Month: March 2015

“Ask the Developers” Thread Summary, Post #10

Time for another update to the Exalted developers’ Q&A thread on RPG.net. This finishes up the previous summary’s Lunar discussion. More topics await!

Meanwhile, I have some new Exalted 3e writing coming up, to accompany my usual assortment of proofreading and copy editing temp assignments. This may put a dent into updating the Q&A summary, so I’m going to try and get a head start on that before the next Exalted outline hits my desk. We’ll see!

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
Q&A Summary #8
Q&A Summary #9


Anu:
In a properly developed game, the players encourage the rules. The rules themselves must not influence the players in any direction unless there is a really, really good reason.

Lea:
…no?

I can’t support that statement at all.

Anu:
It’s a question of power. Also, going into surveillance studies will ruin your ability to enjoy things. I spend most of my time looking at how systems of rewards and punishments are used control people, so I’m quite biased when it comes to systematic forms of encouragement.

You look up an item on Amazon. Based on your shopping pattern, Amazon gives you a list of recommended items. If you buy one of those items, it’s not because you want to buy them, but because Amazon has determined that you should buy these items. Amazon now has the power to influence your decisions. The entire commercial surveillance industry is based on profiling people and encouraging them to make pre-determined purchases. People don’t notice or just don’t care because the surveillance system spits out suggestions that are designed to appeal to them.

As an entertaiment medium, tabletop RPGs provide people with a unique level of control over their characters. If you want to be in a same-sex relationship or you want to learn martial arts or you want to be a writer or you want to do any else that you can’t do in real life for whatever reason, you can do it. But you can only do it so long as you can make decisions about your character based on your interests, your priorities and your goals. If, say, the game is designed to make martial arts the superior option, then the game is taking power away from the players by leading them in a specific direction regardless of what they want to do. Exalted Second Edition did this most blatantly with Infernals, which essentially bossed players around and predetermined characters’ actions and personalities because of the way the Excellencies and a lot of the charms worked. If you want to play a charismatic Fiend, Witness to Darkness will punish you for playing wrong.

Now, if you want to make a Wuxia game, making martial arts the superior option isn’t a problem since you only want to attract players who care about martial arts anyway. Your design decisions are going to be based on what the players want, so the players will be the ones exercising power over the game, not the other way around.

Then there’s Blood and Smoke, which does an absolutely amazing job of reinforcing the game’s central themes with its system of rewards and punishments.

Giving players more character customization options with stuff like Evocations and the Exigents hardback sounds like a really obvious thing to do, but the implications are quite profound. More options means more possibilities for character customization, which in turn means that the game will have a wider appeal. It’ll also facilitate the production of new content, which is necessary in order to keep the game alive.

Lea:
Oh! You believe in free will absent response to stimuli. Yeah, we don’t have the same paradigm.

Anu:
Hmm… I don’t think that’s quite right. What I’m most concerned with is where the stimulus is located and how it relates to power dynamics. In MoEP: Infernals, the stimuli are determined by Infernal charms – if you don’t act according to the keywords in your Excellency, you’re effectively operating at a dice penalty. The mechanics are designed to push players into acting a certain way, so the mechanics are exercising power over the players.

On the other hand, if the social influence system has rules for intimidation that come with the appropriate benefits and drawbacks (works faster, but creates hostility, or whatever else) and rules for persuasion that come with the appropriate benefits or drawbacks (creates long-term relationships, but works slower, or whatever else), then I can decide which approach to take based on which benefits and drawbacks I want to prioritize. I’m still limited by the rules, but I have the power to determine my character’s actions by choosing between a range of qualitatively different options that work like I would expect them to.

If the intimidation rules are written so that anyone I intimidate immediately attacks me, then it’s clear that intimidation actions are designed to fail and that the system wants me to use persuasion instead.

Basically, I don’t want players to be mechanically penalized for having “badwrongfun” (with the caveats that Exalted’s genre precludes some character concepts, and that drawbacks, limitations and disadvantages can be considered desirable features in many circumstances).

Lea:
See, I think this is nonsensical because even in a social influence system with “the appropriate” benefits and drawbacks for intimidation, the designer has still chosen what benefits and drawbacks are “appropriate.” That you agree with their choices doesn’t make you correct; it merely indicates that your tastes align with theirs. There’s no system that doesn’t incentivize some behaviors and discourage others, and a good game designer knows what he or she is incentivizing.

EDIT: I actually meant to type “That you agree with their choices doesn’t make them correct;” I don’t know how it came out the way it did after I hit Post. Works either way, though, really.

John:
Agreed.

Holden:
Double agreed. Good game design is a long series of choices couched as “this, not this,” rather than “done right, not done wrong.”

Eric:
The archetypical example being early D&D’s experience point system, which made leveling up primarily reliant on obtaining monetary treasure. Many players complained that it was unrealistic, but realism wasn’t the point; it was intended to incentivize seeking treasure over other concerns, thus encouraging PCs to emulate the typical sword-and-sorcery protagonist’s lust for lucre (e.g., Conan, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, etc.).

Holden:
And specifically calibrated to make wandering random monster encounters a stressful and undesirable obstacle to getting your loot and getting out alive– they did not want players thinking of monsters as XP on the hoof and deliberately trying to bash their way through all the goblin camps in the dungeon to maximize XP gain. That was one of the smartest pieces of historical design that people wildly misunderstood (and which later versions of D&D ran away from at full speed, producing a very different feel and focus as a result).

Paradim:
Sidereals are famously held up as a great example of mechanics and setting encouraging game play of shoehorning odd tools to accomplish various tasks.

Do you think there are areas that the different Exalt types (say Solar, Lunar and Dragon-blooded?) have distinctive challenges in directly facing and how would you describe an Exalt type as approaching resolving that challenge in an archetypical fashion?

Not looking for mechanics, but for conceptual resolutions. Maybe as an example…. Sidereals have difficulty in directly handling a conflict, and this resort to working through proxies that are destined by the Sidereal to handle the conflict as the Sidereal would prefer?

Holden:
I prefer not to generalize because people tend to take generalizations as absolutes. Like, I could say, Sidereals aren’t great at just charging in without a plan, they struggle when they have to improvise vs when they can go in prepared. And in a sense, this is true– a lot of their best Charms are Simple scene-longs, meaning that prep time is incredibly precious to them– but I’ve improvised my way out of a ton of sticky situations as a Sid via clever use of the tools I had at my disposal, so it’s not like they’re incompetent. They’re just not as good as a Solar or Lunar at the “They captured my friend and he’s in that building? I’ll just kick down the front door and tell those motherfuckers to let him go or else” approach. But a lot of people will nonetheless read it as “They’re gonna make Sidereals die every time they get caught flat-footed!” despite that Avoidance Kata has always been the best panic button in the game.

Coikzer:
I think what’s more problematic is that people start thinking of it as “Sidereals should die every time they get caught flat-footed/in combat.”

Holden:
That is very true.


Daerim:
But as a counterpoint your deflection regarding power comparisons, I would like to point out that there is an Emerald Circle spell that would serve just as well as shapeshifting in imitating the crown prince. It comes with the drawback of requiring prep time, but the advantages of covering mannerisms that shapeshifting doesn’t and not requiring the Lunar to eat the prince first.

John:
How is that a counterpoint? You can be the cat in the alley, the songbird in the garden, the rat in the cellar, the crown prince, the porter. If you’re not out of place then you are above suspicion, and a countermagic won’t drop your disguise. You didn’t have to pay XP for any of it. When the jig is up, you can be the rat, cat, porter, or bird. If you’re in the garden, you can fly away from the mess you just made. You can cut the knot by foregoing all the Stealth, Awareness, and Larceny. All the bribes, social escalating, and escape route planning. You can be what you need to be to do that far more easily and naturally than anybody else. It’s your choice to measure the character by a mechanical end, though.

Daerim:
Why? You’re aware that Exalted is a crunch heavy game and I assume you know that crunch attracts people that don’t much care for acting in a mythic way.

John:
We’re not selling a game where you can just ignore storytelling. EX3 is definitely not a game about telling the story of the mechanics, the way 2e was. I can see how, if you sit down to tell the story of Charms when you play, how you’d be disappointed in two different powers that end up tricking someone for much of the same reason, but all the coils and springs and gears in my brain explode whenever I try to go there because that way of thinking is antithetical to this game and this design.

Daerim:
On the other hand, you’ve got a Lunar community that’s scattered all across the length and breadth of every piece of shapeshifting fiction there is because shapeshifting is basically the only thing Lunars have. Two editions worth of hard work (on the part of people who knew what they were doing and had the best of intentions) haven’t given them anything else to latch on to as a core concept.

John:
Lunars had a solid core of shapeshifting in 1e and we’re going back to that. The problem didn’t appear until 2e threw out everything about 1e Lunars without a single solitary plan for what they would be. The reason Lunar fans are scattered is because 2e was scattered, presenting 82 visions of Lunars with no strong core thesis.

Daerim:
You’re trying to sell sand to Bedouins and you seem honestly surprised when they want a better sales pitch than “sand is awesome.”

John:
I’m not surprised at all by a small minority of people complaining that Lunars don’t have Solar and Sidereal magic. That’s been a pretty common personality trait of a minority of the most vocal Lunar fans since time out of mind.

DannyK:
I can see that everybody seems to want something different for Lunars.
Here’s what I’d like: a badass fantasy version of the Mongols. The real. historical Mongols who built an enormous empire, enforced the Pax Mongolica, then split up into different hordes and went native. I want the Mongols who took over the Chinese empire, started a new dynasty, and then said to some of their guys, “Hey, we need a backup here, you and your followers go back north and be nomads again so we can join you if things go wrong.” I want the Mongols who became Cossacks, who have been on every side of every conflict in Russia for centuries and scared the shit out of everyone else.

John:
The specific historical stuff about ponies and yurts and fermented mare’s milk is not so important, but I’d like Lunars who, like the Mongols, are able to combine great learning and incredible ferocity, who can melt into any society but still stand out as proud warriors. Men and women who can play the game of civilization incredibly well, or drop it overnight and retreat into the hills and the old ways.

I think you’ll love them.

DannyK:
I’m also going to say something that a lot of Exalted players will disagree with, which is that balance between Exalts is almost meaningless. I’ve never had trouble having different flavors of Exalts in the same game. Having interesting concepts and powers is much more important than who can beat whom in white room combat. I hope the development team doesn’t spend too much time trying to balance these things, because I honestly don’t think it can be done.

John:
I develop the game under the firm assumption that imbalance is fun. Things that are a bit overpowered are extremely fun and should be a part of the game. That doesn’t mean we let game-breaking shit wreck the game and don’t check against mechanics that are stronger than they should be. If something is unintentionally too good, we will fix it. But we are also willing to allow some things to be intentionally over the top because we side with the good players and the STs over “that guy” who sets out to ruin every game he joins through metagaming.

Single Charms and spells form a microcosm of this, but it can also be seen in the special aptitudes of splats: Solars with their sorcery, Sidereals with their martial arts, and Lunars with their shapeshifting.

John:
Most Exigents rolling around the Threshold look at Lunars as being “the” Exalted. The biggest and baddest of the Chosen. The pinnacle.

The Lunars finally are something Exalted needs. The Lunars are finally something that cannot be replaced.


Scoop Life:
1) how much do you think it should inconvenience a Lunar to not want to kill people/animals and eat their hearts? More like “Solars who skip sorcery,” or “Sidereals who skip martial arts?” Acknowledging that Lunars aren’t being made yet and stuff’s just being thrown at the wall if course.

2) Are gunzosha armors coming back, and do they still eat peoples’ life force? If mortals get to drive warstriders now, how do gunzosha compete?

Also there was a sidebar about magical materials and color coordination that I missed out on, so I’d just like to throw in that purple is a neat color and there should be some kind of purple magical material.

John:
1) The heart’s blood issue is a thorny one. It’s definitely going to be the default way Lunars steal shapes. How they evolve beyond this—and whether they should—still bears some discussion. The pitfall to avoid is giving them something that doesn’t fit what they are.

2) Mortals can still use gunzosha armor, and they still do eat at a mortal’s life force. They don’t really compare to warstriders.

3) I would allow someone to rock purple as a variant of black jade, probably. Not sure I am going to canonize a purple material though. I figure those who want awesome pink daiklaves will find a way. lol

John:
The argument that having to take heart’s blood makes you uncomfortable and therefore we should change it has absolutely zero traction with me. It’s like, you know, maybe Lunars aren’t your bag. Maybe they aren’t what you need from a character. If it were an rpg about vampires and you wanted to not have to drink blood so that you could play a pacifist I’d react the same way. I’d also point out that a pacifist vampire who still has to drink blood is a fascinating character. Of course, if it’s not fascinating to you, then you shouldn’t be playing it.

Godjaw:
I think this is wrong to assume because the main draw for Lunars is their strange shapeshifting power, not how they acquire shapes. I know personally if I had the choice of stealing shapes, or killing and taking them, i’d steal them as the idea is so much more evocative to me as a shifting trickster.

John:
I get that, but it’s also putting cart before the horse.

As I said a few posts earlier, it’s a thorny issue. Because any new method has to match what they are, and has to be offset against the huge power a Lunar gets from being able to change forms.

John:
Person A “I want Lunars to be god-monsters!”
Person B “But only if they can be completely sanitized and never have to kill!”

This is a pretty common formulation of all Lunar conversations. You can switch the facts, the ultimate contradictions are still the same (and sometimes even more pronounced).

Icarus1138:
I think part of the disconnect is that a lot of posters view the Lunars as the “Shapeshifting Exalted”. Starting from that assumption, any hard limits to how they can gather shapes seems odd, especially if there’s a requirement to kill your target.

Others (including the Devs, I think) view them as the “Mysterious Beast-Men Exalted, Wise and Red in Tooth and Claw” or some other variant of that. From that point of view, shapeshifting is just an expression of their theme, not the theme itself. Changing the mechanics of the shape-stealing in a way that negatively impacts the primary theme (in the case of murdering your target, the red in toth and claw starts to slip) is a no-go.

My point is if you’re going to debate over what Lunars should do, you should check your basic view of them first so you know if the other person is starting from the same premise. Are they Shapeshifters that often look like animals, or are they bestial embodiments of man’s split between civilization and nature that can also change shape?

John:
Brilliantly stated.

Holden:
Lunars are a particular type of thing. This necessarily negates them being certain particular other types of things. While there may well be room to steal someone’s form by ritually stealing something important from them other than their life, how do you meaningfully express that when you’re talking about a shark or a cobra? What is a ‘shamanic’ approach? If a character makes an effigy of a thing out of paper and wood and then burns it by the light of the moon, thereby gaining the ability to become it– that may be very cool, but it’s also a very different kind of character than the bloody-fanged hunter who becomes that which he hunts. How do you reconcile the worker of paper magic and the bloody-fanged beast as being fundamentally the same thing?

Lea:
“A fox’s teeth are very sharp. And with a flick of her tail, she was gone.” -Neil Gaiman, Sandman: The Dream Hunters

(Incidentally, as much as it looks like I’m supporting the no-cannibalism-necessary position here, I’m really just being a contratrian smartass; in reality I am the most hardline proponent of cannibalism-only skin-thieving for Lunars. The point is, you don’t need to be rampaging and blood-soaked to be a cannibal skin-thief.)


Santino:
So got a few questions here that id like to throw out summing up a few of my favorite things, because i love crafters, sorcerors, and goddamn it I have a desire to play a twilight for 3e so damn bad it hurts.

1. Is getting sorcery out of the box going to be the kind of thing that will bankrupt your bonus points or will it be more accessable? (due to the requirement, Essence for non solars pretty much took up 2/3rds of their bp, and solars about 1/2)

2. Will crafting and sorcery work together in any way shape or form? Also Wyld shape will it still be useful for crafters or sorcerors creating epic places and objects out of the wyld ether?

3. Are we going to have a few defined crafts or subsets like fire, or water from 2e, or things like tailoring or metalsmithing an option? I guess in a way will i be a virtual Renaissance man with multiple skills under a single craft header, or will i be par excllence in a chosen more defined field.

4. Will i have to be a virtual badass (3/4s) in several different attributes to craft, honestly id like to know if its dex or intelligence, or if i have to have the dex/perc/int trifecta to even touch an artifact.

5. Will sorcery sort of have an inherent devils deal for power built into it, you know the good awesome where if you want good ol power it comes with a hefty price? Or will it be the sort of thing that has a “this tall to ride” mentality to affect the raw power of the world and doing that brings its own consequences.

6. Will sidereal animas get any polish when you guys get around to them, always had trouble finding a way to use the secret one without holding up a sign that says “Holy shit am i unsubtle and lets fight off the social influence and mind reading” Also will we see lunars taking a more direct hold in the setting with areas or cities held by lunars who arent a few thousand years old?

Thanks for all your consideration, answers and the like and thanks again for being awesome both for answering questions, spreading understanding of the game and in general being an awesome development team. I am so looking forward to this finally dropping, as I am sure you guys are to have it in our hands.

John:
1) You will find that Sorcery is more

2) Yes

3 4 5) Wait and see!

6) Yep!

You’re welcome Santino 🙂


icarr757:
Now that charms are done, charm cards?

John:
Yes, I believe that was part of the plan.


MichaelWMattei:
I remember hearing somewhere back during the kickstarter that Shards of the Exalted dream was going to get a 3e update PDF after 3e came out. Was I mistaken? If I am not mistaken, is that still in the cards?

John:
We don’t have plans for that currently, but never say never.

Vance:
I’m personally invested in that happening, but am currently neck-deep in Dragon-Blooded Charms with a thumb stuck in some Lunar pies. The spirit is willing, but linear time is a cruel tyrant!


sakii:
It was said that workings are a long procces, but how long is long??
To me it was no less that one month but im thinking of things that would take no more that a week.
For example something a thought for my future exalted Onmyouji, to make strips of paper that would explode on contact, i would write Conflagration in a paper with ink made from the sorcerer blood mixed with ashes from a fire started and blessed by a fire elemental. That would take 2 days top, should i add more thing to make it longer ??

Vance:
It really depends on too many factors to generalize. The skill of the sorcerer, the scope and power of the working, certain decisions on how to implement the working, all that comes into play.


SrGrvsaLot:
It seems obvious to me that if you’re going to have three castes based on the Hunter, Trickster, and Shaman archetypes, you should have three default shapeshifting methods. We already have the hunter method. It shouldn’t be too hard to create a trickster method and a shaman method.

John:
I will think on this.


Solar:
Yeah I mean it is very perspective based. I think a few people probably feel that the attitude towards Solars actually is a bit negative amongst fans and the devs, all about how they are now less powerful and have less scope to impact the setting now, but as a big fan of the splat it does feel a little lime “okay, enough about what they can’t do and more about what they can, and what makes them awesome”

John:
The Solars haven’t changed at all, the setting has. Everything in the setting has been adjusted to fit EX3. 2e didn’t raise the power level, it just redefined what power looked like in terms of modern comic books and shounen anime.


Gaius of Xor:
It’s conceivable things have changed or will change, but at the moment, I think there’s a bit of confusion. Lunars aren’t as good as Solars,* and they have the caveat that they can’t use Evocations at all when in Deadly Beastman Transformation. But Sidereals are the ones explicitly called out as the worst with Evocations.

* Who have equal faculty and access to all levels of Evocations for all artifacts. It’s unclear the degree to and manner in which other Exalted are less good, at this point. Aside remarks that a) Abyssals and Infernals are also not as good as Solars, and b) Dragonblooded have “a special dispensation” regarding Evocations.

John:
Whatever has been said about Lunars and Evocations are just things we’re considering, not concrete isms.


Gaius of Xor:
Here’s a question on a different topic: Deathlords.

From what else I’ve heard, the plan is to make them more interesting and distinctive than Skeletors #1-13, and that Abyssal Charms will, in places, reflect the powers of the Deathlords. I dig this greatly, and I’d like to ask about one in particular.

What sort of changes are you rolling around for the Dowager, her plans, her relationship with her deathknights, and powers Abyssals might acquire that would point to her?

John:
We have some exciting plans for the Dowager, but she is such a uniquely powerful character that talking about her alone would skew people’s perceptions of Deathlords in EX3.


Anu:
If Chejop Kejak had a Blacklist with the names of Creation’s most dangerous criminals, who would be the top five?

John:
Rakan Thulio would be on it, most definitely.


pwsnafu:
Have you finalized an order for publication? We know Solars then DB then Exigents. What comes after?

John:
It’s a secret.


SmilingBeast:
Is Necromancy going to be in the core book?

Vance:
No, but it would be very easy to hack together a functional version to use until it is published, if you’re comfortable with writing up spells.


Ithaeur:
How are disease going to work in 3e? Are they still grouped by virtue, as in 2e? (I may be in the minority, but that was a touch I liked.)

Vance:
The disease rules are totally new.


Nathan Colon:
Here’s a random question, what’s the viability of Flamenco style music and dance in creation, and follow up question, is there a martial art for combat-flamenco?

John:
Creation is huge! Make a case with your ST. 🙂


Chomp-Chomp:
Non-Lunar Questions!

1.) Are there non-offensive actions characters can take in physical combat to assist their fighty companions? We know that “social combat” can exist within physical combat, but I always seem to run into players who want to do clever things like knock over carts or shoot out lanterns or distract opponents rather than actually harm them or engage them in conversation.

2.) Can you spoil any new giant monsters? Something like Juggernaut, Kulkla, Ishiika, or Oliphem (not a monster, but big and rad).

3.) Does Willpower still exist?

4.) What is the most intriguing new Creation-wide threat? Or maybe, which of the previous Creation-wide threats have been polished and made much, much better? Servants of the Yozi? The Deathlords and their armies? The Raksha? Some unknown thing the Sidereals have to clean up?

5.) Without spoiling any mechanics, what’s the coolest new Solar charm name you’ve seen?

John:
1) Yes. There are special actions that can cover this.

2) The giants of Distoch, who capture people and do sorcerous experiments on them.

3) Yes.

4) The Wyld, an eternal threat to Creation, has been spiced up in a lot of ways, both in how it behaves and what kind of horrors creep out of it. It doesn’t always manifest in Creation as a radioactive field of No in this edition. And there are plenty of things other than raksha, such as migratory spores that blow through Creation to die.

5) I am biased. Maybe we should ask Vance or Holden.

Holden:
I’m a fan of both Prophet of Seventeen Cycles and Drifting Leaf Elusion.


Anaximander:
Does your typical Liminal spend most of their time in Creation or in the Underworld? Or does that depend on their individual mission from the Dark Mother or personal proclivities?

John:
Creation.

Simon Mcglynn:
What do liminal animas look like?

Holden:
Like Dragon-Blooded, they have pretty varied animas depending on Aspect.


Solar:
Quick and simple question then, is it possible to create a martial art style which revolves around using evocations?

John:
Sure.


Mr Stabs:
How easy is it to disarm a Melee specialist?

Holden:
This is going to sound like a smartass answer, but it is the most honest one I can give you: that varies enormously based on both who’s doing the disarming and how good they are at it, and what kind of Melee specialist they’re fighting.


JasonK:
1. Any chance we’ll see the return of the Third-Arm Glaive? An artifact that was weapon and visible battle-standard in one has great appeal.

Holden:
No current plans to have it come back, but also no current plans not to have it come back. If it does, it’ll probably be somewhere around Sidereals.

JasonK:
2. Do Solar Charms in 3E still fit into the conceptual space of Righteous Avenger’s Aspect, Red Dawn Ascending, and (most especially) Final Ray of Light? Will some Solar Charms work “when confronting an opponent who has defeated him” or “in the course of trying to defend those weaker than yourself”? In other words, will their Charms merely enable Solars to behave like mighty god-kings or will they actively incentivize it?

Holden:
None of those particular Charms are returning in the corebook, but you should be able to put together a very mighty god-king indeed with what’s in there. Solars have enormous breadth in 3e and aren’t really pushed into narrow channels.

JasonK:
3. On the flip side, is there space to say that “the land and the king are one”? Can Sidereal Merlin say to Solar Arthur “You will be the land, and the land will be you. If you fail, the land will perish; as you thrive, the land will blossom”, and Arthur then learn the Solar Charms to back that up?

Holden:
Hmm, how do you see that as a statement for individual Charms as opposed to holistic storytelling?


sakii:
Since artifacts are super rare now what is going to happen with the picture of all Dynast having at least 1 or 2 and all those lended to the big wyld hunts.
Are they just so rich that they can afford it?

John:
They still have all their stuff. 🙂


Tony Harbo:
Question about the two new types Exalted tied to Lunars:

What kind of stories can be told about these Exalts?

John:
They are both Exalts that travel in the same circles as Lunars. I can’t be much more specific than that, but they are built for conflict.

Tony Harbo:
If I had a Circle composed of only one of the new Exalted, what would they be best suited to deal with?

John:
There is a certain mindset that Exalts should exist for some Great Purpose, and we aren’t necessarily following that logic in EX3. We’re more interested in play spaces. “What is this Exalt about and what is it like to play one?”

Wuse_Major:
So…. What are they about? What is it like to play one?

And, if you can’t answer that, can you give us any ideas when we’ll be able to find out more about these Exalts? For instance, do you think you’ll be referencing them in that upcoming book about the East and West?

John:
I can’t say much more than this: Neither type is an Exigent.

Keep your eyes open, you might be surprised at what you find lurking in the pages of this edition.


Poop Deck:
Is the Loom of Fate important to everything in Creation in “a mechanical way” in the Core book? By that, I mean: does the Core book describe the effect of spending a lot of essense in Creation (whatever that number means; I’ve never been sure) and how it results in causality mishap?

John:
Nope!


taichara:
Question, although it may be a repeat (apologies!): will hearthstones be working in a similar fashion as 1e and 2e, or have they been changed?

John:
There’s some really neat things with how hearthstones interact with Evocations. 🙂


Anu:
And speaking of hearthstones, will you be adding any completely new manse powers in Towers of the Mighty?

John:
That’s the rumor!


Lea:
Now that eclipse charmshare between Exalt types is no longer a thing, I will be lobbying as hard as I can for astrology to be folded into the Sidereal Charmset.

Holden and John are not obligated to give a single fuck about my lobbying, of course.

Wuse_Major:
Why do you think it should be included in the Siddy charmset?

Lea:
Small discrete powers that can be purchased individually and designed for optional synergy (or mandatory synergy by making one a prerequisite for another) are just really convenient.


Sunder the Gold:
Can the Warstrider rules be easily used for non-artifact warstriders (warwalkers?) that represent the fragile and cheap “real robots” that the Artifact “Super Robots” tend to chew up like popcorn to make the important characters look cool?

Basically, the melefs to the Warstriders’ guymelefs.

John:
Sure. I’d just take the stats of an automaton for one of those.


Wuse_Major:
You guys have mentioned that the Dragon Blooded are being worked on. Have you changed their Aspect Abilities from previous editions at all? How closely tied to a given element is each ability? If I have a Water Aspect using Dodge, is fire still going to come out?

Vance:
One of the things I’m working on is giving each Ability at least a splash of a few elements other than the one it’s associated with. Drawing on your Aspect’s element in other abilities is both possible and rewarding, although I expect the majority of Dragon-Blooded to have at least a few Charms from elements other than their Aspect.

There hasn’t been a reason to alter Aspect Abilities so far, and I don’t expect there to be.

AlphaWhelp:
I don’t care just give War to Fire.

John:
We’re not moving Dragon-Blooded Abilities around. Earth is the central element of Dragon-Blooded Essence, so it makes sense for War to be there.

It’s very good that we show Tepet (Air) and Cathak (Fire) to be the big military Houses, because it helps to show a difference between Caste and Aspect. The emulation of Mela, the Air Dragon and perfect warrior, is the second most popular emulation in Creation, second only to Pasiap.

insomniac:
No love for Sesus to be found. 😦

😉

John:
All the Houses are getting spiced and spruced up for their Third rendition. 🙂

Isator Levie:
Elemental as a keyword does feel a bit extraneous in the same way that Holy does to me…

Vance:
3E’s Elemental keyword is very different from 2E’s. For starters, it isn’t even called Elemental.


Solar:
Currently I am thinking of a very old Sidereal Sensei as an NPC for a Solar game who trains up a character in Martial Arts or something. Give him the instrument, which he claims to be strung from threads stolen from the Loom of Fate. To which the Solar might ask, but surely that’s not possible master? And the Sensei responds by whacking them with a broom and telling them to not be so inflexible when it comes to what is and what is not possible.

They also might give various different explanations as to the origins of the instrument. But I do like the idea of someone who has rebelled against Fate a bit to have done such a thing. Plus I am sure that the Loom can survive, I mean as the GM I can ensure it does!

John:
Sounds like an amazing N/A artifact.


Scoop Life:
Is there a god of rainbows in Creation, or is that Under the Sun’s domain? (I got a bug up my butt about a potential Exigent but I don’t want to put the cart in front of the horse.)

John:
Sure!


Yo! Master:
This might have been asked before, because i kinda remember something; sorry in that case:

Is the increased attunement cost for artifacts from MM other the ones corresponding to an Exalted type still a thing?

In fact, is attunement costs still a thing, to begin with?

Holden:
See first post of original thread.

Yo! Master:
P.S. Was the original idea for the increased attunment cost mentioned above, besides driving Exalts to artifacts of the appropriate MM, a way to curb to a degree an issue that exists in D&D & all sorts of other RPGs with magic items: that the GM must take into account the fact that if they give magic items to opponents & the PCs then beat them they get to keep them? Did feel like that to a degree, making the equipment of, say, a beaten Wyld Hunt cool loot but still not optimal.

Holden:
I doubt it, since you could get basic use of off-MM artifacts for the basic attunement cost; full attunement was only necessary for MM bonus, after all. And if you were upgrading from a regular sword to a daiklave in previous editions, that was a HUGE step up, to the point that you’d be nuts to balk at loss of MM bonus.


chaoticag:
On one hand, pretty excited this is game is nearing release, on the other… well, it seems pretty intimidating trying to explain what exactly exalted is to someone who’s going to be new to the game. Anything you guys got that’d help explain enough of the setting that a character concept is possible to someone that more or less hadn’t played a World of Darkness game?

Holden:
This page was designed to be a fast summary of the game and setting for new people.


Gaius of Xor:
1. In your personal favorite piece of EX3 art (of those you’ve seen), what feature(s) stand(s) out most prominently to you?

Vance:
I still haven’t seen a lot of pieces based on the art notes I wrote, so I will reserve judgment on that for now.

Gaius of Xor:
2. Of all the characters in the book, what hair color (or hair analogue) strikes you as most unusual and interesting?

Vance:
Blue. No, yell—

Gaius of Xor:
3. What do you feel is the least conventional fighter (or fighting style) featured or alluded to in the book?

Vance:
The offshoot schools of Silver-Voiced Nightingale.

Gaius of Xor:
4. What do you think is the “best” species of creature in the book…
a) … out of only real-world, non-extinct animals?
b) … out of only extinct animals or creatures specific to Exalted?
c) … overall?

Vance:
a) I’ve always liked bears as enemies in games, because no matter what system, that bear is gonna fuck you up.
b) I’m very pleased with what Creation’s version of the thylacoleo ended up looking like.
c) Tyrant lizard strongest one there is.

Gaius of Xor:
5. If anything, what about EX3 — text, art, concept, whatever — moved you when you read, saw, or heard about it?

Vance:
I was very skeptical about the concept of Exigents at first, which lasted until Holden sent me the backstory for Strawmaiden Janest.

Now that my work on the core is done? Between the fiction and art, and the strength of the setting chapter, I really envy new players who are going to get their first glimpse of Creation from this book.


hippokrene:
In 1st Edition, I felt as though the Deathlords were the Big Bads of the setting. A bog-standard campaign might involve Solars beginning the game running from the Wyld Hunt, but eventually they’d come into conflict with the Abyssals, and the climax would be them defeating one of the Deathlords. It felt like there was a lot of discussion about how a group of PCs might get into the Underworld or lure a Deathlord out, and how GMs could best create an interesting story about taking one down that wasn’t just [insert massive battle.]

In 2nd, Deathlords weren’t as prominent. The Infernals and Yozi seemed to take a lot of their spotlight. I expect a lot of this is simply antagonist fatigue; you can only get exited about taking down the Mask of Winters so many times.

In 3rd, will you presenting Deathlords as the standard Big Bads of the setting? Do you have any new entities to fill that role?

John:
Deathlords vary from “disconnected non-threat” all the way up to dumping one of the Seven Great Dooms on all of Creation, with “regional menace” being a middle-ground.

There are a lot more things to have huge fights with in EX3.


Solarious:
!!!

MA can now have offshoot schools?

Rocket Propelled Grenade:
Okay, this? This is one of the best pieces of news I have heard so far. I am extremely excited for this. Mostly excited for the mechanical implications (or semi-mechanical ones which are still probably off-limits, like how closely Even Blade style as presented in Scroll of the Monk would work under this new approach), which I’ll have to wait for, but I do hope we can get some kind of elaboration.

So…is there anything that can be said on this front? Particular media that inspired the decision, styles with extremely cool or divergent offshoots, the most challenging style to create a variation on? Something like that?

Vance:
It’s not really a matter of big mechanical variations. Nightingale’s offshoots are just in a sidebar.

The concept of there being different schools or regional variants of martial arts is just a pervasive motif of fiction, so of course it’s true of Creation’s supernatural styles.


Lea:
I feel like Regent Fokuf being canny is sort of the obvious “clever reveal,” which doesn’t hold up under scrutiny — he’s a mortal and he was chosen as a compromise candidate specifically by superlatively skilled Terrestrial politicians. Like, I guess you could read that as me saying mortals ain’t worth shit, Exalts 4Ever, bad guys win or something, but not everything needs to be subject to a dramatic reveal of that sort.

Honestly the best thing we could do with Fokuf, and this is a recurring theme with me but okay, is not not talk about him much, because the more we talk about what Fokuf is up to and the less we talk about the machinations of the people around him, the more tempting it becomes to dramatically reveal that he’s been getting all this focus because he’s actually really important, when by design and intent he really is the least important, interesting person in any room he’s standing in. Unless you really love masturbation jokes.

Sigilistic:
Wait, he’s a mortal?

Lea:
Yes, except for in one book in 2e where the writer deliberately changed it because he thought it was proposterous that DBs would put a mortal on the throne and expect the Empress to kill the mortal for the temerity of sitting on it and not the DBs who had the temerity to put him there.

Simon Mcglynn:
but blasphemy is a crime in the Realm.

Lea:
Not if you’re a Dragon-Blood.

And if you’re a mortal, “A Dragon-Blood not liking your looks” is a crime, so.

Simon Mcglynn:
Well yeah, but a Dragon-Blooded killing a mortal in the Realm would be like an angel smiting a lay person in the Vatican. If they were wrong that raises some serious doubts on the legitimacy of all this and that can’t happen.

Lea:
Not… quite.

John:
Regent Fokuf is a Tepet, chosen as regent specifically because he is from a fallen House and has zero ambition. He’s mortal because a Dragon-Blooded could be hard to scrub out if they become intractable. They wouldn’t elect a Dragon-Blood to be regent of all the Realm.

Holden:
The Immaculate Philosophy doesn’t posit that Dragon-Blooded possess infallible judgment. In fact, one of the basic tenets of the faith is that they don’t. This is why they need the Immaculate Dragons as spiritual guideposts.

Delgarde:
The specific rule is that mortals cannot go wrong by following the directives of the Dragon Blooded, right? The DB *can* be wrong, but the bad karma falls exclusively on him – not on the less-enlightened souls who follow him.

Lea:
Yes. Mortals always advance themselves spiritually by following the Dragon-Blooded, because that’s a mortal’s place, but a Dragon-Blooded is perfectly capable of fucking up his own spiritual advancement by e.g. mistreating mortals.


Wuse_Major:
So, I recently skimmed an old D&D adventure that managed to convince me that Baba Yaga is actually a Time Lord, possibly even a version of the Master.

What would Baba Yaga be in Exalted?

Lea:
I would say “An ancient Lunar” but mostly because I dig media where Baba Yaga is the ancient god-monster patron of old-timey Russia. I don’t think she’s actually a good fit for it beyond that, though — certainly I don’t know what I’d make her totem if I were handling it that way.

Colapso:
It’s not like Raksi’s Totem is much of a intrinsic part of her, and Baba Yaga is basically Raksi. Hell, if you’d plopped her into Creation, she’d probably be Raksi’s big rival.

Chicken? Owl? Or something known for being ugly as sin, like a Rat.

Lea:
I guess Raksi is basically a Baba Yaga + The Rakshasa + She-who-must-be-obeyed, yeah. So there’s you’re answer — if Baba Yaga were in Exalted, she’d be syncretized with other archetype to create something that feels wholly original to the setting rather than an obvious homage to a single, specific thing.


Daerim:
I kind of get the feeling that the Exigents are taking the conceptual place of endowed God-Blooded.

Are God-Blooded (general usage) going to be more of a presence in the setting and player character tableau now that mortals are given more oomph and spirits are going to be more playable than in the past? I’ve always liked the idea of local gods having children as primary agents and the wandering, ghost-sired exorcist and have used them as NPCs, but never as a PC.

John:
God-Blooded are going to get an update and will be pretty awesome.


sakii:
I was re reading the fiction about Janest and the Fair Folk says that she has a god weapon. Is this just a fancy word for artifact or is there something else in there?

Lea:
It’s another way of referring to certain artifacts.


sakii:
“certain”…

Lea:
Don’t read too much into that; there’s no separate mechanical category of artifacts in 3e called god-weapons. It’s just… there are probably artifacts for which calling them god-weapons would feel out-of-place. Like, say, something that’s clearly more of a ghost-weapon.


The Ent:
Probably a silly question but…will the book include a “this literature, movies, anime, etc inspired the game & is awesome & should be read/watched for inspiration and general awesomeness!” list like 1e did? 🙂

John:
Yes, definitely.


Solarious:
To all our writers: what are you looking forward to writing about the most? Broad, cryptic, or [REDACTED] terms are fine.

Holden:
At this moment? Exigents.

Vance:
Dragon-Blooded Charms!

John:
Lunars, certain Exigents, and all three of the unmentioned new Exalts.

Gaius of Xor:
Encouraging! Looking forward to learning more about them all.

As a point of “just in case” clarity, Exalts like the two Lunar foils would NOT be included in that count of three, correct?

John:
They are!

Daerim:
Three unmentioned Exalts as in the ones you haven’t named but have stated exist, or three beyond anything we’ve heard anything about?

John:
Three I haven’t named but stated exist. Sorry for my poor clarity.


Anu:
What’s your favourite weapon?

John:
Daiklave 🙂


Wolfwood2:
How important is it to keep the Sidereals down to only 100 Exalts? They have such a big role in the setting and are involved in so many things that 100 sometimes seems a little limiting. Especially their politics. You have 5 PCs who agree something, and that’s a huge block of Sidereals. What would change if I declared, “fuck it, each Maiden has 100 Sidereals”?

I guess the reason I’m asking is hearing that the Lunars get two entire Exalted types as foils. If anything, the Sidreals seem like the ones that need more Exalted they can talk with and play off.

John:
Their numbers will remain at 100. But the Sidereals have Getimians, all the different Exigents, and a new an unnamed Exalt to bother about. That’s aside from Solars, Lunars, Dragon-Blooded, etc.


You can find the next compilation here:
Q&A Summary #11

“Ask the Developers” Thread Summary, Post #9

Has it really been two weeks since my last update? In that time I have vanished into the labyrinth of temp work, never to be seen again… no, wait, I tell a lie, I’m right here. For now, at any rate.

In any case, while I spend a weekend recuperating from “the influenza” or whatever the kids are calling it these days, I am interspersing various freelance assignments with the awesome task of keeping Exalted fans abreast of developments in the Exalted developers’ Q&A thread on RPG.net. This update only goes up to February 10, which means I’m falling behind. Fortunately, I am still rather ill, which affords me the opportunity to sit in front of my laptop and work on the next update!

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
Q&A Summary #8


Wuse_Major:
Do Sorcerous Workings have ranks, like spells do? Like, is there such a thing as a Terrestrial level Working?

Vance:
Sorcerous Workings are divided among the three circles, but with more flexibility than spells. A Dragon-Blood could attempt a Celestial Circle working, but would suffer some additional risks and difficulties in doing so.

Wuse_Major:
Speaking of Workings, are various non-human entities that can create strange materials going to operate on the Working framework? Like, when a Neomah finishes collecting enough flesh to produce it’s “child,” is that the result of mundane craft, charm enhanced craft, artifact crafting, a unique charm, a Working, or just a thing those kinds of demons can just do?

Vance:
It depends on a couple of things. If a something’s not a sorcerer, it’s not going to be doing sorcerous workings, outside of a very narrow set of exceptions. Neomah, obviously, aren’t sorcerers in general. They use the crafting mechanics to create their children, because that’s a convenient system for resolving it. It’s not a mundane craft, not by a Lovecraft country mile, but framing it as a sorcerous working would just be nonsensical within the setting.

On the other hand, just because the neomah don’t use sorcerous workings, doesn’t mean you can’t have something else that does.


Daerim:
Let me rephrase: are there any spells from previous editions that have been (or will be) dropped because workings cover what they are supposed to do? Imbue Amalgam is the best example I can think of, since its entire purpose was to create 15′ tall scorpion ape monsters. Or will Imbue Amalgam and similar magical project-type spells co-exist with workings that also create servant monsters or whatever?

Lea:
The Spawning of Monsters was always a complete pain to balance; we may be content to leave it out of 3e and let that sort of thing be covered by workings.

On the other hand, there’s nothing preventing us from putting it into a later book as a spell if we get a great idea on how to handle it that way, so.

John:
We are wary of creating a technical separation between spells and workings. We are more interested in presenting ways to be a sorcerer, and not immediately starting by saying “this but never this” and chopping it right down the middle. There are some effects either form struggles to create, and time travel and resurrection are still “meta” off-limits, though in-story sorcerers may still be looking for ways to do either thing.

Daerim:
I understand that you’re trying to avoid Word of God coming down on the system in a way that puts limits the how the game is perceived, but I’m not sure I see the same danger in talking about what kind of spells (in pervious editions, since everything was a spell) would better fit as workings in the new system.

John:
lol pervious

Anyway, we haven’t written those spells yet, so the harm would be writing them on a forum.

Delgarde:
How about just speaking in the abstract, then? Never mind details of specific spells – but do workings cover some of the concept space that would have been covered by spells in previous editions? From what you’ve said, you don’t want to draw lines between them, which suggests a certain overlap…

John:
There’s some overlap, yes.

Overshee:
Can demons and/or elementals be summed by either spell or working? Or are they spell only? (And what does this mean to mortals trying to dominate a spirit?)

Vance:
Sorcerous workings can be used to invite demons into Creation. The primary utility of this is being able to summon demons of a higher circle than your sorcery would allow you to bind with a spell. It’s not a safe or an easy method.

Anu:
This is the greatest thing ever.

Vance:
It’s hardly pulp sorcery if Zorayas can’t summon Azhrarn in an attempt to enact her revenge!

Lea:
Actually, thinking about it, that whole giant magic room with jewels in the ceiling and magic pagoda and shit is pure sorcerous working prep, innit?


selfcritical:
So [sorcerous workings are] not likely to have any chance during the process of having fairytale type flaws baked into your working (goddamnit, I rolled True Love’s Kiss again)

Vance:
Oh no, those can happen. They’re an emergent phenomenon, not something you’ll “pick out” like in a point buy.


Sunder the Gold:
will it only be the same faces we’ve seen in previous corebooks?

Vance:
Unless they fall under the editor’s knife, then no.


Wuse_Major:
Any Skycutters in the Core?

Holden:
Yes. Black Wind is a pretty fun weapon.


Paradim:
What’s “Towers of the Mighty” supposed to be about?

Lea:
First Age ruins and manses.


Anaximander:
Is the magical materials list going to be expanded? I get that the Big 5 are “special” because they resonate with an Exalted type, but what about adamant? Why should only Autochthonia get the fun? And feathersteel! It’s a LITERALLY magical material. Will the new Exalteds get their own materials, or will they have to “double-up”?

On the same materials theme, anything about yellow jade? I always liked that it was a “total accident no one could repeat,” but it was never much explored beyond that.

John:
This is one of those times where people are going to regret seeing under the hood, but maybe you guys can teach me something.

Yes, there can certainly be other magical materials. But there are only so many colors, and assigning color is the most important part of adding one. Also, not all colors are quite appropriate for armor. So this issue mostly comes down to how to manage color differences/similarities. Obviously armor can be drawn differently to signify differences, but color is the first thing people notice before anything else. Gold signifies a Solar, so making another gold-style metal would be visually confusing at first glance.

John:
Some Exalts share magical materials. But we also plan to put some new ones in. It’s tricky, though.

hippokrene:
I think it’s valuable to have the five magical materials remain the basis of magical arms and armaments. Both because it gives a certain visual distinctiveness to the Exalted types and because if you can use tons of things to create artifact level items then the five become less important. The idea is that these metals and stones are resonate with essence in a way others simply cant.

That said, we know that you can mix the five magical materials with other cool things like red glass. I’m planning an artifact spear with an orichalcum shaft and a head that’s the tooth of a great sea beast.

John:
This is a good way to think about it.


PolkaNinja:
Also, for non-daiklave artifacts and magic gear: Could an article of clothing or armor be enchanted to give automatic sucesses to augment a roll?
Example: The Coat of Midnight (B4/L2 armor) adds two automatic sucessess to any sucessful Steath roll. If the orginal roll does no generate any sucesses, the Coat adds nothing.

Vance:
I wouldn’t expect to see a lot of artifacts that just give numeric bonuses. More likely, the Coat of Midnight would have a handful of Evocations that are useful for a stealthy character.

sakii:
But what if i dont want to use Evocations. The coat has to have power on its own rigth?

Vance:
There are artifacts whose power is innate; there are artifacts who manifest their power as Evocations. There are artifacts that do both. For an armor like he asked for, though, Evocations would be my go-to.

sakii:
ah, i though all Artifacts were going to do both. So what happens with those artifacts while you havent unlocked, is it just a high quality equipment?

Lea:
Not all “Magic powers attached to an object” are Evocations; Evocations are powers you can evoke through your personal connection to the spirit or will of an artifact. A winterbreath jar is a jar that refrigerates; you don’t need to sing lullabies to it for a week or sleep beside it or survive awful trials with it to be able to store your cold cuts.

sakii:
So my thoughts are that there are some artifacts with Evocations but without powers, am i wrong?

Vance:
Depends on your definitions. Is attuning to a daiklave so that you can swing it around despite its ridiculously deadly stopping force a power, or not?

You generally won’t see things that don’t do anything at all unless you awaken their Evocations, because that kinda sucks for you.

Lea:
The thing about winterbreath jars is they really are just places to store cold cuts. A set of Evocations for a winterbreath jar that turn it into a weapon are… well, I get the appeal, but you have ice swords for that. “A good set of Evocations for a winterbreath jar” would be a set of Evocations that are good, and worth buying, but which respect the fundamental nature and purpose of the artifact. This is really tricky!

But that just means that some day someone will have a burst of genius inspiration and come up with a really good idea for ’em, something that in retrospect will make everyone go “Oh, of course. That’s obvious.”

DeusExBiotica:
Is it to be understood that there is some cosmic law of “form follows function” for Artifacts (or at least most Artifacts)? Like, you can have the Green Jade Daiklaive that poisons people, and the Green Jade Goremaul that makes vines bind your foes, but never the Green Jade Dire Lance that heals people – even if it did that by sucking poisons out of them and growing vines over cuts – because healing isn’t a thing that spears are for?

Vance:
The Evocations of an artifact stem from the weapon’s form, from its magical materials, from the way it’s created and the way it’s wielded. If you’re wielding, say, Hullan’s Thistle, a green jade direlance whose spearpoint erupts into living bramble to savage your foes, then the odds are against you ever awakening a healing Evocation from it. On the other hand, the Death-Cleaving Edge might have plenty, because, well, it’s the Death-Cleaving Edge. It wouldn’t really live up to the name if it didn’t heal people.

When you’re thinking about Evocations, I find that it helps not to construe them as a universal category, but to see them as expressions of the underlying artifact. In the same way that Charms depict the legendary deeds and prowess of a hero, Evocations represent the power that an artifact can attain in the hands of a master.

Kahbiel:
General question regarding evocations, always combat focused?

Vance:
Not always, but since most Evocations are awakened through arms and armor, mostly.

sakii:
does the magical materials define the potential of the artifact?
like if i have to choose between volcano cutter and volcano cutter Orichalcum edition are they going to be different or is orichalcum going to be stronger because is gold and shiny?

Vance:
Magical materials don’t determine the strength of the Evocations, but they have a very strong influence on what those Evocations will do, look like, and feel like.


Anaximander:
Another question: is/was there anything that, if you had UNLIMITED POWER and absolutely no concern for the integrity of the game or its fans, you’d change? Like, nuke Greyfalls, switch the elemental poles around, change the word “Charm” to something else, etc.?

John:
I’d add new Exalts to the game. Because I do have unlimited power.

Vance:
Attack of the Scorpion Empire! The hardback. Followed by a year’s worth of supplemental material.

Vance:
Actually, on second thought, I might make it a bit more Jewish.


Isator Levie:
I’ve been reading a lot about the early conflicts between Western and Eastern Catholicism, and it has me wondering:

Satrapies of the Realm are technically only required to accomodate Immaculate missionaries, yes? Like, even if they’ll introduce political and economic incentives intended to bring about conversion, they don’t roll in to widely force it (barring maybe occasions where a conquering general has their own bias and a lot of leeway), correct?

Is there likely to be a form or degree of native ritual that the Realm will still find completely intolerable, in terms other than direct political implications (i.e. one that is overtly critical of or defiant against the Realm)? Or are situations of religious tension more likely to be when, say, Immaculate missionaries who are especially zealous burst into a proceeding and try to interrupt it, and the whole thing explodes into riots and uprisings?

(This is certainly the kind of thing helped by moving religion away from being purely about rational economics)

Holden:
The Immaculate Order has been kinda wussified over much of Exalted’s publication history, so this is an understandable view, but also incorrect. The Immaculate Order is a violent and coercive group. They don’t just send in missionaries, then shrug and give a goofy grin when the natives ignore and shun them. Monks will tear down local temples, and Exalted monks will put local gods face-down in the dirt in front of their worshipers if pushed very much. They don’t teach the monks kung-fu just to give them something to do all day.

What I mean to say is, no, the Realm doesn’t usually need to enforce the efforts of the local missionaries, because the missionaries generally manage that just fine on their own. If an abbot shows up in the satrap’s office to humbly ask for her assistance, though, he’s almost certainly going to get it.


chaoticag:
Well, I got the chance to talk to a friend of mine, and managed to get her excited over the Liminal Exalts. When the core book hits, I’m expecting having to depend on the Exigent rules to homebrew one up, and she knows that, but I am wondering at the moment whether we’re going to get rules for them this year or if it will be a bit. would the core give us enough info to maybe wing it until then?

(Also, really appreciate the answers you guys have given on the thread and elsewhere. I doubt I’d have been able to get her to put faith in the storyteller system again without them.)

Holden:
I’m actually writing chunks of Exigents right now, so… that book may be showing up sooner than you’d think.

Gayo:
Any particular Exigent you’re most interested in doing, either for the hardback or later supplements?

John:
So many. Soooo many.

Dulahan:
Realizing this could easily change…

Is there going to be much setting info in Exigents? Or is it going to be pretty much just toolkit? Honestly, I don’t see either of these as a bad thing. It’s just a curiosity over what might be in store.

Holden:
It’ll probably be the most crunch-heavy hardback, would be my guess.

John:
There will be quite a bit of setting info.

John:
Re: Exigents:

Think of “Exigent” the way you think of “Celestial.” It’s not one type of Exalt but many different types. The Exigent of a volcano god is very different from Strawmaiden Janest.


Lea:
Perfect Soul was unhappy but resigned to growing up to rule a nation under the Realm’s boot. It wasn’t until a large cache of First Age artifacts was found under their holy pilgrimage temple/city/complex and Mnemon went “Okay, we’re knocking all your shit down to excavate that, and bringing in soldiers to guard the project, and we’re putting those soldiers up in your homes, and you have to feed them and put up with their abuses, and also all the former outspoken critics of our rule who weren’t a huge problem back when you were a pissant border province are gonna get mass executed because now they might be a problem we give a shit about” that she started visiting temples.

(That last bit is a sore point because up until then she was actually pretty involved in jailing activists, on the grounds that it was better than letting them out where they might provoke the Realm into executing them, and now they’re all gonna get executed anyway, so. She’s very much partially motivated now by the shame of having been a collaborator from a family of collaborators, and probably a little bit motivated by the blow to her pride that was the revelation that being a collaborator didn’t help. I love Perfect Soul so, so much.)

DeusExBiotica:
This. Is. Completely. Amazing.

Lea:
Yeah, in addition to being a kung-fu-and-archery princess, she’s also a brutally pragmatic realpolitician who was trained from birth to inherit the title to a Realm client state, descended from a royal line who ruled Jiara by the grace of knowing if they didn’t rule it the way the Realm wanted, they’d be deposed and replaced. She’s a decent person by some definition of decent — like, she did actually reach a point where she couldn’t tolerate her people suffering any more bullshit on behalf of the Realm enriching itself, and she was ready to do something about it even before she Exalted, hence trying to find divine backing for a potential rebellion — but I enjoy how compromised she is in addition to that. She is by far my favorite 3e iconic.

Wuse_Major:
I’m definitely on board with that now.

Though, question. If some pissant nation out in the threshold discovered it was built on top of a buried first age city, is it, in fact, possible for that nation to be far enough from the Realm that it wouldn’t get annexed the moment the Realm found out about it?

Lea:
Well, Jiara is actually a major coastal trade hub with multiple cities and its own client states, so calling it a pissant border province isn’t really right.


Sunder the Gold:
I remember that you were working on ways to more easily transition from Form to Form; did you succeed, and is it now necessary to switch Forms in order to use multiple Styles in the same fight?

Vance:
Yes and no, respectively. Changing your form mid-fight is about seeing a tactical opportunity and seizing it, changing into a new form that’s better suited to the circumstances of the fight, instead of being necessary to do cool things.


Vance:
I did sorcery and martial arts, with the exception of Steel Devil style. I wrote the core system rules for social influence (although John made it like 50x cooler), investigation, larceny, medicine, poisons, diseases. I wrote the Quick NPC rules—or at least a draft of them, I’m not sure if it’s the actual one that made it in—as well as the animal and Exalted antagonists. I collaborated with Minton on…well, all the other antagonists.

Holden:
The QC rules are fundamentally the ones you wrote, with a little dinking-about, all of which I think you already know about (switching Defense into split Parry and Evasion values, etc).

Holden:
Hey don’t forget the awesome fictions and bits of the Traits chapter.

Vance:
Oh, yeah! I did the rules for Limit, too.


Vault Dweller:
Perhaps this is a fluff setting more suited to a thread on What Fire Has Wrought and general Dragonblooded issues – but will Lookshy and their Immaculate Faith be retaining their more nuanced and pragmatic attitude towards Solar Anathema from earlier editions? I’m thinking of the 1 & 2e factoids that Lookshy interdicts the Wyld Hunt if they catch them operating in the River Province, are willing to have cordially mistrustful diplomatic and mercantile dealings with Solars, who are occasionally permitted to visit the city itself under heavy and watchful security.

Lea:
Lookshy is pragmatically interested in not blowing all their resources on expensive Wyld Hunts when the Realm is right across Inland Sea. Lookshy is pragmatically interested in interdicting possible hostile Realm action taken under cover of Wyld Hunts. But Lookshy thinks the Anathema are body-hijacking demon-gods who they, as the Dragon-Blooded Host, overthrew at the beginning of time.

John:
The Dragon-Blooded hunt the Anathema as has been their holy duty since the time of the shogunate.

Colapso:
The oddest thing about that is that Lookshy is actually the remnants of the society built over the bones of Solars; you’d think their traditions would be even more anti-Solar than the Realm’s.

Mengtzu:
I don’t think I’ve ever seen it go down that way, it’s just they’ve got Mask and the Realm on one side and Irresistible Negotiation Duchess and Invincible Sword Princess on the other. Their religion is what it is, but they’re the diplomatic boss mob in the most common Solar starting zone, with the setting cheerfully feeding realpolitik in that helps the Eclipse. Looking at the setting it makes sense they’re anti-Solar, but if the result of actual play is “yeah our group got Lookshy on side too”, that should be no more of a surprise than a D&D group killing a dragon. Wouldn’t have been easy, but no great shock it happened at the table.

John:
You could make a similar statement about anything in the setting. I think the point is that it should feel like an accomplishment for the group to do that, and it really isn’t if they’re written to bend their knees to the first Solars *nudge wink* who come along.


John:
The new class of Exalts that are tied to the Lunars are called the [REDACTED].


Colapso:
It’s restrictive
The 3 Castes have the Dawn Problem, in spades. Full Moon is one where you might want all attributes high, but the thing is that most people will want only one (Dexterity) or two (Strength and Stamina) or another one (Stamina) in most concepts. Sure, the ‘physical paragon’ concept exists, but it is far rarer. Similarly, most social characters tend to use Manipulation OR Charisma; this choice is usually character-defining, as either charismatic leader or manipulative bastard. Again, some are both, but rare. And No Moon has it the worst, what with the hunter with Perception, the loremaster with Intelligence and the swashbuckler with Wits are very different concepts, usually. And the last one even requiresa physical attribute to work right.

John:
Well, I appreciate your take on it, and I am fully aware of these issues. But this is a good example of why the complaint doesn’t make sense. Adding on castes would not solve the problems facing the current castes.

Colapso:
It’s restrictive
It’s flavorless. And also, less.
See, they might be made incredibly flavorful. But as-is, they aren’t, and it goes back to Attributes. Say you divvy them like Alchemicals, and Full Moon are Strength, Perception and Charisma. It says something, right? That they are hunters and leaders, alphas of a pack. There _is_ no ‘Hunter’ Caste in Exalted. Instead, if you have it as Strength, Dexterity and Stamina… it is far less obvious. You get ‘Warrior’? Well, that’s just a repurposed Dawn, no? Or a dumb Chosen of Battles. And that’s how it’s been played. No Moon are mystics, again, just like Twilights, and Changing Moons are about the only ones who stand on their own by being tricksters. It feels like less flavorful twilights and dawns, and just… less. Even Changing Moons got played up as just… less interesting Night castes. They never got to actually BE Tricksters like the Nuwisha.

John:
This makes a lot more sense and is a much more compelling argument to me. But this problem can also be solved without more Castes.

Wuse_Major:
Sure, the rules for the lost castes might have been underwhelming, but the idea of “restoring what was lost” has a fair amount of appeal to many people.

John:
That’s a good story. But there are other kinds of stories, too. If no other Castes had ever been written for Lunars, no one would care about recovering them, because they would be unaware of them. My point being that the design created the desire. Now compound that with the fact that they stuck the rules there but dangled them out of reach. Here’s the Castes, but they’re still gone. Well, no, they’re not, they’re right there and all kinds of people can think of nothing else but of “bringing them back.” As an aside, this is a very good example of why we’re not statting up the First Age or the Incarnae!

Anyway, we don’t take “restoring the Castes” as some intrinsic good, because the desire has been manufactured. It doesn’t even match their gameplay. The game is telling you to do something that doesn’t match what Lunars are made for or what they’re good at. I never thought “I want to be a shape-changing god-beast with the Essence of the Moon in my heart and the blood of the night flowing in my veins, rampaging across Creation, battling the Lovecraftian horrors of the Wyld and mastering the mighty beasts of Creation and seducing my way into Cynis orgies and sticking ‘kick me’ signs on the Perfect of Paragon, just so I can ultimately do ??????huge sorcerous working?????? ????Big craft project?????? ?????some other big ST plot that doesn’t fit things I tend to do??????? to get back the Castes I neither know nor care about.”

Tokezo Tenken:
Sure, but “reclaiming what has been taken from us” is a very compelling story to some, especially in relation to cultures who are placed (in game purposes) as the indigenous, oppressed peoples since what is “pagan” but “Not of Rome” in the end? Saying “This is who we were. This is what was taken from us. You will pay and we will reclaim what we were.” certainly fits into my view of what Lunar Exalted could represent. What you posted is fine. I honestly have little interest though in playing what appears in my perception to be a bad 80’s Hair Band album cover.

John:
Someone tried to use chicle as a rubber substitute for tires, and someone else used it to make bubble gum. One was a huge success and the other didn’t work and it is pretty obvious why that is.

Tokezo Tenken:
No, it isn’t. Sure, literally the chicle/tire thing is apparent. As a metaphor, I would say that it reminds me of your post earlier about not being able to parse a complaint. You’re designing the game and have insight into why you make the choices you make. I might like the choices. I might not. I have no idea what you mean when you talk about chicle mostly because I would prefer to talk about Exalted instead.

John:
How many cars have you driven with wheels made out of bubblegum? None? That’s because chicle isn’t rubber. And despite insistence and tons of inventors trying to turn it into rubber, it just didn’t work. What they discovered is that it made really awesome bubblegum. I know that to some, a universe in which we do not drive cars with bubblegum tires is disappointing, but that’s the universe we live in. An unrealistic expectation based on an unrealistic assessment of the qualities of something can lead to disastrous design fails, as with chicle. One man wasted his fortune trying to turn it into rubber. Another made himself very successful by turning it into gum. One guy fancied something but reality contradicted him. Another guy worked with it and found out what it was actually good for and then used it to make something really good.

Inqy:
Does make me wonder if there are more interesting ways to differentiate castes than favoured charms though.

John:
Attributes, Abilities, and Charms are the big trifecta of what defines a character in Exalted. There are other details, but those are the big ones.

Wuse_Major:
(Hatewheel, Holden, I’m assuming you either already have or are currently figuring this out and I don’t think you would have just assumed that three castes was the best way to go without looking at it and figuring out why and testing it, I’m just pointing it out to other people.)

Holden:
We’ve poured, no hyperbole, hundreds of hours into figuring out how to make the Lunars work well. The configuration Geoff put forward for them back in 2001 (3 castes, Attribute-based, oriented around the physical/social/mental divide) has really serious problems– it is absolutely the hardest design in the entire game to get working well, bar none, nothing else comes close– but it has one single great and shining virtue to offset those problems, and that is, it feels really good for them. Feels right. That makes it worth the Herculean effort to suss out a design that lets them function smoothly within that paradigm.

MrMephistopheles:
While Lunars have never been my favorite Exalted and are pretty far down that list. One that that has stood out about the issues with the three castes is they feel much more washed out than the 5 caste Exalts. Instead of filling a niche that has a lot of character concepts to surround it with they’ve just felt like “Physical usually warrior guy!”, “Sneaky social stuff dude!” and “Mystery Men Sphinx!”

John:
Colapso pointed this out earlier and I think it’s a good point.


Godjaw:
Animals, elements, and spirituality combine to make the mythological beast. Lunars need to draw on it as a whole if they are to be mythic god-bodied beings.

John:
This is not axiomatically correct. Any beast in myth is a mythological beast.

My question is, why do you think the elements are an intrinsic property of the Lunars?

Godjaw:
I see the shapeshifting as a toolkit much like Sidereals and their Astrologies. A unique thing to them, tied to their identity, that gives them unique powers. Lunars take and adopt the shapes of others, getting access to some, or all of their powers with training.

John:
That wouldn’t work in EX3 for a number of reasons. First, Lunars learning the Charms of other Exalts would be a big no. Second, spirits are not collections of Charm trees. They are Essence and power that comes fully-formed. You can’t interact with their powers as if they were another kind of Exalt because they’re not*. It would also be very hard to balance, and dilute their niche, which is turning into animals.

*Yes, spirits will be playable. They are very different from the Chosen, though.

Godjaw:
I notice that you specifically mention charms, whereas I deliberately used powers. This could be charms, merits, or the like. While highly unlikely they would get access to charms, i’d expect as previous posters have mentioned, they have access to their merits and “special abilities” that aren’t specifically charms, like the abilities animals are said to have.

Lunars take in the Essence of that fully formed thing, to become that thing. Not charms, but innate natural power.

As for Lunar’s niche being turning into animals, I am vehemently against that idea. The Lunar niche should be turning into the shapes they’ve stolen, be it animal, elemental, ghost, god, or whatever they’ve grown to take. Turning only into animals is, again, rather impotent for face-stealers and too much like Zoo Exalted.

John:
Well, I realize you’re against it, but … so? If I can make the logical transition from “turn into fire” to “throwing big gouts of flame,” that’s actually the exact same thing Dragon-Blooded do.

Godjaw:
Not exactly. I’ve always construed Dragonblooded elemental themes to be less flash and more substance. How elements effect personalities and motivations, not what winds they can kick up or flames they can toss. In addition to the intrinsic idea that all Dragonblooded are at the core soldiers, the elements augment these aptitudes and natural inclinations. Stance solid as the Earth, wisdom a deep as the sea. While there is flashy elemental effects and powers, it’s not as important to Dragonblooded identity as it is to Elemental identity.

A Lunar taking the shape of the Elemental and using it’s power doesn’t have the substance of a Dragonblooded, he has the flash which he uses in his glorious god-bodied way.

John:
The flashy effects are always the big pinnacles of Dragon-Blooded Charms. They are rare, but they are pinnacle; substance that grows into flash. If Lunars come along and just boom, elemental magic, then it takes something away.

The Dragon-Blooded have the Aspects of elements, elements which are external, definite things. Fire has an Essence which has these properties, as does Wood, Water, etc. As they rise in Essence, Dragon-Blooded evince more of their Aspects. As they get closer to the element they emulate, they show more of those flashy powers. It is a lifelong journey, and few ever get above Essence 5, so few ever get above a certain level of connection or embodiment.

What you’re suggesting is to package Lunar magic with all the pinnacles of the Dragon-Blooded Charm tree; that to look like a fire elemental is to be closer to the element of fire than a Dragon-Blooded. It would be read unfavorably if we did it this way.

Godjaw:
I reject this on the basis that both animals and elements are the most prevalent in mythology, not just animals. Elements are not one trick ponies as you so claim. Nymphs of greek mythology, the Kappa of japanese mythology. Both largely water based, but entirely different in theme. I’d also argue that many animals are one trick ponies. Reynardine and the Kitsune, both trickster foxes. Both animals and elements were useful literary tools to explain and develop characters in mythology through personification.

John:
While you are correct on a great many of your readings, world mythology doesn’t have as much sway over the canon as you’re suggesting here.

Lilith, Leviathan, Ma-Ha-Suchi, Raksi, Anja, Vert, and Red Jaws are all great character concepts, and they all have beastly associations and none of the other associations you are looking for. It might just be that you don’t like Lunars.

Godjaw:
Does having Elementals detract from the elementalism of Dragonblooded? If not, why would Lunars taking the shapes of Elementals do so?

John:
Because Dragon-Blooded are far more than elementals. A greater expression of elemental power doesn’t come on the back of wholesale superiority in practically every other way, the way it does with a Lunar.

John:
The problem is not really that the Lunars might step on someone else’s toes by trying out other themes nearly as much as it makes the Lunars more of whatever they’re changing into than anything else.

“Why shouldn’t they express whatever power they shape into?” is the exact same as asking “Why can’t they just have any Exalted Charm set they please?”

Random Nerd:
Yeah, I think that’s a much more fruitful angle to approach things from. There’s a lot of potential for “I solve this problem by reshaping my body into one that has the properties that I want” as a schtick.

It’s a lot more cohesive than “I change myself into X, and therefore have all the supernatural powers of X”, which doesn’t lead to an overall theme beyond “blue mage with tattoos.”

Holden:
Alex Mercer is a walking protoplasmic science fiction viral colony that thinks it is a man. “Playable shoggoth” is… not really in Exalted’s genre wheelhouse.

Paradim:
A question that I’ve always had… If a Lunar who changes into a wolf, IS a wolf, then why is a Lunar who changes into a god, NOT a god?

I can see how this goes into troubled waters, but it still feels that it lacks consistency. But, then, I’ve always been satisfied with animal-based shapeshifting, knowing its a very rich area to explore so long mythic stories and symbolism are kept in mind.

Holden:
1e solved this by not having them turning into gods, rocks, or houseplants in the first place.

Kurotowa:
Now I admit I was out of the game for a lot of 2e, but since when could Lunars transform into gods?!

A Lunar can transform into a wolf, because Lunars have an affinity for transformation into animal shapes (including humans). A Lunar can disguise themselves as a god, because Lunars have an affinity for illusions and trickery. While the two might overlap they are most certainly not the same thing.

Skinchangers are a common and classic mythological niche, but that isn’t the same as a universal ability to copy anything else’s shape and abilities. Would it be thematic for Lunars to transform into demons complete with demonic powers? Of course not! It follows that other spirits, be they gods or elementals, are also off the table. Let them focus on arming themselves with the abilities of fur and feather, claw and fang, that the natural world provides.

Mejiro_Night:
Were Lunars ever able to turn into plants? I honestly can’t remember!

Holden:
Turning into a shrub, MoEP: Lunars, p. 134. Essence 4. Second edition, yo.

Demon and elemental shapes are right around there too, also Essence 4, and it only gets you their appearance, not any special powers (that upgrade didn’t show up until DotFA). So this was by no means central to what Lunars were about even in 2e.

Holden:
Yeah in 2e they could turn into demons and at high Essence even get demon Charms. I think there was a Charm in Dreams of the First Age to turn into geographic features like a river or hill. They could definitely hunt down a cactus and steal its shape, I remember that very clearly.

We’re not really going to be going back there in 3e, in all likelihood.

Kurotowa:
Certainly there’s no shortage of things like stick insects and rock moths and octopuses that would be a good basis for Lunar stealth Charms.

Lea:
Or just, you know, wolves and cats and owls.

Irked:
Well, Lunars have had the ability to take the shapes of elementals, or ghosts, or terrain features. You can’t really say players want them to be something they aren’t when it’s something they have, traditionally, been.

It seems to me that there’s a pretty significant split between:

(1) people who view Lunars as master shapeshifters – which implies taking all manner of forms (animals! people! plants! elementals! ghosts! concepts?), with lots of good mythological examples for support – and so view animals as kind of “easy mode” shapeshifting for a Lunar who is just starting out, and

(2) people who view the Lunars as exceptional werebeasts, for whom “turn into a monstrous human/animal thing” is the very definition of what it is to be a Lunar – again, with lots of examples for support.

Whether you think (2) enshrines Lunars in their proper place as “beastly god-monsters” or reduces a broad, interesting shape-shifting archetype to the “Zoo Exalted” probably depends on how you feel about (1) – but you can make a pretty good case for either, depending on which part of the line’s history you want to cherry-pick.

John:
I can put on a sheet with two holes cut out for eyes but sadly can’t walk through walls. Looking like something isn’t necessarily the same as being something.

Godjaw:
That’s little better than an illusion though. If Lunars are becoming something more physical and visceral you would think their shapes would have substance.

Vance:
They do. That’s why they bump into walls!

(sorry)

I think it’s easy, especially with the direction 2E went, to conflate the substance of being X with “having X Charms.”

Irked:
“Looking like something” is, in many fictions, the most trivial part of shapeshifting;

John:
Exactly the point I was making. The minimum bar for shapeshifting is looking like something.

Irked:
Or putting it another way: if Lunar shapeshifting fits in the same category as “throwing a sheet over your head,” I can understand where Lunar fans would feel shortchanged.

John:
It doesn’t. Nothing has been said about what it will be. Just what it’s not. Like say, turning into a ghost and walking through walls. They won’t get to do that. Does that make more sense to you now?

It’s a really odd assumption that they should be able to assimilate the powers and nature of everything they can turn into. It doesn’t do the game any favors.

Irked:
It might be good here to distinguish the two following propositions, neither of which necessarily has anything to do with canonical Lunars:

“Lunar shapeshifting enables transformation into all manner of things, which might enable solutions to all manner of different problems.”

vs.

“A particular Lunar can, with his current Charms, transform into all manner of things, which might enable solutions to all manner of different problems.”

In other words, it’s the “Solars are the best at all fields of human endeavor” vs. “Bob-the-Solar is the best at everything” distinction again: shapeshifting in general enabling a perfect Swiss Army knife of tools doesn’t mean that your particular knife has all those tools in it.

John:
A Swiss Army Knife is still a knife, though. It has a knife handle, a knife shape, and a knife blade. If it is shaped like a motorcycle and you can ride it, then it’s probably not a Swiss Army Knife. If it’s shaped like a pair of boots and you can wear it on your feet, also not a Swiss Army Knife. Which example better matches how people interact with Charms, yours or mine?

Godjaw:
Well, my worry is that animal powers will be more flash than substance, and be rather ineffective compared to other Exalted.

John:
Based on……….? Certainly not myths.

Godjaw:
Additionally how do you balance using animal powers without Lunars seeming to be Zoo Exalted?

John:
I am kind of puzzled by this question. Making them “not like animals” is nowhere in our design objectives.

SuperG:
There is a difference between “the powers and nature” and “the basic physical attributes”.

Ghosts are, generally, conceived of as being immaterial/insubstantial. If you cannot become immaterial/insubstantial, you’re not in the form of a ghost – you might look like a specific ghost, but you’re not a ghost to the senses.

Lemme put it this way: there’s a reason Oolong (in Dragon Ball/Z) is comic relief: shapeshifting, but without the physical properties of the form you’ve assumed, is a pretty silly power. Mass and density are important to a convincing fake.

Anyway, long and short of it: I’d rather have it say “ghosts are impossible to turn into” than “you can turn into a ghost, but for some reason you just end up… solid.”. (This is distinct from “you can disguise yourself as a ghost, but remain solid” – that’s something you can do without shapeshifting at all)

John:
Well reasoned, and I am pretty sure I agree.

Irked:
I don’t… think… anyone’s actually pushing for Lunar charmsteal as a general thing? For basically the reason you cite, yeah. I may have missed somebody.

Most of what’s being discussed are what would, in D&D, be racial templates – you know, “As a ghost, you are naturally immaterial, but can see and freely interact with other immaterial beings. You can only materialize in a shadowland or etc. etc.”

Or, “As an ifrit, you are a being of living fire. Bare-handed attacks against you suffer [Essence] dice of fire damage, and etc. etc.”

Or, “As a wind elemental, you can fly!”

Or whatever. You want enough of the thing’s nature to feel like you really are the thing; if you turn into a dog and can’t scent any better (because your nose just looks like a dog’s nose), that’s pretty unsatisfying for some players.

Holden:
This is why “can turn into beings whose nature includes being able to sling around all kinds of idiosyncratic magic” is a bad can of worms to open in the first place.

Coikzer:
I think I can understand it…I know I’ve seen people cite Mega Man more than a few times over the years as a potential source of Lunar inspiration. Though I personally think that allowing any sort of actual charmsteal like that will instantly make every background for Lunar PCs consist basically of “And then I ate a Solar anna Sidereal anna Abyssal anna Infernal anna Terrestial anna Liminal anna Getimen and Lytek for Exigents so now I can buy every Charm ever published ever.”

Holden:
Yeah. But even on a more benign level, assuming the good intentions of Godjaw–and I do assume his intentions are good–even Charms that let you do “something like” some other creature are problematic, depending wholly on the creature in question. Lunars can co-opt the charge of a bull to smash down the mighty gates of Hashdur, and the scales of the alligator that let them soak up Essence from the warmth of the earth and the heat of the river. If they have a set of powers that is literal impelling them to do be and act as deathly creatures, then that is literally the only thing that comes through when they use those Charms. Now add in a similar set for any other theme you can think of, and the Lunars literally become and do anything…and whatever core theme we’re trying to establish disappears completely. In the context of Charm design, and how players interact with the Charms, “do everything” is the same as “do nothing.”

There’s also the probability of Lunars having better Charms than most of the things they look like, and having the power to sufficiently “fake it” on their own.

Godjaw:
Many myths surrounding beasts or animals regard them as a mighty obstacle for a hero, only great because it took a hero to defeat them. I find this narrative not very compelling for Lunars.

I suppose i’ll bring this up, something you previous said:

I don’t plan on turning Lunars into the Animal Exalted, because there are a few problems with that premise:

1) Animal powers using animal logic go in a Sci-Fi direction, unfitting for a mythology world.
2) Animal powers being the source of your awesome power makes you feel like the Chosen of Zoo Tycoon.

That doesn’t mean we get rid of the spirit shape or animal associations for some of their magic. That does mean that we probably don’t want their Charm set being modeled in its entirety after Things Animals Do™. A mythic association is cool here and there (Graceful Crane Stance, Ten Ox Meditation), but when my greatest intelligence Charm is based on an elephant or a dolphin I start to feel like a monkey, and the whole Charm set starts to look like Jump the Shark Prana.

So I suppose the question is does this philosophy extend to shapeshifting. If all the cool shapeshifting tricks they can do come from animals, how do you not make them the Animal or Zoo Exalted?

Or does this previously stated philosophy no longer hold relevance?

John:
1) That statement was made in 2012 or 2013, before I decided shapeshifting would be awesome because turning into animals would be really, really good in EX3.

2) That philosophy is contradicted in the Lunars being very deeply invested in the mythos and emulation of animals. Yet it will also be upheld in that I’m not going to make “the literal power of literal animals” the source of Lunar efficacy. IE, they will have access to the super powers of animals and beasts, but they will have their own Charm set.

Irked:
Come now, that’s not what I said at all. I said it was the most trivial part; that is, that shapeshifting typically implies many things, and “You look like X” is only one of them.

John:
The most trivial thing shapeshifting can do is the minimum bar shapeshifting has to jump tbe shapeshifting.

Irked:
Then why use that as an example? If Lunar transformation is not like throwing a sheet over your head and looking like a ghost, what benefit is there to talking about that in a conversation on Lunar transformation?

John:
Because we were talking about the minimum bar for shapeshifting. o_O

Irked:
“Taking the nature of the thing they turn into” is a property that Lunars have, in the past, exhibited.

John:
I don’t remember them getting Solar Charms.

Irked:
Further, “To take a shape is to take its nature” is a resonant and recurring property of shapeshifting in both myth and pop-culture.

John:
They shouldn’t be allowed to delve into or express certain natures.

Irked:
How is this an odd assumption?

John:
Let me put it this way. If a Lunar can turn into Cyclops, someone will demand to also get the use of his optic beams. It’s an odd assumption because it works an obvious detriment on the game by implying that there are no limitations at all to what a Lunar can do. This has neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeever been the case.

Irked:
It doesn’t really matter; the choice of metaphor has no impact on my point (“The capabilities of a splat, in abstract, are not the same as the capabilities of any particular member of that splat”).

John:
Actually it does, because you are comparing the capabilities of the splat to the tools you’d find in a Swiss Army Knife. And I am telling you, some tools don’t belong there. Some tools can’t or won’t be found in a Swiss Army Knife.

Irked:
Let’s try turning this a different way. Solars can disguise themselves as gods, ghosts, beastmen, etc.; that’s not too far of a reach for Larceny disguise Charms. But a Solar disguise is basically, well, a disguise: it’s just an illusion, because Solars aren’t shapeshifters. We wouldn’t expect that a Solar taking the appearance of a ghost can walk through walls.

What about a Lunar? Can a Lunar appear to be a ghost at all? If so, is there a difference between the emulation offered by a Solar’s disguise and that offered by the Lunar? If so, how are they different?

John:
If a Lunar can hypothetically change shapes to look like a ghost, and a Solar can hypothetically use a disguise Charm to look like a ghost, the result would be exactly the same, but the methods would be very different, and would generate a different feel. One is using a perfect disguise, but is still themselves underneath. The other is changing their form to look like something.

Irked:
Well, and that’s exactly my point: the Lunar doesn’t just look like the ghost – hypothetically; his form has changed (to the form of ghost?). If your form changes to match something immaterial, it seems reasonable that you’d be immaterial; if it changes to match something made of fire, it seems like you’d be made of fire!

John:
That’s a fair cop.

Holden:
Also a good argument not to let Lunars drink the heart’s blood of something that has neither a heart nor blood.

Random Nerd:
Will their charms involve the idea of amplifications of animal traits to a mythic scale, in a way anal Solar charms tend to be amplifications of human skills to a mythic scale?

John:
Well, yes and no. I want to hit this sweet spot where a Lunar can say “I’m smart like an elephant” rather than “I’m smart as an elephant.” But I also want people to recognize that hey, animals are cool and turning into them has some genuine benefit. To a degree, the traits of animals and the things they can do have been further mythologized as well, so borrowing from them directly doesn’t feel like a scientific down-turn but rather something that makes you this amazing god-beast who can run down gazelles, wrestle with lions, track like a tyrant lizard. But what I really want Lunars to impel toward is something ineffable, something that exists between the emphasis of animals, something not quite definite, very primal, fed by rage and instinct, and wholly something that belongs to and defines Lunars apart from everybody else.

Holden:
I think I have some notion of why this [“They shouldn’t be allowed to delve into or express certain natures.”] is producing such trouble here.

One of the things Geoff wrote in the outline for Exalted: the Lunars was that Lunars were not just shapeshifters, they were a particular type of shapeshifter. He had an entire separate attached document telling the writers how Lunar shapeshifting was going to work, what it did, what it didn’t do, and how it did these things. This was an unusual measure for him, but he felt it was vital that all the writers on the book be on the same page from the word go about what kind of shapeshifters Lunars were or else they’d all walk in with wildly different assumptions and create a confused mess.

Now, as all the world knows, the 1e Lunars book has a lot of problems, but the writers creating a confused mess with regards to Lunar shapeshifting was not one of those problems.

In Second Edition, the MoEP: Lunars outline contains no such cautionary measures (I assume it was considered self-evident since the book was an update to already-published material), but MoEP: Lunars also took very decisive strides to move away from the 1e depiction of Lunars… and it did so, I think, without full consideration of what Lunars were going to be now. In other words, Second Edition was never sure what kind of shapeshifters Lunars were, or how far they were going to diverge from being the kind of shapeshifters they were in 1e– nobody ever officially drew that boundary.

The result was a confused mess, which is why this thread is full of people trying to argue for Lunars being werewolves, Beast Boy, the tulpa from It, Alex Mercer, Reed Richards, the Absorbing Man, Amazo, and more. 2e never made it clear what kind of shapeshifter they were supposed to be, and their scope kept creeping wider and wider in search of a solid identity as the edition went on.

John:
Yes. It’s also an antithetical premise to EX3’s agenda, which is that powers should be used to tell the story of the Lunar Exalted, rather than the story of all those dudes who changed shape on TV.

John:
I am all about sensory design, and I stress “feel” above everything else. How does this feel to use? is the primary concern of every mechanics writer on the line.

Holden:
Word. If the Charm chapter writer just starts grab-bagging every shapeshifter he can think of, you’ll get something that looks like someone duct-taped together Plastic Man, the Wonder Twins, Mystique, It, Beast Boy, Alex Mercer, the Space Phantom, Swamp Thing, Animal Man, and more. And dear God in Heaven that’s something to avoid at all costs.

Paradim:
If it’s any consolation to the developers, hearing thoughts from you guys about what is important for Lunars and where lines in the sand need to be drawn has been rather enlightening and reassuring to this Lunar fan. ^^

Lea:
All jokes aside, everyone involved loves Lunars and wants them to be an awesome and magnificent element of the setting.

Daerim:
One of my concerns with animal shapeshifting is that it seems to me to be something that is very broad, but relatively shallow. Off the top of my head, I can think of flying (turning into a bird), swimming (a fish), running (a gazelle/cheetah/etc.) and a plethora combinations of big and strong. Throw in a few specialty things like a snake’s flexibility or a wolf’s sense of smell for good measure.

That’s an impressive list of abilities, but it doesn’t seem to scale up very far into the territory of being an exalt. That might be strongly mitigated by scaling up mortal concerns and animals in general in the new edition. If that has been done, there’s a lot of context I can’t see because how mortal animals (or people, for that matter) compare favorably to exalted powers just isn’t apparent to me.

At the same time, in the past Lunar shapeshifting has been cheap in terms of mechanical costs. I see balance (such as it is) issues with Lunars being able to go eat themselves new powers, especially if those powers do compare favorably to the abilities of exalts.

The biggest issue I see surrounding shapeshifting is just that it is emblematic of Lunar power. All the stuff about Mega Man, Alec Mercer and the lot are people extrapolating the cool things they like about the idea of Lunars into more cool stuff.

A lot of people, myself included, don’t see how shapeshifting can be awesome in comparison with Solars and Sidereals without moving away from bird, wolf, fish, etc. Especially given previous mechanics such as form lock and… I’m drawing a blank on the specifics of this, but something like the natural stats of animal forms counting as a dice adder or something like that?

I think a lot of people are also conflating the entire Lunar power set with shapeshifting, which goes back to my point about shapeshifting being the Lunar thing and people wanting it to be the part of Lunars that compares favorably to other exalt types’ things like Solar Sorcery or Sidereal Martial Arts.

Holden:
It helps when you don’t start by, say, giving Solars the ability to deflect an avalanche with their chin for 4 motes, and instead start them from a base-line of “a really badass human being, when not actively spending Essence.”

It helps even more when you follow that up by not statting up let’s say… a bear, as a lv1 monster you smash through in the tutorial dungeon on the way to fighting more exciting things like gorgons and hydras and your first Young White Dragon, but rather as a tower of claws and muscles that can rip a man’s head clean off with one swipe of its enormous arm.

Godjaw:
I suppose my only other concern would be the supposed other two Exalted types connected to Lunars. I worry that Lunars have been reduced in scope partially so those things taken away from them and be given to these new Exalted.

John:
It hasn’t. The two new Exalts are being forwarded specifically to create a more varied, compelling breadth of Lunar-centered storytelling.

Daerim:
And all of that swings wide of the fact that a lot of people want shapeshifting to be sorcery or martial arts for Lunars. And a bear that can take a man’s head off with one swipe of its enormous paw doesn’t stack up well next to Benediction of Archgenesis or Sequential Charm Disruption, unless it is an absurd bear. Whether or not shapeshifting should be on par with things like that is beside the point, it is something that a lot of people want so that Lunars can be as good as their peers. I don’t think it is much of a coincidence that when Lunar fans start talking about how to make Lunars good, they start talking about poaching from not-Lunar sources.

John:
First, we hold the versatility of shapeshifting to be incredibly, incredibly powerful. In a socially driven, political game like Exalted, all it takes is one dude who looks exactly like the crown prince, who isn’t the crown prince, to spin an entire nation into revolt and ruin the plans of the Sidereals. If you need a direct equation in the Lunar power set to an Adamant Circle spell, you aren’t going to get one. If you willfully overlook how powerful and versatile shapeshifting is, and how much it matters in a game that concerns itself with the things Exalted is concerned with, that’s on you.

It constantly surprises me that people tout myth as a big part of why they play Exalted, and then go about everything in a very unmythical, itemized, mechanical way. I don’t care if you think animals suck. Exalted is a game where the bear can stand on the neck of the dragon.


PolkaNinja:
Has there been any talk about:
Dual wielding combat (outside of Charm use)? Two-weapons (swords, sword and axe, sword and dagger, etc)

Vance:
Yeah, it’s been thought of. The rules are fairly simple, comparable to the various weapon tags in the books.


Wuse_Major:
Edit: As I’ve been Sidereal’d twice now, would someone care to tell us how they’re doing this time around? I’ve been wanting to like them for two editions now and yet… they’ve always been a bit lacking to me. I, unfortunately, can’t articulate why though. Possibly it was the perception of living in bureaucracy hell, possibly it was the execution of astrology, I’m not sure.

Vance:
One of our goals is to present them in a way that doesn’t make it seem like they’re trapped in bureaucracy hell. They are agents of heaven, weavers of destiny, and major players in Yu-Shan. They don’t have to fill out TPS reports.

JasonK:
Does “Agents of Heaven” equal:

A. “James Bond”; or
B. “Leslie Knope”?

Vance:
Bit of each.


House-Lyrander:
Okay, I just jumped in to this thread, but I’m curious as to how “formal” the wording is gonna be in the newer rules. Because 2e had problems with formality dissonance where the rules text was kinda vague and informal but the mechanics were very strict and formal.

Vance:
The overall language is much less VCR manual than 2e could get at times. The system is explicitly designed to provide as many hooks to base Charms off of as possible, and the Charms are going to be actually using those system elements.

Holden:
Hey Lyrander! The 3e rules use informal language for rules discussions whenever possible. It’s a big book, and we felt it was important that it be as user-friendly as we could make it. I agree that a lot of the stuff in 2e felt like you were taking a programming course rather than reading about cool stuff your character could do to be awesome.


Wuse_Major:
I’m fond of old radio shows and one of them, called Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, was about a freelance insurace investigator. One of their big gimmicks was that the episode was basically him retelling the story by going through his expense report to his boss. Like most noir detective stories, it was full of gunplay and brooding and investigation, but the idea of retelling it via your expense report was pretty neat and feels like it fits well with the Sidereal way of doing things.

Vance:
That sounds like it’d be a really cool way to frame a story in a Sidereal campaign!

(see also Double Indemnity)


Notsteve:
Plus, if this was a worry, the Wyld Hunt would actually make things worse. Shards reincarnate when their host gets killed. The faster you kill the hosts, the more people get Exalted by a given shard in a year.

Vance:
The risk of letting a Solar amass the a power base has dramatically outweighed this concern for most of the Realm’s existence (up until the point where the Empress left and the Wyld Hunt was largely recalled). Hunting reincarnating devil-sorcerers across the entire world to kill them before they can rise to power is hard. Dealing with the kind of force that a Solar can throw at you if you’ve given her the time to do as Solars can do is a hell of a lot harder.


Gaius of Xor:
Wildly divergent but still mildly relevant question: Members of the EX3 Team, of changes you’ve ever heard fans mention wanting for Sidereals, what modifications do you personally feel would be most disruptive to the feel and play style of the splat?

Holden:
Open Charm set. Nothing else comes close.

Coikzer:
While I don’t think I’ve argued for Sidereals to have an open Charm set, I know I’m at a point where I’d be willing to sacrifice some trademark weirdness and esoteric nature for general applicability. A fair number of Sidereal Charms come off as so niche and narrow that it seems like the effort required to use them is greater than just doing something mundanely. Avoiding the Truth Technique is one that sticks out in my mind as one I’ve never really seen a use come for in-game; just straight up lying to people was generally much quicker and just as (if not more) effective.

Holden:
By contrast, over 10 years of playing a Chosen of Serenity, I’ve found Avoiding the Truth Technique to be the single most useful Charm in my entire arsenal.

Vance:
To be fair, 2e did forget to give it any actual effect when they took out the 1e dice-adding.

ADamiani:
I think your experience has something of a selection bias; you are wholly comfortable making up new charms and do so, both professionally and recreationally. I’m wondering what fraction of Exalted players actually make up their own new charms?

Holden:
It’s more that this is the only thing numerous people consistently agitate for with regard to Sidereals, other than “please God they don’t suck this time.”


demac:
So with the latest Monday Morning update out, I figure I might as ask some of the obvious questions:

1) How many pages of stuff are you going to have to cut from the book (if pages is the incorrect metric then please let me know).
2) Do you know what’s going to get axed?
3) Will axed matterial likely be able to be used in future books?

Holden:
1) Any answer I give you is just going to be distressing, so I’ll decline this.
2) That’s still being determined.
3) It really depends on what gets cut. Chopped antagonists would be easy to shuffle forward to a future book. If we claim a thousand words back from the sources of inspiration in the Introduction, that’s probably gone forever.


Solar:
Hey so just a very quick query, with no hidden agenda, regarding the Monday Meeting notes;

The wording “more extensive revision” sounds to my ears rather drastic, but I am not au fait with the various processes of publishing. Is the pass-back to the devs for some content cuts and so on an entirely expected element of the process which was always factored in, or is this an unexpected delay?

EDIT: the tone of the notes suggest the former but I am just pretty antsy for Ex3 now we are so close I guess!

Holden:
Plain-English answer, the rough block-out of the book clocked in with a page count that made it more suitable to being dropped on terrorist bunkers out of an airplane than used as an RPG, same as M20 did. Out come the old scissors.

Shouldn’t produce much of a delay, though. And we won’t be answering questions about the trimming process while it’s going on, since it’ll just produce anxiety for everyone involved.


You can find the next compilation here:
Q&A Summary #10