Month: February 2015

“Ask the Developers” Thread Summary, Post #8

More excerpts of relevant information compiled from the Exalted developers’ Q&A thread on RPG.net. This particular post covers things up until the end of January.

Links to previous threads:
Q&A Summary #1
Q&A Summary #2
Q&A Summary #3
Q&A Summary #4
Q&A Summary #5
Q&A Summary #6
Q&A Summary #7


Lea:
For most Western fighting styles, at least in popular culture and it seems like in popular perception outside of that, too, the idea that learning to punch or stab a dude really well is part of learning to live a worthwhile, peaceful and harmonious life, that it has some enlightening or philosophically elevating property outside of the ability to do violence, is alien. The closest I can think of is the fetishization of the value of soldiering — the idea that those in the armed forces who train to put their lives on the line for their nation are somehow, uh, more equal than the of-course-totally-equal people back home (because we’re terrible at reconciling elitism and egalitarianism) is present, but even then it’s tied to the will to sacrifice, not the combat training itself.

Mechanix:
It’s a fundamental feature of knight stories – martial prowess, piety, valor and kindness are all generally equated. Brutish, arrogant or evil knights are much similar to the archetype of the rash, arrogant kung-fu student who doesn’t “get” the philosophy of life inherent to his art, and is eventually defeated by the more meditative hero/the more godly knight.

It pretty much disappears with the Renaissance though, and the “duelist” archetype who is also traditionally the one represented as having the most technique and sophistication in his martial art is usually presented as not much better than an assassin. And it’s in this archetype that people are drawing most of their examples of Western sophistication and nomenclature of combat, so your point remains.

Part of it might have to do with the fact that the “enlighenment” aspect of knightly valor is inherently tied to deep, unabiding Christian faith, something of which we tend to be much more suspicious today, in part because of the awareness that this kindness and enlightenment tend to stop where “filthy heretics” show up. We now ascribe a moral myopia to the knight archetype which we tend not to ascribe to the kung fu student.

EDIT: Though the Chevalier Bayard, the archetypal pious and gentle knight with larger-than-life martial deeds, is post-Renaissance.

John:
The weapon-agnostic nature of Melee Charms contrasted with the heavily stylized kung fu themed Martial Arts of Exalted reveals very different attitudes towards diverse fighting methods. This decision was made to include many different traditions of writing and storytelling and therefore engender characters who feel different from one another.


JasonK:
Does War even still exist as an Ability / Charmset?

Lea:
Yeah, the War skill is still a thing with its own Charms and such. Likewise Integrity, also new to 2e.


Starglyte:
Where will we find out more info on Wu Jian? Will the corebook have some tidbits or do we have to wait for Exalted-Different Skies?

Lea:
It’s in the corebook to about the same level of detail as, say, Medo, or Chiaroscuro.

Holden:
You will get more Wu-Jian info in the core, yes, and it will be re-visited at greater length in an upcoming supplement.


Colapso:
– Will you be able to talk about discarded ideas, when the books hit the ‘shelves’? I’m very curious about the discarded Exalted type, and the discarded ideas for bloodline charms (and I hope the NDA allows that.)
– At the end of 2e’s run, Abyssals had become ‘safe’, ‘comfortable’, and by and large the fluff borne that. Will 3e do a concerted effort to make the threat of their emergence and how wrong/scary they are a thing, again? (as in, is this a goal you specifically put conscious thought into?)
– Do the Dragon-Blooded get a Foilxalted, or is that the niche of ‘Generic low-power exigents’?
– Having looked at the W20 products a couple days ago: any chance we get a ‘dishes of the Blessed Isle/the Great Houses’ as a kickstarter stretch goal for What Fire Has Wrought? Unlike for Werewolf, I feel this would actually be very useful for Exalted, as the food served in diplomatic dinners has alot of impact (see: Game of Thrones and food porn.)

John:
1) We won’t talk about discarded Exalt types, but the bloodline Charms never really made it to any form we could talk about. The concept will live on in some form in Evocations, and our ideas for those are getting challenged and getting better all the time.

Holden:
“Able to” and “willing to” aren’t necessarily the same thing. I’m reluctant to discuss any canned idea until the opportunity to use it has well and truly passed (and there are some compelling reasons not to distract from what you do release with what you might have released until well after release). So… probably, some day, but likely not right in the wake of the core launch. The core should leave you plenty busy with its contents!

John:
2) I think the challenge of Abyssals has always been placing them as a threat without making it feel like they were the only issue in all of Creation that mattered. Of course, that creates a dissonance, because they are often depicted as the sole greatest threat to Creation.

Holden:
I don’t think I’d agree that they felt ‘safe’ or ‘comfortable’ at the end of 2e so much as ‘obsolete’ in the face of more interesting, rounded, or dynamic antagonists. We’re definitely not looking to triple down on “ABYSSALS INEVITABLY KILL THE WORLD BY NEXT TUESDAY. PANIC NOW!” We’re more focused on giving them a distinctive style of play and range of thematics to explore.

The dead are plenty scary in EX3 that we shouldn’t have to bend over backwards to make their champions frightening.

John:
3) As of right now, we have no plans for this. We consider the Dragon-Blooded foothold in the setting to be just about perfect. If I had to point to a foil I would say it is the Solar Exalted.

Holden:
No such thing as a generic Exigent.

The Dragon-Blooded live lives rife with conflict– against one another, against the obstacles the world puts in front of their ambitions, against the Lunar Exalted and the returning Solars– EX3 is set in what may be the final twilight of the age of Terrestrial rule upon the Earth. When all of Creation stands in your shadow, it’s basically impossible to have a ‘foil’ that doesn’t redefine the game (see: the Solar Exalted).

John:
4) What they eat in the Realm is somewhat far afield from the subject of What Fire Has Wrought. We will think about it.

John:
My answer here puts me in mind of someone tricking Peleps Varan into eating a chocolate bhutlah.


Mechanix:
Here’s a silly question. For no reason other than their names – Redmoon, Darkheart, Capstone, all grouped in the Cinder Isles – I can’t help but picture that region as, uh, basically The Elder Scrolls. Their names have really the same vibe.

How wrong am I?

John:
It might be that whoever writes Elder Scrolls reads the same things I do.


Dulahan:
I’m personally interested in if the Fancier Editions will come later than the regular edition?

And also, how I can get a regular edition anyways because I don’t want my Fancy Edition (Sadly not the Super Duper Fancy Edition, but I was unemployed during this kickstarter and spent way more than I should’ve to begin with!) to be used on the table for actual play.

Lea:
The Regular Edition is Print On Demand, and is always available first, because you basically just need to feed a version of the .pdf with high-resolution art into a PoD machine and the Regular Edition comes out. It’s a bit more complex than that (PoD printing requires a file with more details than even just higher-quality art, compared to the consumer PDF edition), but that’s essentially it.

The Fancier Edition is a conventional print run. That takes a while. They’re printed and assembled all at once in a batch and shipped out all at once, while meanwhile the PoD machines have been printing out regular editions and shipping them one by one for months.

The Super Duper Fancy Edition typically arrives even later.


Beron the Grey:
I asked this a while back (possibly in the previous thread), but it never got answered: how easy is it to create and run powerful NPCs in 3e?

Holden:
Pretty easy.

Beron the Grey:
If my players decide that Kejak needs to be taken down, will I need the Sidereals book,

Holden:
It would help, but no, not if you’re willing to do a bit of improv.

Beron the Grey:
and will I need to generate a full character sheet complete with a long list of charms?

Holden:
God no, although again, I do suggest giving anybody you’re planning to have as a major campaign fixture a full-ish* sheet rather than the Quick Character treatment.

*Don’t try to stat out Kejak like he’s a PC that has been played in a campaign lasting 50 years, it will drive you bananas and you’ll never use 90% of it.

Prometheus878:
Quick question: Will we receive guidance on how to make powerful, experienced npc’s in a more useful manner than just giving them a ton of Exp and seeing where it goes?

John:
You sure will! 🙂


chaoticag:
Well, got something of a concern here. If the book is finalized except for the layout, and well, there’s a limit to how big a book can be, then presumably the final layoutist (sorry, forgot her name,a and not sure what the position is called) is going to try its hardest to keep the book under the printing limit. Is there any danger of us ending up with size 8 font or something like that? I got into this hobby more recently than most, and the 3.5 DnD book’s font makes me cringe.

John:
Not sure how such a problem will be handled if it pops up.


MrMephistopheles:
Probably hasn’t but has there been any mention on if Crane style is in the corebook?

Holden:
Indeed it is.


Guancyto:
Could I create a sorcerous working to make it so that, any time someone tries to steal something from my pockets, they instead pull out a swarm of angry bees?

Vance:
Yep.

Guancyto:
Could I manage the same thing with Survival Charms?

Vance:
Not…quite as straightforwardly. You’d need a swarm of angry bees familiar, and then work from there.

Guancyto:
Oh Vance you know just what I like. ^__^

Hmm, the character idea I had a bit ago was a wildman/animal tamer sort, who led a large group of trained bears/other animals, who got to bring dangerous animals into various towns because they were a traveling show, and xenophobia is all well and good but everyone likes dancing bears, especially when they’ll perform for room and board.

And then when/if the monks show up, bears!

How much time and XP would I need to spend outside the Survival tree to make this happen?

Vance:
You could do this out of chargen.


Anaximander:
It’s probably way too early, but I’m rereading Scroll of Fallen Races, and wondering what plans, if any, there are for them in 3E? Total overhaul or just tweaking? I think somewhere it was said you’re moving away from “dwarves in Exalted” with Mountain Folk, but anything beyond that?

Holden:
They’re sufficiently far in the future that we haven’t discussed them very heavily.


Holden:
For serious, tho, take Ox-Body. Prying health levels off a target is a lot harder than it used to be, so having more of them is a BIG advantage.

Holden:
On a related note, don’t take Stamina 1. You will regret it.

Holden:
Dex is definitely still the strongest physical Attribute, but I don’t think two extra points of it are worth sucking out loud with Strength, Stamina, or Wits, particularly as the range of threats that you really want the maximum possible dice pool to reliably hit is fairly limited.


Gaius of Xor:
Suppose I’m keen on playing Solar Phoenix Wright. Investigation and Bureaucracy Charms seem like obvious places to go, but is there anywhere else I’d probably want to explore? Or any tricks within those Abilities that would make me especially happy?

Holden:
You want Socialize, too.


Sunder the Gold:
So, Lunars can’t use Martial Arts when animals, and can’t use Evocations when werebeasts.

What kind of form prevents them from using Sorcery? [/joke]

Wuse_Major:
…Actually question. Are those restrictions on Lunars more to create their theme and playstyle or is it something else?

Vance:
Tyrant Lizard special attacks + supernatural martial arts=OMGWTFBBQ

Wuse_Major:
But it’s ok to use Lunar combat charms with the Tyrant lizard special attacks? That’s kinda what I’m not getting.

That said, I’d hope instituting the rule that, if a lunar knows an animal style, they can use it when in that animal’s shape wouldn’t be too game breaking. I don’t think you plan to have a Tyrant Lizard style any time soon so that shouldn’t be an issue.

Holden:
It’s more of a “that’s dumb” issue. Snake style may be inspired by the movements of a snake but like… you still need arms and legs to do it.

Uqbarian:
And a Lunar is arguably better equipped to understand the essence and nature of the snake.)

John:
The Lunar’s understanding allows him to turn into an actual snake.

Cadwyn:
This is pure speculation on my part, but it’s possible part of the reason why Martial Arts aren’t usable in animal forms is because, as previously stated, Lunars in a given animal’s form gain access to all of its special attacks. So a Lunar in a snake’s form can’t use Snake Style, but can still fight like a snake, conveniently without knowing Snake Style. More to the point, a hypothetical Tyrant Lizard Style won’t help you fight as a Tyrant Lizard, but just changing into one gives you access to Stomp, Ferocious Bite, and Mighty Roar; moves which, if not equivalent to said style’s techniques or charms, are presumably what the style would be based off of.

Holden:
It really is just that it doesn’t make sense & is super goofy to do a crane kick as a T-Rex (“if do as tyrant lizard, no can defense”).

Dulahan:
Is there, or will there likely be a Tyrant Lizard Style Martial Art (As in, developed for Humans, since this thread is going whacky places)?

John:
Probably not.

Godjaw:
Why can’t I, a Lunar with a snake shape, not get bonuses to using the Snake Style martial art, one that is designed on the movement and behaviour of a snake, even though I can understand what it means to be a snake by becoming a snake, and retain that knowledge and experience while not shapeshifted?

John:
I know it’s not intentional, but you’re asking us to lay down mechanics for Lunars on the spot, and that’s really not to the benefit of Lunars, don’t you think? We like to reason out our designs and test them.

To clarify, Exalted Charms often reference the aspects of animals. You are asking for something that already broadly occurs. The reason we hesitate is because we don’t plan on canonizing the idea that there is some platonic ideal of a snake that everyone using magic under the header of “snake” is drawing from. A Snake stylist is pushing her Essence toward manifesting the aspects of a snake. She is making it caustic and venomous, lithe and sinewy, swift and penetrative. She’s not actually channeling or borrowing from “Snake Essence” which is a concept in and of itself that we’re not interested in exploring.

Godjaw:
Thanks for the clarification…does this mean there’s no snake totem?

John:
I don’t understand this question.

To put it more simply: Lunars get their power from Luna, not from snakes.


Wuse_Major:
So, most of what I know about small unit tactics comes from MMOs ad RPGs which are …not particularly realistic. I mean, in the real world, you don’t have a guy on the team who can cure your wounds with magic and stuff.

That said, the general combat types of “medic, buff/Debuff, crowd control, damage dealer, etc.” provide a nice shorthand for these types of games and I’ve become curious. It’s been said before that there are various ways to approach combat and social situations and I’m wondering if it gets divided up like that or not/ And, if so, what the types of specialties would even be for social situations, because I have a hard time imagining that.

If it’s more tied into the system then you want to talk about know, that’s ok. If you can’t talk about it, could you at least tell us if there’s some sections on tactics and stuff? I’m not necessarily really that good at figuring that stuff out and it’s always nice to get advice about it.

Vance:
The tank/dps/control/healer paradigm makes a sad face and gives up when confronted with Exalted. I mean, any given circle could consist of Zatoichi, Jesus, Merlin, Batman, and Qin Shi Huang. How do you come up with a convenient, simple mode for how these characters act in action or intrigue scenes? Good luck.


Daerim:
Oh, here’s a question… being the Chiaroscuro fanboy that I am, I love my glass swords. Are the rules for them going to be in the core book, or will I have to wait for a Chiaroscuro/South book to discuss such weapons?

Holden:
They’re in the core.


rahsith:
1. Will there be more time of tumult style adventure books?

Holden:
Not in the near future.

rahsith:
2.can you say how many artifact weapons are in the core?

Holden:
Don’t remember off the top of my head, but it’s a decent starter selection.

rahsith:
3.will warstriders be customizable?

Holden:
Very!


Daerim:
People like spiffy powers and it generally doesn’t go over well when one kind of spiffy power precludes another. Shapeshifting and martial arts are both spiffy powers, but one precludes the other. This is where we get into Lunar fan resentment. It really does not help that most of the high Essence Charms we have are also martial arts Charms.

Which brings up an interesting question. Lunars have never been The Best at the two pan-splat power options (Sorcery and Martial Arts) and that doesn’t seem to be changing. What is the mechanical hook for Lunars? Shape shifting is really neat, but has never been more than a single Charm tree in depth at best. What else do they do best?

Basically, how should I as a Sidereal, Solar or other type of Exalt not ever confront a Lunar if at all possible? The way I should never let a Solar set down roots or challenge a Sidereal’s foresight or reality manipulation?

As a corollary, what do Lunars do? The same way that Solars build up and Sidereals manipulate?

John:
You are couching this in terms of where they shouldn’t be challenged while listing some of the very reasons why they ever get challenged in the first place. I understand what you mean, but your way of phrasing it is a bit distracting. I take it you are simply asking “where or how is a Lunar most formidable” and this question is difficult to answer because there isn’t an average Lunar and they represent, within themselves, a number of interpretations of how to use their powers and what they, as Exalts, should stand for. You are also overlooking the possibility that shapeshifting will be a valuable and important “secondary structure” to the Lunars this time around. Put on the spot, though, I’d say versatility is where they outshine everyone else.


Dulahan:
So… in OM there is a post from Stephen Lea Sheppard that is essentially a squee of joy about someone watching Vampire Princess Miyu…

Can we take this as any indication of a possible strong influence on Abyssals? Or perhaps Liminals?

John:
I don’t know what OM is. VPM is a cool anime though. I can’t recall anything from it that would contribute to either of those splats outside of mood and tone. Demon magic is a closer match to Infernals.

Lea:
The VPM OVA is traditionally an influence on Sidereals, actually. Has been since 1e. That and The Compleat Traveller in Black.

atavist5:
I apologize if this has been asked and answered, but in that vein what would you say are influences in regards to the Lunars, Abyssals and Infernals?

Lea:
Vampire Hunter D for Abyssals, at least to the extent that if you can’t play Vampire Hunter D as an Abyssal there’s not much point. Whether VHD: Bloodlust counts or not depends; I like it, Holden thinks it’s crap.

It’s too late for me to go looking up the sources for the others right now, unfortunately.


Wuse_Major:
So, I was thinking a bit on previous editions and a location I’ve been working on for use when 3e comes out and I realized that, through most of 2e (and at least some of 1e) the books have spent more time discussing the various gods than they have discussing their priesthoods. Pretty much the only religion we have a ton of details on is the Immaculate Order. Everything else is more about generic shamanism as influenced by the local gods and bargains. (Or at least that’s my perception of it right now. I’m sure there are some exceptions, but I can’t think of any from 2e offhand.)

Based on what you guys are doing with the Yozis and Demons and the general trying to move the focus back to smaller games, it made me wonder if you’re going to end up devoting more time to talking about the various religions of Creation as distinct from “Here’s the god’s character sheet.”

John:
We might talk about a significant religion if one presents itself, but that would only happen as a result of needing it to explain a group of people who follow it, or a cultural mindset extending from it—and that would require some preconception of the people we’re discussing. By giving the topic more than notional support, we’d be saying “here, this says something about Creation that isn’t otherwise apparent. This helps to explain part of Exalted that isn’t already quite clear.” Mostly though, we won’t talk about various religions for the same reason that we don’t plan to fill in all the blank spots on the map.


Daerim:
What do you see as the heights and lowlands of each Exalt type, understanding that individuals will vary wildly, as a collective entity?

John:
I think you are asking me to set aside an Exalt’s power as a political actor to view them purely from a mechanical perspective, and I would rather not do that, because we don’t see the Exalts as bundles of mechanics. There is a lot of value in Exalts apart from the mechanics. The mechanics are referential to what the Chosen are, not vice versa.


JMobius:
So I had a late night thought. I’ve seen a bit of sadness from some quarters about the cutting of Techniques, mostly just because that leaves mortal MA practioners without a mechanical differentiation of any sort. One idea that I’d seen proposed was permitting mortals to learn Martial Art charms up to the form, or at least MA charms that have a mere Essence 1 prerequisite. The first obvious problem with this is the costing mechanism. What do they use without motes? Willpower? That seems like it would get intensive, and would deal poorly with the highly variable mote costs of charms.

So, the thought I had… why not give mortals a mote pool? A small one, to all of them, maybe the size of a DB’s personal pool or so. Say that all beings born of Creation respire essence, but to most this metabolism is largely meaningless. Then, attach an asterisk to this pool that says these motes can only be spent on MA charms. Walking the path and the philosophy of a martial art as a mortal thus itself represents an act of enlightenment.

Obvious problem is that this would grant potentially nifty tricks to mortal martial artists, but not to users of other abilities. This was the case for Techniques, though, and it frankly seems kind of in-genre anyway.

John:
Well, there’s insurmountable problems with that idea. The first is that yes, it bends everyone toward Martial Arts. The next is that Essence 1 Charms are far too powerful for mortals. The last is that we took enlightened Essence out of the game as a concept, because it was diluting the Exalted and saying pretty heinous things about heroic mortals.

John:
We didn’t like how complex initial drafts were shaking out, so we decided to cancel styles linked to Abilities other than Martial Arts. This led to us abandoning Techniques as a thing, since it would have pushed every mortal fighter toward MA, where previously there were Techniques for other Abilities. Ultimately we didn’t want to keep something that was going to choke out new players with too many rules.

Isator Levie:
Is there anything left of the concept of Martial Arts used by anybody other than the Exalted, to preserve the idea of credible schools and dojos for those styles?

John:
Yep, there are many different schools and styles.

John:
I understand you are disappointed. I am too. EX3 is a hyper-ambitious project. Still, we weren’t able to do every single thing we tried to do. I decided that the presentation was too complicated and created a much greater amount of study and decision making at chargen than I wanted players to have to go through. The rules weren’t being read well and that’s just because the entire intertwining system was too complicated, and I was unwilling to cut corners and half-ass it, essentially having it just to have it. This decision catalyzed after getting some playtest feedback, redlining Vance’s style drafts, and then finally when I wrote in Steel Devil Style to replace Heaven’s Ladder. Turns out, the design had changed underneath our feet, and simple, elegant solutions had replaced larger, clonkier and more complicated ones.

John:
I realize it doesn’t make sense that we wouldn’t be solving one of 2e’s big issues, but try to imagine it from the perspective of someone looking at an entirely different game. What we were trying to do created multiple problems, beyond the value of pushing forward with it. Having to mold Techniques into styles was literally not fun, and that is why we cut it.

Holden:
Techniques ended up being one of those things that, at first blush, looked like an absolutely fantastic, great idea, but the more we played with them, tested them, and wrote more and more styles with them, they turned out not to be anywhere near as good in practice as they looked on paper, until finally we realized they were creating more problems than benefits. This is the great advantage of a long testing cycle– you don’t have to find this stuff out a year into the supplement cycle once you’re already well and truly committed, like the breakneck-paced EX2 did. (EX2 is one of gaming’s great monuments to “this looked like a really good idea at first,” repeated over and over, from Flaws of Invulnerability to Social Combat to robust high-Essence support.)

Scutarii:
Wait. What if I am some kind of street urchin type who learned to fight through savage necessity on the streets, what skill do I use for that?

Holden:
Brawl. Or Melee, I suppose, if you’re a knife-fighter

Brian888:
How much (if at all) does Exalted support the idea (mechanically or otherwise) of corrupt or forbidden Martial Arts styles? The idea of corrupt chi and styles building off of that from Legends of the Wulin brought this to mind, and then I remembered that little tidbit about Rakan Thulio using “forbidden martial techniques” that even Third Circle Demons fear to sever his connection to the Loom.

Holden:
Proscribed or wicked martial arts are totally in-theme for the game and trivially easy to do mechanically. Black Claw could certainly be argued to be just such a style.

Holden:
For the record, a lot of EX3 design work was a matter of “have an idea, become excited, take idea for extensive test-drives, realize that idea explodes and kills everyone when the rear fender is bumped, re-evaluate idea.” Good design is iterative. The tragedy of RPGs (and video games for that matter) is that almost nobody gets the time to do properly iterative design.

squidheadjax:
I will remain worried about what I bolded [“(no way to make martial arts interesting for mortals, no way to have mortals studying martial art under an Exalt feel any different that studying, say melee, martial arts once again being the catch all unarmed+sword+lance+charkram+bow+anything else you care for Ability, etc…)”] until I see something concrete.

Holden:
Your bolded section, viewed another way, points out a lot of the problems we ran into in some of the designs we tried out. “Non-martial artist mortals look like chumps, no point to training people in anything other than martial arts, like say Melee, everything else falls into the shadow of martial arts, martial artists become the new de facto ‘enlightened mortal,’ etc.”

First and most important thing to internalize for design work: Every design has benefits and drawbacks, and you have to be able to set aside your delight at the benefits to critically and thoroughly assess the damage that design inflicts, and ask yourself, “is the benefit I’m getting worth the problems that come with it?” With Techniques, we first thought the answer was “yes,” but the more we tried implementing them and playing with them, the more we realized it was actually “no.”

What you cannot cannot cannot do as a designer is think like a single-issue voter, where you have one objective in mind to implement as a pure unquestioned good, and you will pay any price, sight unseen, to have it. This is how a lot of Martial Arts discussion online proceeds– people arrive with one idea they are convinced needs to go in at all costs, whether it’s “delete Brawl and MA and just have an Unarmed ability” or “remove SMA” or “have shorter trees” or “make MA non-shared” or whatever, and then they draw justifications backwards from there.

The design concepts we bandied about in the past sound like simple elegant fixes, which is certainly why we liked them. But in practice they forced some dilemmas where we had to either compromise conceptual integrity of what MA styles WERE, or else layer in additional rules to resolve the dilemmas. And those case-managing rules turned MA into a gnarly mess pretty fast– in the end, we had a LOT of additional infrastructure built up to make the initial “elegant improvements” functional… at which point they were no longer elegant, or improvements.

The final result we ended up with works a lot better than the previous two editions, and is itself pretty simple and straightforward for a new player.

LeTipex:
While I do agree that coming into a discussion with one’s mind completely made up about what one needs to do to improve the system isn’t the way to go, I thing you don’t really give enough credit to people who come in with those ideas. Second edition had a shitty, shitty way of doing martial arts, and I think most people realised this and are sincerely trying to come up with, as you put it, new iterations on the concept that seem to solve at least some of those. Whether they work or not in the context of the new rules is another thing entirely, but as we haven’t been able to test them for now, they still seem like interesting solutions.

Holden:
All rules hacks are undertaken with a sincere desire to improve things. But if a person can’t/won’t go “okay, but what problems does that solution introduce?” then they’re not doing good design work, and if they don’t create a mess it will be by luck, not solid understanding of what they’ve proposed.

Random Nerd:
I think part of the issue is that folks may disagree about the “conceptual integrity of what MA styles were” part. To that extent, it’s as much a matter of which axioms you start with, as of how much you stress-test the system.

Holden:
Sure. Hell, some people want MA tossed out completely as a concept, or stretched to encompass the entire system. Much like Lunars, there’s no design that will please everyone at this point.

John:
My main interest in Techniques was to create a stronger mechanical basis for mortal heroes. This desire turned out to be flawed in several ways.

First, it implied that Storytelling and the base system were not good enough for handling certain depictions, a design methodology we learned to recognize and avoid as development went on. Our game upholds the power of the Storyteller and a creative application of the basic mechanics for solving the problem of “how do I do this?” rather than slathering the game with rules for everything. The Techniques system began to jar with this overall design consideration. We did not drop the CRM into EX3 for many of the same reasons. We wanted to cut the complexity of the rules and rely on Storytelling and the core system more heavily, especially when we felt like “more rules” meant “less Storytelling” or playing into the old mindset of “a Charm/rule/system” for everything, where if something didn’t have expressly stated mechanics, it didn’t exist.

Second, there were more elegant, simple ways of handling such characters. Stunts were one way, but there were also special actions that spend momentum already built into the system. Characters using defend other and some of these special actions in concert could be incredibly dangerous, even if mortal. Characters also have specialties, another way of setting them apart.

Third, we could represent and differentiate fighters through Merits, a much simpler and more elegant and wordcount friendly method of handling the separation. But this presented and highlighted a whole additional problem with Techniques, namely that any Merit a mortal can take, an Exalt can take as well. Similarly, Techniques were not just cordoned off for mortals, and in time they served less in telling the story of how Swan was a Snake stylist before he Exalted, and more about how Exalts stack Charms and Techniques miles high. Which brought us to the next problem.

Four, to keep Techniques feeling strong, but to keep them from just being “more Charms,” required a huge amount of Techniques. Why? So that Techniques could represent a huge buy-in that would eventually lead to a stronger or more dominant/significant advantage in a variety of circumstances. Thus, it would cost enough exp to be really good with them that Exalts would be better off paying for Charms, and only the most hardcore would try to really flesh out their Techniques. Now, don’t get me wrong: we were not out to prevent the Exalted from gaining Techniques, but we saw the future ahead of us–where Techniques would be collected obsessively by the Chosen–and felt that it warped progress away from the Martial Arts styles represented by Charms, and essentially pulled away from the Exalted. This was a far cry from the original design intent, of mortal warriors with a few secret tricks and fighting Techniques. We realized that holding it down to that design was just not tenable for the Exalted, who would go around learning and collecting Techniques, and that created a few issues of its own:

Five: Another huge exp dump. With Evocations, Sorcery, and really awesome MA Charms, plus a much larger Solar Charm set, I felt that a player frustration/implosion event was not only probable but guaranteed. We put in a lot of effort to alleviate experience point stress, such as the inclusion of “Solar XP.” Getting rid of Techniques was another way to alleviate stress.

Six: A huge structure of Techniques interwoven with Charms led to ponderously-written and difficult to digest Martial Arts Charm trees. They were less fun to read, less fun to write, and considerably harder to balance. This was a huge, huge, huge issue and probably the biggest red flag problem with the whole design.

By the time I got to this side of the design, I realized that all the struggles to keep them in had turned them into something I never intended, taking them far away from my original misbegotten idea. I realized that that idea was not the best one in the first place, for above reasons, and that it was not going to work out, and that our system and a little creativity in roleplaying could carry off mortal heroes just fine. Should I also add in Seven, that we have a massive amount of word count, and have been concerned with what else we may yet have to cut before the book reaches you? Or Eight, that Techniques were essentially just trying to be Charms without magic, a design that will ultimately do bad things to how people perceive Exalted?

Suffice to say there are many reasons why we make the decisions that we do, and I know that we are hush-mouthed about a lot of things, but that’s so we can reserve the right to make these kinds of decisions and realize our mistakes without distraction. We’re talking about it now because we feel it is very important that you know why something that seemed ostensibly super cool didn’t work out and isn’t going to be there. We didn’t think it would be cool to open the book and find out it’s not there.

Godjaw:
This concerns me quite a bit, since it doesn’t seem you solved the problem at all. Now if you want to do any Martial Art, you need to invest in Martial Arts, despite if your style conceptually has nothing to do with traditional Martial Arts. For example, Righteous Devil Style deals with ranged weapos, namely Firewands which work off Archery. How does that have anything to do with Martial Arts? Seems like an exp sink for an ability I don’t want to use. Or Shining Point in the Void stye (?) keying off Melee, but again you need to take Martial Arts instead.

It seems to me, that concept and individuality was sacrificed in favor for simple all encompassing stat. I fear this has only created the issue of experience sink into an ability that the player doesn’t want to do something not even associated with the Martial Arts ability conceptually.

If i’m wrong please explain how, but I don’t see a positive in this decision.

John:
In the second quoted statement [“The first is that yes, it bends everyone toward Martial Arts.“], by everyone I mean “all heroic mortals.” The Exalted aren’t all bent toward Martial Arts because Martial Arts are not the same as in 2e because this is a new edition and the rules have all changed.

ysadrel:
I appreciate the insight into why Techniques were dropped; they sounded interesting, but I can’t argue with the methodology or the design decisions. Is there a chance you could reveal some of the reasoning behind dropping “Martial Arts styles” outside the Martial Arts ability? I was looking forward to that being a thing, and it sounds like removing Techniques removed at least some of the overhead for having styles in Melee or Archery or Thrown.

Holden:
There were a bunch of reasons. Probably the most compelling revolved around severe balance problems cropping up from certain Ability Charms synergizing far better with martial arts than others, and styles which used both armed and unarmed elements being a huge pain in the ass to adjudicate.

nonamemaddoxx:
Thanks for the explanation. In my opinion, it is good for the fan base to see you guys elaborate on things like this; please continue to do so on similar issues if you are able to.

Does this mean that you guys settled on differentiating fighters using the core system’s combat actions, the momentum system, and narrative abstraction only? Or did you introduce something to replace Techniques or Merits to achieve this?

John:
To be clear before I confuse a bunch of people, Exalted combatants are differentiated by multiple different Charm sets. It’s heroic mortals I was referring to in the original quote.

We did not replace Techniques, though in a sense we did. Once we got to Techniques, several advances and changes to the core system had been made, with some embellishments to the combat rules for grapples and special combat actions. So we realized that Techniques were not really needed for their original goal.

LeTipex:
Even if the guy using Righteous Devil hasn’t invested into other martial arts, he still (probably) has a high Martial Arts score (as in, the ability) since his charms key off on that. So when fighting hand-to-hand, he still has an advantage over the Archer, who (if he hasn’t ALSO invested into Brawl) has no way to fight hand-ro-hand. That’s the issue.

I’ll give you the range thing, but still, that means a Solar archer with a firewand and Archery charms still is worse off than a Solar with Righteous Devil in every case (as long as we still assume that Righteous Devil has an advantage over Archery charms, as you said in the post I quoted). And that’s still bad.

John:
You’re basing your ideas off of how 2e worked.

Random Nerd:
Well, the most obvious issue there is that if you want to be good with firewands, and you’ve already finished Righteous Devil, you don’t really have anywhere further to go unless you invest in Archery. Archery-dude can keep buying Archery charms, but you’re unlikely to find a second firewand martial art to practice.

Holden:
Pick up an artifact weapon, become the legendary master of Barrow Dragon, the soulsteel dragon sigh wand.

Lea:
1) I think, if we confine ourselves primarily to printed material (or soon-to-be-printed material), a Solar using pure Archery Charms with a firewand would indeed be at a disadvantage against a Righteous Devil user using pure RD Charms with a firewand, all other things being equal, because of the way Righteous Devil works specifically with firewands, the way straight Archery Charms tend to take advantage of bow traits firewands don’t share, and the way MA Charms work with Solars.

2) Assuming well-constructed, well-balanced homebrew, there is is probably some crossover point where the Solar is spending XP on custom firewand-based Archery Charms and the Righteous Devil has run out of RD Charms to buy and is building a new firewand MA from the ground up, and so the Solar Archery guy pulls ahead (because he’s buying custom high-essence Archery Charms designed for firewands and designed to synergize perfectly) while the MA guy falls behind (because he’s paying XP for a Charms in a new firewand MA style that’s necessarily designed to be coherent and balanced on its own terms first and to synergize with Righteous Devil second, and which must be half-composed of low-Essence MA Charms that he doesn’t want as much as Solar Archery guy wants his high-essence Archery firewand Charms)…

…but that’s largely hypothetical.

3) However! The thing people are actually worrying about — that the Righteous Devil will be a better archer in general than the Solar Archery guy — isn’t going to happen, for reasons that will be immediately clear once people see the MA rules. Like, just no. Can’t happen.

Poisson Resistance:
That raises a pressing question, namely, why the Righteous Devil are flame projectors in Archery if they’re so incompatible with the precepts it’s been given for EX3? Between this and Martial Arts/Brawl, you can’t really hope to recast the combat Abilities entirely by a flavor and keep them as they were from past editions. The splits of combat Abilities from past editions sound like they might not actually fit so well with the system in this light.

Lea:
Every paradigm has edge cases and degenerate cases. I like flame weapons, but I don’t think it’s necessarily worth rebuilding the entire Ability paradigm to make them less of one. See above, re: game designers as single-issue voters. And anyway we have Righteous Devil Style to give them the coverage they deserve.

Ghosthead:
I hope this isn’t overly harsh, but this [Lea’s point #2 above] does feel slightly disappointing, if I’m reading it right, as it seems kind of what I was hoping in part the Technique design was intended to fix – how it worked in 1e and 2e where, once you reach a limit end of the Snake Style cascade, that’s it and you have to go make a new style, even if you have more ideas for Snake Style Charms that are legitimately snakey, which are not already in the style, and feel like legitimate extensions of the base of techniques in the style.

It felt like Techniques would do away with that idea by giving a base of limits and moves on which expansion could go as far as the player could push it and build Charms that build on the Techniques – although I don’t know if that was ever actually how it worked.

(and again the idea that people will be rebuying techniques which they may already have another Charm which does the same thing – which is particularly weird if Ex3 is going down the route where the Charm in the book is not literally the ability as is known to the people in the world – although that is always house ruleable).

Lea:
…I don’t think that was ever really the goal of techniques in the first place? Like, they were supposed to be a way to differentiate heroic mortals, not a way to allow Exalted MAists to push past the limits of the fixed MA Charm trees. That they synergized overly well with Charms in a way that pushed people towards MA and away from the advantages of open native Charm trees was one of the reasons they were cut.

The book has a sidebar about finding hidden manuscripts with extra “lost” charms for existing MA styles if you really want to keep pushing Snake Style instead of branching into hypothetical Cobra or Boa or Rattlenake Style or whatever.

Poisson Resistance:
What about the simpler approach of not making flame wands and their ilk Archery weapons to begin with? You could just place them under Melee, under the reasoning that they tend to fulfill many of the roles that a pike might in repelling charges and having a long reach. They’re just weird for requiring ammo.

Lea:
They feel even less like Melee weapons than like Archery weapons. Likewise Thrown.


leetsepeak:
So I’m a new World of Darkness player tentatively interested in Exalted, but I have a few questions. In terms of tone and relationship, does Exalted still have a connection with the Old World of Darkness?

John:
1) Yes and no. It’s not something we intend to be clear on, or to outright contradict.

Holden:
The answer to that is “kinda, sorta, not really.” If you want to read between the lines, there are some easter eggs to be found, and some recurring stylistic motifs– there are monstrous ghosts in Exalted called “Nephwracks,” for example, that will look pretty familiar to any Wraith: the Oblivion player, although they’re not precisely the same thing. But mostly it’s just that certain elements were inspired by bits of the old World of Darkness. If you’re not familiar with oWoD, you will have no difficulties understanding anything in Exalted. Exalted isn’t written so that it will line up with oWoD in some grand elaborate master writing plan. There’s a tenuous connection that any given group can emphasize if they like, or ignore completely if they’re not interested.

leetsepeak:
I have the essential buy in of characters are very powerful and I’m okay with that, but how gonzo does the setting go? Are players typically tackling big giant epic adventures, or is there room for actually interacting with the setting as well?

John:
2) You do get powerful enough to flip tables on the setting, but it is a bit harder to just pave over what’s there in this edition.

Holden:
It’s both. Exalted is a game where you play glorious heroes empowered by the gods, set in a fairly gritty, very political world of war and intrigue and upheavals. The tone isn’t “gonzo” by default, although some groups like to dial the game in that direction.

leetsepeak:
Can I go into 3rd edition without having read either 1st or 2nd and still be set to enjoy myself?

John:
3) You can start with EX3 and understand everything that’s going on.

Holden:
Third Edition has been explicitly designed with new players who have no experience with 1st or 2nd edition as its primary audience.


Volivat:
Mount Namas down by the Dreaming Sea is the only named mountain on the whole map besides the imperial mountain any particular reason for that?

John:
We plan to talk about it. It was mentioned in the comic.

Volivat:
Thx for the comic heads up

But that line in creation by the loom of fate, is that just fluff for the comic or is that something that will be in the setting? And what is it actually?

Lea:
It’s Mount Namas!


danelsan:
I’d like to ask about Combos (if they are still a thing, that is) – not about how they work, but about what conceptual space they occupy. Like, are they gonna be a bread-and-butter thing that you will be pretty often, or closer to “super moves” that you use when circumstances get drastic or for finishing strikes? Or both, depending on which Charms you are combining, I suppose?

Lea:
Combos aren’t really even a thing anymore. You just use compatible Charms together. If you’ve seen the Ex2.5 “Combo” rules you know what to expect.

There are super-moves that you have to build up to, but they run on different things, like “This costs levels of anima” or “This Charm can only be used if you’ve reached [momentum] of X or higher.”


Godjaw:
Are Guild caravans still freaking huge on average? Reading back on them, they’re like villages on wheels or boats whose goal is commerce.

John:
There are a couple massive Guild caravans that are almost like mobile cities, but that’s not the average caravan.


Wuse_Major:
What would you say was the greatest non-essence based technological advance the modern Realm has access to?

Lea:
Semaphor networks.


Lea:
Dig through the Grabowski quotes on the wikis and you’ll find mention that passing human competence absolutely is not intended to be the baseline for a Solar. Becoming transcendent in your field is a possibility, but it’s not the default. And that’s Solars.

Lea:
I have been told, though I do not recall by whom or where or when, that there is a legit ancient proverb: “Even Hercules can’t fight two.” The takeaway from that is ancient societies intimately familiar with war were also accepting of the fact that even the biggest badass in the world, when faced with two people who are at least competent soldiers, is gonna get his clock cleaned. Obviously this does not fit exactly into Exalted because we are fully committed to letting you play a badass who can wipe the floor with a room full of mooks, but it’s an interesting perspective, isn’t it?


PolkaNinja:
Have we found out what happens to an Exalted essence from the new type (Exigents I think) when the mortal frame dies?
For example, if a tree god exaltes a mortal into a Exignet and that Exalted gets killed, does the tree god reform? Does the power go to the God of Exalts for cleaning and refurbushing? Does it pass to a helpless nearby mortal? Disapate into the Wyld/Aether/Cosmos?

Mockery:
We don’t know per se. That said, I strongly doubt the god gets to reform. From what we heard in Janest’s fiction, the deity who gives everything to the Exigence dies, and Exalted is pretty unyielding about death.

However, the writers have mentioned that the Exigences frequently dissipate after only one incarnation, but some can and do reincarnate.

Lea:
Yeah, it varies. One-shot, reincarnating, bloodline, “Whosoever can draw this sword/lift this hammer,” wierder options….


Lea:
The number one reason I see given for why Paragon should be awesome, or at least fair, is “But realistic oppressive oligarchy is so cliche! Everybody knows how that works! Wouldn’t it be more interesting if Paragon were about sacrificing freedom for genuine safety?”

My response to that is a lot of swearing, by the way.

Holden:
Generally speaking, only an asshole is going to find a magic staff that enslaves people and then rather than going “holy shit this is horrifying” instead goes “FUCKING SWEET, okay, I know what I’m going to do, I’m going to enslave everyone and then I’ll have a giant palace and hot and cold running blowjobs and all the jumbo shrimp I can eat.” Enslave everyone I meet is not generally an agenda you will find nice people who have their hinges on straight pursuing.

FrivYeti:
I think the problem is that, if you look at what’s been written about Paragon, the Perfect comes across as being a bit of a jerk, but not nearly as nasty a ruler as half the population of Creation. When your oppressive oligarchy allows free immigration, ensures that there is no starvation anywhere within its borders, allows people born within the city to leave if they don’t like it, allows near-total freedom of speech, severely limits the abuses heaped on slaves, outlaws local slavery, and frees all foreign slaves after five years, outlaws bureaucratic graft and corruption, allows any peasant to ascend to the ranks of nobility with sufficient skill and effort, allows people to leave the country at any time if they want*, offers free education to the populace, and allows anyone with the will to learn the arts of thaumaturgy (with the exception of necromancy and demon-summoning, IIRC)… well, it sort of stops looking much like an oppressive oligarchy at all.

(* – while retaining the ability to take over their brains later, to be fair, but again, he supposedly almost never does that, because it’s too useful a skill to let people know it’s possible.)

Holden:
I have gigantic problems with that Paragon chapter because it’s basically a ringing endorsement of totalitarianism and legalism, positing that the only problem with tyrannical regimes that rule through terror, arbitrary yet iron laws, and unremitting brutality is that, gosh darn it, sometimes people are able to thwart the ruler’s will or disobey him successfully. Legalism would be great, if only the Emperor could ALWAYS crush those that displeased or opposed him.

Lea:
I think the 2e Perfect was written by someone who outsmarted him- or herself. Like, the approach seems to have been “People are expecting a brutal tyrant but the readers will find that predictable and boring, so what if I were to write him as a pretty cool guy who rules Paragon fairly and doesn’t afraid of anything?”

Lea:
This is all a distraction, mind.

Paragon can’t serve as a philosophical examination of an ethical problem. It’s gotta be a place where people live, and where you can go and entangle yourself in their lives. This is not something it’s been in the past, because people spend a lot of time talking about the Perfect and very little time talking about the specifics of living there as, say, a street thug trying to convince his uncle (who’s a merchant) to hire him (because he’s tired of being too broke to regularly afford good booze).

Lea:
Actually, come to think of it, probably the thing that interests me the most about Paragon is who the Perfect’s cronies are, and what they’re up to. And their cronies. Big names who are nevertheless not so big as to make the city fall over if they get shanked. Surely they’re up to stuff — one of the notable features of totalitarian dystopias is what the people who wield the ruler’s power by proxy get up to. The Perfect himself is basically irrelevant except as a distant figure, but tell me about the city’s richest merchant and his interests in smuggling rings in neighboring cities.

Lontra Felina:
I like the Perfect being generally good to his subjects. Making Paragon a really nice place to live that incidentally involves entirely giving up your freedom makes for interesting moral issues and ideological debate. If it’s just some generic evil, oppressive place with a cruel and evil overlord who dispenses his particular brand of evil through some evil staff of evilness then what’s the point of Paragon existing?

Lea:
I’d never advocate making Paragon a generic evil place.

It should be a specific evil place. Like, you could write for years about all sorts of interesting topics relating to North Korea — its internal politics, its succession conflicts, the way it exports its higher-ups to get education in the larger world by giving them false identities, its peasant cultures, the way the people on the ground develop cognitive dissonance between their intoctrinated patriotism and the news they get on the down-low from family members who’ve successfully emigrated and who smuggle Western media back in — without reimagining it as “Not actually all that bad, no really the rulers are honestly trying their best.”

Holden:
If you find yourself tempted to think of the Perfect as a reasonable man navigating thorny ethical issues, please remember that

a) the entire reason Paragon exists is that he decided he would like to be a king and rule over other people, and

b) he decided that the cornerstone of his rule would be “anyone who disobeys me will die screaming.” Not, you know, “I bet I can improve everyone’s lives” or “the central government is corrupt and I can see no one else willing and able to reform it” or even “this is a responsibility and a duty I was born to bear.” None of those things. “Everyone around me is going to do exactly what I tell them, and anyone who doesn’t will break his own back in his final convulsions. That sounds like the kind of place for me.”

This places him squarely in the company of Qin Shi Huang, Kim Jong-Il, Stalin, Pol Pot, and history’s other great butchers.

Lea:
The fact that Paragon is unspeakably evil is largely irrelevant to the fact that it is a place where people have found ways to live. I mean, I’m much more interested in seeing what those ways are than condemning the Perfect, but I don’t want to praise that fucker either.

(Though I do want to see him keep getting drawn as a sort of rakishly hot young blond guy. Hmm. Fifty Shades of Paragon….)

Lea:
Command economies are unreliable. I’d write Paragon as having a few major famines in the past, which the people dealt with by starving to death because the staff made rebellion impossible (lots of would-be rebels died of spine-cracking seizures rather than starvation, though), and possibly now with some sort of economy that left a lot of room for the poorest echelons of society starving to death because the merchants who ensure the city’s food supply aren’t in the business of giving food away and the poor can’t steal it.

Perfect doesn’t care.

Paragon’s huge. That it’s a map dot makes it a major, major regional power, with a population approaching a million. It is going to be a tremendously diverse, cosmopolitan urban center exerting huge economic and cultural weight for hundreds of miles in every direction. That means a lot of variance in economic circumstances for it’s population, and a lot of room for the unlucky to fall through the cracks. They just won’t be able to survive in socially-unapproved-of ways once they do.

Lea:
Like I imagine the Perfect’s response to a riot might be “Call all the people qualified to hear confessions in and tell them not to accept any tonight.”

ADamiani:
That seems kind of silly?
Like, if Paragon has anything going for it, it has citizens with a strong commitment to upholding public order. Paragon’s about the last place in Creation I would expect to riot.

Lea:
I meant, like, during famines that resulted from him trying to do a command economy and it not working right because he forgot to carry a one or account for the possibility of one of his suppliers suffering drought or something. Magical loyalty or not, people watching family members starve to death get up to food riots, especially if they know the rich are eating.

John:
I’m not sure there’s ever been a government where the people on top couldn’t end the lives of their subjects with a push of a button or a wave of a scepter.

In the case of Paragon, there aren’t riots because the populace has been beaten down into fearful submission. But we also know from history that the threat of death is cancelled out by certain death. If the Perfect ordered people to stay in their houses while the houses were set ablaze or were filled with gas, there would be people who would leave the house to escape the smoke or the gas, even if it meant a death sentence. That’s just the way humans are. That can be expanded to food shortage riots, Captain Trips outbreaks, etc.

ADamiani:
1) Command economies are pretty terrible; but feudal aristocratic economies which are presumably the primary alternatives for most of Creation aren’t much better. The horror of Paragon has never been North Korean in the sense that it’s mindlessly impoverished its citizens, in stark contrast to their free neighbors.

Iozz-Sothoth:
A command economy where there’s effectively no feedback via illegal behaviour from those below in order to signal that something has gone wrong with policy or where illegal behaviour can overcome the inevitable holes in policy probably will be worse, though. For instance, in any economy that’s reliant to some extent on subsitence farming, it’s hard to exaggerate the importance of cheating on your taxes as a survival strategy for the peasantry. This is fairly easy in a standard feudal situation as the state (such as it is) doesn’t really have the time or resources to catch every cheat, conduct proper cadastral mapping in order to find land that’s been left off the official register [1] and so on, but that does require that you’re actually able to cheat on your taxes, and so isn’t available in Paragon.

[1] One of the immediate results of Maoist land reform in Manchuria was a famine, because as part of the process the authorities discovered all the plots of land people had been secreting away from the notice of tax collectors and were able to tax people fairly for the first time ever.

Lea:
Haha “fairly.”

Lea:
Yeah I really don’t consider the DotFA version of the scepter or anything contingent on that relevant to what counts as a good portrayal of Paragon.

Lea:
It’s helpful to understand that, as I said earlier, Paragon is a huge, huge, economic and cultural weight on the rubber mat of its surrounding territory. It’s been there for centuries and it’s the major power for hundreds of miles. Speaking in terms of people choosing liberty vs. security ignores that for a gigantic swathe of the people in the area, it can’t be ignored. You’re born under its influence, you live under its influence, and you die under its influence. “You swear the oath and then you don’t break the law” is just a fact of life for hundreds of thousands of people.

Of course there’s gonna be patriots.

Lea:
Hmm.

I wonder if people in Paragon just mysteriously die sometimes after their families have benefitted from a lucky windfall they cannot trace, because if you break the law in a way that benefits your family and they know this, they become accomplices and the benefit to them rather lessens. ‘

Lea:
Hmm.

I think I would actually argue that Paragon must have a somewhat more functional set of laws than other major states in Creation, simply because it has no room for laws that everyone ignores or laws that are selectively enforced.

Like, if Rankar XIII of Gem demands more taxes from the population than they can actually pay without starving, they can compensate by coming up with inventive ways to dodge. If the Perfect of Paragon does the same, people can either starve to death or die in convulsive agony from oathbreaking. Most systems of laws have give-and-take, stuff that’s selectively enforced, stuff that was put on the books for populist or idiosyncratic reasons and subsequently ignored, etc. Taxes in Maoist China seem to have been demanded at unsustainably high rates because they were calibratred against peasants who underpaid, and resulted in famine when suddenly the peasants were expected to pay the full tax rate on their whole crop and not just the tiny portion of their crop that they had previously unsuccessfully hid from assessors. The Perfect doesn’t need to bother inflating taxes to compensate for underpayment because he’s got guaranteed obedience, but on the other hand, he can’t unless he wants his city depopulated.

(Actually, taxes may be inaccurate here because they’re mostly paid in food product by peasant cultivars, and the Perfect mostly oaths citizens of the city. I know Rome didn’t expect citizens to pay taxes, and in fact provided a bread dole, hence “bread and circuses.” It might be better to talk in terms of shifts of compulsory civic labor or something.)

This doesn’t prevent the Perfect from putting unworkable laws on the books! It just means that they result in many, many innocent deaths within a couple of days or weeks, and then he takes them off the books because without a population he can’t have a city. It also doesn’t prevent the Perfect from putting unjust laws on the books, like, say, laws that privilege one ethic group over another. It just means his laws are probably free of a degree of cruft and bullshit that other legal systems accumulate and deal with by ignoring or enforcing selectively.

After a couple of centuries of this process, he’s probably got a system that works reasonably well, for a value of reasonably well that is probably somewhat horrible, and which leaves swathes of his population in crushing but not unworkable poverty. For example, perhaps many of his laws are very loose, because he’s discovered that the more he fine-tunes, the more emergent properties and unexpected interactions fuck him over. This could result in a lot of heinously unethical shit not being illegal. (See Murder Was Not a Crime.) He may in fact see himself as an enlightened and liberal despot, on the grounds that he has learned (through personal experience and also mass deaths) that the enlightened ruler governs with the lighest possible hand. (Ha ha.)

EDIT: Allow me to amend that. “A somewhat more functional set of laws, for a narrow definition of functional.”

Uqbarian:
That makes sense in general, but just as a minor caveat, the issues about homicide in the Roman Republic in particular don’t apply to the Perfect, not least because he is an autocrat.

(I figure you’re not specifically saying that murder would not be illegal in Paragon, but I wanted to head that idea off at the pass.)

Lea:
Yeah, I just used that as an example of things that you might expect to be illegal might not be illegal. Like, possibly Paragon’s contract law is fairly undeveloped because it was easier to just not take part in enforcing contracts at all than put together a system of laws that allowed for reasonable contract enforcement but prevented people from getting caught in predatory contracts they couldn’t help but violate and then would be tortured for violating.

Lea:
Yeah if I were writing a biography for the Perfect at this point, which I’m not and which I don’t think would serve 3e well in a published product (I think Scavenger Sons is about the ideal level of detail to go into for any given location), then Paragon would be a) the Perfect’s second attempt at building a domain for himself, after his first attempt failed horribly because he tried to micromanage or something, and b) not nearly as under his control as he wishes; it’s just he’s now riding the proverbial tiger — without Paragon, someone would mug him for his magic stick, so he’s no longer in a position to burn it all down and try from scratch a third time.

(As for why no one has already mugged him for his magic stick — he’s an example of how successful a scavenger lord can be, but in the larger scheme of things Creation has a lot of magic sticks and baubles, many of them in the hands of petty despots like him. He hasn’t been the targer of sustained murder-and-burglary attempts sufficient to take it from him because an in-setting would-be murderer-burglar would not see him as the only possible target, even though other places ruled by successful scavenger lords haven’t gotten writeups in actual books.)

Isator Levie:
Now I’m wondering; since non-capital crimes can have the pain of them alleviated by confessing to a magistrate, would it work to keep a magistrate chained up in your basement and periodically confess to them?

see:
If it worked, I assume it would reasonably quickly get plugged by making kidnapping and imprisoning a magistrate a capital crime.

Lea:
Ah, but you can confess the kidnapping to him while he’s chained up, as well!

(Yes there’s probably steps in place to prevent that sort of thing. It might be as simple as making it a capital crime for magistrates not to kick serious crimes up a chain; sure, the dude in your basement will die in agony, but you can’t use him once that happens.)


Isator Levie:
I have questions about mutants!

In the corebook introduction to beastfolk, is it going to depart entirely from the prior Editions’ choice to first present them in terms of bestial savages, in favour of being fairly upfront about them just being unusual looking people?

If beneficial mutations are a Merit, does that mean there won’t really be something like the Polar Mutants anymore, where naturally and herditably born mutants had their positive mutations balanced out with negative ones to represent the needs or limitations imposed upon them by their modified biology?

John:
There is a snakeman society in the East that has more complex roads, agriculture, and bureaucracy than many of its traditional human neighbors.


DeusExBiotica:
What are some cool new female NPCs?

Vance:
I’m a fan of Ninegala, a smith-goddess who rules over a city populated by the descendants of humans she sheltered from the Great Contagion.


Godjaw:
I wonder is there a definitive answer for how gods are “born” or made? We know there isn’t a god for every concept, but then we have little gods born from a thing that was created.

Holden:
We’re almost certainly not bringing back least gods, actually.

Random Nerd:
Because of how they confused the difference between the celestial bureaucracy model and animism? Or something else?

Lea:
Because once they show up, it’s very difficult to get writers to stop devoting words and words and words and words and words to them and how they pertain to any given situation.

Holden:
Because they’re not important, were never intended to be more than a very minor flavor note to make the setting feel more animistic, are not intended to show up in actual play, and they have displayed a distinct tendency to draw disproportionate amounts of attention to themselves.

Godjaw:
So then Evocations aren’t a rapport between an artifact’s least god and the wielder? I seem to recall that’s what it was.

Holden:
No. That’s what some people extrapolated out of descriptions of Evocations, but that has never been what Evocations are.

ADamiani:
Well… as long as it’s a soft-cut (“We just don’t mention least gods”) vs spending a lot of time telling us how non-animistic the world is, I suppose that will go OK?

Lea:
Well, a major problem with least gods was all the unnecessary wordcount they attracted, and explicitly disavowing them in the text would be giving them yet more wordcount, so….

John:
Yeah, I think we’ll avoid horribly written products as a general rule.

To clarify, you don’t need even a single little god to satisfy an animistic setting. You just need Essence which can act and be acted upon, takes on different characteristics, moves through everything, impels actions, etc.

Plumy Namesake:
You know how every single tiny involves One Guy who’ll leap up to say that you’ve destroOOOOyed (!!!!) his favorite part of the setting? I feel a bit like that guy now.

I agree that that they take up an inordinate amount of space, as a concept, so I’ll give the new take an honest try before possibly sneaking them back in.

Holden:
It’ll be exactly like how 1e handled things, basically, except minus one paragraph from Games of Divinity.

John:
To clarify, we’re not throwing out minor spirits, just that the god to insect ratio per square foot of forest was nearly 1:1.


Jondera:
At the risk of opening up the can of MA-related worms again…

How well do Martial Arts support holds and throws? Are there plans for a style focused on such things instead of overtly punching/kicking people in the face?

John:
Grapple system is feels all kinds of awesome.

Jondera:
Taking the idea further, if there is such a style, how well would in synergize with Thrown? Could I use Martial Arts to grab and throw an enemy and augment with Thrown charms to turn the throw into an attack against a different target?

Vance:
You’ll be able to throw a motherfucker at another motherfucker. You won’t need Thrown to do it.

John:
Thrown doesn’t cover throwing people. That’s more of a martial technique.


ZealousChristian24:
Sorry to bother, but I’m mildly curious about something. Will something like Craft:Genesis(that is, the use of Craft/Medicine/Occult to create new species/biological tools or radically change/mutate others) still be its own separate thing, or will it now just be a specific archetype of Sorcerous Workings?

Holden:
No bother at all, ‘s what the thread’s for.

It’s covered by sorcerous workings now. Having Medicine helps.


MagisterCrow:
Sorry if this was drudged up beforehand, but will Exigents have the option for weird esoteric excellencies a la 2e internals or are they sticking to the more traditional ability/attribute excellencies?

John:
Exigents aren’t one kind of Exalt, actually. So different Exigents will all work differently.


rahsith:
1. Will gentle embrace style appear at some point?

2. Will we hear more tales of the first Kukla?

3. Does anyone know whats going on with the soundtrack lately?

John:
1) Possibly!
2) Oh, you want to know about the Kukla?
3) Holden and I just wrote up a list of musical inspirations to help with the soundtrack yesterday in fact!


Anaximander:
Any musings on Elsewhere? Just a line or two, maybe?

Holden:
It’s always somewhere else.

Anaximander:
I deserved that.

It’s just that I’ve been finishing up my 2E reread with Autochthonia and refascinated by space-folding and such in Exalted. I’ve always conceived of Elsewhere as the higher-dimensional meta-space in which the Wyld, Creation, Malfeas, Autochthonia, the Void, etc. are embedded. You can fit infinities of the 4-D realms in it. I was just wondering if you thought of it that way as well.

Holden:
Nah it’s definitionally just “anywhere but here,” except for everyone.

Daerim:
As a corollary to this… many moons ago when the 1e core book first came out, I imagined Summoning the Loyal Steel as my Solar’s ancient daiklave being in some god’s museum in heaven and when he used the Charm, it would literally fall from heaven into his hand or get banished back to its display case.

Is that sort of thing legit by the rules, or would it just be flavor at my table?

Holden:
Table flavor. If your daiklave is Elsewhere, some god can’t sneak into its resting-place and steal it– we don’t want to open up the old “astral plane pirates” can of worms. To the extent that your Storyteller isn’t going to pull those kind of shenanigans, keep describing it that way, it sounds cool.


MagisterCrow:
I would like to say I introduced 2 people to Exalted recently. I’m now going to be GMing a game for them. They are asking me to make you to get the book out sooner. You guys must have some sort of linguistics charms going that addicts people or something…

Anyway, back to questions. One curiosity was how tricky the crafting system is. The player is relatively inexperienced with RPGs in general (a few games of D&D), and I’m actually wondering about this as well.

Holden:
Crafting in EX3 is fairly intricate, but it’s intricate in that there’s a roleplaying economy there that wants you to represent yourself as a craftsman during play in order to work up the inspiration to build masterworks and artifacts, rather than intricate in the sense of having to consult six modifier tables to find out what you’re rolling and against what difficulty.


danelsan:
Something I was wondering about giant opponents. And I mean REALLY gigantic – not Tyrant Lizards but Juggernaut, Oliphem, Mount Mostah and so on. In many videogames and movies, human-sized heroes deal with such beings by sort of systematically disabling them, avoiding or otherwise defending against attacks and progressively destroying parts of the thing, sometimes disabling some of the creature’s attacks in the processes (though also often enabling others as the thing gets more damaged and enraged), often climbing up the enormous foe during various moments, and finally ending things with a killing strike.

I like the feeling those sort of battles get, particularly in videogames due to the interactivity. It really makes for a different feeling than fighting normal-sized opponents and, even if you are superior all things considered (because you are a phenomenal player of that game, or in Exalted because you are a very experienced Dawn Caste), it still makes the battle feel tense, dangerous and impressive. You know, that idea that my Solar is nowhere as much of a destructive force as that walking mountain, and likely can take nowhere near as much punishment, but in the end is still the superior warrior that can defeat it by impossible skill.

Anyway, what I mean to ask is, can the EX3 combat engine allow me to do that sort of battles against colossal opponents?

Holden:
That kind of fight is one of the big things we had in mind when we came up with Gambits.

Vance:
One of the antagonists is written up to be this kind of “boss fight.”


Daerim:
What are Sorcerous Workings? I’ve heard the words and had assumed they were a more ritualish kind of spell, but this makes it sound more flexible and… crafty?

Holden:
They are indeed flexible and crafty.

Lea:
“Sorcerous projects are for when sorcerers want to do a thing” may be the best sentence I’ve ever written.

Kergonan:
From what you said about the new sorcery system, I get the feeling that you were inspired by the Ars Magica system. I can’t determine why, but the way you talked about Sorcerous Working reminds me of the Laboratory Activities of that great game.

Holden:
Not really. Confession: I’ve never read Ars Magica all the way through.

sakii:
what happens if i wast to repeat a Working, like i made my fifteen feet tall ape-scorpion and i think is so cool that i want another one and then i want an army of one hundred six feet tall ape-scorpion

Vance:
Then you repeat the working.

On the other hand, if you decide you want to go from a single ape-scorpion monster to an army of them, you’re probably going to want to be able to use a more powerful working that will let you create them in greater numbers, rather than creating them one at a time. This may or may not be a safe proposition.

Isator Levie:
Would I be right in imagining that routing off the capacity to create terrible unnatural monstrosities off into workings doesn’t exclude sorcerers from being able to arbitrarily curse people with unnatural and abominable forms?

Which is itself distinct from cursing an area so that every child born there will be cursed with monstrosity, which feels as though it should also be a working.

Vance:
Workings can do all those things you described, although “transform someone into a monstrous abomination” is probably something I’d want to do as a spell.

Solarious:
So. Sorcerous workings… how fragile can they be? Like, if I made a sorcerous working to raise a giant floating rock upon which my laboratory-fortress-city would rest, how vulnerable would that make it to things like sorcerous countermagic? I’m going to assume here that either an appropiate demense is not available to build a manse, or perhaps my sorcerer just wants to build a couple of floating sky cities as a feature of her empire because floating sky cities are cool damnit (also, geomatic sabatoge feels like too much of a risk to base the flight of a flying city on).

Holden:
It takes another sorcerous working to undo a sorcerous working. (Or, like, I guess the Five-Metal Shrike could also get the job done.)


MrMephistopheles:
@Developers/writers. When you were making the rules for sorcery did you all run into the issue of having to rewrite stuff after seeing the material like what happened with Charms? Or did you all find that a smoother system?

Vance:
Sorcery was not nearly as difficult a thing as the Solar Charms were. It went through a couple of different systems, but it settled down quite well.

Holden:
Kind of. Sorcery was a huge, thorny design knot that took ages to untangle, it’s just that we left it as the last major system to write, so most of that iteration happened during design meetings rather than in rewrites.

MrMephistopheles:
Also will there be Charms that alter or deal with Sorcery ?

Vance:
There are some interactions, but nothing like “Metamagic Charms” or the Absorptions from 2e.

Gayo:
Which corebook Terrestrial spell is the most fun now?

Vance:
I’m gonna say Silent Words of Dreams and Nightmares, which is just all kinds of shenanigans. Especially if it’s your [REDACTED].

On the other hand, a part of me wants to give it to Wood Dragon’s Claw, where the way I felt about it went from “meh” to “haha shit this is great” over the course of writing it.


danelsan:
It has already been confirmed that some Social Influence actions can be used during combat ^_^

Holden:
All of them can, really, time permitting.


Holden:
EX3 would handle Star Wars pretty well, esp. lightsaber fights and shoot-outs with mobs of stormtroopers.


Daerim:
Have you converted what would be spells in previous editions into Workings for 3e, or is it a total add-on to the system?

John:
No, spells are still spells. Spells are fixed and singular, not open-ended like sorcerous workings. You’re overthinking this. Even capitalizing it is really overthinking it. You know how spells work? Workings are everything else in Vancian magic, with a bit of Tanith Lee and Robert E. Howard thrown in for good measure. Trigger based effects, person-specific curses, making X impossible part needed to construct an Artifact that only exists in theory.

Daerim:
I’m assuming Amalgam has got the Working treatment, have the summoning spells been given the same treatment so that you have to perform a Working to get a servant?

John:
We don’t plan to drop any spells over to sorcerous workings. Workings are complex, time consuming sorceries—including spells in a literary tradition that wouldn’t work as spells as Exalted has them. Workings have limitations of their own, though, or they’d be too good.

Daerim:
Something a little crunchier… could you explain the general process to perform a Working that would enchant a smallish body of water and/or an underwater fortress (maybe a sunken First Age ruin) so that it could function properly under the surface and visitors could walk and breath along the floor safely to enter and exit it, but if I sat upon my throne I could cast my gaze and wrath upon my realm and drown those who displeased me?

John:
You could do that, but I’m not going to go into how it works or what it would take.


You can find the next compilation here:
Q&A Summary #9

“Ask the Developers” Thread Summary, Post #7

Here’s yet another compilation of material from the Exalted developers’ Q&A thread on RPG.net. About half of it forms a single discussion thread that starts off talking about Dynastic secondary school populations, wanders through the status of the First Age in 3E, and ends up discussing PC and Exalt power levels vis-a-vis the various threats of the setting. Various other questions and answers follow. As always, I hope you find this valuable!

Links to previous threads:
Q&A Summary #1
Q&A Summary #2
Q&A Summary #3
Q&A Summary #4
Q&A Summary #5
Q&A Summary #6


Lea:
We will probably put some rigorous thought into Secondary School graduating class size norms later. For now we haven’t had time to formalize our demographic axioms enough to extrapolate meaningfully from them—keep in mind also that if we extrapolate from those axioms and get a result we think feels wrong, we’ll have to go back and change something. This is not served by asking us to make definitive statements on the matter we may feel obligated to hew to later.

Isator Levie:
Huh. From prior comments, I had always gathered that getting very deep into lining up the figures wasn’t really a priority at all. If that’s changed, the results might be… interesting.

Lea:
Getting very deep into lining up figures is exactly the sort of bullshit I always get into right after Holden tells me that getting very deep into lining up figures isn’t a priority.

DeusExBiotica:
“Not a large number” as in something like five, something like twenty, or something like one hundred?

I went to a high school with almost a thousand people in its graduating class, and a much larger college, so at least a vague approximation would help me immensely here.

Holden:
The Heptagram is the smallest secondary school and generally has ~80 students on-site at any given time. Extrapolate from there.

Blackwingedheaven:
“10,000 Dragons” has always been metaphorical, as far as I know. There are probably significantly more than that. Even so, I find your estimate of 90% of Dragon-Blooded deaths being of unnatural causes to be entirely accurate and believable. XD

Holden:
They do consider it a religious/social obligation (for which you earn massive kudos) to ride off and sword-fight Solar and Lunar Exalted, so…

Lea:
There were significantly less than 10,000 DBs at the end of the Contagion. There were probably around 2,000 or 3,000.

Lea:
There’s always going to be a desire for what’s normative. Like, “What’s the tech level of Creation?” “Oh, it varies!” “Yes, but what’s the default. What do you assume is the basic tech level of Creation in most places, when you write the setting?” Or “What are popular attitudes toward the Incarnae in Immaculate-influenced areas of the Threshold?” “Oh, it could be anything, depending on where you are!” “Well, yes, but what are the normative attitudes toward the Incarnae in Immaculate-influenced areas of the Threshold?”

A question like “Okay, my character graduated from the House of Bells. Assuming we’re mostly using the setting as presented in the books with regards to how-many-Dragon-Blooded-there-are, about how many people would have been in her graduating class?” is reasonable. Wherever possible, I’d like that question to be thoughtfully informed by things like population demographics, if only because if we plug in our population demographics and get a number that’s entirely out of line with what we want it to be, that indicates an inconsistency we might want to think about. (And because I adhere to “Anything you do, you should do well” and here that means “As long as we’re going to have numbers at all, they might as well be good ones that stand up to scrutiny.”)

For that reason I don’t really want to commit to any answers to these questions at this time. Also, for obvious reasons, we can’t just rip off fan-generated numbers.

Blackwingedheaven:
Which is fair. But at the same time, I think it’s probably unrealistic (on top of being probably also impossible) to ask you guys to provide demographic numbers on every part of Creation you’re ever going to write about. I get the desire for baselines, but I think that eyeballing it works just as well most of the time.

Lea:
Hey, I’d be happy to provide demographic numbers to an arbitrary level of resolution if I thought I was actually qualified to do so; where I’m not, I generally avoid (and advise avoiding) solid numbers at all. But something like Blessed Isle Secondary School studentry sizes is a reasonable request.

Axel_:
The 1e manual explicitly says 10,000, actually, p. 281.

John:
That passage tries to say that all 10,000 Dragon-Blooded are members of the Dynasty. Other parts of the book (and other 1e publications) seem to indicate that there are roughly 10,000 Dragon-Blooded throughout the entire structure of the Realm. That would include the outcaste-dominated legions, retired outcastes living on farms around Pasiap’s Stair, the Lost Eggs born to patrician houses, etc.

Lea:
Don’t assume previous demographics hold. I am pretty sure some of them are sensible, and I’m pretty sure some are ass-pulls, so “It says this on page XX” means nothing.

Lea:
In summary:

1) I would like to think about this.
2) None of us have the time or inclination to think about this now.
3) Any numbers you provide for us now would count as fan work we can’t use.

Lea:
The “canon-accurate” or “real” (whatever that means, in this context) Dragon-Blooded Secondary School experience does not exactly afford the studentry the sort of autonomy or, uh, respect for basic human dignity that you find in anime-inspired highschool stories. Generally speaking, people running those sorts of games are breaking from canon already. “Adding more students” isn’t a big deal in that context, really — that the game has lasted for over a decade without sensible demographics indicates you don’t actually need sensible demographics if you’re willing to gloss over or keep out-of-frame the problems impossible demographics generate. (See also: The economy of every D&D setting ever.)

SuperG:
o.0

Er… it doesn’t [afford the studentry the sort of autonomy or respect for basic human dignity that you find in anime-inspired highschool stories]? Or is this just that Anime tends to be nice?

Because, I mean, if I were running such a game I’d probably want to make sure the politics were brutal, the tests gruelling, and the free time minimal… and then pile a secret supernatural plot on the side that the players have to deal with on their own while still dealing with a ton of shit…

But now I’m wondering if it’s not just military school equivalent, but much worse somehow…?

Lea:
It’s a military school equivalent paired with all the ugly politics of entitled, status-sensitive, wealthy children blossoming into puberty and interacting in an environment of poor adult supervision and where many of the adult authority either are technically of lower status than the students or have a good chance of being politically connected to the parents of students such that they may be more concerned with currying favor with some than others. Any British boarding school horror story you’ve heard about physical or sexual abuse perpetrated by some adolescents against others while teachers are unwilling or unable to step in has a place in the Dragon-Blooded secondary school experience; Azumanga Daioh this is not.

So, you know, if you want to run highschool comedy or even highschool drama, go ahead and change things, because the venue already requires alteration to fit your purpose.

Lea:
Scott Taylor (was it him?) did some basic numbers for Outcastes, and I believe he settled on about 30,000 DBs in Creation, with about 20,000 based in the Realm (split roughly evenly between politically active Dynasts and a catch-all group consisting of Lost Eggs and Immaculates and such) and another 10,000 throughout the rest of Creation, of which Lookshy claimed… 3,000?

This may be a bit much. Or not. I don’t know yet!

EDIT: I remembered wrong. Here they are! Again, no idea if we’ll use these in 3e.

Anaximander:
All this talk of Dragon-Blooded demographics gets me to wondering: is there any significant population in Creation in which Terrestrial Exaltation is actually impossible? Or has Dragons’ Blood seeped into the general human(-ish) gene pool to such an extent that just about every population has the possibility? I mean, if the Lintha can have Dragon-Blooded…

Lea:
We do not believe the portrayal of any particular population in Creation would benefit from the out-of-character declaration that they carry none of the Dragon’s Blood and are incapable of Terrestrial Exaltation.

Anaximander:
And speaking of the Dragons, I don’t think it’s ever been said anywhere, but are they actually aware of the Immaculate Philosophy? Or as aware as they are of anything, really, seeing how they mostly keep themselves in the dragon lines of Creation and don’t coalesce very often? Do they notice that they get a hell of a lot more prayer-Essence than they probably did in prior Ages? As Gaia’s children, not quite gods, not quite devas, not quite elementals, but still ostensibly head of the Terrestrial Bureaucracy, do they even use “extra” Essence? Do they leave it in big “treasure” piles at the Poles for their courts to munch on?

Lea:
We do not believe the portrayal of the Dragons would benefit from addressing this question.

Cod Of Justice:
Sorry but I honestly can’t make sense of this unless the intended portrayal of the Dragons is either:

1) They are forces of nature and not intelligent\aware in a meaningful\human understandable way.

or

2) The Dragons are whatever you decide they are at your table and we’re not going to give you many solid details to avoid locking you into an interpretation.

1 would make the Dragons radically different from basically everything else in Creation they could be reasonably compared to and is hard to square with the existence of the Dragon-Blooded.

2 is a frustratingly unhelpful position, especially given how little we have to base any use of the Dragons on. I get that part of the reasoning might be to avoid having them loom to large in the setting but why include them as any sort of actor in the setting if you’re just going to wave your hands about when and how they might act.

John:
The Dragons are radically different. In all of Creation, there are only five.

If the game is not about the Dragons, then talking about them would be misleading.

Lea:
Also, the Dragons are mythic. In general, talking about them from an omniscient third-person pespective where you get to find out what their political affiliations and opinions of various Creation governments are makes them feel really mundane, when they (like the Incarnae and the Yozis) are supposed to feel numinous and gigantic and somewhat inscrutiable. This doesn’t mean you can’t eventually suplex them through the Imperial Mountain if that’s where your game goes, but even in terms of combat, they’re probably easier to kill than comprehend.

John:
It’s not that. It’s just that the tone of the game represents the shift away from the wonders of the First Age, the age of the gods, the age of magic, etc. Creation is a crumbling world moving through a dark age. Heaven is no longer a “place on Earth.” Dropping in on the 5-E-D is at cross purposes to that presentation.

Wuse_Major:
I would, at least, appreciate an offhand comment or something as to what they’re doing. I mean, the Incarna are playing the Games of Divinity, the Yozies are locked in Hell, and the Dragons are ….doing what exactly? Sleeping is fine, “swimming” through the Dragon-lines of Creation to help it remain stable is fine, locked in a vault with “Only open in case of Ishikia” written on it is fine, keeping score in the Games is fine. Just…something would be nice, ya know?

Especially since pretty much any other divinity in their position would be taking advantage of it in one way or another. I get that they’re different and enigmatic, but not giving us anything doesn’t really convey that message.

Cod of Justice:
This. This a great many times over.

It’s a perfectly fine choice to say that they are mythic and would be devalued by going into detail about all sorts of relatively mundane things like politics but it feels like bit of a cop-out when a) we have so little personality or detail to ascribe to them and b) we do have such details about equally unique and mythic beings like the Maidens or Luna.

Also I’d hesitate to categorise the reaction of a spiritual entity to being a focus of the largest single religion in the setting as in a way a detail which makes them more mundane. They can be aware of and hold opinions on being worshiped without caring or even knowing about any political actor.

John:
It’s not about overexposure making them mundane. It’s about focal drift. The “wondrous age of the gods” can’t be done and over if you can read all about it on page 47.

Kath:
I didn’t think Exalted was meant to be a game where the past was a mystical lost land that can never be recovered – has that changed with 3rd edition? It sounds more in keeping with Middle Earth than with Creation as I’ve always seen it, where the loss of the glories of the past simply gives you the opportunity to rebuild stronger, faster, better.

John:
We gave the Solars (the players) the power to right the wrongs of Creation as they see fit, but none of their Charms impart perfect judgment. There is no blueprint to saving Creation. We feel that is the only way for individual stories to have any value whatsoever.

Irked:
This specifically is the part that puzzles me in all of the “Oh, the past is gone and unknowable,” conversations. I buy that that’s true as long as no one in your party ever talks to a Sidereal, but I’m much less clear on how it works when one of your mixed-party members might have a day job in heaven.

John:
It’s not that it’s unknowable, any more than my great great grandfather is unknowable. But he’s no less dead.

Exalted begins with the return of the Solars—the builders, masters, and sorcerers who put all of this together in the first place. “Heaven on earth” is then a reference to the First Age, and the “wondrous age of the gods” a reference to the Exalted at their height. There was, also, a time when the mightiest of the actual gods, the Incarnae, lived in Creation, and all the masters of the universe lived in Yu-Shan. But now both the gods and the creators are imprisoned—one by vices, the other by vanquishing—and Heaven is hell, full of corruption, indolence, apathy, and soon war. Heaven is not just a doorstop, it is an ideal, and it is as far away as it has ever been.

Recovering the First Age is improbable. The only way it becomes impossible is if it never ended. It never ended if you can read about it, and thus, follow a blueprint to its recovery. See also: our mission statement.

John:
In publishing material about those times, places, and characters, we believe in dropping clues about the First Age, but you will never see the whole thing from all sides, because that takes away your agency. It removes your creativity and your choice in how the game plays out, because it is taking you out of the equation and replacing it with us.

theliel:
On the other, other hand (and why perhaps fans are confused) both Holden and John have said the Solars returning is a sign that Sol has turned his face back upon creation and the return of the Solars is, fundamentally, him doing something rather than continue to ignore creation.

So if the Age of Gods are over and gone with them riding off in the sunset that directly contradicts with “Sol Invictus turning his gaze once more to creation” which implies that other gods might be doing the same or that some of the Incarne (such as Luna) never turned away.

John:
It is indeed the story of the return of the Solars. And it wouldn’t work if they returned to find the First Age waiting for them, and the gods all sitting like ducks in a row, ready to take orders, and the Yozis passive in captivity, the Neverborn peacefully dreaming, etc.

John:
I exult your imaginations to do a hard job and find value in it. If I take that away, there’s no game.

Wolfwood2:
You say “the books” plural, but only the core book has actually been written. It sounds like the answer to all of these is a firm “No” as far as the core book goes. Certainly the one about the Elemental Dragons has already been asked and answered.

Who knows what might be written in hypothetical future books. The developers have told us what they’re thinking today (the answer is “No”) but that could easily change when they sit down to write.

John:
We do plan to dedicate some wordcount to these characters in the future. The issue is what we talk about and where it shows up.

Irked:
I don’t think “The First Age is dead” is really a point of contention, though; what puzzles me is the (seeming) desire to leave so many of its historical features and still-extant actors as complete unknowns. I can see this working to some degree up through the publication of Sidereals; I have no idea how it functions once Heaven’s Kung-Fu Bureaucrats are a playable splat.

John:
I can see how it might seem confusing. Think of it this way: Yu-Shan is not a snapshot of the First Age. It is certainly not what it was when the masters of Creation lived there. Its grandeur has somewhat slipped away. The gods are indolent and corrupt, and the best of them are apathetic. The most active spirits in Yu-Shan are not the Incarnae or the 5-E-D.

Irked:
The truth of the two bolded statements is not clear to me; the conclusion “Having a book about the First Age means you cannot rebuild the First Age” in particular seems questionable. Why should that be so?

John:
The First Age is an aporia. If it is ever realized in a book, then it is here, not gone, and the whole state of the game changes. The future of the game is wholly in the hands of the players. None of the mysteries are worthwhile if we hand you the solutions, and none of the solutions we can produce would be preferable to what you can come up with. You can, essentially, never print the First Age, because once it is restored it is neither the past or the future. In the context of Exalted, it serves as an ideal past, not just in “technology” but in spirituality, in enlightenment, in the perfected might of the Exalted Host. It serves as an ideal future, an unknown and perfect possibility that must be fought for, that won’t be known until it is found. Both as a past that substantiates the characters, and a future they must strive for, the First Age only serves the players as something they produce. That’s why we are only going to show it in glimpses. That is why we are going to drop clues, and not publish the answers. There’s no game if we solve all the mysteries. There is also the very real possibility that there are many games that benefit from the ultimate failure of the Exalted to bring about a return of the First Age, or games which could poignantly argue that the First Age should never return, and all of these variables aren’t served by a restoration of the past via publication.

John:
Heroes of the Niobraran will indeed be set during the First Age.

Wolfwood2:
What I take from this, in conjunction with your other comments, is that wordcount on these characters/ineffable beings will be more in he nature of plot hooks than personality description. Like, tossing some stuff out there to encourage creativity (why does the Dragon of Earth take a single Dragonblooded servant every century?!) and less “this is what this Elemental Dragon’s personality is like and how you should roleplay them”.

Is that about right?

John:
I’m not ready to settle on what will be printed. I have a love of mythology, a great big love, that I showed when I wrote Luna in Glories of the Most High and Legend of the Titans in Ink Monkeys. My essential disagreement is that we have to publish any particular detail about actors who have left the stage, particularly when those actors serve us best as mythological instruments viewed through an ekphrasis of the Exalted.

nexus:
Dreams of the First Age wasn’t to everyone’s tastes but that doesn’t mean the basic idea of book detailing the First Age is inherently flawed or problematic.

Holden:
It really is. You can argue that the benefits outweigh the costs, but giving a clear and definitive view of the First Age does certain things to the game overall.

danelsan:
About DotFA, at the time was caught up in the whole “Essence 6+ is where the real game starts”/ “only cosmic world ending threats matter” / “many miracles of the first age are just flimsy disguised TVs, jet fighters and other modern technologies of the real world” paradigm for which it contributed a lot. Over time, though, I came to consider DotFA one of the worst mistakes made in the whole line.

As far as I am concerned, getting glimpses of the First Age like the Heroes of the Niobraran*, from the backgrounds of NPCs and Artifacts and ruined vistas remaining in the present is fine. A detailed account of exactly how exactly was the First Age civilization at the top of its development can only disappoint me.

*Especially since it occurs in the beginning of that Age, right after the Primordial War, not during the greatest height of the first age.

SmilingBeast:
This is what I feel about all the First Age material in the line to date. The superficial design flaws hid the fundamental design flaws, to an extent, but the end result was that a First Age that had so much potential as a mysterious age of bygone splendor was reduced – slowly, at first, but then at an increasing pace, with a gigantic plop when DotFA – came out – to “comic book version of a technological near-future utopia, only with shinier doodads and much bigger jerkbags.” I never even considered setting a game there, but everyone I gamed with at the time basically shifted their attitudes about the First Age in the same way – nobody cared about it any more, except as a potential generator of loot caches.

The wonders of the First Age are much diminished when enumerated.

Holden:
That matches my experience.

Odie:
I could be wrong, but I am not getting the impression that hatewheel is saying that the First Age is an in-setting black box. Rather, each GM will have to answer the question, “what was the First Age like?” for their own games, and the writers are not taking it upon themselves to decide the canonical answer to that question for each table. (John, Holden, et al., is this incorrect?)

John:
Yep.

cliffc999:
True, but my imagination would still like to be provided with setting details, especially when I’m paying for someone else’s written setting. Its a lot easier to Rule Zero stuff I’ve been given than it is for me to write from scratch when faced with a blank or nearly-blank page. Because if I’m in the mood to do the latter, then I’m not buying a prebuilt game setting at all.

John:
Aren’t you writing off the mountains and mountains of Second Age setting material we’ve already written and are going to write?

Cod Of Justice:
There seem to be two different conversations happening at once here and being mistaken for the same conversation.

One is saying that giving to much information on the First Age would be detrimental to both it and the setting. (Which is probably broadly true). And also that the PCs shouldn’t find the First Age already waiting for them when they arrive. (Also a good sentiment)

The other is saying they don’t want extant but remote entities like the 5ED to be unknowable ciphers that PCs can never ever interact with.

For the 5ED what I want and what I think a lot of people are saying they want isn’t to know their opinions on the latest politics of Creation, or even the general state of creation but to be given enough information about their nature and personalities to make informed decisions about what they’d do if it ever comes up in a game, rather than the GM having to pull it wholesale from their fundament based on a couple of vague to the point of koan lines.

I would be happy as a clam if Gaia and the 5ED could get a write up equivalent to GotMH:Luna at some point. Or are you implying here that the 5ED have left the stage? Because that would be new and somewhat disappointing if true.

John:
Where were the Five Elemental Dragons actors?

AliasiSudonomo:
As a final note to the First Age thing, I would like to point out that there was no coherent picture of the First Age for all of First Edition and much of Second Edition. This didn’t stop the writers from throwing out bits – look at the caste and aspect books – but there was no huge map of “this is EXACTLY what Creation looked like then!” and “here are the ennumerated districts of Meru and who lives where” and so on and so forth.

This lack of a coherent picture did not noticeably injure the success and popularity of Exalted, nor its playability. And while I greatly enjoyed Dreams of the First Age’s non mechanical portions, I can agree that if you write all about the indescribable fallen age of glory, it is by definition no longer indescribable. This doesn’t mean nothing about the First Age or the Elemental Dragons or anything will never appear in any book. It means there will be no Illustrated Guide To The Elemental Poles and Psiap’s Favorite Foods.

John:
Precisely.

Unless we do Orichalcum Chef. XD

cliffc999:
See above re: the ‘we are having two different conversations’ post. ‘I feel this product, as described, still remains incomplete in certain essential areas’ is not the same thing as saying ‘You’ve written nothing’.

Also, I don’t understand how leaving me with a blank space to write in ‘exults my imagination’. My creative process works best when I’m given things to riff off of — even if I entirely ignore them to start again from the same beginning and go in a completely different direction, I’m still taking creative inspiration from having been presented with the alternative, and so it was still worth paying for the book. Starting from the blank white page and told to make it from scratch, OTOH, is less fun for me and takes longer.

John:
The First Age will be seen in glimpses, but never dead-on. Those glimpses will provide much fodder for the imagination.

Cod Of Justice:
You don’t need to know what kind of sword Excalbur is for it to be legendary but it’s impact is diminished if you don’t have any idea what kind of weapon it is. It’s harder to visualise if nothing else.

John:
You also don’t need to know about Excalibur in a game about ninjas. Maybe the inclusion of Excalibur doesn’t make sense for the setting you’re trying to create or the story you’re trying to tell.

Cod Of Justice:
One end has always been in the realm of mythic entities. The first thing the Exalted did was cast down the Titans so that the Gods could rise in their place. I’m pretty sure that’s one of the first things said about the Exalted in both cores. You can’t get much more mythic than that

John:
Ahlat, Octavian, and an entire host of other spirits laid quickly, quietly, and thoughtlessly on the funeral pyre, overlooked completely. We are going to completely avoid playing into this attitude that the gods themselves are somehow not mythic enough.

Cod Of Justice:
and why should that level be a past glory the PCs will never be able to attain, especially if as currently implied they did that at less than the height of the capabilities avaliable to them in the corebook.

John:
Because infinite redos of the Primordial War overrides every other story Exalted is meant to tell, and every other emphasis it is trying to put on things. Because there are things in Third Edition more powerful and terrifying than a Yozi.

Cod Of Justice:
I can’t see a way of reconciling the statement that the Exalted won the Primordial War at essence 3 with the idea that the 5ED or Incarna are unknowable entities that they can never have meaningful interaction with.

John:
I think you’re going to like the corebook.

Colapso:
Also, when Jim Starling isn’t writing them, Captain America and Iron Man are able to take on Thanos and people far scarier than him (such as Korvac) without being stronger than them.

The idea that the Exalted won the fight via pure raw power led to many, many problems in presentation in the line before, and rather downplayed the epic heroism at the core of the game.

John:
Dead on the money.

Blaque
The idea that you need to be at least as powerful as something in order to defeat it reminds me somewhat of Descartes’ Trademark Argument (which had a neat recent video here if anyone’s interested) in reverse. The part mainly in that resultant category of stuff, like a property or some finate substance, needs to of had all of its features in the creating stuff. Or in other ways to look at it, the result of a creative derives all its features from a subset of the stuff in the creating stuff.

It just that the only property we seem to be interested in is that of power, and the results seem to be destruction. So it is much simpler, but still doesn’t really seem to be a necessary condition for the Primordial War to of worked. Which is fine really. Even if Exalted is on a pretty big scale, I would think that it would be possible for things like how the characters in Guardians of the Galaxy managed to beat Ronan with the magic rock even though they were themselves weaker as long as they worked together. Or how David beat Goliath as I gather through being a good shot, not by being in totallity more powerful than Goliath.

John:
I would not characterize the Solars as “as powerful as the Yozis,” but power is subjective. They are the ones who slew them.

Cod Of Justice:
The tone of Exalted is about epic heroes, with the potential to shake Creation from the slums of Nexus to the Palaces of Yu-Shan.

John:
We fundamentally disagree with this. If every story must shake Creation, then Creation feels small as a consequence. What about all of those great stories that take place in a microcosm of Yu-Shan or Creation? Can not a moral dilemma of “to kill or not to kill” or “to judge guilty or innocent” also have meaning, even if it won’t directly shake Yu-Shan, or be registered in the slums of Nexus? Exalted is set up to tell all kinds of stories, and features protagonists who, by their very design are not set up to “shake the world.” Sidereals are all about not rocking the boat with their tremendous cosmic powers. As individuals, only one Dragon-Blooded we know of has ever been raised to the tenuous stature of the Scarlet Empress. But stories about the members of her Dynasty are just as interesting as stories about Big Red.

Cod Of Justice:
I don’t think the game is improved, by, at an arbitrary point near the top of that continuum, drawing a line and saying above this is ineffable (or possibly here be Dragons), and the players shouldn’t cross it to interact with the entities above it.

If getting into a debate with Ahlat is allowed, why is doing the same with Hesiesh forbidden?

John:
There’s no line that’s been drawn for the player. Nothing in your stories has been forbidden.

Cod Of Justice:
I just can’t see a way to have the [statement] ‘You shouldn’t be thinking about the characters interacting with the Incarna.’

John:
Show me where Holden or I have made a statement to that effect and I will retract or clarify that statement. I think you may be confusing statements about what we’re going to write and not going to write with the idea that you can or can’t make Exalted your own. Fact is, Exalted can be whatever you want it to be.

Kath:
This is exactly the point I was trying to make as well. Do the writers think that the Incarna and the 5 Elemental Dragons should be ‘off limits’ for PC interaction in 3rd edition?

John:
When it comes to what you do in your stories, it honestly doesn’t matter what we think.

We’re keeping them in the background in the books so they don’t overrun the entire setting. What we write and how we discuss it will become, for many, the standard for Exalted storytelling. We want those interactions to be an option, but not the only option, so we’re being very careful with our presentation.

Isator Levie:
I mean, personally, I’m somewhat perturbed by references to the idea of the Elemental Dragons as necessary to high-Essence games of the Dragon Blooded. I’m not really sure what the connection is supposed to be there, of what an elder Terrestrial would actually do with the Dragons, especially when there’s so much else for them to be worried about in the setting.

John:
They’re not necessary. We think the presence of the 5-E-D overshadows the feats and autonomy of the Dragon-Blooded and makes their lives simpler and less compelling. After all, you can’t really argue about the Immaculate Dragons if they’re right in front of you, ready to answer questions. Oh, and what happens to the Immaculate Order if it turns out that the Dragons don’t endorse it? And why are people so blessed certain that the Dragons won’t try to eat the Blessed Isle, or that the Dragon-Blooded won’t try to hunt them down? These are all the stuff of people’s games, decisions to make at their own tables. If I pick, for example, “the Dragons are pissed about the Immaculate Order suborning their names” then the story of the Order becomes about the fanatics who stick with it, rather than the myriad of perspectives that existed before it, and in one stroke of the keyboard we have reduced the number of stories the players can tell.

Kath:
I really hope that Exalted carries on being a game that supports very high level, world-shaking campaigns and doesn’t become yet another setting where PCs cannot hope to get involved in certain areas. It’s what sold me on the game, and your comments in this thread make me suspect that this is no longer the case. Please note that ‘support’ does not mean ‘every single campaign must be this way’ (something that no-one has said except you, in fact).

John:
It’s a complicated issue, and your mileage may vary. We have taken a different kinetic structure than 2e, where you could reasonably expect to pick up the Imperial Mountain and throw it into the sun. I can’t reasonably assure you that you will like what we produce, because I don’t know what your benchmark for world-shaking is. If it’s throwing that (points to above example), then no, you won’t like Third Edition.

Rest assured, there are monsters who can boil the clouds and pluck mountains like tulips, whom an Essence 5 Dawn Caste might slay in personal combat. But he’s not also plucking mountains like tulips and boiling the sky. Again, your mileage may vary.

Kath:
On the one hand, that rather goes without saying, doesn’t it? On the other hand, if the books don’t cover a setting element/theme because the writers don’t think it appropriate, it makes it harder for GMs to run campaigns that feature those elements/themes than with elements that do receive word count.

John:
Yes, this is absolutely true.

Blaque:
I always imagined the first Shogun having this whole Caesar Augustus thing going where he’s kind of idolized and considered the model everyone wants to have when they became shogun. Just that unlike Her Redness, there was a quite bit more turn-over for the post.

John:
Geoff’s notes + everything that was written prior to 2e points toward the shogunate being characterized by diffuse political and temporal power, but with a far larger and better equipped standing military with absolute loyalty to the shogun. Everything written suggests that the Realm Defense Grid was a weapon without precedent.

I also got a sense of a much higher turnover of shoguns.

sakii:
Sorry, going back a little to the interacting with the Incarnae thing.
In one of the earlier posts you said that one of the benefits of UCS looking at the solars was that it was possible to have his backing, how does that work with only a little glimpse at him, what is that he can give

John:
Good question. There will be enough to fire player imaginations for handling the Unconquered Sun.

Delgarde:
My image of Lunars is that they were the monsters to counter the enemy monsters. So your enemy is some massive titanic being who shakes Creation with every step? That’s fine… you brought one of those, too… so your monster can hold their one down while the Solar stabs it…

John:
Octavian (a demon soul of a Yozi) and Arad (a behemoth wrought by a Yozi) have both slain Solars in single combat. There were many dark gods, unclean spirits, demons, behemoths, and other things rolling around during that time, that the Lunars fought bitter wars with…and won. Things that were way, way worse than Arad or Octavian.

Bersagliere Gonzo:
Which of the following statements is more accurate?

a) The solars slew the Primordials and won the war.

b)The exalted slew the Primordials and won the war.

Holden:
I really, really dislike questions framed like this, so that any answer is a club to whomp on one group of playable characters or another. =\

AliasiSudonomo:
Actually, going by this thread…

It’s often been said there’s Exalted as printed… and what I’ve heard called “RPGnet Exalted”, where the people who first got into Exalted, way back when, were excited at finally, a fantasy game that rejected the “zero to hero” path and let you start out being awesome and do even more impressive things over time… kept hyping it up and wound up with, well, the sort of more-mechanically-fiddly pseudo-Nobilis you got in late 2nd edition.

Obviously, the 3rd edition ‘reset’ of the setting seems intended to throw more focus on what I’ll call the the “regional heroics” end, where your mighty circle of reborn demigods take over a kingdom and begin to carve out an empire (or actions of similar scope) and I’m glad to see that. But for those who do like the ‘late game’, would it be accurate to say that the existing 2nd edition setting books will still be usable enough? Even with the massive changes to Infernals and taking the spotlight off the Yozis directly, I’d assume something like the Malfeas compassbook will still be 90 percent useful in coming up with locations in Hell should a group pop in.

My assumption is “it’s not like OPP is going to send around rules ninjas to unmake those books or take the PDFs down from DriveThruRPG”, so perhaps that will serve to comfort those who are overly worried.

John:
This is actually a major assumption we made when we began this project–that by differing the setting material, 2e books would retain their value. There was a lot of good things in 2e, and some of them had to get changed for EX3.

sakii:
You sure find a way to keep the powers all scrambled. Octavian can kill solars in single combat, lunars kill things worse than octavian but then a solar can defeat the sky-boiling-picking-up-mountains-as-daisies behemoth. Everyone are all over the place

Lea:
Admittedly that doesn’t make sense if we assume power is on a strict rank hierarchy and anything at a given rank can always beat everything at ranks below it and always loses to everything at ranks above it, forever.

Skeptic Tank:
See comments earlier in the thread about how “X can kill Y” does not mean “X can easily overpower Y”. 3E is promising a system where tactics matter, meaning that a Solar vs. Octavian might have different sides win based on choices made during the battle, unlike 2E where you could easily calculate the likely winner of a combat based on statblocks alone.

John:
It wasn’t a statement about the system. Octavian and Arad have both been called out as having killed Solars.

Lea:
Larger strategic and logistical concerns apply as well. We don’t have rules for PCs declining in their old age, but below the resolution of the mechanics we do assume that some people within the setting decline once they’ve left their glory days, for example. An old warrior who was an undefeated monster in his youth, going out to chase glory one last time after decades of indolence, may have a bad time of things.

Random Nerd:
It is weird how that sort of mindset seems to automatically creep into discussions like this, isn’t it?

Lea:
It’s pretty normal, actually! People expect that gaining XP is preferable to not gaining XP, and assume that as XP increases, so does competence in a semi-uniform fashion, and then project that expectation on the rest of the setting. And if you suggest that’s not how it happens, it suggests ugly, unpleasant things about how the game might handle advancement, in terms of how people expect their empowerment fantasies to work.


nexus:
Are evocations of a major aspect of the Solar power set and, if so, how much of one like will it effect how their other and possible future charms and abilities will be balanced?

Lea:
Solar Charms are not balanced around the assumption that Solars will have or need Evocations, with one caveat involving customizing your Glorious Solar Lightsaber. Evocations are designed to synergize interesting with the way Exalted Charmsets work in general, but Solar Charms didn’t need to be designed incomplete in order to make that possible.


sakii:
those infernal bargains to gain power, are they in the core or will they be in a future suplement??

Lea:
They’re not in the core. That is way outside the core’s remit.


Delgarde:
I figure it’s not inconceivable that a Solar might be able to channel Evocations through a familiar instead of through an inanimate lump of orichalcum… perhaps one of the devs can comment on that idea?

John:
Evocations are focused on drawing the Essence from mystic objects and artifacts. It behooves us to stick to this depiction to prevent the idea from being watered down. We particularly want to avoid autonomous actors, particularly those with their own Essence pools, becoming a focus for Evocations. It moves those characters into a “prop” position that we don’t like, and it creates an unnecessary and unwanted interaction with player environments.


Mr Stabs:
How will Getimian charms differ from Sidereal charms, outside of the whole yin/yang mechanic? What sorts of things can they do?

Edit: Additional question. Can lunars use their martial arts charms in their animal forms? Will Kung-fu shark see the light of day?

John:
Re: Getimians: Yes they will differ / wait and see!

Re Lunars: Nope!

Mr Stabs:
How difficult is it to poison a exalted with no stamina/resistance charms to death? Assuming that they’ve already ingested the poison.

John:
Depends on the poison and whether you are going to help the poison do its job with a big knife.


Isator Levie:
Does the fact that a tiger uses Martial Arts, in contrast to a tyrant lizard using Brawl, mean that it can know Tiger Style Techniques?

John:
Nah, it just means the writer is using license, lol.

Isator Levie:
Fair enough.

Would you say there’s anything out of sorts with grafting a few slightly modified Techniques as special attacks or custom Merits onto an animal that one wants to be a particularly fearsome example of its kind, or would that be better suited by just designing them wholecloth?

John:
Players are encouraged to beef up animals by giving them better special attacks, particularly ones that make sense. I believe I wrote that in as an example Survival Charm.

Godjaw:
So if I had a Lunar with a shape/spirit shape of a thing that uses martial arts rather than brawl, could it give me some kind of bonus to learning a martial art based on them? Could I use a martial art based on them in that form?

John:
No, animals can’t do martial arts Charms.

Gayo:
So sharks can’t use MA. That seems reasonable, given that animals already have special attacks. But I’m wondering…hypothetically, if you were a Lunar, could you invent an MA that was only usable by people who could learn MA, but had the bodies of sharks? Obviously this would be a complete waste of space to actually print, but I’m thinking more hypothetically as a player.

(Obviously the style would be “human style”, and would involve biting and bodychecking people in ways that evoke the symbolism of using tools and throwing things.)

John:
We take a “hands off” approach when it comes to what happens at individual players tables. You can certainly contradict anything we say and make up your own rules. 🙂


selfcritical:
Are the only exalted types who were involved in the insurrection against the primordials the ones who have already been described?

John:
It’s possible!


John:
Half-castes will return in a new form, possibly under a new name.

Proteus:
Demixalts. Exhalfted.

On a slightly more serious note, Chosen-Blooded fits the naming convention for the other types.

John:
More than likely, they won’t be boxed up into a single group.


dmakovec:
Given the increased (and improved) roles for familiars, particularly with new badass Survival Charms, is there a noticeable difference between different types of animals for a familiar?

Say my Northern Solar with a wolf familiar compared to my Tengese Solar with an elephant familiar, or better yet a Southeastern Solar with a tiger familiar, come into conflict. If they have similar skills and Charms plowed into their familiars, will they feel different?

John:
Yes.


Anaximander:
I know that Alchemicals and Autochthonia are waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay in the future, but I was wondering if Autochthon’s sleeping unconscious can express itself. The design spiders create inventions that he literally dreams up, and I’d love to know just what happens to those inventions, but I was thinking more things like influencing where Alchemicals who sublime into cities plant themselves? It says that they receive visions and portents transmitted from the Divine Ministers, but do even the Ministers really know or understand why they put Municipals where they put them?

John:
Way too soon to speculate on Alchemicals.


Poisson Resistance:
Manosque. Because who wouldn’t want to hear about the most prominent of the houses that tried to reach for the forbidden fruit but ended up getting utterly destroyed for it? Seriously, we don’t have many details on anyone but Viridian and Cyan. Maybe by extension What Fire Has Wrought can have a few more details on the lost houses.

John:
We shall see >:D


Anaximander:
What will be up with behemoths in 3E? I’ve never liked that it was one word for two different things: unique Primordial creations AND raksha war-machines. I also never liked that it implied only huge kaiju lumbering about, when the behemoths I actually found most interesting, like Adorjan’s wind-daughters and The Clay Man and Vorvin-Derlin and Mother Bog (who is big, but because she’s an entire ecosystem), don’t really fit that. Some fancy word for “unique” would really work much better. Prodigy, perhaps, in its older meaning of “wonder, abnormality, omen”?

John:
Like first edition, behemoths are ur-creatures wrought by the old masters of Creation. There’s also the hekatonkhires, which are great undead abominations.


Tyrrell:
Am I right in thinking that once the layout is done the PDf will be sent out immediately? Or is there some other step first?

John:
I am not authorized to make this call, but from what I understand, as soon as the pdf is done it will be made available to backers.

Lea:
It’ll have to go through approvals first, I believe.


Anu:
Can you tell us anything new about Dragon-Blooded bloodline charms? That was by far my favourite part of the Kickstarter previews we got.

John:
We have moved that concept over to the Evocations of family heirloom weaponry because preliminary tests gave funky results when we had them as Charms.

kenichi-kun:
On the other hand, family heirloom weapons, yay! Will we see any such weapons in Arms of the Exalted?

John:
We are going to try to put some in Arms. I say try because Arms is going through some revisions to add more bang for your buck.

kenichi-kun:
Are these heirloom weapons different in any way from a rules point of view than a “regular” weapon with evocations? Are there any other rules associated with these?

John:
They would “know” when a physical or spiritual member of the House is using them and offer greater power than if grasped by an outcaste.

kenichi-kun:
On the gripping hand, between Exigents and DB book I think we can cook up something to use as bloodline Charms if we want to.

John:
Yus!

kenichi-kun:
Question: Will the Realm book go into detail about the DB houses, or will that happen in the DB book?

John:
They will be discussed in both. I can’t be more clear about this yet, sorry.

kenichi-kun:
Also, will there be elements and aspects associated with each abilty for DBs, like if you are using Melee, you will always use Fire? Sorry if this has been answered

John:
All I will say for now is that the Aspects will be more flexible.


nexus:
Will Arms of the Chosen be of much use if you aren’t planning to use Evocations?

John:
Yes, definitely.


Daerim:
So I have a question about Lunars.

From what I’ve read in “What We Know” it seems that Lunars have a stronger presence in barbarian cultures at least partly due to the lack of reach into those cultures and their use in attacking the Realm. This presence then translates into a strong barbarian aesthetic; lots of toned bodies, tanned skin and furry underwear, etc.

Is this specifically focused on barbarian cultures, or do the Lunars also hail from and heavily interact with other outsider groups such as slaves, slum residents, leper colonies and the like? Conan doesn’t really appeal to me but I think I could get behind Lunars being more or less the anti-establishment Exalted. Not just a servant that can move unseen, obviously, but something more like Robin Hood or Dragon Age’s Red Jenny.

John:
You can’t stop a Lunar from penetrating any sphere of society. The reason they aren’t all up in the Realm or the Threshold states of the Realm is because the Wyld Hunt will kill them. They dwell in the wilds because that is their advantage, and they keep a wall of barbarian and unconquered might between the Realm and their sacred hunting grounds.

Daerim:
So, they’re going to use barbarian cultures as a screen and a weapon, I get that. Lunars as a group have territory that is set apart from the Realm and in some cases, Creation in general. Are there nations and civilizations in the sacred hunting grounds or are they more like private preserves? I’m not sure I like the idea that Lunars primarily go on safari into civilization for fun and profit, but generally stay outside. That’s a bit too outsider for my tastes, at the least.

Hmm. I think I’m just going to have to wait for the core, because I am having a really hard time wrapping my brain around the depiction of the Lunars from the spoilers.

John:
They can and do hang out in cities far from the Blessed Isle, but a Lunar who takes a crown and tries to sit on a throne is at a disadvantage compared to one who keeps moving and changing faces. Lunars who “lair up” away from vital resources and mortal populations are often safer, because the cost of digging into a sorcerously defended beastman lair death trap is outweighed by the benefits, and this is more true now that the Wyld Hunt is down to just the most hardcore and devout units.


Isator Levie:
So, speaking of demographics, Realm legions:

Do we prefer something more like the Second Edition core, where you can just about get the general and each dragonlord as an Exalt, or the more Scott Taylor type of figure in which almost everybody of rank talonlord and above is Exalted, plus several detachments in the command and support staff (including dedicated Sworn Brotherhoods who basically function as their own seperate units with the purpose of going off ahead to surgically strike important targets as a group of fighters instead of unit commanders), meaning you get something between sixty and a hundred and fifty Exalted per legion?

John:
There aren’t enough Dragon-Blooded in the Realm to support a massive number of Dragon-Blooded per legion. The ideal the Empress shot for was 100 in every legion, but that number averages closer to 90 today. Dragon-Blooded typically fill all the leadership positions in the legion.


molikai:
What chapter of the book is most exciting? You can answer that, right?

John:
I really like the setting chapter. (Sorry, we don’t know how long the book will be in layout, we handle the writing end. 🙂 )


aluminiumtrioxid:
With the bits floating around about sorcery making you somewhat alien, I’m fairly confident that I could totally make a Solar (Twilight) Kerrigan-expy with copious amounts of past life angst, which is a character concept I’m rather keen on exploring.

Question number one, how viable is “past life angst” as a character hook?

Question number two, would I do better to shelve the concept until Infernals comes out (because transhumanism and body horror sound like pretty Infernal themes to me – not necessary to the core of my concept, but they would be a nice addition)? Can Infernals even have past life angst?

Edit: or would maybe Lunars be optimal for such a character? I remember reading on the “what we know” wiki that “human with a monster inside/the other way around” is going to be one of their core themes, which kinda fits.

John:
All I can say for now is that sorcery will let you explore all kinds of themes. 🙂


SrGrvsaLot:
Is the PoD going to wait until after the backers get their copies, or will it be available alongside the PDF (or something in between)

Holden:
PoD usually shows up about a month after the PDF. If there are minor errors in a PDF, you can re-issue a fixed PDF pretty trivially. Fixing errors in a printed book is significantly more difficult.


Simon Mcglynn:
With infernals changing to the extent they are, how viable a character is the demon blooded son of lieger who is fanatically loyal to his father and malfeas?

John:
Depends entirely on what you consider viable.

Simon Mcglynn:
Also, if Liminals are getting aspects, and are of a similar power level to dragon blooded, but are intended as foils for abyssals, how hard would it be for me to represent them as foils for the dragon blooded?

John:
They’re not intended as foils for Abyssals.

Holden:
They’re not intended as foils for anyone, though they could easily come into conflict with just about anyone else in the setting.


Cod Of Justice:
It was mentioned a while back that Lunars are generally less dependent on external props than anyone else (which is probably in comparison to other types of Exalt but it’s not 100% clear from context) and I was wondering if you could tell us a bit more about what that meant,

John:
I’m not sure what comment you’re referring to.

Cod Of Justice:
Holden said it, not sure when, it’s in the Lunars section of the what we know wiki, and it looks to have been part of a discussion on Lunar barbarianism and intellectualism but it might not have been.

The exact line that caught my eye was: “Generally speaking, as a group, Lunars are less dependent on external props than anyone else– from artifacts to infrastructure– and this is one reason why they tend to favor simple, robust tools that are either very difficult to break, or which are easy to replace.”

He did say later in the same quote that Lunars tend to be very mobile but the excerpt above makes me think that’s an effect rather than a cause.

John:
Well think of it this way. You like indoor plumbing, right? It’s very useful to you. But if a toilet exploded every time you used one, you would avoid them. It’s not that they don’t need or enjoy infrastructure, it’s just that sitting in one place or trying to hold onto main resources hasn’t been working out very well for them. They have learned to eschew things that have traditionally been used against them. More generally, you will only see a Lunar’s hands on the wheels of state in the policies it sets, or its reaction to the horrific monster that just ate a merchant and his camel at the edge of town (which was also the Lunar)… rarely will you see one sitting as regent or prince. They make themselves difficult targets to hit, and they push societies toward resisting or fighting the Realm, and if that society goes crashing down, the Lunar can come back later and try again, because she kept her head and didn’t try to defend her right to rule or the sovereignty of her people or whatever. Conversely, you have Lunars who fort up away from central lines of trade or major vital resources, who raise gigantic armies and unlock ancient sorceries and summon umpteen demons and those Lunars are generally the ones to stay the fuck away from.


Anaximander:
As the map attests, you’ve put more landscape and elemental variety among the large-scale elemental slant of each Direction. Besides The Dreaming Sea, what’s your favorite new bit of landscape?

John:
I love the cluster of seas near the southeastern coast of the Inland Sea.

Anaximander:
Can a behemoth have a cult? Not just people praying to it not to squash their village, but an actual worshipful relationship? Are any behemoths reconciled to the Celestial Bureaucracy and maintain some sort of place within it? Are there beneficent behemoths?

John:
A behemoth can have a cult, but don’t necessarily take this to mean they are just like gods and get quintessence and ambrosia in Yu-shan. As for whether any live in Heaven, and whether any are kind—that’s really the call of the Storyteller! We don’t want to say no.


Sunder the Gold:
Also, could you reveal how the game benefits from tigers and praying manti using Martial Arts while tyrant lizards use Brawl, especially if this doesn’t mean tigers can’t use Style Techniques?

Actually, that goes back to the question of whether or not anything in animal form (animal or Lunar) can use Style Techniques.

Vance:
With the way Quick Characters are presented, it doesn’t even matter. The tiger has a dice pool for its claw attack and a dice pool for its bite. Is it Brawl or Martial Arts? Who cares!

squidheadjax:
How about we just drill that down to ‘what is the point of having separate Brawl and Martial Arts skills, when martial arts are linked to the relevant weapons skill now’?

John:
We see a difference between the hand and foot techniques of different styles and Brawl.

Lea:
The distinction in the book between Brawl and MA is clearer than a lot of people here are probably worried about.

John:
I can’t really talk about how we put the Abilities together without spoilers, but the division is there because we put a lot of thought into “how does this feel to the player?” and we wanted to make something that would make a brawler feel different from a snake stylist, or a snake stylist from a mantis stylist, a righteous devil from an archer, a tiger stylist from a brawler, a crane stylist from a meleeist swordsman, etc. There’s also the fact that Brawl as its own Charm tree can live outside the combo structure of Martial Arts as a whole separate conceptual entity. It also lets Brawl’s power spike in different ways, that would have unwanted results if we let you combo it with various martial arts styles.

John:
Animals have Brawl and Martial Arts just for fun. The relationship between Brawl and Martial Arts is a bit more complicated than that when it comes to player characters. The martial arts styles and indeed the combat system have been reworked in EX3, so a lot of things that wouldn’t have made sense in 2e now make perfect sense. We made these decisions in the interest of the players, to create more variable and interesting and unique styles of gameplay on each and every character, and to generate a certain “feel” for different types of characters using X Ability instead of Y Ability, where there is any kind of crossover.

For example, both Socialize and Presence now have very good Charms for social scenes, and they feel and behave extremely differently from one another and this is well expressed, both within the definition of the Abilities and the confines of their respective Charm trees.

Scoop Life:
I always do wonder about where this “western combat arts don’t have ‘techniques,’ they just sort of flail around brutishly” meme comes from. It’s not like fighting styles didn’t exist in the west, or even that they didn’t get fanciful or poetic or metaphysical in their seemings. Like a master of the magic circle from La Destraza Verdadera, let’s say. Is it just because fencing movies didn’t have the “call out technique names” thing like wuxia movies did?

Adama:
Fencing definitely has named moves. So it isn’t that. Instead I think it stems from the religious nature of martial arts in China and Japan, and the idea that a particular style carried with it special spiritual benefits.

John:
Intellectually, any kind of fighting style is a martial art. That’s a modern conceit. Exalted follows the tradition in pulp fiction and comic books of the 60s/70s/80s, of treating the martial arts as mystical.

Lea:
It may just be that it’s much easier to get excited about something called Tiger Style than something called Agrippa. “Fight with the ferocity of the tiger” is an easier sell than “Fight with the, uh… technique… of some guy with a name.” I mean, I’m sure SCA wonks could tell me all about the subtle differences between Capoferro and Bonetti, but the advantage of Crane vs. Mantis is you don’t need to be a wonk of any sort to get it right away.

John:
We’re cutting some 2e styles out completely, rewriting others, and in the styles that have been included so far, we broke up styles to prevent them from being too strong. Brawl and Tiger Style is the main example of this. Please remember when you are discussing what should happen to the Martial Arts end of the game, that we’re not using the mechanics you remember. We have rewritten them for EX3. As another clue, CMAs were way too weak to really compete with Solar Charms in 2e. Through subdivision we have been able to amp up styles such as Tiger so that when a Solar uses them they’re competitive with Solar Charms, and this was done without breaking them for less powerful splats. The point is, none of these decisions were arbitrary. There were issues of balance, as well as issues of creating a certain feeling.

Wuse_Major:
For the record, if I had been the one designing how MA charms would work, I’d have done something similar to what the above people were suggesting and made MA charms splat and ability agnostic, attaching each style to a particular ability and representing it as both mystic enlightenment in that ability and the weaponization of such.

But!

I was not the designer and nor am I a designer. Just from thinking about it for five minutes I can see a few issues there (Can you create a Bureaucray-Fu style? If you can’t, then why can you make the Stealth based Ebon Shadow Style? Does the game have the desired tone if you allow some of the weirder possibilities for styles? What about styles from previous books that don’t have a clearly associated ability? If you’re playing a non-combat focused character, but you want a bit of defense or whatever, what incentive do you have NOT to pick up the MA style associated with your strongest ability? Might this cause the game to turn into Ranma 1/2? etc.) and then there’s the question of whether such a set up would fit into the rest of the combat system and all the other things a designer has to figure out.

We don’t know what you’ve done yet, so we can’t really judge it. All we can do is speculate from what little we know and what we would have tried first. Regardless, I’m sure you guys tried a bunch of options and made sure that what you went with in the end worked smoothly and well in a whole bunch of ways.

John:
You have indeed surmised that the aforementioned solution of making it agnostic might not make sense at all in EX3.

Holden:
We tried about 20 different models before finally arriving at the one in the EX3 core as the one that did what we wanted best. There were other methods that had some strengths it lacks, but they all had corresponding unacceptable drawbacks.

Some people are going to hate it, because they will go into the system with different goals than we had (often but not always imperatives that are goals unto themselves, which we rigorously tried to avoid during our design work).

Iozz-Sothoth:
Out of interest, are we going to see a less complicated form of Crimson Pentacle Style at some point? (It’s a style I’m pretty fond of in terms of the basic idea, but in terms of some of the implementation it’s not always that great.)

Vance:
I seem to recall hearing positive noises from Holden about that a while ago. I’ve got some notes on how to make it less of an overall hot mess; it’d be real fun to design in 3E.

Lea:
I think the big thing that divides Brawl, Melee, etc. from Martial Arts in the Exalted context is that the former two are secular, while the latter is philosophical.

Hmm.

I am actually a big fan of the Jackie Chan Karate Kid remake. I say that as someone who saw the original when I was like eight; I think Pat Morita is a better actor than anyone else in either of the movies, but everything else about the remake puts it ahead of the original. Particularly, I like the bits where Jackie Chan goes into the philosophy of kung fu as a way of living rather than fighting — “Kung-fu is in the way you live your life” and “Everything that’s good in me was born here.” They are notably more melodramatic than the presentation of the same ideas in the 80s movie, but that works for me.

For most Western fighting styles, at least in popular culture and it seems like in popular perception outside of that, too, the idea that learning to punch or stab a dude really well is part of learning to live a worthwhile, peaceful and harmonious life, that it has some enlightening or philosophically elevating property outside of the ability to do violence, is alien. The closest I can think of is the fetishization of the value of soldiering — the idea that those in the armed forces who train to put their lives on the line for their nation are somehow, uh, more equal than the of-course-totally-equal people back home (because we’re terrible at reconciling elitism and egalitarianism) is present, but even then it’s tied to the will to sacrifice, not the combat training itself.

It seems omnipresent in Asian traditions.

I’ve no doubt it’s more complicated than that, like I expect if you look at the history of European swordsmanship you’ll find places and times where specific schools are considered exceptionally godly, or something, and there are probably entire regions and time periods throughout Asia and Asian history where martial arts traditions are not particularly tied to temples and philosophy and the idea that kung fu lives in everything we do. Nevertheless, the perception is that the Asian approach to the capacity for violence as an idea is distinct from the European approach to the capacity for violence as an idea.

What we tend to see in Western traditions about violence is something that literally comes from the tradition of Westerns, that is, movies about the American frontier. The way violence is characterized there goes like this: Only a man with a gun can defend society from barbarians, but, the will to pick up a gun makes a civilized man a barbarian. And in this context barbarian means brutes and bullies and tyrants and killers.

This dichotomy is interesting! Walling MA off as its own thing and presenting the two ideas as distinct, so they can be examined on their own terms and then compared against each other, is how Exalted serves it. There are probably other ways to serve it, but this is the way Exalted goes. Hence, on the one hand, you have Brawl and also Melee and I guess Thrown (Archery tends towards more “Zen archery” flavor, I guess) which are presented as not necessarily untrained but consistently secular, practiced by people for whom the point is the utilitarian application of violence to an end, and then there’s Martial Arts, which are philosophies of mystical insight which grant martial power which may or may not be incidental to the point of learning them.


You can find the next compilation here:
Q&A Summary #8