureaucracy is one of the Abilities on the character sheet. Without a functional Bureaucracy system, many players found the acquisition of wealth or the domination of mercantile empires to be an unsatisfying endeavor fraught with handwavium. Moreover, one of the major economic organizations in Creation, the Guild, has had little to no description, leaving it a toothless spectre of a threat, a faceless antagonist without much real punch.
All that has changed with the release of Masters of Jade, the latest release in the Exalted line. Ostensibly (and functionally) a sourcebook detailing the Guild from the lowest slave to the highest hierarch, it additionally provides a new system for representing organizational interactions. Produced by the Ink Monkeys we fans have come to know and love, the book is a full and imaginative look at the world of Exalted through the lens of a Creation-spanning organization dedicated to financial domination.
From a personal standpoint, this book is a masterpiece, a shining victory. Fans have long been clamoring for a system for Bureaucracy that makes the Eclipse caste a useful entity outside their anima power. Not only does this book deliver in spades, with a new system that interacts well with the existing Solar Bureaucracy Charms, it also uses that system to model large-scale military actions (using War), social actions (finally giving Socialize something to do), and criminal organizations (making Larceny useful outside the immediate, personal arena). It gives a system for detailing the specifics of a world-spanning organization from top to bottom, including subsidiary organizations, as well as starting businesses and an economic model for competition and assimilation.
All this is in addition to the frankly breathtaking detail given to the Guild and its policies, activities, mindset, and allies. Long have fans wondered how a mortal organization (and make no mistake, the Guild is predominantly run by mortals who remain free of supernatural influence) can exist in the face of the existence of the Exalted, and Masters of Jade delivers with broad strokes and pinpoint accuracy in equal measure. It gives an amazing toolbox to the GM to offer competition and challenge to players who wish to compete with the Guild, as well as detailing out the articulate and imposingly Byzantine structure that prevents supernatural beings from simply waltzing in and taking over. If that weren’t enough, the plot hooks fall like fruit from this book, with nearly every paragraph suggesting some amazing new bit of the world never seen before. And all of that is in addition to the hints of things to come, including a new type of Exalt.
All in all, this book is a must have for anyone who wishes to utilize some of the more decrepit Abilities on the character sheet. It is a fantastic read, pleasant from cover to cover, and it fleshes out the mechanics and setting in ways I would never have imagined possible. Five stars, two thumbs up.