“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

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