Exalted Vales Interview
Published on June 9, 2020
About Exalted Vales
Exalted Vales is a brand new region and campaign guide for D&D 5e, and is the first project from the Montréal-based company InkPlot. Exploring the intriguing theme of mysticism, the 250 page illustrated hardcover book (also available in PDF format) offers D&D fans new races, classes, locations, characters, a full campaign for 1st to 16th level characters, and much more. Also available will be a digital pack containing 75+ full color battlemaps (created in collaboration with 2-Minute Tabletop) and 50+ tokens ready for online play, as well as a custom Exalted Vales Card Deck so you won’t have to flip through the rulebook.
Headed by a team of professionals with over a decade of experience in the video game industry (including delivering projects for industry titans like Namco Bandai), Exalted Vales is most certainly something you want to keep your eye on.
Thank you to William for answering our questions! Exalted Vales is set to release in December 2020. For more information or to support Exalted Vales, head on over to their Kickstarter or check out the InkPlot website. If you’d like to test it out, they have provided a free introduction scenario along with some battle maps on both the Kickstarter and website.
Now, on to the interview!
Tell us about InkPlot and Exalted Vales. How did it start?
It started with a campaign played among friends; a full year of playing each Saturday. And then we decided it couldn’t go to waste.
How and when were you introduced to Dungeons & Dragons?
You would have to look very far into the past! But it was around the same time as the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is highly possible that the two events are not related.
Did you ever expect to reach your Kickstarter goal so quickly? What was your reaction to the huge support from the D&D community?
We were surprised on both fronts. We set very optimistic goals in order to have plenty of room to breathe. Now we’re planning a few new stretch goals just in case.
The support from the community is really heartwarming. As you certainly know, we are French and Canadian. Before we were funded, it of course wasn’t easy to get good translation services. Luckily we have had wonderful support.
What makes Exalted Vales different from other 5e adventures and sourcebooks?
We are exploring a theme rarely explored. The tales from the books our parents used to read us when we were kids was the starting point. We added mysticism and threw a veil of mystery over it. The result is a region full of strange phenomena to discover.
We explore a mature take on “what if”. A good example is the Great Lioness. In the region where she lives, females get pregnant by their own will on the first night of summer. As a result, the core of a family is the mother, and all wealth and titles are inherited from her. How does this affect a society? What else can the Great Lioness do? Are the rules really so simple? What can women see in the sky on the first night of summer that men can’t see? For if they dare go outside that night, they’re turned into animals. Exalted Vales brings a lot of questions and a real change of scenery.
Building a new campaign setting from scratch is a difficult task. What are your methods for world building? Are there any books, movies, or games that inspire you?
Renaud Bartens, the author, is a Lead game designer and a writer. He adapted and applied his methods from writing and video games to world building and campaign design. The two fields are closely related. Our design philosophy is to start with the simple question: how can it be fun for the players? Then we work from there, either to develop new classes or for the plot of the campaign.
As for inspiration, there are so many… if we were to pick only two, we’d say Dune and The Accursed Kings.
What are your personal favorite new additions that Exalted Vales brings to the table? (rules, races, classes, etc.)
First, a new playable race: the Faithborn. I won’t detail everything about them here, but we were very happy to design them, especially for veteran players. Faithborns aren’t born – they just enter existence, as a result of a sincere and intense desire. Therefore, when you write your backstory, you don’t have to answer the usual questions like who are my parents and where was I born, because when you appeared in the world, you were already an adult. The question is: who desired your existence? Why? Did you meet them? It may not be much from a game design point of view, but from a roleplay point of view, it’s a new way to enjoy playing.
Then, a new class: the Mecanist. A lot to discover there, but there is one ability that makes games super fun: One of the archetypes allows you to shrink objects to restore them later to their original size. That always goes wrong, and that’s exactly why we kept it.
You mention on your Kickstarter that the campaign was tested for two years. Was that done by members of the company? Do you have any funny or interesting stories about your time playtesting?
Playtests of the campaign were done first by members of the team. Then later we sent it to a few playtesters.
During one of those playtests, a player was playing the new class Bound Spirit. The player bounded to a mirror and was mocked by our gnome because he wasn’t able to say who is the fairest of them all. And so we included the feature to the class.
Did any rule or mechanic you playtested not end up in the final product? Why?
It’s hard to answer that question with a simple answer because of our working process. We experiment A LOT to explore as much of the design space as we can. So, we have dropped or reabsorbed a lot of designs already.
Did anything you tried turn out better or more fun than you originally thought?
The Mecanist’s ability to shrink and restore objects we mentioned earlier. It was meant to be something slow, more like a ritual. Then we tried to make it faster to both shrink and restore; that didn’t work so well. Then we tested making the objects slow to shrink but almost instant to restore, and that ended up being the perfect tuning. It was also far funnier than we expected because it is almost always the wrong tool for the situation at hand.
We know Exalted Vales isn’t even out yet but we are very excited so we have to ask… What’s next? Will there be a sequel or even a brand new campaign setting someday?
It’s too early to say. Really, we just want to complete this project to the best of our abilities. Then, depending on the feedback from the community, we’ll plan more.
Thanks again to William for some behind the scenes information about what’s going on over at InkPlot.
Hope you liked this interview! If you have any questions or would like to see more interviews or news about upcoming products in the world of D&D, please post a comment below. If you like our content subscribe to Arcane Eye!