“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

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